10 Best Plugins for EDM

BEST PLugins for EDM

Producing music within the Electronic Dance Music or EDM genre can be rewarding, given the technical know-how that it demands, and the a little inspiration for that high energy level of the music.

This compels producers to need the right samples and plugins. But given the saturation of the plugin market today, finding the right plugins for the job can be a challenge.

But if you are looking for the best plugins for EDM, you’re in luck. Below you’ll find a list of some of the essential plugins found in the leading EDM producer’s toolbox.

This includes synths, bass, and mixing and effects plugins. Go ahead and check out our list of what we believe are the most indispensable tools for making EDM.


  1. Native Instruments Massive X – [Synth]
  2. Xfer Serum – [Synth]
  3. Reveal Sound Spire – [Synth]
  4. Loopmasters Bass Master – [Bass]
  5. Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 – [EQ]
  6. Fabfilter Pro L 2 – [Limiter]
  7. FabFilter Pro C – [Compressor]
  8. Audiority XenoVerb – [Reverb]
  9. Soundtoys EchoBoy – [Delay]
  10. iZotope Trash2 – [Distortion/Saturation]

Native Instruments Massive X

Native Instruments MASSIVE X

See price @ Native Instruments

Massive X is the much-awaited upgrade to the legendary wavetable synth of the same name released by Native Instruments in 2007. After being eclipsed by more powerful and recent plugins such as Serum, Massive makes a comeback with a beefed-up arsenal of features.

Features and Specs

Massive X only has two oscillators, which seems like a downgrade from the original Massive’s three. But don’t let that fool you: those two oscillators are packed with 170 wavetables, including revamped versions of favorites such as Scrapyard and Crusher. The number of wavetable modes available has also doubled from 5 to 10.

Moreover, apart from the two primary oscillators, three ‘analog’ oscillators are available for more modulation options. These oscillators can be used as insert effects.

Add to that the two noise generators which can conjure more than a hundred noise samples of all sorts. There is also a Voice section where up to six voices can be stacked.

Massive X only has one main filter, but it can be changed to one of the nine different types.

This plugin’s most impressive feature is its architecture. All of its components can be routed to one another, resulting in almost limitless capabilities. The signal path can also be done either in parallel or series.

Bottom-line

Needless to say, Massive X is a heavyweight. From the oscillators, filters, up to the sequencers and effects, the sheer scope of this plugin’s sonic power is something that any ambitious producer, may it be in EDM or trap, should want to have.

Demonstration


Xfer Serum

Xfer Records Serum

See price @ Plugin Boutique

We have already mentioned Serum, Xfer’s first entry into the softsynth market. Serum is another wavetable synth, making it the ideal workhouse for crafting any sound you would possibly need, from pads, leads, bass, to mind-bending drops that any EDM song worthy of the tag should have.

Features and Specs

Serum boasts 450 factory sounds which make it easier to dig in right after the hassle-free installation.

However, a closer look at Serum’s wavetable architecture reveals four sound sources: two wavetable oscillators, a noise generator, and a sub-oscillator. Each of the oscillators has 140 wavetables. We are particularly excited in the Warp menu which provides dramatic ways to change your waves’ character per oscillator.

There are a total of 90 filters of all sorts available to shape your sound. You can spice it up even further through the 10 effects module racks.

What is really striking about Serum, apart from the complexity of the plugin, is the clarity of the sound. This clarity is crucial to EDM producers who put sound quality at the top of their priorities. Even a single bass sound from Serum, if made cleverly crafted, will put to shame multiple plugins put together.

Bottom-line

Serum is beyond doubt a powerful and versatile synth that EDM producers should have. While the visual presentation of the plugin may be a bit intimidating, the endless possibilities available at your fingertips will make the learning curve easier to get over.

Demonstration


Reveal Sound Spire

Reveal Sound Spire

See price @ Plugin Boutique

At first look, Reveal Sound’s Spire may look like just any other hybrid subtractive synth. But its user-friendly design provides easy access to its powerful oscillators, terrific waveshaping capabilities, and flexible modulation architecture. EDM producers will find a lot of use for this virtual analog synth.

