41 Best Free VST Plugins EVER 2021 – ESSENTIAL Instruments & Effects

41 Best Free VST Plugins EVER 2021 – ESSENTIAL Instruments & Effects

Last Updated on May 3, 2021

Every sound engineer, music producer, composer, and beatmaker needs access to powerful tools to be able to enhance and bring their music to life.

These days, recording is mostly done “in the box,” with VST plugins. And in recent times, even the free ones are starting to sound better and are quite versatile besides.

There are different categories of VST plugins you’re going to need to build out your library to handle the many things you want to be able to do. So, whether you need to build from scratch, supplement, or augment your toolkit, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we look at the best free VST plugins of all time – essential instruments and effects.

Contents

Best Free VST Effects For Mixing

Effects like EQ, reverb, delay, chorus, compression, de-essers, distortion, and others are essential for individual tracks, as well as your overall mix.

Without these, you’re going to be quite limited in what you can do to your tracks (volume and pan, maybe?), and unless you’re 100% happy with what you’ve captured, you’re going to be severely limited in achieving a different result.

In this section, we’re going to be looking at several plugins in the categories already mentioned. In addition to mixing and mastering, these can come in quite handy for shaping the tone and sound of individual tracks.

Blue Cat’s Triple EQ By Blue Cat Audio

Blue Cat’s Triple EQ By Blue Cat Audio

EQ is a must-have when it comes to mixing and mastering alike, and Blue Cat’s Triple EQ is considered one of the best free options available.

This is a three-band semi-parametric equalizer. It can be controlled with a single filter, with a customizable shape.

Features also include dual mode (independent left and right or mid and side channels control), multiple channels linking modes, +-40 dB range per band, automatic gain compensation, no latency, real-time display of frequency response, and on-graph filter shape control.

Overall, Blue Cat’s Triple EQ is quite simple, and unlike some EQ VSTs, the effect is quite noticeable, letting you mold sounds to your heart’s content.

Download: Blue Cat Audio

OrilRiver By Denis Tihanov

OrilRiver By Denis Tihanov

Reverb is essential to most mixes, and unless you’re happy with your DAW’s built-in reverb (which in some cases can be quite good), you’ll probably want to supplement your plugin library.

The OrilRiver reverb comes highly recommended by certain users. This is an algorithmic stereo reverb with 12 variations of early reflections, five variations of reverb tail, and three-band equalizer for wet signal.

Which means this – you can even shape the tone of your tracks with this plugin.

With OrilRiver, you can add a natural sounding high-quality reverb to your tracks. I don’t think any producer should be embarrassed adding this plugin to their toolkit.

OrilRiver is compatible with Windows and Mac.

Download: KVR Audio Software

OldSkoolVerb By Voxengo

OldSkoolVerb By Voxengo

The moment I heard OldSkoolVerb I fell in love with it. I’d tried a few reverb VSTs to that point, but most of them were quite basic or mediocre sounding.

OldSkoolVerb comes with a lot of great presets (bright studio, warm hall, drum room, etc.) that help you get up and running fast. Most of the time, I just start with a preset I like and tweak a little until I’m happy with the sound.

In most cases, you will probably want to turn down the out gain on the reverb, though, because the presets can be quite intense. A lot of reverb can be nice, but sometimes too much is too much!

There are several reverbs on this list, and they’re all worth trying, but you probably won’t find me without this one.

Download: Voxengo

Stereo Touch By Voxengo

Stereo Touch By Voxengo

I didn’t even know about stereo-widening/vocal doubling effects until my producer told me about them a couple of years ago.

I was already sold on Voxengo’s OldSkoolVerb, so when I found out they had Stereo Touch, I was quick to download it and test it out. Unsurprisingly, I was quite impressed with the results. It’s capable of making your vocals stand out in a mix without boosting their volume.

Again, there are several presets built in (vocal space, surround, stage, etc.), and they offer a great starting point for the sounds you’re looking to create.

And while the tendency will be to add this effect to vocals, it can work quite nicely on guitar too!

Download: Voxengo

Valhalla Super Massive By Valhalla DSP

Valhalla Super Massive By Valhalla DSP

Valhalla Super Massive is kind of like a hybrid delay and reverb plugin. Which means you can get quite a bit of utility out of it.

