Best Hip Hop VST Plugins in 2022 (Free & Paid)

by Alex.   Last Updated On October 3rd, 2022.
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Any skilled hip-hop producer out there knows just how important VST plugins (Virtual Studio Technology) are for crafting their sound. These days, plugins make hip-hop music production massively more efficient and creative than hardware-based methods.

This list of plugins is highly recommended for creating hip-hop productions, and will bring a new level of sound quality and detail to your hip-hop beats!

I’ve included a range of plugin types, from sample-based noise makers to mixing, mastering, and saturation plugins. All the tools on this list will bring new levels of texture and professionalism to your hip-hop music and beats, whether you make oldschool boom-bap or something more modern like trap music.

Table of Contents
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Comparison of the Best Hip Hop VST Plugins

Best for producers who like a huge sound library to access inspiration at any time.See On Amazon
photo of the Output Arcade Output ArcadeOutput Arcade
Output Arcade
Best for people who love the sound of retro tape machines and want to bring some authentic old-school crunch to their hip-hop productions. See On Amazon
photo of the BABY Audio TAIPBABY Audio
TAIP
Best for producers who like to pick and choose samples from a range of sample packs when they produce music. See On Amazon
photo of the Splice SpliceSplice
Splice
Best for adding a broad range of colors and saturation to your hip-hop mixes. See On Amazon
photo of the XLN RC20XLN
RC20
Best for producers looking to add the final layer of professionalism to their beats before releasing them. It’s also a better investment than services like Landr. See On Amazon
photo of the Ozone Elements Ozone ElementsOzone Elements
Ozone Elements
Best for knowledgable synth lovers looking for a unique, next-level FM synthesizer for creating unique patches when producing music. See On Amazon
photo of the Native Instruments FM8Native Instruments
FM8
Best for rappers and vocalists looking for a powerful and performant auto-tune plugin for producing hip hop music and rap.See On Amazon
photo of the Waves Tune RealtimeWaves
Tune Realtime

Reviews of the Best Hip Hop VST Plugins

Arcade is a generous VST instrument bursting with inspirational sounds and samples. With a clean and fast interface, you’ll be laying down groovy beats and textures within seconds. You could call it ‘the Netflix of music production’.

See On Amazon

If you want quick inspiration and instant cool sounds, then Output’s Arcade is a great pick. This subscription-based deal gives you access to all their virtual instruments (and any future updates). It works with Mac Os and Windows too!

This all-in-one approach gives users a huge library of instruments and sounds to pick and choose from. Even more attractive is the fact that Arcade adds new kits, loops, drum machines, and samples every day!

Don’t let the initial simplicity put you off, as under the hood you can access a deep range of customization options. You can quickly and easily edit the sounds with your own unique twist, and apply a range of effects as you see fit. Besides the deeper settings, there are also simple macro controls for each patch, each often blending a range of effects like reverbs, choruses, and delays to make rapid changes.

Arcade is an ideal VST for hip hop music. Thanks to the sheer amount of sounds you get access to, you won’t find your inspiration drying up any time soon. It comes with 40+ basic instruments, covering a huge range of sounds from arpeggios, pop hooks, drum kits (see also the best drum VST plugins here), bass sounds, retro vocals, and much, much more. The ‘Brain Waves’ pack is my top recommendation for hip-hop producers to get started. It contains crisp drums, lo-fi pads and chords, kick drum patterns, and thick basses – all you need for a tasty hip-hop beat. (They also work great for electronic music and other genres.)

The virtual instrument browser is easy to navigate and let you get a quick preview before you download the full pack, saving precious hard drive space. Some of the sounds are a little familiar, and you will hear a lot of the content has been used in other tracks, although as a raw building block, you can’t get much better. You can even use your own sounds, so try out the free version now!

What We Like

A huge sound library of samples.

‘Ready to go’ inspirational sounds.

Intuitive, colorful interface.

