The 25 Best Free VST / AU Plugins for PC and Mac in 2013 – Part 1

Please note: There is an updated version of this post. Some of the plugins are different so you may still want to browse this older post as well.
You can find the newer post here:

The Best Free VST / AU Plugins 2015


There are a lot of great free plugins out there. However, I’ve always been put off by how difficult it is to spot the good ones from the masses of mediocrity.

So I decided to do something about it. For the past year I’ve been on a mission. I’ve been scouting the internet, lurking on forums, talking to people… And downloading tons of free plug-ins.

Most importantly I’ve been test driving everything on real projects to see how the plugins perform. It’s been a ton of work and I’m not easy to please… But starting today I’m happy to present you the results:

My view on the absolute best of the best of free VST/AU plugins out there at the moment.

I am very glad I took on this project. Along the way I’ve discovered a number of brilliant tools that have since become a part of my workflow. I’m sure the same will happen to you if you give these a shot.

Big respects to all the developers involved for handing out these great tools for free.

Many thanks to all the people who tipped me off with plugins! I would have missed a lot of good ones if there wasn’t for your feedback.


A few notes before we begin

  1. Please note I’ve only decided to accept plugins that are available for both PC and Mac. There are a lot of great PC/Mac only plugins out there, and I know many small developers simply can’t afford to create versions for different platforms. My apologies – I wanted to make sure this post works for everybody. If you think I am missing some essential PC/Mac specific plugins, let me know. I could do PC/Mac specific posts later.
  2. All of these plugins are free, but some may require for you to register on the developers website before you can download. I can safely assure that in these cases it will be worth the trouble.
  3. I’ve put the plugins in an ordered list based on the value they deliver me. Ordering many such different kinds of plugins is obviously difficult – please make your own judgements. They’re all great in any case.
  4. All plugins are available in the most common VST and AU formats for Windows and Mac. In addition some are available in other formats such (like RTAS and AAX). Majority of the plugins are fully 64 bit compatible, too.

Right… Let’s roll!



25. Audio Damage Rough Rider

Audio Damage Rough Rider

If you are in need of a traditional compressor that has the ability to make things pump but can also do a lot more, you should try this one out. Rough Rider can be tweaked for really mild compression or serious hardcore pumping action equally. Rough Rider is not exactly a transparent compressor – it adds a bit of vintage style coloring to the sound. Great plugin.


Platform: Mac & PC, 32 bit and 64 bit.
Download here



24. Voxengo MSED

Voxengo MSED

Admittedly, Voxengo MSED is not a very sexy plugin. But it is an extremely useful tool to have in your arsenal. It is a mid/side signal encoder/decoder. The most obvious use for it is for widening or narrowing the stereo image by adjusting the volumes of the mid/side channels.

You can also use it to swap stereo channels or swap the polarity of a signal.


Platform: Mac & PC, 32 bit and 64 bit.
Download here



23. LePou HyBrit

Lepou Hybrit

I definitely wanted to mention one of the excellent LePou guitar amp simulation plugins. After playing around with all 5 of them (there are a few more Windows exclusive ones as well), the HyBrit stood out for me. But it really is a case of what kind of sound you are going for – they are all nice.

HyBrit is a simulation of a classic Marshall amp and it sounds great. LePou’s plugins offer a more traditional approach on guitar amps plugins as opposed to something like Native Instruments Guitar Rig for example.

If you like HyBrit, make sure to check their other plugins as well!


Platform: Mac & PC, 32 bit and 64 bit.
Download here (download the “Amp sims pack” for latest version of all their plugins)



22. Voxengo Stereo Touch

Voxengo Stereo Touch

This little plugin is great for turning monophonic material into spacious stereo. It uses a classic M/S technique to achieve it. I see Dave Pensado rocking similar techniques in his videos all the time. Stereo Touch is a basic, but very very useful tool that can really make a big difference.