Features and Specs

Spire has four oscillators which, in our view, is already a sizeable number. Each oscillator has multiple synthesis modes and a selection of sample-based waveforms. Users can mix and match the sampled tones with these synthesis modes. As you can imagine, this system can yield more sounds than one can handle in a lifetime.

Spire also accommodates a sophisticated mod matrix, with 15 matrix slots, two possible sources, and four possible targets. There are also four envelopes and four LFOs available. These make sound construction with the Spire far from being simple.

Some users, however, expressed their frustration over the fact that the display only shows the name of the curves and not the shapes. This makes it difficult to visualize how the envelopes physically influence the shape.

Bottomline

In terms of sonic capabilities, Reveal Sound’s Spire delivers high-quality sounds. While there is certainly a lot of space for improvement in the UI front, it is a solid work tool for any EDM producer’s synth needs.

For other note-worthy VST plugins, you might want to head over to our article on top VSTs for audio production in general.

Demonstration


Loopmasters Bass Master

Loopmasters Bass Master

See price @ Plugin Boutique

A good EDM song, as in most four-on-the-floor genres, is measured by the quality of its bass. Loopmasters knows this very well, and it is evident in their monophonic jewel, the Bass Master. This plugin provides all your bass needs, from the synth level, layering, up to compression and the dynamic shaping stage.

Features and Specs

We have two oscillators at our disposal, a Top and a Sub. These two can be processed in parallel, so the Sub can retain a solid sound while the Top adds some expressiveness in the upper end.

Users can choose from the inventory of 217 sounds of different varieties, including analog samples to percussive one-shots.

These samples, however, are time-stretched and not multi-sampled. This saves CPU space but sacrifices some sonic details. For us, though, the difference between time-stretched and multi-sampled tones is almost negligible, especially for bass.

That is not the case with other types of samples, so you might want to check out our article on the top sampler VSTs as well if you use a lot of audio samples in your work.

There is a resonant filter as well as a pre-filter overdrive circuit. The filter can be modulated with an LFO and ADSR envelope. Further modulation can be done with the Mod wheel.

Finally, there are three layers or slots for effects which include Distortion, Stereo Chorus, and Reverb Send. There is also Compression available on the master track.

Bottomline

Bass Master may look pretty rudimentary, looks and architecture-wise, compared to more modern synths. But given its low CPU economy and its sound quality, it can be an essential tool when crafting a bass-heavy EDM track.

Demonstration


Fabfilter Pro-Q 3

Fabfilter Pro-Q 3

See price @ Plugin Boutique

When FabFilter released Pro-Q in 2011, it took the audio production world by storm, cementing its status as one of the top FabFilter plugins. It revolutionized how equalizers can be analyzed with its unique curves, insightful analysis features, and excellent sound-shaping power. Its third incarnation, Pro-Q 3, has ‘dynamic equalization’ as its primary feature. Since its release, modern production has never been the same.

Features and Specs

Dynamic equalization in Pro-Q 3 allows frequency-dependent processing. This means the attack, release, and ratio in each of the bands are fully automated according to Pro-Q 3’s intelligent frequency analysis algorithm. Of course, you can turn off the automation if you choose to do so.

EQ matching is another important feature in Pro-Q 3. It allows multiple instances of the plugin to communicate and spot possible collisions in the spectrum. This can save you a lot of time manually looking for collisions. As an EDM producer, this tool is crucial to achieving a clean and razor-sharp sound.

Also worth noting are the plugins’ unique curves such as the brick wall filter slope and the flat tilt slope. The latter, for example, allows users to zero-in into a frequency and then boost or cut incrementally from that point. It makes boosting and cutting a lot more precise and tidy.

Bottomline

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is more than an equalizer. Once you grasp the full extent of its capabilities, it can become a reliable companion for any EDM producer. Truly an important tool if you want a professional-sounding mix.


