Tech \ Technique \ Gear Tips

Ten great free plug-ins

Upgrade your set-up without spending a penny

2020 May 20     
2 Bit Thugs

With the world in lockdown, says Chris Lyth, there's no better time to be stretching yourself in the studio

With the coronavirus lockdown showing no signs of letting up any time soon, and with many of us who rely on live performance for our living (or the lion's share thereof) currently as poor as the proverbial church nice, now seems like a good time to have a look at some free software. 

While some music production software can be toe-curlingly expensive, free does not always equate to inferior quality. It's quite common these days for software companies to put out some great plug-ins and VSTs for free, in the hope that you'll pony up some brass for other products of theirs further down the line, while the open source movement has also produced some great music-making packages over the years.

So, here are 10 great free plug-ins, many of which are used by professionals every day. I won't wax too lyrical, because you can simply download them and try them out for yourselves, can't you?

1. FLUX BitterSweet v3 Transient Designer

A really useful tool for shaping the envelopes on audio, and one that really comes into its own when working with percussive sounds. Will get you out of jail more times than a Mafia lawyer.

More info/download

2. Glitchmachines Fracture 

A great tool for adding glitchy cuts to your audio material. 

More info & download 

3. Muon FREE Tau Bassline 

A nice-sounding TB-303 style synth. 

More info & download  

4. Klanghelm MJUC jr. 

A simple and gorgeous-sounding compressor – just grab it. 

More info & download 

5. Native Instruments KOMPLETE START

A veritable cornucopia of instruments and effects put together by some of the best sound designers in the business. 

More info & download 

6. Digital Suburban Dexed 

A free plug-in that’s closely modelled on a Yamaha DX7. A really great free bit of kit, this one, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

More info & download 

7. Audio Damage RoughRider

As the name implies, this is a compressor that kicks like a distempered mule. 

More info & download 

8. TAL-Vocoder

This is a great little vocoder plug-in that’s lots of fun to play around with. While you're there, have a browse of their other free software, too – it's all quality stuff.

More info & download

9. DrumTROOP by DUBturbo 

A great little drum machine. There are some question marks over the GUI, but it’s free and it sounds good! 

More info & download  

10. Puremagnetik Expanse 

A texture generator for creating drones and general ambience. This is quite a lot of fun. 

More info & download