Best VST Plugins for FL Studio 2020

Best VST Plugins for FL StudioIt’s been over 20 years since FL Studio (back then known as “Fruity Loops”) took on the bedroom producer scene, and since then it has been responsible for some of pop’s biggest musical innovations, such as Trap and Dubstep.

The DAW has certainly wiggled its way to becoming a more serious contender (and hence obtaining a more “serious” name), and so has its native plugins. So in this post we’re going to take a look at over 30 of the best plugins for FL Studio… not just native, but also 3rd party paid and even free.


10 Best VSTs for FL Studio

Our top 10 plugin choices extracted from the rest of this guide…

  1. Harmor
  2. Massive X
  3. Gross Beat
  4. FET Compressor By Softube
  5. WA Production Mutant Reverb
  6. Loopmasters Bass Master
  7. XLN Addictive Keys
  8. Output Signal
  9. Drumaxx
  10. accusonus Rhythmiq

Other helpful guides:

Best VST Plugins, Best Mixing Plugins, Best Orchestral Plugins, Best Waves Audio Plugins


Brief Overview of VST Plugins

VST stands for “virtual studio technology.” They basically allow you to digitally use virtual versions of studio hardware. This can be anything from a compressor to reverb unit.

Since computers came on the music production scene, they began to replicate not only the sounds of mixing plugins, but also entire sound-producing modules, even acoustic instruments. So now you can emulate legendary synthesizers and grand orchestras, as well as the samplers that will allow you to manipulate samples for EDM, Techno, Hip-Hop, and everything else in between.

Today, most music is actually made with VSTs in Digital Audio Workstations or DAWs, and FL Studio is not any less of them in the line-up of great DAWs.

Unfortunately, most versions of FL Studio don’t come with a complete list of plugins, and there’s a host of many other plugins not offered by Image-Line (the creator) that you may be missing out on.

So now we’ll take a look at some of these curated options 🙂


VST Plugins for FL Studio to Have

Synths

FL Studio can host virtual synthesizers. As you may know, synthesizers allow you to create you own sounds artificially, and they are an essential part of the whole music making process. You can read more about the whole process of synthesis in our series on the topic. This will definitely help you with choosing a good synthesizer.

Now, FL Studio comes with a few great choices of their own, but we’ll cover a couple that are not often mentioned, and which you’re most likely missing in your version.

Native Plugins

Sakura

FL Studio Sakura

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

Sakura is an interesting and unique sounding plugin that’s normally directed toward a very specific niche, offering unique sonic possibilities. If you find yourself gawking at it, keep in mind that its value comes from its unique synthesis concept – one for which it takes its inspiration from the brief life cycle of cherry blossoms. Let’s dig further.

For instance, Sakura can synthesize string instruments that breathe with possibilities. Adventurous producers might take fancy from its 5-stage “hanami” (transient) process which includes contact, vibration, string interaction, resonance, and acoustics. These comprise Sakura’s string physical modelling parameters. Contact, for instance, allows users to model plucks, scraps, and even finger action. You can even come up with physically impossible permutations, such as creating a 15-foot guitar. These possibilities make Sakura a whole lot of fun to play with.

Demonstration

Harmor

Harmor FL Studio Image Line

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

Harmor, on the other hand, is by now already an established name, and is less on the fringe as Sakura. It’ well known for its remarkable versatility, and the newest iteration maintained the same additive synthesis architecture that makes it powerful. Now however, it has a multipoint envelope editor, image and audio synthesis capabilities, and greater CPU efficiency. Given how taxing additive synths can be on any music production computer, that last feature definitely makes Harmor worth its salt.

Harmor also carries a few native effects such as the usual distortion, delays, and others, including the famous Soundgoodizer. Being within the same architecture, we believe, helps the plugin’s CPU efficiency.

New users may choose to pass on Sakura, but if you’re looking to create fresh and interesting sounds, it is certainly worth playing with. As for Harmor, we couldn’t understate its importance in any producer’s bag of essentials.

