12 Best Mixing VST Plugins 2024

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Mixing requires an array of tools – EQs, compressors, reverbs, saturation, and more. Sure, your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) may already come with the essentials. But stock effects will only take you so far.

If you’re looking to take your mixing game to the next level, it may be time to invest in a fresh set of third-party plugins. In this guide, we look at the best mixing VST plugins.

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter – Best Overall

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter – Best Overall

Equalizer (EQ) plugins are considered a studio must-have. They allow for the sculpting and shaping of sounds in your mix. This isn’t to suggest you should start with poor source material and attempt to fix it with EQ later. When and where possible, capture great quality performances first.

The truth is EQ is usually used for subtractive EQ more than it is used for additive EQ. Subtractive EQ allows you to create separation between tracks, and helps elements sit nicely in the mix together. But whether for subtractive or additive EQ, there are few options as universally praised as FabFilter Pro-Q 3.

As is FabFilter tradition, Pro-Q 3 comes loaded with powerful and versatile features you can take advantage of in mixing and mastering scenarios alike.

Pro-Q 3 comes with up to 24 EQ bands, optional dynamic EQ mode, LP and HP filters (with ultra-steep brickwall slope setting), per-band mid / side or left / right processing, flat tilt filter shaper, spectrum grab, EQ Match, pre-EQ, post-EQ, phase invert, and a great deal more.

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is our best overall selection because everyone needs a solid EQ VST plugin, and this is one of the best tools money can buy.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Pro-R by FabFilter – Best Premium Option

FabFilter Pro-R by FabFilter – Best Premium Option

Dry mixes can be lifeless and boring. Most if not all producers use reverb quite liberally to create a sense of space in their tracks. And while they might not use it on every channel, most channels – vocals, guitars, synths, drums, and more – are typically treated with reverb.

No doubt, the availability of reverb VST plugins is plentiful. And we could be here all day talking about reverb alone, but there are just far too many tools you’re going to require for dialing in you mixes. So, we may as well climb right to the top of the heap of reverbs, where you’ll find FabFilter Pro-R.

Within this gem, you’ll find all manner of small ambiences, rooms, concert halls, and cathedral models you can take advantage of to add space to your mixes.

FabFilter Pro-R provides a relatively transparent sound, helping curtail muddiness and lack of clarity in a mix.

FabFilter keeps it simple with simple naming conventions not typically found in reverb VSTs – they’ve opted for parameter labels like space, brightness, character, and distance to help you find your settings faster.

There are plenty of other powerful features included, like decay rate EQ and post EQ curves, stepless space, decay rate, intelligent stereo width, mix, predelay, real-time spectrum analyzer, MIDI Learn, and more.

Technically, Pro-R is no more expensive than the rest. But FabFilter Pro-R is like the Porsche of reverbs, and it’s a very necessary effect for mixing, so we’ve made it our best premium option.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Helper Saturator 2 by W. A. Production – Best Budget Option

Helper Saturator 2 by W. A. Production – Best Budget Option

Looking for a simple plugin to apply some saturation to your track? It’s not a unique concept by any means, but W. A. Production’s Helper Saturator 2 is a cost effective and feature rich saturation effect with two filters and two saturation models (with tape and tube), with the ability to process five types of audio signal.

With low pass and high pass filter modules, you’ll be able to cut out troublesome frequencies with ease. Input and output gain control offer gain staging for before and after the saturation. And you can choose the audio source – left, right, stereo, mid, and side.

With an analog style saturation, Helper Saturator 2 features clean filter modules, 10 presets, and a resizable interface.

Saturation is a sexy category to be sure, and the Helper Saturator 2 is versatile and great sounding while being incredibly affordable. That’s what makes it our best budget pick.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Pro-C 2 by FabFilter

FabFilter Pro-C 2 by FabFilter

Reverb. EQ. If you want to know what else the pros use on their signal chain, I promise you compression is up there with the others just mentioned.

