Best Hardware Guitar Pedals of 2022: A Guide to What’s on the Market

What are the best hardware guitar pedals of this year? Although it’s hard to choose, the greatest tend to hit a sweet spot. Great pedals balance staple sounds with creative circuitry. 2022 is no different and though some of these are on the pricier side, here are the best picks on the market. 

Best Hardware Guitar Pedals – Best for Blues: Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

The classic Blues Driver pedal from Boss has been updated for 2022 and is one not to miss. It has real versatility and it can be incorporated into many more genres than blues. The Blues Driver BD-2’s sound is kept fresh and modern. It can easily fit both favourite blues songs – as well as indie, hard rock, ballads, and alternative rock. But what about it makes it such an enduring pedal? 

The valve amps this pedal is modelled on add warmth and resonance to more genres than just blues. It also provides a sought-after sound associated with old amps, yet makes this accessible to the average musician. It has three simple knobs – tone, level, and gain, and that’s it. The ability to switch between standard and custom mode means you can either keep its original circuitry (standard) or add a richer, more modern overdrive with increased sustain (custom). All in all, the Boss BD-2 is everything you want in an easily available format, making elusive tones mainstream and resulting in its cult status.

You can check the Boss BD-2 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Wah: Boss PW3 Wah Pedal 

One challenge of keeping pedals up to date is how musician preferences can constantly change. Wah is a classic effect, yet this pedal keeps to the cutting edge – Boss have really added something new. The Boss PW3 specialises in its ‘rich’ mode, which means that it retains low to medium frequencies. These are responsible for much of the tone and are actually lost in typical wah effects.

As a result, the sound is much fuller and has more depth. In fact, to do this, Boss had to alter the circuitry. This addition works especially well if you’re not after typical vintage sounds yet still want to experiment with wah. The setup is simple with one switch to toggle between rich and vintage, and the physical pedal to add either a tiny bit of wah or rev on full. Used to more current sounds but want to investigate this classic effect? The Boss PW3 is perfect.

You can check the Boss PW3 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Overdrive: JHS Double Barrel

The JHS Double Barrel is on the chunkier-looking side. However, it is a combination of two classic pedals, the Moonshine V2 on the left and the Morning Glory on the right. The first of these provides a well-crafted overdrive with a difference. However, when combined with the Morning Glory, this pedal really comes into its own. 

The Double Barrel contains a toggle to switch the order of the two pedals in your circuit. There are three knobs (volume, drive, and tone) and a gain switch for the Moonshine; the Morning Glory has knobs for volume, drive, tone, and clean, plus a high gain toggle which works with the JHS pedals Red Remote. From this, the guitarist has a multitude of deep, rich noises to choose from. If something sounds a little tinny or top-heavy, all you need to do is tweak what lies underneath. With the sheer amount of combinations, there are plenty of options until your tone is as you like it. 

You can check the JHS Double Barrel price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Distortion/Crunch: Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 

The Tube Screamer is a fantastic classic pedal which does so much more with less. How come it makes the list? Tube Screamer diversifies itself by keeping things simple but refined. In fact, Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 is made in Japan and the well-known quality of Japanese craftsmanship definitely shows. It has three knobs (overdrive, tone, level) is very intuitive, and adds thick, warm overdrive to your signal chain.

Popularised by Stevie Ray Vaugh, it has been described as the ‘holy grail of tube screamer plugins’ and prioritises rich, full sounds. Since its inception, its analogue circuitry has remained largely unchanged. As a result, it is absolutely perfect at balancing out the top-end which often comes with shredding and guitar solos. Instead of just a wall of distortion, all the emotions and melody of your playing remain. Just be careful of knock-offs – there are lots of copies out there.

You can check the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best Hardware Guitar Pedals – Fuzz: EarthQuaker Hoof Reaper 

EarthQuaker launched the fantastic Palisades V2 in 2014 but it is unfortunately discontinued. However, EarthQuaker is still a really creative plugin manufacturer and the Hoof Reaper Double Fuzz goes to show this. This pedal was originally a limited edition but was so popular it was kept on the market. It features EarthQuaker’s Hoof Fuzz pedal and the Tone Reaper pedal as a two-in-one. However, what you also get is an octave-up switch. In this way, not only do you get great characterful fuzz, but you also have huge amounts of creative control over the sound’s overtones.

There are buttons to select either or both pedals and one for the octave. The Tone Reaper has three knobs for level, fuzz, and tone, whilst the Hoof Fuzz has four. These are level, fuzz, and tone, but also shift, which allows you to sculpt the mid frequencies. With this amount of freedom, you can find the perfect sound to express your musical ideas.

You can check the EarthQuaker Hoof Reaper price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Final Thoughts

Whilst some of these pedals have been on the market before, all of them are making waves in 2022. This is due to either their repurposing, as well as the fact they continue to come out on top. That indescribable quality they add to your guitar playing has all helped earn their inclusion on this list. They also all include great craftsmanship and creativity in terms of really adding something new to your tone. Whichever you might choose, they will all present new creative possibilities and give you ample room to explore. 

Enjoyed this article? Check out more in our section for music hardware here.

Guitar Pedal VSTs 2022: A Rundown of the Most Creative +1 of them is FREE!

There are many contestants for the most creative guitar pedal VSTs of 2022. Guitar pedals are easily one of the most exciting parts of playing. The choices out there for sound designers can really bring this to life in their dizzying breadth and scope. To keep up with all the new developments in this world within one year would be impossible. Nevertheless, some of the most stand-out plugins take classic and well-known effects such as distortion and place their own innovative twist on them. Read on to find out some of the VSTs which do this best. from metal to blues, there is something for everyone!

Mercuriall Chorus WS1: One of the Best Chorus Guitar Pedal VSTs of 2022

Mercuriall Chorus WS1 has a fantastic pedigree. It’s modelled after Boss Chorus CE-2, which came from one of the world’s first chorus pedals- the Boss CE-1. CE-2 was made in Japan to celebrate its pedigree and the ingenuity of Japanese craftsmanship is evident in Mercuriall. 

The Chorus WS1 is not as detailed as some of the distortion pedals on this list in terms of operation. However, its simplicity is a great introduction to chorus effects. It contains dials for speed, depth, and mix, nothing more, nothing less. Another major thing in its favour is it’s completely free. American and British audiences may not be immediately familiar with Russian brand Mercuriall, but their gear is extremely worth checking out in general – and while the Chorus WS1 isn’t the only free plugin they have released, it is certainly great at what it does. 

Forum reviews have also shown that this pedal goes above and beyond. In fact, some users feel like it’s one of the only decent chorus pedals out there. It may not have some of the niche or unusual features as others on this list. However, it deserves an entry as it has taken a tricky-to-get-right effect and crafted masterful ways of achieving it.

Mercurial Chorus WS-1

Requirements: Works for both Windows and macOS, exact versions not listed. Works as AU and VST for Windows and AU, VST and AAX for macOS

Price: Free, to download check their website by clicking here (there are other free products available)..

The Bluesman by Audiority: A Creative Vintage Blues Overdrive Pedal

Analogue modelled simulation – ‘90s Marshall Blues Breaker made to replicate tone of 1962 Blues Breaker amp This plugin is an ‘amp in a box’ pedal. What does this mean? Well, it allows the artist an unprecedented level of control over the intricacies of tone. It’s not just a clear case of whether the pedal is on or off. This is a really nuanced pedal and the sounds shown in Aurodirty’s demonstration have fantastic realism. This nifty pedal is perfect for classic rock, blues, or even harder rock as well as spicing up pop tracks.

The Bluesman lets you control gain, tone, and level plus explore three different pedal circuits. It also includes a noise gate, and mix control. This little pedal plugin does anything an amp VST could do and does it just as well. Out of all guitar pedal VSTs of 2022, this one is without a doubt one of the most creative and refreshing. Whilst blues isn’t always looked at specifically in the general market, The Bluesman really does have everything you need.

Requirements: Windows 7 64bit or later, OSX 10.8 or later or macOS 11 or later

Price: 13 EUR or 12.93 USD. Click here to check current price on pluginboutique.com

Heavy Pedal by Audiority: Real Innovation for Heavy Guitar

From the laid-back sounds of blues, this list turns to the stormy sounds of 80s Swedish death metal. Audiority modelled Heavy Pedal after a notorious analogue stompbox which fuelled the sounds of the evolution of the Scandinavian metal scene. So why have we included Heavy Pedal on this list? Metal guitarists may find occasionally that most of the market does not serve their needs, and Heavy Pedal is valuable in filling these gaps. However, it’s a surprisingly versatile pedal in general for other genres such as thrash, punk, and industrial.

Heavy Pedal is an ultra high gain pedal – meaning things can get intense. It’s also of extremely high technical quality. The folks behind it at Audiority modelled it off a circa-1984 Japanese Boss-HM2. This model fuelled the Northern European metal scene, yet found itself popular in the land of the rising sun. With all of this combined, Heavy Pedal is truly something special. 

