If you want to talk VST plugin essentials, you can’t forget noise gate.
It can be handy in a variety of recording situations, especially noisy ones like bedrooms, basements, and home studios. Gate can go a long way towards eliminating unwanted noise in your mixes. But even if not for that, “trance gate” effects are quite popular in electronic music.
It’s good news, then, that in this guide, we look at the best free noise gate VST plugins you can download, install, and start using immediately.
FLOORFISH by Sascha Eversmeier
We’ve featured Sascha Eversmeier’s plugin pack (also known as “the fish fillets”) on MIDINation before. They’re nicely designed, simple to use, and effective besides. A good set of free VSTs to explore and experiment with.
The fish fillets are made up of the BLOCKFISH compressor, SPITFISH de-esser, and of course, the FLOORFISH expander/gate. Basically, a set of plugins that help you even out and clean up your soundwaves.
FLOORFISH lets you tap into a variety of processing options, from slight expansion and background noise attenuation to extreme gating for specialized effects and sounds that cut in and out. You can even scan the source and adjust the transition curve. That makes this VST a good all-rounder.
It comes with controls for listen, detect freq, bypass, stereo, soft, sense, expansion, attack, and release. Simple enough to figure out even for the beginner music producer.
The graphical user interface is a little early 2000s, to be sure, but it has a pleasing, brushed metallic quality, and it’s easy on the eyes. For free, you could do far worse.
With a bit of tweaking, you can remove a lot of background noise using FLOORFISH. The main thing to remember is to start with a source you’re happy with.
Meaning – if you have a distorted vocal track (because of too much gain), a gate is not going to fix that. But if you’ve captured a performance, you’re happy with and are wondering whether you can save it because of the excess background noise, a gate will come in extremely handy.
Download: Sascha Eversmeier
Renegate by Auburn Sounds
We usually sound like freshly minted fanboys at a Comic Con when talking about Auburn Sounds plugins, but we swear there is a good reason for that. But do forgive, in advance, our gushing.
What I should point out, in advance, is that there are generally two editions to Auburn Sounds VSTs, and Renegate is no exception. The free version is functional, just that some of the feature set is limited (more on this in a moment). The full edition runs for $29.
Now for an overview of Renegate. This is a full-band gate plugin with a smooth, natural sound, and easy operation. Simplicity is achieved through underlying complexity – program-dependent hysteresis, built-in look-ahead, program-dependent auto-release, and 43 bands psychoacoustic auditory model for envelope detection.
That’s what you get in the free version. In the full version, you also get alternative ways to apply gain reduction (one-pole lowpass to highpass), oversampling, built-in sequencer, and raw knob to add in digital grit.
We haven’t had anything bad to say about the user interface or design of Auburn Sounds plugins so far, and we don’t have anything negative to say about Renegate either. It’s smooth, it’s beautiful, and it features a slightly worn look that makes it feel even more realistic.
With Renegate, you can remove unwanted breaths and even create the illusion of a programmed sequence (kind of like a rhythmic gate). Basically, there are plenty of possibilities beyond the obvious.
Renegate is available as a VST, AAX, AU, and LV2 plugin for Windows, Mac, and Linux. And if I, were you, I would go and grab it now.
Download: Auburn Sounds
DD Gate by Dead Duck Software
Every music producer needs an awesome gate, right? And not a lame duck one.
Play on words aside, Dead Duck Software’s DD Gate is awesome. It features sidechain control, as well as dials for input, threshold, attack, hold, trim, low cut, and release. There’s are buttons for listen, external, and bypass too.
If you’re looking for special effects, rhythmic sequences, or other features, bottom line, you should look elsewhere. But if you want a simple gate that does what it says it does, and is effective at cutting out extraneous noise, you’ll love DD Gate.
Its user interface is nothing special, but it certainly gets the job done. It looks a little like a piece of hardware gear, but not realistic. Given that it’s nicely organized and functional, we still need to give it at least a passing grade.
DD Gate is available as a 32-bit or 64-bit Windows VST on PLUGINS 4 FREE.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Analog Rack Noise Gate by Nembrini Audio
If you’re looking for a gate effect that’s been created specifically with guitar and bass in mind, you’ll love Nembrini Audio’s Analog Rack Noise Gate.
The Analog Rack Noise Gate has been designed to work and sound like an analog unit with tube coloration. With controls for input, threshold, range, output, on/analog and power as your main controls, it’s been optimized for simplicity as well.
Nembrini Audio specializes in creating effects for guitar (to replace digital effect pedals), in exactly the form you see here. In addition to gate, they’ve also got chorus, tube screamer, compressor, delay, reverb, flanger, fuzz, equalizer, tremolo, and others.