Thousands of “Sampler Kits”.

Tweakable controls.

Know Before Buying

You need to edit sounds to make them more unique

Some issues with the browser

Subscription-based – some people don’t like it.

See On Amazon

Bring the sound of retro tape machines to your productions with this authentic saturation plugin. Unlike many standard tape plugins, TAIP uses artificial intelligence to create highly accurate coloration.

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If there is one effect that is essential for hip hop beats its saturation. Is there any more authentic saturation tone for hip hop music than that of a dusty old tape machine? I don’t think so…

TAIP by Baby Audio is a modern tape saturation plugin that processes sounds with cutting-edge techniques and is a large diversion from all the tape plugins that came before. With this plugin, you can create the organic, nostalgic sound of tape machines. It’s perfect for hip hop music as many old beats were made using cassettes and tape, this thing sounds killer on drum tracks, giving them a crunchy, smooth sound.

It has an incredibly realistic sound that competes with plugins five times its price. Words only do so much justice, so make sure you check out the audio examples yourself.

Besides the killer tone, this plugin is also super easy to use and has an intuitive but professional interface. It has all the controls you need to blend in the perfect amount of tape saturation, from nuanced to monstrosity.

A unique feature of TAIP is that It uses artificial intelligence and neural networks to create a highly natural processing tone. Rather than roughly emulating the process based on circuit simulations, it uses a mix of dry and processed input data to interpret the exact vintage sound effect that tape has on recordings. This results in a more faithful, accurate, and dynamic tape emulation.

It’s limited in its depth of uses – as it is only a saturator. However, every hip-hop producer needs a saturation plugin in their toolbox, and the tape-style color is as old-school as it gets.

(Bonus Mention: Baby Audio Super VHS – for that nostalgic videotape lo-fi sound.)

What We Like

Hyper-realistic tape machine sounds.

A broad range of color styles and options.

Powered by AI – unique in the field of tape plugins.

Comes with 130+ professionally made presets.

Know Before Buying

Limited to saturation, so has a specific use.

Can sound a little harsh when pushed to extremes.

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A subscription-based browser for millions of samples, loops, MIDI clips, and presets – all royalty-free. If you’re often hunting for samples; this will be a huge timesaver and help you find the exact sound you need.

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Splice is another subscription-based sound library, although this time with a different approach to Arcade. Giving users a credit-based download system, Splice gives you access to millions of samples and packs covering all types of genres and instruments.

No matter what kind of sound you are looking for you are guaranteed to find one here. The drum machines and drum samples are some of my favorites, and have a tight, punchy sound.

The entire catalog is hosted in an easy, drag-and-drop interface that lets you instantly pull sounds from the plugin directly to your DAW project. Of course, you get to preview any sample before you spend your credits, so you can make sure that you don’t waste your points on anything you won’t use.

The workflow is fast and easy to use, letting you quickly find the types of samples you are looking for, filtered by instrument, BPM, genre, or more. Splice also features a smart AI-powered search feature to help you find closely matched sounds, shortening your sample-hunting times even more.

One other notable feature is the artist packs. These are made in collaboration with world-famous artists, and the list is huge, so there will likely be packs by some of your favorite producers.

The number of hip-hop packs is also staggering too so you’re never going to run out of inspiration. Splice also offers some other good deals, including their synth and sampler plugins, and also rent-to-own plugin deals where you can pay a monthly subscription to eventually own the plugin. Neat!

The Splice plugin occasionally glitches out and needs reloading, although this isn’t a deal breaker. It’s also worth noting that you need to use it regularly to get your money’s worth, as the subscription does add up over time if you don’t use it that much.

What We Like

Huge selection of samples.

Collaboration packs with famous artists and producers.

Quick and easy to use.

Fair monthly credit-based subscription deal.

Know Before Buying

Need to use it regularly to get your money’s worth.

A monthly credit system is not for everyone.

Sometimes bugs out.

