Top 5 Audio Plugins We Cannot Live Without

We’ve got an amazing plugin collection on our Campus and in the Studios at 301. As such, we’ve got more than enough to choose from. Yet time and time again, we find ourselves returning to some of our fond favourites. We thought we’d take some time to explain what we love, and what our students love so much about these particular plug-ins.

UAD Little Labs IBP

UAD Little Labs IBP

With little labs IBP, we are able to become the masters of phase relationships. While most filters allow us a polarity inversion or phase flip, this simple rotation of phase 180 degrees is not always enough. While this is certainly a rough estimation of good phase relationships, we can specify exact rotation with Little Labs IBP from Universal Audio. The controls are nice and basic. Our students can quickly gain control of the free tone that a strong phase relationship offers. We can delay the entire track, or simply rotate phase angles. This leads to a more in-phase kit sound than a phase flip will allow us.

Our music production pipeline is now focused on samples in addition to live musicians. Our phase relationship when layering samples is now more important than ever, so being able to tweak the rotation with more accuracy than ever is a plugin we just can’t live without.

UAD DYTRONICS Cyclosonic Panner

UAD Cyclosonic Panner

A detailed mix means an interesting stereo spectrum. Whilst we cover all the components of reverbs, spreaders and great modulation techniques in our Advanced Diploma of Music Industry, sometimes you need something really special for a mix. Enter the Dytronics Cyclosonic Panner by Softube and Universal Audio. With this, we can actually modulate a sound source with stereo manipulation AND depth controls.

The creative applications of this tool are very exciting. Being able to sync it to the DAW tempo lets us set our rate in bars and beats. Having it spin incredibly quickly back and forth gives us a great little leslie cabinet. We can run both mono and stereo sources into it and set the movement in dimensions if we’re not after the depth, but enjoy the Left to Right pan action.

Here’s a quick sample of this plugin in action.

Without the panner
With the panner

As you can hear, the Dytronics Cyclosonic Panner really lends itself well to opening up of our stereo space. With our student’s mixes, you’ll hear it whirling strings, organs and pads in the background, lending itself to sounds of ethereal bliss.

UAD Ocean Way Studios

UAD Ocean Way Studios

Our students record all sorts of sound sources during their time at Abbey Road Institute. Part of their learning involves coming to terms with their decisions in the recording process, and the impacts it can have later in the mix. With the UAD Ocean Way Studios, our students are able to actually re-mic the sound source, with quite startling effect. The ability to choose new microphones to supplement our collection has proven to be the solution our students have been looking for.

Ocean Way Studios, an incredibly renowned Los Angeles studio, have modelled their two studios, and allow us to line up different pairs of microphones, rebalance them, and even change out each pair so we get the tonal characteristics of the microphones. While we always strive for getting it right at the source, it is of great benefit to us to be able to change our sound later.

For demonstration, check out the before and after sounds of the UAD Ocean Way Reverb


For this demonstration, I’ve thrown up a C12, a KU3A C and a Neumann M50 as part of the microphone modelling technology.


This is currently in Re-Mic mode, which is taking advantage of all this microphone modelling technology they have. There is also the reverb mode, which lets us use this gorgeous room reverb emulation as a reverb return, though we struggle to get our students past the re-mic application!

UAD API 2500

UAD Plug in

Every mix needs compression at some point. If you’re looking for an analogue modelled plugin to bring out some beautiful saturation, then look no further. The API 2500 solves all of your regular compression needs, but if you overdrive the makeup you can bring out some majestic tones. Our students feel right at home with this plugin, which complements our API 1608 desk perfectly.
I use the plugin often to bring out saturation in synths whilst keeping my levels in check. In the demonstration below. I’ve used it on a drum sample to bring out some larger than life distortion. As the effect can be very intense, I usually use the distortion in parallel, giving us the best of both worlds.


After Compression

After Parallel COmpression

The API 2500 comes with a MIX function, enabling us to use the unit in parallel, without having to send the signal to another channel.

UAD Precision Multiband

UAD Multiband Band Comp

As our students grasp on compression increases, they love getting their hands on a solid multiband unit. The UAD precision multiband band offers 5 power bands that can be set to compress, expand or gate. With visual representation on the background analyser, our students can take a visual cue to re-enforce what they are hearing when compression a frequency range.

The wrap-up

In surveying all of our student’s work to find the most used plugin’s that would end up on this list, we heard everything from rap to trap, drum and bass to EDM, rock to pop and so much more. With such vast interests among our students, we’re having to find production techniques to suit every niche in the industry.

If you’re interested in trying some of these tools out for yourself, consider attending our next Study for A Day, where you’ll get some hands-on music production techniques, and experience the way we implement these tools in our course.