Compression evens out the dynamics of the tracks, can offer some much-needed glue to the mix, and can even add some lovely color, character, or saturation to them (depending on the compressor).

FabFilter Pro-C 2 is powerful enough to work for just about any application you can name – lead vocals, drum glue, deep EDM pumping… it’s even a more than competent mastering compressor.

But what makes it so versatile and useful? Pro-C 2 comes with eight compression styles you can take advantage of for vocals, bus, punch, pumping, mastering, and more.

What’s also onboard is mind boggling to say the least – a sidechain EQ section, program-dependent attack and release curves, up to 20 ms of smooth lookahead, intelligent auto gain, external sidechain triggering, custom knee, auto release, MIDI Learn, and much more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Pro-DS by FabFilter

FabFilter Pro-DS by FabFilter

If you often find yourself mixing vocals, or for that matter, shrill sounding cymbals and high-pitched guitar parts, then you’ll probably find it hard to do without a de-esser.

Sibilance, popping, and noise are almost inevitable in vocal tracks, even if you’re using the best outboard and “in the box” processing available. In fact, compressors and saturators can end up adding to the problem.

This is where a plugin like FabFilter Pro-DS comes in. With highly intelligent “single vocal” detection, Pro-DS can do most of the heavy lifting of finding sibilance and attenuating it on your behalf.

Pro-DS also features program-dependent compression / limiting, wide band or liner-phase split band processing, optional lookahead (up to 15 ms), stereo linking, mid-only or side-only processing (optional), up to 4x linear-phase oversampling, MIDI Learn, and more.

FabFilter plugins tend to be a little pricier than your run of the mill plugins but are usually good value. Pro-DS is an excellent pro level plugin, of that there is no doubt. But it’s a de-esser, and de-essers usually fall under the category of “utility.”

What we’re getting at is that the price of Pro-DS might be a little high. Again, we’re not here to dissuade you, we’re not here to tell you one way or another. But if you’re looking for a better budget / value option, they are out there.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Pro-G by FabFilter

FabFilter Pro-G by FabFilter

How do you reduce or cut out unnecessary artifacts and background noise while keeping the parts of the soundwave that are most critical to the mix? Gating was created for this very function.

Used mostly for cleaning up drum tracks, gating can also be used on guitars or any other instruments that are especially dynamic and contain unwanted hum or noise.

FabFilter Pro-G is considered by some to be the best gate VST plugin available. What makes it so desirable? First and foremost, its six flexible gate / expander algorithms (including ducking and upward expansion)!

Pro-G also comes with program dependent attack and release curves, adjustable range, hold time, knee, optional lookahead (up to 10 ms), expert mode with sidechain options, mono, stereo, or mid / side processing, up to 4x linear-phase oversampling, MIDI Learn, and so on.

As with Pro-DS, there is no denying that Pro-G is a pro level mixing tool. That said, it is a gate, and gates are effectively utility plugins. You use them where you need them (usually drums), but apart from that, they are very “set and forget.”

So, we could see how some producers might not totally be down for dropping what FabFilter is asking for this plugin, but notwithstanding it is a great option.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Saturn 2 by FabFilter

FabFilter Saturn 2 by FabFilter

Modern music often features heavy, aggressive, impactful 808s, vocals, and more. If you haven’t discovered this already as a producer, you’re in for a rude awakening – these huge sounds don’t happen by accident.

No, it takes something to create brutal, hard-hitting sounds. And even if you’re going for something subtler, you can’t expect it to happen on autopilot. No, these sounds are created intentionally and deliberately, using plugins like FabFilter Saturn 2.

With 28 distortion styles, there isn’t much ground FabFilter Saturn 2 doesn’t cover – it can do tube saturation, bit crushing, heavy guitar amp sounds, and more.

Saturn 2 also comes with up to six bands of multiband processing, adjustable slope for crossovers, per-band controls (drive, mix, feedback, dynamics, tone, level), optional HQ modes, a wide array of modulation options, mid / side processing, interactive MIDI Learn, and so much more.

