My Top 10 VST Plugins for producing & mastering electronic music

My studio has gone through some relevant changes since the release of my last album Focus in 2017.

Even though one or two pieces of hardware have found new owners the biggest change for me has been on the software side of things. To be honest, I wasn’t really super happy with my setup a couple of years ago. Often I would find that the composing of a tune wouldn’t take that long but the process of getting the right sound and master would take forever. So for the last couple of Black Fridays and all the other sales surrounding them, I have been trying out and buying what I believe is a much better set of tools to use in my creative process of making music.

This is my very personal list of my top 10 VST plugins right now (Ok actually one is not a plugin, but anyway..)

In no particular order, they are all very very good. Ok here we go.

 

Output Arcade

What it is

Arcade is a loop synthesizer that lets you perform and manipulate loops in real time. New sets and loops are added continuously so there is always something new to keep you inspired. The variation of the different kits and loops is very impressive. I wouldn’t use everything in there in my music but it has more than enough goodies to keep me as a happy subscriber.

What I use it for

So far I have used a couple of vocal hooks that I added my own effects to and also various sounds and snippets here and there. Arcade is now my go-to tool when I’m kind of stuck in my old ways and want to introduce something fresh and unexpected. I’ve found that I don’t always keep the sounds from Arcade in a tune, but that they instead served as a scaffolding for building something else.

 

Arturia Rev Plate-140

What it is

It’s a plate reverb with three modes, adjustable decay-time and vacuum tube driver emulation. This was Arturia’s free Xmas gift for 2019. For some reason I’ve never really liked plate reverb, but this one.. WOW!

What I use it for

It has a very warm big sound that I can use for basically anything. One example is I played a typical lead-sound on my Sidstation, then smacked some of this plate on top of it and suddenly I had something that sounded like a strange massive string-like ensamble.

 

Valhalla Vintageverb

What it is

Valhalla VintageVerb is a postmodern reverb plugin, inspired by the classic hardware digital reverbs of the 1970s and 1980s. Actually I could write about any of Valhallas effect plugins here. They are that good. I also frequently use Valhalla Shimmer and Delay in my music.

What I use it for

Basically everything. It was my go-to reverb on Focus and it still is with the music I’m making now for my next album.

 

Waves LoAir

What it is

LoAir is a super simple sub-harmonic generator. It’s used for not only enhancing your low end but also adding new where there previously wasn’t any.

What I use it for

I use it mainly to add a nice naturally sounding sub to kick drums and basses. This used to be a very tricky process where I would spend hours of tweaking the EQs and compression and still not getting it quite right. With this plugin it’s super easy to get that extra bottom we all like and desire.

 

Soundspot Halcyon

What it is

Halcyon is a Mid/Side Saturation plugin used for adding harmonics and warmth to a sound.

What I use it for

Halcyon is my new go-to plugin for saturation. When a sound is flat or dull and EQing doesn’t work, I add just a little bit of saturation to it and the result is usually something much more interesting.

 

Mastering the mix Bassroom

What it is

Bassroom is a final mix and mastering EQ that you use to get that perfect lo-end. The interface is easy and the presets are good. As if that’s not enough you can also import reference tracks to help you get as close as possible to your favorites.

What I use it for

It is always the first plugin on my master channel, where I use to get a less muddy and tighter lo-end. Usually I don’t have to tweak it that much, really. It just sits there and does its thing. Pretty amazing if you ask me.

 

Waves Infected Mushroom Pusher

What it is

Pusher is an innovative multiband sonic enhancer and limiter/clipper used mainly for mastering. The interface is very simple with a just a few knobs to turn, but you soon discover that there is a lot of impressive sound sculpturing going on in the background. It looks like a toy but definitely sounds like a pro tool.

What I use it for

This is the second plugin in the chain on my master channel. Pusher takes care of a wide range of mastering tasks that you previously typically would need maybe four, five other plugins to do. When I first tried out the free version I was a bit sceptical. I have been an avid user of Izotope Ozone since version 5 and didn’t know what to think of these new types of plugins that demands you surrender control to a couple of buttons and knobs. I feared I maybe wouldn’t be able to get exactly the type of sound that I wanted. How wrong I was. It’s an amazing plugin for mastering and it’s super easy to get a pro mastered sound out of it. And it saves A LOT of time.

 

Izotope Ozone 9

What it is

Ozone is one of the leading tools for mastering with tons of controls and literally everything you need. Version 9 has AI-powered assistive audio tools that gives you an instant starting point. Also you can load your own reference tracks and have Ozone adjust the levels accordingly.

What I use it for

As I wrote earlier Ozone was previously my number one choice for final master. I used version 7 for all the tunes on Focus. Today it is the third plugin on my master channel chain, where I typically use its analog limiter, adjusting it to make sure the LUFS are below the Spotify recommendations. The new reference track function seems very good though so I might use that more in the near future.