Heavy Pedal by Audiority

Requirements: Windows 7 64bit or later, OSX 10.8 or later or macOS 11 or later

Price: 20 EUR or 20 USD. Click here to check current price on pluginboutique.com (we get a small kickback from your purchase).

Bx_yellowdrive by Brainworx/Plugin Alliance: Perfect for Adding Tone

Why does Brainworx make this list? Firstly, the love and care which Yellowdrive use in the manufacturing process are second to none. The second reason is more hidden. Legendary pedal manufacturer Boss is responsible for a huge amount of innovation. However, most people do not know just how many VSTs take inspiration from classic Boss pedals. The bx_yellowdrive is one of these, and it’s an exacting replica. This means it has all the tone of the pedal it is based on, the Boss SD- 1.

The bx_yellowdrive is a welcome oasis in the world of software. It has a warm, rough-around-the-edges feel, which is something that partly comes from its asymmetric circuitry. Another trick it has up its sleeve is how it responds to your playing in real-time. This is really a plugin which embraces all the nuances of playing and analogue gear. Simultaneously, it brings you all the convenience of digital software. Ultimately, this is not a distortion plugin – it’s a tone plugin. It’s there to add warmth and sonic character to your playing, and in doing this it fills a real gap in the market.

Requirements: macOS 10.11-12, Windows 8-11

Price: 49 USD. Click here to check current price on pluginalliance.com

Misstortion 2 by Nimble Tools: Intro to Bit-Crushing and Clip Distortion

Nimble Tools isn’t famous within the world of pedal plugins. However, Misstortion is a really unique and fascinatingly designed bit of kit. Unlike many other products on the market, it actually explores the worlds of both bit-crushing and clip distortion. This means its sound has a gritter, somewhat more industrial edge. If you are used to playing heavier music, you may find this very welcome. It’s even useful if you want to combine your guitar playing with something more electronic. Misstortion’s interface is also really great – although it doesn’t model itself visually on any hardware pedals. Nonetheless, it has a really smooth, clean interface with all features easy to find.

In fact, the more exploration, the better Misstortion actually gets. It even has a tone filter which allows you to set the filter to the frequency of a particular note. With controls over symmetry and both soft clip and hard clip distortion, this is a real deep dive. Misstortion recognises you may want a smoother and more fine-tuned sound design than simply letting the plugin do the work. As a result, this is really one plugin to get stuck in with. 

Requirements: Available as a VST for both macOS and Windows, however, the website lists multiple variations depending on your version of the software and storage space

Price: Starts free but the website offers options to name your price.

Final Thoughts on Guitar Pedal VSTs of 2022

So there you have it! This is not an exhaustive list of all which has gone on this year for stomp box VSTs. However, it is a selection of some of the most interesting and creative. All these plugins have really been designed to add a little extra spark back into your playing. While this list focuses on distortion, we have also chosen these plugins for creativity in general, hence the inclusion of Mercuriall’s Chorus WS1 and the bx_yellowdrive. In addition, they are all great at adding tone to your riffs and licks when used in small amounts too. 

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out some of our other plugin and VST articles? Find them in our software category: https://www.idesignsound.com/software/

Best Ear Training Software 2022: A Breakdown of the Year’s Best Picks

Want to find the best ear training software of 2022? Look no further for a handy breakdown of some of the different options out there on the market, what they work best for, and how to find what suits your specific needs.

EDITOR CHOICE: trainyourears.com – BEST Starter Option

This one is simply the best because it is one of the simples and easy to comprehend piece of Ear Training software. We have extensively covered this product in a separate review, which we highly recommend as it goes in-depth. You can read our trainyourears.com review it by clicking here.

We chose this as our Editor Choice because is is the easiest and most recommended way to get into Ear Training as a first-time encounter. If this is your first attempt to use Ear Training software and have moderate musical knowledge (willing to master them fast), start by clicking here (open trainyourears.com website).

Best Ear Training Software for Focussing on Frequency: QuizTones

QuizTones is a fantastic app which comes from the folks at the Pro Audio Files. This is a website and an online course dedicated to mixing and mastering tips. The developers designed QuizTones to take the entire EQ process and turn it into a fun, intuitive, and interactive app. This allows the user to hone their skills in real-time in order and enhance their aural sensitivity.

With quizzes for tone, EQ, and more, QuizTones builds up your skills step by step. QuizTones is one of the most popular apps on the market for this kind of thing. One stand-out feature is how it eliminates the need to sweep for audio. QuizTones also allows you to choose different difficulty levels. It even lets you import loops from your own library and see what they sound like when you isolate different frequency bands. This learning in context is really what makes QuizTones stand out from other, similar apps.

Price: 14.99 USD for Mac, 4.99 USD for your iOS handheld device

Requirements: Mac and iOS only. You can check their website by clicking here.

Best for Simplicity: Ear Plugins

This is a totally deceptive plugin. At first glance it looks extremely simple, however, when you unpack its features you discover everything which you need.

In terms of design, this plugin is almost like a piece of retro technology. There is also a small game feature. Here, it tracks the number of guesses you’ve made of a particular bandwidth on the EQ spectrum. Due to the fact it’s small and not distracting, this is also a great plugin to keep on the side. Therefore the ability to incorporate it into the rest of your computer’s interface discreetly makes it phenomenal for busy musicians.

You might need more time to set up and install this than the average plugin. The developer originally intended it for his personal use, however, you can find easy-to-follow instructions on their website. What I like about EarPlugins is really its design and layout. It’s easy on the eye means that there is more focus on the sound itself. It also helps that you can plug in any of your own sound files to use to train. Find it and even get in touch with the developers below.

Price: Free

Requirements: available for Windows only

Best for A Comprehensive Look: SoundGym

SoundGym is an absolutely phenomenal ear training programme. This is, in fact, one of the most comprehensive pieces of software on this list. SoundGym operates on the same premise as a real gym. It also includes all the most common plugins and FX to train your ears as well.

Ear training has sometimes come to mean frequency detection or focus on the EQ process. However, SoundGym takes into account is compression you struggle with. It even has separate sections for training beat identification as well as the classic focus on EQ. SoundGym’s production and audio courses, in fact, are all designed to revolutionise how people ear train.

The only downside of SoundGym is it’s more of an online platform than anything else. There is no windows or iOS compatible app at the moment. However, you can track your progress, and train and compete with thousands of other users online and worldwide. This makes it truly addictive and properly challenging.

Price: Free

Requirements: Internet access – this amazing website is entirely online!

Best Ear Training Software for Consistent Practice: Complete Ear Trainer

Complete ear trainer really does what it says on the tin. It’s comprehensive and works with notes, intervals, and chords. This last feature makes it a really smart app for musicians who prefer to learn how things fit together. After all, focussing on your relative pitch, it also understands that it’s necessary to learn things holistically.

Apart from that, the developers put this app together simply but well. It has everything you need without too many distracting features. This makes it perfect for those who just want to focus. Its unique video game format means that it’s super easy to maintain a consistent practice. Like anything, ear training is a skill you can improve with repeated mastery. Of all the apps and software on this list, this one is possibly best for maintaining skill level. In fact, it hits the sweet spot between breaking things down and additional features.

Price: Free – an amazing price for such a comprehensive app

Requirements: Your handheld device – Complete Ear Trainer is available for both Apple products, Huawei mobile, Android, and also available on Amazon as a free download.

Best Ear Training Software for an Academic Approach: EarMaster

EarMaster is the software on this list which deals the most with traditional academic style ear training. This means that it has options involving written music notation. It really gets you back to the basics of conservatory style interval and pitch training. Nevertheless, it doesn’t just do a handful of basic things, it also has a special section just for jazz musicians. As jazz uses lots of complex chords which don’t always show up in regular chord and interval training software. As a result, this is an absolute lifeline for jazz musicians. Indeed, it helps anyone who wants to familiarise themselves with chords and intervals which are less easy to find online.

Apart from this, it has options for both ear and rhythm training. The latter is something which not many other apps or software cover. Functional ear training means you can also use a keyboard, sing, or use solfege syllables to match notes. This is very helpful as you will gain familiarity with a wide variety of methods.

A lot of musicians prefer doing things by matching the software they use. This could include using their favourite EQ frequency plugin or a midi keyboard. However, it doesn’t hurt to get back to basics sometimes. EarMaster is exactly the kind of app which will walk you through that from scratch to perfect audio sensitivity.

Price: Free versions available, more in-depth versions available for a monthly 4.99 Euro or 5.01 USD subscription

Requirements: Windows 7, 8, 10, 11, Mac 10.12 + and iOs 10 +

Final Thoughts

It’s not really possible to choose the ‘best’ software as every musician will have a different style of learning. Nevertheless, this list includes a varied number of different options. This way, there is something for each preference. Whether you want something more traditional, need to focus on your jazz chords, or learn best when things are interactive, it always helps to investigate different choices. In addition, take both your playing style and habits into account. That way, by knowing what works, your ear training journey will inevitably go much more smoothly.

