Okay, I admit.
Maybe this list isn’t just good for 2016, but for all time.
But that depends on what you need for your music.
If you’re a producer and have your own recording studio, you will need an all-around set of rack-mount effects and actual plugins.
And I have a list of software filters for you to get you started
Oh, what a filter does?
Basically it carves out sections of your low or high frequencies. The content of most music is in the low mid to high mid to high ranges.
Getting rid of muddying frequencies is the job of filters.
It’s easy in principle, but this is one of the most difficult to master.
FabFilter Volcano 2
Aside from cutting or carving off frequencies, filters also act as envelopes for overloading certain frequencies.
If you have used a wah pedal, well, that’s it. A filter is locked to overload a certain frequency and what you get is a characteristic sweeping sound.
Volcano 2 from FabFilter is pack of multimode filters reminiscent of famous vintage equipment.
The characteristics setting is where everything stands out. You get 11 sonic styles from Gentle to Extreme.
Audio Damage Filterstation
Audio Damage uses two multimode filters and an envelope follower to create some unique-sounding tonal shaping that works similarly as a live X/Y pad would.
In fact, the interface is a huge X/Y pad.
The filters include some Korg MS Emulations. Using the LFO, you could make your track somewhat louder, introducing a pumping effect synchronized with your DAW.
Using the envelope follower, apply this to each filter. The sounds can move your filters and kill them at certain points. It’s like a semi-automator of sorts.
Cableguys FilterShaper 3
Modulation is all about using filters. The sad thing about this is the gain is a bit subtle, making the audio sound a bit dull when it could have had another best of the world.
However, you do get the powerful tweaking capabilities from Cutoff, Resonance, Pan and Volume for each filter.
The ability to Pan and Volumize each LFO and the ability to draw waveshapes for your filters is another amazing feature.
Ohm Force Quad Frohmage
The Frohmage features four channels and eight types of filters for your use.
Aside from its powerful filters, you also get an envelope follower and an ADSR. You could trigger your own automations based on the velocity and pitch of your keyboard.
Aside from that, you also get some powerful distortion, pan, delay and volume controls.
PSP Audioware N2O
Nitrous Oxide is the successor of the original Nitro. Known as N20, the filter array on this update has increased in number.
You also have a 16-step sequencer, a signal-sensitive envelope and a level-triggered ADSR.
The only bad thing about this? You don’t have some analogue warmth. You’ll be feeling some digital-ness here.
Sonalksis Creative Filter
Sonalksis uses an Adaptive Resonance filter, which it claims in its website. The filter automatically adapts to the saturation and resonance of a sound.
In short, a gigantic knob in the middle is all you need to cut off enough to make your sound stand out.
Meanwhile, you get a Low,Band and High Pass filter for better measurement. Resonance is also effective with four settings including low, mid, high and rude.
Part of its Native Effects 4 bundle is SoundToys’ powerful Filterfreak. It comes in both single and dual resonant modulation filtering.
Tempo-sync-ing your patterns with your host DAW is one feature that stands out for this plugin. Dual resonation means more capability to sculpt the right sound for you.
Unfortunately, it also has a clinical sound without the analog warmth we’re often looking for. But like N20, the absence of such doesn’t mean it couldn’t do its job properly.
In fact, it’s even hard to trace that the sound is digital with this filter turned on.
Sugar Bytes WOW 2
WOW had a powerful factor that was capable of delivering an analog-style filter for audio hammering. Having a visual feedback was a necessity.
That’s what the WOW2 brought to the table.
Having a simplistic interface, the plug-in has a dry/wet, volume, frequency and a distortion selector knob. These all sound quite high quality and capable of delivering the right kind of oomph for your filters.
The only downside it has is it will always cut off the extreme top end for all filters. While it helps clear out some digital fizz, some may be put off. But I’m not and I actually find it useful.
Without a major hit on your CPU resources, Tone 2’s BiFilter uses two resonance filters and an envelope follower. The module also features a distortion. While having only at least four algorithms for distortion, they have their own applications in the field.
With a simple GUI and a filter graph that gives you a real-time analysis of your signal, this little plug-in rules.
