Best new mixing plugins, effects and VST instruments out this week

Software instruments, effects and mixing plugins – here’s everything fresh in the plugin marketplace.

Man making music using a MIDI controller

Credit: Getty / Михаил Руденко

In music production, plugins are software add-ons that expand the capabilities of your DAW; these could be virtual instruments and creative effects, EQ and compressors, or tools that make editing a lot more manageable.

Below is a rolling list of the new plugin releases that catch our eye, so you can keep on top of any software goodies you may have missed that could be essential to your production process. We update this rolling list on a weekly basis, so be sure to check back regularly for the latest virtual instruments, effects, mixing plugins and more.

Latest virtual instruments, effects and mixing plugins

(Last update: 10 January 2024)

Nembrini NA 501 Chorus Echo

The NA 501 Chorus Echo plugin by Nembrini Audio revives the iconic Roland RE-501’s essence, combining tape echo, BBD chorus, and spring reverb with contemporary digital features. With precise digital modeling, it retains the classic warmth while offering expanded control, DAW tempo sync, and an intuitive interface blending vintage aesthetics with modern efficiency.

Its versatility spans across genres, catering to rock, electronic, ambient, and more, making it an ideal choice for musicians and producers seeking a blend of classic sound and modern flexibility. Technical improvements like DAW tempo synchronization, advanced parameter control, and separate SOS timings enhance its classic emulation, elevating it to new heights in audio production.

This plugin costs $30. Find out more at Nembrini.

Archetype Gojira X by NeuralDSP

Archetype: Gojira X, an evolution from the iconic metal band plugin, offers diverse sonic landscapes from serene clean tones to annihilating high-gain settings. It encompasses pitch effects, pre-effects pedals, three meticulously designed amplifiers, a versatile EQ, extensive cabsim and IR loader, time effects, transpose and doubler tools, an improved tuner, and a metronome for practice. The plugin is a powerhouse for artists seeking modern tools to craft their musical visions, mirroring Gojira’s evolution in metal boundaries.

Archetype: Gojira X costs €90. Find out more at NeuralDSP.

Duplex Comp Lite Dynamics by ViatorDSP

ViatorDSP’s Duplex Comp Lite plugin offers a streamlined interface merging three processors, catering to diverse audio needs. The free version remains robust, while the paid version adds presets and oversampling. Its VCA compressor is versatile but lacks faster FET emulation.

Despite limited controls, it excels in bus work, not recommended for mastering. The addition of Rent Control or a limiter aids in final loudness adjustments. The GUI is user-friendly, but the lack of output saturation limits its character. Overall, Duplex Comp Lite stands as a competent mixing tool.

Find out more at Bedroom Producer’s Blog.

XTMax Distressor by Kiive Audio

Kiive Audio recently unveiled XTMax, a drum compressor plugin drawing inspiration from the revered Empirical Labs Distressor and similar hardware units. Although not a direct clone, XTMax leverages insights from diverse compressors to forge its unique identity.

Its intuitive controls, comprising two primary knobs for Input and Output, three-way switches managing Attack and Release times, and additional knobs for Knee and SC Filter Cutoff, make drum enhancement seamless. Notably, an Auto Gain feature streamlines the compression process, allowing effortless tweaking of the Input Gain while XTMax handles the rest.

This latest offering from Kiive Audio is available as a free download at Kiive Audio.

Sound Assistant Offline Agent by Jamahook

Jamahook, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute, recently unveiled its Sound Assistant Offline Agent, a plugin harnessing AI to fuse your sample collection with Jamahook’s sound-matching prowess. This AI-powered tool speeds up workflow, aiding sound selection for projects without compromising user privacy or security.

Seamlessly integrated, it not only offers project-based sound suggestions but delves into a user’s archive, unearthing forgotten gems from various storage devices. The plugin analyzes multiple acoustic properties, then matches and tailors recommendations based on key, tempo, and other parameters, even pitch-shifting to suit your project’s needs.

Jamahook’s Sound Assistant is free to download at Jamahook.

AXXESS by GForce

GForce’s AXXESS is built for bass, offering a versatile sonic range suiting everything from electronica to hip-hop, and more. With over 350 accessible patches, it offers lush polyphony, robust mono, stereo spreads, and X-Modifiers for intricate sound programming. Retaining vintage warmth, it hosts an arpeggiator, 16-step sequencer, and acclaimed X-Modifier technology for comprehensive parameter modulation.

It costs £33, available at GForce.

Beat Slammer by Baby Audio

This week, Baby Audio released Beat Slammer, a free compressor plugin compatible with Windows and macOS.