Its user interface and design? Beyond simple. But sometimes that’s all you need. It comes with controls for mix, width, delay, warp, feedback, density, mod rate and depth, and EQ high and low. It comes with a lot of presets, so if you aren’t sure where to start, you’ll appreciate that feature.

Super Massive offers a great sounding delay and reverb, and as a creative tool for harmonic echoes, space sounds, and huge reverbs, it shines. A good VST to keep your inspiration alive.

Valhalla Super Massive is compatible with Windows and Mac.

Download: Valhalla DSP

DC1A By Klanghelm

DC1A By Klanghelm

Klanghelm’s DC1A is a simple two-control compressor. It’s got controls for input, output, deep, relaxed, dual mono, and negative. It also features a tasty, professional design.

While it looks quite straightforward, its versatility might just surprise you. It works on vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums, or keyboards – just about anything!

This compressor is quite possibly one of the most effective free ones I’ve seen. It makes it incredibly easy for you to alter the dynamics of your track without coloring it. You don’t even need presets to operate this baby – just work the input and output dials until you’re happy with the results, and experiment with the additional controls for full effect.

DC1A is supported on Windows and Mac.

Download: Klanghelm

VladG Molot Compressor By Tokyo Dawn Records

VladG Molot Compressor By Tokyo Dawn Records

While some will appreciate the simplicity of a compressor like the DC1A, others will want more control over the dynamics and sound of their tracks.

Tokyo Dawn Records’ VladG Molot compressor gives you superior control of your tone. That said, if you’re new to compressors, you might want to skip this one, because it’s hard to tune your tracks to perfection with this baby.

The graphical user interface? I admit it’s a little intimidating even to me. Still, it is beautifully designed, in a vintage kind of way. You’ve got controls for filter, attack, release, ratio, threshold, knee, makeup, dry mix, limiter, mid scoop, mode, upsampling, on/off, alpha/sigma, and input/GR.

The VladG Molot, unlike certain compressors, will color the tone of your instruments. You will need to experiment yourself to get a better sense of what that means. The point is – if you’re looking for a compressor that’s more transparent, this isn’t it.

VladG Molot is available for Windows and Mac through Tokyo Dawn Records.

Download: Tokyo Dawn Records

Blue Cat’s Chorus By Blue Cat Audio

Blue Cat’s Chorus By Blue Cat Audio

Chorus can add some shine and sparkle to your tracks. In effect, it adds voices (as if a choir) to the track, regardless of what it is.

Blue Cat’s Chorus is a vintage style single voice chorus effect that allows for a wide range of sounds, from light ensemble, all the way to a deep, destructive modulation effect.

Its main features include stereo spread control, sine or triangle LFO shapes, and in or out of phase mix control. Included are multiple presets to help you get started.

Just as advertised, I find it to be a highly usable vintage style effect that can work on just about any instrument you want to add some energy to.

Blue Cat’s Chorus is compatible with Mac and Windows.

Download: Blue Cat Audio

SPITFISH By Sascha Eversmeier

SPITFISH By Sascha Eversmeier

We’ve covered a range of free de-esser effects on MIDINation before. SPITFISH is just one among half a dozen or so you may find especially effective.

A de-esser can help remove harsh vocal sounds, also known as sibilants – “s,” “z,” “sh,” “teh,” ch,” and so forth. It’s a must-have, especially if you’re working with a variety of vocalists and clients.

In addition to removing unwanted noise and hiss, de-essers are also often used on mixes, to round off the corners and remove the harsher, high frequency sounds that can result from boosting those frequencies (it’s common practice to add some sparkle to vocal tracks).

The beautifully designed SPITFISH is simple, effective, and easy to use. It offers controls for sense, tune, depth, listen, bypass, stereo, and soft.

Be sure to add a de-esser to your toolkit. Most professionals find they use de-essers on 60 to 80% of the tracks they produce.

Download: Sascha Eversmeier

Best Free Synthesizer VST Plugins

If you’re planning to make electronic music of any kind, or pop, hip-hop, and in some cases even rock, you need synthesizers.

Synths tend to be quite versatile, and with them you can create leads, pads, bass, drums, effects, and more.

So, whether you’re looking to add some atmosphere to your track, or want to play a blistering synth solo, having a few synth VSTs at the ready is best practice.

Break out that MIDI controller, because you’re probably going to be spending a lot of time having fun and experimenting with these.

