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The 10 Best Free Plugins That Actually Don’t Suck! (2024)

As a producer, choosing the right plugins can make or break your tracks. 


However, most plugins out there are either extremely overpriced or extremely underwhelming.


This is why we’re eliminating both of those inconveniences now, with the 10 best free plugins that will completely blow your mind. 


All the following best free plugins include certain features, functions, and unique inclusions that can help ensure your beats can compete with the best. 


The following best free plugins were crowned top spots because of their:


  • High-quality sound libraries ✓
  • Extensive synthesis capabilities for a free version ✓
  • Dynamic and transparent compression ✓
  • Real-time audio spectrum analysis ✓
  • Expansive reverb and delay effects ✓
  • Aggressive multiband compression ✓
  • Ability to be paired with any popular DAW ✓
  • Realistic and expressive virtual instruments ✓
  • Vintage vinyl emulation for lo-fi effects ✓
  • Reliable & trustworthy ties ✓
  • Modular effects system for creative flexibility ✓
  • Simple, intuitive interfaces for ease of use ✓
  • Regular updates with new features and sounds ✓
  • Other unique and creative inclusions ✓


You’ll have access to the best free plugins (effects, instruments, and synths) in the game and know everything about each one.


This way, you can use them like a true expert and blow the competition out of the water.


Whether you’re looking for a great starting point, or the ultimate value for the free pricetag, the following best free plugins are invaluable.


So, let’s dive in…


Different Types of VST Plugins


Before we dive into the 14 best free plugins available, it’s important you understand the different between virtual instruments, effects plugins, and synths/synthesizers. So, let’s quickly break it down before moving on.


  • Virtual Instruments


Virtual Instruments - Unison


Virtual instruments are digital software that emulate the sounds of real instruments or create entirely new sounds with some creative tweaking.


These VST (Virtual Studio Technology) instruments we’re going to cover can transform your DAW into a powerful orchestra or band right at your fingertips.


They offer everything from detailed piano sounds to vibrant strings and beyond. 


For producers, virtual instruments are invaluable 一 providing mind-blowing sounds without the need for physical space or large budgets. 


High-quality VST instruments like those found in popular collections can mimic the nuanced dynamics of, let’s say, an acoustic instrument.


They bring unmatched authenticity to your digital audio workstation. 


With these VST instruments, you can do things like: 


  • Layer sounds
  • Adjust timbres
  • Simulate different performance spaces
  • Etc.


Bottom line, becoming a virtual instrument master is super important if you’re going to take your production skills to the next level.


To learn more about VST instruments, click here.


  • Effects Plugins


VST Effects Plugins e1686067481727 - Unison


Effects plugins are absolutely essential for shaping and enhancing your audio quality. 


They can alter sounds in endless ways, from subtle modulation to more dramatic transformations, and everything in between.


Common effects include: 



Each unique effect can help you either refine the clarity of the sound or create a new atmospheric depth. 


Effects plugins integrate seamlessly into your digital audio workstation 一 allowing for real-time adjustments and automation during mixing sessions. 


Whether you’re looking to smooth out vocals with one of the best dynamic compression VST effect plugins or need to throw on some reverb effects, they can get the job done.


They’re not only extremely beneficial to play around with, but they can actually help you find your signature sound as well.


To learn more about VST effect plugins, click here.


  • Synths


VST Synths - Unison


Synthesizers (synths) offer extensive sound design capabilities, which is perfect for creating different unique audio textures


These VST plugins generate audio through digital signal processing 一 emulating traditional analog synths or setting trends with entirely digital sounds. 


Synths are highly versatile and capable of producing everything from deep basslines to ethereal leads and atmospheric pads. 


They’re super popular in the electronic music scene because EDM producers (like myself) love to go crazy with synthesizers and synthesis techniques, but all genres can benefit.


With features like oscillators, modulators, and filters, synths provide a playground for audio exploration and creativity within your digital audio workstation.


To learn more about virtual synthesizers, click here.


#1. Zen Master by Unison Audio


best free plugins


Zen Master by Unison Audio is a groundbreaking free lo-fi plugin that expertly combines analog and digital modeled effects to give any sound a warm, vintage feel instantly. 


With its straightforward interface featuring just five knobs, Zen Master makes it easy to infuse your tracks with some serious lo-fi vibes.


#1. The Hypnosis knob


Hypnosis 2 e1687307037396 - Unison


The Hypnosis knob adds a mesmerizing detune and widens the effect, creating a surreal spatial expansion in your mix.


#2. The Imbalance knob


Imbalance 2 - Unison


The Imbalance knob introduces a subtle, tape-modeled pitch wobble to bring that vintage, humanized feel to your audio. 


