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Best Mixing Plugins For Beginners (2021)

beginners mixing Apr 02, 2021

Which plugins are best for mixing and mastering in 2021?

Having a good set of basic plugins to call on makes mixing and mastering music so much more fun and rewarding when you can quickly get the best sounds for your mix with the minimum fuss. 

This is a list of the audio plugins I’m using at the moment on every mix I do. I use them because they are easy to use and simply laid out as well as giving me great results when I apply them.

 

In this video I’m recommending my top plugin choices to you to use along with your stock plugins to expand your plugin collection to give you a few more options to create some unique and awesome sounds in your mixes.

 Top 10 Mixing and Mastering Plugins 2020

In last year's video, I found it really hard to come up with only 10 plugins for the top 10 list because there are so many brilliant plug ins out there. And I love working with plug ins because they really spark my creativity.

I find that just being able to open a new plug in and have a wander around and see what the Presets are doing can often just pull me out of a hole where things aren't quite going my way and I'm just looking for something a bit different, something exciting, something to bring this particular sound out to the front or maybe just come across with a bit more attitude. And this is where sometimes I just fall back into my plugin list and have a scroll down, see what's available, see which ones I haven't opened and try them out.

And what happens is that sometimes one or two of those plugins end up sticking and becoming part of my template and I end up using them on every mix. Some plugins fall by the wayside. I either get bored or they might not get updated or am I have seen somebody using a plugin in another video and thought I'd quite like to give it a go myself. So the problem I've got this time around this year and coming up with a top 10 plugin list is that most of them are the same, apart from maybe two or three.

So I thought what I'd do is a sort of rundown of the original plugins, which you can watch by just clicking the link on screen now. But in this video, what I'll do is run through the duplicates and expand on perhaps what I said in last year's video, and then I might give one or two examples as well. So when thinking about putting this video together, I was wondering about what sort of criteria I could use this time around, and really I think it would be to fair to say that if any of these plug ins were to disappear or were to go away for some unknown reason, I would be truly miserable without them.

But not only that, they would also impede me slightly in the way that I currently work and in a way that sparks creativity when I needed to. So the plugins not included in this round-up are plugins I haven't discovered yet or haven't had the opportunity to use. A disclaimer; I don't own all the plugins out there and so really, I guess this it's more a list of my favourite plug ins that I'm using at the moment on every mix, apart from the fact that I would feel absolutely miserable if these plug ins were to disappear tomorrow.

I also wanted to keep in mind what I feel are going to be the best plugins that you can have in your toolkit for mixing. If you're just starting out mixing it can be truly mind boggling, all the choices that you have for plugins. But it really comes down to just needing a handful of of different types of plugins to be able to get you mixing music up to today's sort of modern standard.

And so for me, when I was putting the list together, those handful of plugins that you that you're going to need on a daily basis as you mix music is going to be an EQ, it's going to be a compressor, you're going to need a reverb unit, a delay unit, you're probably going to need saturation or distortion of some sort, a tape machine or tape emulator.

You're going to need some metering, you're going to need some way of referencing your mix to a commercial mix.

You're probably going to need a limiter and a noise gate.

So what by all means is that you've got all the basic areas covid, you've got EQ, you've got dynamic control, you've got special effects, you've got tape emulation or analogue saturation.

You've got the essential metering and referencing tools and a limiter to help you keep your mix bus level under control and to get it loud enough for commercial release. And that's it really.

You've got all the bases covered.

EQ Plugins

So for me, when I talk about an EQ plug in, really what I need in my tool box is what I call a clean EQ, which I will use for surgical EQ ing cleaning up sounds and EQ that's not going to impart any kind of tone or colour of its own.

So then secondly, the second EQ tool would be an EQ that does have character, that does have a tone and that invariably ends up being some sort of analogue emulation plugin.

Compressor Plugins

Then the same goes for Compressor's. I want a clean compressor that's not going to impart any colouration and then secondly, I also want another compressor that is full of character that I can use for creative purposes and that I can use for some secret sauce and fun. And again, in my case, that usually comes down to some sort of analogue emulation, then got standard kind of reverbs and delays.

Saturation

And then I mentioned saturation and distortion and tape machines. Again, this is the analogue flavour I've been talking about. And why is that so important? Well, for me, it's how I've listened to records through to the point I'm at now in 2021. A lot of records I've listened to coming up, learning and growing have been recorded and mixed using analogue equipment. And so that's kinda how I'm used to hearing music. And it's what makes things sound like a record to me.

So it's important that I have elements of that in my DAW to be able to bring that into the digital domain for a mix to sound authentic.

Referencing

If you've watched any of my videos, you will know that I'm big on referencing. It's not something that I do continuously through a mix, but it's something that I do at various stages. And I find it helps me keep on track with what my clients are asking me for and for my own personal goals for a mix.

So, what are the best plugins for mixing in 2021?

Well, watch the video to find out!

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