90%+ of the plugins below are Mac/Win and 64-bit with a few occasional plugins being OS dependent. For this resource I’ve steered clear of 32-bit plugins as most mix engineers/producers nowadays are running 64-bit OSes. Yes, you can use 32 lives and Jbridge but that adds an extra expense – not making the plugin truly free as you need to purchase a VST wrapper. Will do another post in the future of classic 32-bit plugins for those who want to delve back in time to extract some gold using esoteric plugins effects.
All download links below take you to the developer’s site (the VST effects landing page) rather than pointing directly towards the DMG/Zip installers. Most of the plugin developers featured are working solo and creating innovative instruments/effects as their main source of income. Take a little time to check out what else they offer too – you’ll be blown away with the groundbreaking audio tools they’re putting out.
I’ve broken down the VST effects into 18 categories from Amp Simulations to Vocal Effects.
- Amp Simulations
- Channel Strips
- Mixing & Mastering
- Sub Bass
- Spectrum Analyzers
PSA: You don’t need to download everything on this page 😉 This post is a resource for you to learn/select free plugins that can help take your mix to the next level (not for you to need another 16TB hard drive for more plugins/samples you may not use). Enjoy…
Brainworx bx Rockrack V3
The bx_rockrack V3 by Brainworx features eight famous amp models in a single plugin. It comes with 40 impulse responses, original ENGL 530 sounds and clean Marshall JCM 800 tones. Set this up on your aux and start shredding.
Blue Cat’s Free Amp
Get clean, crunch or heavy distortion tones with the Blue Cat Free Amp plugin based on the Blue Cat Destructor amp simulation modeler. As of version 1.1 the plugin gives you the ability to import your own Impulse Responses for further sound exploration.
Black Rooster Audio offer a cool little guitar amp sim based on the Orange Tiny Terror mini amp head. The Cypress TT-15 works great for clean, crunch, and over-driven guitar tones.
Engineering for the moshpit is the tagline of IGNITE AMPS. Apt, as dropping this amp sim on your audio channel will transform your audio-in to serious bone-crushing distortion. Perfect for the modern metal musician or experimental Techno artist.
1208 SCS Channel Strip
This is a Windows only VST with a Routable Modular Signal Chain, HP & LP Mix Filters, alongside your classic 4 Band Parametric EQ and a versatile Mix Bus Compressor. Onboard Saturation, Stereo, Phase, Pan & Limiter controls to boot. The Free version has oversampling, HP & LP Filters disabled ($9.99 otherwise).
Sound like the Beatles with the Code Red Free by Shattered Glass Audio a compressor modeled on the famous EMI valve console as used on the Revolver Album. Get that overdriven sound by setting high gain in the preamp plugin. Post studio session when you look in the mirror you’ll be sporting a mop-top haircut and screaming fans will be chasing you as you leave the studio (This is donation worthy, no?)
Console5 by Airwindows adds depth and space to your audio channel. The developer Chris Johnson prolifically releases VST/Audiounits for free that rival expensive plugins. His plugins are modular, graphic-less, stripped-down with a focus on the audio. Check out his patreon to learn more.
DMG Track Control
Nowadays in a DAW, you can often find yourself reaching for several different plugins to replace that standard edge-of-channel functionality a hardware desk provides (Trim and Gain, MS to LR, Swap LR, Phase, HPF, Balance, Width, Pan, Mono, Output Selection). You can streamline your in the box mixing with this one plugin.
Utility is a nifty all in one digital channel strip plugin offering precise controls over various aspects of an audio signal, from mid/side processing to soft clipping. The clipping and filter controls make this particularly useful to drop on your track channels.
Absolute unit of a compressor. Sounds incredible on drums and on the vocal buss too.
TDR Kotelnikov by Tokyo Dawn Records is a wideband dynamics processor combining high fidelity dynamic range control with deep musical flexibility. Suitable for stereo and drum buss applications as well as mastering (The Kotelnikov is a somewhat secret weapon of mastering engineers).