Enjoyed this article? We have a whole category of music software, available at the following link: https://www.idesignsound.com/software/

The BEST Plugin VST products for the unique requirements of Metal Guitar [2022]

Wellcome to our list of the best Plugin VST products for metal guitar. This is by no far an end-all list, as I am sure you all have your preferences, it is merely an enumeration of must-have tools to have in your arsenal.

BEST Plugin VST products for Metal Guitar: Ample Metal Hellrazer

One of two virtual instruments on this list, The ample metal hellraiser stands out in its speciality in djent and progressive metal. It’s not often you get virtual instruments designed for such a niche subgenre, but the djent scene has been dominant for some of the past few years and to have such a great virtual instrument dedicated to mimicking these sounds mean that any producer or sound designer looking to get to grips with this technique and how it interacts with the wider components of a track would easily benefit from getting their hands on the Ample Metal Hellraiser.

So, how is it designed? It encompasses literally everything you would need to make an instrumental guitar track with this one single plugin – so, especially if working in genres like shred, it is in some ways pretty all encompassing, though it is also the kind of gear which can be added to simply if you feel like experimenting with how different sounds and plugins can work together. By everything, this means all the things needed to create a great mix such as EQ and other FX such as modulation and many different kinds of distortion as well as all the amps, cabs, and mics needed to fully define your own sound. Then there is the guitar itself – capable of simulating most kinds of technique from tremolo picking to bends, slides, vibrato, legato, and more.

Specifications: Windows 7/8/10, 64-bit only, MacOS 10.9 or higher. VST2, VST3, AU, AAX, or Standalone host

Price: 126.54 USD

CHECK PRICE: Ample Metal Hellrazer – Ample Sound

BEST Plugin VST products for Metal Guitar: Inphonik PCM2612 Retro Decimator Unit

What is the goal of the retro decimator unit? To absolutely crush any sound to the sonic limits of distortion, overdrive, and other ways of altering your music landscape to make it heavier. One of the most ultimate, extreme plugins dedicated to turning every soundwave into a haze of awesomely destructive distortion, Inphonik’s Retro Decimator Unit will guarantee that your songs are never lacking in heavy duty FX again.

What’s so special about it is the fact that it goes above and beyond the normal scope of any plugin. Whilst many models on the market are focussed on providing specific effects such as phaser, overdrive, and so on, the retro decimator is ready to warp the soundwave in literally any way possible. It’s specialism isn’t conventional – instead, the Retro Decimator is out to find every opportunity to push sound design to the edge.

Specifications: VST, AU, and AAX pluginsavailable for Windows, MacOS, and Linux (exact operating systems not listed), Rack Extension for MacOS and Windows, and AUv3/IAA available for iPad and iPhone

GET YOUR FREE COPY: Inphonik PCM2612 Retro Decimator Unit

BEST Plugin VST products for Metal Guitar: Line 6 Metallurgy Trio

There are tons of plugin bundles out there, but there are very few which focus so precisely and distinctively on the needs of metal guitarist beyond simply providing heavy overdrive and ample amounts of distortion. Metal is such a complex genre with an incredible range of different techniques, sounds, and complex mind bending riffs which go into the playing alone, let alone the intricacies of sound design and production required to separate all these complex and intertwined elements.

What other plugins recognise the nuances between doom, thrash, djent, hardcore, and so on. With four discreet amps which can be paired with eight speaker cabinets and any combination of two of eight microphones, the possibilities for mixing, matching, and crossing the boundaries of genre are numerous. And for the metal guitarist who loves to play live, the fact that all these plugins appear just as they would on a real pedalboard means that they are easy to pick up in no time at all.

Specifications: Operating systems not listed, but available as VST, AU, and AAX plugins for any DAW

CHECK PRICE: Line 6 Metallurgy Trio

Impact Soundworks Shreddage 3 Hydra

As opposed to plugins or FX, Shreddage 3 is a full blown virtual guitar. Beyond the expense and technical expertise needed to hire a luthier to create a physical guitar from scratch, this virtual instrument was a change for the creators at Impact Soundworks to really let their minds run wild with the best things they could come up with for sheer metal force.

What really sets this apart is it’s 8 string, drop-E capabilities designed to create the biggest walls of sound imaginable. So much of Shreddage 3 was recorded just for this virtual instrument itself, meaning you can find sounds which won’t be replicated anywhere else. It does all varieties of playing really well, from crushingly heavy to super clean, intricate tones needed for shred guitar.

Specifications: requires version 5.7 or higher of Kontakt Player – a free sampler from Native instruments.Kontakt Player itselfruns on Windows 10 or 11 and MacOS 10.14, 10.15, 11 or 12 (intel) as well as MacOS 11 or 12 (Apple Silicon Macs)

CHECK PRICE: Impact Soundworks Shreddage 3 Hydra

BEST Plugin VST products for Metal Guitar: HOFA IQ SERIES REVERB V2

Reverb: that quintessential, all important plugin which no musician or sound designer can do without. Otherwise, unless you want your music sounded flat, dry, dull, and sterile, you can’t exactly avoid adding in the natural echoes and reverberations which would exist in a live studio recording but which get taken away when you work on a DAW. That’s where reverb plugins step in. Nevertheless, reverb for metal guitarists generally is a bit more unique and specialised than it is for pop or the lighter forms of rock. That’s because the complex riffs and techniques used in metal as well as the layers of sound and production which go into a heavy track mean that reverb has to be added carefully so as to prevent muddling of the sounds as well as it sounding unnatural.

For metal and rock a large variety of reverb types is also extremely important and this is where the Reverb V2 really comes into it’s own. This reverb plugin has been used on albums by Slipknot and Tool amongst others, and is unique in its wealth of reverb varieties and ability to emulate the classic atmospheric spaces beloved of reverb designers such as churches – but also for its combination of algorithmic reverb with more traditional reverb types in order to combine flexibility with depth of sound. For the complex layered sounds of metal, it is vital that a producer has plenty of options, and this plugin allows up to six different types of reverb to be in use at a time. In combination with compression, modulation, and extreme amounts of creative control over the timings, distance, and quality of different parts of the reverb, this is one of the most in depth and technical – but therefore indispensable – reverbs on the market for metal and rock guitarists.

Specifications: Not listed on site but predecessors ran on both MacOS and Windows in all formats

CHECK PRICE: HOFA IQ SERIES REVERB V2

Conclussions

So there you have it – a mixed, yet versatile and highly worthwhile bag of some of the most creative plugins for rock and metal guitarists of 2022. These plugins will boost your creativity, have you writing completely different riffs to what you are used to, and change the way you think about music.

And if you are on a tight budget, make sure you bookmark our Deals category by clicking here!

Happy sound design!

TOP 5 BEST Guitar VST Plugin products [2022]

Hello and welcome to our run down of the best Guitar VST Plugins. We will go straight to the list, make sure you bookmark them and check our Deals category for a chance to get them at a better price. The order of this list is random and we do recommend you get them all as the overlap is very big.

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: Positive Grid Bias FX 2

Ok, so the praises of this pedalboard have been sung by just about every guitarist and magazine out there. But does it live up to the hype. Absolutely. Beyond the dizzying array of pedals, effects, and other features which it contains – which would take an entire article to fully do justice to – its main draw is its guitar match feature.

What does it do? Essentially it takes the guitar you are using at the time of playing and turns it’s tone and overall sound it into any model of guitar digitally – giving you the ultimate freedom, variety, and flexibility in how you sound. Playing a Fender but always wanted to try a Gibson SG or an Ibanez? For those who love tone – or even major audiophiles who are not guitarists but want to try out different models before buying – this can be one of the most freeing features of an already stellar piece of kit. In addition, it comes in three versions: standard, professional, and elite.

Specs: macOS Sierra 10.12 to Big Sur 11.6.1, Windows 8 or later

CHECK PRICE AND BUY BIAS FX2 BY CLICKING HERE

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: Baby Audio Crystalline Algorithmic Reverb

Baby Audio Crystalline Algorithmic Reverb can be calibrated to the very BPM of your track. How does this work – and why is it so fantastic for guitarists? It means that reverb can recreate almost exactly the echoes and rhythms of soundwaves in real spaces as they bounce off the surroundings in time with your music – or even with a bit of delay.

For genres which rely heavily on rhythm such as the chugging riffs of metal or djent, this can also add that extra oomph to your tracks in order to really make them groove. However, it’s not just for metalheads – this reverb is notably used by Stephen W Taylor, the mix engineer for 80s acts such as Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, and when applied to guitar, it can easily give those lush, far out sounds which were characteristic of the era and which can be achieved either by synths or by a carefully produced 6 string – as well as tackling the nuances of a lot more genres besides.