Demonstration

3rd-Party Free Plugin

Dexed

Dexed by Digital Suburban

Download Dexed

Essentially a clone of the classic Yamaha DX7, Dexed is a free FM synthesis plugin. As such, it has become part of many new producers’ most powerful tools. But just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s a push-over. In fact, Dexed’s multi-platform and multi-format versatility is only one of its many abilities.

Dexed has six oscillators, each with their own envelope generators. This makes a messy, but detailed, interface. Nonetheless, the latest version has made a lot of visual improvements.

Users are particularly impressed with Dexed brass emulation. Don’t expect overly complex programming with this plugin though. It’s made with vintage sounds in mind, and accessible for new producers.

Fans of the DX7 can send their created patches between Dexed and their machines.

Those looking for a free and competent plugin should definitely give Dexed a try.

3rd-Party Paid Plugin

Soundspot Union

SoundSpot Union

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

Soundspot Union is a wavetable synth that uses a unique synthesis system. It has two main analogue modelled oscillators which offer up to six waveshapes and 32 voices. Union then merges (hence the name) these two oscillators to generate wavetable waveforms for a third oscillator. This can result in very harmonically complex sounds.

Unlike most synths, each oscillator has its own independent filters. This gives users more control of the sound even before the third oscillator stage. Users can manipulate the sounds through graphical editing.

The modern-looking UI is intuitively designed, so navigation and editing is trouble-free.

Also mind-boggling is their unison engine which can play up to 96 voices in a single note. Add to that the nine effects that can further sweeten the sound. Even a cursory browse of the presets will tell you a lot about the plugin’s potentially limitless possibilities.

Demonstration

Massive X

Native Instruments MASSIVE X

demos & price @ Native Instruments

Any self-respecting producer will tell you that Massive was an industry game-changer. But the release of the newest iteration of this beloved Native Instruments plugin is also equally colossal.

Pitched as an entirely different plugin, Massive X has a pared-down visual look, but definitely more ‘under-the-hood’ features than its predecessor.

Unlike Massive which has three oscillators, Massive X only has two. But X has three insert effects slots for adding more oscillators. It also features 170 wavetables and Wavetable modes that can be stacked on top.

There are also noise options – in fact, there are more than a hundred. These range from the usual whites and browns to grizzlies, water ducks, and dolphins.

You read that right: the plugin allows you to modulate these animal noises to your sound. They may be a bit more difficult to handle, but this tells you a lot about the plugin’s sound design capabilities.

Indeed, Massive X is overwhelmingly promising. Its release is definitely one of the highlights of the year.

Demonstration

Krotos Concept

Krotos Concept

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

Krotos Concept bagged the “best software” award at Winter NAMM 2020. That tells a lot for a company that has only recently entered the music-making business. As for the Concept, the award-winning plugin made head turns with its colorful visual interface and novel ideas.

Concept promises ease of access, speed, and a fun workflow. Users can drag and drop parameters and assign colors to LFOs. This allows users to see their sound transform visually, not unlike doodling or painting. Needless to say, the Concept can be a great tool for new producers.

It also allows any parameter to be mapped to the available multi-mode modulators. Modulation can also be controlled via an X/Y Capture pad and a ‘Tweak It’ option.

Of course, some users may be turned off by its quirky, colorful look and deceptively simple workflow. But the Krotos Concept is capable of producing serious sounds.

Demonstration

Xfer Serum

Xfer Records Serum

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

Like NI Massive, Serum is one of those synths that you’ll hear from any serious producer. And it is for good reason. Serum’s wavetable synthesis capabilities packs a serious punch. Users can create their own wavetables, import their own audio, mix and max wavetables using standard linear interpolation, or even draw directly on the waveform.

Serum is still among the cream of the top in terms of suppressing artifacts. This means that it has one of the cleanest-sounding in the business. On top of that, each oscillator has a sub-oscillator and a noise oscillator where users can choose from more than 200 noise options.

Modulation within Serum can be achieved through simple drag and drop. As for wavetable manipulation, users can do it real-time through the ‘Warp’ capability. This is the reason why Serum is popular for live use among the most accomplished DJs and producers.