Multiband upwards/downwards Compressor developed by the genius Steve Dud of Xfer Records. As used by the likes of Deadmaus, Virtual Riot, Noisia. Drop this on your synth channel or even your master bus and be blown away with the results.
Rough Rider 2
Rough Rider 2 is a modern compressor with a “vintage” style bite and a uniquely warm sound. At its best when used to add pump to rhythmic tracks.
The three position timing constraints not only handle the attack/release times – they also control the slew rate of the transformers and the timing of the other parts of the circuitry, that are directly influencing the generated harmonics (saturation heaven).
Acustica Audio offer TAN via their Aquarius Install for free. It’s a classic analog VCA-style compressor which offers a lot of sound shaping options. The plug-in has the usual parameters commonly found in dynamic processors, such as Attack, Release, Threshold, Ratio, Dry/Wet and Gain.
Adam Monroe’s Delay
Adam Monroe’s free delay plugin enables you to sync ping-pong panning to the delay time (creating delay sounds like an echo sweeping from left to right). It has built in high and low pass filtering that you can set to linear or exponential. Setting to exponential creates interesting effects like clicks, hiss type sounds as the filtering folds-back on the delay buffer.
Cocoa Delay is a free, open-source delay plugin with an uncluttered design and a warm lively sound. Create anything from classic ping pong type delays to chaotic driven drifting delays. WIN only however it’s up on Github if you want to explore the code.
Full Bucket Brigade Delay
The sound of classic analog delays ITB. Authentic simulation of a Bucket Brigade Device (BBD) delay line with no “crackling” or “dropouts” when changing the delay time. Extremely low CPU consumption.
Hysteresis is a glitch delay offered for free by the mad scientists at Glitchmachines. The delay plugin can create anything from robotic artifacts to musical malfunctions. You can tweak the signal path with stutter, lowpass filters and modulation effects. Can also create classic delay effects too.
Want to add spaced out dub delay bliss to your mix? Rubbadub is a dub delay that can be tempo synced and offers a state variable filter in the feedback line. At the lowest extremes of delay line lengths, Rubbadub becomes a through-zero flanger with a variety of modulation options. Pure filtered modulated delay goodness…
SoundHack Delay Bundle
Tom Erbe AKA SoundHack has been developing free tools for electronic musicians and audio engineers since 1991. Soundhack ++delay is part of his bundled freeware release featuring 4 delay plugins +delay, +pitchdelay, +bubbler, and +flipper. The plugins are based on a basic delay algorithm: a hermite interpolated delay line with variable modulation, and a feedback loop with dc blocking and saturation. Mad respect for all of the innovative tools he’s created/shared with the community.
Bowecho is a Quad Modular Delay offered by Inear Display as a legacy download (no support offered). It’s a modular sound mangler that can produce sublime complex delay effects. Simply use the key R7P1R64720175164548606433 to unlock the demo version.
Regrader by Igor Zinken is a very cool twist on a delay effect. Echoes disintegrate and repeats degrade. You can sync to clock tempo/time signature. All parameters can be automated.
In 2015 Apple acquired Camel Audio to develop instrument/effect plugins for Logic. Great for logic users (Alchemy is incredible) but for everyone else hunting down Camel Audio’s freeware releases not so much. Post acquisition their website went down with all software downloads wiped off the face of the internet. Below is a download hosted on an unofficial developer site. Insane distortion – drop it on Kicks, Basslines, and Drum Loops.
Distortion by Mathieu Carre is a distortion effect plug-in based on a graphical interface. You can draw the distortion function that shapes the nature of the distortion. Getting incredible sounds out of this one – throw drum loops, hihats, guitars even your 303 at it.
Get the “fuzz pedal” effect ITB. Create self-feedback madness and filter with the modeled MS20 analog synthesizer effect. Surround-sound distortion capable up to 7.1.
Based on the legendary Boss Metal Zone Stompbox. Mercuriall Audio Software have created a free emulation of the classic in VST format.
