The 50 Best VST Plugins (2023)
VST plugins can be powerful tools in a music producer’s arsenal. This list has some of the best plugins available. Whether you’re looking for better music theory understanding, help with audio restoration, or just for exploratory reasons, there’s a plugin on this list for you.
Divided by categories, the following article is a thoughtful attempt at listing the 50 best VST plugins in the world right now. By taking a special look at what makes them unique, and prioritizing sound quality over popularity.
I hope this guide can inspire you to try out some new world-class instruments and effects and stumble upon a few underrated, hidden gems.
- Best Synth VST Plugins
- 1. Spectrasonics Omnisphere
- 2. u-he Diva
- 3. Xfer Records Serum
- 4. D16 Group LuSH-101
- 5. Reveal Sound Spire
- 6. Rob Papen Blue II
- 7. u-he Bazille
- 8. reFX Nexus 4
- 9. TAL-U-NO LX Synth
- Best Drum VST Plugins
- 10. XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
- 11. Steven Slate Drums SSD5
- Best Sampler VST Plugins
- 12. Native Instruments Kontakt 6 Player
- 13. Garritan ARIA Player
- Best Reverb VST Plugins
- 14. ValhallaDSP Valhalla Plate
- 15. Waves TrueVerb
- 16. Eventide Blackhole
- 17. Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle
- Best Delay VST Plugins
- 18. ValhallaDSP Valhalla Delay
- 19. Waves H-Delay
- Best EQ VST Plugins
- 20. FabFilter Pro-Q 3
- 21. Waves Scheps 73
- Best Compressor VST Plugins
- 22. Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor
- 23. FabFilter Pro-MB
- 24. Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A
- 25. Xfer Records OTT
- Best Limiter VST Plugins
- 26. FabFilter Pro-L 2
- 27. Sonnox Oxford Inflator
- Best Mastering VST Plugins
- 28. iZotope Ozone 9
- 29. Brainworx bx_masterdesk
- Best Preamp VST Plugins
- 30. Universal Audio Neve 1073
- 31. Soundtoys Radiator
- Best Distortion VST Plugins
- 32. iZotope Trash 2
- 33. FabFilter Saturn 2
- 34. Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter
- 35. Camel Audio CamelCrusher
- Best Amp VST Plugins
- 36. Positive Grid BIAS Amp 2 Elite
- 37. Waves GTR3 Amps
- Best Pitch Correction VST Plugins
- 38. Melodyne 5 Studio
- 39. Antares Auto-Tune
- 40. Melda Production MAutoPitch
- Best Phase Modulation VST Plugins
- 41. Soundtoys Tremolator
- 42. D16 Group Syntorus 2
- Best Transient Shaper VST Plugins
- 43. Oversampled Pancz
- 44. SPL Transient Designer Plus
- Best Audio Repair VST Plugins
- 45. iZotope RX 9
- 46. Acon Digital Restoration Suite 2
- Best Music Theory VST Plugins
- 47. Scaler 2
- 48. HoRNet SongKey MK4
- Best Music Analysis VST Plugins
- 49. Melda Production MMultiAnalyzer
- 50. Voxengo SPAN
Best Synth VST Plugins
1. Spectrasonics Omnisphere
Spectrasonics Omnisphere is a beastly virtual synth that will take up at least 60 GB of disk storage space—but that's the only downside. Whether you're composing soundtracks, working on progressive electronic songs, or simply making hip-hop beats, Omnisphere is a game-changing music-making tool every producer should have in their arsenal.
2. u-he Diva
Diva is great for many reasons: it offers different filter features, includes multiple playback modes, hosts .tun files (ideal for microtonal composition), and comes with two high-quality LFO modulators. But what makes it truly stand out against the competition is the way it sounds. Diva is as close to a real analog synth as present-day VSTs go.
3. Xfer Records Serum
What makes Serum great is that it continues to sound bigger, louder, and more powerful than pretty much any VST instrument out there. In addition, it's easy to use; it's perfect for beginners and professionals alike, and its interface (centered around its versatile modulation features) is as intuitive as it is inspiring.
4. D16 Group LuSH-101
LuSH-101 comes with all the classic controls and features of the original Roland SH-101 and throws in a few extras (including some high-quality effects) just for the fun of it. More than a mere copy of a beloved synth, it's a powerhouse of a music-making tool that delivers on its promise.
