VST plugins can add power and flexibility to your digital audio workstation. They can also be very expensive. Here is a collection of over ninety awesome effects plugins that have one thing in common: they’re free. Check the details for each plugin to see if it works on your system. If you’re strapped for cash after Christmas, this list is just what you need.
Five months ago, AudioJungle author and Audiotuts+ loops contributor Mihai Sorohan started a thread on the AudioJungle forum listing the best free VST effects. 225 posts later, the thread is still going strong. This article lists the plugins recommended in the thread. Thanks Mihai, and everyone else who contributed.
Did we miss your favorite free plugin? Would you like to comment on any of the plugins in the list? Please leave a comment below.
1. BootEQ MKII
“The BootEQ mkII is an equalizer and pre-amp simulator combination which provides some nice and musical signal coloration effects.”
2. Density MKII
“Density mkII was primarily designed to work in a typical stereo audio group mixing situation or for summing and to glue all things together in an unobtrusive way.”
“NastyLF a offers push/pull style low-end EQ with an added saturation stage. EQ levels and frequency can be dialed in variably as well as saturation amounts and a rather modern or vintage curve behaviour.”
“NastyHF offers a really nice and musical vintage style HF shelf with switchable narrow or rather wide curve behaviour.”
“NASTYtableTop is an easy-to-use low-end signal saturator.”
“The Rescue plug-in is a gadget which offers envelope dependend signal amplification and saturation in a mid/side configuration. In ANALOG mode it offers some addtional signal alterations similar to hardware. It comes in two versions: Rescue and RescueAE (anniversary edition) – the latter one performs interanl oversampling and adds an output limiter function.”
“TesslaSE adds some gentle and pleasant saturation effects to the incoming audio.”
“TesslaPro is a signal saturator with added transient control. It works entirely oversampled and provides smoothest saturation effects.”
The “epicVerb” reverberation device aims at both: Tight small room and ambience effect simulation well suited to modern drum and vocal productions up to large “epic” halls as known from high quality outboard gear.
C4 vstpresets with different dry/wet mixes – use this when using eV on the insert bus (files provided by susiwong)
The original Rescue factory bank for RescueAE (provided by nitex)
“This device simulates some dynamic effects as can be obtained with some high quality tape gear.”
Power On/Off button. Gate On/Off button. Gain Reduction meter include. Post-gate control (-96 to -30 dB) Gate time control. Threshold control (0 to 48 dB). Attack time control (1 ms to 50 ms). Release time control (60, 125, 250, 500ms, 1, 2, 4sec). Ratio switch (1.5:1, 2:1, 4:1, 8:1, 16:1, 32:1 and Tank mode). Side-Chain high pass filter control (off to 300 Hz). Mix control (0 to 100 %). Gain control (0 to 30 dB).
14. Modern Equalizer
EQ In/Out button. Phase flip In/Out button. High-pass filter control (off, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 360 Hz). Low-freq control (60, 80, 100, 150, 200 Hz). Low gain control (-18 to +18 dB). Low Peak/Shelf modes button. Med-freq control (500, 1200, 1800, 2400, 3200 Hz). Med gain control (-18 to +18 dB). Med bandwidth control. High-freq control (3000, 6000, 9000, 12000, 16000 Hz). High gain control (-18 to +18 dB). High Peak/Shelf modes button. Mix-Ratio control. Output control (-18 to +18 dB).
15. Modern Spacer
Power On/Off button. Stereo level meters include. Pre-Delay control (off to 2 secs). Time control (off to 10 secs). Room Depth control (15 to 3000 m). Room Width control (20 to 300 m). Mix control. LS, MF, HF, HS controls for Reverb EQ. Output control (-18 to +18 dB).
16. Modern Exciter
Power On/Off button. Stereo level meters include. Extreme Low, High controls. Balance control. Output control (-18 to +18 dB).
17. Modern De-Esser
Power On/Off button. Gain Reduction meter include. Threshold, Ratio, Width, Release controls. Freq control (3000 to 9999 Hz). Output level control (-15 to +15 dB).