Fabfilter Pro L 2

FabFilter Pro-L

See price @ Plugin Boutique

If you are wondering what is the best VST for EDM when it comes to compression, look no further than FabFilter’s Pro L 2. A complete studio limiting tool, it has all the functionalities of a limiter made for advanced mixing and mastering purposes. EDM producers who prefer to mix and master their own tracks will find this a valuable instrument.

Features and Specs

Pro L 2 has eight limiting algorithms, each with its unique flavor and approach to processing your sound.

Four new algorithms have been added in Pro L 2: Modern, Safe, Aggressive, and Bus. EDM producers would find Modern and Aggressive to be the most useful, as they were designed to add the punch that we expect from EDM tracks. The Bus algorithm adds coloration and is, therefore, the least transparent option, although it may be great for drums or a parallel signal.

It also has external side-chain inputs. This makes it possible to individually apply limiting to your stems while using the full mix as the trigger. Thus, each stem can be exported on their own as if they are already limited. We can then sum it all up and come up with a mix-down that reflects the limited signal.

Users can also engage the Unity Gain option to know how the limiting affects the sound without necessarily increasing the level.

Bottomline

Pro L 2 is a complete limiting suite that is flexible enough for a wide variety of uses. Its features are more than enough for an average mixing project. Therefore, mastering engineers may find it more useful for their needs. If you’re an EDM producer who mixes and masters your own projects, Pro L 2 is a must-own.


FabFilter Pro C

FabFilter Pro-C

See price @ Plugin Boutique

FabFilter’s second release for their Pro suite, the Pro C compressor, is not just a regular compressor. Combining UI savvy with intuitive design and compression know-how, EDM producers will be delighted when using this plugin for their mixes.

Features and Specs

Pro C has eight compressor models, five of which are new. Namely, these are the Mastering, Pumping, Bus, Punch, and Vocal models.

The Mastering model is subtle and transparent while Pumping, as the name suggests, is for making those classic EDM side-chain pumps. Feeding it a side-chained kick must be par for the course.

Bus and Punch add color and tonality to the entire mix. Finally, the Vocal model is a dynamic compression algorithm with automatic knee and ration, useful for those hard to tame vocals.

Visually, Pro C 2 has none of the gimmicky analog-esque UI. We have a waveform visualizer coupled with a gain reduction graph that shows exactly how the compression affects the signal. Its no-nonsense interface is perfect for those who simply want to get the job done.

Bottomline

Intuitive, easy to use, and overall a solid compressor, Pro C 2 is a compression workhouse. EDM producers will find some of the models particularly useful. This makes it one of the best VST plugins for EDM out there in our opinion.


Audiority XenoVerb

Audiority XenoVerb

See price @ Plugin Boutique

Dubbed as a “multiple algorithm reverb processor,” Audiority’s Xenoverb is a versatile reverb unit. Thanks to more than ten switches and parameters, users can craft every sonic space of their liking with this plugin.

Features and Specs

The plugin has eight primary parameters: Pre-Delay, Diffuse, Time, Modulation, Tone, Bloom, LF Cut, and Mix. Below them are three switches, Active, Freeze, and Limiter.

The Freeze function is particularly interesting as it enables the creation of a loop in the internal buffer. Users can come up with wild and unnatural reverb spaces with this function.

Inside Xenoverb are ten reverb algorithms, each of which has its characteristic flavor. These are Room, Hall, Plate 1 and 2, Springy, Glass, Flow, Shimmer, Bode, and Formant.

Some of these such as Room, Hall, and Plate 1 and 2 are basic reverbs. Shimmer and Flow, however, incorporates dual pitch shifters and thus opens up space for some crazy harmonies. Bode and Format are great for eerie sound design purposes.

Users are raving about Xenoverb’s superb diffusion algorithm, particularly on how it maintains density across time. This is a testament to the genius behind its programming and spatial modelling.

