Old 02-17-2021, 01:51 AM   #1
took-the-red-pill
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Default Trying to use as few plugins as possible. Discuss.

Remember that old saying, “beware the man with only one gun, for surely he knows how to use it.”

We’ve all watched the YouTube vids where the guy clicks on his list of compressors and then scrolls past a hundred choices to find the one he’s looking for. I don’t want that. I want to be the guy with only one gun.

So I’m making a concerted effort to use fewer and fewer plugins. Trying to really get to know the ones I have instead of always seeking out the latest. Proud to say I’ve only bought three plugins in my life. I may at some point get a Pultec if it proves to kill the Ignite amps one, and maybe a good LA2a, but if not that’s okay.

I’ve got it down to 7 main plugins, and I may wean myself further. In order of frequency of use:

Most compression - I bought MJUC and use it everywhere I can.

EQ I use the free VOS Slick eq on almost every track. This is a phenomenal tool. Having only a few options and no visual makes you consider your moves carefully and use only your ears. And the auto gain is fantastic to hear what your moves are actually doing. This is teaching me so much about eq.

Burnley by Sonimus. For Neve type EQ. Bought it. No regrets. A/B-Ed against a few freebies and they weren’t even in the same league. Nothing else I have quite does what this can but you can’t use it everywhere because you can end up adding or subtracting everything in the same 2 or 3 bands

Saturation - the free Klanghelm on ALWAYS sounds great. Set in under 10 seconds and move on to something else.

For 1176 I bought Stillwell Rocket. None of my other stuff does what it can.

TDR Nova - free version. I only use this to selectively remove bad things, like a harshly sung note, or a little too much scratch on an electric git, or low buildup when I don’t want to just high pass. And I use its spectrum analyzer.

Pultec - Ignite Amps. I haven’t a/b-ed against a bought one yet. But need to at some point. Only a few duties.
.
I’m still experimenting what to put on my master bus. It may end up being these, or it could be something else. The jury is still out and I’m not yet good enough to know exactly what to listen/look for.

Anything not covered by the above is the free Reaper stuff.
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Old 02-17-2021, 03:20 AM   #2
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Nowadays there are plenty of awesome free plugins, including paid ones from giveaways. I don't agree with that statement, because one gun can't cover all the needs. You'll need at least 2-3 of them.
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Old 02-17-2021, 04:39 AM   #3
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Doesn't matter how many guns you have if you run out of bullets.

I have plenty of unused guns sitting in my vault.

I mainly use stock plugins for cleaning up before mixing proper - after that I rely on a few other things.

For go-to mid/side EQ I'm happy with TB3 or Slice EQ if I want to boost & cut or do some creative stuff.

I use ReaComp a lot - but for character and bus I'll mostly use BL Manic Compressor - this is my favourite since you can dial in the settings and then flick through the models for trying different sounds.

I'm happy to flick through a few saturation/distortion etc type options but I like Kilohearts Snapheap for creative FX chaining and making templates, many of which I can just use over and over - templates are the bullets in my gun.
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:25 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bubble07 View Post
Doesn't matter how many guns you have if you run out of bullets.

I'm happy to flick through a few saturation/distortion etc type options but I like Kilohearts Snapheap for creative FX chaining and making templates, many of which I can just use over and over - templates are the bullets in my gun.
You have my ear. Tell me more about templates. I sense that’s a largely untapped area for me. Any tips, ideas, things to look for, categories?
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Old 02-17-2021, 09:54 PM   #5
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Primarily the only plugins I use are EQ, compression, a limiter, and SPAN. I never put a plugin on a track unless it needs it. I must admit, most tracks will need a little EQ, some maybe a little compression, but that's about it.

I'm an old fart, from back in the tape days when we only used what was needed.

I've been putting together a presentation to show how I mix and master in today's world, and here is a preview video where I discuss this somewhat. It's called "Mixing and Mastering with Profiles".

https://youtu.be/9N824U57D-0
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Old 02-17-2021, 10:38 PM   #6
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I made custom folders for each category of plugin and only allow 7 in each. Any more than that and I start getting choice paralysis and it slows me down. I reduce the number by more if possible, but never less than 3.

I also find it's good to just keep grabbing the same one every time and trying to make it work. If it takes more than a minute or, I try another. Over time it gets more intuitive to choose which is likely to work.

Working fast is more important than making "correct" choices, IMO.
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Old 02-17-2021, 11:02 PM   #7
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Working fast is more important than making "correct" choices, IMO.
Here's another shorter vid I made for "Mixing & Mastering with Profiles".
https://youtu.be/j8pG4CZ5PXg
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Old 02-18-2021, 06:47 AM   #8
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You have my ear. Tell me more about templates. I sense that’s a largely untapped area for me. Any tips, ideas, things to look for, categories?
Well, I just have a bunch of project and track templates set up - and I'm using Snap Heap a lot more with these since the CPU load is very light, you can have many preloaded and just turn them on/off all in one window so not much different from just standard chains - but with better sized GUI and optimal features.

