I recently setup my new M1 Max MacBook Pro and I installed all my 19 essential plugins for music producers. These audio plugins range from cassette emulation to drum processing to developing chord progressions if you don’t understand music theory. These music plugins are the ones I needed when I got this new computer.

Blogs That Knock has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Blogs That Knock may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.

Subscribe to DECAP on YouTube

These are the 19 essential plugins for music producers.

Sketch Cassette II by Aberrant DSP

I have been using Sketch Cassette for a couple years now. This is version two and it’s super powerful for getting a dirty sound. If I am trying to gritty or dirty up a loop I load up into my DAW, this is my go to. With the age knob you can go between new and worn. Dropouts to the sound will make it choppy and it sounds so warm and good. Sketch Cassette is definitely a must have. This is one plugin I don’t think I could live without.

RC-20 Retro Color by XLN Audio

Another go to of mine is RC-20. Most music producers are familiar with XLN Audio. They make incredible plugins and this one has become a staple in the music industry. It’s definitely a gated plugin. It sounds phenomenal and everyone is using it. It has what I would call a timeless sound to it. If you run something through RC-20 and mess with the knobs, you’re likely to come up with something great. The presets are great. This one is a classic.


If you make any kind of beats with drums of any kind, KNOCK plugin created by myself will become your go to for drum processing. It will make your beats slap and it’s easy to use. Punch, saturate, sub, air and clip are the 5 elements of KNOCK. There is visual feedback on the animations seen through its interface. When you run your drum loops through this, it’s going to make it sound better. This is your new must have plugin for drums.

Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter

This is my essential plugin for EQ. I often use the Ableton stock EQ, but this plugin is great because there is so much you can do with it. It’s very user friendly and graphically intuitive. Great presets, too. It’s a go to plugin for surgical EQ. Definitely one of the 19 essential plugins for music producers.

Pro-L 2 by FabFilter

I use Pro-L 2 on almost every master track. I put it at the end of my mastering chain. It’s a super transparent sounding limiter. I set my output ceiling with it. Do a last minute turn-up. You have oversampling. Pro-L 2 is an amazing plugin.

Scaler 2 by Plugin Boutique

If you need a little help with music theory, Scaler 2 will give you chord ideas, melody ideas, and more. It’s a phenomenal plugin if you ever feel stuck or want to get some inspiration for new ideas. I know a lot of music theory and I continue to study as the years go on, but Scaler 2 is still an awesome plugin and a definite must have.

Gullfoss by Sound Theory

Gullfoss is absolutely a simple plugin to use and it goes on every track that I do. It adds that extra 5-15% to your mix. It creates a curve based on the human ear and adjusts your audio to more pleasing frequencies in real time. And this is not something you can easily replicate with another plugin or EQ. Gullfoss is truly one of a kind.

Omnisphere by Spectrasonics

Omnishpere has been a staple for a while now. On my old computer it would be a little laggy sometimes because there is so much going on under the hood. Spectrasonics recently updated Omnisphere for the M1 chip on Apple Computers and it runs flawlessly. This is definitely a must have for me.

Trilian by Spectrasonics

Trilian is another plugin that Spectrasonics recently updated for the M1 chip. It’s a bass plugin. There are synth basses and real recorded electric basses. Anything bass is in Trilian. It’s an amazing plugin.

LABS by Spitfire Audio

Spitfire LABS is another must have plugin and it’s free. If you don’t have the budget for Omnisphere, you can load up a bunch of free libraries into this plugin and they sound great. I can’t recommend it enough. You get pianos, strings, drums, synths, guitars, violins, and more. And they’re all free.

VintageVerb by Valhalla

This is one of the best sounding reverb plugins. Lately I’ve been using the stock reverb plugin a lot in Ableton 11, but VintageVerb is another amazing plugin for reverb.

HalfTime by Cableguys

Another staple of mine is HalfTime. For those who produce in FL Studio, it’s very similar to gross beat. You put a sample through it and it plays it in halftime. It pitches it down and you can mix the dry/wet. It’s a definite go to.

Memorymode by Cherry Audio

This is a new company I was put onto. From the title, you know what it’s emulating – the legendary Memorymoog. This plugin sounds great. It sounds lush. It sounds full and thick. It’s excellent and M1 compatible.

soothe2 by oeksound

This plugin is perfect for getting out those harsh frequencies. I use this one quite a bit, especially when I am doing mixes.

Arcade by Output

Arcade is $10 a month. And it’s just loaded with great samples. Another highly recommended one.

Effectrix by Sugar Bytes

This is a classic plugin and it’s extremely fun to use. I use this a lot for its great stutter effects. It’s not M1 compatible yet, but you can use it with Rosetta.

Ozone 9 by iZotope

The Ozone 9 imager is something I use in almost every session I do. If you put it on your hi hat, for example, it’ll stereo spread it and make it nice and wide.

Triton by KORG

This plugin is dope for those of you who are a little more old school. It basically sounds exactly like the classic Triton. It’s not M1 compatible yet, but it also works with Rosetta.

Cassette by Wavesfactory

Another great sounding tape plugin I use.

Essential Plugins For Music Producers

Those are my 19 essential plugins for music producers. I am so happy I got these all loaded up on my new M1 Max MacBook Pro now. Time to sell some beats with your tracks using these essential plugins.

These are the 19 essential plugins for music producers

Tagged in: