The 30 best plugins for Ableton Live

Ableton Live is used by a wide range of producers who appreciate the intuitive use of the software. Since its introduction in 2001, Ableton Live has been incredibly popular for its straightforward interface and workflow. Club music producers especially value the versatility and flexibility of the DAW when it comes to quickly adjust the speed and pitch of loops and samples. The intuitive user interface allows users to change their productions easily and clearly on a laptop. This is another reason why Ableton Live is so popular with DJs. Ableton Live comes with a wide range of professional samplers, synthesizers and effects. Also, two types of plug-ins can be integrated into Ableton Live: Virtual Studio Technology 2 (VST 2) and Audio Unit (AU), both in 32-bit and 64-bit formats.

To further improve your workflow and get the best possible quality out of your productions, we recommend using additional plugins within Ableton Live. These are generally synthesizers and effects. With so many plugins available, it's hard to know which ones will take you further, so we've put together an overview to help you customize Ableton Live to best suit your needs. We've taken into account how widespread the plugins are and how many other producers use them professionally, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the plugins. The following overview will help you get to know the best plug-ins for Ableton Live and expand your DAW to take your productions to the next level.

1. Sylenth1 (LennarDigital)

Sylenth1 is one of the most frequently used VST synthesizers and has established itself as an absolute must-have in every studio, for professionals as well as for beginners. The reason for this is the user-friendly and straightforward interface and the excellent sound. Due to its wide distribution, there is a large community on the internet resulting in a wide range of free presets for Sylenth1. The look of the synth can be customized with free skins. Sylenth1 is available for Windows and Mac. The virtual analog synthesizer offers four oscillators with eight different waveforms each. Additionally, there are two LFOs with eleven different waveforms each, three different filter types and an effects section with seven master effects.

Pros:

  • excellent sound and a large collection of usable presets
  • simple structure and intuitive interface
  • versatile and flexible usage
  • moderate CPU usage


Link: Sylenth1

 

2. Serum (Xfer Records)

Serum is a virtual wavetable synthesizer that can be heard in many current productions because of its easy handling and top-notch sound. The plugin has 450 contemporary presets and 140 wavetables and supports VST-, AU- (both in 64-bit) and AAX. No matter if basses, leads or pads, the sounds are rich, powerful and wide and leave nothing to be desired due to the wide range of options for oscillators and filters. Accordingly, Serum can be used for any style of music, from Dubstep to EDM or House.

Pros:

  • wide range of wavetables and a top-notch sound
  • easy to use interface
  • flexible use for different styles


Link: Serum

 

3. Omnisphere 2 (Spectrasonics)

Omnisphere 2 is based on a large number of sampled synthesizers, which can be customized using the Omnisphere 2 engine and 58 effects. With 12,000 presets and a 64GB sample library, the synth leaves nothing to be desired when choosing the right sound quickly. The focus of Omnisphere 2 is not on simply sampled acoustic instruments but on material that is suitable for creating every conceivable synthesizer sound. In addition to this incredibly large sample base, Omnisphere 2 features a comprehensive synthesizer engine with 500 different DSP waveforms. Whether wavetables, granular, FM ... numerous filters, ring modulation, the bandwidth is amazing. Also, there are countless modulation options or features like Unison Drift, which emulates the slight pitch fluctuations of an analog synthesizer. All in all, Omnisphere 2 is such an extensive flagship that you don't need another synthesizer anymore.

Pros:

  • incredible 64GB sample library with 12,000 presets
  • extensive modulation capabilities
  • independent synthesizer engine with own waveforms


Link: Omnisphere 2

 

4. Massive (Native Instruments)

The Massive from Native Instruments is an allround synth with extensive filter and modulation capabilities. It is based on wavetable technology and has several oscillators, filters and effects, as well as a comprehensive system for modulating multiple parameters. This is Massive’s strength: It allows you to create extensive routings that are not possible with most other synthesizers. In addition, Massive has a very good sound. Besides many potential applications, Massive is especially interesting for users who want to create individual and complex effect sounds.

