Everyone is in the plugin business these days. It’s the modern way to work on audio production that has embraced the digital world. With so many options for plugins, there are some things to consider before you blow your kid’s inheritance on software. First thing is what DAW to choose and that should also go with what plugins are included with that DAW. Most of the DAWs out on the market all come with a decent set of stock plugins. So you have to consider if those stock plugins will be sufficient to get you going and give you the tools you need to start mixing the way you want. Now if you feel that you need to add to your toolbox and get some additional plugins to fine tune your mixing there are a few things to keep in mind. All the plugin companies have formats that should be compatible with most of the big DAWs, so you have quite a few options.
Focus on plugs that give you something that you don’t already have in your system. Mainly a new tool that will enhance your mixes and give you the control you need to shape the mix. Compressors are bountiful and there are many different types out on the market. What do you need that you don’t already have? More color? Better transient control? The best way to find out is demo a few plugins and see if they give you the edge that you need. Most of the plugin companies will offer a trial period, which is exactly what you should do before investing. Even if you watch a video or someone tells you that you should buy a plugin, I always recommend running it through the trial period to give yourself some time to find out if it’s what you need.
Most companies offer native plugins. These are plugins that work with the DSP processing power of your computer. They’re great because you don’t need any extra hardware to run them. The only limitation is the processing power of your computer. One of my favorite native plugin companies is Plugin Alliance. These plugins are modeled emulations of some great pieces of gear and they sound great. The audio quality is clear and gives you the sound that your mixes need.
Now if your computer doesn’t have the power to run these native plugins, you can look into getting a UAD system that provides the DSP processing for your plugins. Universal Audio has a line of interfaces and satellite boxes that allow you to run the UAD plugins. The Apollo system has many options and price points and this makes them a good option for any studio setup.
You can get the same plugin on both UAD and Native platforms. So do you need to have both versions? I’d only say yes if you need to delegate your DSP processing. I’ve used both platforms and I don’t notice any big differences between the sound. I’ve done null tests on the plugins and they cancel out when the phase is inverted. The main difference is the way the plugins run on the system and the price. UAD is a bit more expensive, but does free up the DSP on your computer for other plugins and processing.
I recently asked a question on the Plugin Alliance forum to find out how everyone felt about the differences between Native and UAD plugins. You can read the comments here.
If you have anything to add to this discussion, please leave a comment.