Tarabia is a distortion plugin by SMAOLAB (Developers of insanely great M4L tools). Comes with two distortion algorithms (Hard/Soft). The soft algo being based on a famous Yamaha 80’s synth. Drop it on synths, bass, even drum loops to get nice distortions artifacts.
ColourEQ by Christian Siedschlag (PhD) is a unique eq with five bands of “super parametric” peaking filters and a custom-made 4th order IIR filter. Very tasty!
Luftikus is a digital adaption of an analog EQ (MAAG 4) with fixed half-octave bands and additional high frequency boost. The EQ has half-octave bands at 10, 40, 160 and 640 Hz, completed by a high shelf at 2.5 kHz. For adding sparkle to recordings a further high frequency boost at 2.5, 5, 10, 20 and 40 kHz can be used.
NOVA by Tokyo Dawn Records is a parallel dynamic equalizer. Appearing in the familiar layout of a parametric equalizer, each band also includes a full featured dynamics section allowing the processor to cover an impressively wide range of applications.
PTEq-X is a digital emulation of 3 famous vintage passive program equalizers. Every single component on the signal path of the real analog circuit has been taken into account and modeled in the best possible way to match the original sound. This is an outstanding Pultec EQ for your DAW and mind-blowingly free.
TDR Slick EQ
This free eq by Tokyo Dawn is a mixing/mastering equalizer that has found its way on the master bus of mixing and mastering pros alike all over the world. A somewhat secret weapon of master engineers. Thanks to Dave Pensado for the hat tip on this one.
SonEQ is an excellent free 3-band equalizer plugin that takes elements from vintage gear and combine them into one. 2 Musical Filters, High-Pass Low-Pass and a Preamp stage with bass booster (Pultec style). Put this on your drum buss for some sweet, super smooth analog high end boosting.
SPL Free Ranger
SPL develop high end audio gear for music, film, multimedia, hifi and broadcast. The Free Ranger features four very useful bands: The 16 kHz center frequency band is great for adding very pleasant brilliance; the 1.8kHz center frequency band really brings out lead vocals and guitars or reduces harshness; the 150 Hz center frequency band adds warmth, making tracks fuller & fatter, while the 40 Hz center frequency band adds that sub thump or reduces rumble.
Border is a second order Butterworth Low-Pass, High-Pass filter combination for general use, characterized by super smooth response and an analogue character.
BX Cleansweep V2
Another great free filter VST effect from the geniuses at Brainworx/Plugin Alliance. Cleansweep V2 gives you a Joystick control to simultaneously adjusts high and low pass frequencies (If you’ve got a Yamaha SY series synth in the studio great to map the joystick in the MIDI settings of your DAW for physical manipulation). BX Cleansweep V2 uses high quality Brainworx filters with “Anti Crush Technology,” providing the same pro quality as its more famous big brothers like bx_digital V3.
FiltR is a filter effect with multiple filter modes based on the high quality filters from SynthR. Switch between Transistor ladder, K 2 Pole and Diode ladder filters. All parameters are MIDI controllable providing the ability to automate in your DAW.
Frohmage by Ohmforce delivers warmth, dirt and much more. Great to drop after your VST synth to give it some grit. Also if you have a rhodes lying around? Sounds good on that too…
Tal Filter 2
TAL-Filter-2 is a free filter by Togu Audio Line that enables you to modulate volume, pan and draw your own curves. Control volume directly or through the side chain using an oscillator as a source sound. Includes 4x oversampled TAL-NoiseMaker filters: LP 24 dB, LP 18dB, LP 12dB, LP 6dB, HP 12 dB, BP 12dB, N 12 dB.
Limiter No6 is free limiter by Vladislav Goncharov. Go-to Master Bus Limiter for many. Words fail the impact this tool has on your sound.
W1 Limiter is a clone of Waves L1 Ultramaximizer , with identical output, as well as an approximation of Waves L2. The plugin developed by George Yohng was accomplished without reverse engineering – the result was obtained by adjusting 4Front YLimiter, by simplifying the release curve, increasing release time 3 times and altering/softening the circuit filter. Bang on job – see the comparison video below.
