50 Best VST Plugins (2020 Edition)

50 best vst plugins 2020

Here’s our condensed list of the top 10 best VST plugins (2020):

  1. Serum
  2. Omisphere
  3. Arturia Pigments
  4. FabFilter Pro Q3
  5. Izotope Ozone
  6. Keyscape
  7. Soundtoys Little Plate
  8. Output Arcade
  9. Pro C2
  10. Scaler 2

Introduction

There are so many VSTs on the market it can often be difficult to find out which are the best plugins available.

That’s why we’ve created and compiled a list of 50 best vst plug-ins to add to your music production collection in 2020.

This list is made up of everything from VST instruments, orchestral plugins & some of the best plugins for mixing, in the music industry.

We’ve also put each into separate categories to make it easy for you to navigate.

Just take a look below!

Synths

Let’s face it, there’s not much more satisfying than a great software synthesizer.

And with the advances in plug-in technology, software synths have become a welcome evolution for synthesis & the music industry.

The great thing about digital synth vst plugins is that, they don’t have limits to their capability.

Below are our picks for the best vst synths of 2020.

Digital

1. Serum

If you’ve been producing for more than a week, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Serum. You know, that wave-table synth that everyone seems to be using.

Well, it is undoubtedly one of the best and most beloved plugins for the modern producer.

Like we said in our Xfer Serum VST review, Serum is extremely easy to use, while remaining unique and interesting throughout.

The audio quality is top-notch and the control + freedom you get, while working with Serum is a breath of fresh air.

Unlike a lot of modern synth VSTs, Serum has remained comparatively simple. It’s very friendly to beginners and sounds great.

What some of you might not know however, are the sampling capabilities of Serum. You can import any audio into serum and turn it into a wave-table, to create completely new and unique sounds.

One of the best things about Serum is the rent to own options. Not only are you able to pay in instalments of as little as $9.99, but each payment gets you closer to owning the virtual instrument!

(it’s also 0% interest)

2. Omnisphere

Omnisphere 2.5 digital wavetable synth plugin
(best vst plugins for trap beats)

Spectrasonics Omnisphere is one of those VST plugins that does almost anything you can think of.

Considered by many to be the cream of the crop for sound design, Omnisphere is often regarded as one of the best virtual instruments of all time.

From its Granular Synthesis modes, through to the complex rate-level envelope generators, there’s more than enough to keep the knob-twiddlers happy.

On top of that, Omnisphere is absolutely loaded with ear tingling preset sounds, which are extremely popular among cinematic film composers.

With Omnisphere, you also get access to a huge range of wave-tables, sampled directly from old hardware synths.

And…

When comparing the sound to any of the other vst plugins on this list, Omnisphere comes out victorious every time.

3. Phase Plant

kilohearts phaseplant vst plugin

Kilohearts’ flagship synthesizer is probably the closest competitor to the giant, Serum.

It’s a primarily wave-table based synth, that is super versatile, easy to learn and use.

The most interesting parts of Phase Plant are where it differs from Serum, with the workflow being the most apparent.

Phase Plant is, at its heart, a modular synthesizer, though perhaps not the kind that immediately comes to mind.

Instead of connecting immovable modules together with cables, Phase Plant allows you to slot modules in where needed.

As with all synthesizers with a modular workflow, flexibility becomes a key element in sound design.

With so many modulation destinations, and even sound generators able to be modulators, Phase Plant can produce sounds with an incredible amount of movement. Think modulating basses, twisting chords and evolving pads.

You can pick up Phase Plant from Plugin Boutique today!

4. Arturia Pigments 2

arturia pigments wavetable synth plugin

You might know music industry giants, Arturia from their wide variety of hardware synths, keyboards and controllers.

In the software world, Arturia is best known for analog gear reproductions, like the amazing Arturia CS-80V.

Pigments is a more contemporary take on a soft synthesizer, and it’s definitely one of the best vst plugins of 2020!

It’s a perfect example of a synthesizer that couldn’t really exist as a hardware synth.

The UI is fresh, colourful and fun to use, while the extensive modulation possibilities keep you busy.

Due to the nature of Pigments being a combination of, virtual analog and wave-table synthesis engines, the depth of the plug-in is unmatched.

Our favourite part of Pigments is hands-down the polyrhythmic sequencer. It turns Pigments into a quirky, extremely powerful melodic machine.

5. Native Instruments Massive X

native instruments massive x wavetable synth VST

The original Massive wave-table synthesizer was one of the synths that shaped the sound of modern music. When they came to make an updated version, Native Instruments pulled out all the stops.

Massive X features a dual wave-table sound engine, noise generation, analog oscillators, tonnes of filter types, effects & an expansive modulation section.

The LFOs and Envelopes in Massive X are probably the best thing about it. There are tonnes of modulation options, which you can tie to any parameter you want.

For example, if you wanted an envelope to control your LFO and then have that LFO control 3 other LFOs, that then branch out to every parameter of your patch, you can do that.

And we think that’s beautiful.

You can pick up Massive X from the Native Instruments store today!