5. Reveal Sound Spire
Spire is the perfect VST for finding that special sound that needs to cut through a cluttered mix. It's modern, easy to use, and just fun to mess around with. If you're making synth-driven pop music (electropop, hyperpop, etc.) then Spire is a must-have synth. If you're making anything else, it still wouldn't hurt to have this unique synth in your VST folder.
6. Rob Papen Blue II
Taming this VST synth may take some time—as usual when it comes to Rob Papen instruments—but it's more than worth it in the long run. The outstanding MIDI features (especially the Chord Mode) also deserve to be mentioned.
7. u-he Bazille
If you're not used to working with modular instruments, it may take some time to get used to Bazille. But don't worry: this u-he masterpiece comes loaded with plenty of high-quality presets. On the topic of beautifully-crafted u-he VST synths, u-he ACE and u-he Hive are also worth checking.
8. reFX Nexus 4
Sound-design veterans will probably snub Nexus 4 for its lack of versatility, but the ready-to-play library is exactly what makes it great! Nexus 4 is not the ideal VST for creating new sounds, but it's arguably one of the most entertaining music-making tools you'll ever play with. If you put your music playing over your sound design, there's no VST quite like Nexus 4.
9. TAL-U-NO LX Synth
The warm-sounding TAL-U-NO LX has already turned into a classic. This fan-favorite VST may not look like much at first, but I dare to say it could pass a blind test against a real '80s Juno! It's one of the best synth VSTs around for instrument-friendly producers, especially piano players looking to transition into electronic music.
Best Drum VST Plugins
10. XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
A state-of-the-art drum VST, Addictive Drums 2 incorporates recordings of real drums played live by real drummers. It's like having a session drummer inside your computer, all in an intuitive interface with built-in effects (including a very nice saturator) and a dedicated mixer.
11. Steven Slate Drums SSD5
This powerful VST plugin is massive, but it's also incredibly practical. Its main focus is on getting things done as quickly as possible. To achieve so, Steven Slate Drums SSD5 features a useful library of MIDI drum grooves and a customizable MIDI-mapping section.
Best Sampler VST Plugins
12. Native Instruments Kontakt 6 Player
What makes Kontakt THE standard VST sampler, however, is the massive number of available libraries. The best Kontakt libraries are extremely diverse, performance-ready, and—more often than not—built using thousands of incredibly detailed, expressive samples. The Kontakt 6 Player can be downloaded for free.
13. Garritan ARIA Player
Just like Kontakt 6, the ARIA Player is a complete, advanced sampler plugin, but stands out mainly due to its customized sound libraries. Whereas Kontakt 6 is the perfect everyday-producer VST sampler, ARIA Player is a must-have for audio pros working on soundtracks, classical music, and jazz.
Best Reverb VST Plugins
14. ValhallaDSP Valhalla Plate
It's always wise not to judge a book by its cover, and the old saying most certainly applies to the ValhallaDSP Valhalla Plate. Light on CPU and big on sound quality, it works best when used as a go-to aux-track reverb.
15. Waves TrueVerb
When used discreetly, TrueVerb works like a charm to spice up a boring pad synth or flute sound. When used abusively, it can generate dense spatial soundscapes that can turn a snappy snare drum into an immersive drone. TrueVerb is great for all kinds of music, but truly game-changing if you're working in genres such as ambient, IDM, new age, or post-rock.
16. Eventide Blackhole
Like its real-life twin brother, the Blackhole VST is perfect for coloring EDM tracks, especially in subgenres such as minimal techno, IDM, or downtempo. The Blackhole is one of the world's best reverb plugins because of the way it sounds, but its quantized pre-delay is also a big pro.
17. Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle
The Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle is technically made out of various reverb VST plugins, but it makes sense to put it on the list as just one effect. The quality of the VSTs contained in the bundle is unmistakable, but this Lexicon top seller is a standout mainly for being the complete, definitive music-production reverb solution.
Best Delay VST Plugins
18. ValhallaDSP Valhalla Delay
You can use the ValhallaDSP Valhalla Delay to great effect as both a clean, digital delay and a gritty, vintage-sounding tape delay. Just like the Valhalla Plate, the Valhalla Delay also features different modes for added versatility.
19. Waves H-Delay
So things don't get too subjective, it's also important to mention that Waves H-Delay features a tap, a lo-fi and ping-pong switch, BPM, host, and ms quantization, and two modulation knobs.
