Finding the best VST plugin or synth is quite a challenge in 2017…
Picture walking into the world’s biggest mall.
With thousands of stores to choose from, how in the world would you know which ones are best suited to your needs?
You’re overwhelmed and flustered, with no way to know where to start.
But luckily for you, a friendly stranger gives you a list of the best stores in the mall – narrowing your options down to a manageable number.
We are that stranger, here to act as a saving grace in the overwhelming world of plugins.
After spending countless hours with thousands of plugins, we’ve narrowed down a list of just over 100 of the BEST ones we’ve used.
Here is our Ultimate List of the Best VST Plugins for 2017!
Serum by Xfer Records [189 USD]
The dream synthesizer did not seem to exist: a wavetable synthesizer with a truly high-quality sound, visual, and creative workflow-oriented interface. Even if you’re not experimented with sound design, the interface is so friendly that you won’t even have to reach for the manual to start experimenting with it.
Massive by Native Instruments [149 USD]
The synth that defined bass music, this powerhouse synthesizer is an uncompromising sonic monster and one of the go-to choices for bass music and electro producers.
Omnisphere 2 by Spectrasonics [499 USD]
This award-winning plugin brings many different types of synthesis together into one amazing-sounding instrument that will inspire a lifetime of exploration.
Sylenth1 by Lennar Digital [139 €]
Sylenth1 takes the definitions of quality and performance to a higher level. Until now only very few software synthesizers have been able to stand up to the sound quality standards of hardware synths.
Retrologue 2 by Steinberg [99 €]
Retrologue 2 emulates the warmth and fatness of classic analog synthesizers. Three virtual analog oscillators and a first-class set of filters produce a wealth of rich and inspiring sounds.
Trillian Total Bass Module by Spectrasonics [299 USD]
Trilian is designed from the ground up to be the most versatile bass virtual instrument available today with a new level of expressive, real-time performance for acoustic and electric basses – plus cutting-edge synth bass tones with powerful editing and extraordinary sound quality.
Z3TA+2 by Cakewalk [99 USD]
Z3TA+2 is designed to suit any and all of your electronic productions. From pop to rap, energetic to atmospheric, you’ll have the sounds you need at your fingertips.
LuSH-101 by D16 Audio [149 €]
LuSH-101 is a synthesizer created from modules that can be found in many modern virtual synthesizers, all combined into a single compact and logically intuitive design. However, this basic simplicity combined with its multilayer architecture turns it into an easy-to-use but extremely powerful instrument that can be programmed and tweaked quickly, almost effortlessly leveraging its maximum potential.
RePro-Alpha by u-he [FREE]
This synth is u-he’s first step in the recreation of the classic Sequential Circuits Pro-One monophonic synthesizer.
Razor by Native Instruments [99 USD]
The groundbreaking additive synthesis powerhouse, RAZOR, delivers powerful sound and cutting edge sonic control.
SLOO by Tim Exile [49 £]
Whether you’re into hardware, virtual analog, digital wavetable or eurorack, a synth should be a unique and agile beast: tightly controlled for composition, hands-on for jamming, unpredictable for inspiration and sound like nothing else on earth.
FM8 by Native Instruments [149 USD]
FM8’s powerful audio engine generates breath-taking, brilliantly dynamic FM sounds in pristine quality. With its emphasis on ease-of-use, the FM8 brings a high degree of simplicity to the otherwise intricate process of FM synthesis.
Phobos by Spitfire Audio [299 USD]
Phobos is a must-have synthesizer for composers writing epic, cinematic electronic and hybrid compositions conceived by renowned composer and electronic music pioneer BT.
Diva by u-he [179 USD]
The oscillators, filters and envelopes closely model components found in some of the great monophonic and polyphonic synthesizers of yesteryear. Modules can be mixed and matched so you can build hybrids, but what sets Diva apart is the sheer authenticity of the analogue sound.