Specs: Mac OS 7 and up, Windows 7 and up

CHECK PRICE AND BUY CRYSTALLINE BY CLICKING HERE

BEST Guitar Sounds/Loops: Perry Frank’s Ultimate Guitar Sounds Bundle

This one is a little different as it is aimed at producers as opposed to guitarists themselves. Designed for those who either don’t play guitar or don’t have access to a guitar, but who want proper rock, blues, and metal -inspired sounds to add interest and edginess to their tracks, it takes samples and loops from a wide collection of real guitars to provide you with the very best for your current project. What makes it stand out so much? Simply the breadth and depth of the samples, and the way they have been carefully selected so there is something for every piece of sound design which you may desire to add a bit more crunch to. There really isn’t anything else out there like it for those who want the sheer variety of different guitar sounds – as well as the realism and human feeling which comes from sampling real guitar as it is being played. This might be one of the most expensive plugins on the list, but is well worth investing in for those who love guitar beyond simply playing it – and who want to see how it can add to pieces of music far outside the typical genre conventions associated with the instrument.

Specs: As a bundle of samples as opposed to a plugin proper, this is available for practically all operating systems, including lesser-used DAWs such as Reaper. It’s versatility – and the fact that samples can be transferred without the constraints of software incompatibility -mean that in many ways, it is well worth the price.

CHECK PRICE AND BUY THE LOOPS FROM PERRY’S BANDCAMP

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: UJAM Silk

So many plugins out there are designed for electric guitar as opposed to acoustic. Even in physical guitar shops, acoustic guitars are generally further towards the back of the store in comparison to the huge market, which is rock, metal, grunge, blues, indie, and all other genres which use classic Fenders, Gibsons and others. In this way, it’s very rare that you find plugins which are so good at replicating acoustic guitar – and which do so with such attention to the guitar itself.

This isn’t just any acoustic guitar being turned into a virtual instrument – the classic nylon-string sounds heard here come from a model made by a renowned luthier and add just the right amount of softness and feeling to your track – something which can only come from the campfire-ready tones of an acoustic six-string. If you’re looking to go off the beaten track in terms of bringing acoustic guitar to your electric-guitar based sound design, then there is nothing better.

Specs: Note – this plugin is 64 bit only and available for Windows 8 or later as well as MacOS X 10.11 or MacOS 10.12 or later

CHECK PRICE AND BUY SILK BY CLICKING HERE

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: HY – MBMFX2 by HY Plugins

Although not as memorably named as some other plugins on the market, the HY – MBMFX2 is certainly a memorable plugin to use. As guitarists, we are often more oriented towards doing things physically and practically, and the purely digital sphere of DAW-based sound design can occasionally clash with the way we compose music.

That’s where plugins like the FX2 come in handy so much – by detailing every single variable feature in order to break down the process of how it’s sounds are formed, this multi-FX processor lets guitarists get hands on in shaping their sound digitally just the same as when they are using their instruments. Control over tone and sound processing is paramount in this plugin. It’s got seven kinds of FX, five FX per band, ten modulation options, and 22 other randomizable functions.

Specifications: MacOS 10.12 Sierra and up, 64 bit only as AU, VST2 and VST3; Windows 7 or higher as VST2 or VST3 as 32 or 64 bit.

CHECK PRICE AND BUY HY – MBMFX2 BY CLICKING HERE

Conclusions

These are just a handful of the plugins out there which can really make you reconsider how guitar works and how music can be put together, especially through the process of sound design. Though they are all very different from each other, what the designers have shared is a fresh approach in looking at the instrument and adapting it creatively for DAWs – so that the nuances and tone which have made it one of the world’s most popular instruments are properly translated to the digital sphere.

Best portable electronic music studio gear – for production and live acts [2022]

Hello and welcome to our round-up of the best portable music studio gear in 2022, for producing electronic music on the go and also for live music shows. This list is by all means non-final, and will get updated when the market provides us studio-heads with more options. So if you want to go on the road, you found a nice spot that gives you inspiration or even if you don’t have a permanent place to stay, this one is for you.

Below you will find only the greatest portable music production equipment, we bring you the best of the best and the second offer, so don’t expect an all inclusive 15-item list, just our own selection.

Best portable electronic music studio mixer: 1010music blue box (very) compact studio mixer

This one is a no-brainer basically. It is the most compact portable digital audio mixer in existence, and had a very good reception when it was introduced back in 2019. While the 1010music blackbox studio – compact sampling and mixing device does not have the hands on control of a traditional mixer, it packs in all the features.

1010music bluebox provides 6 stereo 3.5 mm TRS inputs. Of course you are not going to get your studio-grade 16, 24 or 32 input mixing console, but if you are travelling, you will not be doing so with your full collection of synths to actually plug in to 24 audio channels. Yes you cannot do the smooth fader movements, often 3-4 at one time, but again going portable is all about compromises.

So yes, there is menu-diving and yes you rely on a touch screen for most of your work with this, but the size in unbeatable and the price is extremely good too. You can record everything on one or more micro-sd cards which is also a very nice feature as it can completely remove your laptop from your portable setup if this is what you want. If you are travelling on a plane and you are limited in weight of your luggage, it is excellent.

It also has two outputs plus headphones, so there is the option to have some outboard processing as well, as it has the option to create bus style routing. Overall, it can be the centre of you portable music studio or live act setup as it also comes equipped with MIDI I/O, a four-band EQ for each channel,

The Bluebox mixer supports USB power so it most definitely can run off an USB power bank, just make sure you get a name-brand one as the cheaper alternatives are not that stable and may end up frying your gear or just cutting the power without saving your work.

For live acts, it might not be the best weapon that you have as it lacks tactile speed of a normal mixing board. This one is more of a set-and-forget device, so you have to be aware of it’s shortcomings.

You can buy the 1010music bluebox mixer on Amazon right here.

You can also check out second hand options for the 1010music bluebox mixer on Reverb by clicking here.

Yamaha MG06x 6-Input Compact Stereo Mixer with Effects

This portable music studio mixer is more for the old-school types that want to have a more hands on approach, and prefer to trade off some space for this (obviously). This Yamaha mixer does not have a screen, but it does have two microphone XLR connections with phantom power, plus two stereo/four mono inputs. It does not have the ability to record on external media, but it offers a metal rugged chassis and you can just use what recording device you can get including a sound card and a laptop; maybe take them from your fixed studio?

Yes while it has it’s drawbacks, it still boosts an extra compact layout and has some rather good built-in effects, two sets of (identical) outputs, phone outputs and high pass filter option on the inputs (to filter out the low 80hz frequencies). While 1010music are a newcomer to the game, Yamaha has been building studio gear for a long time, and knows its way around mixing equipment.

The inputs of the Yamaha MG06x are studio grade and other than the effects, the sound processing is fully analog. It is also good for the money you pay for it, and weight in at just about 2 pounds, it will fit into your bag without problems. Just don’t expect to run this thing off batteries, it will only work with mains level power.

You can buy the Yamaha MG06x 6-input portable music studio mixer on Amazon right here.

You can also check out second hand options for the Yamaha mixer on Reverb by clicking here.

Best portable electronic music studio sampler: 1010music black box (very) compact sampling studio

Again a piece of studio gear from 1010music, who specialises in very portable equipment. The blackbox is a very interesting sampler with extra features. It has a touchscreen that is both bright and generous (given the full unit size).

Again, the purpose is mostly to replace your computer as it features an arranger and song builder completely out of your samples, but you can also use it to capture performances on your $20.000+ synths that never leave the studio and just jam with what you recorded when out and about.

For that purpose it gets the job done with a bit of creativity to spare thanks to the internal effects and presets.. The 1010music blackbox also supports an SD card like the blue box and takes in both mono and stereo samples at 16, 24 and even 32bit. It has a 24 bit DAC so your recordings from the analog world will sound best.

Just like the Bluebox portable music studio mixer, the Blackbox sampler can run off an USB power bank, just make sure you get a good one that provides a stable voltage.

As i/o connectivity goes, you can put one stereo channel in and get three stereo channels out but don’t forget that you can internally mix these analog signals with the samples that are run internally (16 channels). It also supports 16-note polyphony and USB and TRS midi (you will need an adapter if you want to MIDI interface with other traditional 5-pin sockets).

So this portable music studio piece of equipment seems to tick all the boxes, but what it does not have is hands on approach. So while it is good for production, in a live show you might not really want this as it takes a bit of time to do significant changes to your sound and also because of the touchscreen interface, the control might be a bit wonky.

Still we think it has it’s place arround gear-heads and you can buy the 1010music Blackbox sampling studio it by clicking here.

Elektron Model:Samples portable music studio sampler

While the previous sampler is considered by us the best, this is mostly because of the portability factor and also because most people use samplers more as sample players, and just changing the sample recorded from time to time without serious editing in real time.

However, for those that want more control and are willing to sacrifice a bit of portability, there is the Elektron Model:Samples.

Yes we are huge Elektron fans here at idesignsound. These Swedish guys nailed it with their grooveboxes, their workflow is fun and their specialty is flexibility. With the exception of the mixer and effect category, Elektron are present with offerings on all portable music studio gear types presented in this article

The Elektron Model:Samples is considered a very entry-level way of getting familiar with the way that this company handles it’s workflow. Everyone will tell you that they have a bit of a learning curve and that they see things a bit differently. Some will even say that they tend to make user experiences that are overly complex, even for the most trivial of tasks. But we tend to disagree, as all things that they do, they do for flexibility and power.