Analog

As opposed to digital synths, analog synth vst instruments don’t necessarily have much freedom. Where they make up for it though is the unmistakable sonic character, that hardware synths gear are best known for.

Below is a list of the best plugins you can find, in analog synthesis

6. Roland Cloud Jupiter-8

roland jupiter 8 analog emulation of hardware synth

Released in 1981, the JUPITER-8 is one of the most celebrated and sought-after polysynths of all time.

From Michael Jacksons Thriller, to ABBA, Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, this Roland synth is ingrained in our perception of modern music.

With second hand hardware synth units going for close to 20,000$, the accessibility of the synth has been limited.

Until Roland fixed that issue.

The Jupiter-8, along with other classic Roland gear, like the Juno-106 or the TR-808 drum machines. Is available on the Roland Cloud subscription platform.

You can’t go wrong with a synth like the Jupiter, and Roland have made sure the plug-in lives up to the mythical success of the hardware synth.

This meticulous reproduction is accurate down to the circuit level, while also enhancing the original spec with modern features.

The quality and sound of this emulation makes it one of the best vst plugins in 2020.

You can get the JUPITER-8 along with other great emulations, as part of the Roland cloud subscription service.

7. Arturia CS-80V

arturia yamaha cs-80 hardware synth emulation

The original Yamaha CS-80 was probably one of the most expressive synthesizers made.

With its polyphonic after-touch, separate high pass and low pass filter types & large ribbon controller it became the voice of artists like Toto, Jean-Michel Jarre, Stevie Wonder & Peter Gabriel, to name a few.

Hit song after hit song has turned this synthesizer into a true music production legend. While the CS-80 sounded exquisite, it was missing some critical modulation routing that a modern synth should have.

Arturia has added a modulation matrix which has opened up the sound design capabilities to new heights. The new voice modes and arpeggiator breathe new life into this classic giving you even bigger sounds than original.

It’s a welcome evolution for the greatest hardware synth of all time.

8. Brainworx BX_oberhausen

brainworx bx_oberhausen analog vst emulation

Brainworx have made a name for themselves creating top-notch instruments and effects plugins. They’ve taken everything they’ve learned and poured it into bx_oberhausen, a wonderful emulation of the 1974 Oberheim SEM.

Oberheim is known for its brass sounds, and in this the bx_oberhausen excels.

It’s also right at home with synth bass and other monophonic sounds, but thanks to the added polyphony (not found in the original hardware synth) it’s capable of almost anything.

Additionally, Brainworx have included some of their famous effects, including the Maag Air Band, which makes everything that much more heavenly sounding. As well as a TMT switch, to get that classic untamed analog sound

For a very quirky and unique sounding synth, the bx_oberhausen is a stellar example of software modelling gone right.

You can get the bx_oberhausen on Plugin Alliance

9. Softube Modular

softube modular virtual instrument plugin

In our opinion, modular synthesis is one of the most interesting types of synthesis.

From insane industrial patches, to serene and ambient generative music, modular synths have the power to be anything you want them to be.

However, with an entry-level Eurorack set-up setting you back 1000$ at the very least, it’s not exactly the cheapest type of synthesizer. With single modules ranging from 100-600 dollars, it really is an investment.

Softube has decided to make modular synthesis a lot more approachable and it’s easily one of the best vst plugins of 2020.

Modular works just like hardware Eurorack systems, right down to the voltage standards (you can even patch out of your computer using an interface with DC-coupled outputs and interact with hardware systems).

Additionally, the Softube Modular also has premium add-ons from top modular synth companies, like Intellijel, Buchla, 4ms and Mutable Instruments.

If you’re at all interested in what modular synthesis can offer, Softube Modular is a great pick up

10. NI Super 8

native instruments super 8 fm synth vst

Native Instruments has established itself as a powerhouse in the world of music production software and hardware.

Out of the very wide range of virtual instruments they offer, the Super 8 is one of the best plugins available in the Native Instruments catalogue.

Similar to the Jupiter-8, the Super 8 is an 8 voice poly-synth, with all the warm analog tones you would ever want.

Where Super 8 differs from the Jupiter is it’s play ability. Where on the Jupiter you would set-up a patch to get the sound you want, the super 8 is much more expressive.

The UI of the plug-in lends itself incredibly well to tweaking on the go. As NI themselves say, the Super 8 is “Designed for tweaking”

This mindset reflects clearly in the workflow of the Super 8. The sound design process with this synth is an absolute delight.

You can get Super 8 from the NI website today.

Best Reverb Plugins 2020

Reverb plugins are definitely a dime a dozen. With numerous options for both paid and free plugins, it’s a hard task to narrow it down to 5.

We’ve gone for variety here. If nothing else, at least one of these Reverbs should catch your eye.

Below is a list of the best plugins that reverb has to offer.

11. Soundtoys Little Plate

soundtoys little plate digital reverb effect vst

Similarly to the Fabilter pro series, no best plugins list would be complete without mentioning Soundtoys.

Inspired by the original EMT 140 plate reverb, Soundtoys captured the gorgeous sound and vibe of this studio classic and turned it into a fun and musically inspiring plug-in.