Platform: Mac & PC, 32 bit and 64 bit.
Download here


21. TAL NoiseMaker

TAL Noisemaker

The NoiseMaker is a very versataile, phat sounding and traditional analogue-modeling synth. It’s fun and easy to tweak but also comes with whopping 256 presets. This synth can do some serious bass – great for layering under reese or stab sounds for example. Sound quality wise it easily beats many commercial synths out there. I especially like how the pulse wave oscillator sounds.


Platform: Mac & PC, 32 bit and 64 bit.
Download here



20. Camel Audio CamelCrusher

Camel Audio CamelCrusher

CamelCrusher is a simplified version of Camel Audio’s brilliant CamelPhat distortion plugin. Don’t let that fool you though – it is a great sounding plugin. It has two distortion types – tube and mech. They both have a unique distinctive sound. The plugin also features a low-pass filter with resonance control, as well as a simple compressor.

I’ve found CamelCrusher to be at it’s best when used subtly in a “parallel distortion” type of setting. The included mix knob makes that very easy. A great way to beef up your sounds.


Platform: Mac & PC, 32 bit and 64 bit.
Download here



19. Voxengo Tube Amp

Voxengo Tube Amp

Voxengo have loads of free plugins available and they’re all good. This is another one of my favorites.

True to it’s name, the tube amp simulates analog tube distortion. The sound varies from a mild “warm” overdrive to a fuzzy distortion

It sounds very good – that is all you need to know really! There are not many free plugins around that offer this kind of sound. That is why TubeAmp is a valuable addition to your toolbox.


Platform: Mac & PC, 32 bit and 64 bit.
Download here



18. Applied Acoustic Systems Swatches

AAS Swatches

Swatches is a collection of sounds played via the free AAS Player plugin (included in the download). AAS are a pioneer of physical modeling software instruments and this can really be heard in these sounds. If you ignore the usual synth arpeggios (which are nice in their own right though), you will find some really interesting and unique sounds here.

There is no control over the sounds, which I kind of like though! There’s plenty to play around with – Swatches currently includes 104 presets with new ones being added every once in a while. My favorites include the cinematheque sounds. Deep!


Platform: Mac & PC, 32 bit and 64 bit.
Download here



Hope you enjoyed this post. If I may, let me ask you to do 3 things:

1. Spend time learning to use these great plugins properly.

2. If you enjoyed this article, please share it through Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or whatever works for you. It helps a lot and I thank you in advance.

3. Subscribe the mailing list so you won’t miss future posts.


Continue to part 2 here.

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  • This is amazing, thank you!

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      You’re welcome Jeffrey, and I promise it will only get better next week!

  • Louis

    Great work man! I’m always struggling to sort the wheat from the chaff due to the sheer volume of plugs out there so really appreciate the effort you have put in here. Much respect!

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      Thanks. Yeah I always had the same issue. I figured it would be a good place for a little research.

  • Kevin

    Thank need more please thank you please

  • Wow, dude, AWESOME collection already, after an hour of playing with these the best free list I’ve seen yet… I’ll be back next week for part 2 for sure! 🙂

  • Hey Ilpo,

    Brilliant as always man, will definitely be trying these out…. cheers for all your hard work!


  • saoirse

    You are the bomb! Thanks

  • If you have not yet considered, please consider all the freeware provided by Steve Duda at I have used these plug ins with great success

  • Eugene

    Thanks, Ilpo, gonna try some of them!

  • Abhayadev S

    hey.. thanks man.. I am also looking for some of the free plugins offered by the great console/plugin suppliers. For example we have free plugins from SLL. if you know about some of the well known supplier giving out free plugins please share…
    looking ahead to read the part II.

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      I don’t think I know of any others except the SSL. But there are plenty of good ones coming up in the next 2 posts.

      • Abhayadev S

        ok.. thanks

  • Sid

    great post, thanks!

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen


  • merejo

    Awesome!We should get together and creat plugins for Linux platform.