#3. The Electrify knob


Electrify 2 - Unison


The Electrify knob offers a meticulously calibrated bitcrushing effect 一 degrading the sound quality to produce that sought-after classic lo-fi aesthetic.


#4. The Vinyl knob 


Vinyl 2 - Unison


The Vinyl knob allows you to overlay your tracks with one of three signature sounds (vinyl, white noise, or crackle), each adding a distinct layer of old-school character.


#5. The Ascend knob


Ascend 2 - Unison


The Ascend knob brings in a majestic reverb, which is perfect for creating a spacious, warm, and pristine atmosphere people are drawn to.


I mean, the way it can instantly transform any track is insane.


If you’re looking to explore the creative possibilities of lo-fi effects without compromising on sound quality, Zen Master trumps any other free VSTs, hands down.


Download The Best Free Plugin In The Game


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • Hypnosis for detuning and widening effects
  • Imbalance for tape-modeled pitch modulation
  • Electrify for precise bitcrushing
  • Noise for adding vinyl, crackle, or white noise textures
  • Ascend for spacious and warm reverb
  • Simple and intuitive interface
  • Compatible with all major DAW options
  • One of the best free VST plugins/new plugins available


#2. Spitfire Audio LABS


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Spitfire Audio LABS is a notorious free VST plugin collection that offers an expansive library of unique and high-quality sounds.


It’s certainly a top choice for producers and engineers across all genres. 


Spitfire Audio LABS has anything you need to create epic tracks, from traditional orchestral sounds to more experimental and innovative timbres, such as:


  • Soft piano
  • Strings
  • Choir
  • Frozen strings
  • Music box


Each sound is sampled to perfection to make sure you receive the highest quality audio for each and every unique project.


Spitfire Audio LABS is particularly celebrated for its user-friendly interface, which allows even beginners to access game-changing sound design tools with ease. 


It also benefits from frequent updates, which add new sounds and functionalities 一 continuously expanding the creative possibilities it offers. 


I know it sounds like something every one of the best free plugins should include, but you’d be surprised by how many developers slack on updates.


For those involved in film scoring, ambient music creation, or any form of sound production/sound design exploration, LABS is pretty impressive.


Its commitment to quality and ease of use ensures that it remains one of the best free VST plugins available today, tomorrow, and the next day.


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • Expansive library of unique, high-quality sounds
  • Features both traditional and experimental instruments
  • High-quality audio sampling
  • User-friendly interface across all Spitfire Audio LABS plugins
  • Regular updates with new sounds
  • Ideal for film scoring and ambient music
  • One of the best free VST plugins available
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


#3. Native Instruments Komplete Start


Komplete Start 2 - Unison


Native Instruments Komplete Start is one of the most unparalleled bundles available, including a mind-blowing variety of (absolutely free) virtual instruments and effects.


This free VST plugin bundle includes over 2,000 unique sounds and more than 6 GB of content, covering every essential element, like:


  • Synths
  • Drums/percussion
  • Sample-based instruments like bass, piano & strings
  • Everything in between


Native Instruments Komplete Start features some of Native Instruments’ most popular software instruments and creative effects, including REAKTOR PLAYER, KONTAKT PLAYER, and GUITAR RIG 5 PLAYER.


Each are renowned worldwide for their sound quality and versatility. 


Native Instruments Komplete Start is a seriously epic free plugin bundle for any producer looking to explore different musical styles and sound design techniques.


All without spending a dime, which is pretty revolutionary.


NOTE: The inclusion of SYNTH1 provides users with a synthesizer capable of creating a vast range of sound 一 from powerful leads to intricate atmospheric textures


Plus, the each user interface across all the included plugins is designed to be intuitive, which makes it easier to eliminate all distractions and get to the creative stuff.


Komplete Start’s wide array of tools and sounds makes it one of the best free plugins for beginners and experienced producers alike, without a doubt.


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • Over 2,000 sounds and 6 GB of content
  • Wide range of instruments and creative effects
  • SYNTH1 synthesizer included
  • Intuitive user interfaces that people rave about on the internet
  • Suitable for various musical styles
  • One of the best free plugin bundles around
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


#4. Kilohearts Essentials


Kilohearts Filter - Unison


Kilohearts Essentials is a free VST plugin bundle that offers a selection of versatile and easy-to-use audio effects and synths.


This makes it an excellent addition to any music producer’s toolkit, including you.


This legendary collection includes various effects such as a delay, reverb, and chorus (plus the unique Kilohearts Filter), each designed with simplicity and efficiency in mind. 


The bundle also features the Kilohearts ONE synthesizer.


