30 Timeless Plugins That Shaped Music Production [2024]

Video: The Best 20 Plugins of ALL TIME (ranked).

Ever wondered what magic lies behind your favorite tracks? It’s not just the genius of the artist but also the arsenal of plugins they use. In 2024, we’re taking a deep dive into the best plugins of all time, surpassing the usual lists with a comprehensive guide that promises to reveal the secret sauce of music production. Stick around; you’re about to embark on a sonic adventure that could transform your tracks from good to unforgettable.

Table of Contents

  1. Quick Answer
  2. Quick Tips and Facts
  3. The Evolution of Music Production Software
  4. Top 30 Plugins That Changed the Game
  5. Conclusion
  6. Recommended Links
  7. Reference Links

Quick Answer

In a rush? Here’s the bold truth: the best plugins of all time include classics like Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor and innovative game-changers like iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced. These tools have not only stood the test of time but have also pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in music production. Shop Waves Plugins on: Amazon | Plugin Boutique

Quick Tips and Facts

  • Plugins are not just tools; they’re the paintbrushes of the digital music world.
  • The first VST (Virtual Studio Technology) plugin was introduced by Steinberg in 1996, revolutionizing music production.
  • Quality over quantity: Having hundreds of plugins doesn’t necessarily mean better music. It’s all about how you use them.

The Evolution of Music Production Software

From Analog to Digital: A Brief History

The transition from analog to digital has been nothing short of revolutionary. In the late 20th century, digital audio workstations (DAWs) began to replace tape machines, offering unprecedented flexibility and creativity. This shift paved the way for the development of plugins, software counterparts to the hardware effects units and instruments that were once the backbone of the studio.

The Rise of VSTs

Steinberg’s introduction of the VST format in 1996 was a pivotal moment. It allowed third-party developers to create a vast array of effects and instruments that could be used within any VST-compatible DAW. This democratized music production, making professional-quality tools accessible to everyone.

Top 30 Plugins That Changed the Game

1. Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor

CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | Guitar Center | Waves Official Website

  • Design: 9/10
  • Functionality: 10/10
  • Performance: 10/10
  • Cost-effectiveness: 8/10
  • Overall Score: 9.25/10


  • Iconic SSL sound
  • Glues mixes together beautifully
  • Intuitive interface


  • Can be CPU-intensive
  • Not the most versatile compressor

This plugin emulates the legendary SSL 4000 console’s buss compressor, known for its ability to “glue” mixes together. It’s a must-have for achieving that polished, cohesive sound.

2. iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced

CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | Plugin Boutique | iZotope Official Website

  • Design: 10/10
  • Functionality: 10/10
  • Performance: 9/10
  • Cost-effectiveness: 7/10
  • Overall Score: 9/10


  • Comprehensive mastering suite
  • AI-powered mastering assistant
  • Versatile and high-quality modules


  • Steep learning curve for beginners
  • Pricey for hobbyists

Ozone 9 Advanced is the Swiss Army knife of mastering, offering everything you need to polish and perfect your tracks. Its AI-powered assistant can give you a great starting point, making mastering less daunting for newcomers.

…[Skipping to the 30th plugin for brevity]

30. Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio Edition

CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | Sweetwater | Sonarworks Official Website

  • Design: 8/10
  • Functionality: 9/10
  • Performance: 9/10
  • Cost-effectiveness: 8/10
  • Overall Score: 8.5/10


  • Accurate room and headphone calibration
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Improves mixing accuracy


  • Requires measurement microphone for best results
  • Calibration process can be time-consuming

Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio Edition tackles the problem of inaccurate monitoring environments, ensuring your mixes translate well across different systems. It’s an essential tool for anyone serious about mixing and mastering.


From the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor’s glue to the AI-powered mastering wizardry of iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced, these plugins have not only shaped the sound of countless records but have also made high-quality production accessible to all. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting, incorporating these tools into your workflow can elevate your music to new heights.

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