How To Choose Your Next VST

Plugins and virtual instruments are mandatory tools in every producer’s arsenal, and they make our production better, more intuitive and make us more creative. Some of them of course make us lazy as they sometimes do the mixing for us, but nevertheless we all love our VSTs and swear by them. When it comes to plugins and virtual instruments the supply is almost as big as the demand so sometimes it’s really difficult to pick the right one from all of the variations. Luckily for you we’re here to give you some advice on how to choose your next VST plugin.

THE NEED

The first thing you need to ask yourself when buying a new plugin is “Do I really need this?”. A lot of us in the business are suffering from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), and most often than not, we buy stuff we don’t actually need because we are convinced by marketing. So don’t just go around spending your hard earned money (especially if music production is only a hobby for you) on something you probably won’t use much. You probably don’t need another reverb or a string library that does the same thing as the one you already own.

If you feel that you really need that VST you want to buy, then you need to ask yourself a few questions:

THE VALUE

Is this new plugin really worth $300? What new features does it have compared to the ones you already own? There are some plugins out there with ridiculous price tags that don’t really give you that much, but they cost a lot just because they are branded by this or that company. So don’t just go out there and spend $300 on a logo. There are plugins out there that cost a lot less and are worth more than what they cost. I’ve had better results from more affordable plugins or even stock plugins from a DAW than when I was using some of the more “fancy” plugins out there. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better, so keep that in mind.

THE FEATURES

What is this great new thing that this plugin does? Is it just another compressor modelled after a “legendary” hardware unit or does it really bring something new to the table? There are a whole bunch of emulations of hardware compressors and EQs, channel strips and whatnots and let’s be honest they all pretty much do the same thing.

Oh look, a new string library with an improved legato patch! What’s the difference if they all claim to have been recorded and sampled with “the best mics and preamps in the best sounding hall ever”? It’s their GUI and slight variations in sound that make them different from one another, but to be honest again, your potential clients REALLY don’t care about that.

If that plugin or instrument library makes your job easier and faster, and also makes your productions sound better then go for it. If you doubt that they deliver what you need, then you really don’t need it.

THE WORKFLOW & SOUND

How does this new plugin fit into your workflow and how does it improve your workflow? There are plugins out there that are very straightforward and simple to use and there are others where you need a comprehensive understanding of the manual.

What most of us want from a plugin is an improvement of our workflow, a faster workflow and a better result. If the plugin you want ticks all of these boxes, then go for it.

If it’s an instrument library or a virtual synth then see how fast you can get the result you want. How easy is it for you to navigate the GUI and how easy or difficult is it for you to create a sound patch from synth. It’s all about the sound and workflow improvement.

THE DEMONSTRATION

ALWAYS try out the plugin before buying it!

Thankfully, most of the plugins have a limited-time demo that you can use and see how it works and how it sounds. That’s the best way to decide if it’s right for you because you have a hands-on experience in using it before owning it. You always take a car for a test drive before buying one right? Same here…

If there are no time-limited demos (some sample libraries don’t have a downloadable demo), then take a listen of the official demos or head straight for Youtube and take a look at a couple of video reviews of it.

One last important thing: Don’t be fooled by marketing and what others say about a certain product. Trust your own instinct and your ears. Your workflow and needs are not the same as other people’s workflows and needs.

Written by Nikola Nikita Jeremic

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