Serum can also be pushed to its limit by stacking voices through advanced unison.

There is a lot that can be said about Serum. But put simply, it is one of the best VST plugins around, and will remain so this year.

Demonstration


Effects Processors

Effects processors allows users to further manipulate the properties of sound. You’d have your instruments, sure, but you need them to blend together well by trimming off what you don’t need, and enhancing others. Then when that’s done, you need to polish that sound with some saturation and pump up the volume with some compression.

That is just an oversimplified way of explaining the process of an effects processor. And they come are three main flavors: time based, dynamics based, and harmonics based. For a run-down of a detailed list check out our mixing plugins guide. Many of those will do will with FL Studio. For the meantime, we’ll look at a few here.

Native Plugins

Now let’s talk about the usual suspects. All except the last in this list should come standard with your FL Studio DAW.

Fruity Limiter

Fruity Limiter

Ridiculously compact, the Fruity Limiter is still one of the most-used limiter plugins among FL Studio users. The Limiter has become the go-to plugin for most beginners doing side-chaining. While it may experience some troubles dealing with sound with lots of artifacts, the Fruity Limiter is reliable for most kinds of audio signal.

FL Parametric EQ2

FL Parametric EQ2

As for the Parametric EQ2, the native equalizer’s intuitive interface remains popular because of how easy it is to use. It is also CPU-efficient, as it doesn’t do more than what it was made to do. The classic-looking visual interface is also not bad, although we admit a UI update would be much appreciated.

Fruity Delay 3

Fruity Delay 3

Delay 3’s analogue style delay is simple enough for layman’s use, but its acoustic emulation leaves a lot to be desired. Given current innovations in acoustic imaging and modelling, Delay 3’s rudimentary effects may come off as amateurish in the hands of a rookie. This, nonetheless, may be due to it being analogue-modelled and not because it is a bad plugin.

Fruity Reeverb 2

Fruity Reeverb 2

This is also the case with Reeverb 2 which has not received any significant update in recent years. Reeverb 2’s limitations in acoustic modelling will become apparent when compared to heavyweights such as the Altiverb or FabFilter’s Pro-R. The limitations lie in the lack of parameters and possible variations. Given how saturated the VST effects market is these days, these limitations are not surprising from a free plugin.

Gross Beat

Gross Beat

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

Meanwhile, Gross Beat has become such a mainstay in most producer communities, particularly in trap production. It is easy to see why. Gross Beat’s gating and pitch-shifting capabilities can dramatically change the feel of a particular signal. It is also very easy to use. As trap and trap-flavored music continues to dominate the airwaves, we will most likely see Gross Beat impose its presence. This is despite the entry of many other similar plugins.

These native plugins are mainstays for a reason. We expect both newbies and vets to continue to rely on these tools.

3rd-Party Free Plugins

MJUC Jr By Klanghelm

MJUC Jr By Klanghelm

Download MJUC Jr

Boasting two gain stages and transformer emulation, MJUC Jr uses “variable-mu” compression that emulates older compressors. MJUC Jr is more of a vintage compressor, so expect more harmonics from your processed signal. More harmonics means dense and warm saturation that works best for submixes

The plugin has three position-timing switches: fast, slow, and auto. Minimizing the parameters to three means lesser choices and more things being automated under the hood. Some want more control from their compressors, while some like it simple. It really depends on one’s preference. As for the MJUC Jr, simple is clearly enough, and it delivers.

For a freeware, the capabilities of the MJUC Jr surprisingly fares well when put side by side with its paid counterparts. It is therefore not a bad option for one who has an extreme budget, especially if your compressor needs are not very demanding and if you have a less powerful machine.

3rd-Party Paid Plugins

FET Compressor By Softube

Softube FET Compressor

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

Softube peddles the FET Compressor as “the most accurate modelling” of a solid state compressor. Softube dedicated itself to emulating not just through algorithmic approximation but through simulating every component from input stages to the differences between transistors. This results in a believable reproduction of the original FET models.

Some nifty features included are the modeled “all buttons in” mode, parallel compression capabilities, synchronized gain reduction, and remarkable CPU efficiency.

