Cakewalk has VST3 support. What does that mean? It means you can use just about whatever VST plugin you want with it.
What this also means is that the best free VST plugins are the best free VST plugins period.
So, here are the best free VST plugins for Cakewalk.
LABS by Spitfire Audio
In the early days of VSTi development (especially free plugins), instruments tended to sound unnatural, inorganic, and low quality. This was more than enough for sketching and demos, maybe even some lo-fi commercial work, but it wasn’t ideal for soundtracks and commercial releases.
Spitfire Audio, though, has been setting a new standard with their LABS series of virtual instruments. Each one feature the highest quality of samples available. And while their functionality is usually quite sparse, and they are one trick ponies, their sound is hard to argue with.
The LABS series continues to grow, and as of this writing, there are 53 instruments in the categories of basses, brass, choir & vocals, drums, experimental, folk & world, guitars, hybrid, orchestras, percussion, pianos & keys, plucked, strings, synths, and woodwinds.
Some of their most recent releases include LABS – Electronic Antique, LABS – Vintage Drums, and LABS – Foghorn.
While these were obviously created for compositional and soundtrack purposes, they are capable when it comes to other genres as well, especially when you’re trying to get the most organic, authentic sounds of instruments possible.
As a producer on the hunt for the best free tools available, LABS is an indispensable partner to have in your corner.
Download: Spitfire Audio
MFreeFXBundle by MeldaProduction
MeldaProduction offers up MFreeFXBundle, a collection of 37 tools (like EQ, saturation, MAutoPitch, reverb, modulation, and others) designed to introduce you to and indoctrinate you into the Melda workflow.
This bundle, comprised of practical and utility tools, though, are highly praised. In some cases, they are even said to be better than their premium counterparts.
To get access to the full set of features, you’d need to upgrade for a nominal fee, but this is not a requirement. You can download, install, use, and continue to use the free versions to your heart’s content.
MFreeFXBundle is perfect for those times when you’re looking to build out your VST library with effects and tools that are better than your DAW’s stock plugins. In some cases, your DAW won’t even come equipped with some of these tools.
So far as free bundles are concerned, there are few if any that top MFreeFXBundle.
VladG Limiter N°6 by Tokyo Dawn Records
Tokyo Dawn Records’ VladG Limiter N°6 is a tool you will find especially valuable for mastering. That said, it can come in handy for mixing purposes too.
This limiter comes with five modules – from left to right – RMS compressor, peak limiter, high frequency limiter, clipper, and true peak limiter.
VladG Limiter N°6 also comes with brickwall and soft limiting with different timing settings, M/S and multiband modes, optional 4x oversampling, inter-sample peaks limiting, and two skins.
This limiter is a favorite among many producers, and it’s Windows and Mac compatible.
Download: Tokyo Dawn Records
Valhalla Super Massive by Valhalla DSP
It’s not unusual to find Valhalla DSP products among the best free VST plugins available, and Valhalla Super Massive is one of those catch-all reverb / delay solutions that works for just about any scenario imaginable.
While it was designed for massive delays and reverbs in mind – just as the name would suggest – it is possible to dial back the mix for more subtle echoes as well.
Valhalla Super Massive features 16 reverb and delay modes, which is incredibly generous, and hard to find among free reverbs.
If you like this one, you might want to check out their Valhalla Freq Echo as well.
Download: Valhalla DSP
FerricTDS mkII by Variety Of Sound
Variety Of Sounds’ FerricTDS mkii is a favorite dynamic effects simulator using high quality tape gear. Basically, if you’re looking to add a bit of crunch, character, or presence to anything, this plugin should give you the saturation you need.
Depending on the settings, it can be used on guitar, synth, and other instruments.
FerricTDS mkii features a simplistic design, and the main controls include recovery, dynamics, saturation, and limiter.
To me, the effect sounds quite transparent, but as suggested, it does add some nice presence to a track.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Frontier by D16 Group
D16 Group’s Frontier self-adaptive versatile limiter is another freebie favorite you can use on single tracks, busses, or even the master out.