Pros:

  • powerful sound
  • large number of filter types and modulation capabilities
  • sophisticated user and routing interface


Link: Massive

 

5. Nexus (reFX)

Nexus is a sample player with a synthesizer function. It is popular because of its excellent programmed library with a large number of presets, especially usable in the Dance and Trance genre. The extensive library can be expanded with additional expansion packs that cover different styles from Orchestral to Hip Hop. A preset of the Nexus consists of up to four layers, each of which can use a multisample or one of eight classic waveforms as an oscillator. Various filter types are available for sound manipulation, as well as envelopes for filter and volume. Nexus also has a well-equipped arpeggiator, a trance gate and very good sounding effects. It is an excellent way to achieve perfect results in the studio very quickly. Therefore, it is not surprising that Nexus's sounds can be heard in a large number of international hit productions.

Pros:

  • large and sophisticatedly programmed library
  • exquisite sounding contemporary sounds
  • expandable through expansion packs


Link: Nexus

 

6. Kickstart (Nicky Romero & cableguys)

Nicky Romero Kickstart is a widely used and intuitive sidechain compression plugin that allows you to create high quality sidechaining in any genre quickly. The plugin stands out with its graphical representation and the easy to use user interface, where the exemplary choices can be adapted to your needs in a short time. And that's exactly what Kickstart is all about: instead of exhaustingly adjusting all possible parameters of any compressor, you just set the desired waveform and the amount of ducking in the mix, and you're done. Kickstart is therefore ideal for all musical styles in which the bass drum is of great importance and its place in the mix has to be ensured.

Pros:

  • easy to use interface
  • flexible use for different styles
  • can be easily triggered and synced
  • compatible with any major DAW


Link: Kickstart

 

7. Spire (Xfer Records)

Reveal Sound Spire is a synthesizer that is highly appreciated by many top producers and sound designers as well as ambitious hobby producers. One reason for this is Spire’s great sound and the extensive control possibilities of all relevant parameters. When creating a sound, you have four oscillators at your disposal, which you can add numerous good sounding effects to. In addition, you find an integrated mixing and mastering section to prepare the sound optimally for your overall mix. Another reason for Spire’s success is the clearly arranged interface, quickly accessible for beginners and professionals alike. Widely used in electronic music, the plugin's versatility makes it suitable for practically any style of music.

Pros:

  • contains excellent presets for the EDM area
  • combines easy operation with great sound
  • constantly growing fan community that creates new soundsets


Link: Spire

 

8. Avenger (Vengeance)

Vengeance Avenger is one of the most versatile synthesizer plugins available. A total of eight oscillators offer almost unlimited possibilities to shape the sound. All common waveforms can be selected, oscillation shapes can be freely drawn and your own samples can be layered. Besides numerous effects, dedicated filter modules, arpeggiators and endless modulation possibilities, Avenger also offers a drum sequencing function for up to 16 bars. Avenger combines the classic wavetable synthesizer with the sampler in one plugin and will satisfy even the highest demands in sound creation.

Pros:

  • extensive sound-shaping capabilities
  • moderate CPU usage
  • expandable through expansion packs


Link: Avenger

 

9. Diva (u-he)

Diva (Dinosaur Impersonating Virtual Analogue) is a synthesizer plugin that features accurate digital replicas of legendary analog synthesizer circuits. The oscillators, envelopes and filters of the Minimoog, Juno-60, Jupiter-8 and MS20 have been recreated with great attention to detail for a vintage feel in almost any DAW. The excellent combinability of the individual synthesizer modules is especially noteworthy. For example, hybrids of Moog oscillators and Oberheim filters can be created, offering unimagined possibilities to those familiar with their analog counterparts. Diva manages to deliver the "real", warm sound of some of the most famous analog synthesizers without expensive outboard equipment and still remains highly latency-free, assuming a reasonably fast CPU.

Pros:

  • implementation of modular building blocks
  • outstanding sound
  • self-explanatory interface


Link: Diva

 

10. Kontakt (Native Instruments)

Native Instruments Kontakt is a software sampler that can be used standalone but also integrates excellently as a plugin to existing DAWs. Since its release, the sampler has become the industry standard in professional music production due to its great sound and features, as well as its intuitive usability. In addition to the more than 40GB of state-of-the-art samples included with the sampler, Native Instruments also releases great compatible expansions from time to time. Of course, you can also load your own audio files into the sampler, where they can be arranged quickly to create custom libraries. The plugin is rounded off by a well-functioning effects section, in which sounds can be tweaked further. Regardless of the music style, this plugin is the first choice when it comes to professional sampling.

