In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the thirty best free plugins ever made. We’ll give you a review of their most impressive features and help you decide which ones to download in 2021.
So, what are the best free VST plugins for 2021?
In 2021 you can’t miss Sonic Anomaly’s Transpire, a CPU-friendly transient shaper. Also, Ignite Amps’ PTEq-X is the best free Pultec plugin out there. FloorFish, by Fishphones, will improve your workflow, and Hvoya’s granulizer, Ribs, will blow your mind. Furthermore, Creative Intent’s Temper has the best distortion algorithm.
These are just a few plugins from this immersive list we’ve put together for you. If you want to know more about the best free plugins for 2021, let’s jump right in!
- 1 30 Best Free Plugins Ever Made 2021 | EQ, Compression, Reverb, Delay.
- 1.1 1. Audio Damage Rough Rider 3 (Compressor)
- 1.2 2. Caelum Audio Tape Cassette 2 (Analog Tape Emulation)
- 1.3 3. Ignite Amps PTEq-X (Passive EQ)
- 1.4 4. NoiseAsh Action Tremolo (Tremolo FX)
- 1.5 5. Aegean Music Pitchproof (Pitchshifter/Harmonizer)
- 1.6 6. ADHD Leveling Tool (Opto Compressor)
- 1.7 7. Fishphones FLOORFISH (Noise Gate)
- 1.8 8. Blue Cat Audio Blue Cat’s Flanger (Flanger)
- 1.9 9. Hvoya Audio Ribs By Eugene Yakshin (Granulizer)
- 1.10 10. Voxengo SPAN (Spectrum Analyzer)
- 1.11 11. iZotope Imager 2 (Imager/Stereo Analyzer)
- 1.12 12. Tritik Krush (Bit Crusher)
- 1.13 13. Acon Digital Multiply (Chorus)
- 1.14 14. AlexHilton A1StereoControl (Stereo Controlling /Imager)
- 1.15 15. Variety Of Sound Thrillseeker XTC (Exciter)
- 1.16 16. Kilohearts Delay Snapin (Delay)
- 1.17 17. Voxengo Sound Delay (Delay)
- 1.18 18. Valhalla Supermassive (Delay/Reverb)
- 1.19 19. Convology XT (Convolution Reverb)
- 1.20 20. Denis Tihanov OrilRiver (Reverb)
- 1.21 21. xfer OTT (Upward/Downward Compression)
- 1.22 22. TDR Nova (Equalizer)
- 1.23 23. Blue Cat’s Phaser (Phaser)
- 1.24 24. Cableguys PanCake 2 (Auto-Panning)
- 1.25 25. Sonic Anomaly Transpire (Transient Shaper)
- 1.26 26. Full Bucket Music FBVC (Vocoder)
- 1.27 27. Creative Intent Temper (Distortion)
- 1.28 28. ToneBytes Lo-Fizer (Lo-Fi)
- 1.29 29. SpitFish DeEsser (De-Esser)
- 1.30 30 TDR VladG Limiter N°6
- 2 Conclusion
30 Best Free Plugins Ever Made 2021 | EQ, Compression, Reverb, Delay.
- Audio Damage Rough Rider 3 (Compressor) | info & download
- Caelum Audio Tape Cassgette 2 (Analog Tape Emulation) | info & download
- Ignite Labs PTEq-X (Passive EQ)| info & download
- NoiseAsh Action Tremolo (Tremolo FX) | info & download
- Aegean Music Pitchproof (Pitchshifter/Harmonizer) | info & download
- ADHD Leveling Tool (Opto Compressor) | info & download
- Fishphones FloorFish (Noise Gate) | info & download
- Blue Cat Audio Blue Cat’s Flanger (Flanger)| info & download
- Hvoya Audio Ribs By Eugene Yakshin (Granulizer) | info & download
- Voxengo SPAN (Spectrum Analyzer) | info & download
- iZotope Imager 2 (Imager/Stereo Analyzer) | info & download
- Tritik Krush (Bit Crusher) | info & download
- Acon Digital Multiply (Chorus) | info & download
- AlexHilton A1StereoControl (Stereo Controlling /Imager) | info & download
- Variety Of Sound Thrillseeker XTC (Exciter) | info & download
- Kilohearts Delay Snapin (Delay) | info & download
- Voxengo Sound Delay (Delay) | info & download
- Valhalla Supermassive (Delay/Reverb) | info & download
- Convology XT (Convolution Reverb) | info & download
- Denis Tihanov OrilRiver (Reverb) | info & download
- XFer OTT (Multiband Upward/Downward Compressor) | info & download
- TDR Nova (Equalizer) | info & download
- Blue Cat’s Phaser (Phaser) | info & download
- Cableguys PanCake 2 (Auto-Panning) | info & download
- Sonic Anomaly Transpire (Transient Shaper) | info & download
- Full Bucket Music FBVC (Vocoder) | info & download
- Creative Intent Temper (Distortion)| info & download
- ToneBytes Lo-Fizer (Lo-Fi) | info & download
- SpitFish DeEsser (De-Esser) | info & download
- TDR VladG Limiter N°6 (Limiter) | info & download
1. Audio Damage Rough Rider 3 (Compressor)
Rough Rider 3 by Audio Damage is a great free compressor plugin with a nice warm sound.
The minimalistic UI has been updated from its previous versions to look on-brand with the most recent Audio Damage products. Audio Damage added a sidechain filter and a full bandwidth button to turn the warmth on and off. The knobs can be controlled with the mouse, but there is no type-in support.
- External & Internal Sidechain: The Rough Rider gives you the ability to work as a sidechain processor for either internal or external sources. This is great if you’re processing a bass-heavy material, but the excessive bass makes the compressor pump too hard. It’s also great if you need the processed sound to duck every time an external sound hits.
- Comprehensive Metering: The main circle at the center of the UI called Sensitivity actually controls the threshold. In it, you’ll find the gain reduction meters in yellow and the attack and release curves in light blue. This makes it extremely easy for you to understand how much compression is actually happening, which can be hard to visualize in other plugins.
- Transparency: This plugin has an extremely transparent sound when Full Bandwidth is disabled. You can easily create artifact-free compression even in extreme settings, an essential feature for the digital world.
Character & Sound:
The plugin’s standard sound is somewhat aggressive and warm due to the built-in filters. This can be desirable for many situations, but it may be distracting if you’re looking for a cleaner sound. Aware of this, Audio Damage equipped this new version of Rough Rider with the Full Bandwidth On/Off switch. The latest addition gives you the flexibility of achieving warm coloration or clean compression.
Rough Rider 3 is available as a VST, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin for Windows 8 and up, macOS 10.12 and newer, and Ubuntu 18 or later. You can also use this plugin on your iOS device. It is available for download in the App Store in AUv3 and IAA & Standalone formats. All operating systems and DAWs must be 64-bit.
It is a straightforward, user-friendly plugin that gives you every essential tool needed in a compressor in 2021. The blend knob is an excellent addition for parallel compression, and the Full Bandwidth button injects new versatility into your workflow. A worthy update if you have the older versions and nevertheless a great addition to your collection.
