The Best Audio Plugin Subscriptions for Mixers? The Good, the Bad, and the Monthly

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It was quite evident that Softube has really nailed the nonlinearities within each of the plugins, and they come close to competing with the quality of the best hardware DSP systems in a native package. Thankfully, some of the more CPU intensive plugins are also supported by UAD, which a plus for those with UAD DSP systems.

Despite the tremendous diversity of its offerings, I still felt a little restricted while using this bundle. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the everyday practicality of Slate, but I just didn’t find myself returning to the bundle as much as I do to some of my old favorites.

While all the plugins sound amazing, they are often so niche-oriented that the full bundle lacks some of the workhorse versatility of the Slate bundle. I often found myself reaching for this bundle only when I was chasing a particular sound, not when I was just trying to simply EQ or compress.

To its credit, providing ordinary effects for ordinary sounds doesn’t seem to be the point of this bundle, though. Softube has traded a range of EQs and compressors in favor of more unique plugins like Heartbeat (an amazing drum machine), Fix Flanger (a realistic tape flanging effect), and the Drawmer S73 (a mastering grade multi-band compressor).

In addition to offering the roughly $2,000 worth of plugins included as a subscription bundle for $19.99 a month or $199.99 a year, Softube also offers this bundle as an outright purchase for just $499, and that seems to be the better value to me in the long run.

These are some fantastic plugins, even if they may not see the light of day in every single mix. Either way, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t check out the bundle for at least a month.

Even if buying here turns out to be the better value for you (you could buy the whole bundle outright for the same cost as 2.5 years of subscribing) starting with a brief month-to-month subscription seems like a great way to “try before you buy”.

Eventide Ensemble Subscription Bundle

Eventide’s Ensemble bundle excels in delivering next-gen effects and unique tones that are hard to find elsewhere.

Eventide is one of the most recognizable names in audio, so my interest was piqued when I heard they were taking a swing at the subscription model.

I had tried a couple of their plugins years ago, and they were decent at the time, but their latest offerings seem to be their best yet. They currently offer their Ensemble bundle for $29.99/month or $299.99/year, featuring over $1,800 worth of plugins.

Unsurprisingly, the “FX” plugins are the best of the bunch. While Eventide does include more general-use plugins like the E-Channel and the Ultra Channel, these plugins fall a bit below their other offerings here.

But where this bundle wins, it wins big. The most stand-out plugins here are Blackhole, Quadavox, and Octavox. Blackhole is one of the most amazing reverbs I have ever used. It ranges from subtle vocal plates, all the way to pad-like atmospheres. Whenever I need to do something in the realm of sound design with reverb, there is nothing quite like Blackhole.

Quadavox and Octavox (two of the newest plugins here) offer the famous Eventide Harmonizer sound in an intuitive and aesthetically-pleasing interface. Both plugins feel like H3000s on steroids. While they aren’t perfect solutions for generating false harmonies, they are some of the best out there, and well worth the price of the bundle alone.

If you’re shopping for some decent EQs and compressors, this is not the place to look. The EQs can feel a bit harsh compared to some of the better vintage emulations, and for me, the compressors often come off sounding either too light or way too hard, and both bring the appeal of the full bundle down somewhat. Still, the limitations here are mostly offset by the unique character and great value of their more forward-looking effects.

At $299/year it would take almost 5 years of subscribing to equal the cost of laying out the $1,450 for Eventide’s Anthology X Bundle ($1,000), plus the Blackhole ($200) and TVerb ($250) plugins that are not included in that package.

Though this isn’t a bundle I’d recommend for those who are just getting started, it does have a ton of tools to create unique-sounding effects for your productions. There isn’t anything out that sounds quite like Eventide. Check out a month for yourself to see what you can create.

Kush Audio: OG Complete Suite

Kush Audio delivers some very unusual and memorable effects to add accents to your plugin library at a very affordable monthly rate.

Kush Audio is one of the more recent companies to jump on the subscription train, and I’m sure glad they have. Their OG Kush Complete Suite offers seven plugins (equaling over $850 in value) for only $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.

While the advertised dollar value isn’t as high as some as the others on the list, they are easily worth double the asking price. Kush’s plugins are some of the most unique and best-sounding I have ever heard, and it’s rare that I mix or master without using at least one plugin from this bundle.

Trying out the bundle, I immediately gravitated towards the EQs included. The Electra EQ was amazing for dialing in the top end on snare drums, and the Clariphonic EQ was ideal for adding just the perfect touch of high end polish to an entire mix. However, I found myself going back to the Hammer EQ the most. Based on the hardware unit by A-Designs, the Hammer is a beautiful 3-band equalizer that just never seems to sound bad. This plugin can be pushed to extreme limits and still maintain a very musical characteristic.

Once again, this bundle does not offer the everyday versatility of the Slate bundle. Most of the plugins are focused on character and vibe, and less on utility functions. That’s not a bad thing, but much like Softube’s Volume 1, I didn’t find myself reaching for the Kush plugins to accomplish simple tasks.