Visually, the plugin has a 90s hi-fi look that packs a hint of nostalgia for added appeal.

The biggest deterring factor for the FET Compressor, however, is the price. It is among the least accessible compressors in the market, and it is for good reason. It gives the user absolute control over the signal. Its emulation is also top-notch.

Demonstration

WA Production Mutant Reverb

WA Production Mutant Reverb

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

The Mutant Reverb is a mono-to-stereo reverb plugin that comes with a built-in ducker. It boasts total control of reverb tails, which are usually difficult to deal with

It has all the basic controls such as the mix control, size and diffusion, dampening and frequency shaping etc. The presets are also par for the course.

The highlight of the plugin is the Internal Ducker which is supposed to dynamically suppress reverb tail signals. Functioning like a sidechain, the ducker can be used to erase unwanted transients. A Hold function allows the Mutant to stabilize gain reduction when the ducker is used. Needless to say, this can be a nifty tool especially when dealing with complex reverb tails. This also allows you to save precious CPU power by not using another limiter or any external ducking plugin.

The Mutant Reverb has a modern visual look. The UI is also intuitive and easy to analyze.

In general, Mutant is a powerful reverb that has a lot of practical purposes. No fancy presets, no bulky features, just solid functionality.

Demonstration

WA Production Mutant Delay

WA Production Mutant Delay

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

WA Production also employs a dynamic ducking feature in their delay plugin. The Mutant Delay seems to have been designed to maintain signal clarity even when the delay effects get a little bit too crazy. This is great for vocals and other audio that need to be as clean as possible.

Like the Mutant Reverb, the Mutant Delay has a straight-forward interface made up of two primary parts, the Synced Delay and the Internal Ducker. The Delay has all the basic ingredients such as the mix controls, the filters, feedback, the L-R controls. As for the ducker, it has parameters similar to that of a standard compressor, such as attack, release, threshold, ratio, and hold.

The Internal Ducker module is useful for fast-tempo music where uncontrolled delay tails can make a track sound messy.

The Mutant Delay, aside from the ducker, is pretty much a basic delay plugin. Its dedication to clarity will make it a useful delay for instances when clarity is needed. But if you need creative control on your signal, you may need another delay module.

Demonstration

Soundtoys FilterFreak

Soundtoys FilterFreak

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

Adding to our list of analogue-modelled plugins, Soundtoys’ FilterFreak is an interesting plugin that has more tricks up its sleeve than you would expect.

It touts itself as being modelled from analog resonant filters. This accounts for its gritty, mechanical sounding saturation styles. You even can push the resonance filter to a self-oscillating mode, a testament to its fidelity to the hardware.

FilterFreak has several saturation styles which range from subtle distortions to hard-hitting compression. Users can also choose to use either one or two filters which can be put into series or parallel. The rhythm and groove functionality is also fun to use.

Soundwise, FilterFreak seems to be capable of handling the most common filtering tasks. The vintage ‘warm’ (or ‘cold, depending on who you ask) sound may not appeal to those who are not big fans of analogue-modelled filters. But the FilterFreak is by no means just a typical filter. It’s a perfectly capable plugin.

denise Bad Tape

denise bad tape

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

Perhaps one of the more idiosyncratic plugins in our list is denise’s Bad ape, a ‘tape harming’ plugin. Made to “cause crackling, detuning and buzzing” effects of tape emulation, Bad Tape rides on the fairly recent resurgence of the cassette tape. Bad Tape does well in achieving the detuned sound that has become very common not only in rap music but also in ambient music.

Aside from detune, it also has ‘wow’, ‘flutter’, ‘hiss’, ‘squeal’, and ‘harm’ functions. These presets can be further controlled with input, saturation, mix, color, speed, and output parameters on the lower half of the plugin.

The plugin incorporates tape artifacts, subtle bit crushing, and hysteresis emulation to achieve the tape sound.

It’s a pretty simple plugin, but the way it manipulates the sound is radical. It can be used for a wide variety of contexts and styles. If you don’t mind straying far into the left-field, Bad Tape is certainly not a bad toy to play with.