2. Caelum Audio Tape Cassette 2 (Analog Tape Emulation)
Caelum Audio’s Tape Cassette 2 is a simple way of adding natural tape warmth to your tracks.
Accuracy is the name of the game with this plugin’s Type 1 Cassette Impulse Responses and actual tape noise samples. You can very closely achieve the warm sound of tape and even control Wow and Flutter to create multicolored effects.
- Impulse Response: This great new feature changes the plugin into a Type 1 tape. These tapes usually sound round and don’t respond well to higher frequencies. It doesn’t have much headroom, making it suitable on compressed, linear materials like vocals and bass. Basically, you can use this feature to bring warmth to the bass and cut out some of the high-end, giving your track a thorough vintage sound.
- Noise Knob: The updated noise engine gives you an accurate emulation of Type 1 tape hiss. The volume knob gives you the option of rolling the noise back, which is impossible on real tapes, or putting it all the way up to it completely overshadow the sound. Any way you choose to go, the Noise knob gives you enough creative freedom to convey this well-known analog texture.
- Oversampling: This plugin offers up to 16 times oversampling, which ensures that even when you’re creating a lo-fi texture, you’re preserving, and even enhancing, the final quality. Just be careful because this will increase stress on the CPU.
Character & Sound:
The updated algorithms gave this plugin a massive coloration improvement from the previous version. It sounds a lot thicker, and the output knob makes it more versatile than its older brother. Bass sounds terrific with a little of this plugin’s saturation, and the oversampling function comes in handy for extra clarity. Besides, the overall control versatility lets you use it on individual channels and the master bus.
Tape Cassette 2 will work on macOS 10.11 and up and Windows 7 and up as a VST3 and AU plugin. Additionally, you can run it in GarageBand on your iOS device.
If you already have the original version, Tape Cassette 2 is a great update, although we’d recommend having both installed for extra tape smoothness. Hooking up a real cassette player, finding a good-sounding tape, and summing mixes through it can be a little too unrealistic for some people. Fortunately, Caelum Audio’s got you covered.
3. Ignite Amps PTEq-X (Passive EQ)
Ignite Amps’ PTEq-X is a CPU-friendly emulation of three Pultec EQs with some additional controls.
If you’re familiar with Pultec’s mythos, this is a versatile addition to the extensive family of emulations. In addition to a thorough representation of the original circuits and signal flow, Ignite Amps made sure to add their own twists for increased versatility. For example, the Low-Frequency knob has two extra frequencies that weren’t present on the original hardware. They also added three extra options for the high-frequency attenuator. Moreover, the plugin lets you choose between 4 types of tube emulations.
- MQ5: The unit at the top of this plugin handles the mid-range. It is a three-band equalizer with peculiar controls. The high and low frequencies get peak controls, in which you get five frequency options for each and up to 10dB of boost. However, the mids work inversely, making a bell cut at any of the eleven possible frequencies.
- PEQAC: The equalizer in the middle is called the “Program Equalizer.” It skips the midrange almost entirely, focusing on creating high and low shelves. By increasing the boost and attenuation values together, you get the classic Pultec curve, which sounds amazing on the bass and kick drum. When you click the “ECC88” button, a dropdown menu will show up with four options. Each option changes the harmonic curve a little so you can have different colorations. In the end, it all goes down to taste and the material you’re mixing. It’s important to note that there will be a significant CPU improvement if you bypass the Tube. This is effective if you’re using another plugin to color the sound. Alternatively, even if you bypass the PEQ1A module, you can still get the Tube’s harmonic richness since they work independently.
- HL3C: By enabling this unit at the bottom, you can create high- and low-pass filters. You get ten frequencies to choose from for each of the filters.
- Oversampling: This plugin offers you 2 times oversampling, meaning it will double your session’s sample rate. A pro tip is tracking and mixing with oversampling off and then turning it on before rendering the project.
Character & Sound:
This plugin has the warm but crispy sound of the Pultec, and the extra Frequency options are convenient additions that can improve your workflow. Overall, the plugin’s use of three different equalizers helps you control the entire spectrum more thoroughly. Additionally, you can bypass any of the three EQs to focus on the ones you want. The way Pultecs work is through boosting and attenuating. So the EQ in the middle will create high and low shelves at the chosen frequencies. Use the ATTEN knob to tighten up the curves. The EQ at the top creates Peak bells on the higher and lower mids, while Dip lets you choose a frequency to cut back. At the bottom, the Filter HL3C lets you apply low and high-cut filters.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.7 and up and Windows 7 and higher. The download file will give you the VST, VST3, and AU versions.
The PTEq-X is an excellent free EQ for mastering and mixing, but not for precise cuts and boosts. Due to its inherited selectable frequencies, the plugin offers enough options to make anything sound fantastic, but not for specific fixes, like unpleasant frequency cuts. As it’s a free plugin, it’s worth downloading even if you already have all other available Pultec emulations, especially due to the tube options.
4. NoiseAsh Action Tremolo (Tremolo FX)
NoiseAsh’s Action Tremolo gives you plenty of control to shape the effect virtually any way you want.
The UI is simple to understand, and the oscilloscope and goniometer give you instant visual feedback. Even though the amount of knobs is minimal, the wave selectors and editors are a huge deal. They are the heart of this plugin’s versatility, offering a lot beyond the usual sine, square, triangle, and saw waves.
- Custom Shape: You can draw any shape you want with this option, making your tremolo absolutely unique. Left-click to add a point and right-click (or option-click on the Mac) to remove it. You can also Control-click to create curves. When editing, you can zoom into the wave scope to have a better view of your drawing.
- 32-step Sequencer: By choosing the Bar shape on the wave menu, you’ll enable a 32-step sequencer. It lets you slice your sound up to 32 times per bar. Additionally, you can change the sizes of each slice on the expanded menu or remove slices.
- Pan Mod: You have the same options as in the Tremolo menu to change how it works in the stereo field. Additionally, the Rate knob will sync the stereo field to a division of the project’s tempo or allow it to flow freely. The Intensity knob will widen the stereo image.
Character & Sound:
Compared to other tremolos, this plugin offers stunning psychedelic effects, and you can also saturate it. If you want to make it sound like coming right off a vintage preamp, just turn on the Drive and roll up the knobs. You can even apply it in parallel by turning the Amount all the way up and chopping down on the Mix knob.
Action Tremolo is available for macOS 10.9.5 or later and Windows 7 or higher as a VST, AU, and AAX plugin.
Action Tremolo is a brilliantly versatile plugin; it’s unbelievable it’s free. All the LFO options, plus the sequencer and the custom modes, allow you to create innovative sounds. Even if you already have your go-to tremolo, try this one out. You’ll be surprised by the number of possibilities at your disposal.
5. Aegean Music Pitchproof (Pitchshifter/Harmonizer)
Aegean Music’s Pitchproof is a pitch shifter based on harmonizer guitar pedals.
Pitchproof was designed with guitars in mind, even supporting the polyphony of power chords. In the Key Menu, simply choose the key you want to work with. The plugin can change the pitch or add harmonies to solo instruments and vocals. It works best in mono, but it also supports stereo inputs.
