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The 11 Best VST Plugins That Are Taking Over 2024 (New)

VST (Virtual Studio Technology) Plugins are essential tools in the digital audio workstation (DAW) landscape.


They offer music producers and sound designers endless effects, virtual instruments, and utilities to enhance their music production skills.


These VST plugins can emulate classic gear, introduce innovative new sounds, and expand your creative horizons; the possibilities are endless.


Plus, they help you fine-tune your audio, achieve professional sound quality, and make your beats blow away the competition.


But, with so many options out there, it’s hard to tell what’s actually helpful and what’s a total waste of time.


That’s why we’re breaking down the 11 top VST plugins available (newer) 一 including features, functions, and unique capabilities.


All of the following best VST plugins will give you access to:


  • High-quality sound emulation ✓
  • Real-time audio processing ✓
  • User-friendly interfaces ✓
  • Extensive preset libraries/sample libraries ✓
  • Advanced modulation capabilities ✓
  • Compatibility across various DAWs ✓
  • Low CPU usage for no audio problems ✓
  • Innovative sound manipulation tools ✓
  • Dynamic effects and filters ✓
  • Much more ✓


Whether you’re a beginner or have 20+ years under your belt, you’ll have access to the best VST plugins on the market. 


Plus, you’ll be equipped to enhance your music and manipulate audio like a professional, ensuring that your tracks meet industry standards.


For mixing, mastering, or creatively composing, these VST plugins will provide the necessary tools to achieve a polished, unique sound. 


So, let’s just dive right in…


#1. Zen Master by Unison Audio (Free)


best VST plugins


Zen Master by Unison Audio is a groundbreaking free VST plugin specifically designed to instantly transform any sound into a lo-fi, warm, and vintage texture. 


It simplifies the process of achieving that sought-after lo-fi sound with a user-friendly interface that features only five intuitive knobs.


So, both beginners and experts will seriously love this free plugin.


Not only is it easy to use, but its deep customization capabilities allow precise sound shaping while maintaining pristine audio quality.


Zen Master operates through five key controls, each providing a unique aspect of sound manipulation:


#1. Hypnosis


Hypnosis 2 e1687307037396 - Unison


This control is essential for adding a distinct detune and stereo-widening effect, expertly fine-tuned over months of development to ensure it adds the right amount of depth and space to any track.


#2. Imbalance


Imbalance 2 - Unison


It introduces a tape-modeled pitch wobble, injecting a classic, human-like imperfection that brings a vintage feel to modern recordings.


#3. Electrify


Electrify 2 - Unison


This knob introduces a subtle, carefully calculated bit-crushing effect, perfect for degrading the sound (in a controlled manner) to achieve that popular lo-fi vibe.


#4. Vinyl/Noise


Vinyl 2 - Unison


Adds texture and atmosphere by overlaying the sound with one of three signature noises: vinyl, crackle, or white noise, each enhancing the track with new layers of complexity.


#5. Ascend


Ascend 2 - Unison


Provides a lush, expansive reverb that combines clarity with warmth to add a more dimensional quality to your sound without muddying the mix.


Zen Master is not just another free lo-fi plugin 一 it’s a super versatile tool that lets music producers explore endless new creative possibilities with every turn of a knob.


It’s the perfect way to add depth, warmth, and vintage flair to any sound instantly. 


I guarantee when you see what this free VST plugin can really do, it will absolutely blow your mind.


Download Zen Master Now


Key Features:


  • Five Powerful Controls: Turn your own sounds into lo-fi masterpieces.
  • Instantaneous Results: Achieves desired effects in less than three seconds.
  • CPU Efficiency: Optimized for minimal impact on system resources.
  • Universal Compatibility: Works seamlessly across all DAWs on both Mac and PC.
  • Completely Free Version: Available at no cost.
  • Tops all the other free VST plugins available


#2. Native Instruments Kontakt 7


Kontakt 7 - Unison


Native Instruments Kontakt 7 is the latest evolution of the world’s leading sampler plugin, revered by music producers worldwide for its depth, flexibility, and performance. 


It not only builds on its legacy of integrating a huge collection of samples and loops but also enhances the user experience with improved browsing/more intuitive controls. 


Native Instruments Kontakt 7 is the ideal tool for creating realistic soundscapes and complex musical textures.


This is thanks to its detailed sampling capabilities which include a huge selection of editing tools for every situation.