18. Modern Limiter
Power On/Off button. Gain Reduction light include. Link/Split modes switch. Input control (0 to 20 dB). Release control (30 to 2000 ms). Limit range control (0 to 96 dB). Output control (0 to -20 dB).
Classic LA-2A® Compressor clone. Power On/Off switch. Gain Reduction meter include. Peak control (Threshold, 0 to -48 dB). Gain control (0 to 48 dB). Attack time (Variable, 0.1 to 10 ms). Release time (Variable, 0.05 to 3 secs). Comp/Limit modes switch.
Classic 1176LN® Compressor clone. Power On/Off switch. GR/VU meter mode switch. Input control (Relative threshold). Threshold level (0 to -40 dB). Ratio switch (4:1, 8:1, 12:1, 20:1 and Crush). Attack time control (0.03 ms to 10 ms). Release time control (50 ms to 2 sec). Output control (0 to 40 dB).
Classic Fairchild® 660 Compressor clone. Power On/Off button. Input Gain control (1 dB steps, 0 to 20 dB). Threshold control (Variable, 0 to 30 dB). Time constant selector. Attack time (0.2, 0.2, 0.4, 0.8, 0.4, 0.2 ms). Release time (0.3, 0.8, 2, 5 secs, auto 1, auto 2). Ratio (Variable, 1:1 to 20:1). DC Adjust control (comp to limit). Metering switch (VU, GR, Off). Output Gain control (0.5 dB steps, 0 to 20 dB).
Classic Pultec® EQP-1A Program Equalizer clone. EQ In/Out button. 16 KHz cut In/Out button. Low shelf freq selector (20, 30, 60, 100 CPS). Low shelf boost control (0 to +16 dB). Low shelf attenuate control (0 to -20 dB). High peak freq selector (3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, 16 KCS). High peak boost control (0 to +20 dB). High peak bandwidth control. High shelf attenuate control (0 to -18 dB). High shelf freq selector (5, 10, 20 KCS). Trim level control (-15 to +15 dB).
23. Modern Deathcore
Classic Distressor® EL-8 Compressor clone. Power On/Off button. Gain Reduction meter include. Input level meter include (-12 dB detect). Input control (Relative threshold). Threshold level (0 to -36 dB). Ratio switch (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 20:1 and Deathcore). Side-Chain Filter modes switch (HP, LP, BP). Pre-Coloring modes switch (HP, DS, HPDS). Attack time control (0.03 ms to 10 ms). Release time control (35 ms to 3 sec). Output control (0 to 36 dB)
24. Modern Premier
Mic preamp simulator. Signal In/Off button. Monitor On/Off button. Input control (-18 to +18 dB). Level control (Mix 0% to 200%). Transparent control. Filter control. Five preamp model selector. Harmonic control.
25. Modern Amplifier
Power On/Off switch. Gain Reduction meter include. Hidden OLED level meters include. Gain control (0 to 50 dB) Peak Reduction control (0 to -50 dB). Fast/Slow modes switch. Compress/Limit modes switch.
Signal In/Off switch. LCD display include. High-pass filter control (20 to 200 Hz). Low-pass filter control (22 KHz to 12 KHz). 3 Band Program EQ (LF, MF, HF). Gain, Freq, Q controls. Trim level control (-18 to 18 dB).
27. Modern Analoguer
Analog tape simulator. Power On/Off switch. Standard/Monitor modes switch. Hidden OLED level meters include. Input control (0 to +18 dB). Output control (-18 to 0 dB). Color control. Level control. Filter control. Ceiling control(+6 to -6 dB).
Process On/Off button. Send mode On/Off button. Input control (-6 to +6 dB). Level control (Relative reverb time). Reverb time (off to 10 secs). Room control. Room size (box to infinity). Pre-Delay time(off to 2 secs).
“MCompressor provides standard compression with volume maximization and has adjustable compression shape, which gives you power to set custom smoothing or even interesting sound effects.”
“MEqualizer is a 6-band equalizer with increadibly fast and easy controls.”
“MRingModulator performs standard ring-modulation effect using two oscillators.”
MAnalyzer is a FFT based analyzer for audio frequency content displayed as 1/3 octave bars or FFT curve. Allows comparisons, magnitude normalization, “. “averaging…
“MPhaser is a traditional phasing effect plug-in.”