It is clear to us that with the Model:Samples they tried a bit of simplification. They offer a lot of one-function-per-knob controls which is very rare these days, especially in compact gear. They seem to create a lot of space between these knobs so they are perfectly suited for live performances where you don’t really get great lighting and you may twist the wrong knob if the controls are very close to each other.

The features are great on this product, and we would like to firstly point out the sequencer. Yes, Elektron have probably the best and most powerful sequencing options in the game and have made this their most important trademark. You can record live, you can program changes of parameters in each step, you can have odd sequencing times and you can have probabilities and micro-timing settings too. This is basically standard for this company, and the Model:Samples makes no exception. Then, you have the six velocity sensitive pads to get finger drumming, the retrigger and the stereo effects, all very useful.

While the sampling and sound engine is limited, this is to be expected as the company offers more products with a higher price tag and better sampling features. Let’s remember that this is an entry level product and that sampling is mostly just sample playback.

You can buy the Elektron Model:Samples portable music studio sampler from Reverb by clicking on this link.

Best portable electronic music studio polyphonic synth: Elektron Analog4

Ok, now we get deep and dirty with the Elektron offerings. While the previous product we discussed, the Model:Samples was considered an over-simplification, the Analog4 ticks all the boxes of the Elektron not-so-beginner-friendly way. The Analog4 is an excellent sounding and extremely versatile synth. Most people swear by it in every live show, although some consider the oscillators and sound engine to be a little thin. We personally disagree, and we have alywas enjoyed the sound that you can get with an Analog4.

This is mostly because of the complex modulation routings possible with it (basically you can modulate every parameters of the synth) and the waveshaping possibilities (all oscillator wave types can have the pulse wave modulated). There is a very interesting trapezoid wave type, there is partial oscillator sync, there are a lot of envelope shapes to choose from and there is AM. The new MK2 version of the Elektron Analog4 has a redesigned outer shell, it looks very pretty but if you want extreme compactness, you should look for a used MK1 as they have the classic rectangle groovebox shape profile.

The 4 in Analog4 stands for the separate synth channels that this thing can output. This is called multi-timbrality. What this means is that while you are buying one single unit, it is capable of creating four individual and distinct sounds that can have their own sequences and their own modulations (albeit these four distinct channels will be monophonic meaning you can only play one note at a time)

If you don’y want four mono channels but actually need some polyphony, this thing can switch to four-note polyphonic play (so you can do chords with it). The voice routing is extremely flexible and you can have eveything in between (two mono channels, one 2-note poly) including four note unison.

The sequencer on the Analog4 is state of the art, with every possible creative trick at your disposal. There is a lot spoken about the Elektron sequencer, it being an entire subject on its own, so it is important that you actually research this if you plan on buying this product. What is important to say si that with the most recent patches applied, you can even send the sequencer notes via MIDI to other gear and have the Analog4 as a midi brain, sending notes to the other compact equipment that does not have a means of inputting notes.

There are three stereo effects on board this beast, and there are also two audio inputs so you can use these effects for your other sound generators. The delay shines and you can sync it via MIDI too. Speaking of audio inputs, the Analog4 can even work as a sound card via USB, getting two mono channels of sound in your computer or getting two mono channels of sound from your computer in the analog realm. The converters on this are 48khz-24bit.

You can buy the Elektron Analog4 MK2 from this link as new on Amazon.

You can also check the Analog4 MK2 as second hand on Reverb by clicking here.

Last but not least, you can also try the older Elektron Analog4 MK1 as it is cheaper and somewhat similar. You can explore Reverb options for the MK1 by clicking here.

Oh, and if the Analog4 is up to your taste but not your budget, you can also check the Elektron Digitone – not analog, more compact, more cheap. We will write a review soon!

Moog Minitaur portable monophonic synth

So for those of you that were a bit intimidated by the Analog 4, there is a much more streamlined option: the Moog Minitaur.

Sure, the first thing you will loose is features like a sequencer, polyphony, midi output, sound card features, modulation matrix, pulse width modulation, FM/AM modulation. Now that we got that out of our heads, the Minitaur is the easy way into the Moog Sound. And boy what a sound that is. if you are into bass-heavy music, you can’t go wrong with it. They even call it a “bass” synthesiser, but that is mostly because of the limited feature set.

What you actually get is a two oscillator one lfo synth. The wave shapes are limited; pulse or triangle and there is no way of modulating anything other than the pitch and filter. You do get two ADR/ADS envelopes, glide/portamento and an audio in for either plugging in external gear through the filter and envelopes or (more commonly) creating a feedback loop to thicken the sound.

Although by using a computer and the control VST you will get some added features including a preset management library, in a portable setup that can or can not be achieved. It all depends if you use a computer or not.

Although the computer brings in more flexibility (and midi – USB), we still think that the Minitaur is made to be tweaked-upon. The sound is lush and the filter is what you expect from a Moog.

You can buy the Moog Minitaur on Reverb by clicking here.

Other portable synth mentions

There are some new Synth offerings from 1010music that we covered separately in individual reviews:

1010music fireball – wavetable synth – read our review by clicking here

1010music lemondrop – granular synth – read our review by clicking here

Best portable electronic music studio drum machine: Elektron Analog Rytm

As we said, we are big Elektron fans. Elektron Analog Rytm MK2 is made to be paired with the Analog4 and is Elektron’s take on drum machine, and also a successor to the highly sought-after digital drum machine from the previous generation: the Elektron Machinedrum.

What you get with the Analog Rytm is: basically everything.

You want to do finger drumming like on the MPC – you got it!

You want to use samples – you got it!

You want analog drums – you got it!

You want to modulate as much as possible – you got it!

You want to control other gear with the sequencer and midi – you got it!

You want to output individual tracks – you got it!

You want to process external sounds in each of the total eight tracks – you got it!

Coming it with it’s distinctive sequecing power, individual step settings (p-locks) and all the workflow improvements that this company is known for, the Analog Rytm is an eight-track monster packed in a very compact format.

The sounds it’s analog engine make are world class, you can hear it in most modern productions and if you still don’t like them, you can switch to your own samples without issues. You can even mix both in a single drum kit.

Drum machines are, in our honest oppinion more simpler than synths, so there is not much we can cover about them, the sounds you can either love or hate but the workflow, once you get used to it, will raise your standards for life.

You can buy the Elektron Analog Rytm MK2 here.

You can also check the Analog Rytm MK2 as second hand on Reverb by clicking here.

Last but not least, you can also try the older Elektron Analog Rytm MK1 as it is cheaper and somewhat similar. You can explore Reverb options for the MK1 by clicking here.

If you would rather have something even more compact and more affordable than the Rytm, while still keeping true to the Elektron workflow, you should check out the Elektron Digitakt.

MFB-522 portable drum machine

Yes this is a classic and yes this is discontinued for a long time. Yes this is an 808-clone. But it is by far one of the most compact drum machines ever.

While really very simple and very hard to use, especially if you have big fingers, we still felt the need to mention this tiny piece of 100% analog gear. We just love it.

Yes we love it’s weight and it’s color scheme. We love that it has four outputs given it’s size and that you can really get some punchy sounds out of it. The hi-hats choke, and the kick bounces.

Just throw it in your bag, purse or even your pocket (this thing is tiny) for some instant 808.

What we don’t like is the sequencer. You really should not fiddle with the 522 during a live show, but for a portable music studio you really can’t go wrong.

You can find the 522 on the used market, however in recent times it’s becoming a rare sighting. You can check Reverb by clicking here.

Portable Music Studio Gear: Honorable Mentions

Here we will put other compact studio gear with some notes, they are good just not the go-to for us so they did not have their own article sub-section.

Conclusion

While the portalble music studio equipment landscape is as dynamic as ever, nothing will be able to replace the laptop or even an eurorack modular setup in terms of flexibility. This is why we did not bother to go into effects, because these tend to be one trick ponies and it’s a good idea to actually add effects in the digital realm. We have a great article about using analog effects right here, if you are interested. Most hardware effect units are actually digital inside so the whole analog vs digital battle does not apply to them. There is also something magic when you max in the digital realm and use a laptop, or max the opposite, analog spectrum and get a very multipurpose eurorack module selection. These are maximums for compactness that also allow you maximum flexibility and the most efficient storage space management possible.

While we did make a point into not discussing these two tools – modular and laptops, having a portable music studio for both production and live performances is extremely fun and inspiring. Just breathe in that fresh mountain air and sport a nice solar panel to recharge your batteries (you should have multiple packs of them), while you make your own flavour of music and soak all the inspiration that the outdoors can provide!

BEST MPE VST synths, samplers, effects [2022]

Hey guys! Today we are bringing you an ever-updating list of MPE VST products available right now on the market. While the MPE specification has been with us for quite some time, only recently have we seen very good implementations. Ableton for example has implemented MPE in its DAW called Live in version 11, which was released in 2021. Hardware synths, while not the subject of this article, have even less offerings that support MIDI Polyphonic Expression. While some relatively older hardware products have included MPE support via firmware updates (the modern synths from Dave Smith – Prophet 6 and the collaboration with Tom Oberheim – OB-6), there are more and more new instruments coming out with support out-of-the box.