Lounge Lizard EP4 by AAS [199 USD]
Lounge Lizard EP-4 is an electric piano plug-in delivering authentic Rhodes and Wurlitzer sounds in an everything-you-need package.
Addictive Keys by XLN Audio [79.95 USD per module]
Addictive Keys brings the world’s most inspiring and interesting keyboard instruments into the studios of songwriters, producers, and music makers.
Rapid by Parawave Audio [180 €]
Combine multiple synthesis layers to achieve powerful and dynamic sounds. Control every aspect of your patch by fine-tuning each layer separately.
Oberheim SEM V by Arturia [149 US]
Oberheim’s legendary SEM – Synthesizer Expander Module – is back for the first time as a high-end software emulation powered by Arturia’s exclusive TAE technology.
Bazille by u-he [129 USD]
Bazille is a large modular system combining digital oscillators with analogue-style filters and modelled effects, with a flexibility that only modular patching can provide.
Nexus 2 by reFX [249 USD Starter Edition]
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this “synthesizer”, but this is actually a ROMpler. If you’re a dance music producer who wants great sounds out of the box as a foundation to mangle with or simply layer, this is the tool you’re looking for.
Kick Drum Synthesizers
Kick 2 by Sonic Academy [66.90 USD]
Easily sculpt, shape, create, manipulate and mangle your way to the perfect kick drum.
BAZZism2 by Intelligent Sounds & Music [30 €]
If you create your kick drums building sine sweeps and EQ’ing them, you can get the same or even better results with BazzISM2 in a matter of seconds.
PunchBOX by D16 Audio [79 €]
PunchBOX easily brings together the best of the two worlds. The expressiveness of synthesized sounds next to the richness and complexity of samples that end up delivering top-notch, never-heard of and dancefloor-crushing kick sounds.
BigKick by Plugin Boutique [65 USD]
BigKick makes kick drum design easy and enjoyable with a very simple and straightforward user interface.
The compressors in this list are either multipurpose or meant to be used primarily in single tracks, but this shouldn’t stop you from experimenting with them either way!
If you’re looking for specific tools for mixing and mastering, read on for some of the best tools used by top level engineers!
Fabfilter Pro C [179 USD]
FabFilter Pro-C 2 is a high-quality compressor plug-in for the most demanding engineers. Whether you need subtle mastering compression, an upfront lead vocal, that magic drum glue or deep EDM pumping.
CLA Classic Compressors by Waves [599 USD, on sale regularly]
True classics stand the test of time. The CLA-2A, CLA-3A, and CLA-76 are arguably the most famous leveling amps, compressors and limiters of all time. Your production toolbox is simply incomplete without these ones.
Omnipressor by Eventide [149 USD]
Professional quality dynamic-modifier for gating, compression, limiting and expansion. The Omnipressor is even capable of reversing a sound’s envelope, making loud sounds quiet and quiet sounds loud.
Gain Reduction by Joey Sturgis [59 USD]
Turn the knobs to tame or tighten your sound, crank the gain to saturate and distort, try it on drums and any other instruments you can think of. Gain Reduction Deluxe will be your new go-to compressor.
Klanghelm DC8C-2 [20 €]
DC8C is one of the most flexible compressors around. While making a lot of different compression styles possible, it’s general nature may be described as clear, smooth, open and distinct.
UBK1 by Kush Audio [149 USD]
UBK-1 embodies the philosophy that compression is not merely a form of dynamics control, it is the ultimate tool to create and shape the movement and groove of a sound.
Presswerk by u-he [129 USD]
Presswerk is a powerful dynamics processor with a musical soul. An easy-to-use interface and a rich feature set give you hands-on control over all details of your sound.
API-2500 by Waves [299 USD]
The API 2500 is a versatile dynamics processor that lets you shape the punch and tone of your sounds with absolute accuracy. Its dual channel design lets the 2500 also function as two separate mono channels via a single compression setting.
