What about calf-plugins?

You can read different things about the Calf plugins on the Internet. Some say they have a very high quality, others say they often have distortions. I for example never have any crashes with the Calf plugins, they run very stable. What is your experience? And how do you rate the quality of these plugins?

Calf plugins were for a long time the single greatest source of user issues reported, particularly crashes. That isn’t as much now, though I suspect that may have more to do with less users using them than anything.

On top of this things like their EQ, multiband processors, etc. all introduce significant phasing and really aren’t that good sounding as a result. As a result in general they are not recommended.


Too bad, because somehow I like these Calf plugins. As I said, I had no problems with crashes etc. But since I’m still a beginner in mixing/mastering, I just wanted to ask some experts for their opinion. Thanks

Piggy-backing on @seablade’s response, you can verify the distortions / poor DSP by running them through analyzer plugins. Bottom line, stay well clear :stuck_out_tongue:

Further reading

the list goes on.


Uhhh… I think I understand. Thank you. So i’ll check out some other plugins.

They can still be useful in some contexts. Just be aware there might be issue and trust your ears.

As for alternatives, check out https://lsp-plug.in/ and I can also offer you https://x42-plugins.com most GNU/Linux distros package those.

Also have a look at the LV2 Wiki.


Ok, great. Thanks a lot!


I don’t use many of them but I find two of them indispensible whether the DSP is good or not is something I can’t make an educated comment on. The Calf Bass Enhancer is magical on Kickdrums… put it on your Kick track and dial the EQ knob to find the sweet spot (usually around 80Hz) and it’s pretty much instantly sounds good. Their Calf Exciter is another secret weapon for Acoustic guitars pretty much the same thing… add it to the track and it sounds good, find the EQ frequency sweet spot. As for the rest of them I pretty much avoid them largely due to the bad press here…


Thanks for the answer. Yes I will avoid the Calf plugins from now on although I liked the gui and the handling very well. But I rely here on the advice of Robin, Seablade and Bethharmon.
I tried now the lsp-plugins… These plugins are already almost too advanced for me :slight_smile:

In the GNU/Linux world we are spoiled for choice. I am a fan of the Calf Monosynth, to me it sound the way I imagine an old mono moog should sound, their reverb is another favorite.

The X42 guitar tuner plugin is a must and the organ and drumkits are helpful to. You can make tunes just using the general midi synthesizer and the included effects in Ardour.

Sometimes the best plugin is the one you accidentally click on where the unfamiliarity of the controls makes something unexpected happen that sounds good, consider installing them all.

While this all may be true from a technical point of view, at the end of the day I like the rule: “if it sounds good, it is good”. Remember that guitar sounds as we have them today started with out-of-spec usage of guitar amplifier’s. It was Link Wray who poked holes into the speaker, and all these basty things …
BTW: I’m not recommending to use Calf plugins.


It has been mentioned on other threads, that unfa uses (or abuses) calf plugins to sculpt sounds. He is very into distortion, so many of the artifacts are beneficial in his case.

He also does not mind occasional crashes, and reports bugs, thankfully. YMMV.

I used Calf plugins on my only album release - there is no equivalent de-esser in the LSP plugin suite, and the multiband enhancer and limiter was invaluable at helping my mixes pop. Even with that, had their been other, lighter DSP alternatives for those plugins I would have used them in a heartbeat - and if you all know of LV2 or good open source Linux plugins for those, I am all ears.

GMAC, I thought Calf’s bass enhancer was the cats meow until I started using Airwindows ToTape6. The distortions it creates are much more controllable and doesn’t add phasing issues.

The de-esser from Airwindows is amazing: DeEss | Airwindows

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Gui looks great. I think they should improve some plugins algorithms and add new ones, e.g. ir reverb

@BethHarmon That DeEss design is genius. I really need to add Chris to my Patreon next month.

Any suggestions for multiband enhancer and limiter equivalents in other open source suites?

How are you using the x42 plugin? I find it too sensitive for an electric git - it shows a significant difference in note value depending on how hard the string is hit. It would be a dynamite plugin if it generated a midi note. But it would have to be much less sensitive to velocity.
How about it Robin?
sorry…I don’t want to hijack this thread, so - Calf plugins: there are some gems there, and everyone seems to like the interfaces. The Transient Designer does some very nice things to an electric guitar. But, yeah, there are much better eq’s that seem to be based on Fons Andriaensen, but have really nice interface. And the most rigorous of all I think are LSP plugins by a large team of programmer / musicians called Vladimir Sadovnikov.

OT here, but it sends MTS (MIDI tuning) messages. MIDI note is not sufficient to describe the detected frequency.

Are you talking about the x42 AutoTune? If so, be aware that strings go in and out of tune based on how hard you attack the string with a pick, string gauge, and the type of bridge on the guitar. It can vary by a quarter step in drop tunings, so I would set up the filter to be slower if you’re wanting to do MIDI transcription. That’s kind of aside from the discussion here about the Calf plugin suite