If you’re like most home studio enthusiasts, there’s a good chance you suffer greatly from a condition I call “plugin addiction.” It’s a never-ending quest to find the greatest plugins imaginable. You literally spend hours reading articles and watching YouTube videos about the best 1176 plugin, the best SSL Channel Strip, and even less-common stuff like Distressor emulations and more.
While I admit that I prefer to purchase my plugins outright and own them for life, I’ve also come to realize that, most of the time, I know what I want and never touch 90% of the other plugins in my library. Those preferences have developed over time and through an arguably unhealthy obsession with testing hundreds, if not thousands, of plugins.
For those who prefer a simple, less time-consuming path, here are some popular plugin bundles that are available via monthly subscriptions. If you want to expand beyond the stock plugins included with your DAW, these are a great way to try out new flavors without making an expensive financial commitment.
Slate Digital All Access
Arguably the most popular plugin subscription offering, Slate Digital All Access gives you licenses to their acclaimed library of high-quality plugins. The library includes a host of console emulations, pre-amps, virtual tape machines, classic compressors (including a Distressor emulation, FG Stress), EQs, Reverbs and more.
Additionally, you also get access to Slate Academy, which contains over 200 videos hosted by some big names, including Just Blaze, Chris Lord-Alge, and Sevenn.
Slate Digital All Access is $24.99/month with a discount to $14.99/month with an annual commitment.
Plugin Alliance Mega Bundle
Plugin Alliance offers some of the best sounding plugins I have heard outside of the proprietary Universal Audio ecosystem. For $24.99 per month (or save $50 and commit to paying upfront for a year at $249), you’ll get every plugin they offer (over 110), including their incredible console emulations—their new SSL 9000J is simply amazing. Aside from console emulations, you’ll get a ton of modeled EQs and compressors, top-notch mastering tools, amp simulations, instruments, reverbs, and more. Another one of my favorites is their Shadow Hills compressor, and even that is available in two flavors.
As mentioned above, you get all that for $24.99 / month, but you also get a voucher worth $249.99 if you subscribe for 12 straight months (or pay for a year up-front). Some people use that voucher to buy plugins and own the ones they love for life. Others choose to sell the vouchers through online marketplaces and pocket the cash.
Waves Music Maker Access
As a relative newcomer to the subscription model, Waves offers three tiers— Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Silver offers 16 basic, yet capable plugins from the Waves library. This includes the famed C1 Compressor and other staples like a DeEsser, Convolution Reverb, Renaissance processors, and more. The Renaissance stuff, though older, still offers very capable compression and EQ that sounds great. As you step up to Gold or Platinum, additional plugins are available, including Waves Tune, more EQs, and one of my personal favorites, the L2.
Waves Music Maker Access starts at $6.99 per month.
McDSP All Access
McDSP offers a large library of plugins that are revered by the world’s top engineers. Their subscription model is similarly priced to that of Plugin Alliance and Slate Digital. Likewise, you’ll have access to every current and future McDSP plugin, including compressors, channel strips, EQs, limiters, multi-band processors, noise reduction, reverbs, and more.
The McDSP All Access subscription may offer the most complete suite of plugins of all the subscription models.
Kush OG Complete Plug-in Suite
Kush offers a collection of boutique-style plugins (over a dozen as of this article)—perhaps the most unique collection of all the subscription options. Some of their most popular plugins are the UBK-1, Clariphonic, and Sly-Fi. The base subscription comes in at $9.99/month and an additional $1.99/month for access to Sly-Fi, which is probably worth it.
The Clariphonic is especially impressive! I highly recommend downloading the demo and giving it a try on your stereo mix bus.
Softube Volume 4
Currently in Volume 4, Softube tends to release a new Volume about every year. Available through the subscription site Gobbler.com, Softube Volume 4 features 28 world-class plugins from some of the best brands in the industry. These incredible plugins include top-notch reverbs, dynamic processors, channel strips, effects, amps, and more. There are even official branded plugins from Summit Audio, Trident, Weiss, and Marshall.
All things considered, Softube produces some of the best sounding plugins, bar none.
Softube Volume 4 is available for $29.99/month or $24.99/month with an annual commitment.
There are some other subscription bundles out there worth considering, including offerings from SSL (starting at $4.99/month) and Eventide (Ensemble Bundle starting at $29.99/month). Both offer accurate recreations of their iconic hardware counterparts, so if you’re a purist and want to get as close to the original thing as possible, you might want to consider these options.
If you’re like most music production hobbyists or professionals, you know that it can feel as though there is a never-ending list of plugins to buy—there’s always a shiny new toy. Luckily, times are changing and subscription models make it easier than ever to have more options at your disposal. I personally prefer to purchase my plugins and own them for life, but if you’re the type who wants the most flexibility possible combined with the newest releases, a monthly subscription to one or more plugin suites may be the best option for you. If I didn’t cover a subscription bundle that you like, please share it below!