Tube-Tech CL 1B by Softube [329 USD]
Softube’s Tube-Tech CL 1B is the prime example of what an optic compressor is capable of. It is highly versatile and can go from soft and gentle to snappy and punchy by the twist of a few knobs.
Vintage Warmer 2 by PSP [149 USD]
Vintage Warmer 2 is a high-quality digital simulation of an analog-style, a single- or multi-band compressor/limiter. It combines rich, warm analog processing with a straightforward user interface, and comes with a comprehensive library of presets.
Puigchild by Waves [349 USD]
Throughout the vinyl era, the original Fairchild 660 and 670 compressors were ubiquitous. From the recording studio to the record lathe, the Fairchild was renowned for its advanced compression techniques and incomparable sound.
H-Comp Hybrid Compressor by Waves [179 USD]
H-Comp combines the modeled behavior of transformers, tubes, and transistors, together with the power and precision that only a plugin can provide.
Fabfilter Pro Q 2 [179 USD]
An equalizer is probably the tool you use most while mixing and mastering, so you need the best of the best! With FabFilter Pro-Q 2, you get the highest possible sound quality and a gorgeous, innovative interface with unrivalled ease of use.
EQuilibrium by DMG Audio [179 £]
Massively flexible EQ suitable for all critical professional applications.
Q10 by Waves [99 USD]
Multiband paragraphic EQ with 10 bands of precision equalization for mixing and mastering – a go-to tool for both surgical repair and gentle coloring.
SSL G-Equalizer by Waves [Only available through selected bundles]
The SSL G-Equalizer includes a pre-boost dip and a pre-cut rise, as well as a broader Q for more extreme equalization. That’s why many leading engineers use the E-Channel’s equalization for detailed problem-solving and mixing, and the G-Equalizer to shape and give character to the sound.
Pultec Passive EQ Collection by UAD by UAD [299 USD – UAD Soundcard needed]
Building on a decade of the world’s most intensive modeling research, UA has recreated the famed Pultec EQ experience as plug-ins – ones that are nearly indistinguishable from the original analog hardware.
Smart:EQ by Sonible [129 €]
The intelligent smart:EQ+ plug-in enhances the detail, clarity, and personality of your audio-track with a tap of the finger. What makes it special: the perfect mix is ready in a matter of seconds.
McQ by PSP [69 USD]
PSP McQ captures the sonic character and functionality of various classic console equalizers such as the versatile MCI console EQs.
SEQ-ST by Nugen Audio [149 USD]
SEQ-ST gives you powerful sonic sculpting and EQ matching, with stereo mid-side operation and automated spectrum analysis. Massage and correct any audio with incredible resolution that you just can’t get with a traditional parametric interface.
Bx_subfilter by Brainworx [FREE]
The bx_subfilter is a free plugin that borrows from the “Filter” section of its larger counterpart, the bx_subsynth. If you think that cleaning up your low end shouldn’t break the bank or require twenty knobs, this is the plugin for you.
Puigtec EQ’s by Waves [299 USD]
The Pultec EQP-1A is renowned for its unique ability to boost and cut the same frequencies simultaneously, thereby creating a resonant shelf. The PuigTec EQP-1A is a remarkable replication of the original hand-crafted unit owned by iconic producer/engineer Jack Joseph Puig.
Renaissance EQ by Waves [79 USD]
Featuring real-time EQ graphing, vintage-modeled filter curves, and extended internal headroom, the Renaissance Equalizer is a versatile paragraphic EQ with warm, analog-style sound.
Maag Audio EQ4 [229 USD]
The Maag Audio EQ4’s unique design allows for exceptionally low phase shift across all EQ adjustments, which helps maintain the integrity of your mix’s original sound.
Vibe EQ by Stillwell Audio [39 USD]
This is one of those mythical plugins that makes things sound better just by plugging it in.
Valhalla Shimmer [50 USD]
ValhallaShimmer is an algorithmic reverb designed for BIG sounds, from concert halls to the Taj Mahal to the Halls of Valhalla.
