Knowing which plugins to use for a particular sound, and how to use those plugins effectively will improve your mixes and help you work quickly. Plugins are the most versatile tools that are available for mixing, as they come in a vast range of sounds, shapes, applications and in varying levels of complexity. Here is our guide on how to get the best from the different plugins used in the majority of digital mixes.

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Knowing how to use reverb effectively is one of those things that really comes with practice, but we want to help you a get ahead, as poorly balanced reverb is one of the most obvious signs of an inexperienced engineer. So, here’s our guide to how reverb works and how to use it effectively. In this article we will use natural reverb on solo piano, and plate reverb on vocals as two examples.

Reverb Overview

Put simply, reverb plugins simulate acoustic spaces like cathedrals or concert halls, and reverb equipment like spring or plate reverb units. There are no hard and fast rules as to what type of reverb sounds best on which instrument, so experiment will all the different presets you can find, as they are all distinctive and useful in different ways.

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Firstly, we have to say thanks to everyone who has entered the March competition, and in particular everyone who helped us spread the word with retweets and reshares.

Well, the competition has now closed, and we very are excited to announce that we have a winner!

Drew Foisie – You Won!

We would like to extend a huge thank you to Plugin Boutique for donating the £100 prize and access to their outstanding library of plugins and samples.

Our lucky winner has already been contacted and has let us know that he has decided to spend his winnings on the PSP Audioware PSP 85.

We think that’s a great choice, not only because it fits very neatly into the £100 price bracket, with some change left over, but also because it’s a really great plugin.

The Audioware PSP 85 is a delay plugin with a whole host of extra functionality. It’s actually a complex bit of kit, so we don’t really have the space to go into detail here. However, in short, it was modeled on a legendary hardware delay unit from Lexicon, and Lexicon have endorsed the plugin so that should tell you all you need to know – it’ll be good.

If you want to know more about the PSP 85 you can read a much more in-depth review here, from our friends at Plugin Boutique .

A good choice Drew, we hope you enjoy it immensely!

Keep your eyes peeled for the next giveaway.

[image via nebarnix]

Today is your last chance to enter our competition to win £100 in plugins of your choice from Plugin Boutique.

If you’re wondering what you could do with £100 of plugins, take a look at our suggestions here.

You can boost your chances of winning our hitting the ‘like’ Facebook page, tweet just one single tweet you get THREE extra entries!

So don’t miss out, this weekly is your last chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win £100

We’re now into the FINAL WEEK for our plugin giveaway, so if you haven’t entered already – do it right now!

The Prize

The winner will receive £100 to spend on plugins of your choice from Plugin Boutique, where there is a huge library of plugins; everything from compressors to synthesizers. Don’t take our word for it though, just have a look at their plugin library!

What You Could Choose

Our number one recommendation is the outstanding and simplistic Waves ‘One Knob’ series for £99. The reason we recommend this product is that it actually includes seven individual plugins in one bundle, and everyone knows that Waves are synonymous with unbeatable quality.

In the one bundle you get the following at a single touch:

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Eq, or equalisation, is the most common effect applied to audio during mixing. Here is our guide on how parametric eq plugins works, and how to use them effectively.

Parametric Eq Overview

Equalisation is used to balance an instrument in the mix, to remove unwanted sounds and to make something just sound nicer – anything from a vocalist to a master fader. Parametric eq uses a number of settings to choose a range of frequencies and control how much their gain is increased or reduced. This is different to graphical equalisers, which have a large number of fixed frequency bands that can be increased or decreased independently. Graphical eq can be useful for tuning PA systems but seldom for actual mixing where you need smoother and more precise control.

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Gates and expanders can be very useful tools to help cut out ambient noise in a recording, or as a musical effect. They work very similarly to compressors, so here’s our guide to how gates and expanders work, and how to use them effectively.

Expansion Overview

Expanders are basically the opposite to compressors, so instead of reducing the dynamic range they increase it. Ultimately this means they are useful to reduce or cut out (‘gate’) quieter sounds in a recording. Often this is noise or ambience, but can also be used to reduce the sustain of a drum, or to shorten reverb. As with our guide to compression, we will follow the two examples of vocals and snare drum.

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Learning how to use compression effectively can be a tricky business, so here’s our guide to what the different buttons and dials do, and how to use them to best effect on snare and vocals.

Compression Overview

Compression reduces the dynamic range of audio, which simply means reducing the difference in volume between loud and quiet. This can be useful on snare drums to level out the volume of the initial drum hit and the sustain, which will bring out the natural tone of the drum. When used more gently, compression can even out the volume of a vocal recording without losing the phrasing and inflections of the singer’s voice. Compressing a snare drum, and leveling out vocals are the two examples we will follow.

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Samplicity is a website which hosts a range of outstanding impulse responses, which you can download for use with a simple reverb plugin. The samples give you an accurate model, and precise control over the sound of some of the best reverb units available, all within the immediate convenience of a single plugin.

The hardware units which have been sampled are the T600C and the L96, and the Bricasti M7 which is free. The quality of the samples is pristine, very convincing compared to the original hardware and with no noticeable noise at all.

The sample libraries have been carefully structured to make them compatible with as many convolution reverb plugins as possible. We recommend Altiverb for both Mac and PC users, because it is of similarly high quality to samplicity’s samples, and it comes with a huge library of responses.

Otherwise we suggest IR-1 if you are a Waves user, or TL Space if you use Pro Tools exclusively.

[image via Keenan Pepper]

snare mic

We’ve compared and reviewed some of the best snare drum microphones around, to help you choose the right one for the perfect snare sound. Microphone choice is very important, because the sound of the mic is the foundation that you build the snare sound from.

Dynamic Mics

Recording with dynamic mics has always been a firm favourite when it comes to snare drums. This is because they are robust, can deal with very high ‘Sound Pressure Levels’ and at high SPL’s they naturally compress the sound by the way they work. (See here for more detail) This compression effect squashes the transient, or attack, of the drum and brings out more of the sustain and natural tone, giving a very full and chunky sound.

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