5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Amp

To get the most out of your amp, it’s good to understand it as a whole. Knowing how to think about music and about your sound is the most important part of working fluidly with your gear. While many musicians want better gear, here are a few hacks, fresh perspectives, and tips which will help you think about your amp differently – meaning you can make do with whatever you have and still have it sound amazing.

Get the Most From Your Amp: Know Your Tone

Every amp is unique. In fact, even with two different models, the condition in which the amp is kept plus other factors such as its age will affect the sound. Therefore, working out what the average tone of your amp is can be a lifesaver. Is it a rich valve amp? Does it tend to be heavy on the top end? If you get your knowledge of these parts worked out, knowing what to change when you dislike a sound becomes really easy.

Things to try: List five things you don’t like about your tone. Then, spend an afternoon or so playing around with your amp to see how and when these quirks vanish. It might be that you hit on the perfect combinations of settings to get rid of that annoying top end which has always bothered you.

Phase 2: Know the Rest of Your Gear

You might just be jamming, but things get complicated when you start adding pedals. Get to know all your gear inside and out. This isn’t just about being good with your gear. It’s about really knowing the ins and outs of everything plus how it connects. That way, you can separate what piece of kit is affecting which aspects of your sound. Ultimately, it also takes into account parts of your guitar such as the pickup switch and tone knobs. These can really affect the sound coming out of your amp. There’s actually a lot the guitarist needs to take into account to influence the ultimate sound. Being able to separate each piece of kit is key in order to craft the sound you want. 

Things to try: Think of every aspect of your gear, from your pickups to any pedals you have. Then, try improvising a guitar solo while varying each aspect and notice how the sound changes. This can help you tune your ear to all the nuances.

Understand Your Options – And How they Effect Each Other

This gets more into the nitty gritty of your amp itself. Most amps have a couple of tone knobs and a dial for distortion. Some brands such as Marshall geared more towards certain genres of music. Realise that distortion on one amp will sound very different to distortion on another. This might sound obvious, but this is one mistake beginners tend to make before they have found their sound. This fallacy is to treat every amp like an average fender or orange amp. Some amps also have delay and reverb. These can come in handy depending on the room you’re in. A room with a lot of soft furnishings won’t have the natural echoes you might desire when recording.

No option on an amp works in isolation. Cranking up both the distortion and the reverb at the same time can be overwhelming. However, another common first-time habit is to simply keep adding more effects when your sound doesn’t satisfy you. Instead, learning how all dials on your amp affect each other means you can achieve the desired sound with precision.

Things to try: In the same way your DAW allows you to save presets, once you find the perfect combination of settings on your amp, take a photo for future reference. You might be surprised how much of a lifesaver knowing your sweet spot on your amp can be in the stress before a gig!

Get the Most From Your Amp in the Studio: Know How to Record

It goes without saying that recording as opposed to playing live or just jamming takes some specialist know-how. However, the settings you need will be very different to those you want live. As a result, the options you use will change if you’re going from a recording session to a live gig. Keeping track of this means eventually you will spot patterns. Therefore, transitioning from one to the other will be very easy. It also gives you the subconscious know-how to create news settings for certain sounds and places. 

Things to try: The studio can be daunting. Research some of the gear you’re using beforehand. Does it favour rich, analogue amps? Taking this into account, mess around with your amp to see how you could adapt your typical settings to the quirks of recording.

When Things Seem Tough: Work With What You’ve Got

You may dream of having a huge Marshall stack, but with your setup, it’s probably not realistic. However, it can be very satisfying to work with what you’ve got in terms of recreating sounds. You may not sound like Dave Grohl, but if you really get to know your amp, you can fake it. Copy your favourite artists, listen to their interviews, and learn what settings they use. Then, find the closest approximation on your own amp. This will also help show you the difference between your gear and other people’s. And with this kind of experimentation in context, you will develop a broad, holistic overview of how sound works. In the end, this is much more useful than a narrow set of skills for your studio only. 

Things to try: Try restricting yourself. After all, tone is in the fingers. If you only allowed yourself to use the gain knob without touching the rest of your amp, what creative possibilities might you be forced to unlock?

Final Thoughts

Whilst these aren’t hard and fast rules, these hacks can help you understand how to work with your gear as opposed to simply getting it to work for you. It sometimes can sound a bit unusual, but the best musicians treat their music like a parallel world where they can really get into creative flow. Understanding how every aspect affects the overall result is the first step to getting that world to really fit together. As a result, these tips are the first step to thinking differently about your playing.

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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/

Best Software for Guitar Loops 2022: How to Get Started with Looping

There’s no easy way of classifying the best software for making guitar loops. This handy list will guide you through some of the most well-known DAWs. It also includes hidden gem apps and plugins to get you everything you need in terms of guitar looping. Read on to find out more.

Mobius: Best Free Software for Guitar Loops

Mobius is a fantastic free plugin. It’s really got everything needed for anything you might want to experiment with. Although the website suggests using a MIDI keyboard, you can actually adapt it for guitar too. Mobius uses samples. Therefore, it’s easy for a guitarist to quickly record a lick or riff and modify it to their heart’s desire. In this way, it helps cross the threshold between classic guitar playing and altering their sound with production.