As Soundtoys state themselves, the Little Plate is more than just a reproduction of the EMT 140. They’ve used modern possibilities, to enhance the characteristics of the original rack unit.

While the original reverb could only muster a modest five seconds of reverberation time, Soundtoys pushed that number higher. A lot higher. With Decay Time set to infinity, Little Plate’s reverb tails never fade away.

Another great feature of the Little Plate, is the built-in Low Cut filter types.

Instead of having to use a separate EQ or filter plugins, to remove these unwanted frequencies, it can all be done inside this very simple and intuitive reverb machine.

Soundtoys’ Little Plate is a great reverb plug-in for anyone who wants to achieve that coveted electro-mechanical sound, that the EMT 140 is so famous for.

12. Fabfilter Pro R

fab filter pro r reverb plugin effect

Fabfilter’s vst plugins prove themselves time and again, to be the ultimate package for mixing and production basics.

The Fabfilter Pro R is no exception. It’s simple, straightforward and effective.

Compared to the previously mentioned Adaptiverb, Pro-R is almost a completely different thing altogether.

Where Adaptiverb is the latest and the greatest in reverb innovation, Fabfilter Pro-R has nailed the basics, to the point that no other reverb plug-in has.

If you’re looking for an extremely versatile reverb plug-in that you could use on everything, there’s not much better than Pro-R

13. Valhalla Shimmer

valhalla shimmer reverb plugin

Valhalla is known to producers as the cream of the crop of reverbs.

It’s an algorithmic reverb designed for BIG sounds, but the versatility of the shimmer cannot be understated.

The built-in pitch shifting, as well as the sonic qualities of the reverb, make for the best way to add some necessary sparkle to your dull tracks.

We’ve used the shimmer on pretty much everything under the sun, leads, pads, percussion, etc. But where it really shines is on guitars.

Guitars just work so well together with the shimmer. The pitch-shifting of the plug-in also serves as an added layer to your already lush reverb’s.

These qualities make Shimmer one of the best plugins for guitar.

It’s a magical little piece of kit, that is one of the few, true, necessities for a modern producer.

14. Kleverb

kleverb high quality algorithmic reverb effect

Kleverb is a high quality algorithmic reverb effect.

An intuitive UI combined with a carefully calibrated network of filter types and delays makes this a powerful effect useful in any context; all from acoustic jazz to EDM.

It has to be mentioned, that the Kleverb has, in our opinion, one of the best plugins for user experience.

The workflow is extremely intuitive and easy to use, but powerful at the same time.

And makes Kleverb one of the best vst plugins of 2020.

What usually takes some automation trickery, Kleverb streamlines the process to just a click of a button, and we’re all for it.

You can get Kleverb from the Klevgrand webshop.

15. Adaptiverb

adaptiverb's high quality reverb & synth vst effect

Another on our list is: Zynaptiq Adaptiverb, and it offers a selection of things that other reverb’s do not.

It is a hybrid synthesizer/reverb that can provide lush tune-able reverb tails, or can be played like a virtual instrument.

Adaptiverb employs machine learning, ray-tracing and source separation techniques to synthesise a reverb tail that automatically adapts to the audio context it is used in — like a chameleon.

The depth of this reveb plug-in is unlike anything out there and the interface is also very striking and responsive.

Designed specifically for sound designer and people who love to experiment, Adaptiverb is one of the more compelling options for reverb VSTs in 2020.

Compressor

Compressors are a thing every producer has had to use. The problem is that compressors are anything but intuitive.

For us, a good compressor strikes the balance between ease of use, great sound and character.

So here’s our picks for the best vst audio plugin compressors of 2020.

16. Fab Filter Pro C2

fab filter pro c2 compressor plugin

The second Fabfilter plugin entry on our list, Fabfilter Pro C2 is arguably the perfect digital compressor.

The original Pro-C was one of the most beloved digital compressors, and Pro-C2 expands on that legacy.

As with a lot of FabFilter products, Fabfilter Pro C2 is an extremely high-quality compressor unit, with little to no sonic characteristics.

FabFilter makes up for the lack of a sonic character, with an intuitive and easy to understand UI, as well as a lot of features, like side chain, mid side etc.

As far as compressors go, the Fabfilter Pro C2 is as good as a digital compressor can get. It’s easily one of the best vst plugins of 2020.

As a clean and powerful compressor for mixing, you can’t go wrong by picking up Pro-C2 on Plugin Boutique today!

17. Arturia Tube-STA

arturia tube compressor plugin

The Arturia TUBE-STA gives you a stunning recreation of the stalwart, valve-driven compressor that was the all-American workhorse of early broadcast and recording studios.

A boutique signal processor with a golden touch, the original STA-Level was well known for the intimacy, air, and subtle saturation it gave to any audio it treated.

As it moved from TV and radio studios to more music-focused studios in the 60s and 70s, word got around that it had a killer sound on bass and vocals

And this is exactly the reason, why it made our list of VST plugins to die for.

The Tube-STA is hands-down one of the best plugins for achieving a thick and juicy bottom end.

