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

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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 RTAS or other formats. 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.

  • http://facebook.com/wearecavale Jeffrey Prosser

    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

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/movewestspeak Andrew grannis

    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! :)

  • https://soundcloud.com/concealed-identity-uk Jim MORTON

    Hey Ilpo,

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

    Jim

  • saoirse

    You are the bomb! Thanks

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/officialdarwin Darwin

    If you have not yet considered, please consider all the freeware provided by Steve Duda at http://www.xferrecords.com/freeware/ 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

      Pleasure!

  • 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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://soundcloud.com/strassentaube Max

    Amaizing, Thank you so much for that!

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      You’re welcome.

  • http://www.resoundsound.com/ Ilpo Karkkainen

    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!

    • http://www.resoundsound.com/ Ilpo Karkkainen

      Happy to help :)

  • 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.

    • http://www.resoundsound.com/ Ilpo Karkkainen

      Cheers, glad you like and thanks for the feedback.

  • jeremyrastaman

    Thank you Maaaan !!

    • http://www.resoundsound.com/ Ilpo Karkkainen

      You’re welcome!

  • _Armandino_

    can this plugging work for ableton.

    • http://www.resoundsound.com/ Ilpo Karkkainen

      Yes

  • http://www.producerspot.com/ Producer SPOT

    great free plugins

  • http://sudocoda.com/ Mike Su

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

    • http://www.resoundsound.com/ Ilpo Karkkainen

      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.

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