Best Free VSTs (2020)
Something for nothing is still a welcome idea when penniless musicians are trying to up their game, find new sounds or discover possible tonal changes. There are a lot of freeware VST plugins out there in both the area of effects and virtual instruments. And free doesn’t have to mean dodgy, low quality or rubbish. Sometimes the GUIs can be less than gorgeous and the manuals a bit rough and ready if they exist at all but there are plenty that offer great potential for absolutely no cash from you. And it’s important to remember that someone has poured a lot of time and effort into these things and you get to use them for free!
For this year’s roundup of the best free VST plugins and instruments, I’ve chosen only those that have appeared in the last 12 months or have had a significant upgrade or expansion. So do check out our article from last year for more awesome free plug-ins. They should all be fully functional and not require you to do anything more than maybe register an email address. They also need to be VST or AU plugins that run inside a DAW on either Windows or macOS and not just standalone like the sensational VCV Rack that we didn’t include last time or this time for the same reason — it’s not a VST plugin!
The best free VST instruments (2020) include:
- GB Drum Box
- Spitfire Audio – Labs
- Trap Door Audio Coalition, ChupaSAWbra, WaveAssault and DPMF
- Cheeze Machine 2
The best free VST effects (2020) include:
- Baxandall EQ
- FlowerChild Filter
- HY-Delay4 Free
Best Free VST Instruments (2020)
GB Drum Box
You want some crinkly 8-bit sounds from the depths of the Nintendo GameBoy? Then GB Drum Box is what you need. Developed by SampleScience, it features 12 drum kits of deliciously chiptune samples that you can use directly or within the GB Drum Box plugin.
The GB Drum box is an 8-channel rompler instrument. Each of the 12 kits comes with 8 Game Boy samples. You can adjust the volume, pan and decay time for each loaded sound. The filter cutoff, reverb level, attack time and modulation are applied to everything coming through the mix output.
The interface is simple to use and the sounds are a whole load of fun to play with. You’ll be writing your own game soundtracks in no time.
Link to Website: bedroomproducersblog.com
Spitfire Audio – Labs
Although the Labs series has been available for more than a year, new library keeps turning up and so 2020 has brought a host of new, creative and esoteric sounds.
Currently, in the collection, we have instruments like the Chinese Moon Guitar, Hand Bells, and a Music Box. There are atmospheric sounds in the London Atmos and creative collaborations in the Opia instrument of unconventional sounds. There are dulcimers, strings, pianos, choirs and all sorts of experimental and yet completely useable possibilities.
Everyone should have this range of instruments in their plug-in folders. There are no excuses — even the GUI only has 3 controls so you can’t possibly get lost or bewildered.
Link to Website: www.spitfireaudio.com
Trap Door Audio has 4 VST synthesizers up for grabs which totals up to hundreds of presets, multiple forms of synthesis and a whole host of sounds. . . .These are shockingly colorful and terribly good fun.
Oberom is a sampled version of the Oberon virtual instrument by Land of Cockaigne. It comes with the original 16 sounds from the Oberon presets and is a classic polysynth full of warmth and character.
You have control over the Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release of the envelope as well as sample gain. The depth and rate of the LFO modulation can be controlled along with the reverb level, glide, and filter cutoff.
It’s a simple instrument with some gorgeous sounds that are filled with that ‘80s vibe.
Link to Website: www.samplescience.ca
Trap Door Audio Coalition, ChupaSAWbra, WaveAssault and DPMF
Trap Door Audio has 4 VST synthesizers up for grabs which totals up to hundreds of presets, multiple forms of synthesis and a whole host of sounds.
Coalition is a chiptune synth with over 100 8-bit waveforms. It features 4 oscillators, 2 filters and a load of modulation. It has 2 built-in sequencers and another one for modulation and there are envelopes everywhere.
ChupaSAWbra is a massive sawtooth synth with 8 oscillators and 16 saw waves to choose from. Then there are 2 Moog style filters, shaping and clip distortion and a lot of modulation.
WaveAssault covers all sorts of synthesis including FM, modeling, chiptune, granular and more. It includes over 500 waveforms that can be fed into 4 oscillators and shaped through the filters and modulation. It’s a superb source of sounds.
DPMF is a combination of FM and Phase Distortion synthesis. Probably more complex than the others, you have a load of presets to keep you busy while you find your way around.
These are shockingly colorful and terribly good fun.
Link to Website: www.trapdooraudio.com
Cheeze Machine 2
Back by popular demand is the reworked and thoroughly lovely Cheeze Machine 2 from 2getheraudio. It’s designed as a vintage string machine in the style of the Solina Strings.
