Some weeks ago I was asked this question: “Which are the most essential plugins (possibly free ones) to mix a song?“. To be honest, I was a little bit confused as I started thinking about strange psycho-acoustic tool to do weird things with audio tracks. Nothing like that. Actually, the answer is quite simple, but before starting my plugins list (believe me, you’ll find a lot a free ones on the internet), I’d like to point out which are the essential “effects” (instead of “plugins”) you need to mix. At the end of the day, the list can be reduced to few ones:
- An Equalizer
- A Compressor
- A Delay (used as “send”)
- A Reverb (used as “send”)
Believe it or not, you really don’t need anything else to mix 😀
If you’re like me and you use Reaper, you can find (among others pre-installed) exactly these ones: ReaEq, ReaComp, ReaDelay, ReaVerberate (a “reduced” version of ReaVerb). That’s all, they are extremely powerful plugins. If you don’t have Reaper but you want to use these fantastic “Rea*” plugins you’ll be happy to find the ReaPlugs suite. This is a free bunch of Reaper plugins (including the ones above) you can use on your preferred DAW (Cubase, StudioOne, Logic, Sonar, anyone!). Anyway, if you like to have more chances to discover your preferred plugin, I can still advice these ones:
BootEQ (by Variety Of Sound): not exactly what we can call a “transparent EQ”, but the coloring that this EQ gives to your tracks is really pleasant, it depends on what you what to achieve, anyway give it a try.
Equilibre (by AudioTeknikk): it seems that the developers are not involved anymore in the maintenance of this plugin, too sad, anyway I really recommend it, you can still download Equilibre on vst4free.
SlickEQ (by TDR/VOS): this is a recent release, as BootEQ it has a predefined number of bands to use. This is a very good one!
Density mkII (by Variety Of Sound): you’ll find this plugin on the same pages of BootEQ (see above), they’re developed by the same guy. It’s perfect on you Drums bus, to give it the right punch. Very good also on the master bus to glue everything together.
TDR Feedback Compressor (by Tokyo Dawn Labs): I’ll be honest, I never tried it! But it seems very good!
Ambience (by Magnus): perfect for any kind of treatment, it’s amazing how much you can enhance your mix with this one.
EpicVerb (by Variety Of Sound): did you notice how many plugins I’m recommending by Variety of Sound? Good plugins, high quality ones and completely free, need more?!? 😉
ReaDelay (by Cockos): I avioded to repeat for each category the corresponding Rea* plugin by Cockos but now it’s different. I can’t tell you how much I use ReaDelay, it’s the most powerful and flexible free delay plugin you can find on earth. Download it and use it, now!
If this is not enough for you, you can still try more free plugin by testing the entire Antress Modern Plugins, lots of thing to experiment with on Antress web page.
My advice is to test all plugins you want directly on your mix. It’s amazing how many FX you can find on the web just for free, you could find that they are the best things you ever tried on your songs! Just try to mix an entire song with just EQ, Compressor, Delay and Reverb, it’s the only way to understand what you like!