Pros:

  • big library with top-notch sounds
  • expandable through expansion packs
  • easy to use


Link: Kontakt

 

11. Guitar Rig (Native Instruments)

Guitar Rig makes it possible to virtually eliminate the need for classic analog equipment and hours of manual adjustments when recording and mixing electric guitars. In the modular and highly organized interface, detailed emulations of famous amp tops from Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Peavey, Fender, Orange and others can be combined with the most popular speaker cabinets. Once you have created your favorite stack, great effect chains can be arranged from countless well-known stompboxes and 19" gear. The plugin is completed by an innovative control room, where the setup is recorded by great simulated microphone classics, where phase, position and room can be adjusted. Of course, guitar lovers enjoy experimenting with their analog treasures. Still, Native Instruments Guitar Rig offers ambitious producers the ability to create usable and reproducible guitar setups quickly.

Pros:

  • contains fine emulations of the most famous guitar equipment
  • easy to work with
  • can also be used standalone


Link: Guitar Rig

 

12. Auto-Tune (Antares)

Antares Auto-Tune is probably the best-known plugin for manipulating the pitch of a track. It is the first choice of top producers from all musical genres when it comes to correcting vocals’ pitch and is used in countless hits. The editing with Auto-Tune works both in real-time and automatically, as well as allowing pitches to be edited manually offline. On the one hand, the plugin can be used as a subtle, practically inaudible pitch correction, which is what it was originally intended for. On the other hand, the processing is intentionally exaggerated, for example, in modern rap vocals and in many other areas of urban music, where it is often immediately recognizable as a stylistic effect.

Pros:

  • wide range of uses
  • excellent processing quality
  • MIDI compatible


Link: Auto-Tune

 

13. Sausage Fattener (Dada Life)

Sausage Fattener by the producer duo Dada Life has developed over the years from an insider tip to an established name in the plugin market. The plugin can add saturation and distortion to individual tracks, making them more assertive and giving them an individual dirty character. It is also an excellent small but effective mastering tool on the master channel to affect volume and loudness. With only three controls for gain, fatness, and color, Sausage Fattener's interface is straightforward. The gain knob is used to quickly set the input level using the light next to it, while the other two knobs are dedicated to the actual processing of the sound. You have a small but powerful tool here, with which you can spice up single sounds or whole tracks. The plugin manages practically all nuances from discreet thickening to total distortion and thereby always sounds great.

Pros:

  • straightforward operation
  • versatile in use
  • excellent sound


Link: Sausage Fattener

 

14. VintageVerb (Valhalla DSP)

If you are looking for a flexible, and at the same time, inexpensive reverb plugin, there is no way around the Valhalla VintageVerb. Under its easy-to-read and intuitive user interface, the plugin contains incredible 18 reverb algorithms, many of them closely modeled on the digital outboard devices from EMT and Lexicon. The reverb can be adjusted quickly and suitably in all relevant parameters to the user's wishes. Whether you want to add some depth to the signal or create huge reverb tails, the plugin always manages to deliver a clear, characteristic sound. Valhalla VintageVerb is a reverb plugin that brings the much-desired vintage sounds of the '70s and '80s into your studio in a detailed and authentic way without having to invest vast amounts of money in hardware equipment.

Pros:

  • wide range of sounds from classic to exotic reverb
  • intuitive to use
  • great value for money


Link: Valhalla VintageVerb

 

15. Ozone (iZotope)

iZotope Ozone is a mastering suite that is second to none. The plugin shines next to well-known mastering tools like multiband compressor, multiband limiter, maximizer, exciter, equalizer, dynamic equalizer and imager, especially through its sophisticated additional functions. For example, the Master Rebalance function, where vocals or drums can be emphasized or lowered in the final mix, or the Master Assistant, making it much easier for every producer to master his track, are worth mentioning. Thus, a track can be fully finalized in terms of dynamics, frequency spectrum and stereo image. Ozone 9 Advanced offers all conceivable tools to make mastering easier and to raise the finished song to a competitive, highly professional level. The user interface offers a good overview of all relevant parameters, and the plugin is fully scalable according to user requirements.