Surge By Vember Audio

Surge By Vember Audio

There’s not a whole lot we can say about the free, open source, award-winning hybrid synthesizer known as Surge that we haven’t already said.

That’s because we’ve covered it in other guides, including the one on the best free synth VST plugins.

Surge is known for its quality sounds, its versatility, its customizability, and more. It even comes with over 2,000 patches. Unreal.

If you want to get a better feel for it yourself, have a listen to samples on their website, or watch the video below. Fair warning – you’ll be watching and listening for a quite a while before you even start to get a sense of all this plugin is capable of!

Honestly, if you like synths, you’d be crazy not to download it and give it a whirl. You can download it for Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Download: GitHub

Pendulate By Newfangled Audio

Pendulate By Newfangled Audio

Pendulate is great because, quite honestly, it’s a little different from a lot of synths out there.

This free synth comes with a novel “chaotic oscillator” based on the double pendulum. That gives you access to a lot of unique sounds you may have never heard before (let’s face it – a lot of synths are emulating the same thing, so this is refreshing).

With Pendulate, you also get wavefolder based on the Buchla 259 Complex Waveform Generator with mix and cutoff, low pass gate with poles and resonance, 169 simultaneous modulation routings, MPE support, envelope and LFO, up to 221 modulation points, animations for the double pendulum, wavefolder, and low pass gate, three unique color schemes, 136 presets (including artist presets), and more.

Classic synths are great, and they are often emulated for a reason. But if you’re looking for something new or different, you should give Pendulate a try.

You can get Pendulate for Mac or Windows in exchange for your email address on the Eventide Audio website.

Download: Eventide Audio

Helm By Matt Tytel

Helm By Matt Tytel

Again, as with Surge, there’s not a whole lot we can say about Helm that we haven’t already said at one point or another.

Helm is highly versatile and amazingly designed, with plenty of awesome, high-quality sounds reminiscent of video games in the 90s.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of video game music, which of course means Helm is right down my alley. This isn’t to say there aren’t synths that specialize in video game sounds, but with Helm you kind of get all that and more.

Helm works on GNU/Linux, Mac and Windows.

Download: Matt Tytel

TyrellN6 By u-he

TyrellN6 By u-he

u-he’s TyrellN6 was originally going to be a hardware analog synth. For a variety of reasons, it got turned into a VST instead.

Clearly, a lot of love and care went into its “sporty,” quality design, with all the knobs and faders you’ve come to love as a synth aficionado. If not, don’t be intimidated, because TyrellN6 comes with over 580 factory presets(!). That should be more than enough to get you started. Besides, there are plenty of tutorials online.

This VST is capable of just about anything, with plenty of classic and modern sounds.

TyrellN6 is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Download: u-he

Odin 2 By TheWaveWarden

Odin 2 By TheWaveWarden

If you love tweaking, then I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t enjoy Odin 2. You can draw a multitude of sounds out of this baby, and it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux besides.

But if you can’t see yourself spending all your time tweaking, that’s okay. Odin 2 comes with a diverse preset library too.

This 24-voice polyphonic synth comes with endless modulation capabilities and is quite possibly one of the best free plugins to come out in recent years.

Download: TheWaveWarden

LABS – Synth Pads By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Synth Pads By Spitfire Audio

I’ve been getting into Spitfire Audio’s LABS series plugins as of late, as they are all quite high quality.

LABS – Synth Pads is one of the first I tried, because I happened to have a song in which I wanted to use a great sounding synth pad. And that’s exactly what I got with this VST.

It sounded a little sparse and quiet to my ears, though, so I combined it with another synth, and that felt good to me.

LABS – Synth Pads is a one trick pony, and a big download besides, but there’s no denying how great it sounds.

Download: Spitfire Audio

Best Free VST Plugins For Guitar

Although guitar isn’t utilized in every genre of music these days, it’s still a popular instrument, and let’s face it – you would be hard pressed to find a genre where guitar doesn’t work.

Whether you play a bit of guitar yourself, or plan to have paying clients in to record at your home studio, you should be prepared for a variety of eventualities (even if you already have great guitar amps and microphones at your studio).

Here is some must-have free VST plugins for guitar.

Emissary By IGNITE AMPS

Emissary By IGNITE AMPS

Emissary is near legendary in its status as a metal amp sim. And, as you would expect, it’s perfect for metal and other heavier genres.