It transforms weak bottom-end into fat, harmonically rich bass, and brings vocals to life. All this at the turn of one knob. Its simplicity is certainly a big part of the appeal.

18. UAD LA-2A

UAD LA-2A audio compressor plugin

When bringing up software compressor models, UAD is easily one of the best plugins available, for your compressor modelling needs.

Honestly, if we could, aside from Fabfilter Pro C2, this list would be comprised of only UAD plugins.

The granddaddy of all great character compressors, the LA-2A makes this spot purely for it’s classic sound and great sonic characteristics.

The LA-2A is arguably one of the most recognisable rack compressors ever made. It’s primarily used to bring in some analog warmth to your sounds, while remaining relatively clean.

This doesn’t mean however, that the LA-2A is a push-over.

When you slam the settings on the compressor, the grit and distortion of the circuits are to die for.

As with all UAD products, the reproduction of the original rack unit is impeccable, and honestly, having used the original unit, we could not tell the difference between the digital and analog versions.

Yes, UAD are just that good at what they do. You can get the LA-2A from the UAD webstore

19. Sausage Fattener

sausage fattener saturation plugin

A personal favourite of ours that just had to make an appearance.

Sausage Fattener by Dada Life is one of those magical plug-ins, that can seemingly make everything better.

With just 3 knobs for saturation, colour and drive, Sausage Fattener is comically easy to use.

Incidentally it is also comical to look at, the more you saturate, the larger the sausage grows.

Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?

As it’s a very simple plugin (it’s basically just a saturator) the versatility of it is nothing to scoff at. We’ve put them on Kicks, basses, saxophones, leads, pads, and much more.

Whenever we think of roughening up a sound, Sausage Fattener is usually the first thing we add.

Check out Sausage Fattener on the Dada Life website

20. Lindell Audio 7X-500

Lindell Audio 7X-500 compressor plugin

The Lindell Audio 7X-500 is a software reproduction of their 500 series FET compressor.

As a FET compressor, the 7X-500 is nowhere near the versatility of Fabfilter Pro C2, or the UAD LA-2A compressor.

Where it makes up for it though, is the extremely prominent and in your face sonic characteristics. It’s aggressive, mean and rough, and a lot of times – that’s exactly what you need.

In fact, the 7X-500 is easily one of the best compressors to run in parallel.

The tracking isn’t all that great, which means that vocals aren’t really the best fit for the plug-in.

Layer it in parallel however, and you can start to see why it made our list.

A really great pick-up for anybody looking for a full bodied character compressor.

You can get it from Plugin Alliance right now!

Best EQ Plugins 2020

EQ is one of the basic building blocks of a good mix. If you’re not equalizing something in your mixes, you’re doing it wrong.

A good EQ will fit either of two categories:

  • Surgical EQ
  • Musical EQ

Which of these is best for you depends on the situation, which is why we compiled a great variety of different and interesting EQ’s to sink your teeth into.

Below is a list of the best plugins in Equalisation.

21. Fabfilter Pro Q3

fab filter pro-q 3 EQ plugin
dynamic EQ

The Fabfilter Pro Q is a razor sharp EQ with no sonic qualities.

It is exactly how a mixing EQ should be.

Simple, easy to use and damn powerful.

So what makes a great EQ? Undoubtedly one of the main criteria is precision and, Pro Q is the absolute king of precision.

The UI is very easy to understand and the workflow is sublime.

Pro Q streamlines every part of the EQ and makes it as easy to use as possible.

Here’s what it offers (version: Pro Q3):

  • Incredible precision.
  • An optional Dynamic EQ setting.
  • Mid side & left/right settings.
  • Zero latency (unique to pro q)
  • 24 EQ individual bands for sculpting.
  • Incredible filter shapes & support for 96dB/oct slopes.

22. Summit audio EQF-100

Summit audio EQF-100 EQ plugin

The Softube Summit Audio EQF-100 is an emulation of the rack unit of the same name.

The EQF-100 is absolutely stellar as a tonal EQ. It’s perfect for sweetening up your tracks and fixing any tonal issues.

It’s also optimized very well, for boosts. Where usually you would be almost limited to cutting on an EQ, EQF-100 shines, when boosting frequencies.

It’s an equalizer, full of character and easily lists as one of the best of its kind.

23. Waves 550a & 550b

Waves 550a & 550b api compressor plugin

Not a lot can be said about the 550a and 550b that hasn’t been said a million times over.

Probably the most ubiquitous example of a hardware EQ that has ever existed.

Based on one of the most popular EQ’s ever, the API 550 range, the Waves emulations don’t disappoint.

The Waves 550A EQ provides equalization at 15 points in 5 steps of boost, divided into three overlapping ranges.

Its high and low frequency ranges are individually select-able as either peaking or shelving, and a band-pass filter can be inserted independently of all other settings.

The 550b on the other hand is invaluable as both a problem solver and a sweetening device.

Since both of these plug-ins are usually bundled together, you will end up having an incredibly versatile and great sounding set of EQ’s.

This set of EQ’s is available on sale on the Waves website.

24. Maag4 EQ

Maag4 EQ plugin

The Maag Audio EQ4 is a musical EQ, making it ideal for sweetening tracks.

