A VST is Virtual Studio Technology, an audio plug-in software that integrates software synthesizers and effects in DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). This means you can have instruments (such as samplers and MIDI) creation within your DAW, some of which can be incredibly accurate and of high quality. You can create the sound and performance of an instrument without having to play the instrument. They’re a useful tool for anyone’s home studio. In this article we will be talking about Best VST Plugins in brief.
Similarly, you can use Best VST Plugins to create effects that can be used to change the sound of live instruments you have record, or even the sound of the VST instruments you’re using. It’s important to understand that these plug-ins are all of very different quality, so I’ll talk you through some great and readily available VSTs. I’ll alternate between high quality VST’s available from external sources, and VSTs you can find that come with Logic Pro X for free.
Best VST Plugins Amp Designer
If you’ve got access to Logic Pro X, its likely you’ll be pretty familiar with Amp Designer. It’s a free plugin that comes built-in to Logic Pro X and offers a range of amp simulation sounds. It looks pretty basic and has the typical Logic layout, but with a little practice, you can really use it to your advantage.
There are a few amp simulation sounds already built in, and let’s be honest, they aren’t brilliant. There are a few overdrive settings that give off pretty good results and can allow your DI’d guitar (or any other instrument if you’re feeling creative) to sound cool enough, but going manual is your best bet with this VST.
Of course, your natural response to creating a sure-fire success in your sound is to crank the overdrive to full; if you’re going full-metal, then this works a charm in Amp Designer. Similarly, an almost-clean sound will work well through here, especially if you’re just looking to give your dry signal a little treble boost or a bit more presence.
To get an edgier sound that falls somewhere in-between, a few tips to make the most of this VST include using some external effects before using this VST. If you go straight in there try and model using this, you may be a little disappointed- it’s free after all. You should also take advantage of the customisation options in this VST, such as the mic positioning (this is a great way to get a room sound that you might not have access to when recording) or play around with the types of speaker you can have the signal run through.
It may look a bit daunting from its huge frame and the detail waveforms that sit at various positions around the screen while you have it open, but Xfer Serum is one of the most powerful and customizable wavetable synths you can access.
The level of detail is incredible, and even though it looks like a lot, each section of design is actually quite easy to follow. You have the option to add sub-bass and noise to any sound, and not just add them, but customise their appearance. For example, the pitch, pan and phase. The oscillators have a visual appearance, with each one able to be positioning, detuning, phase and various other things, and your filters have much more detail than many of the default plug-ins.
Of course, at the bottom, you can design the entire sound of your synth, with envelopes and LFOs that can be changed through twisting knobs or editing a very easy to understand chart that positions everything exactly where you need. There are some good effects present and the ability to go into even more detail if you understand how (I don’t). This is one of those situations in which the digital option is better than basically every real-life synth you could get your hands on.
Best VST Plugins Bösendorfer Grand Piano
The Bösendorfer Grand Piano is actually a specific sound found within the Logic piano sounds VST, so it isn’t actually a VST in itself. However, I’ve pointed it out because I find it to be so much better than all of the other piano sounds available built into Logic. Of course, if you’re willing to spend, then you can get VSTs that basically sound 100% real, but for free, this sound is great.
If you’re playing in through a MIDI keyboard, then you can get a surprisingly convincing sound from this setting. Add a little external reverb and make some good EQ choices and you’ll be on your way to a great sound. I’d be hesitant to suggest you use this setting to record a piece of solo jazz piano as it leaves it a little too exposed, but as a piece of accompaniment in hip-hop, for example, you can’t go wrong.
Best VST Plugins Sylenth 1
Sylenth claim to be able to match the quality of hardware synths in their software. It’s a big claim, but honestly, it might be a fair one. It isn’t exactly new, but has been receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews for over 10 years, so it is a trusted piece of kit in the world of audio production. Considering its advanced sound, the price tag is justified.
The sounds found within are all exceptional, with the pre-sets all giving a wide range of styles and timbres to use across a variety of genres. They’re rich in tone, and I suppose it is their dedication to be as high quality as hardware that gives them their characteristic warmth. They also feature some high quality emulations, such as of the MiniMoog and the TB-303 which don’t quite hold up to their real life counterparts but still hold relatively fair ground.
It’s so easy to use that despite its impressive ability to edit and manipulate sounds, it’ll be picked up in a heartbeat. You can go into detail with its envelopes, LFO manipulation and edit all the oscillators with ease. One of its most standout features, though, is its built in effects, which are actually really good. You don’t need to worry so much about pairing this with good VST effects, as there are dedicated effects that match the timbres perfectly already built in.
Best VST Plugins TAL-Reverb-III
The third version of the TAL-Reverb effects plugin has made sure to build on the missteps of previous versions and has created an incredibly dense and realistic plate reverb that can transform the sound of any other instrument.
It has a few pre-sets, but this reverb VST is much better used as a self-edit piece of software that you can learn to tame and employ for your own needs. Plate reverb is all it does, which means you’re getting a dedicate type of reverb, into a which a huge amount of effort has gone into making it as realistic as possible.
It works well, allowing you to get detail and realistic sound despite simple controls. You can edit room size, pre-delay, width, and EQ the wet signal yourself. This means you can avoid pointless features that barely change the sound and instead focus on getting a cool sound that is simple to replicate each time you might need it.
Vintage Electric Piano
This is my personal favourite Logic VST as it houses the Classic Electric Piano sound as well as a few other brilliant jazzy keyboards. The Classic Electric Piano is absolutely as good a sound as any analogue keyboard and will have you well on your way to sounding just like Chick Corea in no time. There are a few other nice pre-sets as well, with the Bright Suitcase giving a unique sound and the Wurlitzer Modern taking an experimental route with a classic keyboard.
You can edit your sound to exactly what you need through a genuinely nice looking, intuitive interface reminiscent of the 70s period from which this sound emerge. There is a simple EQ setting (which I don’t really recommend- you have access to much more detaileing EQ elsewhere in Logic), a simple but effective overdrive setting, optional chorus, phaser and tremolo effects which are actually really good as they’re specific to this sound rather than a general effect that could be used on anything, as well as the ability to go into detail.
These details are where this VST really shines. You can make subtle pitch changes that will increase/decrease pitch by any number of cents, you can change how much notes can bend, as well as adjust the levels of bell and damper noise, and the balance of voices in the sound. This is the sort of easy to change details that every VST should have, as it allows you to create a truly unique sound worthy of professional recording.
In this list, I’ve tried to point you towards free plugins and ones included for free in DAWs. There are various, arguably more advanced, VSTs which can cost a lot of money. However, if you’re open to spending the extra money, you can get some amazing replications of classic analogue effects, or some string sounds that sound like you have a live violinist in the room. Just remember that you don’t need to break the bank to get some cool virtual sounds.