There are tons of plugins out there to choose from, and it is incredibly easy to make a poor purchase. Unlike hardware, you can't exactly return the plugins you purchase. To help avoid this issue, we wanted to highlight the most useful plugins for your DAW. More than likely, your DAW already has stock plugins on it, so before running to purchase one, I suggest to first take a look through every stock plugin you have to see what you need a better one of. Let's now take a look at the different types of plugins available and what they do, then we can dive into the most useful plugins for your DAW for your needs.
The Different Types Of Plugins
There are two different main categories for plugins: Virtual Processors and Virtual Instruments. Virtual processors are tools you can use to alter your already recorded instruments. Virtual instruments are tools that you take a piece of hardware, might be a keyboard or a drum pad, and make the instrument sound like something else entirely within your DAW. In this article, we are going to focus primarily on virtual processors.
- Dynamic: These are most often compressor plugins, and are sometimes based off of the hardware. To see some hardware compressors, feel free to check out our article on Audio Compressors.
- Equalizer: Pretty straight forward. Allows you to boost or reduce frequencies. For more on audio frequency, we wrote an article previously found here.
- Reverb & Delay: Another straight forward category. It adds reverb or delay to your mix.
- Pitch & Harmony: Most commonly thought of with AutoTune, but can also add harmonies such as octave variances to your mix.
- Effects: Adds sound changes to your already record instrument. We wrote an article previously with am example of this using Guitar Amp Modulation.
- Noise Reduction: Noise Suppression and DeEssers. Ways to get rid of the undesired sounds that occur when recording.
You can also get bundles which also have a combination of these in them. Bundles are especially great for beginners to get a lot of new options without dropping tons of money. Now let's take a look at our picks for the most useful plugins for your DAW. (The following products contain affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I get paid if you click through and make a purchase)
The Most Useful Plugins For Your DAW By Category
The Different Formats For Plugins
Now that you have selected the most useful plugin for your DAW or any other plugin, you need to need to make sure you get the right format for your DAW. Here are the different formats that will work on your DAW:
- AAX: This format will work with Pro Tools 10 or later
- Audio Unit: Compatible with Ableton Live and Logic Pro
- RTAS: Compatible with Pro 10 or earlier
- VST: Works for Ableton Live, Cubase, Nuendo, and Reaper
Tips To Getting The Most Useful Plugins For Your DAW
We've mentioned several of the most useful plugins for your DAW, but there is one thought you should have before running and purchasing a bunch of plugins. Get the plugins that you NEED. There are many great stock plugins that are already built in to your DAW, and you may not always need to make a purchase to get what you are looking for. For example, the stock EQ on Pro Tools works pretty darn well. I have made the mistake many of times of window shopping online and purchasing plugins that I wanted to have in my bag of tricks. Be cautious of doing this. As I look back now, I would have preferred to use that money to have more microphone options instead.
If you still have any questions about finding the most useful plugins for your DAW, or need help finding a specific plugin that'll work in your situation, we are always there to help! We can be contacted through our contact us page found here.