 

Youlean Loudness Meter 2

What it is

Youlean is a plugin for measuring Loudness on a master channel. It helps you to find the true perceived loudness of your audio and prepares it for TV or streaming services release. Back in the day, the thing about Loudness was you wanted as much as possible of it, because you wanted your track to be loud, or at least as loud as the others. This was before streaming became a thing. Now it’s the other way around. You don’t want your track to have too much loudness because then the streaming services, like Spotify will lower its volume so that it sounds quieter than other tracks on the service.

What I use it for

Youlean is my final plugin on my master channel. I use it to make sure the LUFS (Loudness Unit Fullscale) levels on the final master is on or slightly below the recommendations for streaming.

 

Mastering the mix Expose

What it is

My final recommendation is actually not a plugin, although I wish it was. Expose is a standalone application used to expose potential technical problems with a final master. Drag and drop a sound file onto it and it will analyze and report back any issues with loudness, phasing and more.

What I use it for

When the final master of a track is done I export from Ableton live and drop the file into Expose to test if it’s ready for streaming. I admit it may be a bit of a tedious process at times – having it available as a plugin would be very beneficial. Still I rather do it this way than discovering some problems -after- the track has been released on the streaming services.

Top 10 movies of 2019 according to me

It’s that time of the year again, so without further due here is my list of top 10 movies of 2019. A few of them are actually from 2018 but since they weren’t shown or released until 2019 in Sweden I’ve included them in my list. Here we go.

1. Parasite

Directed by Bong Joon Ho
Stars Kang-ho SongSun-kyun LeeYeo-jeong Jo

2. Shoplifters

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Stars Lily FrankySakura AndôKirin Kiki

3. Joker

Directed by Todd Phillips
Stars Joaquin PhoenixRobert De NiroZazie Beetz

4. The Lighthouse

Directed by Robert Eggers
Stars Willem DafoeRobert Pattinson

5. The Favourite

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Stars Olivia ColmanEmma StoneRachel Weisz

6. Burning

Directed by Chang-dong Lee
Stars Ah-in YooSteven YeunJong-seo Jun

7. Upgrade

Directed by Leigh Whannell
Stars Logan Marshall-GreenMelanie VallejoSteve Danielsen

8. Midsommar

Directed by Ari Aster
Stars Florence PughJack ReynorVilhelm Blomgren

9. Dolemite is my name

Directed by Craig Brewer
Stars Eddie MurphyKeegan-Michael KeyMike Epps

10. Apollo 11

Directed by Todd Douglas Miller
Stars Neil ArmstrongMichael CollinsBuzz Aldrin

December 29th, 2019|Blog, I recommend, Movies|

What I’m listening to at the moment: Space Dimension Controller, Underworld, Vince Watson, Jacques Greene

The last couple months have been unusually slow for finding really good new music on Spotify. Still when I go through my list of recently hearted albums there are four entries that stand out above the rest.

Space Dimension Controller – Love Beyond the intersect

The first one is a concept album from Space Dimension Controller aka Mr 8040, bringing us fresh galactic funk from the edges of the universe. As expected, the retro feels runs strong on all the tracks. Think late 70’s, early 80’s funky space disco, vocoder included. If you like this, you should also check out his album Welcome to Mikrosector-50 from 2013.

Underworld – DRIFT Series 1

My all-time favorite Underworld recently released the final compilation of all the material from their DRIFT EPs.

Not everything here is top notch but there are still enough gold nuggets to say this is the best I have heard from them in close to 20 years. My fav piece of Karl Hyde lyrics is from the short track Mile Bush Pride. It’s the perfect example of describing as much as possible with as little words as possible.
Just listen to this: “Fierce beauty in the dance hall. One-time raiser of hell. Copper blonde. Skin in tight black.”
Beatiful.

Vince Watson – DnA

Next up is Glasgow producer Vince Watson – DnA, which was actually released earlier this spring. 18 tracks of glorious Detroit techno and classic deep house.

Jacques Green – Dawn Chorus

Finishing off with something perhaps a bit more accessible but still oozing with quality, good melodies and well-crafted beats. Dawn Chorus by French-Canadian producer Jacques Green. Although there are several gems on this album, my fav track has to be old-school Acid House-tinted Night Service.

November 17th, 2019|Blog, I recommend, Music|

What I’m listening to at the moment: Datach’i, MOTSA, Gëinst, Lee Burridge

It’s time for another ‘Here’s what I’m listening to’.
These are some of the albums that I have gravitated towards for the last month or so. All within the spectrum of electronic music.
All with my personal stamp of approval.

First out is Bones by Datach’i, aka Joseph Fraioli from Los Angeles, California. Friends of glitchy probability electronica have probably heard his music before, his first release 10110101=[rec+play] was 20 years ago. Very well produced with interesting textures and unexpected twists and turns. An album for special moments.