- Blend control: This knob lets you control the volume of the source signal. When it’s inclined to the Dry side, the source will be more apparent. As you roll the knob up, you’ll start pushing the source signal into the shifted information.
- Pitch Menu: This menu gives you nineteen options which to choose from, allowing you to basically shift your input signal into any note. Most importantly, it already gives you the possible harmonies for your sound. You can choose from the notes from second to seventh to create tuned harmonic doubles.
- Tuner: Moreover, since this is a guitar-oriented plugin, it gives you a built-in tuner, so you never stray out of pitch.
Character & Sound:
By blending old-school pitch shifting with modern technology, Pitchproof sounds very natural. You can also make it very hard-tuned or anywhere in between with the Detune knob. It can cause some CPU spikes, but you can counteract that by switching to mono.
Pitchproof is available as a VST and AU plugin for 64-bit Windows and macOS.
Aeagan Music’s Pitchproof is very versatile, and using it is a breeze. When it comes to general Pitch Shifters, it can lack resources, mainly because it’s made for guitars. Nevertheless, you get the most important controls and a tuner, which makes it a worthy download.
6. ADHD Leveling Tool (Opto Compressor)
The Leveling Tool, by ADHD, emulates classic tube hardware with a character of its own.
The plugin’s UI is straightforward, but you feel like this is a hard-hitting compressor from the first look. And although you can go pretty hard with it, it can be very smooth, too. The Attack knob allows you to act pretty fast on the transients, and even though the Release could benefit from faster options, the envelope is very satisfying.
- Drive knob: This small knob makes a huge difference. Turn it up to engage the tube saturation. It works almost as a preamp, but without the volume increase. If you turn it up, you’ll hear a very pleasing crunchy sound that can sound good on most instruments.
Character & Sound:
The secret behind this plugin’s sound is tube emulation. Whether you turn the gain or the drive knobs up, you’ll immediately feel its warmth and color. Combining both these knobs can give your signal a lot of weight, which is great for instruments like synths and vocals. The Leveling Tool sounds exceptionally amazing on Pianos, giving them bottom while the saturation cuts out some harsh highs.
Leveling Tool is available for Windows and Mac as a VST, AAX, and AU plugin.
ADHD’s Leveling Tool is an excellent Opto compressor designed for vocals but applicable in most instruments. Its Tube nature makes it a worthy addition to any producer’s collection, even if you already have a ton of compressors.
7. Fishphones FLOORFISH (Noise Gate)
FloorFish, by Fishtones, is a part of the Fish Fillets free bundle.
It covers a wide range of applications, being able to produce soft expansion and background noise attenuation. You can also use it as a strong gate effect that allows no noise through the threshold. It has a stereo mode, selectable at the plugin’s upper right corner.
- Detect Frequency: You can select at what frequency range you want the expander/gate to work. It covers almost the entire spectrum, ranging from 40 Hz all the way up to 12 kHz. The Listen button lets you solo the detector knob and find the best place to position your gate.
- User-friendly: Floorfish is an easy-to-use application that demands little to no previous experience with noise gating. Due to its comprehensive set of controls, this is guaranteed one of the best noise gate plugins for beginners and experienced producers.
Character & Sound:
Overall, this is a clean-sounding plugin that adds no coloration to your sound. It can create artifacts if the parameters are not well set. To avoid this, a great starting point is to roll the Sense knob all the way up and decrease the Attack and Release to the minimum. Also, put the Expansion knob into the Gate position. Otherwise, you’ll be using it as an expander.
FloorFish is available for macOS 10.2 and above and Windows XP and up in VST and AU formats.
Fishphones’ FloorFish is an excellent tool for mixing and recording. Its user-friendly nature makes it a nice addition to your collection. It will deliver the results you want while significantly improving your workflow.
8. Blue Cat Audio Blue Cat’s Flanger (Flanger)
Blue Cat’s Flanger is a versatile plugin with stereo capabilities.
It lets you achieve soft or bizarre flanging on any instrument. You should use the Dry knob on a bus if you want to apply parallel processing. Furthermore, you can edit the plugin’s Skin. You can change the UI with pre-existent skins or create your own here.
- Feedforward: The feedforward knob works in close relation with the Delay knob. Positive values will increase the amount of direct delayed signal. On the other hand, Negative values will proportionally inverse the phase of the delayed signal. Watch out for mono compatibility when turning this knob down.
- Feedback: When set to 0, it will make the flanger sound more like a chorus effect. As you increase the value, it will increase the feedback for the recursive delay. This means that if you turn up too much, the signal can create a loud pop. If you’re planning on going to extremes with it, place a safety net limiter after the flanger in the chain.
- Shape: This button changes the LFO’s wave shape. The upper position gives you a triangle waveform, which makes for a harsher sound. The bottom position gives a sinewave for a smoother effect.
Character & Sound:
As you place it on your track, you’ll hear how smooth this flanger is by nature. It gives a really nice warmth to your tracks like an old-school flanger. If you crank the parameters, though, it will almost blow your speakers. It’s fascinating that you can find such a range on a free plugin.
Blue Cat’s Flanger is available for macOS 10.7 and up and Windows 7 or newer as a VST, VST3, AU, RTAS, and AAX plugin.
An amazing tool to have around even if you already have other flangers. Its user-friendliness makes it an essential tool to help you achieve great results quickly. Blue Cat’s Flanger is a must-have for anyone looking for a classic-sounding effect.
9. Hvoya Audio Ribs By Eugene Yakshin (Granulizer)
Ribs by Hvoya Audio has 32 buffers that can store audio or act as separate, MIDI-triggered voices.
The easiest way to use this granulizer is by enabling FX mode on the UI’s upper left corner. This will enable you to place it on your signal chain and focus on modulating your track’s sound. Alternatively, you can use it as a Synth instrument. It uses its 32 buffers to fragment the input signal and recreate it in a new way. Each voice has its own filter, envelopes, AGC controls, play head parameters, and so on. You can choose between buffers in the upper tab selector within the GUI. The controls are source-dependent so that they can achieve different results according to the input material.
- Modes: You have three modes to choose from: Simple, Beat, and Notes. Simple lets you use the plugin as a sampler or simply playback the buffer information. Beat lets you sync the plugin to the host tempo and divide the grain lengths accordingly. Finally, Notes makes the grain length correspond to the MIDI input notes.
- Buffer Size and Refill: The tape icon on the upper left corner fills up as you fill the buffers with information. You can use the buttons below to refill all or individual buffers. Each buffer can hold up to 10 seconds of audio at a sample rate of 48 kHz.
- Base Len: this section lets you mathematically divide each grain, enabling insane flexibility. Choose the numbers you want for each division or click the “r” at the equation’s upper right corner to randomize all numbers.
Character & Sound:
This granulizer can make even the simplest input sounds become abstract surrealism. Although it doesn’t allow you to upload a prerecorded file, it works as an effect so that you can place the file on a track in your DAW. The controls aren’t friendly, but the resulting sonic possibilities are worth the time you take to learn them. It is surely among the best-sounding granulizer plugins.
The Ribs plugin is available as a standalone application or as a VST and AU for Mac and Windows.