Pros:

  • complexity with easy operation
  • three versions for every budget
  • great workflow


Link: Ozone

 

16. Trash 2 (iZotope)

Besides more or less common plugins like compressors, equalizers, delays or reverbs, there are also several more unusual effects, which can be very interesting despite or because of their peculiarities. Trash 2 is the reincarnation of the already fantastic first distortion suite by iZotope. On the straightforward interface, you have direct access to six individual effect instances or parameters of the sound processing: Filter 1, Trash, Filter 2, Convolve, Dynamics and Delay. Within the individual instances, the sound shaping is done in the usual excellent iZotope quality and quite intuitive. For example, sounds can be easily distorted in no time to make them thicker and warmer, but they can also be completely destroyed. The sound control of the individual instances works so well that you can place Trash 2 in your effects chain as an equalizer or pure dynamic plugin without distorting it. The plugin is rounded off by more than 300 usable presets that cover every degree of distortion and offer more than just good starting points for your sound creation.

Pros:

  • leaves nothing to be desired in sound design
  • large collection of usable presets
  • moderate CPU usage


Link: Trash 2

 

17. Vinyl (iZotope)

While most tools try to clean, polish and enhance individual tracks or even entire mixes, Vinyl has taken on the exact opposite task. However, this does not make the sound worse but preserves the charm of past analog days. In the compact plugin, the sound-influencing elements mechanical noise, wear, electrical noise, dust, scratch and warp can be influenced in the much-loved style of a classic vinyl record. The result is an authentic lo-fi character, which can give the sound that extra something. A decade with a particular characteristic can be selected by quick selection and the playback speed of the virtual record can be adjusted in one go. iZotope's Vinyl is a small but nice addition to any plugin collection that you should check out definitely.

Pros:

  • authentic sound
  • easy to use
  • it is available for free


Link: Vinyl

 

18. Pro-L2 (FabFilter)

Pro-L2 is the limiter plugin of FabFilter and offers many useful additional features to the already great first version of the plugin. The plugin covers a wide range of different limiting styles with eight different algorithms, from subtle, discrete fine-tuning to the intentional and clearly noticeable coloration of the audio material. The logical usability of the interface allows the user to quickly achieve the desired result, which is fully convincing in terms of sound. The superbly working monitoring modes, the excellent graphical implementation of the limiting process and the metering function, where the track can be adapted exactly to the common streaming providers’ formats, round off the plugin. Indeed, there are many first-class limiter plugins available. Due to the wide range of functions and its versatility, Pro-L2 is almost unmatched. Therefore, it is the number one choice for many music producers of all genres and skill levels.

Pros:

  • amazing flexibility
  • top-notch sound
  • intuitive usability


Link: Pro-L2

 

19. Genesis Pro (Oz-Soft)

Especially producers of electronic music might be interested in the VST hybrid synthesizer Genesis Pro from OZ-Soft. It offers three oscillators with a choice of subtractive, FM, phase distortion, multi-wave or ROM synthesis and a selection of eight different filter types with five saturation modes 14 effects are also on board to further refine the sound. If you don't want to tweak sounds and don't want to use the built-in layering options, simply use one of the 128 integrated presets. Useful features such as the intelligent chord mode for easier recording or the X-Gen Tone Generator for quick creation of sounds can speed up your workflow. One thing stands out and clearly distinguishes the plugin from its established competitors: the incredible price, making it a real no brainer.

Pros:

  • well-arranged design
  • good standard and special features
  • highly reasonable priced


Link: Genesis Pro

 

20. PuigTec EQs (Waves)

If you love the sound of the classic Pultec equalizers EQP-1A and MEQ-5, but prefer not to go through a long search to get one of the rare tube units at a horrendous price, the Waves PuigTec EQs bundle is a perfect choice. Here the outboard equipment's iconic sound has been squeezed into two plugins that offer specific features. These include simultaneous raising and lowering of a frequency range to create resonating peaks with the EQP-1A or the precise midrange shaping of the MEQ-5, allowing you to put each instrument in its place. Waves achieved this ambitious project by digitally emulating the original personal studio equipment of Jack Joseph Puig, one of the music industry's most award-winning sound engineers and producers, down to the smallest detail.