The exceptionally low phase across all EQ adjustments helps maintain the integrity of your original signal while giving it an airy quality.

The Maag EQ4 has a ‘Sub’ band, which is a bell boost/cut fixed at an earth-shatteringly low 10Hz, and the ‘Air’ band a shelf boost that can be set to 2.5, 5, 10, 20 or 40 kHz, as well as ‘off’

We love it especially for the absolutely beautiful top end presence that this EQ provides.

Try using it on vocals, to see why some of the best producers in the world demanded a software replica of this exact EQ

The Maag EQ4 is available on Plugin Alliance today!

25. Carve EQ

carve eq plugin

The Kilohearts Carve EQ is a 31-band EQ with built-in spectral analysis and a Match tool that makes it both addictive and useful.

Carve EQ can be both heavy handed and precise, depending on how you use it. We prefer to use Carve EQ for drastic cuts and boosts. The UI also lends itself incredibly well to a fast paced production style.

Additionally, it is admittedly incredibly fun to use. This puts it in the conversation for one of the best vst plugins of 2020.

However…

The most interesting feature by far, that Carve EQ has, is the Match and Reference Tool.

By uploading a song, or track into Carve EQ, it will calculate and figure out how the source audio has been EQ’d, and spits out an EQ curve, based on the source audio, which is a great starting point for any mix.

Check Carve EQ on Plugin Boutique.

Mixing

A bit of a weird category here, because, what really is a mixing plugin?

Well, for us, it means anything you could use to make your mixes sound better, fuller and more clear.

Since we already have separate categories for EQ’s and compressors, the plugins you’ll find here are more situational, but definitely great to have.

So keep on reading, to find out what they are!

26. RX-8 Advanced

izotope rx-8 audio repair & de-noise plugin

The first entry of an iZotope product on our list is the famed RX-8 plug-in. And it’s another wicked plugin you can get on Splice’s rent to own plans!

Anyone that has ever used iZotope’s RX products in the past does not have to be sold on their utility.

They are essential and unparalleled processing effects for audio repair, de-noising, dialog editing, spectral processing and much more.

As with all technology, the app continuously evolves and improves, and the latest version, RX 8 Advanced, is now capable of intelligently identifying vocals, bass, percussion and other instruments in a mix.

In addition, RX 8 Advanced now also supports surround sound.

RX-8 is also fantastic for creating your own DIY acapellas that sound frickin’ incredible when compared to other methods!

27. Fabfilter Saturn 2

fab filer saturn 2 distortion and saturation plugin

Saturn is a multi-band saturation and distortion unit with FabFilters famously flexible modulation routing system onboard.

As with all FabFilter products, it is extremely easy to pick up and get to know. The UI is great, everything you expect from FabFilter is present here.

Even as a single-band unit, Saturn does a stunning job of saturating and distorting any source thrown at it, but add multiband functionality and all that per-band modulation and you have a saturation/distortion design tool with control over every aspect of your sound from frequency and drive, to dynamic range and volume.

Using Saturn to saturate a part of the frequency range of a bass sound, or giving guitars some juicy extra crunch, is where it shines.

The quality and sound of Saturn, makes it one of the best vst plugins of 2020

If you’ve ever wanted to saturate just a part of the frequency spectrum, look no further than Saturn.

28. Waves Smack Attack

waves smack attack transient shaping plugin

A so-called “secret weapon” for mixing drums and other percussive instruments, this Waves’ transient shaper plugin is a spiritual successor to their classic Trans-X, with a few clever tricks up its sleeve. 

Like any transient shaper, Smack Attack enables independent boosting and/or attenuation of the attack and release portions of the transients in the incoming signal, in order to give it more or less impact and punch.

However, it’s in the detection of those transients and shaping of the gain control envelope that Smack Attack really sets itself apart.  

Smack Attack is a fantastic sounding plug-in, if not a little more involved than others.

There are plenty of superb transient shapers out there, but none have quite the same level of finesse as Waves’ colourful new take on the concept.

You can purchase Smack Attack on the Waves webstore today.

29. GullFoss

gullfoss smart EQ plugin

What happens when a theoretical physicist decides to design and build an EQ plug-in? The answer is Gullfoss.

Gullfoss is based on a computational auditory perception model and is described as a form of AI that dynamically analyses and corrects your signal.

Gullfoss transparently changes its’ frequency response more than 100x a second whilst leaving the perceived dynamics untouched and without introducing audible artefacts.

It can be used to instantly improve the clarity of both mixes and tracks in a way that’s impossible with normal EQs.

Essentially, the algorithm intelligently picks out the elements in the audio signal that are dominating or being dominated in each area.

If they are too prominent you can use Tame to bring them back to a better level, or if they’re too hidden, you can use Recover to help reveal them.

Gullfoss is a very interesting plug-in that could be very useful for both beginners and as well as experienced engineers.

You can get Gullfoss from the Soundtheory website today!

30. Goodhertz Mid Side

Goodhertz Mid Side, mid side EQ plugin

Though there are a lot of mid side plugins on the market, all of them have failed to strike a perfect balance between simplicity and power. So Goodhertz built their own.

