VST plugins have become the glue that binds many processes in music making together and have gradually become essential to everything, from mixing to creative composition. Plug-in effects run within DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) in a similar way to virtual instruments. You insert them on your instrument or audio tracks and open them up in the same way as a synth; and like those virtual recreations of classic gear, plug-in effects can also emulate old gear. In fact, many of the early ones were developed to copy expensive analogue equipment again, just like virtual synths. However, now there’s also a whole world of other effects available, from creative and compositional, to those that even do your mixing for you. Here we look at the best vst plugins – both paid and free – that will help craft better beats.