Mobius has an interface which is clean and easy to decipher. The designers have laid all different options across the top. And, with only two colours, black and icy purple, it’s not too complicated to look at. With eight different channels for audio recordings, you can layer loops and see how they interact. Mobius strips its technological features back to the basics. It has options to record, overdub, reverse, and speed control, but this also forces guitarists to become more creative. You can download Mobius by clicking here and opening their own website.

Best Software for Guitar Loops if you already own Ableton Live: Looper – built in Ableton effect

Everyone’s heard of Ableton Live, but it would be a crime not to include it on this list. Ableton’s live mode allows musicians to break out of the constraints of a timeline and edit things holistically. This is great for musicians who don’t compose in a linear way. It also helps get a broader overview of your track and how loops fit into it.

So why is Ableton so great and why does it deserve a place on this list? Ultimately it is highly flexible and offers a unique position between analogue and digital. Its unique pad-based play-station means multiple loops can be played over the top of each other. Instruments can also be looped live in this way.

Ableton has a complex system of add-ons and upgrades. However, the plus of this is that it allows musicians to choose exactly the things they need and nothing more. However, Live 11 intro begins at 99 USD and requires Windows 10 or higher, or MacOS 10.13 to 12.

Loop Studio: Best for On the Go

On the surface, compared to some of the options on this list, Microsoft’s Loop Studio isn’t much. This app, available for handheld devices only, strips things really down to the basics. It has a clean and simple layout with nicely designed square pads and tracks to sort out your samples. It also has the option to loop both pre-recorded instruments and to record directly into your phone.

So why does Loop Studio make the list? Loop Studio is exactly what you want on your phone whether you’re in a jam session and need to capture a particular moment. That way, you can see how it sounds in various forms – it’s also perfect for when you’re on the go or simply don’t have the time to sit down at a computer or with more complex software.

Loop Studio is a perfect place to find your sound and store ideas. In this way, it works in a similar manner to Apple’s voice notes feature. For such a simple app, it really does a lot. For this, it has deserved a rightful place on this list.

FL Studio: One of the Best DAWs for Guitar Loops

Like Ableton, almost everyone has heard of FrootyLoops studio. So, what’s the difference between them in terms of looping software and which is better for guitarists? Many find they both lend themselves more to electronic music. However, because of this, they excel at making looping easy to master. As a result, both FL Studio and Ableton deserve a place on the list. However, how do they really compare?

For the purpose of guitar loops at least, FL Studio is more like a traditional DAW. Yet FL Studio really comes into it’s own when you investigate the guitar loops packs it has. Depending on your preference, these can be more creative than those found on Logic. It’s also stellar for combining your guitar loops with some of its beat-making features, and generally offers a creative playground for guitar looping experiments.

LoopyPro: A Futuristic and Highly Intutiive Looper

LoopyPro is easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing bits of software on this list. One bonus point of its appearance is that it allows you to have an overview of everything going on. In addition, the demos on the LoopyPro website easily walk you through how to balance all the different options. It’s really thorough with all this amazing bit of kit has to offer.

This smart app is available for your iOS devices as well as for your macOS computer. LoopyPro may appear at first glance to be more suited to synths and drum pads. However, it works perfectly with riffs, laid-back solos, or additions from your six-string in an otherwise mostly electronic track. In fact, as many YouTube tutorials show, it’s popular with guitarists. It has a great ability to track multiple fiddly licks and riffs. It really lends itself to more complex styles of playing!

As a sampler, sequencer and DAW, in addition, this is actually a really powerful bit of software. It is well worth checking out if you need an alternative to Logic X Pro in favour of something more intuitive.

SooperLooper: An Honourable Mention

We’ve listed SooperLooper as an honourable mention. It’s not necessarily as easy to use or set up as some of the others. It requires JACK, a sound server API which lowers latency in connections between applications. In addition, SooperLooper isn’t available for Windows. Their website actually suggests Mobius (listed first in this article) as a similar alternative for those working on PC.

Nevertheless, SooperLooper is a pretty great loop station. It’s discrete and you can easily keep it as a small window on your desktop. The website does recommend that it works best with hardware in addition, such as MIDI foot-pedals. However, for an already-equipped musician who is confident with both software and hardware, SooperLooper is definitely a candidate. It’s a very unobtrusive loop station, and can quickly become a part of the furniture on your desktop.

Final Thoughts: A Rundown of the Best Software for Guitar Loops

Loop stations and looping software offer a lot of potential both for quick and flexible composition. However, it can be hard to tell which one suits your style of music best. Nevertheless, this list contains some of the best and most easily usable options out there. Now the only thing left is to experiment, play around, and remember to have fun.

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

Find the Perfect Guitar Tone: Using Sound Design to Find your Tone

How do you find the perfect guitar tone? Some say guitar tone is in the fingers. Some say the producer creates a lot of it and some say it’s all about having the right gear. In truth, there is no right or wrong way to achieve tone. What matters is you achieve the tone which is right for your own creative purposes. There might be many ways to do this. You might use multiple ways before you are satisfied with the result. However, this article will show you how to use sound design and plugins to find that perfect tone. It’s a process – even if you start off with something less than perfect.