Sometimes panning isn’t enough for getting a thick and full stereo image.

Mid side was built to be automated and moved around (even the mute and solo buttons won’t click or pop).

Use it to manipulate space and depth; automate it to create more motion in your mixes or masters.

If you’ve wanted more expressive control of your stereo image — this is the plugin.

The ease of use of Mid Side cannot be understated.

If you’re looking for a great mid side plug-in, this should answer all your prayers.

You can get goodhertz mid side from the Goodhertz webstore.

Mastering

Mastering is a thing that confuses a lot of producers.

There is a tonne of conflicting information online, that somebody who is learning mastering could get totally lost in.

So, for us, the best plugins in mastering are the ones that make it accessible.

Since there are a literal butt-load of things you can use in your mastering chain, we’ve compiled a list of what we think are the best overall packages for mastering.

31. Izotope Ozone

izotop ozone 9 AI mastering plugin

Ozone 9 has absolutely everything you’ll ever need for mastering.

There’s nothing that can really compare to how dominant this plug-in is for mastering purposes.

Ozone has always offered powerful processing and a user-friendly interface, allowing it to appeal to both experienced engineers and mastering newbies.

The features and possibilities of Ozone are so endless, that it doesn’t make sense for us to tell you about everything.

Probably one of the most interesting features of Ozone is the Master Assistant. Using AI, Ozone analyses your audio, and adjusts the mastering settings, according to what you’re going for.

It’s as simple as pressing on the assistant button, and answering a couple questions.

From experience, Ozone’s mastering assistant gets you already most of the way there.

No faff, no convoluted workflows, just a few buttons and knobs and you’re done.

For professional mastering engineers however, the mastering assistant is pretty much useless, other than providing a vague reference.

The approach-ability of Ozone makes it one of the best plugins for mastering on the market.

32. Fabfilter Pro L2

fab filter pro l2 limiter plugin

Fabilter Pro L2 is as much a FabFilter plug-in as anything else – it’s incredibly precise and clean.

It’s easy to use and most importantly, it does the job its designed to.

Most of the plugin’s interface is given to the visual meter, that shows the audio coming into the Limiter, in real time.

Even though you should usually focus on what you’re hearing, crucially you can use the meters to check visually, that nothing unusual is happening to your audio.

You can use the audition mode to check for distortion, and the loudness meter to make sure you’re not going to lose the energy of your song.

Fabfilter Pro L2 also sounds excellent. It’s flexible and diverse, easy to use and easy to learn.

33. Sonible smart:comp

sonible smart comp an assisted AI compressor plugin
AI assisted tool, which is great for a mix starting point.

smart:comp is an “AI” assisted audio tool for compression.

Their unique Spectral Compression mode, analyses the input track, in real-time with more than 2000 frequency bands, making it one of the best plugins for spectro-dynamic compressors about!

It also has a side-chain input, with the ability to use the instrument profiles, detection focus, and the spectral compression function to provide selective ducking.

smart:comp is definitely a unique product, suited best for mastering.

You can get smart:comp on Plugin Boutique.

34. UAD SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor

UAD SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor plugin

A firm favourite of countless mix engineers, the iconic stereo bus compressor from the SSL 4000 G-Series mixing console, is best known for its ability to ‘glue’ disparate mix elements together, providing modern punch, cohesion & transparency. 

As with the original hardware, the simple controls and layout of this VCA-style device, give you an incredible depth of control over your buses and separate mixes.

The SSL compressor adds a certain charm to your mix, making it instantly feel like a record, without sacrificing clarity.

You can pick up this stellar compressor from the UAD store.

35. Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain

Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain plugin

Used in the making of albums by Nirvana, Radiohead and Pink Floyd (including Dark Side Of The Moon), amongst countless others, this has to be one of the best plugins for mastering available.

The TG mastering chain actually consists of six plugins: mono and stereo versions of the main TG Mastering Chain, live versions of both, and mono and stereo versions of the TG Mastering Bridge.

The sound is full of character, but the fixed-frequency EQ & filter types lead you towards presets, rather than giving you total freedom.

(although these can be great as a starting point for any master).

Even so, with its warm, analog vibes, this is certainly one of the best plugins that, engineers working in rock, pop, jazz (and other styles) can use for lively, punchy, masters. 

The Abbey Road TG Mastering chain is available on the Waves webstore.

MISC

The plug-ins that are wholly unique, original and different from everything else around have ended up here.

Personally, being the favourite category of this article, we had to severely cut down the amount of plug-ins here to fit it all into a top 50.

Some honorable mentions include:

36. Output Arcade

output arcade sampler virtual instrument

Arcade is a loop synthesizer, with new content delivered every day, and tools to transform your sound to remain original. 

Arcade revolves around Kits, of which Output have released a tonne. With 15 product lines under their belt and many more coming, the future of Arcade is certainly very interesting.

Kits are curated presets of up to 15 loops. The White keys play loops. The black keys modify them.

There are 4 macro sliders to change the character of the Arcade session with 11 built-in effects.