Why call it Filterscape? Well, you’ve got some great quality sounding filters that smoothen out your frequencies effectively. With a simple UI, you can barely go wrong.
One thing that beginners would love with this is the lots of presets divided into categories. All of these were made by sound designers and were designed to help teach you more about sound sculpting and how it works.
It’s also one of the most stable, yet moderately-resource-consuming plugins with high-fi filters.
Vengeance-Sound Philta XL
While this is focused for dance, Philta XL is capable of delivering analog-rich sounds while adding some bite. You also have some LFO controls to help shape that perfect kick or tom. Using the ring modulator section and mix control section, you can automate your sweeps in real time.
Distortion is capable of delivering sonic crush or just to help certain sounds cut through a mix.
Its limiter even works like a Multiband Compressor.
Waves One Knob Filter
This is the case I’ve often observed from newbies to seasoned mixing veterans. Present to them a brand-new plug-in with lots of tweaking capabilities and they’ll be stunned. You can’t blame developers for that because it’s really difficult to design and optimize a plug-in while having lots of features to offer for its price.
However, Waves wanted to deliver something for the newbies. The OneKnob series was meant ease the transition from using new fully-featured plug-ins. Personally, I’ve found them useful in my mixes. But only if you need some simple tasks that delivers some controlled parameters that you know won’t grow crazy.
But for veteran producers, you know you’re still going to need a backup plug-in to accomplish what you’re going for.
Izotope Trash 2
Trash 2 is a saturation/distortion plug-in that’s a bit on the expensive side. However, you’re rewarded with some remarkable distortion algorithms perfect for any kind of track that you might have.
The waveshaping module gives you control of the base algorithm where you could control a multi-point curve.
A convolution feature gives you 50 types of impulse responses and even microphone types. Guitarists would love this. To be honest, you could even use your own IR to expand the capabilities of this plug-in.
This acts both as a filter with its multiband distortion capabilities. Quite remarkable even for the price. iZotope just ups the competition yet again.
British plug-in developer FXpansion tries to dominate the filter scene with its own FXpansion Etch. The plug-in, which has a dual filter, uses a waveshaping distortion unit that has six models. You could use a Diode to create a digitally-warm sounding synthesizer. But you still have some other models, like the half rectifier, to help you create some gentle warming for your sounds.
Four filter models feature three classic models and a comb filter. The filter can vowel as it could create some powerful effects. The SVF models create more depth and warmth to your tracks.
FXpansion’s TransMod system allows you ten modulation sources that you could assign to everything. And that means you could modulate everything.
Camel Audio CamelSpace
Also based in the United Kingdom, Camel Audio’s Camel Space may overwhelm you with so many knobs. It has its own step sequencer, flanger, delay, reverb and of course, its own filter.
The fun thing about it is that you could turn your own synth chords or any flat instrument into an instrument of its own. The step sequencer allows you to automate some of the plug-ins features. You could introduce a comb filter to add some new flavor. Or you could even use automation to turn a dull chord into a brand new song on its own.
Try it on a sustained piano or acoustic guitar chord and you’ll see what I mean.
Cytomic The Drop
Cytomic is well-known for its saturation-slash-compressor The Glue. The natural warmth that glues together all audio. Now, it’s made The Drop. The Drop is a filter plug-in with lots of features, including a pair of low-pass and high-pass filters, some frequency, resonance and drive controls.
There’s a peculiar feature called the Safe button that keeps the resonance below self-oscillation levels.
While it doesn’t offer some really far 48khz filters, it emulates some vintage filters from the SH-101, The Oxford Synthesizer OSCar, the Moog Prodigy, the Juno-6 and more. Routable in series and parallel, you could toggle individually each pole between different filters.
The best thing about it, it’s not CPU-expensive as it seems to be.
Rob Papen PredatorFX
Rob Papen’s PredatorFX is a bit pricey for a filter. While not as expensive as iZotope’s Trash 2, you’ll hesitate to buy the plug-in despite Rob Papen’s awesome reputation as a plug-in developer
However, beginners may be intimidated by its vast array of controls. It’s a filter but with lots of specific controls.
One thing notable is the plentiful number of modulations you could have with this plug-in. I think it would take an entire article to explain each of its features.
