If you want the vocals in your mixes to sound just right…
If you want them to sparkle, shine, and be heard in their complete richness and fullness…
Then it stands to reason you’re going to need an arsenal of plugins to enhance the sound of your vocals and make the most of your tracks.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to apply a ton of effects to every vocal track. But having the right effects for the right situations does make a big difference.
In this guide, we’ll look at the best free vocal VST plugins to shape great sounding vocals.
Graillon 2 by Auburn Sounds
Looking to autotune on a budget?
Even producers who don’t always work with autotune should consider adding this beauty to their toolbox, because frankly, you just never know (if you’re working with clients especially…
This is a fully capable “live voice changer” in the words of Auburn Sounds, and as you might be able to tell from the graphical user interface (GUI), it’s comprised of several sections – pitch tracking, pitch correction, pitch shift, and bitcrusher. It’s kind of nice to be able to get all that functionality out of one plugin without having to download separate modules for each effect.
To be fair, with the free version you only get pitch shifting and pitch correction, but you’re still getting a powerful and versatile effect you can pull out of your hat to perform some surprising magic tricks on vocal tracks. Oh, and it just so happens to work on instrumental tracks too (depending on what you’re trying to achieve).
And if you’re interested in getting T-Pain and Cher style robotic vocal effects, Graillon 2 has got your bases covered too.
Best of all, the plugin is available in the VST, AAX, AU, and LV2 formats for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You’re covered no matter what you’re using.
Download: Auburn Sounds
TAL-Reverb-4 by TAL Software
A nice reverb (reverberation, echo, delay) can really smooth out a vocal, shaving some of its edges, roughness, and rawness off (not to say that every singer requires a lot of fixing and editing).
TAL-Reverb-4 is a high-quality digital plate reverb with a vintage 80s character. It’s easy to use, and it works on most audio material too.
Its slick and simplistic user interface seems to allude to its overall character and quality. With knobs for size, diffuse, delay, rate, amount, low cut, high cut, dry, and wet, dialing in your favorite tones should prove straightforward, and even if you don’t know your way around a reverb, a little trial and error can take you far.
To be honest, you can’t screw up too badly with this plugin. It sounds great out of the box, and further tweaking can help you achieve the right sonic character for your tracks. And, for being so easy, it’s still versatile enough to handle a variety of situations.
TAL-Reverb-4 is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Download: TAL Software
Multiply by Acon Digital
Acon Digital’s Multiply might not need much of an introduction, though if you’ve just stumbled on it, you’re in for a treat.
This is versatile chorus effect with a phase randomizing filter (meaning unpleasant comb filter effects are kept to a minimum). Whether you want to layer on the vocal sounds (to create a choir), or widen the spatial image, there is much you can accomplish with Multiply.
Not to mention the built-in equalizer with low cut, low shelf, high shelf, and high cut filters. Some equalization is often included in reverb plugins to be fair, but this is certainly a welcome addition to an already capable VST.
Multiply is great for vocals and instruments alike. And there’s little doubt in my mind you will love the sparkle and sheen it adds to your vocal tracks.
Multiply is available for Windows and Mac.
Download: Acon Digital
Voxformer by Voxengo
Voxengo’s entries often delight and surprise, and the Voxformer is a channel strip style effect that might just end up becoming one of your go-to plugins.
You can use Voxformer as a compressor, voice streaming compressor, instrumental compressor, track equalizer, presence booster, track saturator, de-esser, noise (de-breath) gate, and channel strip.
For those who like multipurpose plugins that do it all (when it’s done right, I’m a fan), this one is sure to please. It was designed specifically as a comprehensive solution for vocal processing.
Voxengo says one of the coolest features is the one-knob vocal compressor, which can instantly get you a professional sounding vocal.
There’s no easy way to explain how this plugin can make your vocals sound, or all that it can possibly do for you, but suffice it to say it is a versatile plugin capable of taking your vocal tracks beyond.