In this article we will only focus on the virtual side of things, with the VST product marketplace being much more dynamic in terms of MPE support than the hardware counterparts. If you want to know more about MPE in general and also if you want to do some research into MPE devices, this article should do the trick.

So, here we go with our picks on the BEST MPE VST products :

A. MPE VST Synths

Arturia Pigments

Pigments is an excellent VST, equally valuable for novice sound designers and for veterans. The visual representation of the parameters, along with their modulations is astounding, and the possibilities and virtually endless. We have a very nice review of it here, along with a nice article on the latest version (at the time of writing), Pigments 3 here.

You can basically use MPE to alter any parameter that is available, so you can add a lot more expression to your sound offering.

You can buy Arturia Pigments here.

ROLI Equator2

ROLI are the makers of the first ever MPE controller – ROLI Seaboard. While mostly used by keyboard players that want to sound like a guitarist, the Seaboard is actually quite nice to play. So why not pair it with the proper, powerfull sound engine that it deserves? If you want a more in-depth guide and review, check out the excellent article on musicradar here.

The Equator2 is actually great as a stand alone tool as well, as long as you pair it with your favourite MPE controller. It gets stellar reviews and boasts four types of synthesis: Wavetable, Sample-based, Granular and Noise. It also has a lot of emulations of classic subractive synths and the control possibilities are virtually unlimited.

You can buy ROLI Equator2 here.

FXpansion (ROLI) Cypher2

This one, while officially another ROLI product, was developed by FXpansion. We see that all the stores are selling it as FXpansion Cypher2, so this is the name that we are also using. Still, the ROLI badge grants this MPE VST product more weight. Again, getting excellent scores and reviews, this one is an extremely good value proposition.

While not built from the ground up as 100% MPE, it has a lot of MPE compatible presets. The workflow is similar to modular synths, and to be honest it is extremely fun to play with. You can also use MPE to modulate rhythmic controls like the arpeggiator and the sequencer.

You can buy FXpansion Cypher2 here.

U-he HIVE2

U-he is no small name in the VST synth market. We are very happy that they implemented MPE Support on all their main virtual instrument products. This is no under statement, they make some of the best sounding plugins on the market.

While previously, their plugins were notoriously resource hungry, now not only did the machines we use became much more stronger, but the VSTs themselves have been optimised. Still, do manage the poly count as going above 12 voices can kill your CPU.

You can buy U-he HIVE2 here.

U-he Diva

Another U-he superstar, this time in a more Virtual Analog flavour, is Diva. They also updated it so that it has MPE support. Diva is a staple in all studios, mostly because of its superb sound quality. If you like the analog sound that hardware synths produce, you will love Diva. Also, there are a lot of under the hood things that make it stand out of the crowd.

Three oscillator goodness! Again, while in the past Diva was known to hog even the most expensive CPUs, today this issue is mostly resolved due to optimisations to the product. Also, note that there are a lot of nice presets available right now for Diva, that could use a bit of expressive play made possible by MPE.

You can buy U-he Diva here.

U-he Repro-1

Again coming to the land of software emulations of the analog synth sound, Repro is U-he’s line of Sequencial/Dave Smith Instruments Prophet line of instruments. Again, updated to support full, per-note expressive play with MPE. This one is either hit or miss, if you want the Prophet sound then yes this is for you, but if you already have a hardware Prophet synth (especially if you have the Prophet 6 which has received the MPE treatment via firmware update) or another emulation then there is no point in getting this.

Specifically, the Repro 1 is actually emulating the monophonic line of Prophets, mimicking the Pro-1 and to some extent the DSI Mopho.

U-he Repro-5

This is basically almost the same thing, but with a polyphonic dimmension to it. Sure, the sound is a bit different because it imitates a different line of gear, the polyphonic Prophet 5, Prophet 6, the Rev-2 and to some extent the DSI Tetra. Still great with MPE, but there is no point in getting this if you already have access to the sound it emulates.

You can buy U-he Repro (which contains Repro-1 and Repro-5) here.

U-he Bazille

You may have noticed that indeed U-he updated all their flagships to support MPE, with enhancements coming everyday. Bazille, for those that don’t know, is their modular-like synth approach. Here, MPE shines due to the sheer parameter tweaks and combinations possible. Just assign, and use.

MPE and real. hardware modular synths don’t really work well because polyphony in modular is extremely difficult to achieve in the way it works with regular synths. Still, if you want very deep sound design, you should give Bazille + MPE a chance.

You can buy U-he Bazille here.

B. MPE VST Samplers

Audio Modelling SWAM

Going into the composer and traditional sound design, SWAM is a collection of sample-based (well, actually physical-modelled sound but let’s just call it sample-based for the sake of simplicity) plugins replicating real acoustic instruments. MPE is a huge added touch, because like actual musical instruments, you get to imprint your own play style and technique to actually sound unique. If this is your cup of tea, you can check out the extremely detailed review below:

Audio Modelling SWAM includes strings, brass, and other acoutstic instruments and comes in an extremely diversified product line-up.

You can buy Audio Modelling SWAM here.

ROLI Studio

For those that want the MPE collection (and not only the MPE sounds) from ROLI but don’t need the full customisation that can be achieved by Cypher2 and Equator2 (discussed above in this article), ROLI were kind enough to give you a sample-based variant. Equally useful if you are looking for MPE on a budget.

With a huge collection of 500+ sounds (out of which more than half support MPE), this one is your one-stop shop if you are just getting into the world of Midi Polyphonic Expression sound design.

You can buy ROLI Studio right here.

Audio Damange Quanta

This MPE VST is a granular synth, so it is more sampler than synthesiser. Yes, you can do a lot of things with it, probably more than you can do with a regular subtractive, but still the source sound is based on samples so it fits in section B of our article on expressive plugins.

As with most granular synths, they encourage a rather “wild” approach, never “mild”. Experimentation is key with Quanta as well, and the fact that it supports MPE gives it extra edge over other plugins.

You can buy Audio Damage Quanta here.

While in no way a full list, this article shines the spotlight on which MPE compatible plugin is actually great to use. There are other offers of course that did not make our list, and also there is the possibility to setup other VST products to work with MPE signals, but we will discuss this in another article.

The Best Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Reviewed and Compared [2022]

So you are starting your channel and are in the market for the BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube. Starting your own media outlet feels very nice, but not having the best gear can really ruin your day. Follow us further and we will guide you to get the best gear for your needs, without breaking the bank.

Editor’s note: This list is always updated to always reflect the status of the market, so make sure you bookmark it and come back for your future purchases.

You are going to need a couple of things, a good microphone, a great microphone arm, a sound card and a good computer that allows you to also record video on top of your microphone and voice. You should never overlook the basic stuff, like cables, internet connection and software.

The best thing about microphones for podcasts and youtube is that there are a lot of choices for you in the market right now. This niche is no longer narrow and expensive, and there are even some microphones that run on USB so you don’t need a sound card. We picked a winner for best performance and one for best value. Both our winners only have the USB audio option, so if you want a better sounding piece of hardware, be prepared to also pay for a sound card. If you are on a laptop and prefer to be on the move, then get an USB-only microphone as the value is extremely good.

Note: if you are on a mobile device, scroll left and right in the table to see all the entries, and up and down in the cells to see all the content.

Product Name Main Features Our Rating Price
Editor’s BEST Choice
Blue Yeti USB Microphone
– USB Only
– Excellent build quality
– Versatile microphone
– Small footprint
– Does not need arm
9.4 100$ – 150$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Editor’s VALUE Choice
Blue Snowball USB Microphone
– Does not need arm
– USB only
– Mini stand included
– Choose your own color
8.9 50$ – 100$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Audio Tehnica AT2020
– Accessible studio quality
– Very correct sound reproduction
– XLR/Audio connection only
– Does NOT come with XLR Cable
9.4 150$ – 200$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Shure MV7
– Built in Headphone Output
– May be too expensive for what you need
– Never needs an upgrade
– A lot of software control for it
9.8 Under 300$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Presonus Dynamic Broadcast/Podcast Microphone
– Made for podcasts
– Interesting design
– XLR/Audio connection only
– Good bang for buck
9.0 100$ – 150$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE

Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – market overview

Over the last few years or so, we’ve seen the rise of famous YouTubers and it seems that many other people are trying their luck in this field. They, or at least the ones that aspire for greatness should be using good microphones in order to sound great, especially on headphones where a bad quality microphone can simply ruin the viewer’s overall experience. Especially true for podcasts and content where only the voice is heard.

We have rounded up our own little Top 5 of aspiring products for the title of BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube. We have a varied selection, ranging in the 50$ to 300$, and all products can be found on amazon.com. Our overall winner is a flexible, trusted solution that sends audio signal straight to the computer via USB. If you want more sound quality though, you will have to go with an XLR connection and a sound card. But if you are travelling for interviews or just don’t have the space, an USB connection only microphone could be more attractive.

