Fav VSTis for specific track elements and instruments

I made a thread like this in the old forum, and who doesn’t love to list some fav plugins, so here it is again.

Don’t list the best options you have or want, list what you use most of the time.

Here my current favs:

  1. Bass
  • Xfer Serum - Still one of the best for my digital bass design. I just love the WT handling, the 8 multipoint LFOs and the distortion, dimension and multiband comp effects.
  • Bitwig The Grid - still learning this monster but very nice and extremely flexible FM/PM options…
  • Tone2 Icarus - Fast to handle yet flexible. Made a lot of bass patches for this one, keep coming back to those and making new ones…
  • FAW SubLab - newest addition, simple but nice for subs, 808-like kicks and kick/sub combinations in general
  1. Lead
  • Iris - the spectral filter is great for interesting leads
  • Infinite Pro - strange powerful beast
  • Bitwig The Grid
  • Thorn - has some interesting options with the harmonic filter
  1. Pads
  • Infinite Pro
  • Granulator II - still great
  • Icarus
  1. Arps
  • Alchemy - still use this from time to time for a nice arp
  • Avenger - great arp options too (I don’t like that they announced it will have USB-based protection in 2.0 but it’s a good synth)
  • Obscurium - crazy thing…
  1. Guitar and similar plucked instruments
  • Ample Sound
  • Avenger, Infinite Pro and Thorn have some nice more or less synthetic plucks
  1. Strings and other orchestral instruments
  • SWAM for solo MPE playing
  • EastWest for ensembles
  1. Piano/Keys
  • Addictive Keys
  • EastWest
  • Infinite Pro
  1. Drums
  • Ableton Drumrack / Bitwig Drum Machine
  • Xfer Nerve - simple yet flexible, easy on the CPU because it saves all changed samples and
  • iZotope Breaktweaker - love the microediting options
  • Ample Cloudrum - freebie, for hang/pan type sounds

You can leave out or add categories of course, I tried to cover some main elements in my list.

Edit: I only now saw that you’re only doing instruments. Oops

  1. Guitars
  • Guitar Rig
  • TH3
  • NadIR 2
  1. Bass
  • Just Guitar Rig (Honestly, I haven’t found anything better yet for bass)
  1. Drums
  • SSD4

Cool. Little off-topic but can you point me to a good tutorial for Iris? I just got a free copy of Iris 2 from plugin boutique (it’s free with any purchase this month) and tbh I wasn’t even going to install it because I figured it would be kinda meh for me. But if I can start from somewhere it could be worth the time to try it.


  1. D16 Phoscyon
  2. IL Sytrus
  3. Synapse Dune 2 (or 3 you can do all the same stuff)


  1. u-he Diva
  2. IL Harmor
  3. Korg M-1 vst


  1. u-he Diva
  2. u-he Hive
  3. IL Harmor
  4. Korg M-1 vst


  1. I have recently discovered the joy of samples as handled by FL Studio’s stock sampler
  2. D16 Nepheton
  3. D16 Drumazon


  1. I use FL Keys when I need it. Bury it deep enough in the mix that no one cares.

It’s a very strange little thing, but not that hard to understand, once you get two basic things:

  • It’s not a synth, it’s a simple sample player with a spectral filter (and some additional stuff such as LFOs, effects and normal filters that you would find in any synth and I will ignore here).
  • The spectral filter is where the magic happens - think of it as RX or photosounder in a VSTi. You can paint in exactly which spectral selections of a sample are played at what time and which frequency parts are completely ignored. It’s a hard-shaped filter, but completely flexible.

Can’t really help with a good tutorial for it since I haven’t watched any, at least in recent years, but I would just give it a try, maybe load some patches or directly start with loading some samples (the included library is pretty nice too) and try out some spectral selections. It’s a really simple synth, just get used to the spectral filter! But I’m also sure iZotope did some tutorials for it back in the day!

Also, nice favs! Sytrus I used more often years ago at a friends place, great FM synth with all the flexible envelopes. I also used a magware version of Dune 1 I think, but I somehow completely disliked the v2 and switched to other synths. Sytrus, Diva and Harmor are all in my “might get it at some point” list, since they all have some special tricks.

A thread for effects would be cool, too! Might make it at some point if nobody is faster…

Pads, arps, leads, bass:
Image line:
granular synth

Image line Fx:
reverb 2
parametric eq2
Envelope controller
Slicex(for glitching)
Stereo seperation knob on mixer channel

Image line:
Granular synth

Drums fx:
Envelope controller
Peak controller
Reverb 2
Parametric eq2
Stereo enhancer
Stereo imager

I use less vst now more than ever and they are native…less can be more sometimes I guess

For my drums

Ni - Battery 4 = good overall sound for some quick ideas
Fx Pansion - BFD3 = amazing samples, great patterns, midi editing in & out
UVi - Falcon = THE steam engine, highly recommended, Fat sounding VST.
Izotope - BreakTweeker = the micro editing is pretty fun, import your own samples
Ni - Some Kontakt Libraries = Wave Alchemy Drumvolution.
Sonic Charge - Microtonic = needs some beefy sculpting Eq but pretty cool for modulated bleep & blops.
Spitfire Audio - Phobos = great cinematic drums, amazing sound, huge creation field ahead.
Rob Papen - Punch = pretty simple but does the job quite well, pretty dated now but still.
D16 - Punch Box = fat kicks, synthesis + clicks + body, great kick shaping tool.
Ni - Reaktor 6 = THE other steam engine, not much to say, a must have.
Spectrasonics - Stylus Rmx = pretty dated but the chaos designer & timing options make it a must.
FxPansion - Tremor = 100% drum synthesis, i love it, pretty intense on cpu.