It’s known for its powerful sound generation capabilities and streamlined interface, which allows users to create complex sounds in no time. 


Kilohearts Essentials is compatible with the innovative Snapin system 一 letting you  combine these effects modularly for even more creative flexibility. 


NOTE: This feature is particularly beneficial for sound designers looking to create intricate audio effects chains. 


Its user-friendly design and powerful functionality make it a must-have for producers who need reliable, high-quality effects.


All without the complexity or cost of more extensive software packages, of course.


Kilohearts Essentials stands out as one of the best free plugins for both beginners and seasoned professionals looking to up their sound game.


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • Includes various effects like delay, reverb, and chorus
  • Kilohearts ONE synthesizer for powerful sound generation
  • Compatible with Kilohearts Snapin system
  • Includes an impressive variety of free emulation options
  • Modular effects chaining for creative flexibility
  • Streamlined and efficient user interfaces
  • Suitable for sound design and music production
  • One of the best free VST plugins/free plugin bundles available
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


#5. TDR Nova


TDR Nova - Unison


TDR Nova stands out as a sick free parallel dynamic equalizer that can help with any mixing technique or mastering task requiring precision and finesse. 


It’s one of the best free plugins because of its combination of: 


  • Parametric equalization
  • Dynamic processing


Each of the four dynamic EQ bands offers independent control over thresholds, attack, release, and bandwidth.


So, needless to say, you can go crazy when sculpting audio frequencies based on their dynamic characteristics. 


This makes TDR Nova super useful for de-essing, where specific frequency ranges need to be controlled dynamically, or for adding punch to drums without affecting the mix. 


Plus, the additional high-pass and low-pass filters also contribute to a cleaner mix by cutting unwanted frequencies with precision. 


Nova’s visual feedback system is highly intuitive 一 presenting real-time spectral analysis that helps you make informed decisions about the adjustments you’re making. 


Pro Tip


Its dual functionality as both an EQ and a dynamic processor allows you to tackle a wide range of production challenges with precision and creative control. 


This alone makes it an incredible free plugin (one of the best free plugins, if we’re getting specific) for the ages.


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • Dynamic equalizer with four adjustable bands
  • Independent control of threshold, attack, release, and bandwidth
  • Includes high-pass and low-pass filters
  • Real-time spectral analysis for accurate adjustments
  • Ideal for detailed frequency sculpting and dynamic processing
  • User-friendly interface for efficient workflow
  • One of the best free VST plugins available
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


#6. Surge XT


Surge 1 - Unison


Surge XT is a powerhouse of a synthesizer that shines as one of the best free VST plugins for extensive sound design possibilities. 


This open-source synth is a continuation and expansion of the original Surge synthesizer, known for its versatility and depth. 


Surge XT includes a wide range of synthesis methods, including: 



Each one can help you create everything from lush pads to aggressive leads with razor-sharp precision.


It includes over 2000 presets, so you can dive head-first into dope sound creation with an impressive amount of ready-to-use patches


Plus, the user interface of this synth (while extensive and detailed) was set up for ease of use and efficiency.


So, whether you’re a new producer or advanced synth user, you can manipulate your sounds a granular level


Pro Tip


Surge XT also supports MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) 一 making it highly responsive to modern MIDI controllers and keyboards.


This synth is one of the must-have best free plugins for any producer who wants to create unique, professional-sounds tracks without any financial commitment.


Key Features of this Free Plugin/Synth:


  • Extensive synth methods
  • Over 2000 presets
  • Streamlined user interface
  • Supports MPE unlike some new plugins
  • High versatility in sound creation
  • Open-source and community-driven
  • One of the best free plugins available
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


#7. OTT by Xfer Records


Xfer OTT - Unison


OTT by Xfer Records is a highly acclaimed free VST plugin known for its aggressive multiband upward/downward compression capabilities. 


Originally modeled after a popular Ableton Live compressor preset, OTT brings a distinctive sound enhancement that is key in electronic music production. 


It features three bands of compression controls (high, mid, and low) which can be individually adjusted to tweak the dynamics of the audio. 


The plugin also includes depth and time controls 一 allowing for precise manipulation of the compression effect’s intensity and duration. 


This flexibility makes it invaluable for adding clarity and punch to dull, basic sounds or for creating a more dramatic impact in mixes. 


Its ability to dramatically reshape audio dynamics makes it one of the best free VST plugins for those looking to enhance their sound aggressively.