Voxformer is available as an AU, AAX, VST, and VST3 plugin for Mac and Windows.
OldSchoolVerb Plus by Voxengo
I think somewhere along the line I got it in my head that Voxengo plugins were “so-so.” That is, until I downloaded OldSchoolVerb Plus (at the time I think it was just OldSchoolVerb) and gave it a short. I fell in love with it instantly, and it’s now one of my go-to reverbs.
OldSchoolVerb Plus gives you the best of plate, room, hall, and stereo reverb sounds, along with multiple presets you can choose from for quick dialing.
This VST gives you controls for Params (pre-delay, space, time, and width), Damping (Damp Lo, Damp Hi), EQ (EQ Lo, EQ Mid, and EQ Hi), as well as Out (Reverb, Dry).
As with most Voxengo plugins, it comes with multiple UI color variants, in case you get bored of the default one.
It’s a fully capable plugin, so in addition to vocals, it works nicely on instrumental tracks as well.
Does it sound good? It sure does to my ears, and for all your quick and dirty applications, it’s hard to find a better option.
You can get OldSchoolVerb for Mac and Windows.
Stereo Touch by Voxengo
Every producer should have a stereo widening VST like Stereo Touch. Stereo Touch employs the classic technique of taking a mono track and turning into a more spacious stereo track with mid/side coding. It sounds simple, but it’s magic in motion when you apply it to your vocal tracks.
Now, you would think it would only be good for vocals, but that’s simply not the case. Stereo Touch sounds great on electric guitars, synths, and more.
At first, I didn’t know such a thing even existed. But once I found out about stereo widening (one of my co-producers told me), I started using it heavily in my tracks, and I’ve been addicted to it ever since.
Once you try Stereo Touch on your vocal tracks, I think you’ll see exactly why.
The simple interface features controls for delay 1, D1 gain, delay 2, D2 gain, HP filter, LP filter, and out gain. It comes with several useful presets as well.
Get it for Mac or Windows.
DC1A by Klanghelm
Compression is an essential for every vocal track. Many producers, in fact, use two compressors on vocals, not necessarily to “flatten” the sound further, but rather to tweak different transients.
Compression does “squash” the waveform, making louder sounds quieter, and quieter sounds louder (which is generally necessary, especially for dynamic vocalists), but it’s just as common for engineers to choose compression based on the character it adds to vocals.
We’ve talked about Klanghelm’s DC1A several times on MIDINation already, and all we have to say is… what’s not to love?
This is a simplistic yet powerful and versatile VST compressor with a beautiful design, and a few special features just to keep things interesting – deep, relaxed, dual mono, and negative modes.
Using this compressor, you’re sure to be able to add some character to your tracks.
Get DC1A for Windows or Mac at the link below.
MAutoPitch by MeldaProduction
Here’s another pitch correction tool that might float your boat.
MeldaProduction’s MAutoPitch is a favorite among producers seeking free VSTs, and this automatic pitch correction plugin can help you get your vocals in tune. You can even take advantage of creative, built-in formant shift and stereo expansion effects.
MAutoPitch comes bundled with the MFreeFXBundle, and it’s completely worth it. Of course, MeldaProduction is going to try to sell you on the idea of upgrading for $72, which is still a great deal for all that’s included in the bundle (37 effects), but user be forewarned.
What’s great about MAutoPitch is just how easy it is to use. We also like the that GUI is stylable and resizable.
Of course, it does full on robot if you need it to!
You can grab MAutoPitch (and the Melda effects bundle) for Mac or Windows.
Proximity by Tokyo Dawn Labs & Vladg Sound
Tokyo Dawn Labs and Vladg Sound are always developers to watch, and here we have their collaborative effort, Proximity, which is an award-winning VST.
This is a unique, easy to use, distance “pan-pot” effect based on various psycho-acoustic models, including distance signal delay by speed of sound, distance gain loss, absorption of high-frequencies in air, stereo width manipulation, proximity effect of virtual microphone, and distance based early reflections. You can mix and match these models as you desire.
