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9 Best Garageband Plugins

With Garageband, you can create professional-level music without having to buy any additional software. It’s a great way to make your own songs. However, even the best studio needs some help every now and then. That’s where plugins come in. 

Plugins are tools that can be used with any DAW to improve your sound quality by adding unique effects and instruments or giving you the opportunity to do what you couldn’t before.

There are a lot of audio unit plugins on the internet that are compatible with this DAW.

In our best Garageband plugins article, we will cover different types. From multi-effects to synths, drum machines, and guitar amp simulators. Some of them are paid, some are free so there is something for every budget.

We will also show you how you can install these AU plugins on GarageBand. The process is also the same for Logic Pro.

Tip: Also take a look at our Best VST Plugins article to find even more options.

9 Best Garageband Plugins

9 Best Garageband Plugins – Reviewed in Detail

  1. iZotope Ozone 9 Elements
  2. Xfer Serum
  3. Keyzone Classic
  4. Decomposer Sitala
  5. Guitar Rig 6 Pro
  6. Waves Electric 88 Piano
  7. Auto-Tune Access
  8. FAW SubLab
  9. Output Arcade

The 9 Best Garageband Plugins – Reviewed in Detail

1. iZotope Ozone 9 Elements

iZotope Ozone 9 Elements

The iZotope Ozone 9 Elements offers a stripped-down design if compared to the Standard and Advanced versions, but it is still pretty capable. One of the benefits is that it is significantly more affordable: the Ozone 9 Elements is usually on sale for $20 and is even given for free by iZotope on some special occasions so keep an eye out.

Product Specifications

  • Master Assistant
  • Equalizer
  • Imager
  • Maximizer
  • Price: $129 (Usually on Sale for $20)

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • The iZotope Ozone 9 Elements is a great solution for those beginner artists who can’t afford professional mastering since the Master Assistant will analyze your track and set up the plugin in the best way possible.
  • You can manually set how loud you want your master to be in Lufs. This ensures your track is at the optimal level for streaming services.
  • The plugin also features a powerful equalizer.
  • The imager, while rarely used in the mastering process, is also useful for single instruments as a natural doubling effect.

Cons

  • Limited functionalities if compared to the more expensive versions.

Conclusion

The iZotope Ozone 9 Elements does a pretty good job on your tracks. The Master Assistant is very useful for beginners and those on a budget. The plugin is best used on your master channel.

As we said before, even though the regular price of the plugin is $129, you can usually find it on sale for as low as $20, and it is even given for free on some special occasions across the year.

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2. Xfer Serum

Xfer Serum

Xfer Serum needs no introduction as it is one of the most popular music plugins out there. This synthesizer is capable of doing pretty much anything, from hard basses to synth pads. Honestly, once you have Serum you probably won’t need any other synthesizer plugin.

Product Specifications

  • Wavetable Synth
  • 2 Oscillators and Sub OSC
  • Noise Oscillators
  • Filter Section
  • 3 Envelopes
  • 4 LFOs
  • Built-In Effects
  • Price: $189
  • Rent to Own Available Via Splice

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • This wavetable synthesizer is capable of anything so it is a very versatile synthesizer.
  • You can load your own wavetables.
  • The interface is complex but is easy to understand once you get your hands on the plugin. There are also a lot of tutorials on YouTube.
  • There are tons of built-in effects to get you to a mix-ready sound faster and more easily.
  • There are 4 macros for easy control over the synthesizer.
  • Every parameter can be automated.
  • The plugin is also available as a rent-to-own via Splice for $10 per month. Once the payment is completed, the plugin is yours.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Conclusion

The Xfer Serum is an amazing synthesizer and probably the most versatile. It is compatible with pretty much any digital audio workstation, so if anytime you upgrade from Garageband you’re still going to be able to use it.

One of the best things about this plugin, however, is that it is available as a rent-to-own via Splice for $10 per month, making it more affordable and accessible.

