20 Best VST Plugins & Instruments for Music Producers in 2023
What is a VST Plugin?
VST is an acronym that stands for Virtual Studio Technology. Coined by Steinberg Media Technologies in 1996 along with version 3 of their Cubase sequencer and DAW, the terminology became a revolution in the process of music-making. VST plugins are a software interface that integrates software synthesizers and effects units into digital audio workstations. In 2023 there are tens of thousands of vst plugins available in the market. One of the most important steps in making the music of your dreams is finding the best set of tools for the process. While every individual producer has a unique workflow and creative process, here are 20 of the best vst plugins and instruments in 2023 for music producers of all genres.
List of Best VST Plugins & Instruments in 2023:
Understanding how to mix properly is an essential skill for producers. The built-in vst plugins in your DAW might get the job done, but there are plenty of toolkits available in the market that offer a lot more than stock plugins. One of them is the FabFilter Pro Bundle. Included within are Pro-R, Pro MB, Pro-L, Pro Q3, Pro C2, Pro DS & Pro G. Fabfilter Pro Q3 is probably one of the most advanced EQ vst plugins with features such as Linear phase mode, natural phase mode, mid/side processing, and dynamic EQ. FabFilter Pro Bundle is the industry’s favorite mixing bundle, and many producers consider it a must-have VST plugin in 2023.Download
Alterboy is a vocal processing vst plugin and the amount of excitement it can bring to your vocals is just immaculate. It has a pretty straightforward interface with 2 knobs for pitch & formants and 3 modes for vocal processing. Alterboy tends to work well with clean and single melody vocal stems rather than harmonies.download
Toontrack has recently unveiled EZkeys 2, an extraordinary piano plugin that surpasses traditional tools. Going beyond its conventional counterparts, EZkeys 2 serves as a comprehensive songwriting tool and creative hub, offering a fully resizable interface and groundbreaking features like Bandmate and Tap2Find. With its extensive MIDI collection covering various genres and styles, alongside a versatile grand piano sound library, EZkeys 2 simplifies the entire process of writing, playing, and creating captivating piano tracks. The onboard grid editor enables precise fine-tuning, while the inclusion of mix-ready presets caters to a wide range of musical styles. Additionally, the comprehensive MIDI library and the Suggest Chords feature provide limitless inspiration and songwriting possibilities. EZkeys 2’s innovative business model also includes a remarkable core sound library featuring the meticulously recorded Fazioli F212 grand piano, ensuring an unparalleled level of realism and versatility in piano sound. Currently priced at 179 Euros, it’s a must-have for music enthusiasts and professionals alike.
Bravo & Brave [Special Feature]
Bravo & Brave is a website where you can access their music harmony catalog that offers musicians and songwriters, collections of harmony progressions that can be used in modern compositions and to improve music theory proficiency. It’s one of a kind music theory search engine where you can access thousands of chord progressions and music harmony patterns. Bravo & Brave’s catalog now has more than 35k users worldwide and the platform can be accessed for as low as $3.37 per hour.
BABY Audio BA-1
The BA-1, the latest synth plugin by BABY Audio, is modeled after a compact, toy-like synthesizer from the 1980s, and has a distinctive rough sound. The BA-1 has successfully replicated the unique sound of the original hardware, while also introducing new features that enhance its abilities. The original synthesizer, known as the “CS01,” was utilized by some of Sweden’s most prominent pop producers over the past two decades to produce bubbly synth textures. Despite its significant contribution to the history of music, the CS01 had never been accurately recreated in software form until the introduction of the BA-1. BABY Audio BA-1 synth plugin comes at a price of $99 MSRP with a $49 intro sale.
SSL Native Essentials Bundle [Mixing VST Plugins]
Another mixing bundle that makes it to the top of our Best VST Plugins list. The Native Essentials bundle contains 2 of the most powerful SSL plugins, SSL Native Channel Strip 2 & SSL Native Bus Compressor 2. The channel strip is based on the renowned SSL 9000K console. The EQ section contains a 4-band design with EQ, and the option to switch between E- and G-Series tonal characteristics. The Soft ratio compression keeps dynamic character intact while evening out peaks.
The second inclusion is the SSL Native Bus Compressor 2 which is an emulation of the SSL G-Series center section bus compressor. This compressor is one of the most reputed pieces of audio processing tools. The Bus Compressor is known for its ability to glue together a mix. The Native Essentials Bundle comes in at a price of $479.00 and has one of the best mixing VST plugins in 2023.
Hit’n’Mix – Ripx
With their RipX plugin, the team at Hit N Mix has created a straightforward fix that can analyze any MP3 and dissect the track into its essential components, separating vocals, guitars, piano, bass, and drums while providing a wide range of editing tools. This piece of software has multiple use cases making it a great alternative for creating mash-ups, remixes, and new edits. Simply drag an MP3 onto the workspace to rip apart the track and isolate the various instruments. The software will analyze the track, revealing isolated colored waveforms showing the various elements of the track.