It introduces a new, re-designed interface that simplifies navigation and makes it more intuitive to access and play around with its powerful features. 


Whether layering multiple instruments on a single track or sculpting sounds with intricate effects, Kontakt 7 provides a streamlined workflow. 


It’s renowned for its realism and precision 一 helping you to achieve detailed and expressive performances with sampled instruments. 


NOTE: This music production software supports a huge range of sample formats and integrates well with other Native Instruments products, enhancing its utility in any professional music production environment.


Key Features:


  • Expansive Sound Libraries: Offers an extensive collection of high-quality virtual instruments across various genres (hip-hop, EDM, etc.)
  • Enhanced Sampling Tools: Advanced sampling capabilities that cover everything; sound editing and manipulation of your samples. Endless sample libraries.
  • Re-designed User Interface: Modernized for accessibility.
  • Wide Format Compatibility: Supports all major samples/sample formats and seamlessly integrates with many DAWs.
  • Dynamic Performance Features: Includes realistic articulations, sample libraries, expression tools, and performance-driven functions
  • One of the best VST plugins around.


#3. Life by XLN Audio


Life - Unison


Life by XLN Audio claims it is revolutionizing the way music producers think about sound capturing and beat creation… and they’re not far off.


It’s not just a VST plugin 一 it’s a complete ecosystem that includes both a desktop plugin and mobile app for iOS and Android. 


Life allows you to capture sounds from the real world using your smartphone, and then it syncs these recordings to your desktop where you can transform them into beats


It’s perfect for producers (like myself) who are always looking for unique, authentic audio snippets to add to their tracks.


NOTE: This VST plugin features machine learning technology that helps analyze and morph your recordings into playable tracks. 


You can tweak and mold these sounds with its built-in effects (reverb, EQ, etc.) and modifiers, making each sound truly your own.


Side note, since we mentioned built-in effects, if you’re an Ableton user, we’ve got you covered about the best Ableton stock plugins around.


Key Features:


  • Real-World Sound Capture: Utilizes mobile apps to record audio directly.
  • Sync and Integration: Seamlessly syncs recordings from mobile to desktop.
  • Machine Learning Beat Creation: Recordings into beats automatically.
  • Extensive Sound Manipulation Tools: Various effects & sound-shaping tools.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Simplifies the complex process of audio editing.
  • One of the best VST plugins around.


#4. Scheps Omni Channel 2 by Waves


Omni Channel 2 - Unison


Scheps Omni Channel 2 is a versatile channel strip VST plugin developed in collaboration with Grammy-winning mixer Andrew Scheps. 


It combines the warmth of classic analog gear with the flexibility of digital control, including a variety of preamp colors, compression styles, EQ, gating, and more.


The plugin now includes new features such as: 


  • CRUSH for additional saturation
  • A new soft-knee compressor
  • A 24dB/octave filter for creative filtering effects


Importantly, Scheps Omni Channel 2 allows for any VST3 plugin to be a whole host within its framework, which expands its utility even more.


It’s designed to provide a cohesive sound with the flexibility to tweak each module to fit any track 一 making it a powerful asset for mixing and mastering.


So, if you haven’t checked out this awesome new plugin, I highly advise you do.


Key Features:


  • Four Saturation Types: Instrument for versatile tone shaping.
  • Multiple Compression Styles: Tailor dynamics to suit the material.
  • Flexible Routing and Insert Capabilities: Customize the signal flow extensively.
  • Advanced De-Essing and Gating: Precise control over dynamics.
  • Zero Latency: Ideal for live and studio applications.
  • One of the best VST plugins around: for mixing and mastering.
  • An analog lover’s dream.


#5. Cableguys ShaperBox 3


- Unison


Cableguys ShaperBox 3 takes creative control to a new level with its dynamic audio effects that music producers can use to shape their tracks in real-time. 


It’s filled with different mixing and mastering effects like: 



What makes ShaperBox 3 stand out is its user-friendly interface, which presents all tools in a very straightforward way, so you shouldn’t have any problems.


Each effect module can be combined and customized through an easy-to-use LFO editor that lets you sculpt effects to fit your music perfectly. 


Whether you’re looking to add rhythmic energy, smooth transitions, or innovative textures to your tracks, ShaperBox 3 delivers with precision and creativity.