Guitar Pedal Plugins: An Easy Way to Achieve the Perfect Tone

Most guitarists rightly spend plenty of time focussing on their mastery and command of their instruments. However, to find the perfect guitar tone, it is important to remember that sound design allows us opportunities beyond our analogue gear. You can reach tone beyond your average by using those guitar pedal plugins which come with every DAW. Don’t just experiment with them or use them in the context of a guitar solo. Try deep-diving and really getting to grips with them. This means using them slowly and using them subtly. You can also add them in the background to add tone as opposed to making them the central focus.

In addition, try turning your attention to lesser-used plugins such as soft saturation and multi-FX. You can repurpose pedals such as wah by applying them down low on a single half of a double-tracked riff. This can alter the perception of tone on both tracks. Using pedals as the building blocks of tone as opposed to the focal point can be game-changing. In this way, they can really make you think about how your guitar playing relates to sound design.

Basic FX: Reverb and Delay to Find the Perfect Guitar Tone

Reverb and delay are some of the most basic FX. These apply to either whole tracks or the guitar on its own. Tone doesn’t exist independently of these FX. However, they’re not the kind you can use in order to create tone itself. Instead, they are the kinds of FX which would alter your tone – or at least its perception.

So, how do you take reverb and delay into account when designing your tone? Every good mix has them. For starters, you could use them to emphasise the bits of your tone you want to stand out. You can add reverb to guitar bass notes, or subtle delay on the top end of a riff. This can affect timbre subtly and bring crystal clear highs and rich lows.

If you want to see some reverb products at fair prices, check out pluginboutique.com by clicking here. If you buy something, you really really support us because we get a small kickback. There is really no guitar-specific reverb, all product have their own little vibe and quirk, plus most of them have endless setting possibilities.

Also bear in mind too many FX can smother your tone. Reverb and delay make everything sound better, but often this is only superficial. The best thing is to make sure your guitar sounds great in the first place.

Below you will find the best guide for beginners, it is a long one, but it is comprehensive.

Bringing out the Best in Your Tone: Working With What You’ve Got Already

Ultimately two separate things make up tone. These are the way the musician plays, and then any additions to the timbre. These timbral additions can come from equipment and sound design. As a result, if you don’t know what you’re working with, it might be difficult to get that perfect match. Understanding tone as something you can achieve in multiple ways can help a lot.

The first step is to realise that too many cooks spoil the broth. Often with adding FX for tone, less is more. So how do you know what you need to add? The first step is to identify what you dislike. This could indicate what your natural tone, for whatever reason, is lacking. Does it sound too thin? Maybe you can use sound design to increase the bass frequencies. Does it sound too tinny? There may be some sound in the top end which you can take out with EQ. Changing your tone like this can make you look at the entire finished track in a totally different light. Do you feel like it’s lacking a certain grit, especially if you’re creating a blues or hard rock track?

If you’re recording in a full studio with mic-ed up amps, you might lose some of that perfect sound. This can happen simply due to the space’s natural acoustics. This is where sound design becomes an invaluable tool so that you can easily add in those bits you’ve lost. Overall, starting with a criticial ear allows you the freedom to use sound design as an addition to your natural tone.

How to Tie Everything Together: Tone in the Context of a Finished Track

It’s one thing to know what tone you’re starting with. However, if you really want to find the perfect guitar tone, you may have to modify things within the sound design process. Overall, keeping your tone in line with the rest of a track is something totally different. This is where the mixing and mastering process comes into its own and it really helps to know your gear. Having a good ear for what a mix needs is a huge part of this. If ear training, in general, is something you struggle with, you can check out our article this month. This breaks down the best ear training software on the market as well.

Looking Deeper to Find the Perfect Guitar Tone

You might have the best tone in the world. However, if it’s too overpowering, it won’t sound good within the track. The most important takeaway here is to know separate how your tone sounds when isolated. This helps you balance it with how it sounds within a track.

However, it’s important to distinguish what is and what isn’t what is a tonal issue. Something might be an issue on the master bus or one which requires you to alter a different instrument altogether. You can do this by isolating your track. The best thing is to strike a balance. Your tone should sound great on its own, but also not overpower any other instruments.

Looking to find more ways to improve your skills? Check out the rest of our tutorials over at https://www.idesignsound.com/tutorials/

Final Thoughts

Tone is an elusive quality and it is hard to pinpoint where exactly it comes from. However, finding the perfect guitar tone is not the mysterious alchemy people often make it out to be. Sound design is as much a part of tone as the initial guitar recording. For guitarists, it is crucial not to overlook what you can do in the sound design process. This will ensure your instrument sounds fantastic both on record and live.

Synthesis for Guitarists: How to go from playing guitar to sound design with synths

If you choose to go from playing guitar to using synths in your music, you may think at first that it is a big step. Nevertheless, some similarities between guitar playing and synthesis make synthesis for guitarists much easier. Read on to find out more about these and how you can use them in your own work. This is especially true if you are investigating using synthesis in sound design for the first time.

