Have you become tired of the stock delay plugins that come within your DAW? Are you looking for some new plugins but too broke to splash out on some of the extortionately expensive ones? Then you’ve come to the right place!
On this list, you will read about some of the best free delay plugins available today. Each delay has something unique about it that would prove useful for a music producer or songwriter in specific situations.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the list!
Delay by Stagecraft
This delay by Stagecraft boasts a high resolution FFT spectrum display, which is super handy for when you want to see exactly how your instrument track or bus is being affected by the delay in multiple frequencies. This makes a change from the typical hardware-copying VSTs that we are used to seeing these days. Though the GUI is a noteworthy feature of this plugin, there’s also a bunch of other aspects to this delay that make it unique.
This delay is certainly tailored towards EDM music in general, and comes with some tools that compliment the genre really well. The fact that it contains a filter alongside the delay, means that you can create interesting soundscapes with it. Additionally, it’s perfect for creating broad sweeps by doing filter sweeps, which fit nicely because kicking into a more rhythmically intense part of the song.
It comes with all the parameters you would expect from a delay plugin. These include:
- 2 LFOs.
All of these effects can be placed on both sides of the stereo field and panned to change the position of the delays. There’s also a dry and wet meter so blend the amount of unadulterated signal with the sound created by the delay itself.
Additionally, as Stagecraft’s delay was created with live sets in mind, there’s a quantization system that works in real time to create a delay effect that would work within a live environment. This quantization effect could also be used to create nicely panned and polyrhythmic delays.
Due to its distinctive approach to a delay plugin, it’s certainly something recommended to experiment with not only on electronic music, but on music such as post-rock, to add atmospheric guitar sounds, or even on vocals to add a slapback delay sound.
Download: Stagecraft Software
ChowMatrix by Chowdhury DSP
Chowdhury has become a massively respected plugin developer in the realm of free VSTS. They have so many to offer, one that comes to mind is their Tape Model. But the one we’re going to talk about today is the ChowMatrix. The way in which this one works, is rather unique indeed.
There are two audio nodes, one of the left channel and the other for the right channel. From these audio nodes, delay nodes can be attached to these main audio nodes to control which delays play from the left and right speakers.
With each delay node, you can control these parameters:
- Modulation Frequency (called Mod Freq)
- Delay Modulation
- Pan Modulation
This delay plugin is excellent as it can be used to stack huge amounts of delays on top of eachother, creating some insane delays. There’s also a slider called ‘Insanity’ that can add some crazy modulations to your delay. It almost gives it this chorus effect that is constantly changing depth as it goes along due to it randomizing the length of the delay itself. The higher the insanity, the more random the chorus effect.
There’s also a randomization function that allows you to randomize the parameters of each delay, producing some very chaotic sounds indeed. What’s more is that the dry and wet mix can be controlled so that the clarity of the original sound captured isn’t totall lost.
Or, if you roll that way, you could use it to create an entirely wet signal and use it as a separate track. That way, you can have more control over your delay sound.
Not to mention, as with all of Chowdhury’s plugins, it`s fully open source. So users can mod and change it around a bit to their heart’s content.
Download: Chowdhury DSP
Hysteresis by Glitchmachines
Another wonderfully quirky plugin on the list is Hysteresis by Gltichmanines. As hinted at by the developing company name, Hysteresis aims to capture the sound malfunctions from musical hiccups and malfunctional noises created by robots. This one is perfect for people making electronic music or for designing sound in general. Here are some of its features:
- Low pass filter.
- Over 100 factory presets available to start from.
- Stutter effect.
- Modulation effects.
- Stutter effect.
The way this plugin works is that first it goes through the delay line of each stereo channel. However,rather than sending it through to the output directly into the delay, it goes through a stutter first, followed by a low pass filter. Finally, it is sent to another delay line on the opposing channel which has modulation, helping to create a chorus effect. The output for the second delay is then sent back to the original delay.
The stutter effect could be used to create granulation, reverse delay and pitch-shifting sounds. The low pass setting also has an LFO built-in, so it could be really useful for making cutoff frequencies oscillate. The modulation could be used either as a subtle chorus or even as a noisy modulator.
This plugin works fantastically on drums, to create an industrial rock-type sound. But it also works superbly on vocals, guitars, sound effects and synths. It really is an awesome plugin for experimenting with and taking your dry tracks to a whole other level.
Lagrange by UrsaDSP
Lagrange is a delay that uses granular methods, but not granular in the traditional sense. This delay doesn’t just loop a set group within the buffer of the delay, it actually works more like a granular sampling engine (picking small bits of audio and playing them back in compliance to some kind of control scheme. The plugin was entered into the KVR Developer Challenge for one year and many believed it should have won.
Though the amount of knobs can seem intimidating, UrsaDSP provides you with the information as to what each dial controls at the bottom of the GUI (as you hover on top of each one). But here’s a run down on what they do:
- The Grain knob affects how fast the delay grain changes. If the setting is left on low, the grain will swap slowly, leaving a mainly consistent length in delay. If it's turned up, the grain will constantly swap, switching between different delay lengths.
- ‘Density’ is responsible for the overlap of density grains. For example, if it's set to 1.0, then the grain has mostly faded in before the next starts to fade out. Lower than 1 will have gaps and is where.
