13 Best VST Plugins For Ableton Live 2022

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Best VST Plugins For Ableton Live

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Ableton Live quickly rose through the ranks to become the DAW of a new generation.

As a capable live and in-studio recording tool, it’s ideal for electronic music, and can adapt nicely to other styles and genres as well.

If you’re sold out on Ableton Live, it’s only natural that you’d come sniffing around here. After all, more VST plugins means more power at your fingertips, right?

Here we look at the best VST plugins for Ableton Live.

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FabFilter Pro-R by FabFilter – Best Overall

FabFilter Pro-R by FabFilter – Best Overall

Not that we haven’t covered our share of verbs in this guide (see below), but FabFilter’s Pro-R is so powerful that some don’t even think of it as a verb. They think of it as a “space” plugin. Plus, reverb usually ends up on everything – vocals, drums, guitars, synthesizers, and more. To that extent, a great reverb is a must.

Pro-R, not surprisingly, features tons of room models, from small rooms to larger halls and even massive cathedrals. Regardless of the “size” you’re aiming for, you should be able to find your flavor of poison here.

It also comes with decay rate EQ and post EQ curves, stepless space control (combines the room model and decay time of the reverb), decay rate control, intelligent stereo width control, distance control, character control, brightness knob, predelay control, six-band decay rate EQ, six-band post EQ, and real-time spectrum analyzer.

Further, you get full screen mode, multiple interface sizes (Medium, Large, Extra Large), MIDI learn, undo / redo and A/B comparison, smart parameter interpolation, sample accurate automation of all parameters, and an extensive help file.

FabFilter Pro-R features a smooth, natural, transparent sound that should work nicely in any mix. It’s our best overall pick.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Auto-Tune Artist by Antares – Best Premium Option

Auto-Tune Artist by Antares – Best Premium Option

For electronic genres of all types, pitch correction / auto-tuning modules are a practical must-have. Whether it’s for that T Pain style robotic wobble, or subtle pitch correction techniques, Antares Auto-Tune is considered the gold standard against which all other similar tools are measured.

Auto-Tune Artist includes all the pitch correction and auto-tune effects you know it for, Flex-Tune, plus classic mode for that favorite “Auto-Tune 5 sound,” a new, streamlined interface, and auto-key compatibility.

This version of Auto-Tune also comes with one year of Auto-Tune Unlimited for free.

Auto-Tune Unlimited comes with tons of vocal processing modules, including vocoder, mic mod EFX, chorus, de-ess, and much more. It wants to be your all-in-one vocal processing solution and has enough features to be exactly that.

If you don’t have your entire vocal chain figured out yet, then the tools inside Unlimited are more than worth a try.

It doesn’t have to be Auto-Tune, but again, you will need a pitch correction module of some kind for your productions, especially since Ableton Live is a little limited that way.

It’s our best premium option, not just because it’s kind of pricey, but also because it’s a practical necessity.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Little Plate by Soundtoys – Best Budget Option

Little Plate by Soundtoys – Best Budget Option

SoundToys plugins are rarely a one trick pony, and while echo is something they do well, it’s certainly not the only thing they do.

But even with their flagship EchoBoy appearing later in this guide, their Little Plate reverb is also well worth a look, especially since it’s about half the price.

This plate reverb was inspired by the EMT 140. Having captured its sound, Soundtoys couldn’t resist pushing the idea to its limits, with some fun features simply not possible with the original hardware gear.

For instance, while the original reverb could only be turned up to five seconds of reverberation time, Little Plate has infinity decay time. The reverb tail never fades if you don’t want it to!

Naturally, you might assume the results “messy,” but you can dial out the extra noise with the built-in low-cut filter. This will help remove overbearing bass frequencies from your tracks.

Little Plate also has some modulation features built right into it. This can add some smoothness and thickness to your tracks. To top it all off, you get 25 presets to help you find your ideal settings.

The reverb, at least to me, sounds exceptional. Have a listen for yourself and see what you think.  That makes it well worth the asking price, and a shoo-in for our best budget option.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Serum by Xfer Records

Serum by Xfer Records

As the most advanced wavetable synthesizer available, it’s practically assumed that if you’ve got the budget for it, you’ve got Serum.

Some of its most notable features include the ability to edit, create, and import wavetables, ultra clean morphable oscillators,  a sophisticated modulation system, real time wavetable manipulation, a solid selection of complex filter types, 10 built-in effect types, and advanced unison, which lets you stack up to 16 voices on one oscillator.

