Essential Plugins [podcast 73]

This week we are talking about what we consider “essential” plug-ins.

Raw Transcript:

Kevin: This is the MixCoach podcast, episode 73.

Jon: On this episode of the MixCoach podcast, we’re going to talk about what plug-ins we consider essential.


Hey Kev, how’s it going?

Kevin: Jon.

Jon: I was asked the other day what group of plug-ins I considered essential. I liked the question so I thought I would pose it here and we can talk about what our essential plug-ins are, but what plug-ins would you find essential?

Kevin: Are we talking about what types of plug-ins or are we talking about?

Jon: You can talk about go-to just in general, specifics, or all the way down to what do you need when you’re trying to assemble your toolbox, that sort of thing.

Kevin: Well, you know, I know you probably weren’t planning on this but let me talk about two different things here. I want to talk about the kinds of plug-ins that are essential.

Jon: Perfect.

Kevin: And then I’ll talk about the brands, because really, you know the brands…

Jon: The brands everybody has their own kind of, “Hey what do you use?” Or that sort of thing, but I’m right there with you where you can get a great sound out of so many different types of plug-ins but let’s talk about the types that you’ll need.

Kevin: Okay, so the types, just off the top of my head, you need a filter, you need something with a low pass filter on it, that’s essential, and preferably an E.Q. with a low pass filter on it.

Jon: And a high pass filter as well probably.

Kevin: I’m sorry, I meant the high pass filter, exactly. It’s confusing and I will always be confused that a low pass filter passes highs. Wait a minute.

Jon: See?

Kevin: See? It’s obvious I’m confused. You know what I’m talking about.

Jon: Yes.

Kevin: The thing that trims off the lows. What is that called?

Jon: The high pass filter.

Kevin: You need that, even though I don’t know how to say it I do know how to use it. Of course, and you need E.Q., so E.Q. with a low pass filter and then I would say you need some kind of limiter and then you need some kind of ERB.

Jon: Yeah.

Kevin: I mean to me, that’s really the kinds of tools that you use and you need the mono switch. In my opinion, that’s the plug-ins that you need. If there’s another plug-in that I can throw in, the kind of plug-in is you need some kind of plug-in, whether that plug-in’s a piece of hardware like my Mackie Big Knob over here or some kind of monitoring system to where you can bounce between the mix you’re doing and the mix you’re ABing your mix to.

Jon: Well you could even drop that into a session of some sort and then just leave it muted and solo it, that sort of thing.

Kevin: You could.

Jon: So I mean, yeah, yeah. Yes I would agree with you.

Kevin: So it would be a mute switch or whatever.

Jon: Right.

Kevin: But to me those are the essentials of the kinds of plug-ins.

Jon: Agreed.

Kevin: Now if you want to talk about the brands and stuff, first of all let me say this, and I think we talked about this the other day, when you’ve got a mechanic working on a car, what makes the car run well is not the kind of tools that the mechanic is using. He can use very cheap, even free tools and still make the car run well until the next time you bring it in. It just so happens that most of the professional people that work on cars, mechanics, they use Craftsman or Mac, not the computer, but Mac Tools.

Jon: A lot of times it also depends on what type of car they specialize in working on.

Kevin: It could very well mean that. So just because I’m using these tools or just because you heard C.L.A. use these tools, or Massenberger.

Jon: His even has his name on it.

Kevin: Or somebody that’s endorsed a certain tool. It doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the tool that you need to go with. With that being said, I will say that the Waves S.S.L. Channel Strip has been my go-to for probably five years now.

Jon: Yeah, that’s on my list as well.

Kevin: It’s a great plug-in, although ever since I heard the Universal Audio, is it the A.P.I. Vision?

Jon: I think so.

Kevin: Channel Strip?

Jon: Yes.