So many producers feel that soft synths lack the analog warmth that hardware synths possess. If you are one of those who likes analog textures this might the right synth for you. Diva has been a favorite synth vst for years when it comes to techno music producers. However, its uses aren’t limited to just techno music production, Diva has enormous potential in crafting sounds for any genre.download
Another synth vst that makes it to this list is Phase Plant by Kilohearts. For a long, serum held the throne for best wavetable synth however, phase plant since its release has given strong competition to the veteran. The plugin is pretty easy to use and has enormous potential in helping you create beefy, warm, and lush sounds. You can add as many oscillators as you want and club them with any number of fx channels. Also, you get the ability to make different effect chains for each of the oscillators.download
First released in 2012, iZotope Trash 2 continues to be one of the best distortion plugins in the music industry. With over 60 state-of-the-art distortion algorithms, Trash 2 allows producers to explore new sonic dimensions within the module-based interface. It combines multi-band and dual-stage distortions with advanced post-filtering effects for a full and satisfying sound. There’s plenty of customization options including pre and post-distortion EQ, six different delay types, and 20 adjustable filter types. Hundreds of presets are available in iZotope Trash 2, and its stellar reputation is well deserved.Download
If you’re looking to give your tracks a warm, vintage vibe, RC-20 Retro Color by XLN Audio is the best VST plugin for you. It recreates the feeling of old recording equipment and adds life and texture to any audio source. RC-20 comes loaded with several presets and also includes a “magnitude” knob that allows for intricate FX adjustments. It can recreate audio similar to a vinyl record, VHS machine, and more. Mostly used on drums, guitars, keys, basses, and full mixes, RC-20 Retro Color will give your tracks a warm and cozy feeling.Download
One of the best transient shapers available, DS-10 Drum Shaper by XLN Audio is a useful plugin for producers of all genres. It allows you to shape the attack and sustain of drums, loops, or any other audio source. The interface is straightforward and also includes a “mojo” knob to add more color and flavor. DS-10 makes it easy to create both tight and punchy drums or huge and heavy beats. With simple and effective parameters, DS-10 Drum Shaper is a great VST plugin for both beginners and experts in 2023.Download
One of the most widely used mixing and mastering plugins, iZotope Ozone 10 combines many AI-powered audio production tools. Its innovative interface allows for easy comparisons between your song and an external reference track. Some of the built-in effects include an imager, equalizer, maximizer, spectral shaper, exciter, and dynamic EQ. Most commonly used as a mastering plugin, Ozone 10 is a diverse application that can be used on any audio source. It is the ultimate tool for ensuring your track is ready for streaming platforms. Check out the plugin in action down belowDownload
Soundtoys Decapitator is the best VST plugin to recreate the feeling of analog gear. Decapitator features five different saturation models and works perfectly at both low and high settings. It can give tracks warmth, make specific elements more pronounced, thin things out, and much more. The interface has low cut, tone, and high cut settings, as well as a drive knob and a “punish” button for extra gain. For an effective saturator with a perfect analog vibe, look no further than Soundtoys Decapitator.Download
Would any VST list be complete without Xfer Serum? The wavetable synthesizer and its hands-on, visual interface is the go-to digital synth for EDM producers everywhere. The oscillators, modulation settings, wavetables, effects, and LFOs allow you to create virtually any sound possible. If you’re looking to experiment with sounds and get your EDM production career started, Serum is undoubtedly one of the best to download.Download
Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
Superior Drummer 3 bridges the gap between acoustic and electronic elements providing you with the perfect amalgamation of the two. Engineered by the heroic George Massenburg, Superior Drummer 3 was crafted expertly and, in turn, gives you the best tools possible for shaping your sound. Superior Drummer 3 includes a powerful 35-effect mixer that enables you to sculpt the mix any way you want. The setup includes an additional eleven room microphones set up in a surround configuration, for use in anything from stereo all the way up to 11.1 systems providing tremendous mixing in surround capabilities.
An innovative resonance suppressor and dynamic equalizer tool, Soothe2 by Oeksound is easily one of the best VST plugins for 2022. It has the appearance of a standard EQ, but Soothe does much more. Specifically, it analyzes the audio signal and makes adjustments internally. This means that fine-tuning problematic frequencies with notching isn’t necessary, as Soothe will fix these problems for you. The resulting output signal is automatically free of most artifacts, and it has a natural sound with the option for oversampling and multi-band compression. Originally designed as a vocal processor, it is specifically used to adjust mid and high frequencies. Soothe is a must-have for professional producers.