Since you can “finance” Serum, the cost of the plugin is relatively low, especially considering all that’s on offer. But even the full price is more than reasonable based on all the possibilities this soft synth opens.

Are there any cons to Serum? Well, depending on who you ask, the lack of an arpeggiator might be a bit of a bother.

Serum also puts heavy strain on your computer, you may not like the “digital” characteristics of the sounds, and… well, you just can’t have enough oscillators, can you? Some reviewers certainly thought Serum could stand to add a few.

Either way, Serum is a great sounding synth, and there is a huge community dedicated to its use. If you go looking for support, you should be able to find it, no problem.

Learn more: Splice

Spire by Reveal Sound

Spire by Reveal Sound

Great synth sounds are probably high on the list of priorities for an Ableton user, given that it’s a very efficient tool for creating electronic music.

How many synths to buy is completely up to you, but one of the worst kept secrets in synth-dom is Reveal Sound’s Spire. It’s been around a while, and it has a reputation of sounding impeccable.

Spire may not be a comprehensive wavetable powerhouse, or all-in-one hybrid synth, or anything the Serums and the Omnispheres of the world offer, but so far as ultra-powered soft synths are concerned, it’s more than capable, and highly flexible.

(And some reviewers, by the way, think Spire might be better if not just as good as Omnisphere).

A quick glance at the graphical user interface will tell you much of what you need to know. From oscillators to filters, it’s not hard to see just how customizable this synth is.

What is less apparent, of course, is how great it sounds. That’s why you’ll want to watch the video below:

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

VPS Avenger by Vengeance Sound

VPS Avenger by Vengeance Sound

Insane. Crazy. Otherworldly.

When you hear VSP Avenger for yourself and all that it’s capable of, you’re sure to utter one of these words yourself. It is just that good, but it also defies description in the best way possible.

VPS Avenger is the very definition of boundless versatility. Its synth power is rarely matched, and it’s an inspiring, musical tool to work with.

This kitchen sink synth has more features than we could possibly talk intelligently about. So, a summary will have to do.

VPS Avenger comes with 1,000+ factory presets, 620 multi-samples, 218 special samples (attacks, noises), 154 resampler waves, 168 drumkits, 168 drum sequences, 596 wavetables, 291 granular samples, thousands of OSC shapes or waveforms, 30 FX types, 47 filter types, up to 1,000 playing OSCs with one note, and resampling / wavetable generator.

You also get freeform OSCs, alias free OScs, drag and drop mod matrix, resizable vectorized GUI, undo, preset search system, eight arps, drum sequencer, eight step sequencers, 18 envelope generators, 16 individually routable sub-outs, macro controllers, external MIDI controllers, routable FX busses and send effects, customizable LFOs, four shaper modules, unison features, key and velocity zones, import feature, MIDI learn, and more.

Sure, nowadays there are synths that are just as crazy if not crazier, but VPS Avenger still stands as a monumental achievement, and as with other synths that have stood the test of time, it’s well worth a look.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

PuigTec EQs by Waves

PuigTec EQs by Waves

Replicating the legendary Pultec EQP-1A, famous for its ability to boost and cut the same frequencies at the same time (which creates a resonant shelf), the PuigTec EQP-1A replicates the original to a tee. Producer / engineer Jack Joseph Puig is famous for owning the unit, using it on dozens of popular recordings, from Black Crowes to Weezer.

With that context established, Waves’ PuigTec EQs features a couple of EQ plugins modeled on the rare Pultec EQs – EQP-1A as well as the MEQ-5.

New users, however, shouldn’t expect results to be instantaneous. Despite their simplistic appearance, PuigTec EQs are unique, complex, and can take some getting used to. The video below shows how one might go about leveraging this powerful tool to achieve desired results.

Learn more: Waves

Ozone 9 Standard by iZotope

Ozone 9 Standard by iZotope

Mastering is key to the success of your musical projects. This point has been driven home by plenty of producers and music biz experts.

In an ideal world, mixing and mastering are handled separately. It has become increasingly common, though, for mixing engineers to take on the role of the mastering engineer too, for the sake of convenience, a streamlined workflow, cost savings, or otherwise.

Well, you don’t need to feel like a mastering newbie anymore, because iZotope’s Ozone 9 Standard is incredibly powerful, and it will do most of the heavy lifting for you.

Ozone 9 puts AI-powered mastering at your fingertips, with the ability to match reference tracks, NKS support, and more.

