With the growing importance of digitization, the way music is being made has also seen a significant change. It has started shifting from physical equipment to Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Even though DAWs can be used alone, the addition of Virtual Studio Technology (VST) Plugins have given it an edge over the physical hardware. VST Plugins are being created with a motive to compliment or replace the old equipment.
The arrival of VST Plugins has saved a lot of money for the producers. They can now install these plugins instead of buying expensive audio gears and get the same or better output. The fact of the matter is that you can now create a song without even using a single physical hardware. What if we tell you that you can find several VST Plugins for free which are adept in handling your tasks easily?
In this article, we have created a list of 15 best free VST Plugins based on the ratings from our users. Let’s get started.
Compressor | Distortion
CamelCrusher by Camel Audio is an easy to use VST Plugin described as “free ‘colouring’ multi-effect plugin” . Even though Camel Audio was bought by Apple in the year 2015, which led to them releasing a paid version CamelPhat, you can still get CamelCrusher for free easily. And if you weren’t sure of its quality, look at the name of the company which has acquired it. Do we need to say anything else?
With two unique different distortion types which can be mixed together is a great plugin especially for get a punchier sound for your guitars or drums. Also has an analogue-style low-pass filter that brings a warm sound to your mixes. And finally his compressor easy to use can ‘phatten’ up your recordings turning up the amount knob.
It is known to be very lightweight but keeps us the necessary stuff all along. You get high quality presets, Randomize button and a lot of other features. The Randomize button is specially useful for keeping your tracks fresh as it randomizes the values of the modules that have been turned on. You can also skip some modules by turning them off.
Even though you may not get any updates, this is the most popular plugin in our web with also a high rating score and you should definitely give it a try.
- Two different distortion types.
- Warm, analogue-modelled resonant low-pass filter.
- High quality compressor easy to use, with ‘Phat’ mode.
- ‘MIDI Learn’ function.
- A lot of presets patches to get you started.
- Randomize function.
Distortion | Flanger
Glitch 1.3 by DBlue is a free VST that can be used to add a different texture to your music. You get the option to program it using various filters like Crusher, Delay and many more. It can help to create some unique effects which can provide a different dimension to your music.
As the name suggests, it adds glitches to your music which can lead to them being bitcrush, reverse or reshuffle. If you want to control how the glitch occurs, there are several presets available which are controllable. Glitch also comes with a library of preset settings and templates in the common vst fxb format bank which allows them to be saved and loaded as and when required.
- 9 effects: tapestop, delay, modulator, shuffler, reverser, crusher, gater, stretcher and retrigger.
- Randomizer for the sequence steps, effects or both.
- Standard VST FXB format bank files for save and load presets.
- Global controls for overdrive distortion, selectable filter settings and a master overall effect mixer control.
Dexed is a multi-format and multi-platform free VST Plugin which has been created on the lines of Yamaha DX7. It had begun as a tool that could be used with the original synth, but they created something so spectacular that it has created an identity of its own. You will find various old day favorite songs included as presets in this software.
Dexed is powerful, versatile, stable and free which makes it a must for you to try. The multi-platform support ensures that getting a hand on it is never a problem. Give it a try today if you love the Yamaha DX7.v
- Multi platform (OS X, Windows, Linux) and multi format (VST, could build a AU also); by using JUCE.
- The sound engine is closely modeled on the original DX7 characteristics.
- 144 DAW automatable DX7 parameters.
- Fully supports DX7 input and output Sysex messages; including controller change. You can use this plugin with a native DX7/TX7 as a patch editor.
- Each operator have a realtime VU meter to know which one is active.
- Can load and save any DX7/TX7 sysex programs. It is also possible to save a single program into a different sysex file.
Comes with a 1024 programs compilation.
MinimogueVA by Voltkitchen is based on the very popular analog Minimoog Monosynth. It comes with additional features that you won’t find on the original. The users have the option to tune oscillator 1 completely and fine-tune oscillator 2 and 3. To improve the thickness of the sound, it has added 3 overdrive sliders for 3 oscillators.
MinimogueVA also has a fully programmable digital delay. It also comes equipped with 16-note Step Sequencer and Arpeggiator. It has given the users an opportunity to use 5-note Polyphony to improve the sound. For the extra oomph, it has an independent LFO, Chorus which has support for stereo panning and oscillator drift. Most of its users term it as the best available free VST in the market.
- 16 note step sequencer and arpeggiator.
- 5-note polyphony.
- Release knobs for the two contour generators (envelopes).
- 3 overdrive sliders (one per oscillator).
