How plugins changed music production in the last 10 years
As another year starts in these strange times, we look back at the last 10 years of music making with plugins. It's time to celebrate what we can take for granted: the amazing innovations in plugins, which help us musicians have more fun and make music in new ways. We crown a plugin in each year since 2012, one that was either released that year, or still dominant. And we ask ourselves if any of the plugins are still relevant in 2022.
Our look back to the last 10 years coincides with Pluginboutique's 10th birthday. As one of the largest plugin retailers in the world, the company has contributed to the last 10 years of music production, however, did not restrict us to plugins available in their store.
Whether you agree or disagree with our selection, here is the musicmanta top 10 of the last 10 years.
Why did we include Massive in our top 10?
Native Instruments released a monster in 2007 that truly left its imprint on modern music. In 2012, it was still a force to be reckoned with. So we included this in our list.
Based on three wave table oscillators, extensive modulation capabilities, and a complete effect section, NI Massive pushed computers to their limits. The reward, however, was a massive sound that you could coax from this beast. Throw in plenty of library presets, together with a rapidly growing commercial preset market, no wonder Massive became, well, huge. Often credited with making bass music possible, I wouldn't narrow Massive's capabilities to just this niche.
Which artists use Massive?
According to Equipboard, over 300 musicians used Native Instruments Massive. Famous names include Skrillex, deadmou5, and Martin Garrix.
How relevant is Massive still in 2022?
Massive absolutely is still relevant. It should be in everyone's plugin collection.
Where can I try and buy Massive?
Native Instruments offers a free trial of Massive. You can demo the plugin for 30 minutes at a time.
Buy Massive at Pluginboutique for $99
Buy Massive as part of the Classic Collection for only.
Buy Massive at Native Instruments for $149
2013: u-he DIVA*
Why did we include u-he DIVA in our top 10?
I was surprised in my research to learn that DIVA was over 10 years old. The "Dinosaur Impersonating Virtual Analogue" synthesizer was released towards the end of 2012, and holds up well in 2022. DIVA is fuelled by one of the best virtual analog synth engines around. Paired with a flexibility that belies the traditional front panel, tweaking and twiddling is just one twist away.
Which artists use DIVA?
According to Equipboard, over 70 musicians use DIVA. Famous names include Disclosure, Hans Zimmer, and Charlie Puth.
How relevant is u-he DIVA still in 2022?
This little DIVA has aged well and is still strutting its stuff in 2022.
Where can I try and buy DIVA?
Free Trial at u-he
u-he offers a free trial. The demo version emits vinyl crackles every now and then.
Buy DIVA at Pluginboutique for $179
Buy DIVA at u-he for $179
Buy DIVA at Thomann for $158
2014: XFer Records Serum*
Why did we include Serum in our top 10?
If you are in electronic music production, you may say "d'oh,'course it is".
Not only is this rated no.1 on Equipboard for synth plugins. Since its release in 2014, Serum has become one of the most dominant synth plugins for modern electronic music production. The list of musicians using Serum is longer than Amazon River. deadmou5 was one of the earliest adopters, working with Steve Duda, the owner of XFer Records. If you want to learn more about Steve and Serum, I recommend you listen to his 2 hour podcast on the Mr Bill show.
Serum is easy to use, flexible, and sounds great. It has plenty of presets, both free and paid for.
Which artists use Serum?
According to Equipboard, over 250 musicians used Native Instruments Massive. deadmou5, Skrillex, Zedd, and many more are on the list.
How relevant is Serum still in 2022?
Still one of the best sounding, most versatile, modern wave table synths around.
Where can I try and buy Serum?
Free Trial of Serum at Splice
Splice offers a free 3 day trial.
Buy-to-Own Serum at $9.99 for 19 months (total $189)
Splice has a fee-free buy-to-own for Serum. You can use Serum straight away and pay the total price over 19 months. It doesn't cost you any more.
Buy Serum at XFer Records for $189
Buy Serum Presets on Pluginboutique from $15
2015: Antares Auto-Tune*
Why did we include Auto-Tune in our top 10?
Originally released in 1997, I won't disagree with CNN, which called Auto-Tune "the invention that changed music forever".
Much maligned, it left its imprint on vocals more than any other technology since the invention of the microphone. After it started as a secret sauce to rescue vocal performances, it now has taken a life of its own, and shaped the sound of several genres of music, from pop to trap.
In 2018, Antares released Auto-Tune 8.
Which artists use Auto-Tune?
Not many will admit using it. Famously, T Pain, Cher and Kanye West use it as their "sound", de rigueur in some genres.
How relevant is Auto-Tune still in 2022?
If you want THAT sound, get THIS plugin.
Where can I try and buy Auto-Tune?
Try Auto-Tune for 14 days at Antares
Buy Auto-Tune from Pluginboutique from $49
Buy Auto-Tune from Thomann from $46
2016: Soundtoys 5*
Why did we include Soundtoys 5 in our top 10?
Soundtoys released their Soundtoys 5 bundle in 2016. Since then, their analog plugin suite has become the staple diet for musicians and producers, adding crunch, dirt, character and much more. The standout plugins are Decapitator*, the distortion plugin, Echo Boy*, the analog delay plugin, and Little Alter Boy*, the pitch shifter plugin.
Which artists use Soundtoys?
Trent Reznor, Orbital, Mura Masa are just some of the artists who shared they used Soundtoys.
How relevant is Soundtoys still in 2022?
A great investment in my view when you get the bundle in a sale for typically $249.
Where can I try and buy Soundtoys?
