10 Must Have Free Plugins
10 Must Have Free Plugins
When it comes to music production it may seem as though it is impossible to make your own music without shelling out vast sums of money - even after you have bought your own DAW. One of the most common costs is third-party plugins, which are very heavily used in the production industry, whether that be in dance music or live music such as Indie. With this being the case, I have been in the studio trying out some freeware and what I intend to do in this blog is highlight 10 free plugins that I think are worth adding to your plugin library. I am going to mention various different types of plugins, from reverbs to compressors, to stereo-imaging software that will help enhance your music without breaking the bank. It’s also worth mentioning that these plugins can be used on any DAW, making switching between setups pretty straightforward. Anyway, enough waffling, here are my top 10 free plugins, audio units and VSTs.
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*Spoiler Alert* this will be the first of two entries from Flux. ‘Bittersweet’ is a free transient designer from software company Flux. If you’re wondering what exactly a transient designer is then allow me to get you up to speed. Essentially, a transient is a high amplitude, short-duration sound at the beginning of a waveform, for example the click sound you hear at the start of a kick drum. What a transient designer does is allow the user to magnify or reduce the amplitude of this - in a nutshell you can make the transients of a sound more or less prominent. What’s also cool about Bittersweet is that it comes with a control for processing the signal, allowing for Mid-Side processing as well as Stereo processing.
From the lovely people at Cableguys, Pancake is a great auto panning plugin that allows you to create your own unique panning patterns which help to keep your sounds interesting.
Ok, I must admit this entry surprised me purely for the fact that I was not expecting to be able to get a Valhalla VST for free. However, sure enough here we are! As an avid user of Valhalla products, the Valhalla Room Reverb being my go to reverb at the moment, I will say that I have enjoyed using the FreqEcho and I’m going to now provide you with a bit more info on what it actually does and the parameters that come with the plugin.
Firstly, the layout is very straightforward, consisting of six dials/knobs (which ever term you prefer to use), these being: Mix, Delay, Shift, Feedback, Low Cut and High Cut; as well as two further parameters, Delay Sync and Output Mode. Of all those parameters listed, you may be wondering what exactly the Shift parameter does, and this function is what sets the ValhallaFreqEcho apart from other echos. Essentially, as well as being an analogue-style echo, ValhallaFreqEcho is also a frequency shifter meaning that the echo sounds generated have the ability to sound as if effects such as Flanger and Phaser have been applied. This in turn gives the user the possibility of generating constantly evolving echo sounds that can rise and fall in pitch, detune over time due to the frequency shift - all in all pretty cool wouldn’t you say?
As I mentioned in point 1, Flux will be making a second appearance on our list. And wouldn’t you know, as if by magic, here it is. This time, I have picked Flux’s Stereo Tool plugin. To put it simply, a stereo tool allows us to alter the stereo image of a mix, or indeed of individual sounds. For example, you can use the Stereo Tool plugin to make a lead wider, or indeed make a bass more mono to ensure a cleaner mix in the low end. Stereo-imaging plugins are essential when it comes to mixing and I think you could do much worse than Flux’s StereoTool so definitely check it out!
Our first Equalizer on the list, Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova is a great bit of kit. A parallel dynamic equalizer, TDR Nova has the layout of a parametric layout and serves well as a multi-purpose Equalizer. Whether you are looking for the EQ to provide Prametric or Dynamic Equalisation, or you want to make the most of the in-built multi-band compressor, the TDR Nova performs ably so for the measly price of £0, why not give it a go?
Span by Voxengo is a real-time ‘fast Fourier transform’ spectrum analyser and is a very handy plugin when it comes to sound design, but also for the mixing and mastering processes. This is because, being an audio spectrum analyser, Span allows us to see the various frequencies present in an audio signal, as well as their individual levels, and so provides us with a visual representation of the balance of our sounds and mixes. I most often use a spectrum analyser when comparing my mix to that of a commercially released reference track, and have found Span to be great for this purpose, so yeah definitely worth checking out!
Armed with a straight-forward GUI (Graphical User Interface), the TAL-Chorus-LX is a chorus plugin that does what it says on the tin. Based off of the Juno-60 chorus pedal, the TAL-Chorus-LX comes with 3 knobs ( a Volume knob, a Dry/Wet knob and a Stereo Width knob) and also two chorus modes, meaning that the plugin itself is not only small in file size but is also quick and easy to use. I also think the TAL-Chorus-LX sounds great and considering that it’s a completely free plugin I don’t think you can really go wrong here!
There are plenty of reverb plugins out there and it can be hard to know which ones to go with. For me, I think a good place to start would be with Ambience, hence I have put it on the list. Ambience has a pretty cool GUI and I find the layout to be very good. Ambience utilises all the usual parameters you would find on any other reverb plugin and also comes with plenty of presets too which is always a bonus!
Saturation is a form of distortion that adds harmonic frequencies to a sound or mix. I often use saturation in my mixes, whether it be to make my basses sound a bit bigger and fatter, or to add some pleasant harmonics to vocals and I find that Softube’s Saturation Knob is a really good option. I really like the simple layout - there is one knob for the saturation level and then three different saturation types below - and I would highly recommend trying it out for yourself.
The final entry on my list, we end with the Limiter №6 by Vladg/Sound. Consisting of 5 modules: RMS compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper, true peak limiter, Limiter №6 is a great multi-purpose limiter capable of being applied for a number of different situations. Whether you want to use it on a drum bus or maybe even test it on the master chain I definitely suggest giving this one a try!
So, there you have it. Here is a list of 10 free plugins that I would suggest trying out in your productions. If you're interested in music production and would like to learn to produce your own music then why not click here to out our music production courses - we have studios in Birmingham, Manchester and Oxford. Click here to contact us if you have any questions.