Best Free VST/AU/AAX Plugins for Mac and PC (2016 edition)





It’s time again to update ourselves on the current state of free VST, AU and AAX plugins for Windows and Mac.

This is not an attempt to list all available free plugins. Rather, I’ve hand picked the best of the best free plugins for you.

All of the listed plugins work on both PC and Mac computers.

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AAS Swatches

Best Free Plugins 2016 - AAS Swatches

Swatches is a sound bank and player with a total of 160 sounds. There’s zero tweakability but the included sounds are seriously nice.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX, RTAS

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Acon Digital Multiply

Best Free VST Plugins - Acon Digital Multiply

Multiply is a chorus effect that is capable of very versatile things. Dave Pensado tipped me off about it – if he is using it, you probably should too.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Boz Digital Labs Bark of Dog

Best Free VST Plugins 2016 - Bark of Dog

A resonant filter tool for making that sub bass bark! Be careful with this one. It’s capable of blowing speakers.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX, RTAS

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Flux Bittersweet V3

Best Free AU Plugins 2016 - Flux Bittersweet

A transient shaper is a very valuable tool in your arsenal, and Flux have done a great job with this one.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Helm

Best Free Audio Plugins - Helm

If you enjoy tweaking, this synth is for you. It’s also open source and there is even a version for Linux. Great suff.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows, Linux

Download

 




Klanghelm DC1A

DC1A

DC1A is a very simple compressor plugin. Not much to tweak, but when it works it sounds great!

Formats: VST, AU, AAX, RTAS

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Klanghelm IVGI

IVGI

IVGI emulates console type saturation. It can create subtle randomness by emulating things like crosstalk.  It also has a useful VU-meter. I’ve been using it as a gain staging tool.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX, RTAS

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Klanghelm MJUCjr

MJUCjr

MJUCjr is an excellent vari-mu style compressor with lots of character.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX, RTAS

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Limiter no6

Limiter no6

Here we have a pretty complex mastering plugin that in actuality is a lot more than just a limiter. The plugin has five sections including a very nice compressor and a clipper. A very good tool for mastering, but definitely not for beginners.

Formats: VST, AU

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

LVC Limited-Z

Limited-Z

Brickwall limiting with several behaviour modes and good visual feedback. Great!

Formats: VST, AU, AAX, RTAS

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Metric Halo Thump

Best Free AAX Plugins 2016 - Thump

Thump allows you to synthesize low frequency audio to add low end to your track. It is superb for those situations where EQ isn’t helping much. Sounds super solid and the controls are very precise.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download



Ohm Force Frohmage

Frohmage

A classic sound mangling effect that has been around for a long time. Fun, unpredictable and capable of very unique sounding effects.

Formats: VST, AU, RTAS

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Shattered Glass Audio Code Red

Code Red

Code Red is an analogue modeling EQ based on a classic unit from Abbey Road Studios. The plugin models the premap as well as the EQ section. Turn up the input drive and you’ll hear the mojo!

Formats: VST, AU

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Softube Saturation Knob

Saturation Knob

Softube know how to make things sound good and this plugin is no exception. It’s a deceptively simple looking plugin, but when used right it has the potential to take your mixdowns to a completely new level.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

TAL Chorus LX

TAL Chorus

The inclusion of TAL Chorus LX as a second chorus plugin on this list is well justified. It sounds different to Acon Multiply. TAL Chorus LX is not as versatile as a sound design tool. But it sounds fat, analog and old school.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

TDR Nova

TDR Nova

TDR have been releasing one great plugin after another. Nova is a dynamic EQ. Brilliantly executed and sounds great.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

TDR Kotelnikov

TDR Kotelnikov

Kotelnikov is a transparent mastering compressor with some features that you’re hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

TDR VOS SlickEQ

SlickEQ

A modern interpretation of a classic style EQ. Superb sound, features and interface.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

 

U-He Tyrell N6

Tyrell

Tyrell N6 is another plugin that by now deserves a classic status. It ‘s a synthesizer that still sounds as great as ever.

Formats: VST, AU, AAX

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Voxengo OldSkoolVerb

OldSkoolVerb

A very useful and well executed plate style reverb. It has a few different operation modes as well (make sure to try the reverse mode for some interesting effects).

Formats: VST, AU

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Voxengo Span

Span

Span is a metering tool that includes a spectrum analyzer, loudness/dynamic range meter and a phase correlation meter. Very configurable and very good.

Formats: VST, AU

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

Voxengo Tube Amp

TubeAmp

Tube style saturation with two different operation modes. Go in subtle or hard.

Formats: VST, AU

Platforms: Mac, Windows

Download

 

There you have it! My look on the best free VST / AU / AAX plugins for Windows and Mac in 2016. Think I’m missing something? Let us know in the comments.

If you like this post, please give it a Tweet, Facebook Like or let your friends know in some other way. That helps me keep the blog going. Thanks!

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  • mczanetti

    awesome tips Ilpo. downloading some right now. thanks for the article 🙂

  • Just wanted to say …the klanghelm stuff is amazing. I have a few compressors from the likes of waves and psp, but klanghelms MJUC just does incredible things and when I A/B’d it against some other well known big name comps, it blew them away. Klanghelm is seriously impressive !! Even the free downloads like IVGI are amazing for saturation and warmth.

    • Yeah I wholeheartedly agree. I also own the full version of MJUC and it’s a beast. Blows away a lot of other very expensive comps like you said.

      • yeah I bought the full version too, before He released the MJUCjr. The fact He spent 2 years “obsessing” over it made me want to give it a try as I’d already bought all His other plugins and not only love what He does, but I trust His work as its stable and never gives me any problems. His work leaves plugins that are 5 times the price sounding very thin, and with no actual substance. I have over 1,000 plugins on my PC and klanghelm are in my top 10. I kinda want to keep it to myself, but its hard to stay quiet about it =)

        • Haha, yup one of the top devs out there for sure! And I love his philosophy with pricing. I still haven’t bought the DC8C because I have so many compressors. But everything else from him I did.

    • Jay Kay

      just found this A/B with my GATES STALEVEL…Nice and close …

  • Joseph Whittle

    Right, so this sort of stuff makes me feel really stupid. I can download VST files fine, and my DAW can find them, but always struggle when the VST has an actual installation file. I installed Bark of Dog, and selected my VST folder, but all its done is created a BoD folder with an Uninstall file in there. No VSTs are showing up in the DAW. What am I doing wrong?

    PS – thanks for this list!! Appreciated as always.

    • Thunderclap

      When installing, make sure to set the vst 32bit and 64bit folders to your plugin folder as well

      • Joseph Whittle

        Thanks fella. I got it worked out eventually.

  • lambdoid

    The TDR plugins are great/ I have the paid version of SlickEQ and I find the phase switch(it’s basically an allpass filter) is very useful for getting rid of low end mud. I’m finding all kinds of uses for Nova- most often for sidechaining the kick to the bass. It’s a lot more precise than using an ordinary compressor. It’s also good for removing harshness from high end percussion that has a lot of dynamics like rides.

  • Wazap

    So, what i’m supposed to do with this 32 new files now ?

    Argh… joking.

    Rebuilding a little blazing setup from scratch after 8 years of white noise.

    You frankly help me a ton Ilpo.

    Thanks a lot.

  • Nice Willis

    how do you download nova?

  • Shawn Kernen

    Nice free list of VSTs!

  • Dominic Hodson

    Good list, now all this is potentially for Mac users of Reason 9.5 by Propellerhead; Not sure if JBridge works for Reason though. So ideally want to stick with 64 bit VSTs, and Reason can’t support VST 3 at time of writing this (although this has been promised).