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • Multiband upward/downward compression
  • Individual control over high, mid, and low bands
  • Depth and time control for dynamic shaping
  • Modeled after a popular Ableton Live compressor preset
  • Ideal for electronic music production
  • One of the best free VST plugins available
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


#8. Magic Switch by Baby Audio


Magic Switch by Baby Audio - Unison


Magic Switch by Baby Audio offers a lush, vintage-style chorus effect in a simple, one-button interface. 


This free VST plugin is inspired by the classic ‘80s analog chorus sounds to give your tracks a wide, dreamy, and slightly detuned effect.


It enhances the stereo image and adds depth to any mix. 


Its design focuses on simplicity, with a single switch to engage the effect, so it’s incredibly easy to use while still providing significant audio enhancement. 


Magic Switch works well on a variety of audio sources, from vocals and guitars to synths and drums (it’s super versatile across genres).


It also includes optimized presets for different sound sources, which is another reason it’s crowned one of the best free plugins around.


If you’re looking for that nostalgic chorus effect that Baby Audio’s commitment to quality and user-friendly design shines through in Magic Switch 一 making it an essential tool for producers looking for that nostalgic chorus effect. 


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • Best free version of that classic ‘80s chorus effect
  • Simple one-button operation, unlike some other audio plugins
  • Enhances stereo image and depth unlike some other best free plugins
  • Suitable for a variety of audio sources; audio input/output
  • Includes optimized freeware presets for ease of use
  • Ideal for music producers looking for vintage edge
  • The best free chorus plugin available
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


#9. Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov


Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov - Unison


Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Kotelnikov is a completely free VST plugin known for its high-fidelity dynamic range compression. 


This compressor stands out due to its transparency…


Meaning, it doesn’t color the sound even when applied aggressively to preserve the original character of the audio while enhancing dynamics. 


TDR Kotelnikov offers advanced control over parameters such as attack, release, ratio, and knee 一 providing precise tweaking tailored to any mixing or mastering job


It features a dual-stage timing structure that allows for creative control over the compression envelope for a more ‘musical’ response.


Also, it includes a peak crest meter and independent release controls for peak and RMS compression, which are invaluable for detailed dynamic shaping. 


Pro Tip


Kotelnikov is perfect for bus compression and mastering thanks to its stereo-linking capabilities and sidechain functions


Its meticulous design and exceptional performance make it one of the best free plugins for producers who want to incorporate professional-grade compression without the cost.


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • High-fidelity, transparent compression
  • Advanced control over dynamics parameters
  • Dual-stage timing structure for musical compression
  • Independent release controls for peak and RMS
  • Effective for bus compression and mastering
  • Stereo linking and sidechain functionality
  • One of the best free VST plugins available
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


#10. iZotope Vinyl


Vinyl - Unison


iZotope Vinyl is a unique free VST plugin that helps impart the character of vintage vinyl records to your tracks, offering adjustable: 


  • Dust
  • Scratches
  • Warp
  • Mechanical noise


It excels at creating an authentic, lo-fi sound that can add depth and atmosphere to any music production project you’re working on.


Vinyl’s interface includes controls for each artifact, allowing detailed customization of the vintage effect (from subtle texturing to heavily worn sounds). 


It also features a year selector to emulate the sound degradation qualities typical of different eras of vinyl production. 


The warp control is super beneficial and innovative as well 一 simulating the irregularities found in vinyl playback due to record warping. 


NOTE: iZotope Vinyl is compatible with all major DAWs (digital audio workstations) and can be used in both music and post-production for adding historical context or an analog touch to your digital recordings. 


If you’re looking for the best free plugins that bring nostalgia vibes, Zen Master is number one… but right after that is definitely Vinyl.


Key Features of this Free Plugin:


  • Simulates vintage vinyl record sounds; completely free version
  • Adjustable dust, scratches, warp, and mechanical noise
  • Year selector to emulate different vinyl eras
  • Adds lo-fi, atmospheric effects to tracks
  • Compatible with all major DAWs
  • Useful for music producers looking for enhanced sound
  • One of the best free VST plugins available
  • Free download for Windows and Mac


Best Free Plugins: Final Thoughts


I said it once and I’ll say it again… the right free plugins have the ability to change the way you look at free software.


With any of the best free plugins we covered today, you’ll be able to make tracks that can go head-to-head with the chart-topping beats you hear all day.


They each offer a unique set of creative and innovative features that provide that high-quality production doesn’t have to come at a high price.


Investing time in mastering the best free plugins we talked about can significantly enhance your workflow and output.


You’ll be able to experiment freely and ensure a professional sound without any constraints or restrictions. 


Remember, the best free plugins are not just a starting point 一 they can completely transform your tracks into something you didn’t even think possible.


So, go dive in and see what magic you can create with these free gems.


Until next time…




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