I would not call it a versatile amp by any means, but what it does, it does with authority. And its user interface? Unreal, right? It looks just like a real guitar amp head, so even guitarists should feel at home with this plugin.

Glenn Fricker of Spectre Sound Studios even called the Emissary one of the best free amp sims for metal, and we don’t have any reason to disagree.

Just remember to use it alongside Impulse Responses (IRs) as Emissary and other amp sims mentioned here can sound kind of gnarly all on their own. We won’t be covering what IRs are or how they work in any detail here, but they are kind of essential for use with amp sims.

For some seriously heavy tones, give Emissary a try.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

Libra By IGNITE AMPS

Libra By IGNITE AMPS

I’ve talked briefly about IRs already. Well, to use IRs, you generally need an IR loader of some kind. The thing about Libra is that it’s basically like the Porsche of IR loaders.

It allows you to load up to eight cab types at a time and mix them together!

Once you’re up and running with Libra, you should never have to worry about thin sounding guitars in your mix ever again!

Download: IGNITE AMPS

NadIR By IGNITE AMPS

NadIR By IGNITE AMPS

NadIR is another IR convolver that can be used as cab sim for both guitar and bass. Meaning – it’s essential.

Now, you could get Libra, you could get NadIR, you could get both. You’re not going to hurt our feelings. But you should have at least one.

NadIR is basically the simpler version of Libra, with two channels. You can load up to two IRs, use them simultaneously, and mix them how you want them to sound.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

ProF.E.T. By IGNITE AMPS

ProF.E.T. By IGNITE AMPS

When it comes to guitar VSTs, there are a few different kinds – standalone effects and amp sims, IR loaders, effects suites, and virtual instruments.

ProF.E.T. falls under the category of standalone effect. But you can tell, from its appearance, that it’s basically a guitar pedal.

It is, in fact, a digital emulation of a high gain distortion stomp box. But it just so happens that it can be used as a preamp/amp sim as well.

And just as its appearance suggests, this thing sounds mean. But it’s also got a nice balance of warmth and clarity.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

TSB-1 Tyrant Screamer By IGNITE AMPS

TSB-1 Tyrant Screamer By IGNITE AMPS

The TSB-1 Tyrant Screamer is like a more powerful Tube Screamer, and as any guitarist who’s used stomp boxes will know, this is a pedal that’s perfect for adding a bit of dirt to a clean tone (making it crunch), or for tightening up a high gain lead tone.

You wouldn’t necessarily want to use the TSB-1 as a preamp, but it can work perfectly alongside an amp sim or even the ProF.E.T.

If you don’t already have a tube screamer pedal, this is a must-have for every guitarist.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

TSE 808 By TSE Audio

TSE 808 By TSE Audio

Speaking of Tube Screamer sims, we can’t ignore TSE Audio’s TSE 808, which more closely emulates the original.

Now, if you’ve got the Tyrant Screamer, you wouldn’t necessarily need this one too, but it can’t hurt to have alternatives (IGNITE AMPS, by the way, has another free standalone effect plugin that works a lot like the Tube Screamer – it’s called the TS-999 SubScreamer).

As the video below will illustrate, the TSE 808 is perfect for tightening up all your favorite tones, especially high gain metal sounds.

Plus, you just can’t argue with free.

Download: TSE Audio

TSE R47 By TSE Audio

TSE R47 By TSE Audio

Here’s another standalone effect that I’m quite impressed with. It’s the TSE R47, and it’s emulating the famous RAT Distortion that so many guitarists swear by. It’s a go-to, just as the Tube Screamer is, but for different reasons.

Listening to the demo in the video should give you a good idea. It can turn a clean or half-distorted tone into high gain mayhem in a hurry.

That said, I find the TSE R47 usable for a variety of situations – blues, rock, metal, and more. It’s just a matter of messing around with the three knobs – drive, filter, and volume – to taste.

I’m relatively certain the TSE R47 would work as a preamp too, assuming you use some quality IRs.

Again, for free? This is ridiculous.

Download: TSE Audio

AmpliTube 5 Custom Shop By IK Multimedia

AmpliTube 5 Custom Shop By IK Multimedia

Before moving onto another category of free VSTs, we’re going to look at a couple of free guitar effects suites.