  • some Live 10 shop libraries like Midi Volve by Coldcut or Madder beats by KJ Sawka

For my synths

Ableton - Wavetable = pretty serious since the last live update.
D16 - Phoscyon or Audiorealism - ABL3 = for some acid stuff, pretty accurate 303 emulations.
Ni - Absynth 5 = good for ambiant stuff, pretty dated but still sounding good with some extra work.
Output Arcade = when samples or fresh ideas are needed.
Plugin Boutique - BassMaster = quick fat sounding bass samples but samples …
U-he - Bazille = great mids, a serious sound sculpting tool, pretty cpu intense but worth it.
Arturia - CS80 = since the V3, the sound is pretty good, some good old renowned synth to have.
Fxpansion - Cypher2 = an amazing sounding synth, 1 of my top 5.
Propellerhaed - Europa = a bit weak in a mix but still a good vst.
Sugar Bytes - Factory = harsh, digital, some angry, dirty vst.
UVI - Falcon = in 2019, a serious true instrument, a must have, the real thing, just amazing.
Waves - Flow motion = quite a toy, a bit weak in a mix, but the modulation is pretty inventive.
Ni - FM8 = no need to introduce this one = FM synthesis as its best.
Izotope - iris 2 = the pencil tool is pretty cool, the overall sound is a bit flat.
Ni - Komplete kontrol = quick ideas, the Ni database.
Ni - Kontakt = 1 of the best sound libraries out there.
Spitfire Audio - Albion V & Ambiant Guitars = amazing libraries, a must have, detailed sounds, viby stuff.
Heavyocity - Gravity = great for sound design, needs some serious extra EQ but a serious tool.
Spitfire audio - LABS = all free stuff.
Air music - Loom 2 = a good sounding additive synthesis tool, the GUI is a bit overflowed.
Ni - Massive X = on my top list, great sound, 1 of the best modulations out there.
Sugar Bytes - Obscurium = load your own vst as the sound source , the 1 & only to do this.
Spectrasonics - Omnisphere = since the version 2, this synth is a must have, amazing sound really.
Spitfire audio - Phobos = great for sound design, my 1st convolution synth, heavy sound.
Ni - Reaktor 6 = no need to explain, a modular madness.
Xfer - Serum = still one of the best wavetable synth out there.
Fx passion - Strobe = the cypher2 little brother but very good as well.

For the EQ - the Mastering process or any sound shaping

UAD - Waves & Izotope plugins = serious plugins, very accurate.

Diva. It’s my go-to instrument before I try anything else. I have to actively force myself to use other things!

And it’s only better now that I have hardware because I can find a combination of modules in diva that gets really close to what my prophet rev2 will do. So I can make a sound I like on my prophet, get a very similar sound often with MORE analog character out of Diva with all the ease of sequencing, editing, and automating a vst in the DAW. The only place it falls a little short is modulation, but bitwig does that pretty well so you can really modulate anything you want in there using your DAW.

Thanks for the input! But seriously, 13 different points for drum VSTis when asked for the favs that get used “most of the time”? I thought I have a problems making decisions lol… :wink:

Yeah, I’m not really that much into virtual analogue, but since it can handle MPE and I like u-He I want to get at least one u-He synth. Probably this, Bazille or Zebra.

No idea really, but I always thought specifically for Prophet sounds, the Repro stuff was invented since Diva doesn’t handle that so well?

Yeah, with Bitwig you can modulate everything, if the synth allows for it to be modulated. Still, it’s nice to have some good modulation options in the plugin itself. I keep coming back to Bass patches I made for Serum and Icarus all the time, but those wouldn’t be interesting without all the LFO assignments. Well, I guess you can save complete racks in BW, but these would be restricted to use in BW of course.

maybe you’re right :grin: excuse, no show off here , i really use them all , just a hint of every one.


I’m guilty of using way too many different synths, modulation effects, EQs, filters and comps for no real reason, so I can relate. I just wasn’t sure you really use all of those all the time haha :smiley:

Easy for me since I got a NI keyboard with the search engine thing.

Bass: anything that sounds right by NI
Or a pitch shifted guitar, down an octave

Lead: I like electric piano type sounds a lot, or guitars.

Pads/ chords: guitar drones
Anything that sounds nice from NI, Absynth gets a bit of use.

Arps: I like rounds
Or again anything that sounds good by NI

Guitar: guitars duh, I love the UA amp sims tho, head and shoulders above anything else imo. Probably even better than Helix.

Strings keys etc: NI sample libraries are great.

Drums: I tend to layer battery and the realistic drums plugins from NI, whatever those are called.

Basically having the ability to search by sound has been amazing for me, I’ve gotten sounds I was after without even knowing what synth or sampler they came from and don’t care as long as they fit. It’s has made my life so much easier.

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I’m guilty as well of using way too many plugs than needed, but they all have some setting the other don’t so i pick one up, tweak it, resample it, pick an other, swap, modulate & so on, so at the end i might have used 20, 30 plugins to end up with only 1 pattern, that’s the cool thing when inboxing music but i understand that for many musicians, it has non sense.