So, you’ve done your research, picked yourself a new midi controller and a digital audio workstation (DAW) software – only to realize that you’ll need access to loads more content and tools, than what comes with the DAW of choice. Bummer.
Now that your pocket money’s gone, there is still one place that shouldn’t be overlooked: the glorious world of Free VST plugins.
Our hand-picked selection of 5 Best Free VST’s aims to showcase the absolute winners (in our opinion) in categories ranging from best sample-based instruments to the most versatile mixing tool.
While these plugins are certainly a great bang for the buck (hey, they’re free!), they are also well-proven in their specific field and offer an insane amount of quality for a free software.
Best Free Plugin 2020
It’s mind-blowing how many free plugins are out there on the web these days, but like all things free not everything is created equal!
With such a wealth of options, it’s more than fair to say going through all of them will take a considerable amount of time. But with a little bit of research, it should be relatively easy to find the ones that tickle your creativity.
And that’s the fun part here: among these, you can find otherworldly concepts and designs, that just aren’t available anywhere else - but might suit your creative flow perfectly!
Free software is also a great way to learn about certain music production techniques and concepts, and enables you to get a real hands-on experience when introducing yourself into the world of synthesis, sampling or perhaps classic music production technology.
There are few downsides to free plugins though, one of them being typically fairly limited with features. Bear in mind that many of them simply offer you a way in, while the paid version will give you access to full features and full support from the developer.
Another downside can be the plugin performance or code optimization, that is many times overlooked or not completed in the free version.
Some popular “research-ware” plugins, such as U-He Repro-5, consume a considerably high amount of CPU time in order to calculate digital representations of the original hardware components.
While these plugins might sound absolutely stunning, it means you will be able to run only a few of them before maxing out your computer CPU or memory. For some plugins, the lack of development time has also simply made older plugins unusable in recent computers.
While this is unfortunate for the free plugin's community, these developers might have included these great concepts into their more recent work. Also, in the Land of the Free, the looks (or user experience) is not always top notch, but even the ugliest design will still do the job if you’re willing to accept these minor shortcomings.
Design and Functionality
There were times, when some of these plugins were real hardware sitting in studio racks and desks. It’s really no surprise to see these concepts being recreated in digital form: they were the go-to tools of their time and proven concepts, that still earn their place in our modern software world.
Software recreations have become so powerful recently, that the reason to own old hardware has become questionable: plugins generally require no maintenance, have no performance issues or functional limitations and include advantages, that can only be offered in an integrated software environment.
Many modern plugins can also perform tasks that wouldn’t be possible in a single hardware unit - just think about Native Instrument’s Kontakt Sampler that also includes insert effects, flexible signal routing options and scripting.
One important rule of thumb to follow with free plugins is the rule of upgrades: seeing that a developer offers a “big brother” version of the free plugin is usually a sign of active development.
If a plugin is inactive with development for extended periods of time, it might become obsolete and incompatible with newer DAW or OS versions.
Essentially, the free plugin of choice should have an upgrade path available to get the latest version, full features and support offered by the developer. Our hand-picked selection of 5 Best Free VST’s all feature an upgrade path and support for the paid version.
Top 5 Free VST’s
Time to plugin
All in all, the free world of plugins is a magical wonderland where you could lose yourself for days.
This is both good and bad, but the most important lesson to learn with free plugins is what to expect from the commercial plugins: sometimes the free version can do the job just as well, leaving you more pocket money to invest elsewhere.
But the lack of support or development can be a dangerous thing that should not be overlooked, especially when working with commercial projects.
Our selection of Best Free VST’s are definitely just a tip of the iceberg! We’d love to hear your favorites!