Typically, these are the “gimped” free versions that give you a taste of what the full effects suite is like to make you want to upgrade to the full version.

That said, these days, you get quite a bit even with the free effects suites.

I’m quite impressed with AmpliTube 5 Custom Shop, which gives you access to 39 models including 10 stomp box FX and five amps with matching cabs. That’s quite a bit of power you’re getting for free.

Mixing and matching amp sims, IRs, and standalone effects can be fun, but with an effects suite, you get everything in one place.

There are a lot of quality tones built right into this bundle. You’ve got to try it for yourself.

Download: IK Multimedia

Guitar Rig 6 Player By Native Instruments

Guitar Rig 6 Player By Native Instruments

Guitar Rig 6 Player is another quality guitar effects suite with 21 amps, 13 effects, 50 presets, along with Native Instruments’ KOMPLETE START bundle with 2,000 sounds and 6 GB of content.

Whether it’s clean, crunch, distortion, or solo, Guitar Rig 6 Player has got it all, and it all sounds great besides.

If you’ve got a good selection of great amps in your studio, you probably don’t need this. That said, if you’re doing a lot of “in the box” recording (especially at home where you can’t crank up your amps to 10 without bothering your neighbors), this is a great VST to have at your disposal.

Download: Native Instruments

Best Free VST Plugins For Bass

Bass is one of those instruments that can sound quite good direct or through a tube preamp.

That said, it’s hard to capture its full punch and warmth without amp sims or a pedal of some kind (unless you mic up a bass amp instead). It just feels like it’s missing something when you don’t.

In this section, we’ll look at a couple of VSTs you can use to enhance the sound of your bass, even if it’s already recorded.

SHB-1 By IGNITE AMPS

SHB-1 By IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS’ SHB-1 is based on its hardware counterpart, the SHB-1 “Extreme Bass Head.”

Its features include dynamic 12AX7/ECC83 coupled triode stages analog modeling, mono/stereo support, selectable oversampling rate (up to 8x), global input/output level controls, double precision (64-bit) floating point mathematical model, and fully automatable controls.

Its controls are quite straightforward – gain, bass, mid, treble, balance, volume, as well as switches for deep, bright, and shape.

With the SHB-1, you can get all those gnarly, raunchy bass tones you’ve heard on metal recordings.

Download: IGNITE AMPS

TSE BOD By TSE Audio

TSE BOD By TSE Audio

TSE BOD is a SansAmp style DI in VST form, with controls for level, drive, low, high, blend, and presence.

This is an excellent choice for most applications, as it gives you more control over your bass’ tone. And you can dial in a variety of sounds suited to different styles of music.

Better still, you can add a bit of crunch to your bass if you so desire, by taking advantage of the drive control.

This thing sounds quite authentic to the real thing, if a little “warmer” overall.

Download: TSE Audio

Best Free Drum VST Plugins

Want realistic sounding drums? We all do.

The only problem is that there aren’t many free VSTs that give us that. Most of the time, you must pay for better drums.

Fortunately, there are a couple of high-quality free drum plugins that can get you what you’re looking for. Give these a try.

LABS – Drums By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Drums By Spitfire Audio

Spitfire Audio has been making some serious waves with their free LABS series VST plugins, and wow – LABS – Drums couldn’t sound more authentic to my ears.

While it is a big download, it’s worth the trouble given the realistic sound it can provide you with.

All LABS series plugins basically have the same user interface and are quite easy to use, so there’s no reason not to give this one a try.

Download: Spitfire Audio

MT Power Drum Kit 2 By Manda Audio

MT Power Drum Kit 2 By Manda Audio

Manda Audio’s MT Power Drum Kit 2 is basically everyone’s go-to when trying to get realistic drum sounds, because for a long time, it was about the only option available.

This plugin is easy to use, it’s got a nice graphical user interface, and you can even mix the levels of individual drums and cymbals.

You can trigger the sounds using a MIDI controller, of course, but it’s probably far more practical to draw in your parts by creating a MIDI track and using your DAW’s piano roll.

With a little mixing wizardry (you don’t need to know a lot), you can make these drums sound spectacular, and if you want the parts you create to sound less robotic and more human, you can program little imperfections into the playing too.

Your options are a little limited for realistic sounding free drum VSTs, so you might as well snag this one.