Valhalla Vintage Verb [50 USD]
ValhallaVintageVerb is a postmodern reverb plugin, inspired by the classic hardware digital reverbs of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Blackhole by Eventide [199 USD]
Most reverbs are earth-bound and constrained by the physics of the real world. Eventide’s Blackhole reverb breaks the rules by allowing you to create virtual spaces that could never exist in reality.
Ultraverb by Eventide [199 USD]
9 high end hardware-based reverb algorithms bundled in a single native plug-in.
R4 by Exponential Audio [299 USD]
R4 offers all the class of historic hardware reverb units but with many new features only possible with modern plug-in development technology. R4 is pure class and for this reason, is destined to become a classic.
Fabfilter Pro R [199 USD]
A great reverb sounds natural and sits in the mix perfectly. At the same time, it should not confuse you with over-technical controls, but must be easy to set up and a joy to work with. This is exactly what FabFilter Pro-R delivers.
Abbey Road Plates by Waves [249 USD]
State-of-the-art modeling of the four legendary reverb plates housed at Abbey Road Studios and used on recordings by the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Radiohead.
LXP Native Bundle by Lexicon [240 USD]
The LXP Native Reverb Bundle offers four algorithm based plug-ins along with over 220 of the most versatile and finely-crafted studio presets that are sure to change the way you color your mix, forever.
Toraverb by D16 Audio [39 €]
The concept algorithm implemented in the unit allows create practically any type of reverb.
TSAR-1 by Softube [269 USD]
The TSAR-1 is the better-sounding alternative to the established, traditional reverb products at a fraction of the price.
Altiverb by Audio Ease [595 USD, Regular Version]
Altiverb 7 is the industry standard convolution reverb plug-in. It features top quality samples of real spaces to create reverb, ranging from the Sydney Opera House to the cockpit of a Jumbo Jet.
RP-Verb by Rob Papen [149 USD]
RP-Verb is the reverb you’ve waited years to have in your setup. Try it out for yourself and see why pros describe it with one word: amazing.
Replika by Native Instruments [49 USD]
Simple to use with a resonant filter and classic phaser built in, Replika is a versatile delay for anything from subtle slapback to warped sheets of noise.
UltraTap by Eventide [79 USD]
UltraTap is a unique multi-tap effect capable of rhythmic delays, glitchy reverbs, huge pad-like volume swells and extraordinary modulation.
Ohmboyz by Ohm Force [69 €]
More than a simple delay endowed with a variety of features, OhmBoyz is almost an instrument in its own right.
RP-Delay by Rob Papen [49 USD]
RP-Delay is a unique delay which is heavily focused on some very special features, including brand new fx routing.
EchoBoy by Soundtoys [199 USD]
EchoBoy wraps decades of echo device history and new forward-thinking features into one versatile effect that will find its way into every corner of your mixes.
Valhalla Ubermod [50 USD]
Ubermod can be used to create lush dimensional choruses, classic string ensembles, tape and BBD echoes, nonlinear and reverse reverbs, and a bunch of sounds that defy categorization.
MFM2 by u-he [79 USD]
The idea behind MFM was to give the musician as much control over 4 individual delay lines as possible, have them interact, and offer easy ways to modulate delay parameters in realtime.
H-Delay by Waves [179 USD]
From real old school PCM42-style effects like filtering, flanging, and phasing, to slap-back echo, ping-pong delay, and tempo-sync with modulation, H-Delay delivers the goods, controlled by a super intuitive interface that lets you get right down to business.
Sandman by Unfiltered Audio [49 USD]
The Unfiltered Audio Sandman is far more than just a delay plugin, it’s a wormhole to the dreamtime states of your sounds.
Trash 2 by Izotope [99 USD]
Take mangling your audio to the next level. Combine the power of multi-band, dual-stage distortions and advanced post-filtering for immediate sonic transformation.