Best EQ VST Plugins
20. FabFilter Pro-Q 3
The FabFilter Pro-Q 3 allows you to control both mid-side and dynamic EQs, as well as latency. It's so easy to use it's almost addictive, with an interface so intuitive it can be mastered in half an hour. Finally, it features useful advanced monitoring tools and visual cues, including a piano viewer (showing which note corresponds to each frequency).
21. Waves Scheps 73
Inspired by the vintage Neve 1073 consoles, the Scheps 73 has a beautiful tone that works best with vocals and drum sounds. To make the most of its colorful sound, use it as a frequency booster rather than a frequency cutter.
Best Compressor VST Plugins
22. Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor
There are two things that Waves SSL Comp does better than—arguably—any other compressor plugin. The first is compressing fast transients: unlike most compressor VSTs, the SSL Comp maintains its beautiful tone even when working with super short attack-release settings and at a maximum ratio. The second is tying up a mix without causing too much dynamic interference: even the tiniest compression settings work wonderfully when you put SSL Comp in the master channel.
23. FabFilter Pro-MB
FabFilter Pro-MB is great because it can solve virtually any mixing issue with its adaptable compression bands. You can split the frequency range into as many divisions as you want and make use of FabFilter's great-sounding compression with an unprecedented level of detail.
24. Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A
The best way to make use of the Teletronix LA-2A plugins is to go old-school and use them directly during recording. You can do so thanks to the real-time, latency-free recording provided by the Apollo interfaces.
25. Xfer Records OTT
The OTT sound is such a standard that DAWs such as Ableton Live even developed a stock-plugin copy of it (you can find it in the Multiband Compressor presets). To make it even better, the OTT is a free plugin developed by the same people that engineered Serum.
Best Limiter VST Plugins
26. FabFilter Pro-L 2
This "invisible" limiter boasts all that nice FabFilter features—including different modes and an intuitive dynamics visualizer—and gets the job done. I find it incredibly useful for making mixes louder, especially if you combine multiple Pro-L 2 effects at around 3dB to 4dB gain.
27. Sonnox Oxford Inflator
The Oxford Inflator works great for increasing loudness and preventing clipping (as a good limiter should), but stands out for having a characteristic warm tone. For that reason, it can also be used convincingly as a makeshift tube saturator, outside the master channel.
Best Mastering VST Plugins
28. iZotope Ozone 9
Seasoned audio engineers tend to approach mastering using more than one plugin, but beginner producers don't have the same know-how. Ozone is the empowering software that puts world-class mastering at the fingertips of every DAW user.
29. Brainworx bx_masterdesk
What I love about bx_masterdesk is that, unlike most mastering plugins, it sticks to the fundamentals. The tone knob sounds particularly well, and the responsive meter is great for keeping a song's dynamics in check.
Best Preamp VST Plugins
30. Universal Audio Neve 1073
It's still not at the same level as a real, hardware Neve preamp, but it's as close as it'll ever get inside a DAW.
31. Soundtoys Radiator
The Soundtoys Radiator is a simple preamp VST with bass and treble control and noisy/clean options. The HEAT meter gives it a cool, sleek look, and its 1567A-inspired sound should provide your vocal and guitar recordings with all the boost they need.
Best Distortion VST Plugins
32. iZotope Trash 2
Trash 2 is a great VST effect and it can be incredibly powerful when used sensibly. To make the most of the wide range of available presets, make sure you apply Trash 2 to short sounds with a very clean decay. It works like a charm for making thumping hits, cut-through basses, and harsh leads.
33. FabFilter Saturn 2
Featuring FabFilter's sleek design and high-response dynamics visualizer, Saturn 2 allows you to process different bands of the frequency spectrum with different distortion modes. There's also a significant amount of dynamic control, as well as a speed LFO feature.
34. Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter
Just like old-school tube exciters, this Waves masterpiece requires a good ear and a sensitive hand. But once you get used to the way it works, it can have a very positive effect on your productions.
35. Camel Audio CamelCrusher
CamelCrusher is aggressive and unapologetic, but isn't that what a distortion plugin should sometimes do? The gritty tones of this free VST are so colorful that they can also be used effectively to amplify real instruments, pretty much like an amp simulator plugin.
Best Amp VST Plugins
36. Positive Grid BIAS Amp 2 Elite
When I first tried BIAS Amp 2, I was struck by how deliciously crunchy and life-like it sounded. The possibility to switch preamp, transformer, power amp, and cabinet presets is also a big plus.
