On the heels of last week’s post about plugins being the worst investment in your studio, I have an announcement to make: it’s time for a plugin purge. Maybe not for you, but for me personally in my studio, it’s time to shed some dead weight and narrow down my actual day to day plugin list. So today’s post will be a bit more personal, to my situation, but hopefully it will get you to think.
Via Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha Flickr
How Much I’ve Spent On Plugins Over The Years
I tried hard to think back on how many plugins I’ve purchased over the past 10 years and how much money that represents. Here’s what I could come up with. In the past decade I’ve spent at least $3500 on 3rd party plugins. And that is excluding any DAW purchases or upgrades (which I estimate as probably at least an additional $1750!). If we exclude any of my other DAWs and look primarily at Pro Tools, this puts me with a total plugin count of around 75.
Am I using all $3500 worth of plugins week and week out on mixes for my clients? No. Not even close. Do I need 75+ plugins sitting in my plugin menu? No. It’s just mental and emotional clutter. It slows me down when I mix and reminds me of the money I’ve wasted. Neither of which are feelings I want when trying to break the cycle of self doubt as a mixer!
It’s Time To Narrow Things Down
For my own mental sanity and creative focus I’m going to narrow down my plugin list to only the plugins I deem worthy to be on my go-to list. I refuse to use a plugin only because I dropped money on it. Rather I want to use the tools that make me work quickly, creatively, and effectively. Nothing more, nothing less. At this moment (summer 2013) my narrowed down list looks like this:
- Waves SSL E Channel (my workhorse EQ and compression, so smooth and musical)
- Waves CLA-2A (my “color” compressor that seems to enhance just about anything it touches)
- Slate Digital Virtual Buss Compressors (recent purchase, but does amazing things on my mix buss)
- Slate Digital Virtual Console Collection (major analog bang for your CPU usage buck)
- Izotope Ozone (all around amazing plugin of plugins for mastering or finishing off a mix)
Between my stock plugins and the above five 3rd party plugs, I can do really anything I want sonically in the mix. The channel strip is my biggest tool for carving and sculpting tracks. The CLA-2a gives different compression style to the SSL and really is great on vocals. The buss compressor and VCC simply glue things together in a way that I miss if I have to mix without them. And Ozone gives you that final limiting you need, along with some great multiband compression and other sonic goodies.
If I could include one more (and I will) it would be the ARC 2 from IK Multimedia. This has totally helped my mixes translate out in the real world and I hate mixing without it. That being said, I can (and have) mix in headphones and reference on other speakers, which eliminates the need for the ARC all together.
Life Without Any Of Those Plugins
Now, those are all wonderful plugins that I think are worth every penny of what I paid for them. But then again, I make a living using these plugins week in and week out. If were brand new to mixing and just practicing my craft as a hobby, I’d stick with my stock plugins and make it work. In fact, I sometimes do that just to stay humble and remind myself that it’s the mixer, not the plugins, that make a great mix.
Recently I’ve done some mixes in the new Pro Tools 11 and could only use stock plugins. Why? Well, none of the above plugins (save maybe for Ozone) are ported over to the new 64 bit AAX format so they aren’t Pro Tools 11 compatible. This month over at Dueling Mixes I did the entire mix with the stock plugins in Pro Tools 11. It was fun, the mix sounds great, and it proves yet again that you already own all you need to make a great mix.
I’ve Purged My Plugins. How About You?
Well folks, there you have it: I’ve officially narrowed down my list of day to day plugins to five (ok maybe six if you include the ARC). This false limitation will only help me to mix faster and with more passion. But what about you? Do you need a plugin purge of your own? If you had to only use five plugins on every mix, what would they be? Why? What would get left off the list, and why?