Arcade is a fun tool based on a unique concept with a beautiful interface and is definitely one of the best plugins on the market right now.

You can check out Arcade on the Output website.

37. Crystallizer

soundtoys crystallizer echo and delay plugin

Crystallizer is an absolutely insane echo plug-in.

Perfect for toying around and experimenting, Crystallizer is a sound design dream.

Soundtoys Crystallizer isn’t your typical echo plug-in…

The sounds you can get, range from traditional to unique, but it is the unique and strange sounds you get from this plug-in that make it so appealing.

Crystalizer takes a slice of the input audio and when it plays it back, it can play it back in reverse. It can be shifted up or down in pitch by 3 octaves, and delayed up to 2 seconds.

The Recycle features allows for regeneration, where the output is fed back into the input.

This all makes for a wholly unique and excellent sounding echo plug-in.

38. Melodyne

melodyne auto-tune vocal plugin

There isn’t a better way of tuning vocals than Melodyne and, it’s easily the one of the best plugins for vocals.

Where auto-tune is like a big brush for rounding up your vocal notes to the nearest semitone, Melodyne is like a scalpel.

After importing your audio into Melodyne, you are presented with your vocals in a MIDI-like interface (take a look at the above picture).

From here you can either pitch your vocal notes or shift them around the grid, changing timing. You can also delete any unwanted notes, insert vibrato and a plethora of other things.

But, probably the most impressive thing about Melodyne is that it isn’t just for vocals.

You might be surprised to hear that it works extremely well on chords & melodies too!

Imagine a situation where you played the sickest piano riff of your life, but missed a note in the next chord.

Before Melodyne, you had no choice but to re-record. But now, you can simply move the individual notes where you need them to be & the sound quality is amazing!

39. Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5

native instruments guitar rig 5 guitar amplifier plugin

Guitar Rig is the go-to guitar plug-in.

The sheer amount of effects, amps, cabs and other customisation options make Guitar Rig one of the best plugins for guitarists!

In the early days, Guitar Rig offered three tube amplifier emulations, and more than 20 effects including:

  • Models of well-known hardware pedals
  • Studio-style effects such as:
    • Delay
    • Reverb
    • EQ 

The Cabinets and Mics inside the plug-in have 14 speaker types, including the classic B4 Rotary Speaker reminiscent of an old Hammond cab. 

Additionally, the modelling also takes into account the electrical reaction between the power amp & the speaker!

Guitar Rig 5 is available on the Native Instruments webstore.

40. Scaler 2

scaler 2 music theory helper and melody writing plugin
best plugins music theory

Scaler is a fantastic music composition and learning tool, which can be used not only by those who aren’t too much into music theory, but also by those who are willing to learn & expand their music theory knowledge.

Scaler 2 offers an enormous library of chords and scales, pretty much everything we know in music today.

Scaler 2 also has a ton of performance options such as expressions, arpeggios, and strumming patterns that can add a lot of life to your tracks.

If you want to add a bit more of a human element to your playing, you can select from the Humanize options to add subtle changes to the note velocity, timing, or both.

If you’ve ever felt stuck by not having enough music theory knowledge, we highly suggest picking up Scaler 2.

Piano

Second to last on our best vst plugins of 2020 list, we have the Piano category.

We know that, finding great Piano emulations can be extremely difficult.

So we decided to try and test the very best virtual instruments, in search of the most realistic emulations of Piano plugins available.

41. Keyscape

spectrasonics keyscape piano virtual instrument

Keyscape is an extraordinary virtual instrument featuring the largest selection of collector keyboards in the world.

From “holy grail” pianos to stunning keyboards you didn’t even know existed, this is a keyboardist’s dream come true.

As with Spectrasonics Omnisphere, the sound quality of Keyscape is stellar, but where it really comes alive is the customisation.

Let’s say, for example you want to lay down some chords with a classic Fender Rhodes sound, but just want some percussive top end from a harpsichord.

Well, the beautiful thing about Keyscape is that, you can combine these sounds into what they call “Hybrid Duo Patches” & they’re incredible for sound design.

And it doesn’t stop there.

If you also own Spectrasonics Omnisphere, you can load the entire Keyscape library into its synthesis engine.

42. Addictive Keys

addictive keys piano vsti

Addictive Keys is one of those VST plugins that gets Piano emulation just right.

It works by using incredible samples that sound like the real thing!

What’s great is, you’re actually able to modulate and change them in any way you want.

And, once you have fine-tuned your sound, you can use a variety of mic placements to sound like you’re recording the thing from a studio!

Different microphones, mic placements and rooms are just a few of the great customisation options that Addictive Keys’ virtual studio offers.

43. Native Instruments Kontakt

native instruments kontakt sampler virtual instrument

Obviously, Kontakt is not a big secret.

For well over a decade, producers, sound designers and professional mix engineers have made great use of it. During that time, it has been showered with high praise and deservedly so.

At it’s core, Kontakt is an environment for multi-sampled instruments, but the plugin itself runs much deeper.

Kontakt is fully programmable and, regardless of your level of experience or programming knowledge, your sample processing needs are most definitely covered.