- The Fix Delay (ms) knob controls the delay of each grain in milliseconds. Low values, coupled with a low variable delay, can add chorus-like effects. On the contrary, a low variable delay combined with a higher fixed delay will produce reverby tail effects.
- Variable Delay adds another random amount of Delay
Apart from this, there’s a whole lot of knobs to control the way that the feedback interacts with the signal, including the ability to control the gain, cross talk, low and high cuts, peak and RMS limits. The peak limit is especially useful, as it allows you to use intense feedback settings without causing clipping that would otherwise ruin the sound of your track or mix.
If you’re thinking of getting into using a delay plugin that’s very different from the rest, be sure to give this one a go. There's so much experimentation to be had with it.
TAL-Dub-III by TAL
TAL’s TAL-Dub-III doesn’t aim to capture tape-style delay and aims more in creating its own sound instead. It’s part of a group of three plugins (the others being TAL-Dub-II and Tal-Dub-I0 are all capable of doing different things and are designed for those purposes. It has a no nonsense UI, which means that if you're familiar with delay hardware, this would be a great fit for you.
Let’s take a look at some of its features below:
- An LED meter that shows the level of saturation.
- Delay times can be synced to the song (in values such as 2/1, 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16)
- A non-linear low pass filter of 6dB
- Two delays for each channel.
- The values in dB are shown by pop-ups.
- A feedback knob fully capable of creating endless delays.
- All parameters are able to be affected by automation.
- An alias free saturation, easily adjustable by the knob called ‘Input Drive)
Apart from the features mentioned above, there’s also a wet and dry setting. This is perfect for making your delay sound really subtle (with the original signal being the focus) or completely get rid of the original signal all together, so that all you can hear is thedelayed signal, This would sound excellent in the bus the level could be controlled even more, whilst adding effects especially to the delayed sounds and leaving the orignal audio signal intact.
This delay would sound excellent as a slap-back delay for vocals, on guitar during guitar solos (to help it be the focus of that section) or even on drums to add subtle ringing to the snare or to create outright chaotic noises.
Download: TAL Software
FreqEcho by Valhalla
Valhalla is a company well known for their outstanding free plugins. FreqEcho isn’t an exception. It truly is a superb plugin, so much so that you’d wonder how it was totally free to use. First we'll look at the different knobs that can be used, and then we’ll talk about how to use the plugin in more detail.
So, here are the features that come with the plugin:
- A shift button to alter the pitch of the delay.
- The mix knob controls how loud the delays will be.
- ‘Feedback’ controls how long the delay effect will go on for.
- The delay knob allows you to control how quickly or slowly the delay occurs.
- Low cut and High cut to change the EQ qualities of the reverb sound (using the high cut will produce a sound reminiscent of analog guitar pedals).
The fact that you can choose to sync the delay or have it free (aka, not to a time). So, you have total control over the delay time in this regard. One other nifty feature is the ability to have the delay in stereo or mono. So you could whack the delay on a drum bus with the stereo mode activated, allowing all elements of the kit to have delay in the correct place. On the other hand, you could choose mono if you want to replicate the delay on a guitar pedal for a more realistic guitar amp sound.
There really are some great uses for this plugin all thanks to its versatility. It could be used to create chorus style sounds, as the pitch shifter combined with a quick delay response time would be able to achieve this. A quicker delay setting could also help double vocals or guitars to make them sound extra fat.
It also has so much potential for creating long reverbs, partly because of it’s feedback plugin that can go on for, seemingly, forever. Couple that with a slow reacting delay and you could end up with a really dream sound.
Download: Valhalla DSP
Super Massive by Valhalla
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Valhall’s newer plugin, Super Massive. It was released in 2020, during the pandemic. It has a beautifully simple and intuitive UI. But don’t let the simplicity of the layout fool you. This beast is capable of creating completely and utterly heavenly sounds.
It comes with the effects seen in Freq EQ by the same company, only with quite a few more effects. Whereas the Freq EQ comes with 7 knobs, the Supermassive comes with 10. Here are the knobs that are new to Supermassive:
- A width knob for controlling how wide the delay is within the stereo field.
- A density knob that controls how dense the feedback knob above it is.
- There’s a modulation section that gives you the ability to control the modulation level and the depth of the modulation itself.
Something that really sets this one apart from the other is the fact that it can be used as both a delay and a reverb. This is because of the 12 modes that can be selected, all of which have different attack times. The slower ones produce an effect more similar to a traditional delay, whereas the slow release ones have a much more reverby sound.
All in all, this plugin is fantastic and can be used on anything you can imagine. Try using it on a simple one-shot sample and witness it transform into something totally unique. Use it on vocals to fill out the mix or add some clarity with shorter delay times. This plugin is so versatile that finding a use for it is guaranteed.
Download: Valhalla DSP
So there it is, seven free delay plugins that’ll take your dry sounding track and give it so much character. With all the subtle differences that each plugin has to offer, you can be rest assured that each of them will come in handy when you’re having trouble with something in your mix.
Top Free Delay VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
The above are a nice change from stock delay plugins. It’s not to say they’re all perfect, but as you know, different producers like different tools. I hope you found one which is perfect for you.