Download: Manda Audio

Best Free VST Plugins For Vocals

We’ve already covered several plugins that could be applied to vocals, especially in the mixing section.

That said, it never hurts to have more tools at your fingertips. Even the best vocalists usually have three to five effects on their voices (if not more), as that’s how they sound best in a mix.

Here you’ll find vocal doublers, pitch shifters, and other plugins that can help you enhance the sound of vocals.

Multiply By Acon Digital

Multiply By Acon Digital

Chorus is often an excellent effect for vocals. It can smooth the edges, and even hide some of the “roughness” and imperfections of takes. Depending on how you dial it in, it can even make your vocals stand out in the mix, in a positive way.

Acon Digital’s Multiply is an award-winning free VST, and excellent choice for a variety of applications.

Multiply is kind of unique in that each simulated voice is processed with a phase randomizing filter to avoid unpleasant sounding comb filter effects.

Multiply can make one voice sound like many (like a choir), widen the spatial image, or create other types of effects depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your mix.

It can simulate up to six added voices and you can even modulate the pitch and loudness of these voices.

The integrated equalizer gives you access to low cut, low shelf, high shelf, and high cut filters to shape the effect signal. The pre-delay section allows you to create modulated and diffuse echo effects too.

Basically, it’s one of the more versatile choruses available, and it sounds great besides. This VST works well on vocals and instruments alike.

Multiply is compatible with Windows and Mac.

Download: Acon Digital

Graillon 2 By Auburn Sounds

Graillon 2 By Auburn Sounds

Well, you can’t talk about vocal VSTs without getting into pitch shifting and autotune.

Auburn Sounds’ Graillon 2 does all that and a little more, and as you can see, its design is breathtaking, especially given that you can get it for free.

Though it should be noted that the plugin is “freemium,” and to get access to all the features, you will need to upgrade for $29. You can still do quite a bit with the free version.

Auburn Sounds describes this VST as a Vocal Live Changer. Its functionality includes pitch-tracking modulation, pitch shifting, and pitch correction, while also offering bitcrusher for unique “degraded” sounds.

The pitch correction function can go from natural sounding to robotic. So, if T-Pain is your hero, well, you can achieve a similar effect here.

Bitcrusher is great for some flavor. Not necessarily something to use on the entire track, but in sections, it can be quite useful. It can work on instruments too.

So, with all this functionality, it’s hard not to recommend Graillon 2. More than just an autotune, it can do just about anything you want to do with pitch.

Graillon 2 is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Download: Auburn Sounds

Proximity By Tokyo Dawn Records

Proximity By Tokyo Dawn Records

As with several developer names that have come up to this point (like Voxengo, Spitfire Audio, IGNITE AMPS, etc.), Tokyo Dawn Records offers a lot of great VSTs for free. So, it’s a good place to go if there’s something you need. Just thought I would mention that.

Anyway, Tokyo Dawn Records collaborated with Vladg Sound to create the award-winning Proximity, which is a simple distance “pan-pot” VST. This plugin gives you the ability to manipulate the depth of sound sources.

It comes equipped to handle several models, including distance signal delay by speed of sound, distance gain loss, absorption of high frequencies in air, stereo width manipulation, proximity effect with virtual microphone, and distance based early reflections.

These models can be turned on and off depending on the desired effect.

All that sounds well and good, but if I were to simplify what we’re talking about here, Proximity basically gives you the ability to bring your vocal tracks into the foreground or push them further into the background (which can be useful for backing vocals).

Proximity can be used on instrument tracks as well, helping you enhance your mix. Such a versatile tool should not be left out of your toolkit, so grab it now!

Download: Tokyo Dawn Records

Vocal Doubler By iZotope

Vocal Doubler By iZotope

We’ve already presented several stereo widening options, be it Stereo Touch or chorusing effects. But it certainly can’t hurt to have more options at the ready, especially when the developer is iZotope.

Vocal Doubler can enhance your vocals with a natural doubling effect perfect for lead vocals. This plugin is easy to use, and is light on CPU resources too.

As the user interface would suggest, there isn’t much to this plugin. It truly is easy to use. What’s cool is that you can have the doubled vocals slightly delayed and even varied in pitch by playing with the separation and variation controls.

This is an excellent plugin for enhancing the sound of your vocals.

Vocal Doubler works in Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Cubase, Nuendo, FL Studio, Studio One, Reason, Reaper, Audition, Premiere Pro, and Digital Performer.