See On Amazon

Recreate the warmth of vintage equipment with this flexible coloration station. This intuitive but deep plugin provides producers with a huge level of saturation, from soft to obscene.

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The XLN RC20 is a ‘Retro Color’ effect, designed for adding warmth, saturation, crunch, and modulation to your sounds. I’m always a fan of lo-fi effects in hip-hop, and I think to some extent it’s a necessity for a faithful hip-hop sound.

RC20 includes 6 switchable effects modules, each with a decent level of individual control. Combining the effects lets you achieve a huge range of colors in your production.

Despite the modern, cartoony interface, it’s actually capable of producing some subtle, analog saturation sounds that effectively emulate analog hardware. Unlike a lot of saturation plugins, it’s not based on a single hardware device, instead taking a broad range of influences and combining them into a single plugin.

The workflow itself is fantastic and provides a few extra considerate features which make it a powerful tool in a professional mixing situation. The six modules provide a massive range of creative potential: Noise Generator, Wobble & Flutter, Saturation & Distortion, Degrader & Bitcrusher, Reverb, and Volume Drops/Flutter.

It includes a bunch of professionally designed presets that cover all kinds of instruments, genres, and use cases. These presets give you a solid starting point to then further customize with your tastes. The plugin comes recommended by legends such as Diplo, Greg Wells, Michael Tuller, and many more.

It is purely for coloration, so you’re going to need more than just this plugin for creating full beats. But if you need something to spice and color up your sounds, or craft more creative, saturated mixes, then this will be a killer plugin to add to your kit. Anyone using a drum machine needs to run it through this.

What We Like

Six flexible color modules.

Each effect has a wide range of settings.

Fantastic, flexible workflow design.

Professional tooling in a friendly interface.

Know Before Buying

Limited to color tasks.

Can’t rearrange effects.

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A powerful but simple mastering plugin to give your beats a competitive sound. Provides much better quality and control than automated mastering like Landr.

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Mastering is an essential, but often overlooked piece of the production process. This stage involves adding EQ, saturation, compression, and limiting to the master bus to make your beats sound ‘radio ready.

Generally mastering is regarded as a dark art, only understood by the fussiest music production nerds. However, with Ozone, the mastering process becomes super easy, and almost as fun as the beat creation itself.

Ozone puts all the controls you need for mastering directly in front of you, in a configurable and flexible interface. This version is Ozone Elements, which is the most basic edition but is more than enough to get you started, and still gets you, professional-sounding masters. You can also upgrade to the full versions later, at a reduced cost, if you buy one of the more affordable versions.

Ozone Elements Gives you four flexible mastering modules, that can be stacked and repeated in any way. These are an Exciter, Equalizer, Stereo Imager, and Maximizer. This really gives you everything you need to create popping, dynamic masters that will stand above your competitors. I particularly like the Maximizer, which boosts the volume, compressing the signal – whilst it gives a nice boost it doesn’t choke the dynamics, so your listeners won’t suffer from loudness fatigue.

The EQ and imager components are also super transparent. You can apply some precise (and extreme) cuts and boosts without creating any nasty artifacts, making this super powerful for corrective mastering situations. I’ve actually been to several mastering houses where they will use some components of Ozone in their mastering chains, so you know it’s professional grade.

Another useful feature for beginners (and lazy professionals) is the AI-assisted mastering feature. This listens to your audio and automatically works out a custom mastering chain that suits the sound of your music. Even if you’re not new, this is a time saver and gives you a solid starting point to further tweak a custom mastering chain.

More advanced features include a mid/side mode for controlling the stereo field in more depth, and options for switching between clean digital EQs, or colorful analog ones. It is a ‘mere’ mastering plugin, so don’t expect to use it for making beats or sounds, but this is one of the easiest and best-sounding mastering tools on the market.

What We Like

Transparent, high-quality mastering.

Easy to use with AI-assistant features.

Get your hip-hop track release-ready in moments.