Especially given the power available to you with custom scripting, which allows you to create your own sound engines.

There are also countless instruments and packs for Kontakt to choose from.

Our favourites are:

  • Kinetic Treats
  • Retro Machines
  • Sound Dust

You can get Kontakt 6 from the Native Instruments Webstore.

44. Spitfire Labs

spitfire labs free piano vst
(best vst plugins free)

LABS is way more about the content, than the plug-in itself.

If you’re not too familiar with Spitfire Audio and LABS respectively, you might not know that all of LABS’ packs are completely free.

In fact, originally each separate pack cost 3$, with proceeds going to charity.

After reworking the plug-in from a Kontakt library, into a standalone VST, Spitfire Audio made the decision to release all LABS products free of charge and donate a portion of their annual income to charity instead.

LABS packs are hands-down one of the best sampled instrument libraries available for free.

From percussion, to Wurlitzer emulations, to experimental, granular ambient sounds, LABS makes their packs sound unlike anything else.

At exactly 0$ for the entire LABS package, if you don’t already have this on your computer, then you’re missing out!

45. Soundmagic Piano One

soundmagic piano one piano emulation vsti

Soundmagic Piano One

Comes from the sampling of a Yamaha C7 concert grand. It uses its own hybrid modelling engine to capture the well known sound of the C7.

This engine combines the realistic sound of sampling and the play ability of modelling. The play ability is responsive, due to the modelling, while the sampling makes the sound crisp and realistic.

The user interface includes an absurd amount of controls for a piano VST. It allows you to customise just about anything. Interesting features include piano key noises, audience and player perspective, and tuning systems.

Delay

Last on the list of our favourite plugins of 2020 is delays.

Delays are something we use in our production every time. From creating incredible sound design, to just using them for mixing purposes, delays are essential for every producer.

46. Soundtoys EchoBoy

soundtoys echoboy best delay plugin

EchoBoy by Soundtoys is by far the best delay plugin we’ve come into. It’s versatile, has that warm analog sound you desire & is extremely popular among producers.

As mentioned, it’s an analog plugin that has over 30 emulations of vintage machines.

If you’re looking for a delay plugin, this is your dream.

47. Slate Digital D16 Repeater

d16 repeater delay plugin

The D16 Repeater by Slate Digital, is a serious contender to Soundtoys’ EchoBoy, offering far more depth & deep customisation than it’s competitor.

With the D16, you have access to 23 different delay models which you can tweak even further with the colour knob.

Despite the deep customisation available on Repeater, what makes it so great is how quickly you can get incredible sounding effects with just a few changes.

48. Imperial Delay

imperial delay plugin

Imperial Delay by Boz Digital Labs has been designed with workflow in mind, and it shows. It’s a powerful beast of a delay that gives you control over everything.

Due to its design and nature, Imperial Delay allows you to modify tonnes, without affecting your creative flow.

As can be seen above, it allows you to have control over a number of options such as:

  • Feeback
  • Chorus
  • Drive
  • Modulation
  • Color
  • And loads more!

49. Fabfilter Timeless 2

fabfilter timeless 2 delay plugin

Fabfilter Timeless 2 is another plugin from the software giants that just makes sense.

It’s a fairly unique delay unit, because it’s a fairly straightforward plugin that can be used to achieve incredible results within minutes of using it. But, there’s also a tonne going on in the background.

The options when using Fabilter Timeless 2 are absolutely endless! You can either rustle up a simple delay or make use of the large array of modulation options available to create awe inspiring sound design.

On top of all that, Fabilter includes absolute precision with access to their fantastic filters including, bells, roll offs, shelfs & more!

50. Softube Tube Delay

softube tube delay plugin

Softube Tube delay is a delay plugin that packs a punch.

It has an awesome vintage analog style passive EQ that can create results that sound clean or just plain dirty, with just a twist of a knob!

As the name suggests, it also has the ability to add drive to the delay signal to give it a certain warmth & grit.

With Softube Tube delay, you can either add drive to the source of your signal, just the delay or you can add it to the entire sound.

With such a low price tag for such an incredible sound, Tube delay is a must have.

Wrapping Up

The sheer amount of high quality plug-ins that have come out in the past 20 years is astounding.

You literally no longer need any hardware other than a computer, interface and speakers.

If there’s a rack compressor, you can have a plug-in version of that. If you want a boutique synth that nobody has heard of, chances are, there’s a VST emulation out there.

The world of incredible plugins is growing daily, and it’s awesome.

Anyway…

That just about brings us to a close. We really hope you enjoyed our list of the best vst plugins in 2020.

If you want some FREE plugins, check out our list of the top 250 free plugins you can download right now!

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Harry is a Music Producer, DJ & marketing specialist. With over 6 years of experience in the music industry, Harry has played multiple festivals, run his own sell out events, been released on multiple labels & even had coverage on national radio. Harry is all about sharing his knowledge with the world. Being a DIY musician himself, and having faced the struggles of having no budget, time & falling on his ass for years, he wants to share his knowledge with new, budding producers - so they don't have to face the same struggles.