Luckily, we have an article on the BEST Sound card for Podcasts and Youtube here.

#1 BEST USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Blue Yeti USB Microphone

After much deliberating, we’ve decided to award the title of BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube to the Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Yes, you will say that it is standard but it is there for a reason. We like the Blue Yeti product because it has USB audio, so you get to cut a lot of the costs associated with your podcast or youtube channel, that is has a very small footprint and that you don’t need a stand for it.

The microphone is extremely easy to use and sounds great because of the three condenser capsules it has. The microphone just sits neatly on your desk and captures your voice in good isolation. But if you also want to capture some background sound for any reason, you can have it do this as-well due to the shape selection switch.

The Blue Yeti USB Microphone has a headphone output and volume control on the front.

This microphone has four mic type patterns, depending on the way you want it to capture sound: Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8 and Stereo. Cardioid is recommended for just recording your voice, but if you want to delve deeper or require also ambient sound or effects, you can use it to capture more with ease.

#2 BEST Value USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Blue Snowball USB Microphone

This is somewhat of a cheaper product if you don’t feel like investing a lot of capital in great microphone right away, and want to try the waters first and see if you like doing podcasts or Youtube content. The Blue Snowball is the younger, smaller brother of the Yeti microphone as both products are made by same company.

Again, we have an USB-only audio connection. Fitting for simple setups, with limited budgets. Unfortunately, the DAC (the component that translates analog sound vibrating through the air into digital signal for your computer to process) is integrated into this cheap microphone. You don’t have the option to upgrade the DAC like you would a sound card so you are stuck with average sound quality.

The Blue Snowball Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube shines in the value department, you pay a small entry price into the world of content creation and you honestly get a lot for this cost.

Just like the Blue Yeti USB Microphone, the Snowball also has a selection of geometric modes, but sadly the “stere” one is missing. And if lighting is your thing, you can choose from up to six color styles with the brushed aluminium variant. If you don’t want vibrant coloring and are going for a more professional, refrained look, try the “Textured White” or “Gloss Black” finish.

XLR connection vs. USB connection

And now we would like to move to the professional segment. These microphones require a sound card with an XLR socket to function, they also require phantom power (supplied by the sound card). But having these things means actually means that there is more space in the microphone for actual sound components.

XLR connected Microphones for Podcasts and Youtube are always a better choice than USB ones.

This is because instead of having a DAC and a power supply built in (so it can take power and send direct digital messages to USB), they offload this task to the sound card so that they can pack a much better sound quality puch.

The downside is that you also need something to plug them into via XLR connection. This secondary device captures the analog sound signal from the microphone and transforms it into digital data for the computer to read. That is what the sound card does, and this is why you pay for it.

XLR connected Microphones and their soundcards cost way more than the USB option.

Still, these types of content creation microphones are very relevant to those that need sound quality, especially if you also create sound that is not voice based for your content and thus use instruments that you plug into your sound card as-well.

#3 XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Audio Tehnica AT2020

This one is the first XLR product on our list. It represents a mid-range condenser microphone pretty well. We would always recommend this one as an entry level XLR microphone because it will introduce you pretty well to the dynamic nature of voice recordings. You will be able to sound more dramatic or more mellow depending on your content.

For this market segment we decided to award the Audio Tehnica AT2020 the title of BEST Value XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube.

The battle was with another Audio Tehnica product that is a bit more expensive, the AT2035. We have a whole article about the AT2035 vs AT2020 them here. The article also explains the XLR standard to some extent, so you can understand analog sound specifications.

#4 USB+XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Shure MV7

This one marks the entry into the high end market space. If you are here, you know what you want and you can specify it. The Shure MV7 is a mixed connection type microphone, it will take USB or XLR depending on your label.

It is fully advised that you if you can spare the money and don’t have a sound-card yet, get the Shure MV7 and use it on USB until you can afford it.

The specifications of this microphone look very good, and there are also a lot of “handling” features like an integraded headphone output, panel touch controls and the software suite you can use to process the sound on a desktop or laptop further. Imagine that this is three times more expensive that the BEST USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube, but believe us, it is worth it. We cannot recommend an upgrade mic to the Shure MV7 that doesn’t cost more than 1000$.

#5 XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Presonus Dynamic Vocal Microphone

And we had to have a Dynamic microphone in our top because sometimes you don’t have the best studio out there and you want something that can just work in any conditions.

The Presonus Dynamic Vocal Microphone for Broadcasting and Podcasts is a budget XLR-only option that can deliver. Sure, it will lack mostly all the features that the 300$ option puts on the table, but at least sound quality is good.

We can recommend this microphone for content creators that already have a sound card for other projects, and want to describe their projects with a microphone. Just pay a small fee for this microphone, plug it into your sound card and start creating.

Final Thoughts on Microphone Choice

As you can see, the microphone market is very mature and options abound in 2022. Still, we stick to our internal way of thought, and would recommend an USB option if you want to start your channel pretty fast and don’t know how to operate audio equipment. We have provided two choices here.

If instead you know how to record audio and have a soundcard, we would recommend the high end or the budget option for XLR Connections.

Still, there is a third way, if you know how to record sound, but don’t have a sound card yet, buy the Shure MV7 since it has both XLR and USB.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

Amplitube vs Guitar Rig – a detailed comparison

As any guitar player knows, Guitar Rig and Amplitube are undoubtedly two of the most famous and popular guitar emulators available. They’re the best at what they do, but which one is actually THE BEST?

We have updated our article in light of the recent Amplitube 5 release, available on IK Multimedia’s website. Comparing to Amplitube 4, this one has been upgraded user experience department, being by far much more user friendly. It now suports Retina-displays and the GUI is fully-scalable. Also, in the new department you now have the option to do parallel effects, with the addition of the dry/wet control and a lot more devices to play with.

For those interested in an upgrade path from Amplitube 4 to 5, here is a sheet from IK Multimedia, explaining the differences and also listing the contents of the Amplitube 5 package.

And if you are interested in a music production laptop as well, we have an updated comparison article right here for you.

Today we’re going to talk at length about the differences and similarities between Amplitube and Guitar Rig, their pros and cons, features, specs, and ultimately decide which platform offers bigger and better benefits, so let’s begin with the most recent price, avaialble by clicking these buttons:

To be fair, we will compare Amplitube 5 to the “PRO” version of Guitar Rig – because the free version is in a league of it’s own. Sadly there is no free entry point to Amplitube, so we have to have an apples-to-apples comparison.

Guitar Rig 6 Amps

For the lack of better words, the selection of amps, cabinets, and effects stacked into the Guitar rig is absolutely incredible. Of course, its eclecticism and versatility mainly depends on which package you’ve opted for, but even the factory Guitar Rig 6 Player is better-rounded than the vast majority if boutique guitar emulators.

You’ll be able to choose between some of the iconic amps, such as Hot Plex, Citrus, Tweed Delight, Jazz Amp, Hot Solo+, and many others, although the bulk of these presets are reserved for Guitar Rig 6 Pro users.

The newest additions (in comparison to the Guitar Rig 5 Pro) are the Chicago, Bass Invader, and the Fire Breather amps, all of which bring brand-new and highly unique features to the table.

Overall, Guitar Rig offers surprisingly authentic, great-sounding amps. We have a full review of Guitar Rig 6 available by clicking right here!

Amplitube 5 Amps

Amplitube’s selection of amps is perfect for literally all kinds of music styles and subgenres. The Standard Amplitube 5 package has 34 devices while the MAX version has a whopping 107 items.

You’ll be able to use five British Stack amps, including Brit 8000 and Brit 9000, the Red Pig, Brit Valve, the Brit Silver, two American Tube amps, as well as a solid-state Bass preamp. The standard edition of Amplitube 5

If you want the full list of devices available, IK Multimedia has created this sheet, which also compares Amplitube 5 with the previous version. We have a full and honest review of Amplitube 5, you can read it by clicking here!

These amps work wonders regardless of whether you’re looking for a poppy sound, a fuzzed jazzy tone, or a heavily distorted metal timbre. However, Guitar Rig’s selection of amps is just slightly broader.

Guitar Rig 6 Cabinets

Guitar Rig 6 offers matched cabinets for their amps, which is generally pretty great. Furthermore, you’ll be able to make great use of the Control room cabinets & mics features if you’ve upgraded to Guitar Rig 6 Pro.

However, the downside here is that you won’t be able to mix and match ‘unmatched’ cabinets like you would with Amplitube.

Amplitube Cabinets

As far as cabinets go, Amplitube 5 offers 27 models, while the MAX version comes equipped with a HUGE ARRAY of 101, including six 4 by 12s (matching the amps), one 1 by 12 Open Vintage cab, a 2 by 12 Closed Vintage cab, and a 1 by 15 Bass Vintage cabinet.