Synthesis for guitarists is different to synthesis for other musicians. It is a lot easier to go to synthesis from programming beats than it is from playing guitar.. The reason why? When playing guitar, the musician affects tone and timbre with their fingers. Whilst guitar still involves adjusting knobs, there is much more control over tone simply by the guitarist handling the strings. However, guitarists can adapt to synthesis more easily by following a few simple tips. With these, you can easily create the same kind of feeling as your favourite Fender or Gibson.

Synthesis for guitarists: Find Your Tone

As a guitarist, it is likely you pay attention to tone. Tone is that hard to pin down quality which can make the difference between good and bad guitar playing. It is as much about the guitarist themselves as it is about the instrument. Many factors affect tone, from temperature, to air pressure, and the age of the guitar itself. With both analogue and digital synthesis, the musician will gain more control over tone and can remove this random variability.

With synthesis, musicians truly sculpt the exact tone they like, allowing for precision control. This includes variables such as timbre, richness, and depth. However, guitarists who are used to having tone come naturally can find it difficult to adjust. You might find it frustrating to get into the building blocks of sound – especially when you aren’t able to pin down those random, ephemeral moments you get when playing guitar.. Nevertheless, if you find a tone you like and memorise how to achieve it on your synth, everything will go much more smoothly.

Synthesis for guitarists: Choose Your Synth Wisely

For a guitarist, some of the best synths to start off with are analogue synths. This is because they mimic the rich tone you would find on a guitar. Small, portable, and easy-to-use classic analogue synths such as one of the ones by Korg are a good choice for a guitarist who is new to synthesis.

Four brilliant beginner analogue synths for guitarists (and one FM synthesizer)

  • Korg Monologue – The monologue is easy to use, does what it says on the tin, and focusses on lead lines. This monophonic synth is an easy transition to synthesis for guitarists. https://www.korg.com/uk/products/synthesizers/monologue/
  • Moog Minitaur – As one of the cheaper synths from a classic band, this is a bass synth but uses transferrable skills. The Moog Minitaur will give you the opportunity to play with big fat sounds which you can’t achieve on guitar as well. It this plus it’s other features which make it it a welcome addition to what you may be doing already. https://www.moogmusic.com/products/minitaur
  • Korg Microkorg – The Microkorg is another fantastic, small, and portable synth from Korg. The hands on nature and simplicity of this synth makes it ideal for transitioning guitarists. https://www.korg.com/uk/products/synthesizers/microkorg/ It also doubles as a vocoder.
  • Arturia Microfreak Hybrid Synth – As a hybrid synth, this uses a cross between analogue and digital technologies. The Microfreak is a perfect easy way to get used to the basics of synthesis for either of them. https://www.arturia.com/products/hardware-synths/microfreak/overview
  • Elektron Model:Cycles 6-track FM Synth and Groovebox – a small, easy to use synth which creates sounds which are fantastic for solos or riffs. These have much more space-age, ethereal possibilities than analogue synthesis. https://www.elektron.se/jp/modelcycles-explorer

Learn How Synthesis Works from Scratch

If you learn how sound works from the bottom up, you will be able to truly understand your synth. This means you will not only learn how it works, but how music works as a whole. As a result, the learning process will come quicker. You will be able to sculpt sounds to your liking whilst understanding where, how, and why they differ from the guitar.

Try getting technical with your guitar too. Learn exactly how to affect it’s sound with the subtlest things you do, and you will find that you can craft noise more easily. If you understand the roots of music as a whole, you can transfer these skills to almost any instrument. In addition, by specifically learning the details of your exact model of synth, you will become more in tune with it. Synths can have staggering differences between models and each of these inevitably has it’s own characteristics.

Synthesis for guitarists: Find your Flow

Every musician has to find their flow. Neuroscientists identify as the state in which you are playing and time appears to speed up or stand still. This happens as a result of the way music slightly alters the brainwaves. Guitarists who prefer to hold an instrument in their hands might struggle at first to achieve flow with a synth. However, when they learn how synthesis works can quickly program sounds without having to stop and get technical. Then, it is as easy to reach a creative state of mind with your synth as it is with your guitar. The only difference is that your flow state when playing synth may be a little bit different.

Make it Apply to Your Guitar Playing

Synthesis not only creates new sounds but mimics those which already exist. Lead lines and guitar solos are exactly the types of playing which translate really well to synthesis. As a result, an easy way to master a synth is to transfer some of your favourite riffs or soloing patterns to it. Therefore you will see the similarities, differences, and connections between the two instruments. Once you master this, you will be able to move more easily between them.

Synthesis for guitarists: Final Thoughts

Making the transition from guitar to synthesis is as simple as learning their similarities and differences. This means you can avoid too much technical detail, while still understanding how to make sound. At a deeper level, synthesis for guitarists allows you to design textures and timbres beyond those of the guitar. Knowing what sounds you want first is also very important. Once you do, you will find that synthisers can produce sounds which are strikingly similar yet give you have the freedom to craft your own forms of noise. This is a popular and creative way of producing riffs for both instruments. Therefore, knowing where you’re starting and where you want to end up before you move on to anything more synth-specific means you will have the best of both worlds.