Ohmnicide by Ohm Force [117 USD]
Ohmnicide takes the concept of multi-band distortion further thanks to a new, more versatile technology as well as a modern interface and live performance-oriented features.
Fabfilter Saturn [154 USD]
From subtle, clean and warm tube or tape saturation to the wildest multiband guitar amp effects.
Karacter 500 by Elysia [199 USD]
The karacter plugin is a box full of vibrant colors for your DAW. It covers a complete spectrum including mastering-grade saturation, tube-inspired distortion and glorious destruction, creating manifold highly desirable styles of tonal coloration.
SPL Twin Tube [199 USD]
SPL’s TwinTube is one of those magical devices that make subtle changes that result in a huge improvement in your tracks. Simply adding a bit of TwinTube’s analog tube warmth can dramatically improve vocal and instrument tracks.
Decapitator by Soundtoys [199 USD]
The sound of tubes, transistors, and circuitry being pushed to the limit has long been the key ingredient in great-sounding analog recordings.
Redoptor by D16 Audio [39 €]
Precisely modeled tube distortion module, which doesn’t focus on the tube only, but also models the rest of the co-functioning circuits.
Virtual Tape Machines by Slate Audio [149 USD]
Big, fat, warm, deep, rich and exciting are just some of the terms used to describe what recording onto a piece of magnetic tape sounds like. To those that know, tape is simply more musical.
RC-20 Retro Color by XLN Audio [79.95 USD]
RC-20 Retro Color is a creative effect plugin that adds life and texture to any recording. It easily recreates the warm, cozy feeling of vintage recording equipment, but also works perfectly in any modern production setting.
SDRR by Klanghelm [20 €]
SDRR was built to satisfy almost all of your saturation desires. It provides a comprehensive set of controls to manipulate the character of the saturation to make it fit exactly.
Saturation Knob by Softube [FREE]
The three modes, Keep High, Neutral and Keep Low give you three different kinds of characters of distortion.
Bombardier Buss Compressor by Stillwell Audio [59 USD]
Tailored for smooth and musical processing of complex audio such as drum groups, vocal stems and your full stereo mix, The Bombardier Buss Compressor lends a controllable sense of weight, fluidity and cohesion.
The Rocket by Stillwell Audio [49 USD]
The Rocket is a character audio compressor, singular in its extraordinary speed, responding in mere microseconds to variations in program level.
Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor by UAD [299 USD – UAD Soundcard needed]
The Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor plug-in for UAD-2 and Apollo interfaces provides everything from a velvet touch to an iron fist, making it a go-to on records by Muse, Green Day, Gnarls Barkley, and more.
Izotope Neutron [Price varies depending on version, 349 USD]
Achieve unprecedented focus and clarity in your mixes with Neutron. This new mixing plug-in combines the latest innovations in analysis and metering with award-winning audio processing.
Izotope Ozone 7 [249/499 USD]
Glue a mix together, control dynamic range, and add rich character with the critically acclaimed music production tools in Ozone Advanced, including the new Vintage EQ, Vintage Compressor, and Vintage Tape modules.
Invisible Limiter by A.O.M [119 USD]
The Invisible Limiter’s limiting algorithm minimizes the difference between the original and the limited signals.
Fabfilter Pro L [199 USD]
A brickwall limiter is an essential tool for every mastering or mixing engineer. Fabfilter Pro L is a professional, feature-packed limiter that is loud and transparent at the same time.
Oxford Inflator by Sonnox [115 £]
A unique and powerful limiter to increase loudness, without sacrificing sonic quality or dynamic range. Add power and presence to your mix without the pumping of compression, or use on individual channels to bring them forward and add weight.
L3-16 Ultramaximizer by Waves [549 USD]
A 16-band peak limiter delivering unparalleled loudness with unprecedented control, the L3-16 maximizes your sound with pinpoint precision and breathtaking detail.