Bass

Bass provides the body of a sound. Bass makes hearing not just an aural activity but a whole-body experience. FL Studio hosts many bass VSTs of various kinds and sensibilities, each for every kind of producer and musical aesthetic.

Native Plugins

Transistor Bass

Transistor Bass

demos & price @ Image-Line

FL’s native Transistor Bass was made from the Roland TB303. Using subtractive synthesis, the Transistor Bass is able to create acid house bass timbres from square and saw waves. In the spirit of the actual TB303, the Transistor Bass also includes a distortion unit to achieve a classic acid house sound.

The Transistor Bass is not the most versatile bass around given its limitations in available waveforms and synthesis capabilities. But it drives a powerful sound that approximates the Roland TB303. The native sequencer and its accompanying factory bank is also fairly useful.

3rd Party Free Plugins

Steinberg Model E

Steinberg Model E

Download from Steinberg

There are not a lot of other hardwares more worthy of being emulated than the Moog Model D Minimoog. This is why the Model E VST plugin released by Steinberg continues to be popular. Even the critically-acclaimed composer Hans Zimmer uses it for his film scores.

But the Model E-10O pushes the Minimoog even further. Aside from the Minimoog’s signature 3-VCO monophonic bass sounds, the plugin has 64 voice polyphony and 16 multitimbral parts.

It also has a Glide and portamento effect as well as Mono-mode. These are not phenomenal additions given our modern standards, but if you are a fan of the Minimoog, having this in your arsenal will feel like a blessing.

3rd Party Paid Plugins

Loopmasters Bass Master

Loopmasters Bass Master

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

A good bass sound is one of the trickiest to make, so any great bass plugin is heaven-sent. One such plugin is Loopmasters’ Bass Master.

Building on two layers from the 217 available waveforms, Bass Masters provide the tools for meticulous sound sculpting. There are 13 filters available as well as an ADSR and a LFO envelope.

Aside from the usual effects, further manipulation can be done through the three-slotted mod-wheel function. These are more than enough to make your bass sound natural and kicking.

Of course, if you couldn’t be bothered to make your own sound, you can choose from the 350 presets which include classics such as the 808, Roger Deacon’s iconic tone in “Another One Bites The Dust”, and many others.

Overall, Bass Master is an impressive plugin, especially those looking for versatility and total control over their bass sounds.

Demonstration

Softube Monoment Bass

Softube Monoment Bass

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

The scope of Softube’s Monoment Bass’ sound possibilities is massive. Definitely not just a simple groove-builder, Monoment is capable of producing deep, complex, and droning soundscapes as well as dirty, in-your-face riffs.

All this power comes from Monoment’s two wave generators which are shaped through subtractive synthesis. A wide range of timbres are readily available, and all can be detuned by up to 100 cents. A frequency crossover point between the two generators can also be selected to enrich selected fundamentals and registers. Finally, an Analog dirt can be added for some high-end color, according to one’s taste.

There is also a curious Ageing control that is meant to add an analogue-esque dimension of unpredictability in the sound and tuning. It’s an interesting addition which opens up a wide range of creative possibilities.

Some reviews point out the apparent lack of envelopes. This is compensated by a punch amount control and a release control which, for most purposes, will suffice.

There are a lot of things that can be manifested from Monoment’s complex architecture. It also demand a fairly steep learning curve. But it’s sheer power is worth all the trouble, if you ask us.

Instruments

Virtual instruments include keyboards, drums, brass, and other traditional instruments. All of these can be simulated within FL Studio. This makes a producer simultaneously a pianist, a drummer, a trumpetist, and conductor – a one-person orchestra.

Native Plugins

FL Keys

Image Line FL Keys

We all know that among FL’s stock instruments, the FL Keys is not the sharpest tool in the shed. Many complain that it is not realistic-sounding at all, given its clunky velocity and sensitivity. The presets are also very limited, making it barely usable. And let’s be honest, it sounds more like a toy than an actual piano.