You can, of course, fine-tune your mixes with the built-in suite of drool-worthy tools – equalizer, imager, maximizer, dynamic EQ, exciter, dynamics, and vintage modules – vintage tape, vintage limiter, vintage EQ, and vintage compressor.

There are plenty of great standalone mastering tools (and you can buy them one by one), but none that are a near comprehensive solution like Ozone, and that, along with the fact that it’s AI-powered, makes it a clear favorite among a wide array of producers.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Pro-L 2 by FabFilter

FabFilter Pro-L 2 by FabFilter

FabFilter plugins are almost universally enriched with countless features, beautiful interfaces, easy workflow, and quality sound. No wonder there are multiple FabFilter entries in this guide.

FabFilter Pro-L 2 is a limiter that can play ball with the best of them. The interface is intuitive, the sound is awesome, what more can you really ask for from a limiter? And while it unleashes its full capacity in mastering processes, limiters can be useful for mixing processes too.

FabFilter Pro-L 2 adheres to loudness metering standards, so you can boost the loudness of your mixes without concern – EBU R128, ITU-R BS.1770-4, and ATSC A/85.

FabFilter Pro-L 2 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to features either. It includes eight limiting algorithms (each with a different character), true peak limiting, real-time level display, up to 32x linear-phase oversampling, output and gain reduction metering, and surround sound.

You also get optional DC offset filter, external side chain triggering for stem mastering, unity gain, audition limiting, adjustable meter scale, separate channel linking for the transient and release stages, advanced dithering with three algorithms, GPU-powered graphics acceleration, and much more.

We could explain until the cows come home, but our next recommended action would be to listen to what Pro L-2 can do for your mixes.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

EchoBoy by Soundtoys

EchoBoy by Soundtoys

What do you do when you want professional quality reverbs and delays? It depends on the producer, of course, but many have shared their partiality to Soundtoys’ EchoBoy, the very effect used on the legendary Peter Gabriel’s vocals.

EchoBoy has all your favorite vintage tones built in with 30 echo styles, including Echoplex, Memory Man, Space Echo, DM-2, and others. There’s also a CE-1 style chorus built in.

Additionally, Soundtoys meticulously modeled the high-end tape sound from the Ampex ATR-102 so you can freely warm up those vocal tracks right from inside EchoBoy.

You’ve also got controls for saturation, tape flutter, diffusion, dual and ping-pong modes, adjustable shuffle, swing, and accent (for adding groove to your delays), as well as a Rhythm Echo mode.

In the video below, you’ll be able to hear EchoBoy on vocals, drums, and guitar. Find your own creative uses for EchoBoy and you’re sure to enjoy the results.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Timeless 3 by FabFilter

FabFilter Timeless 3 by FabFilter

Looking for the best delays? Never fear, because FabFilter Timless 3 is here, and it’s just as versatile as you would expect.

This vintage sounding tape delay features effects, filters, tap patterns, and unlimited modulation options to satisfy all your echo needs and even beyond.

FabFilter Timeless 3 comes with optional drive, lo-fi, diffuse, dynamics, and pitch effects, up to six filters (original, vintage LP / HP / BP, bell / shelving / notch EQ), 16 delay taps (can be modulated and controlled individually), feedback and cross-feedback, modulatable freeze, mid / side processing, ping-pong mode, and live modulation visualization for targets and sources.

It also includes presets, interactive delay and filter displays, GPU-powered graphics acceleration, multiple interface sizes and full screen mode, curve control in EGs and transient detection in EFs, drag and drop modulation with 50-slot modulation matrix, MIDI learn, and much more.

I must say I have a weakness for vintage tape delay, so I might be biased. But this thing is super cool. If you’re a fan of classic tape delays yourself, you’ll merit a look at Timeless 3.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Trash 2 + Expansions by iZotope

Trash 2 + Expansions by iZotope

Add some grit to your sounds. Distort them. Mangle them. Outright trash them.

When it comes to transforming your tracks, adding some grease and raunch, and making them explode in your mix, there are few options like Trash 2 + Expansions.

Not a mere “saturation” or “analog warmth” plugin, Trash 2 is a dual-stage multiband waveshaping distortion toolkit.

This means you can apply different distortion types to up to four frequency bands, chain two distortion algorithms for each frequency band (up to eight flavors), and play with over 60 distortion algorithms, graphic-based waveshaper for creating your own distortions, Filter 2 (filter each stage), DC Offset Filter, Logarithmic Distortion mode, as well as delay, dynamics, and output limiter features.