SSL 4000 Collection by Waves [749 USD]
Developed under license from Solid State Logic, the SSL 4000 Collection includes four plugins meticulously modeled on the legendary SSL 4000 mixing consoles.
Elysia Alpha Compressor [299 USD]
The gold standard in analog M/S mastering compressors.
VSC-2 Compressor by Brainworx [299 USD]
The VSC-2 Quad Discrete Compressor is so named because it uses 4 VCA’s built by hand using only discrete components. Its design is a nod toward the best VCA based compressors of the 70s and 80s.
Clariphonic DSP Parallel Mastering EQ [199 USD]
Re-modeled from the ground up using all new algorithms and filters, the Clariphonic DSP MkII sounds markedly smoother than the original plugin, and is considerably more powerful thanks to 3 processing modes: Classic Stereo, Dual Mono, and Mid-Side.
Vertigo VSM-3 delivers the beloved badass harmonic generators of Vertigo Sound’s acclaimed VSM-2 Mix Satellite in plugin form.
EQuivocate by Eventide & Newfangled Audio [99 USD, free through October 31]
EQuivocate uses filters which are modeled on the human ear. Each of the 26 critical bands tickles a different part of your inner ear, making any combination of settings sound as natural as possible. Combining this with a linear-phase filter shape that reduces pre-echo makes EQuivocate an EQ with a difference you can hear.
Limitless by DMG Audio [149 £]
Cutting edge peak limiter to complete your mastering chain.
Oxford EQ by Sonnox [350 £]
A plug-in that traces its heritage to the original EQ section on the acclaimed Sony OXF-R3 digital console.
Melodyne by Celemony [99-849 USD, Price varies depending on version]
Melodyne is the one of the industry standards for vocal tuning, but Melodyne’s algorithms allow you to make anything from the subtlest to the most far-reaching enhancements to your audio material regarding pitch, timing and tempo, with sound quality being optimal in every case.
Auto-Tune by Antares [399 USD]
Building on 20 years as the overwhelming choice of professional musicians, producers and engineers, Auto-Tune 8 is the new generation of genuine Auto-Tune pitch and time correction.
VocALign PRO 4 by Synchro Arts [399 USD]
VocALign Pro 4 is the most advanced version of the legendary VocALign program, providing instant tight alignment of one audio signal to another. Simply capture a Guide signal with the right timing, capture a Dub signal to be aligned, press one button, and a new aligned Dub is generated and returned to your DAW.
Revoice Pro 3 by Synchro Arts [599 USD]
Revoice Pro is used worldwide by top audio professionals for the fastest, easiest and best sounding adjustment and alignment of vocals, instruments and ADR as well as double track generation.
CHOIR Evo by Antares [69 USD]
CHOIR Evo is a unique processor that turns a single monophonic voice into 4, 8, 16, or 32 distinct individual unison voices, each with its own pitch, timing and vibrato variations.
Harmony Engine Evo by Antares [199 USD]
Whether you’re an experienced vocal arranger, a songwriter looking for that perfect backup vocal, or a composer experimenting with unique vocal effects, Harmony Engine Evo gives you entirely new ways to create the harmony parts you hear in your head.
Vocal Synth by Izotope [199 USD]
Manipulate your voice to create electronic vocal textures, robot sounds, computerized harmonies, vocoder and talkbox effects, thick octaves or doubles, and everything in between.
Nectar 2 by Izotope [299 USD]
Bring a vocal track to life with the only complete set of tools designed specifically for voice. Add impact with modeled plate reverb, harmonic saturation, and a wealth of creative effects. Stay in tune with real-time Pitch Correction and remove distracting breaths without tedious, time-consuming editing.
If you know about any other incredible plug-ins that we might have missed, and that you believe should be included in this list, let us know in the comments – we’ll keep updating this list!
Don’t forget to bookmark this to stay updated!
Also if you are looking to get even more software, check out this huge list of the Best Kontakt Libraries in 2017!