Synthesizing a piano is actually very difficult, given the complexity of the piano as an instrument. But for what it’s worth, FL Keys deserves more praise than it receives. While the piano sound is definitely not something you’d want to use in a piano concerto, its Rhodes presets are actually pretty decent.

3rd Party Paid Plugins

XLN Addictive Keys

XLN Audio Addictive Keys

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

The XLN Addictive Keys, like most of the best piano instruments, is sample-based. XLN boasts having sampled a Steinway Model D Concert Grand piano using rare vintage tube and ribbon microphones. All these create a warm and rich piano tone that sounds and feels very natural.

The Addictive Keys bundle includes the Studio Grand which is the go-to sound for a professional-sounding piano. Also included are the Modern Upright, Electric Grand, and the classic electric Mark One.

The instruments can be partially shaped through basic parameters such as tone, drive, reverb, and tremolo. Aside from that, Addictive Keys leaves the user to spice up the sound with external effects. This is actually good, as the instrument hogs quite a lot of CPU space by itself. And to be honest, the pianos sounds themselves are so good that they don’t need a lot of extra sweetening.

If you’re looking for a solid and realistic-sounding piano VST, XLN’s Addictive Keys is one of the best choices you have.

Output Signal

Output Signal

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

Now we’re getting deeper into the rabbit hole with Output’s Signal, a powerful, interesting, and thoroughly unique plugin.

Unlike most instruments, Signal is not focused on creating sounds per se, but pulses. These pulses can be aggressive and or lush and arpeggiated, not unlike the tempo-based VSTs such as Omnisphere.

The origin of the pulse is usually an audio source which can be further layered with another audio. This sound is then processed through what Output calls a Pulse Engine. The Pulse Engine creates movements from the patch using four basic modes, Step, Arp, Loop, and Wave.

This movement can be looped, thereby creating a pulse. Two layers of different rhythms can be played on top of each other which creates wild rhythmic combinations and syncopations.

All of this magic can be accessed only when one decides to go deeper from the macro controls. As such, it is a relatively accessible plugin given the complexity of its processes.

The Signal, needless to say, is unique and can be used to come up with a slew of crazy pulses and rhythms.

Demonstration

Serato Sample

Serato Sample

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

The Serato Sample has become synonymous with sampling in recent years. Indeed, its signature Pitch N’ Time feature has helped countless producers in cutting up samples and syncing them to their tracks.

Sample was made with DJs in mind. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a reliable sampling workhouse.

Most users profess to the accuracy of Sample’s key and tempo detection. This makes it a favorite among MPC samplists and DJs. The recent expansion from 16 to 32 pads also effectively doubles the number of samples one can play with.

Nonetheless, while some like Sample’s austere visual aesthetic and no-nonsense workflow, its lack of features can be frustrating, especially given its price. There is minimal editing that can be done on the samples aside from pitch and time shifting.

We think Sample’s worth depends on what you expect from a sampler. But for the minimal requirements, Sample does a solid job being what it is.

Sonivox Orchestral Companion Series

SONiVOX Film Score Companion

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

Among the priciest in this list, Sonivox’s Orchestral Companion Series is expensive for an obvious reason. Not only did Sonivox have to sample an entire orchestra and its individual instruments – they also needed to figure out how to model complicated acoustic environments. The result of all this painstaking work is a real and breathing orchestra right under your fingertips.

The Companion Series has several components: the Orchestral Companion Strings which includes 9 gigabytes of string ensemble samples, the Orchestral Companion Brass which is 5 gigabytes of solo and ensemble brass, the Orchestral Companion Woodwinds which samples 9 gigabytes worth of woodwinds, the Eighty Eight Ensemble which is 9 gigabytes of an orchestral ensemble and an entire Steinway piano, and finally the Big Bang Cinematic Percussion which contains 15 gigabytes of orchestral and ethnic percussion sounds. Needless to say, this is a huge library that would push your machine to the limit, so be careful.

Not only are the samples expansive, but each instrument is also expressive. Each instrument has its own multi-velocity layers and can be modulated through the mod-wheel. There is also additional LFO modulation to make the instruments ‘breathe’. Of course, audio effects lend some extra kink to the instruments.