Although the UI can be very confusing, it gets easier after using and testing it for some time. When you download the plugin, the User Manual comes along, and it can help you understand the complexity of the plugin. Alternatively, you can watch this tutorial. It is an excellent plugin to have around whenever you need to create textures or warp a signal completely.
10. Voxengo SPAN (Spectrum Analyzer)
Voxengo’s SPAN provides you an accurate frequency and loudness analysis across the entire frequency spectrum.
Not only that, the plugin gives you detailed and adjustable readings for up to 12 different routing options, including surround, mid-side, and sidechain. The Underlay button allows you to check multiple of these sources simultaneously. Also, the correlation and loudness meters ensure this analyzer is perfect for mastering.
- Underlay: If you have selected any two-channel routing option, you can use the Underlay button to visualize them on the same screen. Make sure to select contrasting colors for each channel. This process allows you to have a greater overview of problematic frequencies and channels, so you can go back to the mix and fix them.
- Settings: The tweakable settings live under the Gear icon. There you’ll find controls for the spectrum analyzer and the display separately. You can increase the range of the display to values lower than 20Hz and higher than 20kHz. Furthermore, you can change how many transients you want to see in the analyzer by setting the Average Time.
- Metering: What makes this plugin truly a mastering tool is the metering section. Besides the output levels, you’ll also be able to check the correlation, dB True Peak, dBFS, RMS, and a few more. This is essential if you want to make sure how your master’s loudness is behaving.
- Customization: You can change the color of the spectrum analyzer and the underlying inputs. The plugin offers 14 colors for you to choose from, so you can really make it your own.
Character & Sound:
By its very nature, a spectrum analyzer doesn’t modulate sound in any way. It is a tool used as a visual reference to help translate what you hear. This particular plugin also offers loudness metering in EBU R128 LUFS/LU, but it doesn’t apply any limiting. If your source material is clipping beyond unity gain, it will tell you accurately how loud it is.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.11 and higher as a VST, AU, and AAX plugin.
Voxengo’s SPAN is an accurate and resourceful plugin that deserves to be in your collection. Any producer needs to know how to read frequencies with both ears and eyes, and the SPAN lets you do that effortlessly. This plugin is the best spectrum analyzer and an absolute must-have.
11. iZotope Imager 2 (Imager/Stereo Analyzer)
Ozone Imager 2, by iZotope, is a strong stereo field enhancer with simple controls.
The plugin offers professional width management with reliable metering for mastering and mixing applications. You can use it to center your low-end information or make your mix sound incredibly wide without losing naturality.
- Stereoize: This improved feature gives you two modes for turning mono into stereo. In mode 1, you get up to 20ms of adjustable delay. If you slide up the Width control, you’ll hear the mono signal became a lot wider. However, you’ll also see the meter showing you a lot of phase cancellations happening. And so comes mode 2, a focused alternative that even at extreme settings won’t cause phase cancellation while still widening up the mono track significantly.
- Lissajous: This meter gives you special insight into the stereo balance of your track. It is accessible in the upper left corner by clicking on the rhombus shape. Since it’s a Lissajous curve meter, it gives you a real-time analysis of the phase relationship between both channels.
- Width Slider: This is this plugin’s main control. Bring it up to start increasing the width or down to create a mono output. Different instruments may benefit from either option, so try adding the plugin on bus tracks and play with the width within the mix.
Character & Sound:
The Ozone Imager 2 is a transparent plugin. It will cause no artifacts, although it can sound glitchy as you adjust the delay. It enhances the width beautifully without compromising volume and mono compatibility.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and higher and macOS 10.11 and up in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
iZotope’s Imager 2 is an essential tool for the modern producer. Image manipulation has become a necessary element of mastering, but it is also a powerful tool for mixing. With this free plugin, you can make your tracks sound more professional and larger-than-life, making it a worthy download.
12. Tritik Krush (Bit Crusher)
Krush by Tritik is a digital bit crusher with analog-modeled resonant filters.
This plugin allows you to distort peaks like a clipper and add saturation and reduce the sample rate. Furthermore, it gives you several modulation controls so you can let your imagination fly.
- LFO: This nice addition allows you to apply tremolo effects to the distortion interestingly and peculiarly. You can use the four waveforms – sine, square, triangle, and random – to influence how the effect will blend with the unprocessed signal. You can set it to Free so that you can adjust the LFO in Hertz or sync to the session’s tempo.
- Double Parameters: Both the main and the Modulation panels offer the same controls, and they affect each other as you adjust the values. Start by setting the values for the main controls. Once you find a good sound, set your LFO and use the lower controls to start blending the other parameters’ modulation. The effects you can get out of this process are unpredictable since the plugin offers you extreme freedom to blend as you desire.
Character & Sound:
This plugin’s range is remarkable. You can add soft saturation to make it sound almost like a clipper or go crazy on the knobs and have it sound unique. Whatever you choose, you can very easily turn your tracks into lo-fi or fully distorted sounds.
This plugin is available as a VST, AU, and AAX plugin for macOS 10.7 or newer and Windows 7 or higher.
Krush is an interesting and creative lo-fi tool for mixing and mastering. The adjustable LFO can be used to add weird yet great-sounding effects to your mixes. It’s a nice tool to have around whenever you’re feeling creative about your distortion.
13. Acon Digital Multiply (Chorus)
The Acon Digital Multiply is a chorus effect that automatically avoids comb filtering.
The extensive set of controls is not only impressive for a free tool. It also provides intense versatility to fulfill the user’s needs. You can simulate up to six identical voices that thicken up the sound and even create diffuse and modulated echoes with the Pre-Delay knob. The integrated equalizer lets you fine-tune the processed signal, while the Dry and Effect faders let you create parallel processing.
- Frequency Modulation: This section allows you to adjust the chorus parameters. Set up the Voice Count to your liking and tweak these two knobs to find the best-sounding effect. Depending on the source material, too much depth can generate a wobbly sound or even thicker results.
- Amplitude Modulation: Here, you’ll get control of volume-related modulation, creating an interesting tremolo effect. It helps widen up the sound, especially when you set the Pre-Delay at a high value. It would help if it had a sync mode, but it makes the effect sound more analog.
- Equalizer: The prominent equalizer has simple-to-use four-band controls. You can create low- and high- cuts to focus the processing within a limited frequency range. Use the other two controls to manipulate the curve within the selected region.
Character & Sound:
Overall this plugin outputs a stunning effect that is a part chorus, a part reverb. Adjusting the stereo spread can contribute to the immersive feeling you’ll get out of the plugin, while the Pre-Delay will make it sound even more breathtaking. The EQ section allows you to focus right where you want to apply the processing, while the eighteen built-in presets help give you a nice starting point.
Multiply is available for macOS 10.8 and higher and Windows 7 and up as a VST, AAX, and AU plugin.
This free plugin is a must-have. The lush and natural-sounding effect it produces is exquisite, and you can make it as apparent or subtle as you want. You’ll probably find yourself turning this into your go-to reverb/chorus sooner than expected.
14. AlexHilton A1StereoControl (Stereo Controlling /Imager)
Alex Hilton’s A1StereoControl is an incredibly versatile stereo image processor.