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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



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!

All About Tone – Ten Lessons I’ve learnt in using Digital FX to find the perfect sound

Tone is the feeling, the “vibe” that your instrument reproduces, and from a technical point of view it is close to “timbre”. However, it is much more, is is what defines you as an artist and it is something that you never fully consider as finished or final, always improving and expressing your creative identity.

Less is more

It may sound obvious to seasoned professionals, but a common mistake of beginner sound designers is using too many FX and plugins layered on top of each other. Not only can this slow down the processing power of your computer, it can also make your music sound extremely muddy and difficult to distinguish between the different tones, sounds, and even, in extreme cases, instruments.

Separate different sounds

Separating different sounds in the mix means that each one can truly shine on their own. By keeping your distorted guitars at one frequency and your acoustic guitars at another, you ensure that they end up being appreciated for what they are. This may sound like an obvious piece of sound design and production advice; however, it goes deeper and means not just producing cleanly but also mentally separating the distinct qualities of sound within your mix so you can more easily decide what to do with them.

But also learn how they relate to each other

Separating sounds in only one part of this technique, however, by learning how different sounds relate when next to each other, you can decide what plugins to apply and how to position your different tracks. This means understanding that when placed immediately after that slow part, your epic guitar solo might sound completely different than if you put it at the end of the song after the climax.

Balance rich and thin tones

Just like a meal, every song needs balance – for example, those fat, bassy sounds of the analogue-modelled valve amp plugin you just picked up need to be counterbalanced with something to ensure your tone doesn’t get too muddy. Adding another plugin designed to work on the top end of the EQ spectrum such as a phaser or flanger could ensure your track doesn’t become monotonous or too overwhelming.

Ensure your plugins work with your guitar

This can be an easy one to overlook, but your guitar itself is responsible for a lot of your tone, as is how you play it. As sound designers, it is easy to get bogged down in the wealth of plugins and FX out there and easy to get extremely carried away with testing new ones, however, the relationship between your guitar, your interface, and your DAW is just as important to keep in mind. A guitar designed for metal such as an Ibanez will react differently to those fat, bluesy plugins you might be using for some of your slower tracks or guitar solos – especially if you sit somewhere in between genres- as a Les Paul would.

Make sure nothing gets lost in the mastering process

When mastering, it is important to remember that in the process of reaching for a polished song, it is vital not to let the quest for perfection get in the way of a real, human sounding recording. This is especially important for guitarists as whilst specialist production advice exists out there, a lot of the tutorials on how to use DAWs such as Logic X Pro are geared towards pop artists who may not necessarily be looking for a rough and ready sound in the same was as blues, rock, and metal artists might be. Therefore, whilst mastering any track, allow some of the imperfections to shine through, because they are what make each of them have a unique fingerprint.

Mix different instruments according to tone

Have you ever considered the tone of different instruments before you add plugins and FX? Your guitar might have a naturally really clean, bright sound, so adding a valve amp could be a good idea if you want it to sit a bit lower in the mix in order to bulk your track or leave room for other instruments on top. This is just one of the ways you can mix according to tone, and one of the best tricks is to consider your instruments as comparative and understand the before and after of each one – therefore, making heavy use of any mute switches for plugins can be a real-life saver.

Don’t forget to acknowledge the design and makeup of your plugins

This can be one for real lovers of sound design but acknowledging the design and creation process which went into your plugins means that you can understand them better and thus mix and master more cleanly and efficiently. Are you using true-to-life plugins modelled after real amps and FX pedals with all components inside just as exact? Or are you using strongly digitally inspired plugins such as some of the spacier sounds which have developed through plugins designed for the era of DAWs? It makes a difference it then you can know not only how these plugins interact with others technologically, but it will also inspire you to use them in more creative ways once you are more confident with them.

Know what you’re looking for as a result

Knowing your desired results can go a long way towards choosing plugins. Having an overall picture of the track complete with how you want it mixed and mastered as well as arrangement and how this will affect elements such as EQ means that this can enable you to understand how all your creative choices bounce off each other and interact. This can make the mixing and mastering process much easier because it makes you able to see how tracks are put together and taken apart again and how plugins, AUs, VSTs, and other FX come into this. Building a track from the results backwards can be a great exercise in experimenting with gear, and it also allows you to develop an identity for the track as a whole and thus yourself as a sound designer, guitarist, producer, and more.

But also, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. There’s a reason why tracks often have multiple versions including demos, bootlegs, remixes, and radio edits. It can sometimes be hard to identify what a track really needs to feel complete, but this doesn’t matter because with multiple possibilities, you can experiment with your gear to your heart’s content. It can become easy to get carried away with plugins, so why not harness this into something which becomes a creative bonus? You may thank yourself for it in the future when you have more material to draw on or are looking for inspiration for something entirely new.


These are just some ideas which can help on your creative journey as a sound designer – allowing you to think about your musical endeavours differently and not get hung up by the common mistakes and misconceptions which can plague a lot of beginners by using the same deep understanding of your gear which underpins any great piece of sound design.