Blue Cat’s Gain Suite
This Blue Cat’s Gain plug-in suite is a series of gain utilities which let you control the volume of one or several audio tracks in real time. Link several instances of the same plugin and control several plugins from a single user interface. Powerfully simple, simply powerful tool for the ITB producer.
One of the best free clippers all around, it sounds great on individual tracks, buses and full mixes with the HQ button ON.
Simple little note app plugin you can drop in on your desired channel and type away. Your changes will be saved automatically when you save your document in the host sequencer. You can have several instances of ExtraNotes in an arrangement, each with their own contents. You can also import images into the note app. Very useful to take shots of your patchbay setup or your modular patch for the respective session and then save for future reference.
Squash peaks whilst still retaining great punch and dynamics with FreeClip. This plugin is a great way to conveniently transparently boost volume without clipping your daw, whether it be an individual stem or sound effect, or an entire track that you made.
Neutrino is a free spectral shaping plug-in based on the latest in spectral shaping technology featured in Izotope’s Neutron. Insert Neutrino on multiple tracks across your session to reveal a subtle amount of detail that can help elevate your mix.
La Petite Excite
Hat tip to Mr Bill for this recommendation. La Petite Excite is a small exciter plugin that works magic on the master bus. Feature wise:
- Input – Scales the amount of incoming signal fed through the device
- Low – Level of phase corrected low frequencies
- High – Level of phase corrected high frequencies
- Cv – Adds ducking to the ‘High’ parameter
- Noise Floor – Add some low level noise to the signal
- Output – Both the ‘Low’ and ‘High’ parameters will rise the signal level, so you can compensate.
mvMeter2 by TBProAudio is a multivariable meter including RMS, EBUR128, VU and PPM measurement. mvMeter2 is the successor of mvMeter and adds single/dual meter display, adjustable reference level for all meter modes, adjustable meter delay and preset management.
If you’ve got an old iPad knocking around you can set it up as second/third screen with an app like Avatron AirDisplay – put mvMeter2 on your desired channel/master and drag the GUI over to your additional iPad screen for continual feedback on your recording levels.
Ozone Imager is a free stereo imaging plug-in for your DAW. Improve your stereo spread and enhance your spatial imaging with simple controls and stunning visual feedback.
Roth-AIR is a mixing tool for easily adding light and air to your audio. Wonderful tool to bring life to your mix.
Youlean Loudness Meter helps you find the true perceived loudness of your audio and prepares it for TV or streaming services release. The free version supports many international standards, featuring distribution display, histogram, resizable interface and more. Paid upgrade gives you access to online streaming loudness tools (iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, AES Streaming).
TAL-Chorus LX is an emulation of the famous Roland Juno-60 analog synthesizer. Stick this on your pads and enter pad-heaven.
Regressif is an audio plugin focused on sound degradation. Combining a multimode filter with distortion, samplerate reduction and bitcrushing effects, it can turn the most innocent sound into a wall of digital noise.
MFreeFX by Melda is a suite of free audio effects based on their fully featured commercial plugins (they’re in fact the same with limitations built in). Get upsampling, preset saving, sonogram features in their analyzer/eq plugins and GUI editing options if you register on their site for a nominal fee. Even without registration – you’ve got world-class plugins at your disposal with this incredible suite of tools.
SoundMagic Spectral by Michael Norris is a freeware suite of 23 Audio Unit plug-ins that implement real-time spectral processing of sound. This groundbreaking set of effects give you unprecedented control and creativity in the processing of your audio. Quite possibly the closest you’ll get in the real of DAW effects to the “Kyma” sound. Mac OS only.
Valhalla Freq Echo
Valhalla Freq Echo is a free frequency shifting, analog echo emulation that can produce insane sonic results. Why is this in the Multi Effects section? Put two Freq Echo on your audio channel and hear psychedelic chaos unfold (it can produce self oscillation even with no input).