No matter what you might need to accomplish with distortion, Saturn 2 can probably fill whatever gaps you may have in your projects.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Timeless 3 by FabFilter

FabFilter Timeless 3 by FabFilter

Right alongside reverb, delay is one of the most utilized echo-based effects out there. Where reverb adds ambience, delay creates a longer tail that stays with the listener, long after the lyric has been sung or the phrase has been played.

FabFilter Timeless 3 can fulfill on all your typical delay applications (guitars, vocals, synths, etc.), and take everything a step beyond with sound mangling madness.

One of the things that makes Timeless 3 so versatile is it included effects (optional), like drive, lo-fi, diffuse, pitch, and dynamics.

Timeless 3 also comes with up to six filters (LP / HP / BP, bell / shelving / notch EQ, and more), 16 delay taps (for creating rhythmic patterns), feedback and cross-feedback, modulatable freeze, mid / side processing, ping-pong modes, drag-and-drop modulation with 50-slot modulation matrix, and more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Mutant Reverb by W. A. Production

Mutant Reverb by W. A. Production

W. A. Production’s Mutant Reverb offers precise control over reverb tails – on vocals, synths, percussion, or otherwise. This mono-to-stereo reverb features a built-in ducker, and it promises to add clarity where other reverbs might add more mud to a mix.

The ducker is part of what makes this all possible, as you can easily duck the reverb effect out of the way without complicated compression or sidechain routing.

The Stereo Split functionality is what makes mono-to-stereo possible, along with parameters that give you control over the room and tail character. The Ducker section comes with attack, threshold, ratio, hold, and release controls.

All the essentials to help you dial in your perfect reverb are here – bypass, visual feedback, mix control, time and pre-delay, size and diffusion, frequency shaping and dampening, advanced controls, and an array of factory presets.

Altogether, you get a reverb with a built-in internal ducker with compressor style controls, click free bypass control, time, size, frequency filters, pre-delay, diffusion, dampening, real-time waveform display, presets, resizable user interface, PDF manual, and tutorial video.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Pumper 3 by W. A. Production

Pumper 3 by W. A. Production

W. A. Production’s Pumper 3 isn’t just a compressor. It’s a combination compressor, saturator, and stereo imager.

The compressor comes with four modes – soft, clean, punchy, and soft, and Pumper 3 adds to the plugin’s repertoire adjustable wet / dry parallel compression and RMS shaping.

The saturator features a Rise and Fall setting for shaping transients or adding smoothness to the saturation.

The stereo imager also comes with some extra goodies, in the form of dedicated low and high shelf modes, as well as frequency and resonance controls.

All in all, Pumper 3 comes with 50 presets for vocals, drums, synths, keys, acoustic, bass, mastering, four compression types with adjustable RMS, parallel compression, hard and soft clip saturation with character and transient controls, stereo imager with frequency focus, master gain controls for each module, and real-time waveform display.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

The King 2 by W. A. Production

The King 2 by W. A. Production

W. A. Production’s The King 2 is considered a mastering plugin, but multi-band compression isn’t just for mastering.

This five-band compressor comes with high, mid high, mid, low mid, and low controls, as well as threshold and makeup gain for each band.

The mix knob, not surprisingly, controls the wetness of the mix, but it can also be used as a parallel compressor.

The King 2 can also act as a limiter, so in case you were worried that you might have to get a separate plugin for that, you have the opportunity to save on CPU power by making The King 2 your all-in-one mastering tool.

This baby also comes with upward and downward compression, a time knob, Magic EQ, and input / output gain.

Overall, The King 2 features five band threshold, five band makeup gain, input / output gain, upwards compression and downward compression, release time, mix, Magic EQ with three shapes / curves, a built-in limiter, and a resizable user interface.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Helper Transients 2 by W. A. Production

Helper Transients 2 by W. A. Production

Transient shapers make for excellent mixing tools thanks to their sound sculpting capabilities.

Helper Transients 2 takes transient shaping to a new level, with processing for five types of audio signals – original, mid, side, left, and right.

