Best Plugin Subscriptions for Audio Engineers

It once was frowned upon to mix strictly “in the box,” but with the ever-growing library of high-fidelity tools being offered to mix-engineers paired with a previously unattainable and equally unaffordable amount of computer processing power that time is mostly gone. Though analog gear is worth it’s weight in decibels, mixing plugins can heavily reduce the barrier to entry as a burgeoning mix engineer, student or bedroom producer but like their physical counterparts, the best can cost you a pretty penny.

Spotify and Uber have proved that the people care less about owning things and more about having access, a shift that plugin developers have slowly gotten onboard with. These 5 plugin subscription services will push your mixes to the next level without pushing your bank account into the red.


With the world of music making fighting the same levels of piracy as the world of music, these are the best subscription services for audio engineers.


1. Avid ProTools

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There’s not much to say about Avid’s Pro Tools, it has been the industry standard for nearly 2 decades, because of this Avid is one of the only companies that also offers a educational discount for students and teachers alike which is more than half the cost of the standard license.

As one of the oldest and most comprehensive audio companies in the world, Avid’s ProTools subscription is perfect by itself or paired with a set of professional AAX plugins.

  • Type of Subscription: DAW, Plugins + Digital Instruments
  • Who’s it for: Everyone in music, novice or expert.
  • What’s included:
    • Any Version of ProTools 11 or 12
    • 6 Air Virtual Instruments
    • Over 70 Plugins covering everything from Dynamics to Delays
  • Packages – Avid offers an array of options for their subscription models that are all charged month to month with the exception of their perpetual licensing options.
    • Monthly: $29.99
    • Annual: $24.92/Month
    • Perpetual License: $599
    • Yearly License Renewal:: $599
  • PC or Mac?
    • Both PC & OSX Compatible
  • Pros?
    • ProTools access and functionality at a fraction of the cost of jumping all the way in.
    • Offline Bouncing: ProTools finally doesn’t force you to bounce everything in real-time which is not only a godsend, but a real time-siver and sometimes lifesaver in a real crunch.
    • Make your iPad a EUCON controller: ProTools’ free Control iOS app allows you to turn your iOS devices into a real time wireless controller.
    • Revisions: As Logic X added it’s versioning to match all things Apple, Avid has brought it’s own version of Revisions to allow a real A/B experience for creation and experimenting with a mix.
    • Collaborate: The Avid Cloud allows for remote collaboration in real time without having to import, or email. It even has text chat.
    • Learn: Get 5 pureMix tutorials with whatever package you get.
  • Cons?
    • Not compatible with RTAS Plugins: If you are still using PT10 and you want to switch to the newer ProTools options you will have to upgrade all of your plugins to AAX, which many companies will give you license to if you own the RTAS version, but not all plugins have converted to the new higher.
    • You have to have an 2nd generation iLok or later.

2. Waves

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The gold standard of audio plugins and FX now doesn’t have to cost you a bar of gold. Waves is always on the cutting edge of music production and audio engineering bringing some of the most versatile studio tools from the minds of producers and engineers into a digital form that most of its peers couldn’t even dream of. These are production tools that are built not only for perfect replication but extremely specific engineering processes.

  • Type of Subscription: A full collection of mixing tools ranging from audio cleanup to otherwordly FX.
  • Who’s it for: Novice to Expert Level Engineers of all Types
  • Packages – Waves has three different tiers of subscription packages that match their critically acclaimed plugin bundles that have been their bread and butter for well over a decade.
    • Silver: 16 Pre-selected Plugins
      • Monthly: $9.99
      • Yearly: $99
    • Platinum: 50 Pre-selected Plugins
      • Monthly: $49
      • Yearly: $499
    • Mercury: Over 150 Pre-selected Plugins
      • Monthly: $149
      • Yearly: $1499
  • PC or Mac?
    • Both PC & OSX Compatible
  • Pros
    • There isn’t a type of plugin that you would want that you can’t find in Waves’ catalog.
    • No iLok required.
  • Cons
    • No “grabbag” option: When moving into the world of digital subscription packages you would think that a brand like Waves that has allowed for the purchasing of one-off plugins for nearly a decade would allow people to choose what’s in their bundles to a certain extent.
    • CPU Intensive: Certain Waves plugins will completely eat up your CPU in a moments notice so make sure you save before you decide to load up 7 instances of Butch Vig.

