This is a list of sound resources (VST, Sample Library) I would recommend to most aspiring producers.
VST EFFECTS (FREEWARE)
TbT TLs-Pocket Limiter
Transparent brickwall limiter. Such a simple interface, yet it sounds so clean. Very tolerant of loud peaks. Since it's so tolerant though, you should exercise caution when mixing so that you don't mix too loudly.
TDR Nova: Parallel Dynamic EQ
Quite an excellent EQ plugin. There isn't that much missing from the free version (compared to the "Gentleman's edition"), at least in terms of obviously necessary things (like two extra EQ bands). I appreciate the ability to do mid-side equalization, as that's something that is not available in many EQ plugins out there.
Completely indispensable. This is a simple oscilloscope that shows you what the waveform of your music looks like (and thus how loud things are) before you export it. By using this, you can identify what bass, midrrange lead, and other waveforms look like. It may help you analyze other people's music too, from just their waveforms. Highly recommended!
Variety of Sounds NastyDLA MKII
Demos: Blog Post
Audio (Vintage Delay; A/B Compare)
Audio (Chorused Delay; A/B Compare)
Audio (Chorused Ambience; A/B Compare)
Pristine, warm, and nuanced sound. The under-the-hood design niches that this involves makes this one of the smoothest delay plugins I've used thus far! Hefty number of presets, and fairly easy to work with.
Variety of Sounds Density MKIII
Has a clean result, and is nice for subtle, controlled leveling for any runaway peaks. Great graphic design. Capable of M/S, stereo, and L/R processing, all with an accessible interface.
Audio (Compression; A/B Compare)
Intuitive, effective dual-band (i.e. Bass and Treble) compression plugin. I often use it to tame muddy frequencies in my drums and bring out the good characteristics.
Illformed dBlue Glitch v1.3
Audio (Glitching; A/B Compare)
Excellent glitch plugin for adding an edgy touch to your music. It comes with tapestop, FM, retrigger, shuffling, reversing, gating, delaying, and stretching effects. It's no longer singly available, as it has since been updated, but it IS available as a pack with the other cousin plugins, Crusher, Stretch, and Tapestop. ;)
A peak meter that reads in dB SPL and dB RMS. Also useful for automating mutes for a gating effect. Out of convenience I've decided to host it here. The original site is here.
VST EFFECTS (COMMERCIAL) --- $60~190
Illformed dBlue Glitch v2 ($59.95)
This is the commercial version of v1.3. Even more flexible, powerful, and useful! One of the effects was reworked and renamed (Shuffler was replaced with Distortion). Also, this was expanded so that you can create over 100 UNIQUE "scenes" that you can switch to via MIDI notes, and EACH scene completely resets each effect, so that you can literally have over 100 variations on the same effect in the same song! So good!
Cytomic The Glue ($99)
Audio (Bass Punch)
Audio (Drum "Glue")
Audio (Guitar Pick Emphasis)
Audio (Vocal "Air" Emphasis)
Exceptional analog-modelled compression plugin right here. Nice and punchy algorithms can make your drums more powerful. Makes entire soundscapes more cohesive. Even useful for guitar, bass, and vocals!
ArtsAcoustic Reverb ($189)
Demos: Video Walkthrough
Audio (Strings Hall Reverb Demo)
Audio (Ambient Reverb Demo)
Audio (Bass Subtle Reverb Demo)
Audio (Drumkit Room Reverb Demo)
Audio (Piano Stage Reverb Demo)
Smooth, lush tones to this algorithmic reverb here. Plenty of presets already made, so even if you're new to picking reverb tones, you can have resources already available that are tailored to specific situations, ranging from signature rooms (Lexicon Hall, Valhalla, etc.) to orchestral settings! Very intuitive interface. You almost can't go wrong with this. It's also low on RAM usage.
VST INSTRUMENTS (COMMERCIAL) --- $180~200
4Front TruePianos ($180)
Audio (TruePianos vs. Impact Soundworks "Pearl" Demo)
DEMO NOTES: This demo shows 4Front TruePianos being toggled on/off while Impact Soundworks' "Pearl" sample library is toggled off/on at semi-unpredictable moments. Can you tell the difference between TruePianos and Pearl? (Here's a hint---TruePianos plays first.)
The physically modeled pianos from here sound pretty diverse. With a little touching up through some reverb, this fits just about any situation you can think of that involves piano. To this day, I still use it for atmospheric, jazz, orchestral/film-score, and even glitch settings.
Xfer Records Serum ($189)
Audio (Raw Dubstep Bass Demo)
Audio (Naked Glitch Hop Demo, External Drums)
Similar workflow to Native Instruments' Massive. Really generic presets, but an excellent synthesis engine and an extensive FX rack. Despite the fact it has relatively high physical memory occupation (~100 MB per instance), I still love to use this synth for its aggressive bass possibilities.
u-he Zebra2 ($199)
Audio (Comb Filter Demo)
Audio (FM Motion Demo)
Audio (Chrono Cross / Chrono Trigger Medley Preview) [Everything except the piano/drums]
I can't recommend this enough. Excellent, easy workflow. Fat and diverse filters that can range from lush and warm to dirty and gritty. Capable of too many instrument syntheses to count. My favorite components from Zebra would have to be the comb filter and the FM modules. Design your own wavetables, link up to 12 parameters to modulation destinations in the Modulation Matrix, and/or use the XY controls for diverse, dynamic sounds! Quite low on RAM usage as well. Highly recommended!
