Is It OK To Use Stock Plugins? [Reader Question]

2011 Oct 21, 2011

What is it about the lure of other plugin bundles that makes us loathe the stock plugins that shipped with our DAW? My guess would be probably some great marketing hype mixed with confusion on the part of a newbie mixer. We’ve likely all been there, but today I want to address a recent reader question I received as I think it is relevant to many of you. 

I am a Sonar X1 user and it came with lots of plugins for mixing. I’ve been thinking about getting a Waves plugin bundle, but I’m not sure if it is going to make a huge difference in quality of my mixes. The sales rep at “XYZ Guitar Store” said these plugins sound is a lot cleaner then any stock plugin. Should I invest in this plugin bundle or stick with my hosts plugins. I am confused please help…

To answer this question, I pose a few questions of my own.


Why Do You Think You Need More Plugins?

I don’t know about you, but I always need to have a legitimate why before I spend my hard earned money on something. This is especially true when it comes to studio gear. Before you ever make a gear purchase, you need to ask yourself, “Why do I want/need to buy this?” Your answer will be very telling.

If you are of the mind that you need new plugins because a sales rep at a store told you they sound better than what you have, then we have a problem. Nothing against sales reps, but their job is to sell you stuf. Now a good sales rep will listen to your needs and offer you a solution (if they have a product that solves your problem). But if you feel compelled to purchase some plugins because a sales rep told you they sound better than what you have, then that is your first clue that you aren’t ready to buy more plugins.

What’s Wrong With Your Current Plugins?

The other question we have to ask is simply “What’s so wrong with your current stock plugins that you need to go buy new ones?” Do they sound bad to you? Or is it that you aren’t able to get good mixes with them? If it’s the latter, then my friends, that is your second clue that you’re not ready to buy new plugins.

Stock plugins in today’s DAWs are a fantastic value. Simply put, they sound great and they cost you nothing! If you bought the DAW, then you already own some great sounding plugins! If you aren’t getting the mixes you want, then I hate to tell you but plugins aren’t your problem. You may just need some more training and experience to learn how to accurately and effectively use plugins to sculpt your mix.

In both my recent video series, REthink Mixing, and our first ever recording workshop, The Simply Recording Academy, I mixed an entire song with stock plugins. I wanted to show people that it’s not the brand of plugins that you use that makes the mix. It’s what you do with your plugins. If you can’t get a great mix with stock plugins, then you just need to become a better mixer.

Here’s Your Challenge

If you find yourself tempted to buy a shiny new plugin bundle in hopes that it will help your mixes, let me offer you a challenge. Put down your wallet, and make a decision to mix your next song, album, project, etc using nothing but the stock plugins that shipped with your DAW. Take your time to learn those plugins inside and out. Tell yourself that if you get a great sounding mix with the stock plugins, then you are free to purchase whatever other plugins you want.

If, however, your mixes still kinda stink, then you officially aren’t ready for more plugins and you should save your money for a rainy day.

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