Includes EQ, Stereo Imager, Exciter, Maximizer – but you can expand later.

Know Before Buying

Relatively high CPU usage.

Not the fully featured version ($299).

Slightly limited for professional mastering situations.

See On Amazon

A powerful frequency modulation synthesizer that creates pristine basses, pads, and textures. FM8 is one of the most flexible and deepest synths made.

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FM8 by Native Instruments is a modern Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesizer. Unlike traditional additive synthesizers (see also best synth for hip hop here), FM synths blend oscillators and frequency modulators to create exciting, evolving sounds with a large amount of depth and intrigue.

FM synthesis is typically an advanced format that is quite daunting to new synth heads. However, FM8 bundles an incredibly flexible and high-potential synth into an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. The UI is laid out well, and it favors familiarity and speed instead of mind-boggling complexity and knob-overload.

The FM engine itself is super powerful and offers a whopping 64 independent oscillators and modulators for an infinite level of sound design. Each oscillator can be assigned to one of 8 unique envelopes, allowing for constantly evolving, shifting sounds. You can even use your own samples to create a waveform.

Besides the oscillation, FM8 provides an arpeggiator, a unique sound morphing feature, and a bunch of tweakable effects, so you can perfect the sound in the plugin alone, without needing to load up any other VST plugin. It also features a huge library of over 1200 presets, literally covering every end of the sonic spectrum from soothing pads to chunky bass tones and beats.

This is a solid choice for hip-hop producers as it lets them create their own unique and detailed synth sounds. I also think it has the cleanest sine tone around, so it’s a beauty for layering in with sub-bass. It’s more complex than most synths, so I might not recommend it to complete beginners, but even with a little synth experience, you’ll get a huge amount of mileage out of this plugin.

What We Like

Super flexible modular design.

Includes a huge array of presets.

Smoothest sounding FM oscillators.

Built-in effects.

It’s a bass master.

Know Before Buying

Too complex for new producers.

Requires understanding of FM synthesis to maximise sonic possibilities.

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Waves Tunes Realtime is a fully featured and live-performance capable auto-tuning hip-hop VST. With MIDI input and a whole range of calibration, this excels for either creative or corrective auto-tuning tasks.

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Auto-tuned vocals are one of the core elements of modern hip-hop and related genres like RnB, trap, and drill. If you are a rapper or vocalist in the hip-hop scene then an autotune plugin like this is pretty much essential. It can do classic sounds of autotune, but also a whole range of other tones.

I’m not saying you need to crank it up to the max like T-Payne (although this plugin does that well), but even subtle corrective auto-tune can go a long way in making your vocals sound more professional. The Waves Tune Realtime is a powerful auto-tuning plug-in that has both creative and corrective uses.

For starters, it accurately corrects pitches with minimal effort, giving you control over the level of pitch drift, and correction speed letting you dial in the exact amount of tuning you need.

The other sweet features of this plugin include the MIDI/Keyboard input, working similar to a vocoder. You simply feed the plugin a midi signal, and it automatically tunes the audio input to the given notes. This can be used for building some cool harmonies and vocal effects.

It also offers a key mode, making sure it keeps your vocal performance in the key of the song, and 7 vocal range settings, which gears the plugin to perform better based on the vocal type of the performer. It’s also worth noting that it has low latency, so you can use it in live performance situations and deceive your audience that you can sing in perfect tune…

What We Like

Real-time auto-tuning.

Configurable level of processing, from subtle to extreme.

The low latency mode is ideal for live performance. MIDI/Keyboard input for extra expression.

Know Before Buying

Slightly dirtier sound than Antares Auto-Tune (although more affordable).

Not as accurate or detailed as pitch correction suites like Melodyne.

See On Amazon

Bonus Free VST Plugins

Ozone Vinyl

The ideal Lo-Fi tool for hip-hop producers, it transforms cold, computerized rhythms into warm, nostalgic bangers with retro turntable noise. Even though this plugin is free, the quality is super high. Izotope could easily sell this for $50+.