“MLimiter performs smooth saturation in a standard tube-like way improving clarity of the resulting sound. It can also be used as a distortion module for guitars and other instruments.”
“MWaveShaper is a traditional wave-shaping plug-in. Unlike other plug-ins it has an adjustable shape instead of a few predefined shapes.”
“MAutopan is a traditional automatical panner with adjustable shape.”
MVibrato is a traditional vibrato with adjustable shape.
MTremolo is a traditional tremolo with adjustable shape.
“MStereoExpander provides stereo field modification to improve or smaller clarity of differences between channels.”
“GlaceVerb is Dasample’s first attempt to implement its works on Residual Vector Modulation (RVM) in a VST plug-in. RVM is a proprietary algorithm developed to calculate the deformations, the vibrations and the acoustic response of surfaces and materials.”
“T-SLEDGE is a multi-band compressor for mastering, equipped with peak limiter, level maximizer and 4 compressors/expanders/limiters. And it is equipped with 2 kinds of dividing filter IIR/FIR. So, it also operates as a dynamics EQ.”
“The Classic Auto-Filter is an analog modeled four-pole filter with resonance control. It can be used for creative effects like auto-wah-wah and filter sweeps, as well as a fixed filter for equalizing purposes. The filter is selectable between low-pass, high-pass, band-pass and band-reject (notch). The filter cut-off frequency can be modulated from the envelope follower and the LFO.”
43. Classic Chorus
“Classic Chorus is a great sounding and easy to use classical Chorus VST plugin. Nice Plugin for adding Depth, Fatness and Stereo perspective to almost any Electrical Instruments or Vocal.”
“Classic Compressor is a classic analog style VST Compressor Plugin with a lot of warmth and punch. Special designed to use on individual Instruments and Vocal, but also useable on your final mixes.”
45. Classic Delay
“The Classic Delay emulates three of the most commonly used delays / echo sounds types: Tape, Analog, and Digital, but without the introduction of noise. A quality control is included where the sound of the echo machine can be adjusted to give the preferred amount of “imperfection”. The delay can be synchronised to the host, and the feedback can be reversed to give a ping-pong effect.”
46. Classic EQ
“Classic EQ is a 7 Band Stereo Equaliser with a warm analog sound, well suited to make non-surgical tonal corrections on all instruments, vocals and final mixes. The passive and additive structure, together with unique “Warm” and “Saturation” algorithms, produces warm and pleasant sound, just like some of the most expensive vintage gear. The left and right channels can be adjusted individually or linked together.”
47. Classic Flanger
“Take a trip back to the mid 80′s with our Classic Flanger. It will give you that subtle or massive swirling effect that is used mainly for guitar, but can be used for many other instruments as well. Due to a tightly controlled feedback path, it is possible to boost the flanging effect to maximum without getting unwanted side effects.”
“The Classic Master Limiter VST plugin is specially designed to boost the overall level of your final mixes, but is also highly useable on very dynamic instruments. With just one control on the front panel operation is as simple as it gets; just turn the Threshold down and hear how your mixes gets louder and louder. Very high compression ratios can be obtained without changing the balance of the mix.”
49. Classic Phaser
“The Classic Phaser emulates analog phasers from the 70’s and 80’s. These vintage phasers got their characteristic sound from the analog phase shifting filters used, unlike the delay lines used in most modern digital phasers. To get a deeper and fatter phasing effect, more filter stages were cascaded. The Classic Phaser works just like an analog phaser, and with selectable filter stages from 4 to 12, it can resemble anything from phaser pedals to expensive studio phasers from that time period.”
50. Classic Reverb
“Classic Reverb is a nice and smooth reverb that does a good job on almost any instrument. It can be adjusted to sound like most any acoustic space, ranging from a small shower to a large concert hall. With the “Hi-Damping” control, it is possible to change the sound from bright and sibilant to a more natural / warmer sound.”
“dual-band stereo compressor”
“BLOCKFISH is a versatile compressor with countless ways to shape the incoming audio.
Unlike many other digital compressors, BLOCKFISH has ‘soul’. It likes to bite, but it can be tamed easily once you’ve learned how to use its potential.”