To record and enhance music tracks with the help of this VST plugin, make sure to use the best laptop for music production as it will allow you to reduce unwanted resonances more effectively. Similarly to other dynamic resonance suppressors, Soothe2 doesn’t have high system requirements. Besides, the developers have lowered the CPU load, which makes Soothe less taxing on your system resources.Download
We all have faced the issue of spending hours scrolling through samples and still not being able to find the right drum samples. Xo by xln audio is by far one of the best drum vst plugins available in 2023 for this matter. It clubs all the similar-sounding samples together. For example, all punchy kicks will be close to each other whereas all the boomy ones will be close to each other. Thus, making it much easier to find the right sample. The vst also has a sequencer and provides you the option to tweak the selected sample so it fits your track perfectly.
Another distortion vst plugin that makes it to our list of Best plugins for music producers in 2023 is thermal by output. Thermal is a creative distortion plugin that is based on 19 analogue and digitally modelled distortion algorithms. Counting in over 250+ presets, it has the ability to spice up almost every sound you supply to it.download
Elysium by Wide Blue Sound is Kontakt based synth plugin that focuses primarily on arps. Having a huge catalog of percussion and synth samples, Elysium can create some interesting melodic arrangements. Read an in-depth review of Elysium here.
Softube Dirty Tape
When you want to get down and dirty and keep the sound quality raw, you need the tape effect. From the moment you load Dirty Tape on a track, you get a warm, analog vibe. Dirty Tape can produce intensely gritty distortion and saturation, but it can also give a sound with delicate character and movement. Dirty Tape can quickly transform your songs from static and dreary to alive and colorful, much like a photo filter might. A tape dirt machine effect with audio of the highest caliber. Any sample, instrument, or rhythm can be given a warm, low-fidelity vibe. From the creators of Saturation Knob, Harmonics, Tape Echoes, and Tapedownload
Arcade is a loop-based synth plugin. One of the key highlights of Arcade is that it receives new content every single day! Over 40 different product lines contain a plethora of kits and loops that are constantly being added to, all of which you can download and play within the plugin. Arcade provides both the ability to use your own loops or heavily modulate the existing ones to your specific needs in real-time. There’s a wide range of options for you to dial in the perfect sound, and the update is free for those who already own Arcade. Considering the simplicity of use and rich quality of sounds you can get out of Arcade, it is one of our top picks for Best Synth VST Plugins of 2023.Download
Baby Audio Smooth Operator VST plugin, is a dynamic tool that is meant for shaping the tone of your sound. Using a combination of spectral compression, smart equalization, and resonance suppression to bring out the best of each sound and suppress intelligently harsh frequencies. With the modern-day music production process heavily relying on samples and the art of resampling, plugins like Smooth Operator come in quite handy to make these samples fit in easily into your mix. Price at only $69, Smooth operator is a great alternative to very well known plugin “Soothe 2” by Oeksound. One of our top picks from the latest set of vst plugins for music producers.
RX is a one of a kind plugin by Izotope. It offers you a bunch of features including de-essing, Dialogue De-reverb, and many more. The most popular and most used feature is the music rebalance feature which helps you create acapella and instrumentals out of any tune. Music producers especially the ones in the electronic music space are continuously looking for acapellas for creating remixes and this where RX 10 comes in handy. Even David Guetta utilized RX for creating a bootleg for Cardi B’s WAP.
Autotune is one plugin that any music producer requires at some stage of his/her music career. Antares Auto-Tune Pro is probably one of the best and most popular autotune vst plugins in 2023. The features of this plugin include Auto Mode, Graph Mode for nitty-gritty pitch and time-altering), Auto-Key module for programmed key and scale identification, and others like Classic Mode, Humanize, or Throat Modeling. Check out the plugin in action down below.download
1. What VST Plugins do professional artists use in 2023?
The music-making process is unique for every music producer and the tools used by every artist varies from the other. However, you can refer to our artist series down below to know more about the vst plugins used by the below-mentioned producers.
- Mike Dean
- David Guetta
- Virtual Riot
- Martin Garrix
- Alan Walker
- Chris Lake
2. What VST Plugins are the best for beginners?
If you are new to the music production process, it’s important to first grab the basics of how plugins work to build a solid foundation. You might want to spend as less money as possible on third-party plugins and first properly learn your DAW’s stock plugins. There are certain VST plugins like Serum which have endless tutorials on youtube to help you understand the basics of sound design. Read more about what plugins can help you the most at this stage here.
3. What is the best time and place to buy VST plugins?
The best time to purchase a plugin totally depends on what plugin you are specifically looking for. If you are specifically interested in purchasing Fabfilter plugins or Xfer Serum, they hardly have any deals or offers. However, Black Friday is considered a great time to purchase plugins and sample packs. You can discover some great alternatives to the former mentioned plugins at a very cheap price. Also, there are some or the other lucrative deal running throughout the year on marketplaces like Plugin Boutique & Waves.
There are a ton of places where you can purchase plugins from however, websites like Plugin Boutique, Splice, W.A. Production, Plugin Alliance, Waves etc are the most popular among music producers
Image Credits: iZotope