The best new plugins and software of 2022, as voted for by you

To paraphrase super-hot producer Fred Again - who himself was channelling dictionary doyen Samuel Johnson - if you're a musician and you're bored with your laptop, you're bored of life.

OK, a computer running software might be a more prosaic creative option than a studio full of vintage analogue hardware, but if you're looking for a music production setup that offers high quality, versatility, reliability and value for money, one that's centred around a PC or Mac trumps everything else.

Never has been this more true than right now; as we approach then end of 2022, the choice of instrument and effect plugins available to you is simply staggering. And while hardware manufacturers have been hit by rising costs and chip shortages, software developers have been able to keep their virtual production lines moving, releasing both innovative new products and DAW-bound emulations of gear from the past.

We drew up a shortlist of what we consider to be the very best new plugins of 2022 and asked you to vote for your favourite. Here's the top ten, starting with your worthy winner... 

1. Devious Machines Infiltrator 2

Infiltrator 2 is the latest incarnation of Devious Machines' highly creative multi-effects processor. The company describes it as a turbocharged version of its predecessor, and with 54 effects modules versus the 28 in version 1, it certainly offers significantly more processing options.

There are 10 effects slots, user-editable multi-segment envelopes and assignable macros, and you can use multiple instances of the same modules if desired. But what really sets Infiltrator 2 apart from more typical multi-effects is the amount of real-time control you have. 

Infiltrator was already an awesome plugin, but this update adds depth and finesse without destroying the original vibe. It’s not cheap, but if you’re after an all-in-one creative toolbox that comes with a cracking selection of presets, we think it’s well worth it.

Read Devious Machines Infiltrator 2 review

2. Cherry Audio GX-80

OK, the bad news is that Cherry Audio hasn’t released a plugin emulation of the Yamaha CS-80. However, the good news is that it’s gone one better and also drawn inspiration from the GX-1, the instrument that the CS-80 was derived from and an even bigger, badder sonic proposition.

Hence, we have the GX-80, a hybrid instrument that promises the best of both synths/worlds. Most notably, you get the GX-1’s dual-layer architecture, which effectively makes it two CS-80s in one.

The GX-80 is an impressive beast on all fronts, with the ability to sound soft, elegant, engaging and enormous in equal measure. In fact, we'd say that it's about as classy as it’s possible to get in software synthesis, with an impressive soundstage, plenty of extra parameters and a dream of an interface.

3. Arturia V Collection 9

Arturia’s V Collection is now firmly established as the go-to software bundle for lovers of classic synths and keyboards, and with the launch of version 9 this year, it got even bigger. 

The most eye-catching addition is an emulation of Korg’s classic MS-20, while the SQ80 V is a reboot of the Ensoniq crosswave synth of the same name.

Rounding out the new instruments are two titles in Arturia’s new Augmented range. Augmented Strings blends sampled and synthetic strings, enabling you to morph between them. Augmented Voices enables you to combine the human voice with multiple synth engines in a similar fashion.

V Collection 9 also contains four rebuilt instruments - CS-80 V, Prophet-5 V, Prophet-VS V and Piano V.

It’s arguably a tougher sell than some earlier instalments and might not be a no-brainer update for existing users, but V Collection 9 becomes more appealing the closer you look.

Read Arturia V Collection 9 review

4. Universal Audio UAD Spark

It wasn't quite hell freezing over, but Universal Audio’s decision to start releasing native versions of its UAD plugins on the new Spark subscription platform (VST3/AU/AAX), so that they can run in pretty much any DAW without any UA hardware still counted as an abrupt change in philosophy. 

These use exactly the same algorithms as their ‘powered’ counterparts. As well as some of UA's greatest effects, Spark also offers several instruments, including a software Minimoog, the Opal morphing synth, a Hammond organ and more.

Now available for both PC and Mac, Spark could be the bundle that convinces you that a plugin subscription is worth shelling out for, and with more content set to be added in the future, its value will only increase.

Read Universal Audio Spark review

5. Cableguys ShaperBox 3

Despite evolving considerably since version 1 appeared, Cableguys’ ShaperBox remains rooted in a simple core concept. This is a multi-effect plugin that enables users to ‘draw in' the application of effects based on a highly customisable LFO curve. 

Essentially, you choose an effect, and then either select or create a modulation curve that controls the depth of that effect. There’s a lot more it can do beyond that – customisable multiband throughout, a massive user-stocked preset library, a multitude of triggering and curve-switching tools – but Cableguys has smartly kept that core workflow intact. As a result, it remains one of the best go-to tools for rapidly adding rhythmic interest to any sound.