Make your bass mono while widening the rest. Flip the phase or swap channels to check for the balance of your mix. All this and a lot more is possible with A1StereoControl. You can use it to check your mono compatibility or listen to the mid or sides individually. Moreover, you can also widen or shorten the stereo width with a single knob.
- Safe Bass: Simply choose the bass frequency to create a mono low-shelf. Everything under that frequency will stay in mono. This is an old trick used for vinyl mastering but can also be beneficial for digital files. Centralizing the bass can help concentrate the song’s energy and make the rhythm hit harder.
- Expert Mode: This button reveals extra controls that enable you to go deeper into tweaking the sound. You get three pan curves: linear, logarithmic, and sin/cos. Each will give you a slightly different approach to stereo widening. You can also bind Mid and Side levels, turn the Pan knob into a balance control, and change the Pan Law, which will decrease the mid as you widen the stereo.
- Versatility: The wide range of controls make this an excellent tool for both mixing and mastering. You can also place it in your bus tracks to widen or mono certain instrument groups.
Character & Sound:
A1StereoControl sounds very clean and precise. The advanced parameters give you in-depth control of your stereo image, ensuring you get the result you want. Not only does it widen the width professionally, but it also allows you to do most things you’d want in a stereo image controller.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.6 and above and Windows XP and higher in VST, AU, RTAS, and AAX formats.
Alex Hilton’s A1StereoControl is another must-have for your toolbox. If you don’t understand a specific parameter, as you roll the mouse over it, an explanation of what it does shows up at the UI’s bottom. All this makes for a user-friendly and adaptable plugin. It’s almost untrue that such a plugin is free.
15. Variety Of Sound Thrillseeker XTC (Exciter)
The Thrillseeker XTC is a three-band exciter that promises to mimic an analog signal chain.
The plugin consists of five bypassable areas: The three EQ bands, the saturation, and the output. The frequency knobs on the EQ modules let you sweep through the frequencies. Each band has a volume knob that can add up to 10dB of gain at an extensive fixed Q. The LOW and AIR sections generate shelf-like equalization.
- MOJO: This appropriately named knob increases harmonic distortion while rolling out a bit of the high-end. It sounds subtle, but it actually makes a huge difference when it’s all the way up. You’ll miss it if you bypass it.
- DRIVE: This button increases the lows and mids by about 5dB when turned all the way up. This ensures that the user doesn’t overdo the effect, which can be undesirable in some situations. For a saturation-like effect, You should combine it with the MOJO knob.
Character & Sound:
At first glance, the UI gives you the impression that the plugin will provide extreme sonic enhancement. That is not the case, though. The effect sounds very subtle, which is good because that makes it useful for mastering and mixing. Even so, we wouldn’t complain if it offered a little extra edge to the sound.
This is a Windows-only plugin available as a 32-bit VST, although it is bridgeable to 64-bit systems.
The Thrillseeker XTC by Variety of Sound, although subtle, is a very capable plugin. It does deliver the warmth it promises, and the 3-band EQ is an excellent addition. Overall, this is a nice exciter to have in your toolbox if you’re on Windows.
16. Kilohearts Delay Snapin (Delay)
The Kilohearts Delay offers the basic effect functions as a standalone or a plugin for snapin host users.
With its minimalistic design, this plugin still offers most of the basic functions expected from a delay effect. You can either sync it to the host tempo or let it run free by adjusting through milliseconds. You also get a mix knob for parallel processing and a panorama knob to widen up the effect.
- Duck: Perhaps this plugin’s best feature is the Duck knob. You can gradually adjust the delay to lower in volume as the input signal plays. In lower values, the delay will duck just a bit when the input is loud. Higher values will completely dry up the processing when the input is active, enabling it during pauses. Each material might need a bit of tweaking to find the perfect spot for this feature, but once you find it, it will sound great.
- Ping-Pong: This cool feature creates a back-and-forth movement between the stereo channel when Pan is enabled. The more Feedback enabled, the more you’ll hear this effect, which can add a sense of width to a track.
Character & Sound:
The Sync button is the true different-sounding feature in this plugin. You can sync the delay to virtually any measure division. Just roll the numbers up or down and create the most bizarre compass patterns imaginable. Other than that, the plugin sounds clean and artifact-free.
Delay is available as a VST, AAX, and AU plugin for Windows 7 and higher and macOS 10.9 or superior.
This delay is a glorious addition to the Kilohearts Snapin family. It is a simple plugin, but most Snapins are. It stays true to its digital nature, not trying to emulate any analog or vintage hardware sound, which is great. Sometimes all you need is a clean delay, and this is what you get here.
17. Voxengo Sound Delay (Delay)
Voxengo’s Sound Delay is a technical plugin for auxiliary multichannel delays.
It does not offer what you’d expect from a delay plugin. This one works mostly as a stereo enhancer. You can set the values either in samples or milliseconds with utter precision. The plugin doesn’t offer any modulations or feedback capabilities. The knobs on the interface offer slight adjustments, but you can set either the samples or milliseconds by typing on the boxes under the numbers. It accepts up to 12 seconds of delay.
- Mid/Side: The plugin offers mid/side processing. It is accessible via the routing menu up top. This feature allows you to set independent delays for the mid and side channels, thus enhancing the signal split.
- Samples: If you choose to sync the delay to samples, you can pick from the upper left corner’s presets menu. There you’ll find 32, 64, 128, etc., all the to 4096 samples. The higher you go, the most accurate the delay gets. So, for minimal delays, choose the higher values.
Character & Sound:
Even though this plugin’s sound relies heavily on the source material, it generally produces interesting stereo widening. Since it offers no feedback algorithm, it doesn’t create multiple copies that bounce around to enlarge the room. You can open up the stereo input signals’ width and achieve anything from 0.01 ms to 12 seconds of delay between the source and the processed sound.
Voxengo’s Sound Delay is available as a VST, AAX, and AU plugin for Windows XP and higher and macOS 10.11 or later.
This plugin is a handy tool to use with vocals, strings, synths, or anything that needs widening. It gives you thorough control over the delay time, so it’s better than other plugins with fixed delay options—a handy plugin for your toolbox.
18. Valhalla Supermassive (Delay/Reverb)
Supermassive is a hallucinogenic hybrid reverb-delay plugin by Valhalla.
It offers 12 algorithmic modes and high- and low-pass filters. By focusing on the delay functions, this plugin does not work exactly as a standard reverb. Density controls the perceived number of echoes on the reverb. You can also control Feedback for the delayed signals, with higher values resulting in longer decays. The name “Supermassive” is not a joke since you can set the delay up to 2 seconds after the initial impulse and modulate it to taste within any of the modes.
- Delay: The delay knob controls the modulation amount added to the reverb in one of the four modes: Millisecond, Note, Dotted, and Triplet. The Warp knob alters the delays’ length, enabling you to create any kind of echo from simple to rich and lush reverbs.
- Multiple Modes: Multiple modes and presets give various colors and tones for this reverb, which can be very useful for sound designing and creating textures. Each preset has its own attack, decay, and sustain settings, and some pair these parameters with other knobs on the GUI. Basically, this will let you create mesmerizing reverbs.