It’s a very simple plugin, as you can see, with controls for control input, release, threshold, output level, and an optional soft clip feature. But it has built-in automatic gain make up, which can make your workflow quite a bit more efficient.
While it might be a bit of a one trick pony, most freebies are, and in this case, it’s a versatile freebie.
Frontier is Windows and Mac compatible.
Download: D16 Group
Graillon by Auburn Sounds
When it comes to the best free pitch correction and auto-tune VST plugins, well, there are only two options, and Auburn Sounds’ Graillon stands out, given its added vocal processing functionality.
Graillon was developed as a freemium product, complete with pitch-tracking modulation, pitch shifting, and pitch correction as its key features. The free edition doesn’t come with pitch-tracking modulation, though, leaving you with just pitch shifting and pitch correction features.
Best of all, Graillon features a slick, subdued interface, and it’s easy to use to boot! Free tools are rarely this good.
Download: Auburn Sounds
TDR Nova by Tokyo Dawn Records
Looking for an EQ VST that would be a step up from your stock DAW plugins? Well, if you haven’t checked out TDR Nova yet, we think it would be well worth a look.
The EQ covers a variety of common tasks, including parametric and dynamic EQ, as well as frequency selective, multi-band, and wideband compression.
It’s powerful enough to handle a variety of tasks, whether it’s cleaning up a vocal take, adding some punch to your drum bus, or giving your master some meat.
In total, TDR Nova comes with four dynamic EQ bands, as well as high-pass and low-pass filter sections, a preset manager, undo / redo, A/B, copy & paste, and more.
You can get TDR Nova for Windows and Mac.
Download: Tokyo Dawn Records
Wider by Polyverse Music
“Nah, I don’t want my music to sound bigger and wider,” said virtually no one. Stereo expansion isn’t a new concept by any means, but it’s a good tool to have at the ready, whether it’s for mixing and mastering purposes.
Polyverse Music’s Wider is a phase-free pseudo stereo widener with mono compatibility, that lets you increase the stereo image of any mono signal by up to 200%.
Wider supports VST 2 / VST 3 / AU / AAX plugin formats, and it’s available for iPhone and iPad as well.
Download: Polyverse Music
Fracture by Glitchmachines
Glitchmachines’ Fracture is a bit of an oddball, but it’s a fantastic free tool, perfect for dub and other chaotic electronic music genres requiring randomness and chaos for added interest.
This buffer, delay, and filter effects processor can be used on drums, percussion, synth lines, and even sound effects.
Fracture also features three LFOs, effects chain configuration, 100 factory presets, and a scalable user interface.
Fracture has a very intuitive interface broken into four sections – buffer, delay, filter, and out. Use these controls to add abstract textures and a glitchy quality to your tracks.
Fracture is Windows and Mac compatible.
Saturation Knob by Softube
Ask any modern producer whether they think saturation is “stupid,” and inevitably they will come back and tell you “nothing could be more ridiculous.”
When it comes to Softube’s Saturation Knob, the name just about says it all – how about a saturation perfectly suited to vocals, bass, and drums, you can control with just one knob?
You’ve got yourself Saturation Knob, though it’s worth mentioning that it comes with three different kinds of distortion character (keep high, neutral, and keep low) for added versatility.
This download comes with three version of Saturation Knob – as a native plugin, Saturation Knob for Modular, and Saturation Knob for Amp Room.
Free saturation has never sounded this good.
Vinyl by iZotope
Saturation is a great effect for adding presence and crunch to a track. Another great way to add some texture and depth to a track is with lo-fi effect.
The name basically gives it away here – iZotope’s Vinyl has been designed to add vinyl record like characteristics to your tracks.
I like the fact that there are different models based on the decade (1930, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, and 2000). You can fine-tune the sounds using onboard controls.
This is easily a free lo-fi go-to.
TyrellN6 by u-he
You basically can’t go wrong with any of u-he’s free synths, but of them, TyrellN6 probably has the greatest appeal.
