Products from the big hitters in the pro audio game are usually pretty expensive, right? But not always. Here are the best free plugins that these heavyweights have to offer.
In the world of the DAW (aka almost the entire recording and music production industry), the processing power of plugins is central. It can also get pretty darn expensive, so the best free plugins from the best plugin firms in the world are always worthy of inspection.
Sure, free plugins may not provide the backbone of your production, but they might just dish up that special sauce your mix needs. You never know until you try — and with this selection — it won’t cost you a penny!
Read on to discover the best free plugins that the industry’s finest has to offer.
Emerging in recent years, BABY Audio has reached the upper echelons of the audio world. And thanks to its fine selection of freebies, it’s rocketed straight to the top of this list.
On the menu are three gratis sound processors, each with its own flavour of BABY Audio’s experimentalism. Magic Dice combines modulated and ambient effects with randomisation; Magic Switch drenches tones in ’80s-style chorus; Baby Comeback is actually quite a deep and characterful delay; finally, a 100 MB sample made in collaboration with nu.wav.
iZotope is an industry leader in creative sound processing and audio repair tools (which can give your credit card a beating). Thankfully, there’s a sweet handful of free plugins to welcome you to the iZotope universe.
Vinyl is an uber-creative effect that infuses tone with the warped crackles of retro LPs; Ozone Imager gives you simple and instant control over the stereo width of your tracks; Vocal Doubler does exactly what it says on the packet with a minimum of fuss; while Visual Mixer offers up an intuitive new way to appreciate the hierarchies and placements of individual sounds within a mix.
Valhalla has made quite a name for itself in recent years by crafting industry-standard reverbs. What’s more, these classics are astonishingly good value for what they provide in terms of horsepower and tone. But that doesn’t mean they don’t dish up the freebies too!
Supermassive is a left turn from Valhalla’s usual fare of classic recreations, instead, it launches into space-age ambience, powered by a host of intelligent algorithms. So get experimental with your ‘verbs: it won’t cost you a nickel!
The Italian audio giant IK Multimedia pretty much covers everything you need to take a production from beginning to end in both the hardware and software realms. For free of charge sound processing, synthesis, guitar amp simulation, and sampling, there are two letters you need to look out for: CS (Custom Shop).
Custom Shop versions of SampleTank 4, T-RackS, SampleTank, and AmpliTube are free to download and come with generous lashings of free software. Obviously, you can expand your collections with paid-for add-ons, but you can still get a long way for free.
Much like IK Multimedia, Native Instruments provides users with an expansive ecosystem of instruments and effects to create fully-fledged music productions. Its Komplete Start bundle gives you free access to the NI world across synths, sampled instruments, and effects.
In synth land, there are seven instruments that cover everything from bass to lush pads and even generative sequencing. The sampled instrument section serves up children’s toys, non-Western and traditional rock band instruments, and more. Finally, under the effects umbrella are the Supercharger compressor and the Guitar Rig 6 Player, which comes with 50 presets.
Spitfire Audio is the absolute bee’s knees when it comes to innovative and tasteful orchestral sample libraries. And while some of Spitfire’s products can set you back a pretty penny, the LABS series can also satiate your curiosity for free.
Billed as an “infinite” series of free sample libraries, the regularly refreshed LABS series contains everything from cellos to electric guitars, pipe organs to hand bells, not to mention the atmos of LA and London. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by diving into this extensive collection.
Steven Slate Drums
Need a thumping kit at the heart of your mix? Steven Slate Drums is here to hook you up. SSD is at the top of the tree when it comes to acoustic drum sample libraries and with SSD 5.5 Free, you can get a slice of the action with no strings attached.
It ships with the Deluxe 2 Kit, a “mix-ready” processed snare, and three kit presets. It doesn’t provide the most extensive library of sounds, but it’s available to tap into for instant inspiration.
Swedish firm Softube specialises in meticulous recreations of synths, classic sound processors, and a stack of guitar amplifiers and cabinets. As you can imagine, you might be inclined to go on a shopping spree on the Softube site, but before you do, check out this freebie: Saturation Knob.
Easy-to-use, effective, and tasteful, this single-knob, single-switch affair fulfils its job description with aplomb. Plus, if you already have Softube’s Modular plugin, you can incorporate Saturation Knob into that setup.
Creating amazingly deep and workflow-friendly soft synths and effects is u-he’s regular M.O. But to give users a less intimidating welcome into its environment, u-he offers up three synths and a reverb completely free of charge.
Zebralette is a fantastic introduction to spectral synthesis, Podolski is a no-frills analog-like monster, and Triple Cheese is a unique comb-filter synth. Add in the Protoverb reverb plugin and you’ve got a good day out, compliments of u-he.
Cableguys is a plugin company that likes to do things a little differently. Its tools take on traditional processing tasks and then injects them with a sophisticated sense of musicality. Take the brilliant PanCake 2, for example, which is currently going for $0.
Panning is the name of the game here. You can use this free plugin to draw free-from panning curves, sync its LFO to your DAW’s host tempo, or even trigger it via MIDI. PanCake 2 is weird, wild, and too much fun to have for free.