PanCake is a free plugin from the Cableguys. Create complex pan modulations with ease by constructing your own modulation curves (editing gentle transitions or sharp bends in the waveform).
Quick Haas is a free and simple psychoacoustic panning plugin, available as a Windows VST or mac Audio Unit. The ‘Haas Effect’, also known as the precedence effect, is a psychoacoustic effect where listeners can perceive the special position of an audio signal depending on very small delays between the left and right channels of the audio signal. This allows for a much more realistic panning effect than traditional panning, provided the playback device is in stereo.
Panipulator 2 is an essential tool for checking how your mixes will translate to different systems. Best of all, it’s available for free.
Phazor is a free effect plugin, which emulates the phaser effect found in the class Access Virus synthesizers. Catch the tail end of the 90’s Rave revival and stick this on your lead synth. Beatport No1 incoming…
Blue Cat’s Vintage Phaser
Modeled after vintage analog phaser circuits, Blue Cat’s Phaser reproduces this old vintage phasing effect that you can find on so many recordings, but with the precision of modern digital processing techniques.
Another amazing free VST from Soundhack with deep parameter control. ++phasor is a multistage phase shifter that has outputs for 360, 720, 1140 and 2880 phase shifting (1, 2, 4 and 8 notch). bandwidth, central frequency, feedback, and modulator parameters can be adjusted.
Convology XT Reverb
Convology XT Reverb offers a huge vintage library of world class impulse response files, from all over the world. Add ambience and space to your tracks. Full run through in the demo video below…
++Audio Split-spectrum reverb with independent time controls for low and high bands.
Very handy and user friendly reverb plugin. easyReverb unique surface selector imitates the surface of acoustic spaces with 6 options: Smooth, Waves, Granulated, Rippled, Zigzag and Rich Zigzag. You can apply an Accent for each surface which amplifies or decreases the specific features of the selected surface (very impressive!). From Arenas to Chambers – go deep with EasyReverb.
Old Skool Verb
OldSkoolVerb is a freeware algorithmic reverberation AAX, AudioUnit and VST plugin for professional streaming, sound and music production applications. This plugin implements a kind of “classic” stereo reverb algorithm which is technically simple yet optimal. It also produces a very clear spatial image that blends well with the mix.
OrilRiver is a free algorithmic stereo reverb made by Denis Tihanov. This plugin seriously rivals the quality of most commercial reverbs. Great sound and great interface (dark/light skins), super easy to use, and very low CPU usage. Add Atmospheric lushness to your mix.
PSP PianoVerb reproduces a special kind of reverberation originally provided by piano strings. It generates reverberation using twelve string operators with adjustable damping and decay time. Each of them is tuned to a particular note starting from A(55Hz) to a G#(103.8Hz). The PSP PianoVerb string system can be transposed in the range of +-24 semitones, tuned within a range of +-100 cents and be detuned as well. Transposing to lower octaves produces a bigger and less resonant sound similar to traditional reverbs, while in turn transposing to higher octaves produces a very bright harp-like effect.
Subspace is a super-lush sounding reverb plugin from Zynaptiq. It is based on the all-pass reverb module found in their acclaimed MORPH 2, WORMHOLE and ADAPTIVERB plugins (World Class Plugins). Super minimalist controls (4 presets and Dry/Wet control). Head into interstellar space with this free reverb.
TAL Reverb 4
Get modulated vintage reverb sounds with Togu Audio Line’s Reverb 4.
Something a little different to round of the free reverb effects section. Put the sound of cold war surveillance into your music. The guys over at Balance Mastering made an impulse response of the infamous Berlin surveillance tower The Teufelsberg and built a VST around it. Perfect for dark electro.
Analog Obsession PreBOX
PreBOX by Analog Obsession is a multi-algo preamp modeler with onboard 11 preamps (mic/line). Vintage 70’s GUI. Get Ampex AM-10, ALTEC 1566A, FAIRCHILD 692 pre amp models in your DAW.
