The best free plug-ins for your DAW
There are so many free plugins available today ranging in quality from “not worth my time” to “I can’t believe this is free!”
But the reality is, if you were to install all the free plugins you find, you would most likely end up with a cluttered plugin folder, with a lot of plugins that are not very good, and you’d have no idea how any of them work anyway. There are plenty of free plugins that are worth installing however and we’ve put together a list of 6 free plugins that you should add to your plugin folder.
1. Voxengo – Span
Voxengo Span is a real-time fast Fourier transform (FFT) audio spectrum analyzer. This is always sat on my master bus with the interface on another screen so at a quick glance I can see what is going on in the audio spectrum. Having it sat on my master also allows me to quickly solo a track and see the spectrum of just that track. I love that when you hover your mouse over Span it will tell you the frequency and midi note (including cents!) that the mouse cursor is at. Perfect for identifying frequencies.
2. Vengeance – Scope
Vengeance Producer Suite Scope is an analyser plugin which includes an Oscilloscope, a fast Fourier transform (FFT) spectrum analyser, and stereo metering. This is free as long as you have at least 1 Vengeance license key on your elicenser dongle. Computer Music Magazine also has a CM version of Vengeance Scope that comes free with every copy of the magazine. Along with Voxengo Span above, Vengeance Scope is permanently sat on my master bus, with the interface open on another screen so I can see what’s going on. I only really use Scope for the Oscilloscope function, as I prefer Span for FFT duties.
S(M)exoscope is a real-time Oscilloscope plugin. Originally released in 2003 on the Smartelectronix website by Bram de Jong and Sean Evans, S(M)exoscope was my Oscilloscope of choice right up until I moved to a 64 bit environment and it no longer worked due to being 32 bit only. S(M)exoscope has recently been updated to 64 bit by Armando Montanex who ported the source code to the cross-platform JUCE framework, making it possible to build both 32 and 64 bit versions.
4. Brainworx – bx_subfilter
Brainworx bx_subfilter is a resonant highpass filter designed to help tame your low end. It’s essentially the filter section taken from its big brother the bx_subsynth. With only 4 knobs and a slider it’s easy to dial in a tight low end. Remove the really low-frequency flab with the Tight Punch knob. Select a resonance setting to boost the bass you want to the desired amount. Low-End control applies a fixed bandpass filter after the Tight Punch knob to shape the sound further. And you have input and output controls for level matching.
TAL-Reverb-III is the perfect reverb for the big supersaw leads used in Trance and Hardstyle. It’s quite a dirty reverb. You wouldn’t use it to place something in a mix, but it definitely has its place in your plugin folder. Put it as a send effect from your lead bus and you can pretty much leave the default preset. It just sounds right for super saws. I’ve even had great results using this on Tech House basses.
6. Xfer – OTT
Xfer OTT is a multiband compressor, but not quite like most other multiband compressors. It’s an emulation of the ‘OTT’ preset for Ableton Live’s built-in multiband compressor. OTT employs both upwards and downwards compression. Anything above the threshold will be compressed as per normal, just like with a normal compressor. Anything below the threshold will be pushed up in volume towards the threshold. This pushes quiet frequencies louder by a pretty extreme amount, up to 36db of gain. And because it’s multiband, the low, mid and high are all treated independently. Try putting it on a bass or lead that has reverb applied to have the reverb be pushed up in volume in between notes playing.
This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it meant to be. There are other great free plugins available, but I don’t want you to crowd your plugin folder and become unproductive. We’ll be back next month with another 6 free plug-ins that are too good to miss.