The 5 Best Pro Tools Plugins

In this post we compiled a list of five of the Best Pro Tools Plugins for some of the most common use-cases. Our students have access to a wide range of plugins from the beginning of the course in Trimester one. That’s where we first dive into Pro Tools and other DAWs.

“Woah, what reverb is on those vocals?”.

In an ideal world, we’d all love to be able to respond to that question like this:

“It’s just 4 original 1957 EMT 140 Reverb Plates that I have located in a separate room out the back of my little bedroom studio, did you know each one weighs 170kgs?”.

But realistically, due to costs, space restrictions and the actual rarity of the vintage audio gear, only an elite few in the audio world have the pleasure of working with such incredible pieces of equipment, let alone owning them.

That is where the wonderful world of plugins comes into play. Plugins allow us to be able to process our audio through complex algorithms that have been painstakingly and surprisingly accurately modelled off these beautiful but often rare or expensive pieces of vintage audio equipment.

Compression/Limiting: UAD –  LA-2A

Compression is one of the most widely used tools in the audio production industry.
It can do a wide variety of things, from boosting more quiet parts to trimming louder transients. It will often provide a more rounded, smoother sound.

There are many incredible hardware compressors in the world but the iconic Teletronix LA-2A has long been a studio favourite.

Universal Audio has upgraded their original LA-2A plug-in and it’s an incredible improvement. They have chosen to model 3 different LA-2A’s to give the user more complete control and help them better achieve their desired sound.

Many professionals have been blown away by the accuracy of the processing achieved by Universal Audio and now you can achieve similar results to some of the most iconic vocal producers for a fraction of the price.

 EQ: Fab Filter Pro Q3

Equalisation is the staple ingredient of achieving a clean, well defined mix.
Separating frequencies that clash allows your different parts to shine, even when all are being played together.

The FabFilter Pro Q3 is easily one the most forward thinking equalisers on the market.

Its mixture of simplicity and intuitiveness combine to make it an incredibly powerful but usable tool.
Adding a filter on your EQ band is as simple as a click in the right position.
Identifying where filters are needed is made even easier by the impressive frequency spectrum analyser. It is visible in the background so you always have a visual representation of the frequencies in your recording.
Therefore, with very little work you can identify which frequencies need to be cut and which need to be boosted to achieve an even mix.

Reverb: WAVES – Abbey Road Reverb Plates EMT 140

The famed Abbey Road EMT reverb plates. We’d absolutely love to be able to have those sitting in our studio for when we need them.

Fortunately, WAVES have painstaking modelled each of the four reverb plates. You can choose between each of the four iconic plates on one single interface.

The four plates give the user a wealth of differing reverb options, providing an array of sounds ranging from 1 to 5.4 seconds.
Apart from the differing sonic qualities of the four plates, there are a host of other parameters to increase its flexibility:

  • A drive control to set the THD characteristics of the in/out amplifiers and the plate sheet itself
  • Ability to control the amount of analog noise and hum
  • Four original bass cut positions to avoid rumbles (or increase them, if you’re into some deep drones)
  • Crosstalk between the stereo inputs to get a stereo leak effect

Delay: UA RE201 Roland Space Echo

Ranging from the melting warmth of a simple reverb to the scary unpredictability of an oscillating delay mess, the Roland Space Echo has cemented itself as a favourite for all audio adventurers out there.

Universal Audio have yet again done a fine job with the modelling. The Plug-In version is definitely a match for the original version but thankfully requires less servicing.

Although the interface looks rather confusing on the surface, once you start scratching you soon realise how much fun you can actually have with this plug in.

You can add a warm, dripping reverb sound to your vocals by utilising the spring reverb modelling or you can get as extreme as you want, adding modulating delays to your guitars.

Saturation/Overdrive: Fab Filter Saturn 2

This is the plug we turn to if we’re not quite happy with some of our sounds. Sometimes we find one of the stock instruments, for example a simple soft synth, is sounding a little too “stock”. In that case, we just dial in some gain and it can transform it sonically into something completely unique.

You can also automate it on your soft synth to achieve a sweeping crunchy lead sound. Or use the modulation parameters to provide some old analogue warmth.

When dialled in correctly, it can have a lovely boosting effect on vocal tracks. It can completely transform the sound of your mix.