The top 10 sound design plugins and VSTs you need in 2023

One of the most rewarding things in music production is transforming a sound into something completely different via sound design.

In the video above, we go over a list of ten high-quality (and relatively budget) sound design plugins (VST / AU) that can help you reimagine your timbres in unique but powerful ways. Join us to take a listen to how the plugins sound in action, and learn more and download each of them via the links below.

1. HalfTime by Cableguys ($12)

Sitting at only $12, Cableguys’ HalfTime is well worth its value. The plugin gives a half-speed effect to your incoming audio, while also allowing you to determine the frequency band that’s time-stretched, the speed, loop positions, and more. While it may be among the simplest sound design plugins on this list, HalfTime is one of those gems that does exactly one thing, really well. Go to 0:09 of the video to learn more about HalfTime and hear it in action.

Download Cableguys’ HalfTime here.

2. Convex by Glitchmachines ($49)

Glitchmachines’ Convex is a multi-effects processor designed to create contorted artifacts, syncopated rhythms, and skewed digital textures. Boasting both nuanced routing options and solid presets, Convex is a great option for glitching out sounds for both sound design novices and experts alike. Go to 1:11 of the video to learn more about Convex and hear it in action.

Download Glitchmachines’ Convex here.

3. ShaperBox 2 by Cableguys ($99)

ShaperBox 2 is a true one-stop-shop, housing eight powerful Cableguys effects in a single plugin. Adored by everyone from Madeon to Darude, the plugin is well-equipped to handle modern mixes and offers endless avenues for inspiration. More advanced producers will be particularly excited by how granular you can get with editing the LFOs (which we showcase a bit in our walkthrough). Go to 2:07 of the video to learn more about ShaperBox 2 and hear it in action.

Download Cableguys’ ShaperBox 2 here.

4. Turnado by Sugar Bytes ($119)

Another all-in-one offering, Sugar Bytes’ Turnado includes 24 diverse effects that can all be easily configured and controlled via its eight macro knobs. The Dictator mode is the plugin’s standout feature without a doubt, allowing you to use one slider to map out keyframes for each macro—making it a particularly powerful tool for live performance. Go to 3:14 of the video to learn more about Turnado and hear it in action.

Download Sugar Bytes’ Turnado here.

5. Fritz by Lectric Panda LLC ($25)

Fritz is a bit unique from the crowd in how it’s a Reason Rack extension—meaning it’s able to take advantage of Reason’s unique skeuomorphic workflow. Making use of granular processing, Fritz is capable of creating all sorts of unique and psychedelic effects. Go to 4:33 of the video to learn more about Fritz and hear it in action.

Download Lectric Panda LLC’s Fritz here.

Explore royalty-free one-shots, loops, FX, MIDI, and presets from leading artists, producers, and sound designers.

6. PORTAL by Output ($9.99/mo for 15 months)

Another granular synthesis plugin, PORTAL is a beautiful unit from Output that empowers you to take your sounds into a different dimension. The XY pad is a joy to experiment with, and its re-synthesis engine has an inherently musical nature that many granular effects units lack. To top it all off, PORTAL is available on Rent-to-Own, which means you can try it out for absolutely free for a few days. Go to 5:55 of the video to learn more about PORTAL and hear it in action.

Download Output’s PORTAL here.

7. Infiltrator by Devious Machines ($131.19)

Infiltrator is one of the most powerful sound design plugins on this list, boasting 28 unique FX modules with envelopes, sequencers, and everything in between. From randomization to surgical LFO editing, the sonic capabilities of Infiltrator are both vast and deep. Go to 7:30 of the video to learn more about Infiltrator and hear it in action.

Download Devious Machines’ Infiltrator here.

8. Timeless 3 by FabFilter ($129)

FabFilter is a favorite manufacturer within the music production and engineering communities, and with good reason. All of their plugins are visually gorgeous and create top-notch sounds effortlessly, and Timeless 3 is no exception. Containing filters, tap patterns, unique effects, and limitless modulation options—all topped off with a vintage touch—Timeless 3 has everything one might look for in a delay plugin. Go to 9:06 of the video to learn more about Timeless 3 and hear it in action.

Download FabFilter’s Timeless 3 here.

9. Stutter Edit 2 by iZotope ($9.99/mo for 20 months)

A Swiss army knife when it comes to sound design, Stutter Edit 2 is a versatile plugin created by iZotope in partnership with veteran producer BT. At its heart are the Stutter and Buffer controls, which allow you to create exciting chops, glitches, reverses, and more. Go to 10:55 of the video to learn more about Stutter Edit 2 and hear it in action.

Download iZotope’s Stutter Edit 2 here.

10. Rift by Minimal Audio ($4.99/mo for 26 months)

Last but certainly not least is Minimal Audio’s Rift. This unique distortion plugin features 30 custom algorithms that span everything from timeless tones to never-before-heard timbres. Easy-to-use macro controls, an innovative multi-polar distortion engine, and physical modeling are a few of the many qualities that make Rift stand out from other options in the space. Go to 12:31 of the video to learn more about Rift and hear it in action.

Download Minimal Audio’s Rift here.

What sound design plugins are your favorite?

While it goes without saying that there are tons of other incredible sound design plugins out there, we hope that you found at least one new tool today that inspires you to open up your DAW and create something new. What was your favorite plugin on this list? Were there any gems that we missed? Let us know in the comments section of the video, and subscribe to the Splice YouTube channel for more plugin showcases and music production tutorials.

Try PORTAL, Stutter Edit, Rift, and many more plugins for absolutely free via Splice’s Rent-to-Own collection:

April 9, 2022

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.