As a bit of fun on the team we’ve challenged one another to this; you get to keep all the plug-ins supplied with you DAW but then you only get to keep one more plug-in. It can’t be a suite of plug-ins and it can’t be an external application. It also can’t be plug-ins that come bundled with certain subscription plans, so for Pro Tools users we have removed anything other than the plug-ins that come with the native version of Pro Tools.
The first thing to consider when making the choice is to think what can be done with the plug-ins supplied with your DAW. I use two DAWs Pro Tools and Studio One, both are supplied with a fantastic set of plugins and for the most part an excellent mix is possible.
With over 500 third party plug-ins sitting on my hard drive narrowing it down to one plug-in is tough, although to be honest in most cases I use about 10 of those plugins, the majority are on my drive either because I’ve got a bundle that I can’t be bothered to remove the stuff I don’t use from or from stuff I reviewed.
However, even with 10 left to choose from narrowing down to one plug-in is a tall order. Many of the third party plug-ins are either there for character and tone or are magic, for example Surfer EQ and POWAIR.
The one that I would keep is the Exponential Audio R4 reverb, nothing comes close to the quality, ease of use and efficiency of R4, especially from the stuff supplied with the DAW.
R4 features at a glance from the Exponential Audio website:
A character reverb that outdoes all the classics
A new hall algorithm, as well as updated versions of the R2 algorithms
Warp section with compressor/expander and overdrive
Pre-delay and reverb delay now adjustable by tempo
Tail suppression circuit for more dynamic response
Gated reverb effects
Over 1200 presets
Helpful tool-tips to guide new users.
One of my favourite things about R4 is that you put it on tracks and it just works and sounds wonderful, lush and at the same time isn’t sticking out like a sore thumb. For me many reverbs seem to either sound unimpressive or are so brash and nasty you are fighting to make them sit in a mix.
On the whole I can find a stock plug-in to do most things, but nothing to do what Exponential Audio R4 does.