For example - I used to have a big list of FX send track templates but now I have one which has Snap Heap on it and since that's got built in switchable parallel &/or serial bus effects I don't have to scroll down a list track templates so much. I can use just that one template for 90% of tasks. And if that one is not right I can re-order/enable/disable/customize quickly within on plugin.
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Old 02-18-2021, 06:59 AM   #9
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Having hundreds of different compressors to choose from is an extreme end of the spectrum, but limiting yourself to as few plugins as possible is also kind of extreme in its own way imo. Probably better to aim for somewhere in the middle.

Your gun analogy could also be ‘beware the person who can use any gun well’ 🙂
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Old 02-19-2021, 08:50 PM   #10
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I use Reaper native plugins for the vast majority of things. I never use other compressors or EQs.
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Old 02-19-2021, 11:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
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I use Reaper native plugins for the vast majority of things. I never use other compressors or EQs.
I have a quite few plugins I paid for, but like you ashcat, I seldom use anything but Reaper's plugins.

I really like ReaEQ, it's so flexible, that and Span, to me it doesn't get any better then that.
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Old 02-21-2021, 04:51 AM   #12
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I went through a process from getting every free plugin any related blog recommended and collecting almost 2000 VSTs to buy some plugins by developers I like and agree to it's marketing and pricing policies further to get some compilations where I have everything I want (and even trying to program my own ones).

I agree to try to keep as much plugins you can handle somehow to get faster decisions.

Where I tend to disagree is that the number of plugin types exceeds your number of total plugins. This unfortunately leads to the result, that I feel to need at least 5 delay reverb plugins alone, because none of them can do spring, pitch, plate, real room simulations, convolution, any kind of modulation, own decisions to modulate the feedback path and so on on its own.

I'd really like to have one plugin per type, but even their number would rise given I'd like to have multiple modulated filters, step sequencers, stereo field correction, meters, multiband solutions, you name it.

Other than that, please don't take it as an offense, I also got the impression that discussing about these topics (what's the best A, what's replacing B if I want everything from company C) was keeping me from doing music. But obviously I'm guilty for discussing again

---

Other than that if you just aim at the mixing process alone with dynamic and sonic treatment I could think of some plugins which tend to be all in one solutions. I think of some Eventide, Izotope, EA plugins. As much I love MJUC, I'd prefer DC8C as an all purpose compressor.

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Old 02-21-2021, 06:50 AM   #13
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I’ve been thinking about this thread a bit and kind of came to a conclusion - my wife used to be a Chef running a kitchen, and would obviously keep all the ingredients in stock she needed to make the items on the current menu. Her collection of herbs and spices however was far more comprehensive and would allow her to adapt things easily or make special dishes whenever she needed to.

Plugins are tools obviously, probably better compared to the kitchen equipment in a cooking analogy, however you can also think of them as herbs and spices - especially if you are mixing music for other people and you can’t always anticipate what a situation will call for. Sometimes an algorithmic reverb will be the best choice, other times a convolution might be more appropriate. I’ve often found it useful to have a more esoteric reverb for special effects, so we are at 3 plugins just with reverb already. It’s easy to see how a plugin folder can grow quite large in this way, and probably important for people to keep things organised.
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Old 02-23-2021, 09:22 AM   #14
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As the possibilities are endless, it becomes overwhelming to me.

Now, I try if possible to stick to the stock Reaper plugins and limit myself. Mainly ReaEq, ReaComp, ReaDelay and a few JS plugins as JS:limiter and JS:saturation.

I use third party reverbs, one for the ambient reverb and one for the room control (the 2 DragonFly plugins) and another one for the vocals (Tal Reverb mainly).

As "spices", a few one, as Valhala, Wider or Acorn, and nothing more.

I have been making music for more than 40 years now, home recording for more or less 20 years. I have the feeling I am still a new born regarding to audio editing.
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Old 02-23-2021, 10:58 AM   #15
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I agree it's not a good idea to have a million compressors in your folder (unless you regularly ignore most of them), but sometimes getting into a new compressor (or anything) can jump start your enthusiasm a bit.

I picked up the Pawn Shop Compressor, mainly after reading posts but also from interviews with the dev and I liked him. I liked demoing it so I bought it and started putting it on busses. There's something to be said for working with a new tool you like the results of. A new mood that can last a little bit. Maybe in a year I won't use it at all, but for now I'm feeling that, I won't say it jump starts me into a moonshot, but it gets me going in a direction I like with little effort or time, and it's also nice, and not completely trivial, to be looking at a different visual for a change.

I can't honestly say it's a huge amount better than what else I have (which is modest), but it sounds really good and I enjoy using it. Sometimes that's a good enough reason to break out from what one already has every once in a while.
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Old 02-25-2021, 08:07 PM   #16
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I personally can't see the benefit of being a mechanic who owns a warehouse full of socket sets. But whatever makes sense to you, run with it, everyone is different.
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Old 02-26-2021, 09:27 AM   #17
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Quote:
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I personally can't see the benefit of being a mechanic who owns a warehouse full of socket sets. But whatever makes sense to you, run with it, everyone is different.
Of course not, but you would need at least a socket of each size, right? 🙂
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