- Aftertouch control, adjustable filter velocity curve.
- Programmable digital delay.
- Global distortion with high pass and low pass cutoff.
Tal-Reverb-4 from Togu Audio Line can be best described as a vintage 80’s sounding VST with a high quality plate reverb. It has a simplistic old school feel to it which undermines the capability it possess. You can use it with most audio instruments which makes it preferable for most music makers. Many people have even suggested it to the beginners in this field due to its easy to use interface and great functionality.
Tal-Reverb-4 is not just easy to use, it is also easy on its driver as well. Also, the developers have been consistently working to make it look more sleek and smooth and it shows. The only downside this VST has is it supports only stereo audio tracks. This is a must-have software for all the musicians out there.
- Vintage 80’s reverb sound with modulation.
- Diffuse sound.
- Easy to use.
- Supports only stereo channels supported.
Delay | Filter
Valhalla Freq Echo VST by Valhall DSP is a frequency shifter that has been combined with an analog style echo to give it a different feel. It is multi-dimensional in nature and allows users to create anything ranging from easy choruses to endless glissandos and more. The more you fiddle with it, the more you are taken back by its abilities to produce outstanding music.
Valhalla Freq Echo allows users a bode-style frequency shifting, an analog time delay which is managed by a knob or by the tempo. It supports both mono and stereo input and has feedback control. Even if there is no input, it is capable of producing self oscillation. On top of it, Valhalla Freq Echo has Low Cut and High Cut filters that allows you to create delayed sound for your music.
- High cut and low cut controls.
- Tempo control.
- Stereo-out, stereo-in.
- Mouse over Tips.
Delay | Glitch delay
Hysteresis by Glitchmachines is for the modern musicians who love to follow the latest music trends. It is primarily a delay unit but it has more to it as well. If you love crazy rides, you will love Hysteresis. It has the ability to churn out output that is completely different from the input that has been served to it.
Hysteresis is mostly for electronic music producers, but it can be tuned accordingly to give standard delay outputs as well. Users can process anything ranging from vocals, guitars, sound effects, synths, and drums using this software. It also contains more than 100 factory presets for you to choose from. Even if you are on 32-bit OS, you can install Hysteresis easily to accommodate your music needs.
- Feedback-based delay effect with tempo sync
- Lowpass filter in the feedback path
- Reversible stutter effect in the feedback path
- Modulation with rate multiplication/division
Synth Additive | Synth Wavetable
Tunefish 4 is a virtual analog synthesizer that has been created to fit into 10kb of compressed machine code. If you think that its small size is its limitations, you are appropriately wrong. It has all the weapons to compete with commercial synthesizers worth hundreds of dollars without breaking a sweat. This software is under active development which means we can expect it to get more features with time.
Tunefish 4 is available across various platforms and supports 32-bit as well as 64-bit OS with aplomb. It is a heavy improvement over the last version i.e. Tunefish 3 while keeping the size smaller. It comes with an improved notch filter as well as Lowpass, Highpass and Bandpass. Whatever you are trying to create, if you are using this software well, you can hit the bull’s eye easily.
- Additive synthesis based wavetable generator.
- Noise generator.
- Lowpass, Highpass, Bandpass and an improved Notch filter.
- 2 ADSRs and 2 LFOs that can be linked almost any knob using a modulation matrix.
- Effects: flanger, chorus, distortion, delay, reverb, EQ and formant.
epicVerb by Variety Of Sound is a reverb plugin that is aimed at tight small rooms as well as ambience effect stimulation. It is well suited to modern vocal and drum production due to its ability to simulate ‘epic’ halls. It has a wide sound range and can create normal or edgy reverb tails as required.
epicVerb has 6 different stereo early reflection models along with two different reverberation models. Users get some default reverb controls as well as reverb tail modulation. In case you need, it also allows you to control first reflection patterns efficiently. It has different reverb time handling for high and low frequencies and two BootEQ equalizers for additional control.
- SSE and Assembler optimized sound engine
- Smooth reverb tail processing without ringing or metallic reflections.
- 2 different reverb and 6 early stereo reflection modes.
SQ8L by Siegfried Kullman is the software model of Synth SQ80 from the 1980s. The ‘L’ in SQ8L stands for Lite or the demo version. It contains 3 digital wavetable oscillators for each voice that is fed to it. It can take a maximum of 8 such voices that are fed to it through 4-pole Lowpass filters. It also has 3 LFOs, 4 envelopes and several MIDI sources which help in sound modulation.
