11 Best VST Plugins For Studio One

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Studio One is a popular Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), and an excellent one at that. The full featured DAW comes with a full suite of effects and virtual instruments, all of them competent, many of them very good.

But the need to upgrade will probably arrive sooner than later as you look to augment your toolkit or find suitable replacements for certain plugins.

So, in this guide, we look at the best VST plugins for Studio One.

Decapitator by Soundtoys – Best Overall

Decapitator by Soundtoys – Best Overall

Regardless of musical style, saturation and distortion are must-have effects. Studio One users frequently find need for distortions with a little more sizzle, and Soundtoys’ Decapitator delivers on a variety of levels. If anything, it will take your head off!

The plugin is as simple as it is powerful – five distortion styles, and a few parameters for added fine tuning – drive, low cut with thump, tone, high cut with steep, output with auto, and mix. And just for good measure, a “Punish” button to add a razor edge to the fuzz.

The five distortion types are all analog style saturations, and the entire plugin has a very analog feel to it.

You can use Decapitator on just about everything you can name, for added warmth, punch, cut, character, and fuzz.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Nectar 3 Plus by iZotope – Best Premium Option

Nectar 3 Plus by iZotope – Best Premium Option

Vocal tracks are usually the ones requiring the most attention with editing, touchup, and processing. And if you often find yourself recording, editing, and mixing vocals, it would be wise to invest in a toolkit that makes the process more streamlined.

iZotope products are typically sublime, and that goes for the appropriately named Nectar 3 Plus too.

With Nectar, you won’t have to build your processing chain from scratch. It’s got all the essentials you need to add polish to your vocals – EQ, pitch, dimension (modulation), harmony, compressor, reverb, and de-esser.

Nectar comes with several extras that further empower you with adding sheen to your vocal tracks – Component RX 8 Breath Control (for reducing breaths), Melodyne 5 Essential for time and pitch correction, and hundreds of presets for both dialog and music applications.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

RC-20 Retro Color by XLN Audio – Best Budget Option

RC-20 Retro Color by XLN Audio – Best Budget Option

We all know that digital recordings can sometimes sound boring, sterile, or even flat. Adding a bit of color to your tracks can breathe life into them. From subtle tape effects to searing saturation, when you think about it, there are many options for warming up your mixes.

XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color, with its six-module design, does not waste any time giving you just about everything you could ever want in one sleek and convenient graphical user interface.

Yes, RC-20 comes with tape hiss and an array of other noises, all in the noise generator module. And yes, it comes with a saturation and distortion module featuring multiple types as well. But you also get wobble and flutter, degrader and bitcrusher, and volume drops modules.

There’s also a handy reverb module in case you want to save yourself a bit of CPU power.

RC-20 is one of our favorites, and it only seems to be increasing in popularity. We don’t think you can go wrong with RC-20 Retro Color in Studio One either in case you’re happy with whatever saturation or lo-fi plugins you’re using right now.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Serum by Xfer Records

Serum by Xfer Records

If you’ve looked into virtual wavetable synthesizers at all, it’s very unlikely that you haven’t already come across Serum. It is well known for its sound quality and insane customizability, and its impact on modern music is nearly immeasurable.

Studio One does come with all the essentials, but it’s fair to say Serum will be a significant upgrade from any virtual instruments or synthesizers you may already be using. It works splendidly on pop and electronic music, of course, but it will work on most if not all musical genres and styles.

Beginners will no doubt be drawn to the presets, and there are many of them. Serum comes with 450 factory presets and 144 wavetables out of the box, but you can further extend its functionality with the many low-cost preset packs on the market or by designing your own wavetables.

But that should tell you something. What it should tell you is that there is a near endless number of tones you can create with Serum. And that’s where the juice is, is in creating tones that are perfectly matched to your tracks.

Thousands of producers swear by Serum. Do you need it? That’s for you to decide, and there are some other great synths in this guide too. But if you want synth sounds rivaling the best out there, you probably need it.

Learn more: Splice

Diva by u-he

Diva by u-he

u-he’s Diva is a dinosaur sized virtual analog synth with a monolithic 1,200 presets (some of the best!). It’s not any one synth. It’s not an Oberheim, or a Yamaha, or a Roland, or a Korg specifically. It’s kind of like all of them rolled into one.

We’re not sure whether even the developer knew what they had on their hands when they set out to work on Diva, but what we do know is that it has stood the test of time as one of the top synths, and top VST plugins for sale period.

This black on burgundy synth comes with all the parameters you need to dial in stunning tones. And while it is a bit of a resource hog, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about if you’ve got a state-of-the-art computer.

For classic analog sounds, Diva is a must.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Phase Plant by Kilohearts

Phase Plant by Kilohearts

The award-winning semi-modular soft synth, Phase Plant, is somewhat of a new development emerging out of Kilohearts. It probably won’t be a hidden gem for long, though, because it’s already been getting rave reviews everywhere.

What if you could design your own synth and make it do everything you wanted it to do? That’s the essence of Phase Plant. Use the generators, modulators, and effects in any way that pleases you, and before you know it, you will have created lush, breathtaking patches.

You can choose from multiple sources, including samples, noise, wavetables, and waveforms. You can use the onboard wavetables or even design your own using the built-in Wavetable Editor.

Kilohearts is well known for their effects plugins, and with Phase Plant, they’ve effectively thrown in the kitchen sink. Brilliant! Whatever it is you’re looking for, it’s probably here – bitcrush, formant filter, frequency shifter, gate, ladder filter, nonlinear filter, phase distortion, resonator, reverser, tape stop, and more.

