On a budget, but still need some high-quality plugins?
I’ll be recommending 6 of the best FREE plugins for music production based on my personal collection. I can’t say that I rely on these plugins 100% of the time (except maybe for Fresh Air), but they definitely CANNOT be replaced in my opinion.
We’ll be looking at… LABS, The Free Orchestra, dearVR MICRO, Pancake 2, Fresh Air and Saturation Knob. In my opinion, these are 6 of the best FREE plugins for music production.
If you want to learn more about these plugins, keep reading…
- Spitfire Audio – LABS
- Project SAM – The Free Orchestra
- Dear Reality – dearVR MICRO
- Cableguys – Pancake 2
- Slate Digital – Fresh Air
- Softube – Saturation Knob
- Summary: 6 of the Best FREE Plugins for Music Production
1.Spitfire Audio – LABS
Alright, so we’re starting off with one of the most comprehensive plugins.
All you’ll need to get your hands on LABS is to create an account at Spitfire Audio and download the LABS plugin.
In essence, LABS is a sample library filled with instruments that range from conventional to outright SURREALISTIC. It’s called LABS for a reason…
I really enjoy the experimental nature of this completely FREE software instrument.
Also, the sampled instruments you’ll have the privilege of “collecting” (there are 89 at the moment) aren’t cutdowns of Spitfire’s flagship sample libraries.
The instruments you’ll find in LABS are completely unique.
I highly recommend this plugin for cinematic music and just about anything that could use a touch of inspiration.
LABS is definitely one of my favourite plugins.
I challenge YOU to create an entire project using LABS alone. It’s more than doable!
2.Project SAM – The Free Orchestra
Keeping our focus on multimedia composers/producers, The Free Orchestra is another one of those essential “freebie” plugins that you need.
To download The Free Orchestra, you’ll simply need to create an account at Project SAM.
However, you’ll learn that this sample library is actually derived from some of Project SAM’s other flagship libraries. In other words, it’s really like a “sample”…
That being said, it’s the most comprehensive orchestral library that you can get for FREE!!
You’ll have everything you need to score…
Is it possible to compose/produce an entire track using The Free Orchestra?
YES. It’s been done many times, so I highly recommend it.
It’s definitely better than what your DAW includes…
3.Dear Reality – dearVR MICRO
I only recently discovered Dear Reality and their collection of spatial audio plugins.
In the search of a plugin that would permit me to mix spatial audio (binaural, 3D, 360, etc…), I stumbled across the Sennheiser AMBEO Orbit.
Well, dearVR MICRO is its successor and a collaborative effort between Sennheiser and Dear Reality.
In essence, it expands your DAW’s ability to pan from left to right to a virtual three-dimensional plane. That’s what spatial audio is all about it and it REALLY benefits music as well.
Just listen to this binaural version of “BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY” (with HEADPHONES, please).
However, I also recently learned that Logic Pro X integrated a “binaural pan” over a year ago…
All you have to do is right-click the L/R paneer and select “binaural pan” (MORE INFO).
That being said though, not everyone is using Logic Pro X.
That’s why I still highly recommend dearVR MICRO. If you want more control though, you’ll definitely want to check out the rest of Dear Reality’s catalog.
For example, dearVR MUSIC and dearVR PRO offer full-360 mixing and fully-modelled acoustical spaces (that take your mix to a WHOLE new level).
It’s true that dearVR MICRO lacks a bit of precision…
Well, here’s to the next evolution of audio mixing, I hope you’ll be part of it!
4.Cableguys – Pancake 2
If you’re looking for a plugin that emulates the effect of a Leslie speaker, then you’ll definitely want to check out Pancake 2.
All you need to do is create an account at Cableguys and download your FREE plugin.
It basically automates your track’s panning and even has some cool effects.
It also includes some presets, so it’s ready-to-roll right out of the box.
I personally use it to add some interest to parts that sound “dull”. For example, I might use it on a tambourine track to give it more dynamics.
However, I’ll definitely be using Pancake 2 less now because of my recent discovery of binaural panning and Logic Pro X’s inherent ability to do that.
That being said, I think Pancake 2 is still an excellent rotary speaker simulator.
I’ll still be using it on synths and on electric guitar parts!
5.Slate Digital – Fresh Air
So, Fresh Air is supposed to breathe some “fresh air” into your mixes.
What that’s supposed to mean is that it’ll make the top-end of your mix sound smoother. For example, you can use it on vocals that were recorded with a poor-quality condenser microphone to remove some of the harshness.
It can also be used on the master bus to give your track that “final glaze”.
To get your hands on Fresh Air, you’ll simply need to create an account at Slate Digital.
HOWEVER, it won’t always be available for free.
It seems like it was only a limited-time offer (that I got my hands on), but I can’t guarantee that it’ll still be available once you read this.
That being said, you can still have access to it by subscribing to the “all-access” pass at Slate Digital. I highly recommend it, it’s super affordable and includes all the plugins you’ll ever need to create high-quality mixes with analog modelled plugins.
6. Softube – Saturation Knob
It’s probably one of the most popular FREE plugins for music production, but I had to include it on my list.
Why’s that? Well, it does what it’s supposed to and it does it well.
Even if you know about the Logic Pro X’s compressor and its integrated saturation module, I think you’ll prefer the tonal possibilities you’ll gain with Saturation Knob.
You’ll simply need to create an account at Softube to get your download.
If you’re wondering where you’d use this saturation plugin, you can consider using it on tracks that sound “thin” or “weak”.
Think of the Saturation Knob as a “highlighter”.
In the context of a mix, it’ll make certain instruments stand out by adding harmonics. You’ll even get to select between a focus on the bottom, middle and top-end.
In other words, which area of the frequency spectrum will get saturated.
I highly recommend adding this plugin to your music production toolbelt!
Summary: 6 of the Best FREE Plugins for Music Production
That’s all, but I’ll make sure to add more of the best free plugins for music as I discover them.
However, I still believe that LESS is more.
Just because it’s free, it doesn’t mean that you should download it!
That being said, I definitely believe that the 6 plugins we talked about are indispensable. In other words, there’s nothing out there that money can buy that’ll replace these 6 plugins.
If you’re interested in upgrading though, I definitely have some recommendations…
- Best Sample Libraries and Software Instruments for Film Scoring
- 4 of the Best Plugins for Mixing and Mastering
- 4 of the Best Spatial Audio Plugins
- 3 of the Best Noise Suppression Plugins
I’m curious though… What’s on YOUR list of the best free plugins for music production?
I appreciate your time, thanks for reading!