Transient shapers can handle jobs compression simply cannot. It gives you the option of sharpening or softening your sound without overcompensating with compression. Meaning – you can keep more of the dynamics while moving tracks to the background or making them pop in a mix.

Helper Transients 2 includes low pass and high pass filters, and gain staging using the input and output gain controls.

This baby features attack, sustain, 10 presets, a resizable user interface, and more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In A Mixing VST Plugin?

If you’re an experienced producer, then you probably have some idea of what you’re looking for already.

But if you’re still new to music production, DAWs, and VST plugins, your head might still be spinning from everything you just had the opportunity to explore. EQs? Reverbs? Compressors? It can all be a little overwhelming.

Good news – you’re in the right place at the right time, because in this section, we consider several key criteria that will help you arrive at a purchase decision you’ll be happy with.

Specifically, we’ll be looking at:

  • Sound quality / transparency
  • Your needs / project requirements
  • Features / functionality
  • Budget

Here’s an overview of each.

Sound Quality / Transparency

Never buy anything without sampling it first. There exists an abundance of sound clips and video reviews or demos to check out, and these can prove very helpful when it comes to deciding which plugin to purchase.

What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. While there are many commonalities between the processes and workflows the best producers use, there are also many differences, which includes the exact VST plugins they use.

This highlights the importance of choosing plugins that work for you. You don’t necessarily have to go on anyone else’s recommendations, especially if you’re leaning towards a choice others wouldn’t necessarily gravitate towards.

Another dimension of sound quality is transparency. This doesn’t necessarily apply to all plugin types, but it’s safe to say there are transparent EQs, reverbs, compressors, and so forth. If you want to preserve the sound you captured while enhancing it in subtler ways, transparency matters.

Your Needs / Project Requirements

What would make the biggest difference for you right now?

With so many shiny VST plugins out there, it’s easy to get caught up in making a shopping list instead of identifying the greatest gaps in your toolkit.

Unless you have top of the line, premium plugins, there are always opportunities to upgrade. but depending on the DAW you’re using, you may already have a great EQ, or a fantastic compressor, or a killer reverb. If so, these would not be the areas to spend, at least not right now.

Start in areas where you’re feeling the greatest need, as you’re going to experience the greatest breakthroughs in those areas.

Also remember – EQ, reverb, compression, and saturation are among the most used plugins, so if you don’t have some powerhouses in these areas, these would be the ones to prioritize.

Features / Functionality

Because of the diversity of plugins covered here – reverb, EQ, compression, de-esser, gate, saturation / distortion, delay, transient shaper – there are no straight comparisons across the board that will apply (though you can compare EQs to EQs, or gates to gates, for instance).

As with most other factors, features are well worth considering, but what’s required often ends up being individual. Just as you should identify which effects or plugins you need right now; it would be to your advantage to be aware of the exact functionality you require in the VSTs you’re about to purchase.

Generally, the more you pay, the more you’ll get, and the better the plugin will be. That said, there are plenty of budget to mid-tier options that will do more than a competent job too.

Budget

As I’ve already hinted at, the temptation will be to make a giant shopping list, fill your cart with all the plugins you want, look at the total, and go, “oops!”

If money’s not an object, you’re welcome to go to town. Otherwise, we recommend carefully evaluating each purchase.

The plugins featured here aren’t over the top expensive – they’re all in the $25 to $169 range. But it can add up fast if you’re thinking about purchasing multiple VSTs.

As we don’t recommend going into debt, please use your budget as a filter for the purchase you’re about to make. Resisting the temptation to overspend will mean more enjoyment long term.

Top Mixing VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

At the risk of saying something controversial, in closing, I want to share one thing – mixing is not all about the tools.

Sure, having the right tools for the job can make a difference. All things being equal, I would prefer to have premium plugins at my fingertips over free and low-cost ones.

But skill and experience count for more than you might think. Which is why it’s key that you learn the fundamentals of mixing – not just have the right tools for the job!

With that, we wish you all the best, and we can’t wait to hear what you come up with.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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