Based on IHNY2 algorithms, it offers solidity and punch. Featuring a singular X/Y slider for compression and wet/dry mix, it excels on drums, vocals, and aggressive instruments, perfect for parallel processing. Its aggressive nature suits punk, metal vocals, and enhances bass/guitar tones. To access, users must provide an email for the download link, including access to four other free plugins from Baby Audio.

It’s free to download at Baby Audio.

Efx REFRACT by Arturia

Another free plugin, Arturia’s Efx REFRACT is a versatile stereo multi-effect unit, merging unison processing with secondary effects and modulation options. Transforming sounds from experimental distortions to detuned harmonics, it creates depth and character instantly.

Featuring eight stereo voices, it spreads and amplifies tracks, ideal for tension-building moments. The interactive interface allows customizable FX combinations, offering expressive presets for diverse sonic transformations.

Efx REFRACT is free to download at Arturia

Life by XLN Audio

Life by XLN Audio presents an inventive plugin that generates limitless beats from your life’s distinctive sounds. Paired with mobile apps, Field Recorder and DAW Recorder, it seamlessly syncs recorded audio to your desktop.

The Field Recorder app, accessible on iOS and Android, facilitates on-the-fly recording, while the DAW Recorder ensures high-quality recordings in your studio. Its adaptable features, such as cloud synchronization and the capability to import audio or video, empower users to craft personalised beats inspired by their cherished moments.

The plugin costs $132. Buy it at Plugin Boutique.

PlateVerb by Solid State Logic

The SSL PlateVerb, Solid State Logic’s boutique new reverb plugin, mirrors the richness found in classic plate reverbs. Its versatile decay time spans 100 milliseconds to 3 seconds, ideal for diverse ambience.

Solid State Logic PlateVerb
Solid State Logic PlateVerb

Emulating the iconic plate reverb sound, it merges SSL-crafted algorithms for authentic reflections. With innovative features like Colour Adjustment, Ducking, and Freeze, it adds depth to vocals, drums, and synths, fusing vintage warmth with modern functionality and zero-latency performance.

PlateVerb costs $127/£99. Find out more at Plugin Boutique.

Noctua by UVI

UVI Noctua, developed by sound designer Venus Theory in collaboration with UVI, is a robust cinematic instrument and sound design tool. It merges hand-crafted samples with hardware synthesis and boutique effects, offering expansive soundscapes.

With a flexible 2+1 layer design, microtonal sequencers per layer, one-knob FX chains, and master bus processing, it allows deep sound manipulation. Featuring 100 presets and native 64-bit operation via Falcon or UVI Workstation, it’s a versatile, no-cost offering for cinematic sound creation and editing.

Download Noctua at UVI.

VHS Noise Generator by SampleScience

SampleScience recently released the free VHS Noise Generator, a plugin offering 26 VHS background noises sourced from vintage VCRs. Delivering nostalgic crackles, it infuses tracks with lo-fi warmth for synths, drums, vocals, and guitars.

Featuring distortion, delay, chorus, reverb, and voice modes, it enriches audio sources with its ADSR, LFO, and filter effects. Compatible with major DAWs (excluding Pro Tools) on Windows and macOS in 64-bit VST/VST3/AU formats, it’s a unique addition for retro-inspired sonic exploration. Explore or download at SampleScience.

The plugin’s free and available to download at SampleScience.

How to install VST and AU plugins on Windows, Mac and iOS

If your plugin came as a .zip file, and not an installer, you may have to manually install it. Here’s how…

VST3 plugins:

  1. Unzip the plugin folder
  2. Copy the .VST file to your default plugin folder (Windows default: C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3, Mac default: /Library/Audio/Plugins/VST)
  3. Start your DAW
  4. Rescan your plugin directory

AUv3 plugins:

  1. Download and install plugin from the App Store
  2. Insert plugin in your DAW
  3. Select the AUv3 plugin from the Audio Unit Extensions tab

Where to download freeware plugins and VSTs

Our freeware section is an excellent place to start; each month, we also compile round-ups of the best free plugins and samples to download.

The production community is full of passionate developers who’ve given away instruments, effects and other plugins as freeware. Some of our favourites include Valhalla’s Supermassive reverb, Apogee’s Soft Limit and Matt Tytel’s Helm polysynth. Remember, most developers also offer free trials for their plugins.

Are DAW stock plugins good enough?

Most major DAWs these days will come with a more-than-serviceable collection of ‘stock’ plugins for music-making: Logic Pro’s software instrument library is rich and varied; Ableton Live’s synth engines cover additive, subtractive and granular methods, and the Pro Tools suite of mixing plugins is still widely used by pro engineers.

A good producer isn’t their plugin folder, but their ability to make good decisions. Increase your knowledge: instead of buying a synth samples, learn about the fundamentals of synthesis; kick drum sounding too skinny? learn to compress properly.

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