Audio plugins are software components that add a specific feature to an existing computer program, enabling customization. Plugins are self-contained pieces of code that can be plugged in to digital audio workstations (DAWs) to improve their functionality. Plugins can enhance any computer software by adding sound synthesis or digital signal processing. Plugins add audio-related richness using their own interface. This interface involves GUI widgets that allow control and visualization of the plugin parameters.
A GUI widget is a graphical control that is included in a graphical user interface and works as an element of interaction. GUI widgets can be seen as buttons or scroll bars. These widgets are software components that allow interaction through direct manipulation of the hardware. GUI widgets aim to read and edit essential application data. It’s worth mentioning that each widget helps with a specific type of user-hardware interaction. Many widgets allow interaction with the user. When the user interface has widget toolkits, producers can reuse different codes for similar tasks, maintaining consistency and offering a common language between users.
Plugins can fall into different categories, including audio signal processing, analysis, and sound synthesis. To be more specific, plugins can be classified into those that create new audio samples, those that transform existing audio samples, and those that analyze existing audio samples. It’s worth mentioning that new audio samples are created through a sound synthesis process, and that the software that is used to load audio plugins is known as a plugin host.
The most common types of plugins are effects units, audio monitoring tools, as well as instruments.
Plugins are quite helpful, but not essential when trying to create a good mix. Professional producers agree that there are three main things to have in mind when creating music. The first one is the quality of the input audio, the second one is the quality of the hardware, and last but not least, the skills of the user. In order to achieve a higher audio quality, it is essential to create a good mix with the adequate tempo and notations, with the correct microphone, and with high-quality audio interfaces. High-quality hardware is also necessary for editing and recording. User skills will build over time.