This excellent looking entry comes with all the tools you need to dial in those favorite, classic virtual analog tones – two oscillators (noise, ring modulator), two LFOs (with eight waveforms, host syncable), audio source mixer with overdrive and filter feedback, twin filter, analog style ADSR envelopes (loopable or LFO triggered), skinnable UI, and an astounding 580+ factory presets.
Have a listen to TyrellN6 in the video below, and I think you’ll agree – there are plenty of usable classic sounds built right into it.
TyrellN6 has been designed to work on Mac, Windows, and Linux machines, and is compatible with most DAWs.
VCV Rack 2 by VCV
We’ve gotten in trouble for not mentioning this baby in past guides, so here we are – for those who love virtual synthesis, VCV Rack 2 Virtual Eurorack Studio is simply insane value. Is this thing really free?! Well, yes, but of course there is a Pro version that comes with a few bonuses.
Either way, VCV Rack 2 comes with all the goodies that made the original so good – 30+ modules, 170+ official modules from Eurorack manufactures, and 2,000+ modules available from the VCV Library (featuring premium, free, and open-source options).
The latest version comes with a dark room mode (adjustable brightness), module selections (save, share, edit, and move entire selections of modules), an enhanced module browser, up to 16 audio inputs / outputs, 16 MIDI inputs / outputs, parameter automation, and so much more.
For endless tweaking and messing about, try VCV Rack 2, available for Windows and Mac.
MiniSpillage by AudioSpillage
When it comes to compact drum synthesizers, this one is almost universally loved. It’s simple, sure, but the amount of stuff you can do with it makes it a compelling choice for beatmakers.
MiniSpillage’s three synthesis algorithms give you access to three primary sounds – a single oscillator bass drum, wood drum, and a six-oscillator closed and open hi-hat generator.
MiniSpillage comes with a 64-bit DSP engine and is available for free for Mac users.
DC1A by Klanghelm
Klanghelm’s DC1A was based on their DC8C monster compressor, and is the free, lightweight equivalent of the same.
The two main controls make DC1A a very easy compressor to use, though it does come with four modes for additional fine-tuning – Deep, Relaxed, Dual Mono, and Negative.
From subtle, transparent compression to punch and crunch, DC1A can add some nice coloration to your tracks if you want it to, but it’s versatile enough to handle most tasks.
This is my go-to compressor because of how easy it is to use!
DC1A is available for Windows and Mac.
LOADED by Analog Obession
Analog Obession’s LOADED truly is loaded up with multiple modules perfectly suited to vocal processing (but it’s great for drums too!).
This free channel strip comes with a preamp (with gain and HPF), de-esser (with THR, REL, and MIX), gate (with THR, REL, and MIX), EQ (with HF, HMF, LMF, and LF), compressor (with THR, RATIO, and MIX), and of course, a master main controller (input and output) section.
Just as you would expect, it’s possible to add some nice saturation with the preamp section. The built-in controls are all quite responsive, and The EQ is exceptional for sound sculpting, whether it’s adding punch or dialing out unwanted rumble.
LOADED is available for Windows and Mac.
Download: FREE VST PLUGINS
TAL-Chorus-LX by TAL Software
If you like VST freebies, then TAL Software is well worth keeping an eye on. TAL-Chorus-LX is just one of several great tools they’ve made available for nothing.
This stereo chorus features a Juno-60 chorus style sound with two modes, dry / wet control, stereo width, and volume knob.
TAL-Chorus-LX is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Download: TAL Software
Top Free VST Plugins For Cakewalk, Final Thoughts
Cakewalk comes with a lot of great tools – delay, distortion, dynamics, EQ, filter, guitar, modulation, pitch shift, reverb, and surround. For best possible results, augment and supplement these tools with additional ones – especially in areas where you feel a little limited.
There are many cases where one reverb, one delay, one compressor, etc., simply isn’t enough. You need different tools for different projects, and there are plenty of free plugins out there that are better than the stock ones available.
Use our guide as a starting point and branch out from there.