Key Features:


  • Versatile Effects Modules: Time, Volume, Filter, Pan, and more.
  • Customizable LFO Editor: Tailor effects with precision for many instances.
  • Intuitive User Interface: Easily accessible and navigable.
  • Real-Time Audio Manipulation: Apply and hear effects instantly.
  • Compatibility and Flexibility: Works across all major DAWs.
  • One of the best VST plugins around.


#6. Native Instruments Guitar Rig 7


Guitar Rig 7 - Unison


Native Instruments Guitar Rig 7 is a comprehensive suite for innovative guitarists and producers looking to create and refine guitar tones.


As the latest version in the acclaimed Guitar Rig series, it continues to offer a wide range of amplifiers, cabinets, and effects for ultimate exploration.


They’re all expertly modeled to recreate the nuances of classic and modern hardware. 


Native Instruments Guitar Rig 7 introduces, with enhanced flexibility: 


  • New amp models
  • Effects
  • A revamped cabinet section


You can mix and match different components to create custom rigs, using the intuitive drag-and-drop Native Instruments interface. 


It also features epic presets/preset banks that allows quick access to a diverse collection of guitars/tones suited for any genre.


The addition of an advanced microphone setup and room emulation options further enhances its capabilities to produce authentic and detailed guitar sounds.


Key Features:


  • Extensive Modeling Options: Includes a vast array of amps, cabinets, effects.
  • Customizable Signal Path: Easy drag-and-drop interface for building your rig.
  • Enhanced Microphone Setup: Advanced options for mic placement/room sound.
  • Preset Management: Large present bank for various musical styles.
  • High-Fidelity Sound: Delivers detailed and authentic guitars/guitar tones.
  • One of the best VST plugins around.


#7. Sigmund 2 by D16 Group


Sigmund - Unison


Sigmund 2 is an advanced delay unit known for its flexibility and quality.


It includes four independent delay lines each equipped with its own set of parameters and integrated modules like filters and overdrive. 


This VST plugin excels in versatility 一 allowing you to combine the delay lines in various configurations to achieve unique effects such as: 


  • Chorus
  • Flanger
  • Phaser
  • Complex rhythmic patterns


The interface of Sigmund 2 is designed for clarity and ease of use, with multipurpose modulators that can apply varied modulations to the delay parameters simultaneously.


With over 400 presets, adjustable UI sizes, and comprehensive MIDI learn functionality, Sigmund 2 is ideal for any producer looking to explore the creative possibilities of delay.


Key Features:


  • Four Independent Delay Lines: Extensive customization options.
  • Integrated Modulation Options: Enhance sounds with built-in filters/overdrive.
  • Flexible Routing Options: Nine different signal flow configurations.
  • Comprehensive Preset Library: Over 400 presets to start with.
  • Highly Customizable Interface: Multiple UI sizes and HiDPI support.
  • One of the best VST plugins around.


#8. OTT Plugin by Xfer Records


Xfer OTT - Unison


The OTT Plugin by Xfer Records is a multifaceted dynamics processor that is widely acclaimed in the music production world for its ability to add an aggressive edge to any track. 


It replicates the popular “over-the-top” compression technique commonly used in EDM to achieve crisp and loud sounds. 


It features depth and time controls that allow you to adjust the degree of compression and its effect on the signal, which is always super useful.


With three bands of upward compression and downward compression, you can finely control the dynamics of you mix with ease.


OTT also includes additional controls for input and output gain 一 allowing for precise level adjustments to avoid any audio issues.


Its simplicity and powerful processing capabilities makes it a favorite of producers looking to enhance their mixes with high-energy dynamics.


NOTE: If you’d like to learn everything about OTT, in detail, we’ve got you covered.


Key Features:


  • Multiband Compression: Three bands of adjustable upward and downward compression.
  • Depth and Time Controls: Fine-tune the intensity and response of the compression.
  • Simple User Interface: Straightforward controls for quick mixing adjustments.
  • Gain Adjustment: Controls for input and output levels to maintain balance.
  • Versatile Use: Ideal for adding clarity and punch to electronic and pop music.
  • One of the best VST plugins around.


#9. Waves Tunes Real-Time


Waves Tune - Unison


Waves Tunes Real-Time is a pitch correction plugin designed to deliver studio-quality tuning while being intuitive enough for live performances. 


It stands out for its real-time processing capabilities, providing instant pitch correction that can be key for vocals needing immediate adjustments.


It’s a widely appreciated plugin for its ability to preserve the natural vocal tone.


