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Old 12th May 2019
Anything and everything can, potentially, make a difference from small to large. I'm not someone who goes out and buys expensive bundles (at all) but I did make a point of occasionally updating/upgrading my DAW (Sonar, now living reasonably comfortably in the freeware zone as Cakewalk by Bandlab) which, under previous owners had included, I guess we could call them, 'freemium' plugins -- limited release and sometimes somewhat limited feature/function versions of premium plugs (many from respected developers). And, like many budget-challenged types (I'm retired), I've also collected an array of free and shareware plugs.

There is no question in my mind: I definitely like some plugs much better than others in their category; some sound better out the gate; some are easier to get desired qualities from because of features or differences in UI.

Differences in user interface, for me, can make a pretty big difference, even when the sonic quality or basic function are about the same. Some UIs make things easy; some make things much harder than they need be. Like, for instance those 'realistic' 3D renderings of knobs that have to be adjusted with a rotary mouse action (instead of the common and very useful 'hidden fader' motion option where you can 'turn' the knob simply by mousing up or down). It's such a common sense and relatively common approach, no innovation needed -- yet we've seen a number of plugins some graphic designer obviously labored over that, for whatever reasons, insist on the trickier, slower rotary mouse/finger action.

But, very real differences in sonic quality and ease of use aside, it's nonetheless worth noting that the quality range of plugins is probably narrow indeed compared to the quality range of engineer/practitioners.