  • superior sound
  • great value for money
  • moderate CPU usage


Link: PuigTec EQs

 

21. Echoboy (Soundtoys)

Echoboy from Soundtoys is one of the most comprehensive and flexible delay plugins on the market. With 30 adjustable basic styles of the best known and most popular echo devices like the Roland Space Echo, the Electro Harmonix Memory Man, the Boss DM-2 or the Echoplex, to name a few, you can find the right preset in no time. Once you have found your favorite delay, you can adjust all relevant parameters to your needs on the logical and straightforward user interface. The extensive tap function makes a vital contribution to the plugin’s functionality, as it allows you to create simple, classic echos as well as unexpected rhythms, which can give new impulses to the creative process. Echoboy is an all-purpose delay weapon in plugin form that might meet all demands on sound and flexibility.

  • excellent sound
  • very useful presets
  • fits every style


Link: Echoboy

 

22. Little Plate (Soundtoys)

Little Plate is a plate reverb plugin for which the developer Soundtoys took the sound of the legendary EMT 140 Plate Reverb as a reference. With only one switch for the space modulator, which allows you to choose between two different characteristics, a control knob for decay, one for low cut and one for mix, the plugin is very easy to handle. When it comes to decay time, Little Plate goes beyond the original device’s authentic emulation, which is enormous in its dimensions and exceeds its hardware counterpart. While the original was limited to 5 seconds decay time, the plugin's knob can be turned to infinity, which should be especially appealing for adventurous producers and sound designers. Little Plate never sounds ridiculous but always shows the vintage touch of the traditional plate reverb.

  • good, modern interpretation of the classic
  • simple structure and intuitive interface
  • moderate CPU usage


Link: Little Plate

 

23. Saturn 2 (FabFilter)

Saturn 2, the distortion and saturation plugin from Fabfilter, offers no less than 28 styles. From classic tube and band saturation to sophisticated emulations of famous distorted guitar amps like Marshall Plexi or Fender Tweed, you can create almost any saturation effect via FabFilter's typical attractive user interface. The numerous handy presets for all usual tracks and buses can be easily refined with the extensive modulation possibilities, different transformers, several oversampling modes and drag and drop routings. Saturn 2 is a saturation plugin that covers the whole range of desired saturation effects. No matter if you want to add subtle warmth to your audio signal or experience the fullest distortion, even the smallest nuances can be realized intuitively via the clearly arranged user interface.

  • great versatility and flexibility
  • comprehensive modulation and routing possibilities
  • top-notch sound


Link: Saturn 2

 

24. Timeless 2 (FabFilter)

Timeless 2 is a digitally emulated tape echo plugin that offers interesting features beyond the usual delay function. Besides two delay lines FabFilter has integrated two high-quality multimode filters in the layout of the plugin. These, in combination with phase inversion, adjustable feedback and cross-feedback, can also provide chorus, flanger and phase effects and thus guarantee great modulation possibilities. The handling and the sound are, of course, on the highest standard as known from FabFilter. Top equipped and with sound of the highest level, Timeless 2 is one of the best tape delay plugins.

  • deceptively real tape delay sound in plugin form
  • extensive modulation capabilities
  • can be easily triggered and synced


Link: Timeless 2

 

25. FETpressor (PSP)

There are countless great compressor plugins that have catapulted the iconic 1176 sound into the fully digital modern era. The PSP FETpressor is not just one of many but offers a tremendous sounding emulation of the analog hardware and some authentic new features that make it much more flexible than the original. The attack time can be adjusted much shorter than with the analog gear, which improves the already fast response even more. The ability to set longer release times ensures unobtrusive and smooth compression, which, if desired, prevents significant pumping. A blend control knob for easy creation of parallel compression, a high-pass filter with sidechain function and a stereo linking option complete this decent plugin and make it a real recommendation among the 1176 style plugins.

