Happy New Year everyone! May 2021 be a year full of positive vibes. Hope you’re all ready for a new year with new chances. 🙂 Since it has been a while that I did a ‘Tips & Tricks‘ blog, and even longer that I did one focusing on the best free plugins, I figured it was time for an update. So I’ve picked 10 of my favorite freeware plugins of the moment. Plugins I feel are invaluable for any producer. So without further ado, let’s kick things off. Here’s my personal list of freeware plugins you need for music production in 2021!
1) Voxengo Span (Free Edition)
I know this one has been featured in my previous list of freeware plugins as well, but even in 2021 this Spectrum Analyzer is unmatched even by it’s paid competitors. The plugin is still updated on a regular basis and with its updated ‘preset’ modes like the ‘stereo mastering’, ‘low frequency inspection’ or ‘Mid – Side Stereo’ it’s simply just a must-have. This is my go-to visualizer on every single project I do, running it on a separate (touch)screen, so I can see everything I do and visualize every decision I make. Go get it.. right now!
2) Spitfire Labs
Even though I did personally purchase some of the more extensive versions of the Spitfire plugins, this offering is absolutely crazy. A huge selection of professional quality sampled (real) instruments, free to use in your projects. Anything from strings, to choirs, pianos to guitars. Anyone looking to spice up their tracks with some acoustic instruments and not able (or willing) to spend a few hundred bucks on Kontakt libraries should definitely check this one out.
3) Vital (Free Edition)
This list wouldn’t really be complete without Vital. The recently released spectral warping wavetable synth that matches (and sometimes even surpasses) the likes of Serum or Avenger, only it’s freeware. While fairly heavy on the CPU, it’s sound quality, filters, user-friendliness and presentation are all top notch. It features a free version, a paid version and a subscription model. The latter two all offering more features. But the reality is; the free version is perfectly fine to use as it is.
4) Valhalla Super Massive
Valhalla Supermassive offers a ton of modes and features, and delivers some amazing delay and reverb effects. Are you looking for some extra lush atmospheres and to bring some life to your tracks? This is what you need! With everything this plugin has to offer it even surpasses most of its paid counterparts. So there’s no excuse not to get this one.
5) TDR Kotelnikov
TDR Kotelnikov is a really versatile compressor. And even though it’s advertised as a ‘mastering compressor’ it works wonders on group buses or individual sounds as well. It doesn’t as much color the sound but manages to compress the sound in a very clean way, preservering most of it’s intended tonality. One very nice touch is the fact it offers a ‘delta’ mode, in which you can preview what exactly the compressor is doing. Just so you can compare the differences between the compressed and uncompressed signal. A feature even most paid and advanced plugins do not have, but (in my humble opinion) all modern plugins should include.
6) Youlean Loudness Meter (Free Edition)
Youlean has been active on the Image-Line forums for quite a while. Developing his own patches presets and signal chains, exploring the world of sound design and audio engineering. This all resulted in the release of his own Loudness Metering plugin. And what a plug-in it is. This is without a doubt the best free metering plugin and, if you ask me, the best paid one too. Measuring (perceived) loudness and dynamics. Using it as a plugin on your track or standalone. Being able to real-time analyze your signal or you can simply drag and drop your complete track onto the plugin. This literally has all the features one can ask from a loudness metering plugin and much much more!
7) KSHMR Essentials Kick
While this is a stripped down version of the full KSHMR Essentials plugin, this version does offer everything you need for your kick processing preferences. You can tune the subs, tweak the mids or the air, increase the transients or process the sounds with some extra saturation, compression or exciting. So if there’s one plugin you should choose in your arsenal to work on your kicks; this should be it!
Bitcrushing and distortion on steroids; all for free. Both offering clear crispy digital top-end sweetening and warm down-sampling, this is a great little plugin to give some extra taste to your sounds. And with its built-in filters and modulation controls it even offers some features most commercial bitcrushing plugins do not have. So for anyone looking to get serious about bitcrushing – this is a no-brainer.
9) TDR Nova
Nowadays a dynamic EQ is a must-have in the arsenal of a producer. Unfortunately it’s a feature that is mostly only found in the more expensive and complex EQ plugins. But not with Nova. TDR Nova is a parallel dynamic equalizer. Featuring a super user-friendly GUI and clean filters. Star of the show however is the dynamic EQ function which you can use to add a form of compression to your EQ bands, which you can use to really zoom in and tweak troublesome frequencies. For instance when de-essing a vocal, or taking out a certain resonant sound.
10) Ozone Imager
Ozone has created an easy to use imager with two very clean algorithm modes. Widen the stereo signal that’s already there? Just adjust the bands. Want to turn a monophonic sound into a stereo sound? Just turn on the ‘stereoize’ button. Want to do the both? Why not! And with 3 different types of visualizers, you can see exactly what the processing is doing to your sound. You can’t really go wrong with this one.
That’s it for now. Hope this information helps you with your tracks. Happy producing! And if you need any help, you know where to find me!