Why Buy 3rd Party Plugins for Podcasting?
I recently received an email from a viewer of my educational YouTube channel that teaches audio for podcasting, and I felt inspired to turn it into a blog post.
The question was simply...
"Is it possible to get a good mix in Pro Tools using stock plugins? I would like to know your thoughts on that. Maybe a video of you mixing something short using only stock plugins? Lastly, if you only had money for 2-3 plugins, which ones do you have to have?"
There's a couple of things going on at once here, and below are my thoughts included in my response to this email. For real everybody, if you email me questions, get ready for a lot of information in return....
Stock plugins in Pro Tools can take you very far. I’ve seen audio engineers mix songs with hundreds of tracks using only stock plugins, as a kind of challenge. You can make something great with them, but there’s a couple of reasons to buy 3rd party plugins...
WORKING WITH TERRIBLE AUDIO
Stock plugins tend to be pretty neutral and not offer much character, whereas many 3rd party plugins emulate vintage hardware processors, so they impart a lot of tone, color, and character. This may or may not be important in podcasting (not super important at all, tbh. Neutral is usually preferred)
Features are usually something that’s greatly lacking in stock plugins. My first thought is an EQ visualizer which can help tremendously with identifying and maintaining harsh or resonant frequencies in the voice. Dynamic EQ is also something not typically offered in a stock plugin with any DAW.
Working with terrible audio is probably the biggest concern with stock plugins, especially in Pro Tools. The DAW assumes that the audio captured is of good quality, and honestly, I wish that assumption could be made all the time. Unfortunately it’s not usually the case in podcasting. For that reason, Pro Tools offers absolutely zero restoration tools out of the box. That’s why people invest so much money into a tool like IzoTope RX, the entire platform is built for restoration and recovery of terrible audio, or even something simple like reducing preamp noise from a budget interface.
Those are the 3 biggest reasons why I love buying plugins, but they’re not all necessary.
THESE FEW THINGS I COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT
If I HAD to buy 3 plugins, it would be the IzoTope RX Standard Suite, Vocal Rider, and FabFilter ProQ3. 2 of these are not super budget friendly, and may not be entirely necessary, so let me offer some options and opinions…
Vocal Rider is a must have for any dialogue project. It effortlessly and transparently reduces loudness range offering a super transparent and consistent loudness. And it’s rather cheap, often sitting around $29-49.
IzoTope RX is unfortunately necessary if you are dealing with anything less than perfect audio. It has de-noise, de-reverb, de-hum, de-click, and my favorite. mouth de-click. It’s like $400, but I couldn’t live without it, even if I’m just using mouth de-click.
I love FabFilter ProQ3 because it’s a really easy UI to navigate, the visualizer is incredible, the monitoring and EQ match is unparalleled, and it has tons of crazy useful and genius features that make it way easier to EQ a voice to perfection. A lot is still left up to your ears, but this plugin reduces a lot of the guess work that can come along with equalization.
If you can’t afford ProQ3, F6 by Waves is rather good as well. It has a decent visualizer as well as dynamic EQ capabilities like ProQ3
If you’re looking to spend some serious cash, Soothe 2 by Oeksound has become a very important step in my signal chain. It intuitively (assisted by manual parameters) reduces harsh and overwhelming frequencies. Absolutely love this tool, but it’s HELLA CPU intensive.
The CLA-76 is a great compressor if you already own some of the above plugins and are looking for more suggestions. Very fast attack and release so it’ll allow you to dramatically reduces peaks rather transparently.
So check this out…. Waves is having a deal this weekend…
Vocal Rider and F6 Equalizer are only $68 for the 2 of them, and when you spend more than $50, you get a free plugin. So I’d HIGHLY recommend Vocal Rider, F6 Floating Band Equalizer, and CLA-76 for $68. Vocal Rider is the only tool you can’t get stock in Pro Tools, but the other 2 will also help tremendously in your productions.
^^^ here’s my Waves affiliate link which I believe should get you an additional 10% off.
If you can swing the extra, IzoTope RX is very helpful if you want to super easily reduce noise and mouth clicks. Splice.com offers a rent to own plan of $15.99/mo for 25 months, then you own the plugin. Otherwise it’s $399 at full price.
I hope you found this email, err, article helpful!
It's worth noting that some DAWs come with more or less tools built in than other DAWs. Regardless, 3rd party plugins often offer many unique characteristics and abilities that you can't find for free in many modern DAWs. And if that's not convincing enough, plugins are just fun to play around with. There's so much you can do to manipulate audio, and with every new plugin you buy, you learn more ways to make your podcast sound better, as well as the infinite ways you can make it sound worse! To avoid doing more harm than good, check out my YouTube channel Clean Cut Audio to learn nearly all there is to know about recording and producing a great sounding podcast.