 

Next up, dreamy synth based pop. MOTSA is a new discovery for me. His debut album Perspectives was inspired by his acute awareness of modern society’s dependence on technology and the social media bubble also responsible for globally polarizing our current civilization. The highlights on this album are No Fear (with David Österle), Harp Enough, Rolling Back (Madeline Kenney) and Salvation (with David Österle).

 

Techno time. Gëinst produces music mainly inspired by nature. Released in 2018, Gallery is all about beautiful drones and ambient sounds soaked in bass. Long journeys into sound. Basic Ambient Techno that I enjoy very much. More of this please.

 

We finish with Melt, another fine release on All Day I Dream by the man himself, Lee Burridge together with Lost Desert. Deep technicolor emotionalism for lazy days by the pool, sunset or sunrise. Comforting Deep House at its finest.

August 31st, 2019|Blog, I recommend, Music|

What I’m listening to at the moment: Plaid, Teen Daze, WhoMadeWho, David August

It’s time for me to once again write something about the music I’m listening to at the moment. Yes it’s time for another I recommend post. First I must apologize. Yes I know I’ve been lazy but to make up for that laziness here are four of the best albums right now, IMHO. Hope you enjoy.

Teen Daze – Bioluminescence

Try to say that title ten times without faltering. This artist is new discovery for me. Cinematic, atmospheric, pulsating and sometimes danceable deep, in this his sixth full-lengther.

Plaid – Polymer

New electronic weirdness and playful melodies from the British duo and veterans comprising of Ed Handley and Andy Turner, both actual original members of Black Dog Productions.

Watergate 26 Mixed by WhoMadeWho

A fairly new mix-album with a very tasteful selection of genre-traversing laid-back atmospheric grooves from the pride of Copenhagen.

David August – D’Angelo

Another new artist discovery for me. This reminds me a bit of Kauf, with that same distinct retro-feel, mainly because of the sounds and effects that was used. Great songs and melancholy allover.

 

June 24th, 2019|Blog, I recommend, Music|

HÆLOS – Any Random Kindness

There have not been much music released lately that I liked enough to recommend here on Fogelberg.com. That was until yesterday when London based Haelos released their second album Any Random Kindness. Lots of great tunes and melodies on this one. Their music has been described as “dark euphoria” and an “angelic combination of male-female vocal interplay and atmospheric soundscapes.”

Amen to that. Instant favorite for me.

 

The Chemical Brothers are back!!

I haven’t listened to The Chemical Brother for a very long time. Saw them at the Sonar Festival a few years ago but apart from that I think I stopped following them somewhere around Push the Button in 2005. Don’t know why really, but I suspect I just grew tired of their sound at the time.

Fast forward a decade or so and their latest album No Geography is out.

I’m surprised to say it’s really really good. I like it a lot. Good tunes.

 

April 15th, 2019|Blog, I recommend, Music|

Weval – The Weight

In this week’s list of recommendations automatically and specifically handed to my by the all-serving algorithms of Spotify I found this newly released gem from Amsterdam-based Harm Coolen and Merijn Schotte Albers, aka Weval.

As usual these days, no doubt the result of me training the recommendation engine for god knows how many hours, it was once again correct in assuming I would like this. So thank you once again Spotify for showing me another gem that I would probably never have heard otherwise.

The songs on Weval range from blissed-out retro-chill-pop to more experimental trips into the land of 60s string reverb. Somewhat similar artists with this sound, at least in my mind would be Washed Out, WorriedAboutSatan and Chrome Sparks, to some extent. There are singing or pieces of singing on all the songs and it’s always run through some sort of effect, like pitch, phaser or harmonizer. The selection of effects heightens the overall retro-feeling on The Weight. It sounds 60s, but yet modern and fresh.

My favorite pieces of music so far are the title track, Are You Even Real, False State of Mind and Same Little Thing.

Released on Kompakt.

 

March 30th, 2019|Blog, I recommend, Music|

LP5 by Apparat is out

Finally the latest full-lengther from Apparat has been released. It’s a satisfying collection of beautifully contemplating ambient pieces built around the pleasant voice of Mr Apparat himself, Sascha Ring.

There are three tunes here that stand out above the other for me. The first one is DAWAN, which was the first single released a couple of months ago. Then we have CARONTE where Mr Ring’s voice is heard through a harmonizer effect supported by a whole section of cellos, violins, guitars and a slightly distorted bass sound. This is also one of the tunes on the album which most reminds me of the sound of Moderat, of which Apparat of course also is a part of.

My third favorite is IN GRAVITAS, the finishing tune on the album, which is the most, I suppose, dance-ish piece on LP5. All in all a great album which I will listen to again and again in the near future.

 

March 23rd, 2019|Blog, I recommend, Music|

A Winter Sampler

It’s time for another recommendation of some great music. I found this expertly selected collection of tracks called “A Winter Sampler” on Spotify. It was released recently on All Day I Dream.

Laid back Deep House music made just the way I like it. I think you will too.