Kush says that every new plugin released will be added to the bundle at no extra charge (much like Slate) and that more “High End Brands by Kush” will be added in the future. If you know anything about SlyFi Digital, then this should be exciting news.

For $9.99, it’s really hard not to try out these plugins. Thankfully, Kush even offers demos on each of these virtual devices so you can try them out before buying in. Regardless, I would still go pick up at least a month. You won’t be disappointed.

McDSP All Access Subscription

McDSP’s All Access subscription offers one of the better values in renting vs. buying, and comes with a full suite of unique and effective plugins.

McDSP has been offering up plug-In subscriptions since November 2015 with their “All Access Plan”.

Their model runs $29/month or $295/year for all the plugins in Native format (or $49/month $495/year for HD systems).

In total, the bundle is worth a whopping $2,295 based on the already-discounted price of the native Everything Pack.

At this price point, the McDSP All Access Subscription offers one of the best values for money out of all the bundles here. Like with Slate’s subscription offering, it would take nearly a decade of leasing before buying becomes the better value.

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  • Great article. The subscription model is now the standard. I wonder how long until other companies like Waves, and UA follow suite.

  • Colin Bennun

    I’d be more inclined to take advantage of things like this if it was made clear that your lifetime subscription payments are capped at the same amount as the cost of buying the plugins outright, and that when your cumulative payments reach that value you’re given a permanent license.

  • Jacob Roach

    Hopefully soon! 🙂

  • Jacob Roach

    That would be nice. The way I think about it, I’m willing to spend more later down the road because they gave such a deal upfront.
    Although, I wouldn’t complain getting some permanent licenses! 😉

  • Sean Thompson

    I’m surprised no discussion on how some of these companies have offset the subscription plans for people that already own some or many of their plugins. There are different approaches being taken here.
    Also, to really nail home why this shift to subscriptions is happening, it would be useful to point out the value of CAPEX vs OPEX spending to a business. Also, the fact that (in many countries) Assets are depreciated, but Liabilities and Expenses are taken off profits before tax. Upshot is, for a business (or maybe a Sole Trader – check with your accountant), subscriptions often make very practical fiscal sense compared to buying.

  • Russell Szabados

    I’ve been a subscriber to EastWest’s Composer Cloud since Summer 2016 and, for me, it’s about the greatest thing since sliced bread. Their sales pitch for CC is not far off the mark, it really would take thousands of dollars (which I don’t have right now) to amass the libraries they offer for $29.99 a month. Granted…they hold back the Diamond versions which are 24-bit and include extra mic positions. But I do my best with what they give, and they give a lot.

    I’m probably going to jump on the Slate subscription soon. I wish Flux and Fabfilter would do a subscription model!

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  • Justin C.

    Great point Sean. If you are unable to depreciate your software purchases in a way that’s optimal for your needs, a subscription could be of added benefit from a tax savings perspective.

    Yes, there are upgrade paths available from some of these companies, and that is worth mentioning.

    The rest is fairly advanced to go into in the context of a review, but very interesting! If you ever wanted to contribute a more business-focused story, we’re always open to pitches!

    I’d imagine that the prevailing interest rates would also have a significant impact on what most companies would be willing to charge for renting vs. buying the plugins on average. But there seems to be some great variety here on that front.

  • Arthur Young

    I’ve been using the Slate Everything bundle since it was first released, it’s brilliant. I agree with Jacob’s comments about some of the compressors and EQs, although I tend to use stock Logic plugins for simple stuff and Eioisis Air for character (along side hardware, of course). I was disappointed when they dropped support for the ReLab LHX80 reverb, as I really enjoyed the depth and space of this Lexicon emulation, although VerbSuite is also very good. I have the Lexicon PCM Native reverb collection anyway, but it served as a warning to not grow too attached to any plugin if it is suddenly discontinued.

    On a more general note, I’m far happier subscribing in this fashion, it feels more like renting superior quality hardwazre instruments or gear, which was something I did a lot when I started out. I also look forward to other manufacturers following suit, as I have a UAD quad PCI card in my main mixing Mac.

    I definitely agree with Jacob’s opinion about new user being somewhat dazzled by the options and consequently inflated expectations. As ever, only continued experience and learning will make you better at what you do, not instant access to a plethora of tools.

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  • Radbrad Smith

    i just saw that waves has a plugin based subscription service. they a silver, platinum and mercury editions. silver 9.99 a month and includes 16 plugins. platinum is 49 dollars a month and has 50 plugins. the mercury subscription is 149 dollars a month and has over a 150 plugins. http://www.waves.com/subscriptions < this is their weblink. im putting it here because it has columns about whats included or not included in each subscription, i personally have never used waves plugins. theyre way higher than my budget can allow, ive heard waves is a very respectable company, so im sharing this for people that are interested in waves subscriptions and might not know about it