37. Waves GTR3 Amps
While GTR3 Amps is a versatile plugin designed to fit the needs of real players, it also works wonders inside the box. It's a great amp simulator for adding subtle distortion to a drum bus, processing synth patches, and adding some crunchiness to pads with a long reverb tail.
Best Pitch Correction VST Plugins
38. Melodyne 5 Studio
When using Melodyne 5 Studio, I find it useful to open it as a standalone plugin and only then load the processed vocal tracks into a DAW of choice. This way, you can put your full focus on the plugin's complex features.
39. Antares Auto-Tune
If you have even the tiniest interest in making pop music, you're pretty much obliged to have this one in your VST folder. You can use Antares Auto-Tune as a subtle pitch-correction effect, but playing with that classic T-Pain sound is what it's all about. Remember: just crank that Retune Speed knob up!
40. Melda Production MAutoPitch
Think of the MAutoPitch as a less-obvious version of Antares Auto-Tune with an added focus on performance. What truly makes it stand apart is the Formant Shift knob, which can transform MAutoPitch's tone in real-time for a wacky, never-heard-before vocal modulation effect.
Best Phase Modulation VST Plugins
41. Soundtoys Tremolator
You can explore interesting syncopation with the help of the Groove, Feel, and Accent knobs or go full four-on-the-floor with a fixed rate. The presets are surprisingly creative, and the different Shapes are worth exploring, as is the advanced Shape/Rhythm Editor.
42. D16 Group Syntorus 2
Apart from its charming sound, the Syntorus 2 stands out for coming with pretty much every control that can be put inside a chorus VST and—of course—for its distinctive double-path feature.
Best Transient Shaper VST Plugins
43. Oversampled Pancz
What makes Oversampled Pancz truly great, however, is its cleanliness. Unlike some less-impressive transient shapers, Pancz's Transients and Length functions are as smooth and precise as if you were manually cutting the audio. A must-have for beatmakers and drummers.
44. SPL Transient Designer Plus
Nice added features include the Parallel Mix knob and the Side Chain Filter option. The built-in limiter is very useful for dealing with the nasty clipping that tends to occur when you want to make a transient pop.
Best Audio Repair VST Plugins
45. iZotope RX 9
The iZotope RX 9 is essential for all professionals working in audio for movies, TV, radio, and podcasts. However, it's also good to have around for making music. Its excellent noise removal and vocal isolation features can come in handy for remixing, processing old samples, and creating original a cappella tracks.
46. Acon Digital Restoration Suite 2
The features of the Acon Digital Restoration Suite 2 don't go as in-depth as the ones found in RX 9, but are more music-oriented, not to mention easier to use. For this reason, I recommend it as the best audio reparation VST for audio professionals working solely as music producers.
Best Music Theory VST Plugins
47. Scaler 2
From song structure and modes to the circle of 5ths, no music theory concept is left behind. With flawless MIDI integration, Scaler is a much-recommended VST for composers, music educators, and music students. Having this plugin in your DAW will free you from ever having to look at your music-theory notebook!
48. HoRNet SongKey MK4
There's no shame in looking for help to better understand the key of a song. Even if your music theory is spot on, the HoRNet SongKey MK4 is fast and accurate and it will allow you to save hours of work in the long run. I use it daily to detect the key and chords of unlabeled samples and analyze songs as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
Best Music Analysis VST Plugins
49. Melda Production MMultiAnalyzer
With a loudness analyzer and a stereogram included, the Melda Production MMultiAnalyzer is also highly customizable and features an impressive collection of handy presets.
50. Voxengo SPAN
Extremely reliable, customizable, and used by countless music pros all over the world, Voxengo's SPAN features all the fundamental analysis tools you'll ever need, including a highly-responsive true peak metering, a correlation meter, and real-time RMS information.
In this ever-changing world, there will never be a consensual top-50 list of anything. VST plugins are surely not the exception. However, the 50 virtual instruments and audio effects listed above can all make a huge difference in your music if you give them a chance.
Naturally, numerous other high-quality VSTs could’ve made it to the top, but weren’t included due to personal preference, comparative quality, or sheer lack of knowledge. Like all best-of lists, this one’s subjective and should function merely as a helpful guide, never as a definitive, unchangeable statement of truth.