Inspiration from Analogue – 5 Fantastic Digital FX Inspired Directly By Real World Gear

Nowadays it is as easy as sitting down at a computer to make a good song. Sound design has been democratised with it no longer being necessary to have a full studio to create. However, whilst plugins are important, how you use them is also as significant. And choosing the correct plugins is not simply a matter of picking those which you like the look of or feel would work for your chosen genre. Just as plugin design involves taking something abstract such as a soundwave and combining it with the technology which can alter or modulate it, so does choosing plugins mean some thought is needed about what kind of sounds from real, live studio recordings you want to bring to your DAW. As guitarists, our physical instruments mean we are operating somewhere between digital and analogue even when working with a DAW – and the plugins featured in this article reflect this. Read on to find out this year’s top picks.

Mimicking Analogue Sound: How to Recreate a Full Studio on Your Desktop

Much goes into the process of designing plugins and it is a fine art to translate real life sound from amps and guitars onto a DAW. Some plugins even go as far as to use circuit modelling technology to precisely recreate the components within a physical stompbox or other piece of gear. These plugins below aren’t verbatim copies of real life stompboxes, but they all use creative ways of translating analogue soundwaves to digital FX and are great pieces of gear in themselves. Although roughly arranged by genre here, they are nevertheless all very versatile. Below is some inspiration and the best current FX on the market for those who wish to create studio tone from the comfort of their desktop.

Best For Indie:

PhoenixVerb is a brand-new collaboration between Exponential Audio and iZotope. iZotope was originally founded as a company aimed at musicians as opposed to engineers and so balanced the technicality of its products with easy-to-use interfaces which meant that musicians could simply focus on being creative as opposed to figuring out all of the mechanics of the product.

This shows through in PhoenixVerb’s distinctive dials and frequency display – it also has over 900 presets to help the musician on a time budget but also allows a sound designer to get deeper if desired with independent output controls for attack, tail, and early reflections. The verb’s frequency display is real time responsive to even the smallest changes and Exponential audio have modelled the sound to allow the musician control over every component of a soundwave, allowing for maximum independence and direct connection to the world of real studio sound when mixing and mastering.


Specifications: Runs on Mac OSX Mountain Lion (10.8.5) to Mac OS X Catalina (10.15) and Windows 7 to Windows 10

Price: 99 USD

Best For Blues:

Waves Abbey Road Saturation – Waves Abbey Road Saturation FX plugin would be welcome for all genres, but for the rounded, warm, fuzzy sounds of blues, it is beyond comparison. It’s flexibility allows it to be used for all kind of warm sounds, whatever your niche may be, from rockabilly, blues, pop rock, or simply for adding a bit more warmth and depth to guitar recordings. Waves is modelled of the Abbey Road exclusive patented TG12345 desk distortion and has been dubbed the ‘compander’, compressing inputs and expanding outputs for a super-rich sound. As well as with its REDD distortion, it can be cranked up to add some grit and distortion proper to your heavier sounds or kept in the background adding layers of nuance.


Specifications: Runs on MacOS 10.14.6, 10.15.7, 11.6.2, and 12.3. Also runs on Windows 10 64 bit and Windows 11.

Price: 29.99 USD

Best for Pop and Rock:

Chowdhury DSP – Chow Phaser. Made by independent American FX designer Justin Chowdhury, the Chow Phaser is modelled after a legendary piece of 70s analogue gear – the Schulte Compact Phasing ‘A’. This plugin is designed to have both mono and stereo features and prioritises roughness and warm to create nonlinear, multi-layered waves. The original Schulte Compact Phasing was used by artists as diverse as Kraftwerk, Ritchie Blackmore, and Pink Floyd. It’s interface allows for an incredible amount of fine tuning but it is the way this plugin mimics the warm sounds of the era it was based on that means it really brings the best of both worlds to your FX rack.


Specifications: Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Another great feature is full source code is also available on the designer’s website

Price: Free download from the designer’s website

FabFilter Saturn 2 – This plugin is currently one of the most talked about on the market and it’s modelling after real amps and FX is one of the things which has made it’s warm tone so appealing to many guitarists. The diversity of waveforms allows any musician to tune their FX to their satisfaction. It is also available for a 30-day free trial, meaning that you have plenty of time to test the FX to see which ones work for you before purchase. Saturn 2 also works with tape saturation but comes into its own when used for distortion overall.


Specifications: Windows 7-11 or Vista, MacOS 10.12 or higher (64-bit only)

Price: Free trial for 30 days and then 129 USD as single

Lastly, Krush by Tritik is a fantastic middle ground between the sharp noises of the digital real and the rich, fuzzy tones analogue afficionados look for. It contains both bitcrushing and an extremely flexible modulation centre which expands the number of sounds possible exponentially, enabling you to go from gritty high speed guitar to soft, ballad-ready overdrive. It’s analogue modelled low pass and high pass filters are a make it an unusual but therefore desirable sweet spot between the digital and analogue realms, offering the best of both worlds. Krush sits in a unique position where it can achieve some of the dirtier higher, and sharper sounds which you would expect from a digital VST as well as adding richness and depth from its analogue inspirations.