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3. Keyzone Classic

The Keyzone Classic is a free plugin that features several piano presets, from grand pianos to electric Rhodes-style instruments. Powered by Producer Spot, this plugin gives you total control across the characteristics and dynamics of your sound including the ASDR of the sound, as well as applying LFO.

Product Specifications

  • Features Several Pianos
  • ASDR Control
  • Built-In Reverb
  • Built-In LFO
  • Customizable Velocity Curve
  • Price: Free

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • There are 5 different instruments inside this plugin: piano from Keyzone 1, Yamaha Grand Piano, Steinway Grand Piano, Basic Electric Piano and Rhodes Piano.
  • The ASDR knobs are pretty useful to shape your sound 
  • There is a built-in LFO that can be used as an auto-pan effect.
  • The Keyzone Classic can be downloaded for free.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

One of the best free plugins, the Keyzone Classic is definitely worth a try. Whether it is better than Apple’s Garageband stock piano, you will have to decide by yourself. We feel that both instruments sound very good and are very realistic/usable but can be used on different occasions and settings.

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4. Decomposer Sitala

Decomposer Sitala

The Decomposer Sitala is a simple to use drum sampler with lots of great features. The best characteristic of this software is the easiness of use: you can simply drag and drop your samples and plugins inside it. There, you have a wide range of controls over your sound such as shape and tuning.

Product Specifications

  • Drum Sampler
  • Drag & Drop Feature
  • 16 Assignable Pads
  • Shape, Tuning, Compression, Tone and Pan Knobs
  • Supports Loops
  • Editable Sample Start and End Points
  • Beat Slicing
  • Price: Free

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • You can easily drag and drop samples into this drum sampler, as well as loops to be sliced.
  • There are 16 assignable pads for creating your drum machine layout.
  • With the Decomposer Sitala, you get a lot of controls over the characteristics of your sound such as the shape of the waveform and tuning of the sound.
  • The plugin comes with a few stock drum machines.
  • You can easily rearrange the kit and swap samples and pads with ease.
  • The greatest pro about this plugin is by far the amount of improvement it represents to your workflow. It is much easier to use the plugin for creating your drum beats.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

The Decomposer Sitala is a great addition to Garageband and is promised to make your workflow much easier. Being simple to use but at the same time bringing a lot of useful features to digital audio workstations, the Decomposer Sitala is one of the best free Garageband plugins and certainly worth the download.

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5. Guitar Rig 6 Pro

Guitar Rig 6 Pro

The Guitar Rig 6 Pro is one of the best and most popular amp/pedalboard simulator plugins in the music industry. If you are planning on recording guitar with Garageband, this is one of the most useful plugins you can have. With so many amp models and stompboxes, the possibilities are endless.

Product Specifications

  • Multiple Amp Models
  • Multiple Stompboxes
  • Multiple Effect Units
  • Customizable Cabinet and Control Room with Several Microphones
  • Native’s Intelligent Circuit Modeling Technology
  • Free Version Available
  • Price: $199

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • Guitar Rig 6 Pro sounds extremely realistic. Used in a mix, it is hard to tell if the guitar part was recorded with a plugin or a real amp.
  • There are also multiple stompboxes such as reverb, delay, overdrive, and distortion. The effects can also be used as racks.
  • The cabinet and control room is fully customizable and you can even choose which microphones to use.
  • The Guitar Rig 6 is also useful with other instruments other than guitar, such as synthesizers.
  • There is a free version of the plugin available. While it is more limited if compared to the Pro version, it is still very usable.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Conclusion

A well-known plugin in the music industry and loved by legions of guitarists, the Guitar Rig 6 Pro is certainly one of the most desired plugin in the community. With its massive library of bass and guitar amps and stompboxes, it will take your guitar tracks to the next level. There is also a free version of the plugin that is worth testing out.

Related: Bass Amp VST 

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6. Waves Electric 88 Piano

The Waves Electric 88 Piano emulates the sound of the Fender Rhodes, famous for its smooth tones and usually found in pop and R&B compositions. We included this plugin on our list because it is extremely realistic and useful. There are tons of parameters in the plugin to customize your sound however you like.