But getting back to the gate, this plugin can help you cut down on the humming and buzzing of amplifiers, which is often present even in amp sims! If you’re worried about a noisy guitar track, you should give Analog Rack Noise Gate a try.
And if you’re on the lookout for other great sounding guitar amp sims and effects, Nembrini Audio is a great place to look.
Download: Nembrini Audio
StormGate1 by AraldFX
AraldFX’s StormGate1 is kind of a unique creature in that it’s a rhythmic gate. That means you can shape your audio with amplitude patterns drawn by hand or with the help of the built-in drawing tools (free, step, spike, and exponential).
This can work great for a variety of instruments and voices depending on what you’re trying to achieve – synths, guitars, drums, random noises, and of course, vocal parts too. If you think the part might benefit from a rhythmic stutter, you can employ StormGate1 for some added interest (quite popular in many forms of techno and electronic music).
StormGate1 also features simulated compressor sidechaining, variable quantization grid, 16 patterns with variable length and chaining support, steps of one octave or one octave triplet, intelligent host loop support, advanced synchronization, swing on octaves and sixteenth, volume controls with crossfade, and 13 functions for editing the envelope, including randomization.
StormGate1’s design? Well, we don’t think it’s anything worth writing home about. It features kind of a classic, “flat” MS-DOS game sort of look. But it’s not terrible by any means. Still, in this case, a better design could have contributed to a better user interface.
Still, overall, I think this (or something like it) is an essential plugin for all types of producers (especially electronic producers). It’s common, even for rock tracks, to have various sound effects in the intro, or in the background. This plugin can help you achieve some of those.
Download: KVR Audio Software
T-Force Trance Gate 2 by Mastercode Music
Want to create a rhythmic sequence with your synth or guitar tracks? Then T-Force Trance Gate 2 might be down your alley. And as you can probably tell from the name, it is perfect for electronic music.
This is an enveloped controlled rhythmic gate effect to create rhythmic sequences. It utilizes an internal step sequencer to achieve this effect, but you can also switch to the classic sidechain mode. A multimode filter is also included and is controlled by the arm envelope and filter/resonance envelope.
It comes with stereo audio input, stereo sidechain input, bypass mode, step sequencer (32 steps), adjustable tempo with bpm host sync, multimode filter with 13 filter types (and controls for cutoff, resonance, cutoff envelope amount, resonance envelope amount), ADSR amp envelope with on/off, ADSR filter cutoff envelope with on/off, ADSR resonance envelope with on/off, two trigger modes (sequencer and sidechain), two LFOs, and mod matrix.
Trance Gate 2 does not feature a cutting-edge design by any means, but we do like the orange accents and semi-realistic looking knobs. Its overall layout is also praiseworthy.
Overall, we like the Trance Gate 2 a lot. It’s perfect for creating sounds that pop in and out. And while this type of effect would typically be applied to synths, you could experiment using it on a variety of other instruments, even if it’s just for shorter segments of your tracks.
T-Force Trance Gate 2 is available as a 32- and 64-bit VST2, as well as a 64-bit VST3.
Download: Mastercode Music
A1TriggerGate by Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton’s A1TriggerGate is a sequencer gate plugin that basically does what StormGate1 and T-Force Trance Gate 2 does. It chops up the incoming audio signal to create a rhythmic, in-out quality (which, incidentally, is known as “trance gate”).
A1TriggerGate synchronizes to host sequencer or DAW tempo. Sequencer patterns include four beats / 16 steps (or 12 steps in triplet mode). Step length can be a ShortStep, LongStep, StepLink, or NoStep and comes with its own step volume fader. Eight patterns can be switched using automation.
This VST comes with handy built-in effects for additional fun – lowpass filter, drive/distortion, and echo/delay. The effects feature a streamlined design with only a few parameters, but this is so you can achieve the desired effect quickly and easily. There’s a global FX on/off switch just in case.
A1TriggerGate also features four pattern command tabs.
Although not ultrarealistic, we do like the early 2000s design of A1TriggerGate. There are a lot of controls, and it might take a little getting used to, but overall, it’s reasonable.
This plugin is available as a 32-bit or 64-bit VST, AU, or AAX for Mac and PC.
Download: KVR Audio Software
Top Free Noise Gate VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
As you’ve seen, there are different gates for different purposes. Some are more general. Some are designed with guitar and bass in mind. Others are perfect for trance and electronic music.
The trick would be to find the right gate for the job and to get acquainted with its feature set.
Happy recording. And if you're after more, check our choice of best free VST plugins!