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I'm not too concerned about a particular kind of plugin or what formats, but trying to find out who are the companies in the market that are making the good stuff.

  • On the high end
  • On the cheap end
  • Unique/creative functionality
  • In each of the major categories (EQ, dynamics, reverb, NR, pitch correction, ...)

And what is it about the plugins that makes them so special?

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6 Answers

One of the high end players I can think of is Waves. In the unique/creative category, there's Tom Erb and Destroy FX.

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Waves makes seriously good stuff. –  Ian C. Jan 17 '11 at 21:21
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Nomad Factory

In particular I love their Magnetic plugin. As a former Cubase 5 SX user, transplanted to Logic 8 on Mac, one of the things I missed most from Cubase was a solid, easy-to-use, tape saturation emulator. Cubase had Magneto and I abused the hell out of that thing. Nomad Factory has brought back one of my all-time favourite effects in a great sounding, easy to use interface. It goes on sale occasionally. I picked it up for $50 early last year. Try it across your master buss on mix down -- you won't go back to working without it.

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Another noteworthy name is Wave Arts 5 plug-ins doesn't seem many, but the power they're packed with is just stunning. I like them for their ease of use and their quality.

Trackplug is already EQ, Brickwall filter, Dynamics (gate + 2 compressors that have side-chaining and lookahead), output gain + limiter, basically all you need for a channel strip.

They have a very easy master plugin that can do dithering with noise shaping, and has a limiter that I really like.

There's also a very flexible reverb plugin and multiband compression plugin.

And there is the "spatial piece of gold" called 'Panorama', which does spatial 3D-audio magic by just applying the right filter technique. (e.g. HRTFs for binaural hearing, but it also comes with stuff to make your stereo mix sound like surround.) I would never use this plugin on any classical music live-recording, but it is a great effect to have in basically every studio production.

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If you are looking for tools like EQ, compressors, etc. Waves, Sonnox, McDSP, are amongst some of the most popular and most used in our suites. As for reverbs, Altiverb, Waves Trueverb/Rverb, Sonnox reverb, are amongst some of the favorites

But I usually have a lot of fun with stuff like OhmForce, and some cheap or even free pluggos! internet is full of those nowadays.

Why? Well, grown used to use waves on a regular basis specially compressors. Don't seem to find much different between most EQs (there are some eq's that are completely out of main stream out there) and I'm usually not to fussed about it unless I specifically want something not usual or if I want a Lin-phase EQ. Compressors on the other hand seem to have such different behaviour between themselves that I tend to not make a decision until I went through a good amount of them. McDSP are good on this too, so are Sonnox.

If you have some money to splurge, the UAD cards offer some pretty sweet stuff. Their reverb is outstanding imo! Had the chance to use a plate rev once but I don't think I would go to the trouble of carrying those tanks when I have the UAD one!

Having said all this, mixed several albuns with the Digirack plugins alone (included in ProTools).

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I've been using Voxengo for more than five years and am very satisfied.

I do mastering, and there was a really nasty composition that didn't want to play well with mono compatibility, so I was searching for something that would fix that, found PHA-979 and was really impressed. That was 5 years ago.

Elephant saved my day when I wanted to dither a classical orchestral composition which had a lots of headroom and huge dynamic range, all of this down to 16 bits. Every other dither I tried made the quieter parts sound a bit metallic.

Although, it's not a complete replacement for Waves, and everyone got used to the sound of Waves, so I don't use Voxengo if I master something that's gonna be widespread. But niche genres tend to like stuff gone through Voxengo more often.

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A big X2 on the UAD stuff! You used to have to buy a card but I believe there is a firewire interface out now. The hardware ranges from about 500-2500 depending on how many processors and the pluggins range from 150-350 so it's not the cheapest but it is the best sounding for sure! I use waves and have used the wave arts as well as several others. UAD make the most organic, true to hardware sounding models hands down. In the studio I work with hardware 1176's, LA2's trident A-range eq, Neve eq, ect. At home I use the UAD and they really are the next best thing. There's a lot of decent stuff out there but once I started using UAD things changed. I wasn't as afraid to boost high frequency or compress more without getting brittle or loosing punch and mixes started coming together more quickly and sounding more interesting. I'll still use the WAVES API eq's and their limiters are great as well as a few others, but almost everything else is UAD.

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