There are many pro engineers who use Waves, a lot of them actually, and they sound great, warm, fat, cozy, nice, sweet and deep. This is subjective thing.
If your budget allows, go for uad, there is no guarantee that you'll be satisfied but at least psychologically you'll be covered, nothing more expensive out there
In the mean time you can try Slate everything bundle.
For me, it's klanghelm, valhalla, soundtoys and kush. Those companies together gives everything you could want in a mix, with sounds that are nothing like sterile. MJUC from klanghelm and UBK-1 from kush gives a lot of great sounds, they are all over my mixes, they do a big part of the cimpression i do.
Also the new api eq plugins from volko audio and channel4 from airwindows makes for great sounds.
Plenty of pro engineers using stock plugins only. The plugins won't make the difference in your productions. Can you please share a recent track for context? Might be more usefull to discuss your productions than subjective plugin preference. If you can't get where you want to be with stock plugins, something else is wrong.
I tend to agree. I dislike most Cubase stock effects. The EQ is fine (most digital EQs null and Cubase' EQ is no exception), but the dynamics processors, modulation and delay are just average at best.
Personally, I am not a fan of Waves and their licensing nor business model. I tend to find most their plugins pretty average too if I'm being honest.
Compression: I would check out Cytomic The Glue and Softube plugins (including the ones they designed for Native Instruments). All of these are the best compressors I have heard
Limiter: FabFilter's Pro-L or DMG Audio Limitless are some of the finest limiters on the market today
EQ: FabFilter Pro-Q or DMG Audio EQuilibrium will give you that little bit more control you may be missing from the stock EQ.
Reverb: Relab's LX480 (replica of a Lexicon 480L) and Lexicon PCM90-based plugin offerings are my favourite currently. Of course you now have TC's VSS3 and the new Relab VSR24 (which is a VSS6) if that's your thing.
Delay: SoundToys are truly hard to beat here, both EchoBoy and PrimalTap are incredible. I also quite like Replika XT by Native Instruments too.
Modulation: The Softube Fix series and SoundToys plugins come to mind again, both absolutely top notch.
Distortion: SoundToys Decapitator is the finest distortion I've personally heard.
Sidechain Volume Automation: Cableguys VolumeShaper or xfer records LFOTool are the best of the bunch
I think you'll find that for cinematic music, EQ and Reverb will be your two most important tools. Possibly a little dynamics processing too, but for the most part, EQ and Reverb. For trance, I use a wider variety of plugins primarily focused around EQ, compression, reverb and delay. I tend to use modulation effects that come built into synths.
With regards to synths, I personally love Sylenth1, Spire, Massive, Serum, Hive and DUNE 2. Omnisphere and Kontakt I use more as romplers, they are great to have.
P.S.: I produce trance primarily but also work on cinematic music too
P.P.S: I used to own a Virus TI and think it's the most overrated synth in history, I don't miss it one bit.