Product Specifications

  • Mix Section, Compressor, Amp, and Effects
  • Includes Tremolo, Auto Pan, Phaser, Chorus, and Reverb
  • Native Instruments NKS-ready for NI Komplete Kontrol and Maschine
  • Plugin and Standalone Instrument
  • Price: $79 (Usually on sale for $29)

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • You can customize every aspect of the instrument. This includes physical characteristics such as the main sound, the sound of the tines, key up, and mechanical noises.
  • There is a mix section that includes a compressor, an amp emulator, and several effects.
  • The velocity curve and the formant can also be dialed in.
  • The sound of this plugin is extremely realistic.
  • Can be used inside Garageband as a plugin and also as a standalone instrument for more convenience.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

An excellent addition to your Garageband plugin collection, the Waves Electric Piano 88 is especially great for pop and R&B music producers. The sound is extremely realistic and faithful to the original Fender Rhodes. You get lots of control parameters over your sound as well. Definitely a great addition to Garageband.

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7. Auto-Tune Access

Auto-Tune Access

AutoTune Acess is the entry-level version of the famous AutoTune plugin. Compared to the more expensive versions, such as the Pro, it is much more affordable and can by found on sale for as low as $40. You only get two controls with AutoTune Acess: Retune Speed and Humanize. It is quite limited, but still useful to get the famous robotic vocal sound.

Product Specifications

  • Pitch Correction Plugin
  • Scale Selector
  • Retune Speed Knob
  • Humanize Knob
  • Price: $99

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • Even if compared to the more expensive versions of Auto-Tune the Access edition has fewer features, it is still a great way to achieve mild to hard tuned vocals without spending too much.
  • Apart from selecting the key and the scale of your vocals, you can add or remove notes from it.
  • You can select 3 different settings of Retune Speed.
  • The Humanize knob can be set to minimum and maximum. This feature will make the vocal tuning more natural.
  • The plugin can be frequently found on sale.

Cons

  • Fewer features than the most expensive versions of Auto-Tune.

Conclusion

The Auto-Tune Access plugin represents an excellent upgrade over the stock pitch correction plugin found on Logic. Perfect vocal quality is a part of pretty much every professional song nowadays, and this plugin can help you achieve anything from mild to hard vocal tuning. The Humanize function is also very convenient as it will give you a more natural sound.

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8. FAW SubLab

FAW SubLab

Image and Product

The FAW SubLab is a synthesizer plugin designed to create ground-shaking 808s. This software is especially great for hip hop, trap producers, and any other genre that requires a thumping bass sound. With this plugin, you get much more control over your 808 than when using samples, for example.

Product Specifications

  • 808 Synthesizer Plugin
  • Several Presets Included
  • Supports Samples
  • ASDR Control
  • Built-In Low Pass Filter
  • Built-In Distortion
  • Built-In Compressor
  • Price: $70

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • On music genres like hip hop and trap, getting your 808 to hit hard and tight is incredibly important. The amount of control you get with this plugin will make sure that it happens every time.
  • Includes 250 samples from high-end modular and classic analog drum machines.
  • Comes with 6 signature Bass Packs.
  • You can drag and drop your own samples to use with the plugin.
  • Built-in effects include a low pass filter, a distortion, and a compressor.
  • Useful not only for creating 808s but also for sub-basses.
  • Even though the regular price is $70, you can usually find it on sale for as low as $40.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

If you produce hip hop and trap, the FAW SubLab is essential. The plugin bundle includes 250 samples and 6 signature Bass Packs. You have the option to load your own samples into the plugin as well to create the perfect 808 or sub-bass audio track. 

Furthermore, this plugin’s regular price is $70 but it is frequently on sale for as low as $40 so keep an eye out.