Character & Sound:
This plugin is an excellent tool for creating spacey and huge reverbs. It offers simple features that create a smooth-sounding yet extravagant reverb. The delay control settings give this plugin its unique, ethereal sound, making for an even more expressive result.
Valhalla Supermassive is available for 64-bit Windows 7 or above and macOS 10.8 or up in VST2.4, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
Valhalla is known for its user-friendly interfaces and controls, and Supermassive is not different. Even though the plugin might be doing crazy signal path reroutes behind the scenes, the UI remains straightforward, which speeds up your workflow. It is hard to believe a reverb plugin that good is free, so download it before they decide to charge for it!
19. Convology XT (Convolution Reverb)
The Convology XT comes with 70 built-in Vintage Reverb Impulse Response files.
Mostly, the Convology gives you gear-oriented impulse responses, rather than rooms and other places. But you can always download free halls and chambers IRs. You can also buy the additional parts of the Convology library, which total 2965 files. Among those are sampled amplifiers, all kinds of springs and DSPs, tape delays, and many more. Additionally, you can import your own 4-channel WAV/AIF true stereo Impulse Response files.
- Frequency Spectrum: This plugin offers you two strings of 11-band EQ to fine-tune your impulse responses. The upper string of bands works like a regular equalizer with fixed bands. Pull them up or down to change the sound. The twist, however, lies on the lower string. This gives you eleven bands to change the IRs algorithm, changing the sound at its source. This feature is unbelievable for a free plugin and makes Convology one of the best convolution reverbs there are.
- Time Display: This is the graph commonly found in most convolution reverb plugins. It shows the impulse response’s waveform, measured in dB and seconds. You can edit the waveform by adjusting the pre-delay on the Start knob and the Attack, Hold, and Release.
- Bottom Panel: You’ll use the controls here to manipulate the reverb. You can reverse, control the impulse response’s gain, add modulation, and make the tail longer. Additionally, you can adjust the predelay and even manage the width of the reverb sound.
- Fast File Browsing: Convology’s greatest feature is the Library, in which you can quickly navigate. The plugin lets you select Impulse Responses on the fly while listening to the input material being processed in real-time. This feature is excellent for quick comparisons between files, which helps the user choose the best preset instead of waste a long time tweaking every parameter.
- Freebie Fridays: If you subscribe to Impulse Record YouTube Channel, you’ll receive free vintage gear impulse responses every week!
Character & Sound:
Other than its library, the Convology XT doesn’t offer any uncommon parameters. It relies on the sampled gear’s original tones and character to build its sound. And because the samples are faithful recordings of vintage gear, the plugin offers no emulated analog features that would distort the original’s sound.
Convology XT is available in AAX, AU, and VST formats for Mac and Windows.
This is an excellent plugin with high-quality samples, even if it doesn’t allow very flexible results. It solves the problem some plugins pose regarding file browsing, and the analog sample collection is astounding. It’s a worthy addition to your collection if you’re into classic gear.
20. Denis Tihanov OrilRiver (Reverb)
OrilRiver by Denis Tihanov is an extremely versatile algorithmic reverb.
This is definitely a great free tool and one of the best reverb plugins there is. The detailed set of parameters give you thorough control over your reverb sound. You can adjust Pre-Delay, Width, Room Size, Decay, and Diffusion. Moreover, you can tweak the timbre using the dampening controls and the 3-band EQ. At the end of the chain, the plugin lets you balance the Early Reflections and the Reverb Tail levels. You can use the Wet slider to blend the effect with the dry signal or bypass the plugin by clicking on the Wet button in the upper right corner.
- ER Variation: By clicking on this button, you’ll get access to 12 different stereo early reflections’ emulations. None of the variations has been modeled after real places, and all have different levels of delay lines and duration. To focus on the Early Reflections while setting up your reverb, click the Reverb button above the reverb slider on the right-hand side. This will bypass the reverb tail, leaving only the ERs.
- Reverb Variation: Here, you’ll find 5 variations of the reverb tail. Each has different resonant frequencies and a different density of delays, so changing the variations can eliminate unpleasant resonances. Variants 1 and 5 emulate small spaces, variants 2 and 4 are medium-sized emulations, and finally, Variant 3 is a large premise emulation.
Character & Sound:
The 36 built-in presets give you plenty of reverb options, from rooms to plates and halls. Additionally, you get some effect presets, like chorus and tremolo. All this, plus your own tweaking, make OrilRiver a versatile plugin. The sound isn’t particularly natural-like, but it sounds beautiful nevertheless. The 3-band EQ can make a big difference in helping you bring out the best of the emulations.
This plugin is available as a VST and VST3 for macOS 10.8 and higher and Windows 7 and up.
Overall, OrilRiver is a great plugin; it’s a pity it’s been discontinued for further upgrades and formats. The two UI options available look pretty good and user-friendly. A handy plugin like this is a must-have, especially for free.
21. xfer OTT (Upward/Downward Compression)
OTT by xfer is a flexible multi-band upwards and downwards compressor.
With individual thresholds for each of the three bands, OTT offers many dynamic possibilities across the frequency spectrum. The Lows section controls a shelf for all frequencies under 88.3 Hz. The Mids section controls a wide Q across 88.3 Hz and 2.5 kHz. And the Highs section creates a shelf for everything above 2.5 kHz. There are also four knobs at the top that manage Depth (or Dry/Wet ratio), Input and Output gain, and Time. The latter is a single-knob that controls attack and release. Lower values mean slow attack and fast release, and higher values tighten up the attack and enlarge the release. OTT has the same name as Ableton Live’s multiband dynamic compressor, which is an effect exclusive to that DAW.
- Adaptable Threshold: You can adjust the threshold for each band independently. Everything below the threshold will be compressed upwards. Everything that crosses it will be pushed down. You can also use the two knobs at the bottom to control the upward and downward compression percentage. This gives you extra control over the balance between the two.
- It Creates Pressure: For those of us struggling to get that extra punch out of drums and other hard-hitting instruments, worry no longer. OTT can help you easily create pressure with its Upwards/Downwards compression style.
Character & Sound:
You can use this plugin for anything between livening up a kick drum and creating growling synth and bass sounds. It all goes down to how you adjust the threshold for each of the three bands, plus the balance between compressions. If you don’t want any downward compression, just roll it back to zero and use the plugin only as an upward compressor. The OTT is also great for synths with reverb since it will highlight the reverb tail and make it more prominent. You can use the Depth knob at around 30% to achieve nice compression without much of the effect.
This plugin is available as a VST, AU, and AAX for Windows and Mac. Unfortunately, xfer did not share the supported OS versions.
Xfer’s OTT is an intuitive plugin that can generate impressive results. It’s always good to have a tool like this around, so it’s a worthy download for any producer. Its ease of use and versatility make OTT one of the best free compressor plugins. It can improve your workflow and save you a lot of time.
22. TDR Nova (Equalizer)
NOVA, by Tokyo Dawn Records, is a four-band dynamic equalizer with several applications.