SAMPLE LIBRARIES (COMMERCIAL) --- $50~500
Impact Soundworks - Resonance: Emotional Mallets ($79)
Audio (Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon: Medley Preview) [Pipeharp Mallets]
This excellent bell library comes with unique and diverse timbres that range from glassy and light to metallic and New-Agey. There are also resynthesized patches (percussion, drones, etc.) that can fit well in many contexts OTHER than ambient or otherwise atmospheric music. The in-house reverb and EQ are very well polished, too. Tuned chromatically, and true tuning with tuning knobs (remap of samples rather than repitching).
Impact Soundworks - Rhapsody: Orchestral Percussion ($99/$199)
This has what many other orchestral libraries don't have for the price: dry-ish, close-up, airy recordings for their percussion. Not only that, but these percussion samples are quite detailed. Rolls are executed with the modwheel. Pricey, but well worth it if you have experience with reverb. And even if you don't, there are good close mics, room mics, and hall mics in the full version. Elegant interface and intuitive workflow.
Embertone Friedlander Violin ($120~125)
Audio (Final Fantasy Medley Preview, Mixed)
Audio (Final Fantasy Medley Preview, Violin ONLY)
A solo violin library that can also be used as an ensemble violin library, with an excellent level of control. Some of its most unique or useful features include controllable vibrato rate, type, and mix (NOT available in most violin libraries!), as well as bow switch legato and controllable portamento speed. The most flexible violin library that I could find.
Impact Soundworks - Celestia: Heavenly Sound Design ($139)
Audio (Greensleeves/Carol of the Bells ReMix Preview) [Piano, Bell Sweep]
Inspiring. Really vast array of diverse sounds for many genres, but primarily ambient or atmospheric. It has some great synthesized electronic and acoustic sounds, tasty reverb, and elegant interface. One of ISW's best libraries, in my humble opinion.
Impact Soundworks - Juggernaut: Cinematic Electronic Scoring Tools ($139)
Audio (SNATCHER: BIO HAZARD ReMix Preview) [Bass, Impacts, Sweeps, etc.]
A must-have for any serious cinematic composer, but even then, the samples can be used for non-cinematic contexts if EQed smartly. Extremely well-polished right out of the box, so ideally no EQ is necessary. The Bass synthesizer patch has some diverse and thick timbres as well. The FM and comb filter timbres are especially nice.
Impact Soundworks - Super Audio Cart: Retro Game Samples ($149)
Audio (zircon - 'Augment' Mockup Preview) [External Drums]
Audio (Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon 2: Blizzard Island ReMix Preview) [Bell Presets]
A comprehensive sampling of retro game samples compiled into an impressive and extensive synthesizer engine (a ROMpler, but better?), with many customization features like a 64-entry mod matrix, an fx rack, and more!
Impact Soundworks - Shreddage 3: Series (Serpent, Rogue, Jupiter) ($149)
Audio (Lines in the Sand Solo Mockup)
Audio (Through the Fire & Flames FULL Recreation)
Truly one of the most realistic electric guitars for rock/metal ever made. The customizability is remarkable. Comes un-amped, but with ReValver HPSE for amping, with presets. Highly recommended.
Gospel Musicians Neo-Soul Keys ($250)
Audio (Wild Arms: Morning of Departure ReMix Preview) [Intro Mockup]
A set of 5 different types of electric pianos. I stopped at the 3X version with 3 instruments, which is $200, but you could get the 5X if you want, for another $80. These are sampled with 10+ velocity layers! The FX rack is very flexible, the patches are each unique enough that they sound like someone took the time to tweak them well, and the samples come dry with internal FX applied so that you can apply your own by disabling them.
Heavyocity Damage ($299)
Audio (Super Castlevania IV: Treasury Room ReMix Preview) [Cinematic Drums]
Excellently sampled drums of all sorts, from cinematic, to metallic, to vaguely acoustic. The frequency distribution reaches down quite low (sometimes bracing 20Hz), so you'll have to be aware of those particular samples if you want to use this library to its fullest extent. These are a great asset in the long run. The 3D positioning screen is quite useful, since you can see where your drums are in space when you do certain dry/wet mix edits or panning edits.
East West Quantum Leap - Ra ($395)
A vast array of "World" instruments that are well-sampled. Not as deeply as they would be on a single-instrument library, but still quite sufficient. Great for establishing a mood.
East West Quantum Leap - Symphonic Orchestra Silver/Gold/Platinum/Platinum+ ($195/$495/$895/$995)
If you get this, I highly suggest getting the Platinum version for all three mic positions (Close mic is most useful/flexible), but it's costly ($895~$995). The Silver version is $195, but limited to only the 'essential' articulations. If you want to do some serious orchestral composing, at least get Gold version ($495).