However, I’d like to point out that the filters and the saturators included in this plugin is well worth its price.
Aside from being a full-powered filter, u-he’s Filterscape is a full-sculpting mechanism. Using a single chord again, you could do some multi-band compression, transform mono to stereo effect, use a pattern-driven gate, switch your equalization to a different setting and power up your drum loops.
Apparently, the last aspect is where I need this plug-in the most. It works very well in most synthesizers. When using it with live instruments, it depends on your taste. If you need a live acoustic sample that does something more than just thump, this is what you need, to be honest.
You could also change the sequence of your modules and save snapshots of your settings for future convenience.
FilterBank does what it is intended to do. But it’s not just a filter. It’s also a full-fledge equalizer that has the warm sounds of vintage and modern equalizers. It’s quite useful because of its resonant Q controls. That came in handy when I wanted to do something special for my cymbals and kicks. FilterBank does just that with its unique Peaks and Slopes.
Some powerful Dips can be used if you’re into combing the under-filters of your audio.
What’s more, I find the Mono and Stereo versions usable for any situation. Analog Saturation is essential for mono tracks to continue to “fatten” them and create some useful Q modes for your tracks.
Imagine a classic filter that has the controls of modern-day filters. What do you get? Some powerful features you’ve yet to unlock with new types of systems today. One feature of the Waves MetalFilter is its powerful sound that is characterful and reminiscent of old-school technology.
But instead of having one, as most vintage filters do, it now has more for use with modulation. It’s so easy to build some pumping effects and some obviously extreme sweep settings that create powerful tracks and leads where you need them.
The Moog had a powerful synthesizer that had powerful resonance and cut-off that added to its signature sound. Meanwhile, it was warm and alive despite the setting you put in that original filter.
Now, Universal Audio just made the Moog’s filter accessible for anyone who owned a UAD Apollo or whichever interface they currently have.
It has a CPU Lite version that runs in Mono. While it has a simple LFO that can run with your host’s root tempo, it can create some great rhythms along the way. The input drive control gives you that classic Moog wrap on your tracks.
Mokafix audio isn’t a signature name in virtual studio technology development. But their release of Mutine may help them skyrocket to a better reputation. My respect for Mutine is its precision controls. Using the Mutator effect could mean the subtlest of changes going towards something more extreme and powerful.
Mutine offers a vintage GUI and a modernized GUI that helps you manage what you’re doing better.
If you have UAD for Mac, then that’s fine. But for windows, you have Mutine. The best thing about it is that it’s a free plugin.
Filta Crunch 2
This is a free plug-in filter that does more than what’s expected from it. SonicXTC gave this away for free and it’s amazing. It can go from gentle, crunch to complete crushing distortion. These are quite effective with drum distortion. Using a 2-pole 24db filter, a wave-shaper with gain and a dual channel tube amp drive, all emulated, the sounds it can do is impressive and mind-bending.
You also have the ability to save presets and have at least an A/B snapshot test slots to find your perfect sound.
It doesn’t hog much CPU power, to be honest.
Why it’s called a Wobbler is because it’s capable of introducing some powerful wobbling with its completely useful presets. CPU hit is a bit high though. I’m using this sparingly despite the fact that it’s a great help for most of my productions
It’s pleasing to the ears when you’re using the presets alone. It also helps you figure out how to use the Follower effectively.
The Pitch sections introduce a powerful and different dimension when you pair it with the LFOs. if you’re a glitch guy, for example, you’ll love this feature impeccably.
Your DAW’s built-in Filters
Of course, never ignore your own DAW’s set of filters. Now, they’re not top of their class. But their basic presets and settings will help you understand what filters are all about.
I must admit that some of them, especially those in ProTools and in some ‘in-one’ plug-ins are definitely worth trying and are clearly capable of offering new sounds. While they may not introduce some advanced algorithms and may even have no saturation, they can do the job effectively.
We’re at the end of this list and I hope you have an idea which kind of filter you’d need for your track.
My last advice would be to see which one works for you.
Yes, all of these plug-ins are feature-filled and would be useful in many cases.
But you would want to balance features with the actual performance and sound of the filter plug-ins!
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