We could go on. But we’re certain you’re clear on all the doors this soft synth could open. If not, watch the video below.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Auto-Tune Unlimited by Antares

Auto-Tune Unlimited by Antares

Antares’ Auto-Tune Unlimited doesn’t need much of an introduction.

What should be said, though, is like Nectar, seen elsewhere in this guide, it’s not just a pitch correction tool and T-Pain robot-voice effect anymore. It’s a comprehensive vocal processing solution, giving you everything you need, all from one central command tower.

You can equalize, vocode, harmonize, saturate, double, chorus, transform, and a great deal more, with the included tools.

Auto-Tune Unlimited is a powerful vocal processing solution for the studio as well as the stage. If not Nectar, it’s Auto-Tune.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter

Do you need another EQ? In all honesty, we can’t tell you. What we can tell you is FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is an industry standard EQ and guaranteed it can do things your stock EQ can’t.

With an attractive and intuitive interface, Pro-Q 3 is a significant improvement on Pro-Q 2, which was already groundbreaking.

One of the additions to Pro-Q 3 is the dynamic EQ, which will attenuate or expand the audio based on the threshold (which is automatically set for you). Even better, the dynamic EQ is easy to engage.

There are plenty of other great new features like frequency masking and spectrum grab as well.

With up to 24 EQ bands, EQ match, mixing and mastering features, and much more, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better digital EQ.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Mu by Pulsar Audio

Mu by Pulsar Audio

Sooner or later, most producers go looking for better compressors, and it’s only natural. There are different flavors of sound squashing, and most would say analog compression is unsurpassed.

Pulsar Audio’s Mu, of course, takes after the legendary tube compressor / limiter that practically defined the category. This compressor’s reputation for gluing together mixes and masters alike is intact.

There’s another major benefit to getting the software rather than the hardware, which is the price point. Mu’s price point is quite moderate all things considered, and it’s not going to require constant maintenance and repairs either.

This emulation improves upon the original in a variety of ways, including a modern visualization mode, an equalization section, as well as look-ahead and look-behind for the sidechain signal.

Mu is an excellent all-purpose compressor, for mixing, mastering, drum buss, acoustic guitar, snare drum, vocals, and more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Objeq Delay by Applied Acoustic Systems

Objeq Delay by Applied Acoustic Systems

Whether to upgrade your delay is an individual choice, but we do often find Studio One users are looking for something with a little more oomph, and Applied Acoustic Systems’ highly rated Objeq Delay will give you exactly that.

This creative delay has been coupled with acoustic filtering (like plate, beam, string, and drumhead objects) to add innovative tone shaping options. High- and low-cut filters have also been included for further fine tuning.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Objeq Delay also includes modulation options, DAW automation, host tempo sync, unlimited undo / redo, and much more.

There are also 266 presets in the categories of echoes (35), modulators (44), rhythmic loop manglers (36), snare enhancers (20), kick enhancers (25), drones (24), Martin Walker signature (40), and Richard Devine signature (42).

For a variety of atmospheres, ambiences, doubling, and more, Objeq Delay is well worth a look.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Ozone 10 Standard by iZotope

Ozone 10 Standard by iZotope

Mastering is a mystery, often even to experienced producers and mix engineers. Not necessarily the results, but the process. What if the process were easier?

Well, if there’s anything easier than iZotope’s Ozone 10 Standard, I’m not aware of it. With powerful Master Assistant technology, Ozone can automatically match your favorite masters for you.

You’ve also got tools, like Tonal Balance and Target Curve, which you can use to visualize how your master stacks up against that of chart-topping tracks.

Ozone also comes with Magnify Soft Clip, Recover Sides, vintage modules (for added grit, warmth, and vibe), and more.

You may not be inclined to learn the ins and outs of mastering. You may not even want to do the work yourself. You can pass mastering onto a skilled mastering engineer, and that’s always a viable option. But you can also pass the work onto Ozone.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In VST Plugin For Studio One?

Studio One comes with a lot of goodies – some good, some great. From virtual instruments to virtual effects, there’s no denying they set you up with everything you need to make great music and great mixes out of the gate.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t want any upgrades. We find users are often looking for better synthesizers, distortions, and vocal processors. This doesn’t mean these are the only plugins you should buy, but it does give you a bit of an idea what upgrades other users felt they needed.

Anyway, let’s look at some good things to consider regarding virtual instruments and virtual effects when shopping for Studio One.

Virtual Instruments

DAWs nowadays do tend to come with great synthesizers. But they don’t typically fill all the gaps – wavetable, virtual analog, additive, and so on.

It makes sense to augment your collection of synthesizers, especially if you’re making a lot of electronic, pop, hip-hop, and R&B music.

The synths featured here – Serum, Diva, and Phase Plant – are all excellent in their respective categories (I suppose you could say there’s some overlap with Serum and Phase Plant though). And synths of this quality don’t usually come bundled with DAWs.

Other virtual instruments will certainly be of interest if you have gaps in your toolkit or if you’re a composer. High quality strings, pianos, horns, and others are well worth a look.

Virtual Effects

The main takeaway with Studio One is to try out the stock effects first. This will give you a good idea of what you have to work with, and when you buy better plugins, you’ll notice the differences as well.

As you work with the stock effects, you’ll also get a better sense of which aren’t performing up to snuff. There’s no need to replace effects you’re happy with, but if any aren’t quite meeting your standards, you should consider replacing them with upgrades.

Top VST Plugins For Studio One, Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for plugins to augment, complement, and enhance your workflow in Studio One, we consider the above to be among the best choices you can make. Don’t purchase anything you don’t need, but do look at upgrading, especially if you’re unhappy with any of the tools you’re working with right now.

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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