The Sonivox is as good as it gets when it comes to orchestra sounds. If you’re a serious film scorer or composer, having this in your arsenal is essential.

Drums

Drums provide rhythm and regularity to music. As a music production tool, FL Studio is based on loops, which are rhythmic patterns. This is why drums are important in any DAW, particularly in FL Studio where production is primarily oop-based.

Native Plugins

Drumaxx

Image Line Drumaxx

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

Neither synthesized nor sampled, Drummax’s percussive sounds were created from physically modelled drums. The modelling done is impressive. It includes the vibrating membrane’s mass, inertia, damping, and other factors. This gives you full control over the sound of a drum.

For a native plugin, Drumaxx is indeed special. The creative possibilities are practically endless.

3rd Party Free Plugins

Beat Assist BAT-S12

Beat Assist BAT-S12

Download Beat Assist

Another quirky yet powerful free plugin, Beat Assist has 12 slots for .wav and .aif files. These samples can be shaped through body controls, attack and release, pitch stations, and a lot of other parameters. Beat Assist has a very simple look, but it is light-weight and can do a lot of things that more expensive drum machines can do. It’s a reliable plugin that is easy to learn and to use.

3rd Party Paid Plugins

Softube Heartbeat

Softube Heartbeat

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

Sometimes, simplicity makes a better impression than throwing everything in the kitchen. This seems to be the approach of Heartbeat, Softube’s ode to the drum machines of the 70s and 80s.

Softube’s Heartbeat has two kicks, two snares, a hi-hat, one cymbal, and two percussion channels. Each sound is crisp and has a presence in the mix. These sounds are not sampled but synthesized from triangle waves to fixed-ratio frequency modulation.

Heartbeat’s drums can be shaped with knobs, with each drum element having three to seven knob controls. In keeping with the plugin’s spartan design, the drum elements’ dedicated mixer channels only have one knob each. The frequencies affected by the knob have been pre-selected. This means that the user doesn’t have a lot of EQ controls for the drums, which can be a bit of an issue.

Heartbeat is not cheap, and for a synth of its type, the price may be a bit too steep. But if you want something easier to manage, especially during a live performance, Heartbeat is one of your better options.

FXpansion Geist2

FXpansion Geist2

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

Coming off from the opposite side of the spectrum is Geist2, a self-titled ‘beat production system’. Geist2 is packed with features that makes it a bit difficult to get into, but its full potential will unravel when one becomes comfortable in its complex architecture.

It is more than a drum machine. Rather, it is an entire suite of engines – eight engines in fact. You can bring together a bass riff, a drum loop, some synths, or some vocal samples. In short, you can make an entire song with it.

This brings in some definition issues, as Geist is almost like a mini DAW on its own. After all, it can sample, slice, modulate, sequence, arrange, and transform. These may be a bit too much for a single plugin. But if you’re looking for an all-in-one beat making suite, Geist2 may be for you.

accusonus Rhythmiq

Accusonus Rhythmiq Sampler

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique or Sweetwater

accusonus rhythmiq’s motto is ‘turn your beat into a performance.’ Indeed, this small plugin can be a neat jammate or companion that can push your live performance to another level.

accusonus rhythmiq uses artificial intelligence to detect tempo in the loops that are fed into it. Once analyzed, users can use a MIDI control to let the plugin play with the loop. Eventually, the AI can make your beats evolve. There is something fascinating in seeing your beats come to life on its own.

Check out our review

UJAM Dope 2

UJAM Dope 2

demos & price @ Plugin Boutique

UJAM Dope 2 is a more conventional beat-making plugin. Its charm lies in its wide variety of styles and patterns, making it effectively a fun jamming plugin.

Its patterns are carefully curated, so they were included with musical performance in mind. This may be a good thing for a performance-minded producer.

Nonetheless, UJAM Dope 2 still does have some modulation capabilities. It also has three FX algorithms, namely Sweep, Ambience, and Drive.

Dope 2 may be lacking in terms of creative possibilities, but it has practical uses.

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