Today I want to talk to you about two of my favorite things – free stuff and new sounds! So here’s some free plugins, it’s a winning combination. It seems that sometimes Producers are very reluctant to discuss their tools of the trade, in fear that someone my use them and “STEAL THEIR SOUND” or some other nonsense. These plugins/synths etc. are just tools and it is down to the individual Producer how you best use all those weapons in your arsenal – everyone is going to producer different results, no matter what they are using, because everyone hears their music differently.
Anyway, free plugins are a great way to experiment with certain sounds, especially if, as Aspiring Producers, we may not be able to afford those Native Instrument bundles, or even the actual ARP 2500 Synth yet. These free plugins and synths are a perfect little gateway into that world and will stand up next to the real deal, if used correctly.
In another blog post sometime in the (not too) distant future, I will go through some of my favorite paid Plugins/Synths, as that old saying goes, you get what you pay for, which is at least partially true with some of this stuff. But don’t knock the free stuff. These are all powerful and effective plugins in their own right and should be treated as such.
I’ve split the list into two categories, with three plugins aimed at Mixing/Mastering and the other three which are Virtual Instruments/Synths, so let’s take a look…
1 – Limiter No6 by Vladislav Goncharov (VladG Sound)
Whenever I get asked about free plugins, this is always the first one that springs to mind. It’s a fantastic little plugin that is described by the developer as a “modular limited suite for mastering purposes”, and contains 5 different sections/stages; RMS compressor, Peak Limiter, High-Frequency Limiter, Clipper & True Peak Limiter. It might look confusing but I promise it’s not, think of it as a train that is going along the track, and each stage is a station where you pick up a few more passengers, until you get to the final station – your desired level of loudness.
In Mastering, one of the most important points to remember is to use multiple stages of gain – you don’t just finish your Mix and then have one big knob which you turn up to 11 and your job is done. Would be nice right? That’s why those good Mastering Engineers get paid the big bucks and are so sought after. In order to maximize loudness and effectiveness, you have to make small incremental gains to obtain the highest amount of limiting possible (don’t get me started on the loudness wars, I’ll save that for another time…) This plugin does that wonderfully – it’s very powerful and sounds great.
In the past, I would always use iZotope’s Ozone when it came to doing any “demo” Mastering, but since I discovered this plugin, I find myself using it more and more. Not to be missed.
Download It Here! – Be warned this page has a few different options, so make sure you’re downloading the one for the correct OS.
2 – Vinyl by IZotope
I have to include this on here, not because it really even does anything that crazy but just because of the slightest nuances that help give your Production oodles of character.
This can really add some subtle character and lo-fi dirtyness to any sound you apply it to, and I often find myself adding it to Pianos & Drums. This is especially useful in the Hip-Hop world if you want to emulate that old school sampled feel, but on instruments you may have composed yourself.
3 – Transient by Audio Assault
If there was one thing that I discovered when I was younger that improved my mixes almost overnight, it was when I discovered Transient/Envelope shaping tools. And this one is a fine example of the breed, very simple (only two knobs, score!) but very effective.
In a nutshell, it is essentially either increasing (or decreasing) the ATTACK of a sound and increasing (or decreasing!) the SUSTAIN or the “ring” of a sound. I pretty much religiously add them to all my drum sounds to increase the ATTACK, especially to get Kicks & Snares punchy, whilst bringing down any unwanted “ring” to help the sound become even punchier.
I also use Native Instruments Transient Master, which is quite often my go-to, but as for free plugins, this one is equally as powerful.
4 – TAL Noisemaker by Togu Audio Line
This free synth plugin is awesome. It’s simple and retro but sounds great. I use this a lot to get those thick, old school analogue type sounds, especially for Pads etc.
It also has this pretty cool envelope editor, which allows you to draw in custom curves for the envelope – provides some pretty interesting and unique sounds. Just all round solid, nice presets that come with it, but the real gold is going to be in sculpting your own sounds from it. Definitely recommended.
5 – OBXD by Datsounds
Ahh yes, this one. Not the most versatile free synth I own, but definitely one that is great at what it does. It is an emulation of the now legendary Oberheim OB-X analogue synthesizer, and it does a pretty badass job too. Awesome for those classic thick, juicy analogue sounds, especially for analogue style brass and bass. Really easy to program, but I find it a little tricker to get sounding JUST how I want, but so worth it when you do.
6 – Tyrell N6 by U-he
This could easily be a product for sale alongside the Massive/Sylenth/Nexus’ of the world, but it is still available for free. Crazy, but awesome, so I’ll roll with it.
Just an all round workhorse virtual analogue synth, great sounds especially for Pads and Leads with endless amounts of potential for creating a whole gang of sounds. Oh, and did I mention that it’s totally free. Why would you NOT want this in your arsenal?!