Proximity is no doubt beautifully and impeccably designed, which surely contributed to its success.
It can be used in a variety of ways, though many producers seem to like it best for post-production work. This plugin isn’t just great for vocals, mind you. It can be used on instruments too.
Proximity can be gotten for Mac and Windows.
Download: Tokyo Dawn Labs
Vocal Doubler by iZotope
We’ve already looked at a stereo widening plugin, and the idea here would basically be the same. But iZotope is known for their simple, stylized, effective plugins, which makes their Vocal Doubler more than worth a look.
This plugin allows you to manipulate the depth and width for your vocal tracks with a natural, organic sound. Adding richness to your vocals has never been easier.
If you want to create a bit of a variation between the main vocal track and the layered sounds, just turn that variation dial.
It’s so simple, you can’t really go wrong.
You can download Vocal Doubler on the iZotope website.
TDR Nova by Tokyo Dawn Records
EQ is another must have when it comes to mixing vocals, and TDR Nova is no slouch, even if you’re looking to use it on instruments.
Tokyo Dawn Records does it again with a professionally designed, powerful, and transparent sounding effect you can use on its own, or even layer for additional frequency addition and subtraction.
TDR Nova is a parallel dynamic equalizer with a dynamics section. In addition to individual tracks, Nova cooperates well with busses and masters.
Along with four dynamic EQ bands, you also get high-pass and low-pass filters for added customization. Though it’s designated as an EQ effect, it’s well matched to a variety of tasks, including parametric EQ, dynamic EQ, frequency selective compression, multi-band compression, and wideband compression.
It’s hard to find all these features packed into a single plugin, which makes this an instant classic.
Windows and Mac users should add TDR Nova to their VST library straightaway.
Download: Tokyo Dawn Records
Saturation Knob by Softube
Nothing fancy or crazy here. Just a simple Saturation Knob to take your tracks and give them some warmth and dirt (if you so desire).
Three saturation modes (Keep High, Neutral, Keep Low) are included, but aside from that, this effect is controlled with one knob – turn it up for more, turn it down for less. Despite its rudimentary design, it can do more than you might think.
On vocals, Saturation Knob can add some much-needed richness and fullness (without adding gain). When you want your vocals to sit slightly above the mix, this plugin can be a huge help.
In addition to giving your vocals a boost or adding some harmonics, Saturation Knob is great for fattening up drums and bass.
Again, you can’t really go wrong here. We think Saturation Knob is worth adding to your VST folder no matter what you’re looking to achieve in music production.
T-De-Esser by Techivation
De-esser plugins are used in a high volume of professionally produced tracks. They help soften harsh vocal consonants and tame the intense highs that accompany inevitable frequency boosts with EQ plugins.
Techivation’s T-De-Esser is a simplified, easy to use de-esser that will help you smooth out those unruly high frequencies. All while maintaining a natural, musical sound.
Use T-De-Esser to remove harshness from any sound sources you close mic’d, reduce sibilance in vocals, treat irregular tonal balance, manage glare from bright guitars and pianos, soften piercing synths, control high frequencies of overhead transients, and give increased dynamic range to your tracks.
This plugin features side chain frequency modes, GUI scaling, undo/redo options, and an A/B switch.
The GUI is also something of a marvel, with a simple and streamlined but eye-catching design. It helps you make quick work of overkill vocal tracks.
There’s so much more we could say about this plugin, but we’ve probably sold you on it already. Go check it out for yourself.
Top Free Vocal VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
As with anything in music, shaping great vocal sounds mostly comes down to practice.
So, once you’ve downloaded the VST plugins you want, start experimenting with them immediately. Try them in a variety of scenarios on different tracks and listen to how the effects interact with your tracks.
To make the most of anything, you first need to know how to use it. So, spend plenty of time learning how to use what you’ve got. That’s really the key to epic music production.
Go get to work and have fun!