Maybe you missed out on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Maybe like me, money is a little tight this time of year (read: all times of the year). Maybe you wanted to ask for plugins for Christmas but your loved ones give you the “no speak English” blank stare when you bring up anything related to music production. Never fear, I’m about to lay down my list of favorite FREE plugins, that have been making it into my mixes over the last decade or so!
Disclaimer: I use Logic Pro on a Mac, so these plugins will be slanted towards what is available in Audio Unit (AU) format. If you use VST plugins, you actually have many more free plugins available!
Rough Rider (Audio Damage)
This deceptively simple, mostly transparent compressor is always on everyone’s list of must-have freebies. I use it for parallel compression a lot on the “New York” setting.
Limiter No 6 (Vladislav Goncharov)
I would pay decent $ for this compressor/limiter, it is so good. Vintage sound, HF limiting, mid-side processing, and a true hard limiter. It’s one of my absolute favorites.
MJUC Jr. (Klanghelm)
This is one of the newest additions to the Klanghelm lineup, a vintage passive-circuit bus compressor that I can easily see becoming a fast favorite. I went ahead and bought the full version.
Camel Crusher (Camel Audio)
One of the first plugins I ever downloaded, and I still use it all the time to give beef to a track as an aux send. Kind of a compressor-saturator. Sadly no longer available, I just found out when writing this! Great replacement free saturator and compressor can be had from Klanghelm.
Slick EQ (Tokyo Dawn Labs)
New to the table, great little EQ with curve characteristics that change based on the country/style setting. This video gives you all the tricks.
Vintage sounding Pultec -type EQ that allows you to boost and attenuate lows at once. Supplanted by non-free SonEQ Pro which I like a little less but is a good bargain. Sonimus makes great inexpensive plugins such as Satson. [Note – this was re-released in 2017 as a 64 bit plugin! Still free!]
Guitar Amp Sims
LePou Amp Sims
These are really excellent amp sims in several styles: Hybrit, Le456, LeCto, LeGion, LeXtac. The website is a blog, so you have to dig a little to grab them, but well worth it.
AuraPlug Freetortion Pedal Sims
The site is now called Audiorammer apparently. Excellent pedal simulators: California Sun, EddieVsHeaven, Fuzz-Stone & Fuzz-Stone Germanium version, RedSkull, and Whamdrive.
TSE Audio Pedal Sims
These guys make a nice Rat (R47), Tube Screamer (TSE 808), and SansAmp (TSE B.O.D.) simulators.
Panipulator (Boz Digital Labs)
Brilliant transparent stereo – mono – phase switcher. I use this to test mixes in mono, or remove one half of a stereo track.
Ambience (Magnus Smartelectronix)
Really excellent reverb with a shit ton of great presets for all occasions. Meant to go right on the track, adjust wet/dry if using on an aux.
Head Crusher Free (Audio Assault)
This is a saturator that adds drive and beef to bass and drum tracks, try it and see what it brings to the table. Good on an aux. They have a bunch of other cool freebies too.
These aren’t all the free plugins I have, just the ones that I keep coming back to over and over. I should also mention that the most common plugins I use are the Logic Pro stock EQ and compressor. They’re “free” in the sense that they came with Logic, but not in the sense that you can download them yourself.
What are some of your favorite free plugins?