Free Plugins from Around the Internet
by Kari Estes
There are lots of amazing plugins available in the world, but it seems that most of these can cost anywhere from $20 per plugin to $200. If you’re like me (a broke college student) you can’t afford all this fancy software and try looking for things on a budget. After doing some research, I’ve found a collection of plugins available for free for people to download. While they surely surely aren't the expensive plugins, this collection has proven to be very useful and worth the download (and hey, who doesn’t love free stuff!)
The following list contains what I have found to be the best free stand-alone plugins available from around the internet.
These plugins work in both Logic and ProTools unless otherwise specified, and work with all operating systems, including Catalina.
Boost that bass! This plugin is great to add a sub-frequency punch without muddying up the mix. If you want that gigantic trap bass, one or two instances of this boost can get you there.
MIA Muscle is a one-knob EQ. This simply boosts your low and mid-low frequencies, around 100-1k, by up to +10db, but even at these higher volumes the bass doesn’t seem to get muddy. This plugin is marketed to make low-level audio tracks louder and more present without compression, but be warned - it does add a grittiness to your sound.
I love that the knob has the “Protein” option. This is the jock equivalent of one-knob EQs.
TDR makes a good free dynamic EQ. This is extremely transparent, and has up to 4-band AND a hi- and lo-pass filter. Not only that, but this plugin gives you the option to A/B audio inside the plugin itself.
This is a more basic version of Neutron 3 EQ by iZotope, and similar to Neutron 3, has many different applications. Whether it be adding crispness to the drums or taking out sibilance in the vocals, this plugin can be used for many different situations. I highly recommend getting this, it will make life so much easier.
If you are ever looking to add a bit of pink noise to your audio, this is the exact plugin you’re looking for. The Noize Retro is the slimmed down version of denise’s plugin Noize 2. While adding noise seems like a goofy thing to install a plugin for, but if you’re looking to make a track seem more “human” or to mix in styles like bedroom pop, this may be a good tool to have. This plug in can either add a block of pink noise or adapt to the audio, causing the added noise to rise and fall as your original track plays. There are also options to add a lo- or hi-pass filter or stereo width to the noise.
Contrary to what the website says, you will have to do some digging to download this plugin. Once you create your account, if you go to “My Library” on their website you should be able to download it (the site says you will receive a download link, which I never did receive. Regardless, it is still possible to get this plugin!)
This is a great compressor to use if you’d like to add some cut to your rhythm tracks. This doesn’t seem like an all-purpose compressor; it seems more designed for rhythmic instruments such as drums or rhythm guitars. Not something you’d want to add to instruments in the front of your mix.
This is an IR based reverb. The free download includes the interface and a selection of free presets. You can pay for more presets, or upload your own IRs for free. While it’s a great reverb, this plugin does add an industrial color to the audio.
My favorite feature is the analyzer and imager. For each different reverb you load, the IR shows in a waveform analyzer and is even manipulated by the parameters. That is, you can visually see how the reverb will effect your audio .It also includes an onboard graphic EQ, as well as a separate decay EQ to control the amount of decay at each frequency band.
It’s also super easy to upload IR’s into this with the “File Browser” on the left, just find the IR, select it, and you’re good to go!
This is an incredible spacey reverb and delay plugin.
I have fun playing around with the non-linear reverb presets that are included with this plugin. Paired with super compression too, you can create neat pad-like textures.
In classic Valhalla fashion, this plugin adds a slight warmth, but is mostly transparent.
This frequency shifter is a fun way to add chorusing or doubling to your audio.. This plugin is best for psychedelic tracks. With lots of different knobs to play with, you can create cool spacey pads with this, anywhere from a slight double to a seemingly endless delay loop.
While similar to the Frequency Echo, this plugin focuses more on the flanging-type of delay.
The Vocal Doubler is a good alternative to doubling with digital delay. There’s a good transparency to this plugin, but you’ll get the classic unnatural double sound. While getting real vocal doubles recorded is preferred, this plugin sure does beat setting up a double using Mod Delay III.
The Ozone imager is a tool to add stereo spread to your mix. This plugin has 3 great uses. The first slider, width, allows you to control the placement of your mix or tracks, with options to narrow instruments to the center or widen tracks to the sides. The second slider plays with stereo - that is, it can turn mono tracks into stereo tracks. This comes with a subtle mode (mode 2) or a colorful phase (mode 1). The last feature comes in the visual this plugin gives you. There are 3 different vectorscope options to visually analyze the stereo spread of your mix. Overall, this plugin is very useful, especially in a mastering chain.
This is a vocoder made by Togu Audio Line. Most good vocoders can run anywhere from $50-$200, and while this can’t compete with vocoders made by companies like iZotope, this is a great free alternative.
This can be confusing to load up at first.. When you insert the plugin on your track, you’ll initially get no sound - you have to make sure to engage the input (this seems like an obvious step, but if you don’t think about this you can get very frustrated very fast). It’s vintage style, so it adds a nice warmth to the vocal. It also has an onboard EQ so you can easily filter the vocals.
This is a free software synth. It’s very versatile, having 2 oscillators and a number of various modules to play with. The presets included with this synth are a great place to start to build analog-style sounds.
The only downfall to this plugin is that it may be a bit tricky to download if you don’t speak German, due to this plugin being a download from a German magazine website.
NON AAX (ProTools) COMPATIBLE PLUGINS:
This is yet another way to get a robotic sound to your audio. Hysteresis applies a “stutter effect”. That is, the signal sent through the initial delay line isn’t recycled back into itself, but instead sent to a stutter processor and lo-pass filter and continues to the delay line on the opposite stereo channel. This allowed you to get some cool sounds, including reverse audio and robotic pitch-shifting.
The biggest drawback of this plugin is that it only works for stereo audio, so you’ll have to process your mono signals without using this neat plugin - but Fracture works perfectly for mono, making the two plugins a great pair to have.
Fracture is another plugin great for electronic music. This plugin is completely reconfigurable, allowing you to change the order and types of waves and filters used.
The randomize button is a fun feature - if you can’t seem to find a sound you like, clicking this can let you stumble across something interesting, something that you may end up falling in love with.
You can also assign all the knobs and faders to MIDI devices!
If you’re looking for the vintage tube mic preamp sound, this is the plugin for you. This plugin comes with a 2-band EQ placed pre or post preamp, and the option to oversample.
This pre can be used to slightly color the audio, giving it a warmer sound, or adding some growly tube distortion to the track.
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