You can use it as a wideband or multi-band compressor and as a Parametric or Dynamic Equalizer. You can bypass and adjust the parameters for each band. If you need to look for offending frequencies, you can also solo any of the bands. Overall, the controls are very user-friendly and mostly self-explanatory. You get sidechain control but no mid/side processing.
- Split Button: When enabled, this feature turns the selected band into an independent dynamics processor, comprising only its own bandwidth. Alternatively, if disabled, the selected band will follow the wideband settings, following the main ratio, attack, and release values. By default, Split is disabled, but you can find it above the Ratio knob with the Bell shape selected.
- Process-Quality: This is an unexpected feature for a free plugin. You can operate in three different quality modes: Eco, Precise, and Parecise+. The first is economic, a mode with its internal bandwidth at around 100 kHz. Precise is the standard quality that doubles upon Eco’s internal bandwidth. Lastly, Precise+ offers internal nonlinearity, plus the same features as Precise.
Character & Sound:
NOVA can sound a bit harsh on the upper highs when you turn up the gain. Nonetheless, its sonic versatility allows for multiple uses, whether in mixing or mastering. You can use it to give punch to weak-sounding mixes, control the low frequencies on a bass bus, or tame cymbals’ harshness. Additionally, the plugin can work in seven different modes: stereo, mono, dual mono, left, right, sum, and diff.
This plugin is available for Windows XP or superior and macOS 10.9 or newer in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
This versatile free EQ plugin offers almost all you’d expect from a parallel dynamic EQ. Since it’s a free tool, this version lacks upward compression, which is present in its paid sibling, the NOVA GE. Nevertheless, it’s a reliable addition to your collection. It’s hard to find a decent dynamic EQ for free, and this one is amazing.
23. Blue Cat’s Phaser (Phaser)
Blue Cat’s Phaser is a resourceful, analog-style phaser effect.
Besides being related to another plugin on this list, Blue Cat modeled its Phaser after old-school analog effects. It offers 32 phasing stages that can be used to create a sickening effect. The other knobs ensure the effect’s versatility by letting you control its Depth, Rate, Wetness, Feedback, and Spread. In case you want to hear more of the effect, just lower the Dry knob.
- Stages: The main feature present in this plugin is the Stages knob. It controls how much of the effect you’ll hear. Its thirty-two stages gradually increase the phase processing, creating a more noticeable effect. Pair it up with the Feedback and Wet knobs to further extend the phasing.
- Rate: Measured in Hertz, this knob controls the frequency of the LFO used for the effect. Higher values mean faster phasing. You can pair this up with the Shape control to choose between a sine or triangle wave.
Character & Sound:
Both mono and stereo versions offer the same capabilities, with the stereo version adding the Spread knob. You can roll the Spread all the way down to zero if you want the effect to be mono.
Blue Cat’s Phaser is available for macOS 10.7 and up and Windows 7 or newer as a VST, VST3, AU, RTAS, and AAX plugin.
This is such a simple plugin, but it sounds excellent and well made. You’ll only hear any artifacts if you roll the Feedback knob all the way up. Other than that, it’s a great plugin for your collection, just as all others from Blue Cat’s free bundle.
24. Cableguys PanCake 2 (Auto-Panning)
Pancake 2, developed by Cableguys, is an LFO-based auto panning effect.
This plugin uses a low-frequency oscillation to pan a signal across the stereo field. You can sync it to the session tempo and choose from ten different customizable oscillations. The plugin also offers seven kinds of LFO sync, including Beat, Hertz, and even Pitch synchronization.
- Draw Your LFOs: The plugin lets you draw and store up to ten different LFO patterns. You are not limited to sine, square, or any of the usual wave shapes. The intuitive interface lets you place dots across the orange line and drag them almost anywhere. Whatever crazy pattern you draw, it will always stay in sync.
- Midi Trigger: You can set up a MIDI device to change the panning rate. Set up your LFO and on the MIDI panel, select the input source. You can choose specific notes to modulate the effect or select all notes so that you can get even more outlandish results.
Character & Sound:
The plugin lets you automate basically every parameter so you can create nice depth and movement within your mix. By giving you full control over the wave shape, it ensures the result will be your own. By choosing Hertz or Pitch-related sync modes, you can take the resulting sounds even further, creating feedback between channels and other fun outcomes.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.8 or later and Windows 7 or higher as a VST.
PanCakes is a great plugin to mess around with and create unique-sounding results. You can also use the Mix knob to blend the processed and dry signals, which is impossible with standard pan automation. Pick this fun plugin for your collection and try out its possibilities. Alternatively, you can find two other free auto-pan plugins here.
25. Sonic Anomaly Transpire (Transient Shaper)
With only four knobs, Transpire is Sonic Anomaly’s intuitive take on transient shaping.
Although mysterious at first sight, the UI is very straightforward. The two upper knobs are the transient controls, while the two lower control the dynamics. You also get two meters up top. The one on the left indicates how dull or sharp the attack is. The one on the right shows how short or long the decay is. In between the meters, there’s a clip indicator.
- Sensitivity: the knob on the lower-left corner controls the plugin’s accuracy towards smaller transients. If you turn it all the way up, the plugin will attack all transients with similar intensity. In the middle, tall and medium-sized peaks get processed. Lower sensitivity is best for non-percussive instruments because it doesn’t have to process as many transients.
Character & Sound:
Transpire is a clean-sounding plugin overall. The only feature that can add subtle coloration is the output clipper. You don’t need to turn the attack up too much before you can see the clip light on. It rounds out the sound’s spikes without heavy distortion, even though it’s a hard clipper.
Transpire is a Windows-only VST plugin that works in 32- and 64-bit machines.
This simple yet capable tool is a great free transient shaper. If you’re on Windows and trying to make the budget, but you desperately need a transient shaper, this should be your go-to. Sonic Anomaly’s done a great job creating a reliable, CPU-friendly plugin that solves your transient problems.
26. Full Bucket Music FBVC (Vocoder)
The Full Bucket Vocoder is modeled after the classic KORG VC-10 from 1978.
This plugin has three different sound sources: Mic In, Tone Generator, and External. From there, all sources are analyzed by twenty different bandpass filters, and the responses get converted into 20 control signals. These controls are available at the bottom right corner, at the circle with a downward arrow icon. The Mic signal is used as the Modulator for the effect, while the Tone generator modifies whatever enters the External signal. You can use the plugin’s parameters to blend all signals and finally come up with the desired vocoder sound.
- Bias: This control simulates a trimmer knob originally present on the back of the VC-10 hardware. Adjusting this will increase the input volume. If any level above unity gain is applied, the plugin will constantly produce a sound, even if no input signal is being played. The Bias knob is located at the advanced operations menu, along with the Vocoder bands.
- Load WAV file: Instead of using a track in your DAW, you can import a mono or stereo wave file to play the Modulator part. It will substitute the Mic In signal, and the keyboard will trigger its playback. Basically, this enables the plugin to be played as a synthesizer. You can turn on the Legato function so that the effect keeps playing as you switch notes. Alternatively, you can turn it off to have the signal end as you release the key.
Character & Sound:
As this plugin is modeled after a hardware vocoder, it retains some of the original’s imperfections and characteristics. The last four bands higher in the spectrum, from 5140 to 9425 Hz, are only fed with the Noise signal. This lets you adjust the noise in addition to the Tone Generator and External signals.