Try Soundtoys 5 for 30 days
Buy Soundtoys 5 from Pluginboutique for $499
Or wait until the next sale, when Soundtoys is typically reduced to $249. Or just buy individual Soundtoys plugins at $99, discounted in sales to $29.
Buy Soundtoys 5 from Thomann from $469
2017: iZotope Ozone*
Why did we include iZotope Ozone in our top 10?
What started as a "louder making machine" has turned into a full suite of plugins that help musicians sound more polished and closer to records professionally mixed and mastered. iZotope keeps on updating the software, which has now arrived at version 9.
Which artists use iZotope Ozone?
iZotope Ozone 9 is ranked no.1 in Mastering Plugins. Martin Garrix, Skrillex, deadmou5 and Calvin Harris have all been spotted using Ozone.
How relevant is Ozone still in 2022?
There are plenty of alternative mastering plugin suites right now. But Ozone in my view is still one of the best all in one solutions to finalise songs.
Where can I try and buy iZotope Ozone?
Try iZotope Ozone for 10 days
Buy iZotope Ozone 9 from Pluginboutique from $10
Ozone comes in an array of versions, from $10 for Ozone Elements in a sales to $499 for Ozone Advanced. Education versions for students are 50% off full prices.
Buy iZotope Ozone from Thomann from $18.90
2018: FabFilter Pro Q 3*
Why did we include FabFilter in our top 10?
For a start, we awarded FabFilter Pro Q 3 5 stars in our in-depth review. What started in 2009 with the release of Pro Q continued its stratospheric rise into the higher echelons of EQs with Pro Q 2 in 2014, before the last major release in 2018. The brilliant combination of ease of use, paired with extensive features from Dynamic EQ to Spectrum Grab, makes this the benchmark other EQs have to measure up against.
Another 4 years on, 2022 could be the year of FabFilter Pro Q 4. After the release of Volcano 3 and Timeless 3, we cannot wait to see what version 4 brings us.
Which artists use Pro Q 3?
It doesn't surprise us that FabFilter Pro Q 3 is ranked no.1 on Equipboard for EQs. Famous users include Tiesto, Martin Garrix and Disclosure.
How relevant is FabFilter Pro Q 3 still in 2022?
There are so many EQs on the market, it is hard to stay at the top. FabFIlter managed to stay there, and is likely to hang on for many years to come.
Where can I try and buy FabFilter Pro Q 3?
We helped thousands save up to 50% using our guide to the cheapest way to buy FabFilter - make sure you read this first.
Try FabFilter Pro Q 3 for 30 days
Buy FabFilter Pro Q 3 from Pluginboutique for $179
Buy FabFilter Pro Q 3 from Thomann for $140
2019: Kilohearts Phase Plant*
Why did we include Kilohearts Phase Plant in our top 10?
With probably hundreds if not thousands of synth plugins, it is hard for one to stand out and make a difference nowadays. Phase Plant is one of them. Since its release in 2019, Phase Plant has gained amassed admirers and users. What makes this synth VST different is the flexibility paired with usability. The capabilities go beyond other wave table synths, such as Massive or Serum. Yet it remains usable at all times. You can load superb presets, and start changing sounds from using macros. Or you can add in a huge range of snap-ins (effect mini plugins) and add masses of modulators. The choice is yours.
Which artists use Phase Plant?
Andrew Huang, Rob Swire (of Pendulum fame, and a Phase Plant preset creator), and Mat Zo, according to Equipboard.
How relevant is Phase Plant still in 2022?
Only 3 years old, and frequently updated with new snap-ins, Phase Plant is a baby compared to Grandparent Massive, which will grow and mature.
Where can I try and buy Kilohearts Phase Plant?
Try Phase Plant for 10 days
Buy Phase Plant from Pluginboutique for $169
Buy Phase Plant from Thomann for $152
2020: Melodyne 5*
Why did we include Melodyne in our top 10?
If Antares Auto-Tune is Yin, Melodyne is Yang. Both are pitch correction plugins in our top 10 but both complement each other. Where Melodyne is streets ahead is subtle pitch and sound correction. And let's not forget the mind blowing ability to manipulate polyphonic pitches.
Melodyne is actually 20 years old. But with Version 5, Melodyne took another leap forward, and is worth a closer look for anyone interested in sophisticated sound manipulation. Starting from $49, Melodyne is accessible for many with the same algorithms as the top Studio version.
Which artists use Melodyne?
The Chainsmokers, Mike Shinoda, A.R Rahman are mentioned on Equipboard.
How relevant is Melodyne still in 2022?
Over 20 years old but as young and fresh as ever, and at the top of its game. We cannot wait until Melodyne 6.
Where can I try and buy Melodyne?
Try Melodyne for 30 days
Buy Melodyne from Pluginboutique from $49
Buy Melodyne from Thomann for $46
2021: Arturia V Collection 8*
Why did we include Arturia V Collection 8 in our top 10?
Arturia has become a serious hardware brand, releasing original synths. Not stopping there, the company has also built an envious reputation for analog emulations. Nearly every year, they release more additions to the range of synths and samplers in the V Collection, swelling to 28 plugins with V Collection 8. The sound is top notch, with plenty of character. Yes, you can buy individual plugins if you prefer. But the V Collection is great value, in particular when you wait for a sale, and the price drops to $299 typically - around $10 per plugin.
Which artists use V Collection?
Armin Van Buuren, Disclosure, Jean-Michel Jarre, and many more are listed as users of V Collection 8.
How relevant is Arturia V Collection 8 still in 2022?
A worthy addition to any plugin collection missing some analog grunt.