  • hoon

    thanx ilpo, can you tell me how these plug-in apply for logic pro?

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      Yup they should all work in Logic Pro 9 and X (except for Nebula which is 32 bit so won’t run on X).

  • AOL

    WOW! YOU ROCK! GREAT STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Max

    Amaizing, Thank you so much for that!

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      You’re welcome.

  • Hyvä homma!

  • IJ

    Thanks mate, really appreciate your work here. Guarantee Its made finding new sounds that bit easier for a lot of people, so good lad!

    Kiitokset Ilpo!

  • ivr

    Great list of apps and your breakdown of what each does is very helpful. The Klanghelm are amazing and the Nedulas in my opinion are must haves.

  • jeremyrastaman

    Thank you Maaaan !!

  • _Armandino_

    can this plugging work for ableton.

  • great free plugins

  • Thanks for this! Haven’t delved much into Mac music production; I think maybe I’ll use these free plugins as a starting point.

    • No probs Mike. They’re a great starting point for sure.

  • TruCifer

    These lists are amazing man. Thanks a ton. Love the fact that you noted paid counterparts as well as both popular platforms. Get this man more ad monies!

  • Resofactor

    My fav trick is adding the Camel Crusher to my Bass Kick Channel of FLSTUDIO to tighten the Attack and Thump on the main track Kick.

  • Crankcase08

    I tried both the HyBrit amp and the Voxengo Tube Amp, and both were rubbish. The HyBrit could not get a smooth, overdriven sound like a real Marshall. and the Voxengo just sounded like a lame distortion effect, nothing particular musically pleasant at all. I even tried raising the signal level into the HyBrit, but it still sounded poor.

    • Xbouncer

      If you can’t dial in a good sound with this plugin please step away from the pc and take up knitting dude… Seriously, that jut means you have NO clue as to how to use this stuff.

      • Crankcase08

        Absolute crap. Even the presets could not provide a pleasant sound. Nothing like any Marshall I’ve experienced, but more like an awful Fender amp.

        • Xbouncer

          Well ignorance is bliss. You have to be one of 2 people I know that thinks a Lepou plugin sucks. ANY LePou plugin.

          The other person doesn’t even know how to properly use a DAW. There ya go. A classic case of PEBKAC. Although I highly doubt it, but, you ARE using a cab sim with decent impulses when you try this stuff out I would hope at the least.

    • Matthew Watson

      They are designed to be followed up with a cab sim like lepou’s lecab, recabinet, that redwirez one that I forget the name of (MixIR, I think). There are some fantastic IR libraries out there.

  • Moustro

    Well done sir. I love the arp patches and the cool sfx. Greatly enhanced the palette of colors I have to paint with. And it’s F-R-E-E!!!

  • Michael Vincent Manalo

    hey resound! thanks for this really!

  • bayernminich

    nice work bro.its been a long time since i installed them and now i can’t remember how.can you please remind me?

    • What are you having problems with exactly? If it’s installing, you should just follow the instructions that come with the plugin downloads.

      • bayernminich

        i installed them by opening the .exe but i don’t know what to do next..

        • They are plugin extensions for your DAW so just launch your DAW and start using them!

  • Poti

    Awesome post, thanks man!

  • neil curzon

    Pardon my ignorance, but what is it that makes these plugins better than the stuff in logic x? For instance, does the Hybrit sound better than the Marshall simulator in the amp designer?

    • I haven’t used Logic X myself so definitely not making any claims of that sort.

      The point of this article is to list the best FREE VST/AU plugins that I have come around. There are tons of great paid plugins around of course. Logic X has great plugins I’m sure, but they don’t classify as free plugins.

      Best way to find out which one is better is to try and see for yourself.

  • iller

    how many virus yu got downloading tons of vst? lol

  • This is a really useful resource, great job. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Tom. I have an updated post for 2015 coming soon with lots of great new plugins so stay tuned!