The expansion libraries include Classic Textures and Trash 2 Expansion: Edge for additional impulses and patches.

This thing is ridiculous. Check it out in the video below.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Saturn 2 by FabFilter

FabFilter Saturn 2 by FabFilter

Whether it’s Trash 2 or EchoBoy, you’re probably starting to see that there isn’t a shortage of options when it comes to adding some saturation or distortion to your tracks.

But we couldn’t resist covering FabFilter Saturn 2, because this noise grinder is powerful, versatile, and easy to use. The latest version brings with it a redesigned interface, modulation visualization, saturation and linear phase processing for mastering, and even new distortion styles.

Again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise coming from FabFilter, but this saturator is loaded with great features – 28 distortion styles, multiband processing (up to six bands), adjustable slope for crossovers (six, 12, 24, and 48 dB / oct options), as well as per-band drive, mix, dynamics, tone, and level controls.

You also get optional HQ modes (Good and Superb), countless drag and drop modulation options (16-step XLFOs, XY controllers / sliders, envelope generators, envelope followers, and MIDI sources), 50-slot modulation matrix, curve control in EGs and transient detection in EFs, mid / side processing, and much more.

The introductory video (see below) alone is over 15 minutes. That should tell you just how much you can do with this VST plugin.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In An Ableton Live VST Plugin?

Ableton Live comes with its own set of powerful tools. Although it depends on what subscription level you opted for, there’s a lot you can do in the box without having to search for additional tools.

That said, it’s only natural to start branching out. Maybe you want a better EQ. Perhaps a different kind of compressor would work better for your latest track. Auto-tuning would be a nice module to add to your arsenal.

It doesn’t matter what DAW you use at the end of the day, because virtually every producer, at some point, starts looking for the next best thing to add to their VST library.

Ableton Live has good VST plugin support, so at the end of the day, you can use just about anything you want. The best VST plugins for Ableton Live are generally those that are best across the board. Considering some DAWs have more “closed” ecosystems, this is a significant benefit to Live users.

But with so many categories of plugins to choose from, and a myriad of attractive, sexy, and super-powered options, it can be hard to know what your next purchase should be. Here are the main factors we recommend considering when buying VST plugins.

Plugin Category

The main categories covered here are synthesizers, autotune / pitch correction, mastering, saturation / distortion, limiter, reverb / delay, and EQ.

We’re limited by space, so we couldn’t cover everything, but it’s fair to say there are also plugins like compressors, de-essers, noise gates, and others that could be worth looking into.

Splitting the various plugins featured here into their respective categories can be helpful though, especially as you begin to think about what you need for your forthcoming projects.

Which brings us to…

Usage

What will you be using the plugins for, and how will you be using them?

There’s a relatively logical path with most. For instance, if you’re thinking about buying a synth, then it’s likely because you’re feeling the limitations of your current tools, don’t like their sound, or you want something different. The synths featured in this guide can certainly offer that.

Or, if you don’t have an auto-tune / pitch correction solution yet, and intend to make a lot of electronic music, at some point, it’s going to become a need and not just a want.

Less obvious might be EQ, especially if you aren’t clear on the difference between your stock EQ and all the extra power premium VST plugins put at your fingertips. In most cases, though, it’s safe to assume premium options do more than stock options.

So, if you’re clear on the type of plugin you need, and what you’re going to be using it for, finding the right solution should prove easier.

Sound Quality

Whether it’s virtual instruments or virtual effects, sound quality will always be a key consideration in shopping for VST plugins.

Some plugins may “check all the boxes” but simply won’t be your style. And that’s fine. But to get to the point of deciding, you must listen to the plugins to know for sure.

Nowadays, you’ve got video reviews, demos, and audio clips, so you shouldn’t struggle with this process too much.

Don’t rely on product descriptions or reviews alone, though. Do your own homework and make up your own mind. Then you’ll be happier with your purchases.

Budget

It might be tempting to add all the plugins you need into one shopping cart and purchase them in one fell swoop, but if it puts you into debt, it’s not worth it. And that’s the main thing we advise against. Use your budget to figure out what’s realistic for you now so you don’t suffer later.

Top VST Plugins For Ableton Live, Final Thoughts

Perhaps your VST plugin journey will begin here, but it probably won’t end here. In the months and years that follow, you’ll find the need for additional tools and will require more. We’ve got plenty of guides on VST plugins, so keep them in mind for future purchases too.

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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