This makes it a go-to choice for music producers who need transparent correction without the artifacts usually associated with pitch correction tools. 


Waves Tunes Real-Time offers advanced features such as: 



This way, you can fine-tune the plugin’s response to match the singer’s vocals/intonation and genre however you’d like.


Its user interface is streamlined for easy operation 一 making it accessible even for those new to pitch correction technology and techniques.


If you’re looking for a much cheaper, just as efficient version of Auto-Tune (for beginners and experts) to tweak your vocals, look no further.


Key Features:


  • Real-Time Pitch Correction: Ideal for live and studio applications.
  • Natural Vocal Preservation: Maintains the original quality of the voice.
  • Customizable Retune Speed: Adjusts how fast pitch corrections are applied.
  • Formant Correction: Helps retain natural vocal timbre during pitch shifts.
  • Intuitive Interface: Simple and easy to use, suitable for beginners.
  • One of the best VST plugins around.


#10. Soundtoys 5


Soundtoys5 - Unison


Soundtoys 5 is a comprehensive bundle of audio effects plugins that people love for its versatility and professional sound quality.


This music production/mixing bundle includes everything, like:


  • EchoBoy 一 For rich delay sounds (vintage-inspired effects).
  • Decapitator 一 For analog saturation.
  • Little AlterBoy 一 For unique vocal transformations.


Soundtoys 5 excels in combining these vintage tones with modern features.


For example, it offers extensive modulation capabilities and an advanced rhythm editor in effects like FilterFreak and Tremolator.


So, sound design enthusiasts can definitely play around for hours.


The integration of the Effect Rack in Soundtoys 5 allows you to a create custom chain of effects, enhancing workflow and creativity by providing a flexible drag & drop interface.


NOTE: individual effects can be combined/configured with precision if you know all about creating custom chains.


This makes Soundtoys 5 not just a single plugin but a powerful sound design tool that can shape and transform audio in limitless ways.


Key Features:


  • Huge Range of Effects: Over 20 individual plugins covering delays, reverbs, distortion, filters, and more.
  • Effect Rack: Combine and customize effects into a single processing chain.
  • Vintage Vibe: Emulates classic studio gear for warm, rich sounds.
  • Advanced Modulation Tools: Extensive modulation options for dynamic sound shaping.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Streamlined for easy navigation and creativity.
  • One of the best VST plugins around.


#11. Bonus: Serum by Xfer Records (The OG)


Serum 5 - Unison


Serum by Xfer Records, while not necessarily new, is a cutting-edge wavetable synthesizer known for its high-quality sound and flexibility worldwide.


It’s actually a staple in electronic music production and sound design.


Serum sets itself apart with its visually intuitive design where you can create/access and manipulate wavetables in real-time


This legendary plugin offers epic wavetable manipulation features 一 including importing audio, morphing between wavetables using standard linear interpolation or via spectral morphing. 


Serum’s modulation capabilities are super impressive, with a huge range of options and an easy-to-use drag-and-drop system for assigning modulation sources. 


It also includes a suite of effects that can be rearranged in any order, while its ultra-clean oscillators minimize the typical aliasing distortion found in most synth plugins. 


NOTE: Serum is loved not only for its sound design capabilities but also for its versatility in creating everything from hard-hitting basses to clean leads and complex soundscapes.


Overall, it sets the gold standard when it comes to VST synths/synth emulations that even beginners can catch on to quickly.


Key Features of this VST Synth:


  • High-Quality Wavetable Synthesis: Offers clean, articulate, and detailed sounds.
  • Intuitive Wavetable Editor: Create and edit wavetables in a visual interface.
  • Advanced Modulation Options: Extensive modulation capabilities with an easy-to-use workflow; create your own patches.
  • Customizable Effects Chain: Flexible effects module; rearrange/tweak.
  • Versatile Sound Palette: For all genres (like hip-hop) & music production styles.
  • One of the best VST plugins/synths around.


Best VST Plugins: Final Thoughts


The best VST plugins can completely transform your music production process and spark your creative fire.


Each plugin we covered brings its own unique set of features to the table from real-time pitch correction to classic analog emulations, and everything in between.


With them, you can start creating tracks that will land you at the top of everyone’s playlist (and maybe even the charts).


Remember, the key to mastering the best VST plugins is all about exploration and experimentation, so don’t ever box yourself in.


Until next time…




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