IVGI is a comprehensive saturator plugin that can deliver very soft and subtle saturation, that you can even drop on the master buss. Capable of very dense and dirty distortion effects to spice up your audio tracks. IVGI’s base sound is comparable to the DESK mode in Klanghelm’s big brother SDRR.
Classic two stage tube mic pre. Get authentic analog sound through real-time high-performance circuit simulation thanks to Shattered Glass Audio’s free SGA1566. Add warmth to your track audio, as a saturation compressor, or add “dirt” with the tube overdrive. The two-band active Baxandall EQ that can be placed either before or after the preamp.
The free plug-in Saturation Knob is a modeled output distortion that can be used anywhere you need some grit. Use it to fatten up bass lines, add some harmonics and shimmer to vocals, or simply destroy your drum loops.
Tube Saturator Vintage
Tube Saturator is a free saturator plugin consisting of a Baxandall type three-band EQ feeding two 12AX7 triode preamp stages, similar to preamp stages you’d find in a guitar or high fidelity amp. The plugin gives you the same distortion and tonal characteristics that you’d get from saturating a real tube preamp. Up to 192 kHz sampling rate, depending on CPU speed.
The bx_subfilter from Plugin Alliance is is a free Sub bass plugin that borrows from the “Filter” section of its larger counterpart, the bx_subsynth. Tighten up your kicks, give your bass some deep lows…
Thump by Metric Halo is a unique audio processor that allows you to synthesize low frequency audio to add low end to a track or generate another sound entirely. Add low end to your drums, augment a bass or even create synthetic drones.
Titanium BASSTard is a bass-frequency monster machine derived directly from their Titanium3 Equaliser. In Acustica’s own words “Absolutely perfect for serial sound manglers who want their low end to be as full as a stuffed turkey”. I’m sold. Download is available through Acustica Audio’s Aquarius plugin interface.
SPAN is a free real-time “fast Fourier transform” audio spectrum analyzer plugin for professional sound and music production applications. Get a better understanding of your mix with this on your master channel.
Signalizer is a all-in-one signal visualizing package with a bunch of unique focus-points; real-time audio visualizations. The free VST is suited both for electrical/audio engineers fullscreen-inspecting signals, or for general small windows giving an overview of your audio as you create it. Looks super impressive too!
Waves by eLab is a plug-in that displays the sound in 3D. Several display modes are available, as well as parameters to adjust the display. The view can be easily manipulated using your mouse or trackpad. Great little tool for providing visual feedback on a reference track analysis.
Karlette by Steinberg (the developers of the VST format!) is a delay plugin offered for free as part of their classic collection. It’s a vintage tape delay with four independent delay heads and tempo sync. Props to Steinberg for updating this to 64-bit. Originally released this in the 90’s – not only is this based on a vintage delay – it’s now a vintage plugin. Put history in your DAW.
ToTape5 is a high quality analog tape emulation developed by Airwindows. Six controls fully automatable (Louder, Softer, Fatter, Flutter, Dry/Wet, Output).
Watkat is based on the most famous Tape-Echo Unit out of Britain, and possibly in the World – The WEM Custom Copicat. Originally designed by Charlie Watkins in 1958. Watkins – was inspired after he heard a sound effect generated by two linked studio quality tape recorders for the Italian singer Marino Marini.
AdHd Leveling Tool is a Tube Leveling Amplifier inspired by the legends and carefully crafted to meet your compression needs. Perfect for giving character and taming the peaks on any track in the mix. 4x Oversampling and 64 bit internal processing.
Graillon is a Vocal Live Changer that brings a world of possibilities right into your DAW. Track pitch frequency and mix frequency-shifted copies of your input vocal with itself. Incredibly well built GUI – the free version gives the Pitch Shifting and Pitch Correction.
iZotope Vocal Doubler
Another great invaluable free effect from iZotope. The Vocal Doubler is designed to support your vocal with a natural doubling effect, adding rich tone and depth.
That’s a wrap – hope you enjoyed this resource post on free VST plugin effects and found it of value. Have a recommendation not listed? Drop a note in the comments so others can check it out…
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