Why are some plugins so much more expensive than others?

Nope, we definitely can't see the number,
Nope, we definitely can't see the number, (Image credit: Hero Images/Corbis)

There are plugin instruments and effects on the market at every price point, from free to hundreds of pounds. But what's the reason for such huge variance? We ask five developers to give us their take.


"Plugins vary a lot in complexity. Some use basic algorithms copied from textbooks, while others are almost a complete DAW.

"Other price variations can come from electronic distribution. Previously, to make plugins feasible, they had to be expensive enough to warrant boxed distribution through retail outlets, but now plugins can be sold individually at any price point. Newer companies have already made the adjustment to selling lower-priced plugins online, since they didn't have to start out with boxed products."

Andrew Simper

Plugin Alliance

"In the audio plugin market, there are two basic business models: professional and consumer. Pro users want the highest-quality sound possible and are less concerned with things like CPU usage. As unit sales are lower, prices are higher, but pro customers are willing to pay for the quality.

"Consumers, a vastly larger market, want low-DSP products. Increasingly, these products need to run on mobile phones and tablets as well as computers, and developers can charge lower prices as the unit volume is so much higher."

Matt Ward


"Some of the expensive plugins are really unique, hardcore tools that will likely only sell to professionals, and the company needs to compensate their substantial development costs.

"There are companies who initially set very high prices and get most of their revenue during huge price drops of up to 80%. This attracts many people looking for a 'great deal', but what they get is the actual normal price of the product."

Artemiy Pavlov

Camel Audio

"There's a wide variety of factors, but the complexity of the product and the number of people interested in the product have a major impact on pricing.

"Complex products require longer development times, more staff and a variety of other expenses. Not only must your initial costs be compensated for, there's maintenance and future development too.

"If the product has wide appeal, you can keep prices lower because of how many licenses you will sell."

Ben Gillett


"We are nowhere near the most expensive, and yet we are at the top in terms of quality. We can do this because we're a very small team of passionate people who fulfil all the roles usually handled by a much larger organisation. Our prices are set to allow us to continue to do what we love in a sustainable manner and reinvest the profits into our business."

Andrew Souter

Computer Music

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