SPITFISH is a dead-easy to use de-esser, aimed mainly at mono or stereo vocal tracks. Just like classic analog de-essers, this unit dynamically filters out harsh, annoying s-like sounds that would otherwise ‘spit’ in your face.
FLOORFISH is a simple expander / gate device, easy to set up and offers a broad variety of processing, ranging from slight expansion, backgound noise attenuation to extreme gating effects. What’s different from similar units is the ability to scan the source and adjust the transistion curve accordingly.
“Signal modelling device that contains: envelope shaper, tube saturation emulator, exciter and at the end of audio chain is a compressor/ limiter for avoiding clipping.”
“Normalizer – denormals eleminator. Denormalisation is an issue with some audio hosts that don’t switch off the plugin’s audio task when the song is stopped or a track contains silence (or with instruments: no key is pressed while a sound decays).”
This guitar-based plugin is normally not free, but comes bundled in the free version of Sonoma RiffWorks T4 (for Mac and Windows), which you can download fro the link above. Studio Devil BVC (below) is also bundled with the software.
“They offer several AWESOME plugins targeted for guitar usage, some commercial,but this one is free. British Valve Custom is based on the gain structure of popular British Valve (Tube) Rock amplifiers (like the infamous Marshall tube heads) with some subtle modifications to give it slightly more gain. This amplifier model has considerable bite and attack making it perfect for classic rock and hard rock sounds. It also works great with neck pickups for blues, rock, and even metal guitar solos.”
“The Red Skull plug-in is an aggressive high-gain distortion pedal simulator with unbelievably chunky metal tones for playing Nu Metal, Grind Core, Hard Core, Trash Metal or any genre that requires crushing sound.”
“Fuzz-Stone is the second plugin in Freetortion Series. The Fuzz-Stone is a ‘60’s styled guitar fuzz tone pedal which simulates the Legendary Stones’ Satisfaction guitar tone.”
“Fuzz-Stone[Ge] is the 3rd plugin in Freetortion Series. The Fuzz-Stone[Ge] is a great Fuzz style Germanium transistor distortion simulator.”
62. California Sun
“The California Sun is a classic guitar combo amplifier simulator with two channels (Clean and Dirty). “
“Whamdrive Distortion/Pitch Shifter – This looks exactly like Digitech Whammy pedal… and sounds and reacts quite similar. Whamdrive is a VST plug-in to shift the pitch of an incoming audio signal. It allows you to pitch an incoming audio stream in realtime with an external MIDI foot controller or with the GUI controls. It Offers a cabinet simulator, like Digitech pedals.”
64. Tom Pong
“Tom Pong is a ping pong delay VST Plugin. Windows only. A ping pong delay is a delay which alternates from one speaker to another. If the balance is set to 0.5, a stereo signal will invert itself each time the delay buffer is played back. If the balance is set to either side of 0.5, the signal bounces back and forth between the speakers. Tom Pong can be synced to the host sequencer, or delay times can be set by sample count. Feedback and output level are also adjustable.”
65. Wow & Flutter
“A VST plug-in which emulates the playback speed imperfections of the pre-digital era.”
“I built this plug-in for a live performance at the Bazillus Club in Zurich. It features a tap tempo function which makes it easy to create echoes that fit the timing of a live band. “
67. Dub Siren
“Emulates the sounds of those selfmade siren units used by Dub and Reggae Sound Systems like Jah Shaka, Aba Shanti and countless others.”
68. Tape Delay
“On user request I made the tape delay from the DUB SIREN available as a separate plug-in.”
69. Analogic Delay
“This plug-in mimicks the tape delay in Logic Audio. I created it on request from a friend who switched to another sequencer software after Logic’s discontinuation on the PC platform.”
70. Bionic Delay
“This enhanced version of the Analogic Delay gives you separate control over the delay times on left and right channel. suitable for ping pong delays and drifting delays.”
“Besides being a CPU hog this plug-in goes further than most (all?) real tape delay machines. It’s capable of stereo delays, ping pong delays, multitap delays and complex delay textures.”