3. Slate

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Steven Slate and his Slate Digital imprint has been making waves in the audio industry for well over 20 years. From his original hardware masterpieces to the evolution of drum replacement and an unmatched mastery of hardware emulation, Slate is not only a force to be reckoned with, but a pioneer in digital music creation space.

With Slate’s Everything Bundle you get just that, every single plugin Slate Digital creates. The plugins are used by some of the best in the industry and at the everything bundles pricing, cannot be beat.

  • Type of Subscription: Plugin: Full Plugin Package
  • Who’s it for: Professional Tracking, Mixing and Mastering Engineers
  • What’s included?: Over 26 audio plugins that range from de-essing to an array of emulated dynamic mainstays. Every digital plugin Slate makes, really.
  • Packages – Waves has three different tiers of subscription packages that match their critically acclaimed plugin bundles that have been their bread and butter for well over a decade.
    • Monthly: $14.99
    • Yearly: $24.99/Month
    • Yearly: $178.99
  • PC or Mac?
    • Both PC & OSX Compatible
  • Pros
    • Free Generation 2 iLok (if you don’t have one)
    • One price for all things Slate: With Slates monthly subscription you get free updates and every new plugin they come out with while you pay for the subscription.
    • Learn: Free mixing and mastering courses from the Slate team.
    • Not a CPU hog: Slate plugins are relatively light on computing power unlike their Waves counterparts.
    • Try before you buy: A 30 day trial is available for those who aren’t sure they that ProTools is for them.
  • Cons
    • Needs an iLok, but that’s free if you need it.
    • Steven Slate Drums tools are not available in the Everything Bundle
    • Slate is light in the FX department outside of standard Delays, Verbs and Filters, something I’m sure the company will fix in the near future.

4. Gobbler

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Gobbler is the original plugin subscription service that has partnered with a range of brands to bring the monthly payment model to audio professionals to help combat piracy. Unlike most other brand publishers like Avid and Waves, Gobbler is more of a plugin marketplace repository that pushes packages as opposed to plugin specific options.

  • Type of Subscription: Choose your own adventure, you can litterally choose whatever product you’d like.
  • Who’s it for: Plugin creators and audio engineering professionals
  • What’s included?: That’s up to you, see above.
  • Packages – Waves has three different tiers of subscription packages that match their critically acclaimed plugin bundles that have been their bread and butter for well over a decade.
    • All audio packages are brand specific and range from $7.99/month to $499.99 / year.
  • PC or Mac?
    • Both PC & OSX Compatible
  • Pros
    • Sometimes an iLok is needed depending on the bundle, but free with Slate Digital or Kush Audio subscriptions.
    • Subscribe to your favorite plugins: A critical mass of plugins that cover the entire spectrum of audio recording, mixing, mastering and production.
    • Control subscriptions with one portal.
    • Exclusive Deals: Though certain companies that partner with Gobbler have their own subscription models there are a range of Gobbler specific bundles that bring brings
  • Cons
    • No “grabbag” option: Every subscription is brand specific so there is no option to mix and match the plugins you’d like.
    • Sometimes an iLok is needed and with the exception of Slate and Kush plugins you would have to pay for it out of pocket.
    • Sometimes an unnecessary middleman: Though Gobbler brought the subscription model to many audio companies, certain companies like Slate and Eventide already have their own models that include the same options at the same price point.
    • Not enough of a range: Though there are a host of options for users, there isn’t a huge range of brands on the platform.

5. McDSP

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McDSP is a name that most new engineers may not know, but a staple for any engineer who has worked in a studio with ProTools HD. The powerhouse plugin suite has generally been completely out of reach for novice engineers because of its price point alone.

  • Type of Subscription: A range of tools meant for Mixing and Mastering Engineers.
  • Who’s it for: Professional Mixing & Mastering Engineers
  • What’s included?: Everything that McDSP creates while you’re paying for your subscription in Native or HD form.
  • Packages
    • Native:
      • Monthly: $29
      • Yearly: $295
    • HD (allows for use of DSP Cards / Hardware for extra processing power)
      • Monthly: $49
      • Yearly: $495
  • PC or Mac?
    • Both PC & OSX Compatible
  • Pros
    • A full deck of plugins: 24 high-fidelity signal processing, dynamic and FX plugins.
    • DSP Ready: The power to use DSP modules to offset the somewhat CPU intensive plugins is available to HD subscribers.
  • Cons
    • A second generation iLok is required.
    • A bit of a CPU hog, but with the right computer configuration it should be no problem.
    • As an aesthetic note, McDSP plugins are work horses not clydesdales.