SQ8L may seem obsolete to you because of its construction but you can create some unique sounds using it. You don’t get the support of LFO humanization and there is no internal sequencer. You cannot combine several sounds and it only accepts Polyphony voices. If you are in search of something which is capable of producing a classic sound, it is a great choice.
- 3 oscillators and 4 DCA’s.
- 4 LFO’s.
- AM Modulation.
- Configurable knobs
TDR NOVA is a parallel dynamic equalizer and includes a full featured dynamic section. Dynamic equalizers are capable of producing a wide range of sound which allows it to be applied for varied purposes. It allows both parameteric equalization and dynamic equalization. If you are looking for compression, you can avail Multi-band compression, Wideband compression and Frequency selective compression as you require.
It also comes with normal features that you expect from an equalizer like a undo/redo, detailed documentation and much more. It is most certainly amongst the best of equalizers that you can find in the market and we recommend it with closed eyes for you.
- Parametric equalizer.
- Dynamic EQ.
- Multiband compression.
- General compression.
- General compression equalization set.
Exciter / Enhancer
FerricTDS by Variety Of Sound seems inspired by the smooth dynamic shaping capabilities of high-end-reel-to-reel tape recorders. It also features three distinct sound effects that can be found on those devices –
- Saturation to add extra harmonic related sound.
- Dynamics to improve the overall dynamic response of the sound.
- Limiting to control the peak performance of sound.
FerricTDS also adds extra harmonics and saturation effects. It features 4x oversampled core algorithms and is SSE optimized. If you care about adding variety to your music, you must start using FerricTDS asap.
- Dynamic, recovery, trim, limiter and saturation knows.
- Analog style levels.
- Completely SSE-optimized.
SlickEQ by Variety Of Sound is a mixing/mastering equalizer with emphasis on sound, ease of use and flexibility in terms of music. It has three (and extra half) filter bands and four distinct EQ modes for separate curves. Along with all this, it also allows you to process either the stereo sum or stereo width without having to change sum/difference encoding.
SlickEQ has a full-featured interface that is quick and easy to use. It has four different stages and advanced saturation algorithms by VoS. Users also get a Tool Bar with all the options you will require. Having so many useful features in its kitty, it will never disappoint you.
- 4 EQ models: British, American, Soviet and German with optional non-linearity.
- 3 EQ bands with additional 18dB/Oct high-pass filter.
- 4 output stages: Silky, Linear, Deep and Mellow.
- Advanced saturation algorithms.
Gate | Sequenced Gate
A1TriggerGate VST by Alex Hilton is a sequenced gate plugin that chops up any incoming audio signal. It has 8 patterns and 4 beats. It also has an integrated FX which helps in ease of use. All the parameters hare are automatable and fully undo-able. It boasts of no latency and Resizable GUI which is fully Vector-based.
A1TriggerGate also has an expert mode which adds a 4 pattern command tabs for interesting results. Alex Hilton found other similar VST boring and hence decided to create one for himself which is far more interesting and it shows.
- Sequenced gate.
- 8 patterns, 4 beats.
- Effects: Lowpass Filter, Drive/Distortion, Echo/Delay.
- Triplet mode.
Synth | Drum Machine | DAW
Caustic 3 by Single Cell Software is a music creation tool that is inspired by rack-mount synthesizers / sampler rigs. It is one of the few VSTs which have an Android App. So you can design your music on-the-go. It has a Effects rack which supports 2 effects per machine. Also present is a Mixer Desk with global Delay/Reverb effects.
Caustic 3 also has a sound sequencer and Master section with parametric EQ and Limiter. All the files are stored on the user-accessible storage and it even allows users to insert their own WAV files. These files can be used in the PCMSynth, Beatbox and Decoder. You can also connect USB MIDI controllers via OTG cables on a compatible device. All of this makes for an exciting software which can be an easy recommendation for most.
Virtual synth rack composed by:
- Subsynth: Virtual analog subtractive synthesizer.
- PCMSynth: Multi-sample wave synthesizer.
- BassLine : 303-like monosynth.
- BeatBox: 8-channel sampling drum machine.
- PadSynth: Harmonic table pad synthesizer.
- 8BitSynth: 8bit equation solver synthesizer.
- Modular: Fully configurable and routable synthesizer.
- Organ: Hammond-like tonewheel organ with rotary speaker.
- Vocoder: 8-band harmonic vocoder.
- FMSynth: DX-style 3-operator fm synthesizer.
- KSSynth: Karplus-Strong string modeling synth.
- SawSynth: Supersaw-type polysynth.