Download: iZotope

Best Free Virtual Instrument VST Plugins

We’re not going to beat around the bush here – the plugins that follow are all the creations of Spitfire Audio. But there is a reason for that. Their free VSTs far and exceed just about anything else that’s out there in terms of virtual instruments.

Sure, their plugins are kind of one trick ponies, but what they do, they do better than just about any other free VST available. If you’re looking for versatility, look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for quality, you’ve come to the right place.

Fair warning – you will need to create a free account, download the Spitfire Audio app, and install the VSTs individually to use them. Each VST is about 1 GB in size, so make sure you’ve got adequate hard drive storage available.

LABS – Soft Piano By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Soft Piano By Spitfire Audio

There probably isn’t much I need to say about Spitfire Audio plugins at this point.

Basically, it’s has amazing sound + one trick pony + huge free download = LABS.

That said, this VST is best for instances where you specifically need a softer sounding piano. If you need aggressive piano, you should certainly look elsewhere. This VST is perfect for atmosphere, and quieter, softer melodies, making it excellent for composing work.

Also have a listen to it in the video below.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Electric Piano By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Electric Piano By Spitfire Audio

How good can an electric piano VST sound? For all those who dare ask, there’s LABS – Electric Piano.

Obviously, this VST doesn’t do it all, but what it does is quite extraordinary, especially for a virtual instrument.

If you’re looking for the best free electric piano VST, look no further. This is it. The entire range, from the bass to the treble, sounds great.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Wurli By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Wurli By Spitfire Audio

Okay, an electric piano, sure. But not a Wurli, right? Wrong.

You can basically suspend all disbelief and skepticism with Spitfire Audio because everything they’ve created with LABS is great.

The Wurli is excellent for rock and jazz alike – anywhere you need its classic, groovy sound.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Strings By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Strings By Spitfire Audio

Strings are essential for composers, and incredibly useful for a variety of other purposes – hip-hop, rock, jazz, or otherwise. They can add a lot of mood and atmosphere to your music.

This VST isn’t velocity sensitive, so it will not respond to dynamics in your playing. It offers a relatively dry, gritty, direct sound of strings, which makes it excellent for layering.

That said, you can add some reverb and other effects to soften the sound of the strings if you so desire.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Choir By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Choir By Spitfire Audio

Another sound a lot of composers (and others) might be looking for is that of a choir. There’s nothing quite like recording a live choir, if you can, but that could easily blow your recording budget in one go.

LABS – Choir is bar none the best free choir VST available. And although you might not be able to control what the singers are singing, if you’re looking for some “ooh” and “aah” sounds, LABS – Choir will do the trick.

The sample quality of LABS – Choir is great, but it doesn’t work all that well for stabs and shots and stuff like that. It’s basically a “long build” the moment the sounds are triggered. Good for some things, not for others.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Dulcimer By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Dulcimer By Spitfire Audio

I suppose you could say we’re getting into a little more obscure territory, but I just couldn’t resist featuring another LABS plugin, especially one that sounds so good.

A dulcimer is kind of a niche, nuanced instrument, but it can work great in a variety of compositions, whether it’s for films or games.

Check out the video below to get a better sense of what I’m talking about. You’ll be impressed.

Download: Spitfire Audio

Best Free VST Plugins For Trap Beats

Trap beats are all the rage right now, and they appear in a lot in pop and hip-hop tracks. Love them or hate them, if you’re going to be working with clients in any capacity, you’ve got to be able to make them.

In this section, you will find virtual drum machines, of course – but you will also find a couple of VSTs that can come in handy for mixing, mastering, and enhance the sound of your beats.

Let’s get into it.

DRUM PRO By Studio Linked

DRUM PRO By Studio Linked

Obviously, you need to be able to make your trap beats, and a lot of beatmakers prefer the sound of old school drum machines to real, authentic sounding drums. Thus, DRUM PRO.

This is a free drum machine VST, and it’s even marketed towards producers who make hip-hop, trap, and EDM. Some producers say DRUM PRO is all you need to produce any kind of beat. So, you know we’re on point.

This VST comes with 20 kits, sampling nine vintage drum machines (like the BOSS DR-55, Roland TR-808, 909, Novation DrumStation, and others).