Kevin: That things is amazing and since I’ve heard that I want to hear their version of the S.S.L. now because to me the S.S.L. and the Vision both are kind of in the same category. It’s one plug-in that does almost everything and it kind of takes some of the pressure, you know we talked about this a few weeks ago, where the pain that comes along with having made the wrong decision on something. To me it kind of alleviates that pain because it’s like, “Hey I’m running through an S.S.L., whatever I can get done on this is going to get done and I’ll feel better about it because I didn’t stress out over should have used the S.S.L. or should have used the A.P.I.” You know, you kind of develop that…

Jon: What your go-to is.

Kevin: …what your go-to is after mixing. The main thing is just to keep mixing. So with that being said, the S.S.L., the A.P.I. and the Channel Strip that the Renaissance Channel is invaluable to me when it comes to toms and snare. I don’t use the S.S.L. really that much on the snare, I use the Waves Renaissance Channel on the snare. So between those three and then I use iZotope Ozone 5 on just about every mix.

Jon: Yeah, that’s on my list as well.

Kevin: And I’ll really be glad when Slate comes out with F.G.X. for A.A.X., I know that sounds like a bunch of letters but.

Jon: F.G.X., A.A.X., no absolutely.

Kevin: What does that spell? I don’t know. Yeah, but I’ll be glad when that comes out because to me that was one of the plug-ins that was like, “How did I ever make anything sound good without this?” I don’t really get into the whole console emulation that much, I’ve used it before and it does make a difference, it’s just not a part of my workflow right now, but the F.G.X. is like the ultimate limiter, [inaudible 06:12] limiter. Let’s see, verbs, I really don’t have, I used to use Altiverb quite a bit and then I don’t know. I just got tired of.

Jon: Well, it’s a big processor hog as well, you know.

Kevin: I think it was. I don’t think it is as much now.

Jon: Right on.

Kevin: But the problem I was having with it is that there’s no, if I pull up a mix I did from the last version of Altiverb I have to figure out what I did now.

Jon: Yeah, because they don’t really transfer from one version to the other. I guess that’s kind of where I’m at with verbs and stuff. It’s like while I do have my go-to, mine is Space, it used to be T.L. Space, I think it’s just now because Avid has it, it’s just Space. While that’s my go-to, I don’t necessarily say, “Hey another verb won’t work,” it’s just a verb. As long as it sounds right or even if it doesn’t, even if it’s D-verb or something, you can make them work in a mix. You can make them sound really good in a mix. Very clean, that sort of thing. You know the verb is a less of a go-to thing. I know the only other one that I wanted to add to your list that I use a lot is the 2007 Massey Limiter. It’s the Massey Mastering Limiter.

Kevin: It’s great.

Jon: It’s a very transparent limiter, loudness maximizer, that sort of thing.

Kevin: Are you mixing in Pro Tools 11 yet?

Jon: No.

Kevin: I am and I haven’t been able to make…this is me paying stupid tax here but I use the, when I went to A.A.X., I upgraded my 2007 to A.A.X. versions.

Jon: Got you.

Kevin: For some reason it didn’t upgrade and I didn’t notice that all of the settings that I had put in on 2007, when I would open up the session again, they were gone.

Jon: Oh, no.

Kevin: So anyway, I have stopped using it temporarily until I can figure out what’s going on with that so I’ve been using the L1 L2 instead of that, but I do like the Massey quite a bit.

Jon: Definitely. Whenever I was compiling the list for the guy it was surprisingly a small set that I had in the toolbox. You develop these kind of go-tos as a mixer, and I guess if you’re looking for, “Hey what are my go-tos?” you can use a lot of the same things that they guys use, but like you said, it’s not really the exact tools that you use, it’s more like what do you do with them? How are you using them? And coming up with your reason for using these different types of plug-ins as well, because even if you’re using the same plug-in that I’m using a lot of times your reasoning for using it might be a little bit different than why I like to use it. So coming up with these good reasons why is always good as well.


Kevin: Thanks for listening. This has been the MixCoach podcast, the podcast dedicated to making your next recording your best recording. For more tips, tutorials, and even a free course be sure and visit us at

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