Not too long ago, I created a video on some great, top-shelf free sound design plugins that I use all the time. Those free plugins are absolutely amazing, but they don't necessarily cover all the bases that a pro sound designer may need in their day-to-day work.
Now, if you're a total beginner, don't worry about going crazy and buying all of these plugins. If you're starting to get some little bits of work and are putting some serious time into sound design, though? These are well worth taking a gander at, especially the last one.
So, let's take a look at 5 cheap sound design plugins that will be a huge help to your workflow.
As a heads up, I'm defining "cheap" as anything under $100 USD. While that can still be expensive for a budding sound designer, you're getting a lot for your money with these plugins.
First up is the Eos Reverb Plugin by Eos
You know that I'm a reverb pervert. I'm not secretive about my shame in this regard. If you followed any of my older videos on the sound design of Hyper Light Drifter, then you know that I used this reverb on very nearly every single sound in the game.
Eos has a lot of great settings that can give it an extremely anime, modern, crazy sound. I wouldn't use it if I needed something that sounds extremely realistic, but for cool sound design and special effects, this is where I reach. It even has an infinite setting that I love which just lets it reverberate forever, so if there's any part of a sound you need to loop or stretch out, you can just hit the infinite button and record the output.
Next up is Serum
Many of you watching likely already have this one, or at least know about it.
Not only is it a fantastic synth for electronic music, but it's truly incredible for sound design, and also a great tool to learn subtractive synthesis on as well.
It has everything you need to create loads of sound effects, and has a great interface, a ton of wavetables, tons of presets, great effects, and a huge community of sound designers who use it regularly to learn from. In fact, it was one of my absolute key tools when I was the sound designer for Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye. It even allows you to create your own wavetables for a massive amount of customization.
And, at the time of this writing, you can also rent-to-own this plugin for about $10 a month from Splice, which is nice if you're on a budget but still want to use it.
Now, if you want to go even crazier with your synth/sampler sound design, then the tools by Glitchmachines are really excellent.
And so I want to talk about Polygon from Glitchmachines
Glitchmachines is one of the tiny handful of plugin makers who are actually focused on sound designers more so than focusing on just musicians, and it shows in the incredibly wild and unique stuff that they make.
While I haven't tried all of their tools, I do use Polygon regularly when I need to do something absolutely crazy.
What's cool about Polygon is that it's not completely synthesis-based, but instead is a sampler that allows you to drag in your own audio files and warp and combine them in really interesting, super unpredictable ways. It’s a really useful tool to play around and warp your samples into something you may not have thought possible originally.
Now, when it comes to Sound Design, you'll be making a lot of whooshes
Whether it be a laser, build up to a giant attack, a car driving by, or a thousand other scenarios, sound designers make a ton of whooshes, no matter what the genre is.
One of the absolute most useful tools for that is Whoosh by Tonsturm.
Whoosh is... exactly what it sounds like. It generates whooshes from scratch for you, using a bunch of built in samples, or you can load in your own. You can layer a bunch of sounds to whoosh with, and time it however you want. Incredibly useful for everything from sci-fi weapons, explosions, buildups, or literally anything else that needs a whoosh.
And as a heads up, it's kind of a plugin-within-a-plugin. To use this, you need to have Native Instruments Reaktor, or you can use the totally-free version of Reaktor which is called Reaktor Player. From inside of Reaktor or Reaktor Player, you can load this plugin, and create your delicious whooses easy peasy.
Last up might be one of my favorite lower-priced plugins
And it's one that I think most sound designers should just go ahead and get, and that's Brusfri.
It's an amazing denoising plugin, which is damn near required for sound designers. When we're out recording sound effects, we have to deal with tons of noise all the time. Whether that be room noise, traffic, wind, or even the self-noise on our equipment, we want to get rid of this so our sounds become more usable.
When it comes to denoising, a lot of people in the sound design field use iZotope RX standard or advanced, and that's an incredibly useful tool, but that's usually pretty unaffordable for a lot of beginning sound designers. While Brusfri can't do as much as iZotope RX, it's truly an excellent denoiser for a lot cheaper than RX.
Now, I know what you're thinking right now: "Akash you feather-light dreamily-delicate chocolate macaron", you ask "Are any of these plugins really necessary?"
And, like most plugins and pieces of hardware, no. You don't need any of these. The know-how matters more.
The only thing I would say on this list is really helpful, especially if you don't have any other way to denoise your audio, or want something better than Audacity's built-in denoiser, is Brusfri. That's just amazing to have if you're recording your own sounds, voice over, or using libraries that have some noise in them.
But other than that? Pick what you need now (if any), and then just come back later if you need anything else.
Alright, that's all for now!
I hope you enjoyed this list! And if you want to see a video breakdown of all of these plugins, you can watch that right here.