DRUM PRO’s interface is simple and nicely designed, with ADSR, Vol, and Verb controls, 12 sliders and pan knobs to help you mix your drums exactly how you want them to sound.

If you aren’t happy with all that’s included, Studio Linked has expansion packs you can purchase on their website.

DRUM PRO is available for Windows and Mac.

Download: Studio Linked

Frontier Self-Adaptive Versatile Limiter By D16 Group Audio Software

Frontier Self-Adaptive Versatile Limiter By D16 Group Audio Software

Limiters aren’t just great for trap, they’re also amazing for mixing and mastering. Most music producers will probably want one in their toolkit.

The Frontier Self-Adaptive Versatile Limiter, though, is highly usable in a variety of applications, be it single track, bus, or master out. It comes with configurable control input, optional soft clip, and self-adaptive automatic gain make up.

Its graphical user interface is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen, and includes controls for control input, release, threshold, output volume, and soft clip.

Limiters are incredibly handy any time you need to set the threshold and output of any track, making them useful for bass, vocals, and more.

Download: D16 Group Audio Software

Saturation Knob By Softube

Saturation Knob By Softube

Here’s another powerful multipurpose plugin every producer should consider adding to their VST folder.

Softube’s Saturation Knob features three modes, and three kinds of distortion character (thus saturation).

That said, you’re probably going to find yourself using this baby on everything as a trap producer. It will fatten up the sound of drums and bass and add some harmonics to vocals too (you can do some of these things with the Frontier limiter as well).

Whenever you need to add some grit to a track, there’s always the Saturation Knob.

Download: Softube

Any Other FREE VST Plugins I Should Grab?

There are certain developers we’ve come to trust because of the quality of VST plugins they create. They’ve demonstrated, through longevity, as well as through the applicability of their plugins that most if not all of what they create is worth a look.

Here are the main developers of free VST plugins we think are worth following.

IGNITE AMPS

IGNITE AMPS has among the best free amp sims (for guitar and bass), standalone effects, IR convolvers, and even the TPA-1 (digital emulation of a class AB tube power amplifier for guitar).

If you’re not a hard rock or metal player, you probably won’t be using all their plugins. But you will still find value in the IR convolvers (Libra and NadIR), standalone effects (ProF.E.T., TSB-1 Tyrant Screamer, TS-999 SubScreamer), and the TPA-1.

Honestly, even The Anvil amp sim’s clean and rhythm channels are great for a variety of purposes. The lead channel is mostly tuned for metal though.

IGNITE AMPS also has the PTEq-X plugin, which is a digital emulation of three famous vintage passive program equalizers.

We don’t know what else they’ll come up with, or if they’ll come up with anything, but they’re a good one to watch.

Spitfire Audio

One word – LABS.

Their samples are just… so… good! Sure, they’re a little limited in scope. But you can easily build out your virtual instrument library with a lot of the essentials on LABS alone.

They don’t have everything, but they seem to keep adding more to their collection, so they’re worth bookmarking.

Tokyo Dawn Records

In addition to the two plugins already introduced, Tokyo Dawn Records also has free EQ, wideband dynamic range controller, as well as mixing and mastering EQ plugins that are worth a try.

I’ve used their dynamic equalizer plugin TDR NOVA quite a bit myself. It’s well-designed and easy to use, but I find the effect to be kind of subtle and will sometimes stack multiple NOVAs to achieve desired effect.

I have no idea whether they will continue to add free plugins to their site, but based on the quality of what’s available, they would be worth checking out occasionally.

Voxengo

Voxengo’s free VST plugins have been around for quite a while at this point, so they should not be mistaken for cutting-edge VSTs.

That said, time and again, we’ve been impressed by what’s on offer. In addition to the effects mentioned above, they also have a tube graphic equalizer, guitar amp simulator, mastering graphic equalizer, tube overdrive, and other plugins that could prove quite useful for mixing and mastering.

Top Free VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

These days, you can build out your VST library on free plugins alone.

There are certain drums, specialty synths, autotune effects, orchestral and choral instruments, and others that are worth buying, simply because there’s nothing even comparable available for free. But in a variety of other categories, you can find awesome free VSTs.

Don’t feel like you need to download all the above and add them to your library now. Feel free to add a few at a time and experiment with them before adding more. This can help you get a better feel for all the new VSTs you’re adding to your DAW.

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