As it turns out, some of my favourite plug-ins actually didn’t cost me a dime (or a nickel)! If there were a better, paid version of these products, believe me when I say that I would NEVER settle for less. That being said, you have my personal approval of 5 of the best free VST plugins that I use quite frequently. Some of these actually come from reputable vendors that offer a variety of high-quality plug-ins, but these will come at a price.
A couple of things I would never accept from a piece of free software are integral advertisements and an unattractive user-interface (UI). In my experience, these things have cluttered my workspace and disrupted my creative workflow. By the end of this article, you will have discovered at least one new plug-in that you will add to your toolbox.
- Spitfire Audio – LABS
- Steven Slate Drums 5 Free (SSD5)
- iZotope – Vinyl
- iZotope – Vocal Doubler
- Cableguys – Pancake 2
- Polyverse Music – Wider
- Expand your toolbelt with the best free VST plugins
LABS by Spitfire Audio is a unique collection of free instrument plug-ins that have been engineered with LOVE. Every once in a while, you will get an email alert from Spitfire announcing that they have released a new instrument for you to play with.
Once you sign-up and download the Spitfire Audio plug-in manager, you will have access to a variety of bizarre, modular and abstract sounds to choose from. I adore each one of these instruments as they have inspired me to create entire tracks from sounds that money simply cannot buy.
There is no catch, just download the entire library (currently at 16 instruments) and begin experimenting without limitations. What I really enjoy is that each instrument will have its own set of parameters to modulate allowing you to take it even further.
Being universally compatible with every genre of music, there is no reason not to try LABS today.
If you were to own your very own acoustic drum kit, how many would you own? Most people usually own one, so why would you need more than that to start off with?
Of course, the more sounds you own, the more flexible you can be with your projects, but if you could get one PROFESSIONAL sounding kit for FREE, wouldn’t that be enough? I have been a huge fan of Steven Slate since purchasing Steven Slate Drums Platinum (SSD4), but have decided to incorporate the free version of SSD5 before upgrading.
With this package, you get access to one premium drum kit with all the features you would get from the full version without ANY limitations. If you ever wish to upgrade to the full library, you can do so at the click of a button.
In all honesty, all your drum needs can be met with this one free plug-in, so before you splurge on the full library, try this.
iZotope has a reputation for creating superior-quality plug-ins, but they have been releasing a couple of freebies over the years. These aren’t “lite” or “demo” versions of their other plug-ins, they are unique creations in their own light that have found their place in my toolbox.
Vinyl is basically a plug-in that will allow you to replicate the imperfections of a vinyl record such as mechanical noise, wear, electrical noise, dust, scratches and warp. You can use it on one of your tracks to make it stand out or use it on your master to completely transform your project into a lo-fi masterpiece.
Obtaining this gem is as simple as creating an account with iZotope, downloading, installing and activating. I really enjoy having the ability to tweak every parameter to get the exact sound you are looking for because there are so many possibilities.
If you’re looking for that signature lo-fi sound, this plug-in will become a staple in your collection.
As I mentioned, iZotope has a few freebies worth checking out and Vocal Doubler is another one of those. Instead of using the traditional method or using a chorus, you can use this plug-in as it is specialized in giving you great doubling results.
I personally found that using a chorus plug-in to achieve a doubling effect didn’t give me the results I was looking for, but this plug-in does! The intuitive UI makes simplifies the manipulation of parameters and makes this a truly unique plug-in.
Like Vinyl, you will need to create an account with iZotope to download, install and activate your product free of charge. You can even use this plug-in on your instrument tracks to get some pretty interesting results.
Save yourself some money, this plug-in will take care of all your vocal doubling needs.
Cableguys is also a pretty well-reputed plug-in manufacturer, but they have provided us with an incredibly useful freebie that I simply cannot live without. Most DAWs have the ability to adjust the pan of each track, perhaps even automate it, but this plug-in’s ability will impress you.
Instead of messing around in the automation lane, you can load up an instance of Pancake 2 and create some spectacular panning effects. The plug-in comes equipped with presets to demonstrate what it is capable of, results you would never achieve with automation.
You can even use this plug-in to simulate the effect of a rotating Leslie speaker and a ton of other psychedelic effects. Creating an account with Cableguys is not even necessary since they simply provide you with the download link.
Experiment with this one, it will truly give you an edge over producers who are not taking advantage of this plug-in.
I really appreciate minimalist plug-ins, the kind of plug-in that creates wonders with a SINGLE parameter. This product is the result of a collaboration between Polyverse and Infected Mushroom to give you a fantastic Stereo Widener.
Use this plug-in on your master track to create more room in your final mix, you’ll hear what you were missing out on. Some DAWs do come equipped with such a device, but I can’t get over the simplicity of this one.
You can also insert this plug-in an individual track to make it stand out, but be careful not to overdo it. Create an account with Polyverse to receive your download link and you will be on your way.
Achieve BIGGER sounding masters with Wider and save yourself the hassle of a complicated stereo imager.
Expand your toolbelt with the best free VST plugins
Investing in plug-ins you really like is great, but you also need to be aware of all the tools that are already at your disposal. When it comes to freebies, not all of them will be of benefit to you so do not become a hoarder.
Carefully selected plug-ins will give you a sense of empowerment as it means you are beginning to use your ears rather than your eyes. A manufacturer will promote all their products, regardless of whether they are actually good or not.
I also wanted to mention that all the plug-ins I listed are available for both Windows and Mac, so no need to verify that. You have nothing to lose by trying something new, but do not accumulate plug-ins you do not need, stay minimal.
Let us know what you think about my top 6 free VST plugins in comments and feel free to share any of your personal favourites.