Version 3 sticks with this formula, adding new effects (notably the LiquidShaper module, which specialises in phasing and flanging) and some handy new tools without upending the existing workflow. It isn’t a huge reinvention, but ShaperBox was already a great go-to tool, and it’s now slicker and more capable than ever.

Read Cableguys ShaperBox 3 review

6. Toontrack EZdrummer 3

The latest version of its accessible drum sampling and groove generation software, EZdrummer 3 is designed makes it easier (EZier?) than ever for songwriters and other musicians to quickly create rhythm tracks that sound like they were played by a real drummer.

Rebuilt from the ground-up, EZdrummer 3 comes with a new, fully scalable and resizable interface and a new library of MIDI grooves. The Tap2Find feature now includes a step sequencer, and you can now mix and match elements of different grooves in an instant.

If you’d rather program your own beats, there’s now an onboard grid editor, while new humanisation features automatically adjust velocity and microtiming to create a more natural performance. Articulations are automatically varied, too.

Other enhancements include a redesigned mixer, a Bandmate feature (give EZdrummer 3 an idea - a guitar/keyboard riff or a bassline, for example - and it’ll automatically create a custom groove) and a new sound library.

Make no bones about it: for existing users, this is a sizeable update, while anyone jumping on the EZ bandwagon for the first time is going to be utterly delighted. EZdrummer has always been the drum suite of choice for anyone who wants to keep their rhythm generation simple (though the beats themselves can be as complex as you like), and the update to EZD3 merely seals the deal.

Read Toontrack EZdrummer 3 review

7. iZotope Ozone 10

While you can use a collection of third-party plugins for mastering your mix, Ozone offers a vast suite that covers just about everything that you might need, and gives you a whole bunch of things that you didn’t know you needed, too.

It's hardly surprising, them, that the software has become an invaluable product for many home producers. Its ease of use and large number of useful modules are a gift for the backend of your signal chain.

Version 10 isn’t the most significant upgrade there’s been, but it consolidates the excellence of previous incarnations, bringing some subtle and welcome improvements to the fore. These include a reworked GUI, new modules and improved Master Assistant. 

Whether you're struggling to get a classy output at home or to fully understand the mastering concept, Ozone 10 can help you out.

Read iZotope Ozone 10 review

8. Eventide SplitEQ

You might think that you know how EQs work, but SplitEQ is a little different.

At first glance, it might look like a standard eight-band parametric EQ, but then you have to take the Structural Split engine into consideration. This divides incoming audio into two streams - Transient and Tonal - so that they can be processed separately.

The thinking behind this approach is that it mimics the way that humans can separate tonal and transient streams, and helps to make typical EQ problems easier to solve while opening up new creating options.

EQing is often a compromise between controlling specific timbral artefacts whilst avoiding having an overall negative impact on the sound being processed. What SplitEQ brings to the table is a new way to sidestep many of those compromises. Its unique capabilities really come into their own in mastering, allowing tonal problems to be fixed that would otherwise require the whole mix to be redone.

It may prove a handful for those who lack a well-developed technical understanding of audio equalisation, but for many, SplitEQ's versatility will be revelatory. 

Read Eventide SplitEQ review

9. Moog Music Moogerfooger Effects Plugins

The demise of Moog’s Moogerfooger range of effect pedals in 2018 was a moment of sadness for many people, who’d come to love this collection of high-quality analogue stompboxes. Now it’s back, though this time, in the form of a bundle of plugins.

All seven Moogerfoogers (plus the new MF-109S saturator) have now been emulated for the DAW generation, with each plugin being based on the original analogue circuits. The effects now operate in stereo and have expanded feature sets, all parameters can be automated and you can create, save and load presets.

If you don't own or have access to the original analogue Moogerfoogers then this collection will bring something new and ear-tinglingly good to your productions. If you do have one or more of the originals you'll find these are the perfect digital companions. 

Read Moog Music Moogerfooger Effects Plugins review

10. Baby Audio Crystalline

Baby Audio has only been around for a relatively short period of time but has made a big impact by releasing plugins that focus on what the user wants, rather than blinding you with specs or slavishly cloning vintage hardware.

With Crystalline, the company has utilised today’s processing power to create a great algorithmic reverb that is easy to use, fun and, most importantly, sounds exceptional – both clean and experimental when you want it to be.

Not only that, but the central timing options and Clean Up section give you complete control over everything.

You’ll be amazed with many of the quality presets that, in the main, make everything sound great in an instant. But you’ll have the most fun just experimenting with the easy-to-understand controls, safe in the knowledge that whatever you do will almost certainly sound great.

Read Baby Audio Crystalline review


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