Specifications: Windows 7 or later and MacOS 10.9 or later

Price: Free

These are just some of the plugins on the market which are inspired heavily by specific analogue technologies – and though they span a wide range of prices and genres, the technology behind them shows how the sound of your favourite studio recordings can be translated to your own work. It’s no easy feat replicating the world of the studio for a DAW, but all these designers have done it extremely well and despite rough guidelines listed here, these plugins are worth investigation for guitarists of every genre and budget.

Your Identity as a Sound Designer: A Quick Cheatsheet for Using Plugins to Find Your Artistic Identity

It’s hard to find your identity as a guitarist. Whilst it may seem as if there are no more legends along the lines of Steve Vai or Eric Clapton, the meaning of being a guitarist is still constantly changing. Now the ease of digital sound design means everyone has access to similar gear, it’s up to the individual to use it creatively in order to convey a unique sound. Read on for how sound design can help do this and quick tips as to developing your own unique sound.

Sound Design Identity: Understand How DAWs Affect Artistic Identity

In the age of analogue, much of an artist’s sonic identity could come from their gear, whether that was a quirky, refurbished guitar, or the amps and cabinets available in the studio. The shape of the room, it’s furnishings, and the number of people present would all have affected the way the finished product turned out. On a DAW, consistent and controlled settings prevent this variability, thus the ability to create a unique sound belongs to the artist themselves. This means when using a DAW sound designers must get creative with adding the things which would come naturally with an analogue recording- layering reverbs, equalising, and mixing and mastering so their sound has just the right amount of distinctiveness – something especially important for guitarists where so much is reliant on tone and feeling to get the musical message across.

Sound Design Identity: Learn From Your Idols

How did your favourite producers, sound designers, or guitarists get to where they are today? None of them would have been perfect from the get go. What separates them from the thousands of guitarists who give up is the fact that they not only continued trying but that they fine-tuned and adapted their creative processes to avoid ever making the same mistakes twice.

As sound designers- whether you have a small bedroom set up and are just starting out or a personal studio and you may be wishing to reinvent your sound, using plugins to experiment with adding and subtracting things from your sound is one way of ensuring all your tracks are unique and carry that distinctive fingerprint which sets them out as yours and yours alone.

Sound Design Identity: Use Reference Tracks

Reference tracks are a heavy part of the production process, but for any sound designer there is always the risk of sounding too much like your inspirations. It can be frustrating when you don’t have access to the same gear as them and you may spend your time in the studio trying to find that perfect sound. The important thing to realise is that any alternatives you choose will mark you out as separate from your influences and therefore give you more of a creative edge. As a result, embracing differences and realising it’s impossible to sound exactly like your idols is one of the best ways forward – it can separate you from the hundreds of other guitarists who get stuck at this stage. Reference tracks are just that – references, and expecting your work to sound exactly like them limits your creative possibilities. Whether a producer or sound designer yourself – or a guitarist working with a team of other creatives – understanding this can be one of the most freeing parts of developing a creative identity.  

Sound Design Identity: Repurpose Plugins and Sounds

Default plugins on DAWs such as Logic are often geared towards some of the most crowd pleasing and popular sounds. This means harking back to the heyday of guitar with rock and hard rock oriented amps which are versatile enough to still be used in modern genres such as indie rock. But what if you want something different? Before shelling out on specialist gear to sound just like your influences, see if repurposing the default plugins on your DAW can achieve similar sounds at a fraction of the price and whilst simultaneously giving your music a distinctive edge. That metal plugin you bought on a whim and have now forgotten about as your band changed direction? Some of the reverb could sound great for one of your darker, moodier tracks, even if it doesn’t strictly fit into the genre.

Think Outside of the Boundaries of Genre

Out of the wealth of plugins available, many are often geared towards specific genres, especially in niches known to sell consistently such as blues. However, these genre labels need not limit you if you truly want to break boundaries a bit. If you’re a rock guitarist, why not use an indie style reverb for a ballad? Or taking that same reverb heavy noise of underground and indie music and using it for experimental or noise music? By looking at your own genre through the eyes of another, you can get a more accurate picture of where you stand within wider sound design and make creative movies which pinpoint your sound yet keep it familiar enough that it can draw in new listeners.

Know What You Need

There is a lot of advice out there on the internet and ultimately every sound designer ha their own way of working. If you haven’t yet found yours, it can be hard to tell what’s relevant. Knowing what you need can bring exponential growth in both your artistic and technical development. Are you a bedroom producer who simply wants some decent reverb to make those low key, soft guitars sound more emotional? Or are you knee deep in technical shred guitar recordings and are looking to ensure every note of a guitar solo shines through? By focusing on what you love, it’s easier to find what you need- and find plugins which really work for you in the process.

Overall, these are just some of the ways in which the process of sound design can help you define a distinctive identity as an artist. By seeing your artistic identity reflected in the plugins you use, waveforms you see, and creative choices which you make, you can further hone and develop your sense of yourself as a musician so that all your work has your own distinctive stamp on it – a compilation of the gear you use and the way you use it in a pattern completely unique to you.

