3 Desert Island Plugins

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On this blog, I decided to do something a little different and fun. Let’s play desert island plugins! I’m hoping this will spark some conversations with everyone out there on the interwebs, as I’m sure we’ll all have very different opinions on what is necessary on our desert island studio. So, you’re trapped on this metaphorical island with nowhere to go but you have great mixing monitors and an awesome control room built out of driftwood and coconuts as diffusers. You can only bring 3 plugins, what are they?!? Here’s my desert island plugins:

Waves SSL E-Channel

A channel strip that has EQ, Compression, and a Gate is probably where most of us would start when we can only take 3 plugins with us.  Kill 3 birds with “one” DSP ;). My choice ended up being the Waves SSL E-Channel.

EQ

  • The EQ section is one of the main reasons I chose this plugin. It’s a broad EQ section and I find that it is quite effective throughout a variety of genres and situations. Plus, it’s a timeless sound (despite being a digital emulation rather than the real thing), and in my opinion and has shaped countless albums and songs that are some of my favourites.  

Compressor

  • I love how easy and versatile this compressor is to use. And again, it’s a classic sound. It does not have a variable attack setting, but I find that between the 2 attack settings, it gives me enough variation for how I want the transients to feel.  

Gate

  • This is a killer gate in my opinion. Whether I am doing drastic transient design or just minimizing the bleed, I’m usually more than happy with the result  

There were quite a few other candidates for my desert island channel strip. Obviously, there are other SSL emulations out there that are great as well. The UAD SSL E-Series Channel is great and so is the Brainworx emulation. Both have mic and line inputs that can help saturate the sound a little more. Ultimately, I chose the Waves simply because it’s the one I’m most familiar with and comfortable with. I don’t think it’s superior to the other 2, in fact there are less options, but I love it and it allows me to work the quickest. Besides the SSL Channels, the main runner up I had was the Scheps Omni Channel. I would definitely recommend taking a look at this plugin. Amazing versatility and endless options on how you can shape the sound. The SSL simply won out for me because I prefer the sonics of it over the Omni Channel.  

Waves RVox

I know this may be a controversial choice. Why am I bringing a plugin designed specifically for vocals and offers little in terms of fine tuning? I’ll do my best to justify my choice.

  • I am typically working in vocal focused music. Whether that’s Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Hip-Hop or whatever else under the sun, the commonality is often how clear and pleasing I can make the vocals. Of all the plugins that I use on vocals (and trust me I use a lot, haha), the RVox is the one I use most often and the one that I miss the most when it’s not around.  

  • I do believe that the RVox works on more than just vocals. I personally use it on bass quite a bit and have used it on drums with varying results. Either way, I couldn’t seem to cut the RVox no matter how hard I tried.

Runner Up - UAD 1176 Rev A

  • Not the same function as the Rvox, but one of my favourite compressors and one that I can use in almost any situation.

Waves H-Verb

The last of the 3 plugins was really hard for me. Deciding between bringing a delay or a reverb was really tough. In the end, I decided that the reverb was going to help me create more space in my mixes and with the H-verb’s sync-able pre-delay, I can achieve a similar depth. The amount of control and fine tuning that is available in the H-Verb feels almost endless to me. I will be the first to admit, I am not an expert on this plug and have not dove into it as deep as some of my cohorts. But even just scratching the surface, I have found endless customization options that have been most importantly quick and intuitive to use.

I hope this was a fun read for everyone. I would love to hear everyone else’s 3 desert island plugins. Let’s keep it to 3! I originally wanted to do 5, but 3 was a ton more fun because it’s waaaaaaaayyyy harder. Have fun!

Links to Equipment and Software Used

Waves SSL E-Channel

UAD SSL E-Channel

Brainworx bx_console 4000 E

Waves Scheps Omni Channel

Waves RVox

UAD 1176 Rev A

Waves H-Verb

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Randor Lin is a producer and recording engineer who has worked with such artists as Ten Second Epic and violet night. He is the owner of Turnkey Audio. 


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