Also Check: Best Dubstep VST Article

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9. Output Arcade

Output Arcade

The Output Arcade is one of the most innovative plugins of our time. It is a sampler that is loaded with several sampled kits and instruments. These kits are divided into different lines and each line represents a style of sound. You can easily create, for example, vocal chop loops and chopped drum beats.

Product Specifications

  • Sampler Plugin
  • Thousands of Kits and Instruments Available
  • Load Your Own Samples
  • Auto-Chop Function
  • Built-In Effects
  • 4 Macros
  • Price: $10/Month

Advantages & Disadvantages

Pros

  • There are literally thousands of kits available for use on the plugin. These cover different styles of music. You have, for example, an entire line dedicated to R&B, as well as one for chopped samples.
  • The kits are 100% customizable.
  • The kits on the plugin are also a great way to gather inspiration for your own compositions.
  • You can load up your own samples into the plugin. You can either chop it yourself or let the plugin chop it for you.
  • There are several built-in effects including reverb, delay, chorus, and phaser.
  • The plugin is offered on a subscription basis of $10/month. This makes it more accessible for most music producers.

Cons

  • None.

Conclusion

It is hard to describe the Output Arcade because it is so innovative and there’s nothing quite like it. Simply put, it is a sampler plugin, but deep down there are thousands of built-in features that you won’t find in any other plugin of the type. This is one of the best plugins for Garageband for those producing any genre, from pop to trap.

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How to Install Garageband Plugins

The process to install plugins on Garageband is very simple. Right-click on Finder, select Go, and type /. This will get you to your Mac’s root folder. From there, click Library>Audio>Plugins>Components. Drag and drop your plugin’s component files into the folder. The process is the same for installing Logic Pro plugins.

Some plugins come with an installer. In this case, you can simply follow the steps on the plugin installer.

After the process, simply open Garageband, create a software instrument track, click the drop-down menu and you will find your plugin list installed.

Things to Consider when Shopping for Garageband Plugins

Here are some things to take into account before buying new plugins for Garageband.

Is The Upgrade Worth It?

Garageband already comes with a lot of stock plugins that may be everything you need to make professional music. You must consider if it is worth it spending money on paid plugins. There are also a lot of free plugins available for download out there.

Type of Plugin

There are various types of plugins available. We decided to include a wide variety in our list, so you have multi-effects, drum machines, synthesizers, vocal processors, etc.

Price

Take into consideration the price of the plugin you’re planning to buy. Plugin prices can range anywhere from $5 to $5,000. If you’re on a tight budget, consider downloading free plugins. They can most of the time perform just as great as paid ones if you search right.

Quality

Of course, the quality of a plugin is an important factor. We recommend that you always download the demos to the plugins you’re interested in before buying. Most companies offer this kind of try-out.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Plugins Can I Use With Garageband?

You can use any plugin that is available in AU formats or has a Mac AU version.

Is Logic Pro Better than Garageband?

Logic Pro is considered Garageband’s bigger brother. Logic is considered a professional DAW while Garageband is intended for beginners, due to the easiness of use. As you can see, it is not about which one is better, but more about aiming at different types of users. We do recommend that you look into possibly upgrading Logic Pro in the future.

What VSTs do Most Producers Use?

Some of the most popular VST plugins include iZotope plugins, the wavetable synthesizer Xfer Serum, Antares AutoTune, and Output Arcade.

Will Audio Unit Plugins Work on Other DAWs?

No, AU plugins are strictly made to work with Garageband and Logic Pro music software. Most other DAWs use VST plugins. Most companies, however, offer their plugins in both formats.

Where Can I Find Free Plugins?

Consider visiting this free plugin website.

Conclusion

There are many popular music plugins for Garageband. In this case, it is hard to define what are the best audio units for the DAW since they are all so different from each other and each provides a different flavor for your songs.

However, before you consider buying third-party plugins, it is important to define if the paid upgrade is really worth it. Garageband comes with many stock plugins that will work just fine for your music production needs. There are also tons of free options on the internet.We hope you liked the article. Make sure to read our related articles about music production: there are lots of useful stuff on our platform. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!