You have dual oscillators with fat, thin, warm or buzzy shapes, pulse width modulation, and detuning. You have independent envelopes for the amp and filter. And then there’s the classic Ensemble effect at the end with Phase, Vibrato, and a nice big reverb.
It has a super-thick tone with over 60 presets of vintage string, brass, bass, pads, and keyboard sounds. The interface is a thousand times better than the original and it’s lovely to play with.
Link to Website: www.2getheraudio.com
ToneZ is a polyphonic synthesizer designed for EDM. It has a modern interface and is ready to go with supersaws, leads, basses, plucks and much more.
It has 4 oscillators with 12 morphing waveforms and up to 8 voices. You have control over detuning and stereo width for some really pumping sounds. There are 4 envelopes and 2 LFOs with a complete modulation matrix. There are two filters to carve your tones.
There are loads of effects: Distortion, EQ, Chorus, Delay, Reverb, and Compressor. And it all sounds completely awesome. The layout is professional and inviting and the Expert Detuning section is particularly good at bringing up the power of this synth.
Link to Website: t0nit0rmx.github.io/
Best Free VST Effects (2020)
The excitingly named W2395c is a classic Baxandall EQ from Fuse Audio Labs. It has a particular tone to it that can help your tracks stand out with that special something.
The W2395c is for people who have a handle on what they are trying to achieve with EQ. It’s great for controlling the midrange, or for carving out percussive sounds in the high-end or beefing up the bass parts.
It’s very flexible while offering a straightforward interface. You can use it on everything to enhance vocals or drums, to highlight cymbals or exciting guitar tracks. They’ve even added a drive knob to push the warmth and feel bigger.
Link to Website: fuseaudiolabs.com
It’s a beautiful analog-style boutique filter from Sound Emote. It has the ability to switch from clean and angelic sounds to aggressive growlings and destructive rumbles.
FlowerChild Filter is one good looking and great sounding filter. They say it’s a lab experiment as they work their way towards a bigger and fully release called “Filters of Mass Destruction” (FMD). It has two algorithms of filter flavors, one which brings peace and one that doesn’t. There are also two envelope followers to work on the filter cutoff in response to the audio coming in.
The oscilloscope in the middle is hard to miss but also check out the Chaos knob for increased internal instability and the nice warm tube distortion.
It’s a very useful and fun filter and I’m looking forward to the FMD.
Link to Website: www.soundemote.com
FreeAMP from Klevgr is something of a work of art. It’s simple, beautiful and wonderfully effective at beefing up your tracks and driving your mixes.
FreeAMP is a tape and tube saturation plugin designed to vitalize anything you drop it onto. There’s only really one control to worry about and that’s how much you want to turn the drive knob. Do you want to bring in a bit of warmth or push it completely into new levels of character?
Klevgr makes some magnificent plug-ins and instruments. They also have a free Phaser/Flanger/Chorus called Svep and a weird Sound Surfer Synth called SyndtSphere. Make sure you check those out, too.
Link to Website: klsevgrand.se
FlowerChild Filter is one good looking and great sounding filter. They say it’s a lab experiment as they work their way towards a bigger and fully release called “Filters of Mass Destruction” (FMD). It has two algorithms of filter flavors, one which brings peace and one that doesn’t
There’s a full version of the HY-Delay4 which is an amazingly deep and complex delay-based plugin. The free version shrinks this down to something much simpler and more readily accessible.
It has a simple delay mode with sort, medium and long delay times. Feedback can be crossfaded and inverted, and you have control over a high and low pass filter. It has amp controls and a very useful 3 band EQ. There’s also a side chain Ducker for keeping the delay taps right in the mix. But the most awesome feature is the randomizer which will generate new ideas and possibilities for you at the click of a mouse.
Link to Website: hy-plugins.com
This is a free release from the Signal Noise line of VST effects from developer Senderspike. It’s a compression plugin inspired by two VCA bus compressors from the UK and US.
SN01-G does straightforward compression in a cool, vintage-looking interface. The main controls of threshold, ration, and gain are front and center, but you also have control over the envelope and knee width and strength.
It’s good and simple with a clear display and useful intention.
Link to Website: senderspike.wordpress.com
A beautifully simple and elegant tremolo and slicer plugin. It has multiple waveforms and wave shaping and is like adding an LFO to your audio tracks.
You can modulate the volume of your audio with everything from regular sine waves to triangle, square and sawtooth. Push the rate and depth as far as you like into some very strange places or apply it subtly to create movement and interest in your tracks. With the square wave, you can really get aggressive by decreasing the smoothness into slicing the audio. It will sync to the tempo of your DAW and you can push the left and right sides apart using an offset control.
Everything about this plugin says quality.
Link to Website: beijaflor.io
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, you’ll enjoy last year’s post covering the best free VSTs of 2019.
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