Budget Sound Design Guide: Free Plugins and Alternative DAW Options for All Levels

They biggest myth in sound design is the idea that defining your own sound costs the earth. Not able to afford the most expensive plugins? Want something other than Logic X Pro? Read on for some hidden gems – completely free plugins which are versatile enough to shake up the way you think about sound whilst still being adaptable to most genres.

Budget Sound Design Tool: Peavey Revalver 4

Peavey is one of the oldest and most established amp brands but they have used their past successes as a springboard for new and versatile products. Peavey Revalver 4 is just one example of this and how fine attention to detail pays off to create stellar sound design for absolutely free!

With instrument modelling at the input and tone matching at the output as a result of its finely configured audio cloning technology, the Peavey Revalver 4 is completely true to life and takes its name from valve amplifiers, renowned for giving a deep and rich tone bringing human warmth and sonic touch to your recordings.

Revalver 4 also allows third party plugins, pedals, and VSTs to be added, meaning it is without a doubt one of the more flexible free plugins you can find. Not only does the Revalver 4 meet the needs of audiophiles everywhere with its commitment to mimicking the natural tone of classic Peavey gear. While the amp store provides paid additions, at its basic level, tone cloning, independent mic placement, and the ability to control features by MIDI mean it still has much to offer.

Revalver 4 is available for free download at the following link and works for both Windows and OSX.


Budget Sound Design Tool: Chameleon by Guitar ML

It’s only occasionally you find such a hidden gem in the world of sound design. Whilst most plugin designers seek a competitive edge within the market, honing their skills so they can become the best at what they do, occasionally a designer breaks outside the mould to create something which really has a unique selling point. For a free plug in – and for what it does – Chameleon by Guitar ML is absolutely one of these.

Over the course of a song, the sound created by a guitar is in a state of constant motion, and this is responsible for much of the dynamism of both live music and analogue recordings. Chameleon by Guitar ML has gone one step further than most plugin designers, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a plugin which models three real world samples to create a virtual amp head. This is therefore the ideal plugin for those looking to develop an ear for sonic nuance, with less but richer and deeper options and extreme amounts of control.

Chameleon is available forWindows 7 and up, Mac 10.11 and up, as well as Linux. More information can be found on their website.


Budget Sound Design Tool: Valhalla Supermassive

Valhalla Supermassive is all about reverb, reverb, and more reverb. Named after interstellar phenomena, it’s different settings all conjure up ethereal, spacey sounds which bring a dramatic edge to your sound design.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. For free, there is no reason not to give this plugin a try. Valhalla Supermassive has a clean interface and easy to use controls – perfect for anyone who wants to shake things up without learning too many new skills. Easy to master, it can be used both in moderation to add something subtle or to go all out and drown your guitar in dreamlike, deep space sounds ready to redefine anything from shoegaze to doom metal.

One of the biggest pros of this plugin is the neutrality of the sounds in the first place – they are bold and adaptable to any genre – a stellar plugin at zero cost and with plenty of features to explore.

It’s latest version (1.5.0) is available for both Mac and Windows computers with Intel and Arm features also available for Apple M1. This update sees VST fixes for Studio One and FL Studio as well.


Logic Pro X’s Amp/Pedalboard designer

It is extremely easy to overlook the options which are right there at our fingertips. Most of us graduate from Garageband to Logic X Pro or an alternative DAW very, very early on in our musical careers, often skipping it entirely.

However, for anyone with a Mac, Garageband is a worthwhile feature to investigate because of its availability alone – plus the achievement of working creatively with some of the most default plugins. Logic’s Amp/Pedalboard designer may not have the reviews, renown, finesse, or attention of the rest of what is out there, it’s important not to overlook what it has to offer. The humble pedalboard designer contains amps styled after those by Mesa, Orange, Vox, Marshall, and Fender, plus rare boutique cabinets, seven microphone options, and the ability to reposition the mic at will. Though not as specialist as some other plugins on the market, these generalist options mean it’s literally up to you how you use them – pushing your creativity to new heights.  

Naturally, Pedalboard Designer has been developed for IOS, and comes with Logic, though can be accessed freely on Garageband if you wish to test it before downloading Logic itself.

Reaper: An Alternative, Budget DAW as Worthwhile as Logic

With three hidden-gem, free plugins, and an unconventional option on the list, what about your DAW itself in terms of budget gear? Whilst most producers and sound designers choose to work on macs and use Logic or other popular DAWs such as Ableton, Reaper is an overlooked budget DAW which has a 60 day free trial period and after that costs only $60 for a discounted licence. Whilst commercial licences cost more – at $225 – Reaper is very easy to begin with at a low cost and offers plenty of freedom for deciding whether it is for you or not.

At a cheaper price, Reaper has a pretty mind-boggling range of VSTs and plugins. It’s simplicity and the fact it doesn’t cost the earth makes it great for sound designers on a budget who are happy stretching themselves to adapt to a new piece of software.


Reaper is adaptable, supporting Linux with Intel and Arm, MacOs 10.5-12, and Windows from Windows XP to Windows 11 as well as working with WINE.

These are just some of the budget friendly options on the market, however, with them it is entirely possible to create a sound design setup for a very small amount – one which, when you get to know it, is as useful as any at a higher price or with seemingly more sophisticated gear.

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