Bottomline

Xenoverb is a very versatile reverb plugin. Regardless if you are looking for a simple room reverb or an otherworldly glacial effect, Xenoverb can carve our that space for your sound. The icing on the cake is that the plugin has a low CPU footprint.


Soundtoys EchoBoy

See price @ Plugin Boutique

Shipped as a “classic echo effects” plugin, EchoBoy separates itself from the others with its creative approach in building echo effects. From saturation levels, rhythmic possibilities, even to the UI interface, this plugin has more to offer than your standard echo unit.

Features and Specs

A cursory look will reveal EchoBoy’s classic, “old-school” aesthetic. But it is by no means a simple plugin. Aside from the basic parameters, users can change Echo Time in milliseconds, add Saturation, and even prevent phasing through a nifty switch called Prime Numbers.

Particularly arresting is the middle section where users can play around with the rhythmic aspects of the effect. There are two knobs, Groove and Feel. Groove lets you manipulate the echoes’ Shuffle and Swing to taste. Feel lets you shift between Rushin’ and Draggin’ (a small Whiplash reference) to shift the echoes earlier or later than the input signal.

Moreover, there is a bottom knob that lets you choose between the plugin’s four modes: Single, Dual, Ping-Pong, and Rhythmic.

Bottomline

Given how many echo and delay plugins are already out there, Echoboy manages to bring something new to the table with its playful manipulability. Overall, Echoboys charm lies not only in its sounds but also in how it encourages users to be creative in making their echo patterns.

Demonstration


iZotope Trash2

iZotope Trash2

See price @ Plugin Boutique

EDM producers who prefer it down and dirty were excited when iZotope released Trash, their flagship distortion plugin. With Trash 2, the company introduces more sophisticated architecture, a new convolution set-up, and generally a more powerful wave-shaping capability.

Features and Specs

What makes Trash 2 special is its modular architecture, now made more powerful in Trash 2. Aside from the twin-stage distortion module, other modules include Filter 1, Filter 2, Convolve, Dynamics and Delay. Signal flow between these modules can be modified through the Graph page.

Aside from the new distortion algorithms, users can choose between seven preset categories, namely, Distort, Drive, Faulty, Fuzz, Heavy, Retro and Saturate.

We also need to mention the Convolution module which includes 50 new impulse responses. This allows for a wide range of distortion shapes which can be further manipulated through stereo effects.

Bottomline

Trash 2 is incredibly powerful, and EDM producers will find limitless ways to add grit of all sorts to their sounds. Tasteful distortion is part and parcel of any EDM track, so investing in a versatile unit such as Trash 2 is a necessity for any producer.

Demonstration


BONUS: Celemony Melodyne

Celemony Melodyne 4 studio

See price @ Plugin Boutique

When Celemony’s Melodyne hit the market, it changed the way audio engineers saw audio. After all, being able to change an audio’s pitch after recording solves a lot of studio problems and opens up many possibilities. EDM producers working with a lot of audio recordings will find Melodyne extremely useful, and even life-saving when another vocal take is impossible.

Features and Specs

Armed with Celemony’s DNA Technology, Melodyne’s primary use is to correct pitching mistakes. But it can also be used for more creative purposes. Melodyne 4, for instance, allows users to choose between multiple analysis algorithms and apply changes to other aspects of the audio such as timbre, tempo, etc.

Each of these algorithms treats the audio signal differently. For instance, Polyphonic Sustain can be used for signals that have slow or blurring attack notes.

Another algorithm called Universal allows users to enact convincing time-stretching and time correction on their samples.

Many users praise Melodyne’s “musical” approach to rhythmic analysis. It can extract rhythms not only from drum-heavy samples but also from samples that do not have percussive instrument keeping time. This enables producers to fix not only pitching issues but also rhythmic issues in soloed samples.

Bottomline

EDM producers dealing with a lot of audio samples will find a lot of use for this powerful plugin. Melodyne also opens up many creative opportunities aside from its reliable problem-solving capabilities. Ready for some challenge? You can try your hand using Melodyne on these EDM sample packs now.

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