  • characteristic sound
  • hardly any latency
  • very useful features


Link: FETpressor

 

26. Pro-R (FabFilter)

Pro-R is an algorithmic reverb plugin by FabFilter, which can be distinguished from most of its competitors by its powerful sound processing capabilities. The integrated six-band decay rate eq opens up a new possibility in the sound shaping of hall decays. The seven controls brightness, character, distance, space, decay rate, stereo width and mix of the user interface are intuitive and highly functional. They allow the user to create excellent-sounding reverbs from small chambers up to astronomically large spaces in no time. Since the plugin sounds absolutely neutral and doesn't color the signal, it can be used as the default reverb plugin in most projects, where its flexibility allows it to meet most requirements.

  • simple operation
  • outstanding flexibility
  • no coloration of the sound


Link: Pro-R

 

27. Decapitator (Soundtoys)

With five unique emulations of classic analog studio gear, Decapitator covers a broad range of characteristic saturation types. You can choose from preamps or channel strips in the style of the Ampex 350 tape machine, Chandler TG, Neve 1057, as well as two separate Thermionic Culture Vultures, one in triode and one in pentode basic settings. Paired with many multi-faceted presets and the plugin’s finely working control unit, subtle to character-strong saturation effects can be generated. Soundtoys Decapitator offers the whole package: great analog saturation sound without any outboard hardware, neat gimmicks like the punish button and an intelligently designed user interface.

  • distinctive analog sound
  • cleverly designed user interface
  • CPU-friendly


Link: Decapitator

 

28. Pro-Q3 (FabFilter)

FabFilter Pro-Q3 is a multifunctional parametric equalizer plugin that offers up to 24 bands with nine filter types bell, notch, high- and low-shelf, high- and low-cut, band pass, tilt shelf, flat tilt. It also includes no less than three latency modes, dynamic eqQ function and numerous useful features like a highly useful spectrum analyzer or an intelligent networking of multiple Pro-Q3 instances. The logical structure of the user interface and the great workflow make all imaginable surgical and creative interventions of eqing possible in no time at all. The equalizer always sounds pleasant and never mechanical and impresses with a straightforward handling and great visual representation. FabFilter's Pro-Q3 is undoubtedly one of the best equalizer plugins available, offering brilliant sound and almost unlimited flexibility.

  • high quality sound
  • very flexible in application
  • easy to use interface


Link: Pro-Q3

 

29. TAL-U-NO-LX (TAL Software)

TAL-U-NO-LX is an emulation of the legendary 80's Juno-60 synthesizer by Roland, whose unique sound has influenced many world hits of this era. In careful detail work, the swiss company TAL knew how to transform the hardware synthesizer into plugin form. The plugin offers absolutely authentic sound, which is in no way inferior to the original. A highlight of the TAL version, and what clearly distinguishes the plugin from most of the other emulations of retro devices, is that it doesn't have numerous worsening improvements that blur the feeling and originality of its predecessor. Thus, each control reacts like the hardware device when operated. The envelopes and filters respond in the same way as the original and the integrated chorus effect still offers two fixed settings. The TAL-U-NO-LX does what it is supposed to: It provides the classic’s sound in a straightforward form, without sacrificing the conveniences of the DAW-based age.

  • convincing vintage sound
  • moderate CPU usage
  • fully MIDI compatible


Link: TAL-U-NO-LX

 

30. OTT (Xfer Records)

The plugin company Xfer Records is well known to many producers mainly because of the already mentioned terrific wavetable synthesizer Serum. he team also offers the up- and downward capable multiband compressor OTT, which can be heard on single tracks and on master buses on productions of big names of the electronic music scene like deadmau5, W&W, KSHMR or Illenium. The plugin comes with only four controls for depth to set the degree of compression, time to set attack and release time, as well as input and output gain. The three frequency bands can be controlled individually, and with the two control knobs upwrd and dwnwrd you can determine whether the signal gets cut or pushed. The easy-to-read display section shows what the plugin is doing in the low, mid and high frequency range. OTT does an awe-inspiring job with its punchy, aggressive sound for most genres of electronic music. On top of that, it's free, making it a must-have download for users of Ableton Live and all other DAWs.

  • self-explanatory interface
  • excellent functionality
  • free of charge to download


Link: OTT