While Guitar Rig had the upper hand in terms of the amp selection, Amplitube does a bit better job in the realm of cabinets, offering more than twice as many models and presets.

In a nutshell, this is more than you’ll need to capture the sonic essence of the recognizable sounds of guitar heroes with ease.

Guitar Rig 6 Effects

There are almost more guitar effects aboard the Guitar Rig 6 platform than can be counted, starting with five delays (Twin, Delay Man, Psyche Delay, Quad Delay and Tape Echo), 12 Distortions (Fuzz, MeZone, Sledgehammer, Gain & Treble boosters, Cat, Demon, Skreamer and more), 10 Dynamic effects, 5 EQs, 7 filters, 8 modulation effects, 3 Pitch effects, 9 reverbs, and three ‘Special’ effects (Resochord, Ring Modulator and Grain Delay).

Barely a dozen of these effects are available as factory presets, though, which means that more than half of aforementioned guitar effect models are only available with the Guitar Rig 6 Pro package. We have a full review of Guitar Rig 6 available by clicking right here!

Amplitube Effects

The Amplitube simulator offers 10 different stompbox models, including choruses, flangers, delays, wahs, diode overdrives, volume pedals, graphic equalizers, compressors, tremolos, and acoustic simulators. With the new Amplitube 5 version you can run them in paralel with the dry/wet setting.

All of these effects are taken from actual analogue effect pedals and sound as original and authentic as can be. The same list of items contains an inventory of all the stomp effects contained. We have a full and honest review of Amplitube 5, you can read it by clicking here!

The good and the bad of Guitar Rig 6

Basically, Guitar Rig 6 is free to download, which is a massive benefit in itself. However, the factory presets selection is modest, to say the very least, which means that it’s a pretty basic software with relatively poor versatility if you don’t upgrade to the ‘Pro’ version at some point.

Let’s discuss the positives and negatives of Guitar Rig 6 PRO:

Pros:

  • Decently affordable upgrade to Guitar Rig 6 free
  • Exceptional range of guitar amps
  • Quality analogue bass amp
  • Authentic sounding tools, models and presets
  • Unparalleled selection of effects
  • Decently easy to use, even by beginners

Cons:

  • The basic (free) package is not overly versatile
  • Difficult to mix and match cabinets
  • Almost no effect pedals and stompboxes to speak of in the free package

The good and the bad of Amplitube

Amplitube is decently approachable guitar software that packs a hefty selection of stompboxes, amplifiers, cabinets, speakers, microphones, effects, and rack units. With the new update to Amplitube 5, the user interface is extremely well built, scalable and looks great on Apple devices. We have a full and honest review of Amplitube 5, you can read it by clicking here!

Obviously, it’s more expensive than the (free) Guitar Rig 6, but it is well worth the buck considering how beginner-friendly and eclectic it is. Some of the highlighted advantages and disadvantages of Amplitube are:

Pros:

  • Highly intuitive interface
  • Excellent selection of stompbox effects, amplifiers, cabinets and microphones
  • Several rack effects and speakers
  • Onboard tuners
  • Constantly expanding roster of amps and effects
  • Great for beginners and seasoned veterans alike

Cons:

  • Not available for free, although demo can be downloaded free of charge

Conclusion

The specs, features, and UI were some of the most notable parameters we took into consideration when comparing the performance of Amplitube and Guitar Rig.

Even though these guitar simulator programs are completely different, they actually do have a lot in common. Both programs are laden with a myriad of top-quality amps and effects, and both actually sound extraordinarily great.

Be it as it may, Guitar Rig tends to do a bit better only because there is a free version to which Amplitube cannot compete. Overall, Guitar Rig offers surprisingly authentic, great-sounding amps. We have a full review of Guitar Rig 6 available by clicking right here!

Without cutting Amplitube’s worth short, it’s amazing software that has enormous potential to usurp Guitar Rig’s throne in near future.

Best FM Synth VST- All budgets included [2022]

Frequency modulators (FM) synths are rapidly gaining popularity among musicians, DJs, and producers alike. Also, people that generally do sound design are much into FM these days.

These little software-based gadgets are devices that can be used to bridge various sonic gaps and obstacles, creating analogue-like sounds from scratch.

It’s only natural for aspiring players and performers to search for the best synths to use, and if so, we’ve got you covered.

Today we’re going to discuss some of the best FM synths on the market, starting with:

FM8

Native Instruments are among the biggest names in department of software electronics, so it’s quite obvious why we’ve decided to go with their flagship FM8 as our opener pick.

Although pricey, this FM synth program is by far one of the most versatile all-encompassing plugins that this brand has released so far, casting a long shade over its predecessors.

This is a fully digital VST that offers a total of 960 presets, each boasting crystal clear and remarkably authentic FM sounds. Furthermore, this software also packs a robust matrix platform, a dedicated arpeggiator, and well-rounded envelopes.

Although FM8 has its own patches (and downloadable upgrades), it’s also fully compatible with most external FM hardware devices, allowing you to mix and match different setups into a complete, well-rounded one.

The interface of FM8 is straightforward and plain, characterized by slightly oversized knobs and faders, and a 6-octave configurable keyboard.

While it may appear as a beginner producing program, NI’s FM8 is made by professionals for professionals.

Ableton Operator

The Operator is an integral component of the acclaimed Ableton Suite, and luckily for anyone who’s not using this platform specifically it’s a standalone VST that has only one requirement – Live9 Lite.

It’s substantially cheaper than most VSTs in this category, and it’s also significantly easier to use, mainly because it doesn’t have as many features.

Even though this could be perceived as a con, Operator’s forte is its simplicity.

It features petite, highly customizable sections and is meant as a background plugin that will help you orchestrate different tunes and timbres while working on the tracks simultaneously.

The neat little display takes the centrepiece of the Operator, showing you details regarding the most relevant and important parameters of its performance, such as attack, decay, release, peak, sustain, loop, velocity, waveshape, key, and such.

LFOs and filter sections are modest, to say the very least, but they feature everything you need to come up with unique sonic shapes and tones.

As a matter of fact, these sections can be cut off from the mix in order to preserve some extra CPU and RAM.

Speaking of which, Ableton’s Operator is not as spec-starved as some of its ‘bulkier’ counterparts. It’s not as hard on your computer/laptop’s memory, and you don’t need a fancy, super-strong setup to run it smoothly.

Needless to say, it works best with Ableton’s proprietary gear, but the fact that it’s compatible with external equipment speaks volumes about its versatility.

Bazille

U-He’s Bazille is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the strongest performing modular synthesizer VSTs out there.

Before we delve into its capabilities and specs, it’s important to note that it’s compatible with macOS, Linux, and Windows, which is not something many FM synth tools can boast about.

First things first, the versatility of Bazille is practically unparalleled. It boasts two individual LFOs and four separate oscillators, each boasting their own set of configurable parameters and settings.

The oscillators sport multiple gate and semitone modulation knobs, as well as a dedicated ‘Fractalize’ section that you can use to carve out fresh, new tones and sounds.

You’ll also be able to utilize numerous pink & white noise slots, a simplified (and highly responsive) sequencer, four envelopes, and a huge array of highly customizable filters, including gain, spread, resonance, and many others. On top of everything, it’s actually pretty affordable.

Image-Line Sytrus

If you’re mainly working in Fruity Loops Studio (FL Studio), you may want to take a look at Sytrus. This FM synth was developed by Imagine-Line, the same brand that’s ‘responsible’ for one of the finest beginner-friendly DAWs on the market, and it’s actually available for a free preview via your FL software.

Sytrus is an excellent choice even if you’re using other studio tools and platforms.

It’s based on a wonderfully-designed sound engine and sports six user customizable and fully independent operators, frequency modulators, ring modulators, partial-harmonic editors, a massive array of EQ sliders and knobs, and more importantly, a comprehensive Matrix that provides a clear overview of active and passive features.

Furthermore, this VST offers three fully independent filters; speaking of which, there are thirteen types of filters as well as five cutoff-slope features.

Another remarkably interesting feature of the Sytrus is the built-in waveshaper, although most people will probably be more thrilled to utilize the shapes provided by the enormous sample library.

There are a couple of things we didn’t like as much about it, though; namely, it’s slightly harder to use than an average FM synth VST, and some of its features are available exclusively via FL Studio.

Even so, you’ll have to spend quite a bit of time to find a better-rounded frequency modulator for the buck.

Nemesis

Nemesis is Tone2’s creation, and its performance is far beyond formidable.

One of the main reasons why we’ve decided to pull down the curtains with this plugin is that it offers a completely unique NeoFM feature that takes frequency modulation to a completely different level.

A huge number of tones, sounds, and timbres that Nemesis can create are literally unattainable via different software.

Apart from its uniqueness, we also liked most of its more traditional features, such as thousands of patches, top-shelf sound quality, a very intuitive interface, and the sheer fact that it’s incredibly easy to use.

In essence, this VST is wild, exquisite, and much different in comparison to similar plugins. Even though it’s beginner-friendly, you’ll still need some time to get accustomed to the features it comes supplied with.

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