This free plugin will make your music sound exactly as it was recorded on vinyl, but with just one percent of the work. This easy-to-use plugin will instantly add the classic vinyl sound to any hip hop production. This is probably one of my favorite free plugins ever made.

The sound quality of vinyl is linked with hip hop music. The music relies heavily on turntables, scratching, and record flipping. Izotope Vinyl has six different record players, spanning the years 1930 to 2000, each with its own distinct yet very accurate recreation of the sound of wax from that period.

Mix in some electrical and mechanical hum, then adjust the dust, scratches, warp, wear, and RPM to your liking.

This vst is a funky hip-hop coloration tool that you can’t do without. A convincing vinyl tone is easily achieved by adjusting the available parameters. It also features a spindown mode for those authentic vinyl slowdown effects. I honestly use this plugin alot, even though it’s free it has top level sound quality. I love using it on drum sounds.

Benefits

  • It’s a really fun plugin to use.
  • Light on CPU
  • Great vinyl Sim
  • Free!

Buyers Guide for the Best Hip Hop VST Plugins

Types/Functions

There are so many different types of plugins out there, so it’s well worth thinking about what would be the best one for your needs.

There are several types of plugins that everybody needs, particualry for hip hop production. So if you don’t have all of these types in your software kit then it’s probably worth stocking up/.

  • Samplers / VST Instruments for making sounds.
  • Effects (reverbs, delays, saturation etc) for coloring sounds.
  • Mixing and Mastering plugins for refining beats (EQs, compressors, limiters).

What kind of hip hop do you want to make?

The best type of plugins for you really depends on the style of hip hop production you want to make. There are a lot of different types of hip hop beats, and each uses different production styles and workflows.

Some artists swear by sampling from records, so they might not be so keen on using sample-based software like Splice and Arcade. Although others love the speed and inspiration that these sample library VSTs offer.

PC Power

Some plugins use a lot of hard drive space and CPU power, so make sure you buy something that you can use. (Or upgrade your PC first). Filling a project up with loads of VSTs can quickly swamp out your CPU, making the session unusable until you start rendering stuff. That said, you can find a lot of great plugins that don’t use a lot of PC power!

Hard drive space can also be an issue, which is why cloud-based software like Arcade and Splice is a good idea because they don’t use much memory, as you only download sounds when you need them.

FAQs

What do pros use to make beats?

Each artist is different, so there is no specific list of things pros use to make beats. That said, there are several common elements that most producers use. In professional studios, it’s common for hip-hop producers to use the following bits of gear to produce their beats.

  • A computer (obviously…)
  • Music production software (aka. A Digital Audio Workstation/DAW) like Pro Tools and Reaper, and VST plugins.
  • A midi keyboard / MIDI Controller (often something like an MPC).
  • An audio interface.
  • Headphones and studio monitors.
  • A microphone for recording vocals.

In certain schools of hip-hop production, there is a heavy emphasis on flipping samples from vinyl records. In this case, a turntable is used to record the vinyl samples.

Is making beats hard?

Beats can be made easily these days. After you get over the initial learning curve, it’s just a matter of refining your unique sound and style. If you’re completely new to music production, you could probably learn how to make beats within a couple of hours. Although the more time you spend learning the better your production skills will come.

How much should you sell beats for?

It’s hard to say exactly how much you should sell your beats for because everyone has a different level of skill, fame, and experience.

Final Thoughts!

Best for producers who like a huge sound library to access inspiration at any time.
Best for people who love the sound of retro tape machines and want to bring some authentic old-school crunch to their hip-hop productions. 
Best for producers who like to pick and choose samples from a range of sample packs when they produce music. 

This concludes the list for the best vst plugins for hip hop production. All of these plugins are great tools for sound design and will help you to make killer beatas with top sound quality.