Are Expensive Plugins for Mixing Needed?

A collage of EQs, Compressors, Reverbs and other plugins by various manufacturers.

Do you need expensive plugins for mixing?  The short answer is no and the honest answer is it helps.  Why would you want premium plugins and do you really need them to make great mixes?

Why Are Some Plugins For Mixing Expensive?

Plugins take a lot of work to develop.  There is an intricate sequence of events that has to happen for a plugin developer to capture the harmonic characteristics of a piece analog gear into a program.  It is nothing short of amazing!

The good news is that with all of the time that they spend developing the plugins, the larger the pool of consumers, and the more competition; the lower the price for the consumer.  It really is incredible that even the most premium of plugins averages between $100-$300.  To get this level of sonic quality in the analog world it would have cost thousands of dollars!  As time progresses, we see more and more developers offering plugins at lower prices.

What Are The Best Plugins For Mixing?

I will subjectively answer this question from personal taste.  The best plugins for mixing bit by bit for emulation purposes are Universal Audio’s plugins.  Most of their emulations are spot on!  What they have done is amazing.

However, there are downsides to it.  In order to run their plugins, you are forced to buy their expensive hardware that needs DSP to run it.  The more UAD plugins that you use, the more DSP chips that are required to run a mix session.  In order to run a healthy mix session full of UAD plugins, you would need before 4-12 DSP chips which will run you between $1,000-$3,000!  That is without buying a single one of their plugins yet!

The honest answer is that the best plugins for mixing are the ones that you learn and know!  Since being limited with my UAD plugins, I have taken great comfort in using plugins from Slate Digital (handles 85% of my mix), Soundtoys, Fabfilter, and more.

That is why it is extremely important to understand concepts like Gain Staging and Mix Hacking before you go blowing thousands of dollars on plugins that you potentially don’t need!

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