“The ADT technique was developed at Abbey Road Studios by engineers recording the Beatles in the 1960s. To free John Lennon from having to sing everything twice for real double tracking they came up with an artificial replacement: they sent the original signal to another tape machine and re-recorded it. Due to the physical distance between record and playback heads the new signal was delayed. The length of the delay depends on the tape speed (the slower the tape is running the longer it takes for the signal to travel from the record to the playback head). However, due to the machine’s (small amounts of) Wow and Flutter the delay time was not fixed but varied slightly, giving an additional chorus-like effect.”
“Plate reverbs have been among the first devices for artificial reverberation. The first digital reverb units by EMT and Lexicon tried to model plate reverbs instead of real spaces. The Poor Plate is a Plug-In for all those people who can neither afford a real plate nor one of the classic digital units.”
“This Plug-In provides normal and inverse RIAA equalization. It thus can be used for record playback or vinyl cutting purposes. Another nice trick is to use it to simulate certain ‘vinyl sound effects’ by applying the inverse RIAA curve to your signal and after running it through a compressor converting it back to flat.”
75. NoAmp! Free
“NoAmp! is based on a famous stomp box that made life easier for many guitar players and gained much popularity for its sound quality, versatility and ease of use.”
76. Drumz Strip
“Simple Drum Player unit: twelve sample channels / outs with independent control over level, pan, mute and sample trigger.”
“Analog style exciter for mastering purposes,
inspired on the BBE Maximizer models. Its warm sound and simplicity of using makes this exciter very suitable to add some subtle brightness in the high frequencies, and also make the lows more dense. Apart from the mastering stage, you’ll find that it can also make a good work on individual tracks.”
78. Elottronix XL
“VST plugin which emulates the famous Robert Fripp’s effect called “Frippertronics”: two Revox B-77
making a continuous loop. This enhanced version adds many new features: 80 seconds maximum
delay, Delay and LFO Pan now syncable to host, Biquad X filters, Tape noise generator…”
79. Sun Ra
“Ambient texture generator. It’s based on a dual synthesis engine ( 1substractive oscillator + 2 wave players), completed with several randomization options and a battery of built-in effects. It also features a good set of 24 presets.”
“Vintage style saturation/bass expander unit,
presented as VST effect. We think this plugin is specially good to add warmth and saturation to drums
and basses, and with vocal tracks that need a little punch. It uses very little CPU, and includes 8 factory presets.”
81. Cosmogirl II
“New version of the old Cosmodelia’s synth of the same name. We have designed a fresh GUI, 64 new presets and automation of all parameters. It’s a 2 oscillator analog style synth, specially geared to the creation of spatial FXs, ambient textures and experimental music.”
“VST processor which emulates the famous Robert Fripp’s effect called “Frippertronics”: Two Revox B-77 making a continuous loop (2-8 seconds delay).”
83. Naive LPF
“Naive LPF is a resonant low/high-pass filter plug-in VST effect for Windows with a very convincing, classic sound. Naive LPF features a separate envelope follower for each of 6 channels and full automation, MIDI CC and even joystick control of all parameters.”
“New DIG 2.0 features matched only by high priced proprietary rivals. Never before have you been given this much flexibility in tone and gain control at a price impossible to beast. Its free!”
85. Cakewalk SFZ+
“Now free on the Cakewalk store.”
Now free on the Cakewalk store.
Now free on the Cakewalk store.
Now free on the Cakewalk store.
Now free on the Cakewalk store.
“Rough Rider is a modern compressor with a bit of “vintage” style bite and a uniquely warm sound. Perfect for adding compression effects to your drum buss, it also sounds great with synth bass, clean guitar, and backing vocals. Definitely not an all-purpose compressor, Rough Rider is at its best when used to add pump to rhythmic tracks. Of course, you can use it however you’d like. The Compressor Police aren’t gonna come to your house and give you a citation. Slap it on a track and crank some knobs.”
91. SPL Free Ranger
“The EQ Ranger plug-ins are based upon the EQ modules for the SPL RackPack series. They combine the amazing sound of passive fliters with extremely efficient operation.
The Free Ranger is based upon the Full Ranger-EQ but is limited to four useful bands. Scroll to the bottom of the page to request a download.