This plugin is available in VST and AU formats for 32- and 64-bit Windows and Mac.
It’s hard to believe that the Full Bucket FBVC is a free plugin. Its versatile nature, multiple input sources, and analog-modeled controls are too good to be true. The FBVC is definitely a worthy download for your plugin collection, even if you already have a vocoder plugin.
27. Creative Intent Temper (Distortion)
Creative Intent’s Temper is a great-sounding distortion plugin with minimalistic controls.
Temper is a modern-sounding plugin. You can use it on any instrument since it operates in stereo and is a great mixing tool. You get controls over the amount of drive, saturation, feedback, and level, as well as an adjustable distortion curve. The automatable controls are a nice touch that makes it even more versatile.
- Resonant Low-pass: This filter is adjusted by the Resonance and Cutoff knobs on the plugin’s left-hand side. The Cutoff knob sets the limit frequency that the distortion will act upon. The resonance knob controls how intense the distortion will be. This is great if you want to focus the distortion on lower frequencies to add some grit and punch to the bass.
- Visual Feedback: The frequency analyzer at the plugin’s center shows the dry signal in yellow and the distorted in red. This is a precise way of understanding how your parameter changes affect the result. Sometimes it’s good to have a visual aid you can rely on, and this is it.
Character & Sound:
Temper generates a heavy drive, but the distortion actually sounds beautiful. Since the plugin’s engine is based on a phase distortion algorithm, the sound never gets too harsh. It’s also not like a tube distortion that sounds warm and round. This is edgy and aggressive but elegant and appealing nevertheless.
Creative Intent’s Temper is available for macOS 10.9 and further and Windows 7 and up as a VST, VST3, and AU plugin.
Don’t let yourself get fooled by the lack of parameters on this plugin’s interface. Even with a few knobs, it can really transform your input signal by applying beautiful distortion. It’s an awesome tool that deserves a place in every producer’s collection.
28. ToneBytes Lo-Fizer (Lo-Fi)
Lo-Fizer by ToneBytes is a collection of selectable Lo-Fi effects arranged in a rack-mount design.
You can select up to four effects at a time to process your audio. Among the ten different effects, you’ll find Vinyl, a crackle generator, Speaker Simulator that works with simple preset-based speakers, and Hiss, which produces a high-frequency, cassette-like airy noise.
- GLS: this mid/side processor attempts at removing vocals from stereo tracks. You can use it as an effect while mixing or for creating any throwback karaoke audio from preexistent recordings.
- Crusher: This feature simulates a resampler. The idea behind it is that lowering the sample rate reduces quality from a digital recording. So, to emulate a beaten-up, low-quality tape, it simulates a decrease in the sample rate.
Character & Sound:
The effects are intentionally unnatural, so don’t expect a realistic vinyl sound, for example. It actually sounds harsh so that the effect gets heard. The whole idea behind this plugin is that if you want to make your sounds Lo-Fi, then commit to it. You can always apply the effects in parallel processing, so they get less apparent.
Lo-Fizer is available for Windows as a VST plugin.
The 10 effects available in this plugin are great to play with. ToneBytes’ Lo-Fizer is a fun plugin to have around whenever some lo-fi production comes along. Furthermore, it’s a free plugin, so having it there just in case is a real no-brainer.
29. SpitFish DeEsser (De-Esser)
SpitFish, by Sascha Eversmeier, is a straightforward de-esser for mono and stereo applications.
Based on analog de-essers, SpitFish aims at taming harsh frequencies between 4 and 12 kHz. It has two main knobs, Sense and Depth, a listen mode to check what the plugin is doing, and bypass and mono switches.
- Sense: This knob operates as a threshold and listens for the “s” sounding peaks that it must tame. It has a Soft knob that loosens up the knee curve and a Listen button that soloes the high frequencies. The Sense will be applied to a shelf above the frequency you choose on the Tune knob. So, use the Listen mode to find the best spot.
- Depth: Every time the threshold gets crossed, the plugin will compress that area. Use this knob to increase the compression and make the effect sound natural or harsh, and apparent.
Character & Sound:
SpitFish is a transparent plugin. Even at high compression rates, it does not distort or create artifacts in the sound. Also important to know is that you can use this plugin in both mono and stereo. So if for some reason, you prefer to use the de-esser on a stereo bus track with multiple vocals, you can. It also works well for vocal stems and even mastering if done carefully.
This plugin is available for Windows XP and up and macOS 10.2 and above in VST and AU formats.
SpitFish is a nice de-esser with enough range and power to tame even the harshest sibilance sounds. Its main difference is the actual UI, which is very simple and user-friendly. In this case, if you’ve been having trouble with understanding your DAW’s stock de-esser, give this one a go.
30 TDR VladG Limiter N°6
VladG’s Limiter Nº6 is a transparent plugin with a great application for mastering.
You get several parameters, as well as modes, that bring up different flavors to this plugin. The 5 different stages in the chain make it the only tool you’ll need to control dynamics when mastering. Additionally, the plugin has four different UI options.
- Five Chain Stages: The input signal goes through a compressor, a peak limiter, a de-esser, a clipper, and a safety limiter. Throughout the chain, you’ll end up adding some gain that you can compensate for in the safety limiter stage. The input compressor offers mid/side processing, while the clipper offers three modes that can add soft or hard harmonic distortion to the mix.
- VU options: Depending on the skin you choose, Limiter Nº6 provides the user with either digital or analog-like VUs, with multiple needles for Mid-Side Gain reduction metering. It lacks an output metering section, though. You’ll need another plugin to measure your loudness information.
- Ordering: You can change the order between the compressor and the limiter at the compressor’s upper right corner. This changes the signal flow to limit first and increases the overall volume with the compressor afterward.
Character & Sound:
Overall, this is a very clean-sounding plugin, with little to no added distortion. If all parameters are at zero, it will add no coloration whatsoever. That’s great for mastering since it lets you focus on the limiting and compression you’re adding to the track. Besides, the plugin offers exact controls that allow you to craft great-sounding masters.
VladG’s Limiter Nº6 is available for Mac and Windows computers in VST2 and AU formats.
This is an essential tool for serious mastering, especially for producers and engineers working exclusively in the box. It is definitely one of the best limiter plugins out there. The Limiter 6 is versatile and eliminates the need for more plugins in the chain, helping you focus your attention on a single interface.
Oh, what a journey! These thirty best free plugins cover most processing you’ll ever need for your productions. It’s nice to see that even though many companies make a living by selling overpriced plugins, some mavericks still do all the hard work and distribute it for free.
If you download one of the plugins on this list and you really love it, consider donating to the developers if that option is available. Hopefully, this action will renew their drive for making sweet free audio tools, and we’ll have an even bigger list in the future. Meanwhile, we’ll keep giving you the best free plugin options to help you improve your toolkit.
Pedro Nascente is an artist, record producer, and mix engineer, currently operating his own studio and working with his band, Yellow Boulevard. Believing that music should convey experiences and feelings, Pedro is known for applying design thinking to his workflow to achieve different sounds and deliver the right messages.