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The Top 10 Free VST Effects for Musicians & Producers

Effect plugins are the ones that shape the sound of your mix. If you have bad effects, you'll end up with bad sound quality and people won't listen to your stuff. The problem is that high-quality effects are often very expensive, which can become frustrating if you're just starting up or just want to make music as a hobby.

Luckily, free vst plugins can be just as good as paid ones, and most companies offer them to market their paid products, as Kilohearts and Melda Productions do with their free bundles.

We understand that not everyone can spend a bunch of money on a new plugin and we want to spare you from hours of internet search and give you some great-sounding free alternatives, so let's dive in!

What Are The Best Free VST Effects

Here are the best free VST effects for music producers:

  1. Valhalla Free Plugins (All of them)
  2. Baby Audio (Magic switch and comeback)
  3. Softube Saturation Knob
  4. Couture Transient Shaper
  5. Fresh Air
  6. Caelum Audio plugins
  7. Tritik Krush
  8. YouLean Loudness Meter
  9. TDR Nova EQ
  10. Klanghelm Free VST plugins

1. Valhalla Free Plugins

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.8+”, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit

valhalla free vst delay reverb & echo

Pros

✅ Understandable interfaces that include descriptions of each control and what they do

✅ Incredibly flexible effects to use in any situation

✅ Fantastic tools for creative use, like sound design and music production

✅ Outstanding modulation capabilities for reverbs and delays

✅ Lets you create complex and unique-sounding modulated effects within seconds

Cons

❌ Modulation can easily be all over the place

❌ It can take you a while to get it to behave the way you want it

Valhalla DSP is a plugin manufacturer that specializes in making analog-inspired spacial effects such as modulation, reverb, and delay. These effects are pretty famous among music producers and engineers due to the unique sounds these plugins have to offer.

Valhalla has some free vst plugins available to give us a taste of what their powerful tools can do, these are Space Modulator, FreqEcho, and their massively famous Supermassive plugin.

Space modulator is a free flanger and effect plugin capable of very extreme and pretty interesting modulations, not only limited to flanging, but also chorus, doubler, and modulated reverb and delays.

This is effect is ideal to give an interesting flavor and dimension to the incoming audio so that it stands out.

valhalla space modulator free effect VST
valhalla freq echo free vst

FreqEcho is a straightforward frequency delay effect with a very simple interface. It can help you add impressively complex modulated delays that you can use to create depth in your mix.

Last but not least there's Supermassive, which is a massive free delay plugin that's got all of the above and includes reverb and several processing modes on top of it.

It's a great plugin to use on just about anything, and it's so flexible that you can use it to add a simple delay or to create an entire vibe with ambiences and modulations.

valhalla supermassive free delay vst

How Does It Sound?

Space Modulator

These plugins are great to add dimension to a track. Space modulator works great to improve the sound of a synth, add texture and color to drums, and make very interesting effects with vocals.

Preset used: Lush Verb A

FreqEcho

FreqEcho is amazing to add depth, you can use it on drums to place things and make them feel like they're further away, closer, above, or below. It doesn't include any presets, though.

Settings: 39.6% wet, free delay time 0.01sec, 0.32Hz shift, 41.2% feedback, 540Hz low cut, 15KHz high cut. It's subtle, but pay attention to the crash and the percussions on the sides

Supermassive

Lastly, Supermassive is great for all of the above and to bring ambiance to any track due to its delay and reverb component, but it can quickly become washy and be very invasive.

Preset used: Aquarius quarter note echo verb

2. Baby Audio (Magic switch and comeback)

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.7+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit

baby audio free vst plugins

Pros

✅ Simple and effective interfaces and effects

✅ Works a charm on almost anything you put through it

✅ Independent wet/dry out control knobs

✅ Great sound design tools

Cons

❌ Magic Switch can cause phase issues

❌Can be pretty taxing for your CPU

Baby Audio is a relatively new plugin developer company founded in 2019. They're well-known for their outstanding effects and great-looking interfaces.

They offer three professional-level freebies from which we'll talk about two that we consider the absolute best: Baby Comeback and Magic Switch.

free delay plugin baby audio

Baby Comeback is the free version of their paid Comeback Kid delay plugin, which is a unique analog echo emulation. The free one shares only the flavor and output section with the paid version and it's brutal to craft unique and creative effects.

On the other hand, we've got the Magic Switch, which is a modulation plugin based on the magic button from their other plugin Super VHS.

It adds some modulations in the background that make your tracks sound bigger, thicker, and wider. It doesn't work for every input, but for the most part, it helps a lot with vocals, guitars, and synths.

magic switch free vhs vst

How Does It Sound?

Honestly, the most helpful one is Baby Comeback because it sounds great, works great on just about anything and you can regulate it to get the perfect sound for it. Also, the different flavors are awesome to change the texture of your sound so that it fits with the context of your mix.

Baby Comeback

Before
After
Wide flavor
Analog flavor
Saucey flavor

Magic Switch

Magic Switch only does a bit of modulation and doubling, which can be great for a vocal or a guitar track, but it's pretty limited for almost anything else.

Set 100% wet

3. Softube Saturation Knob

Compatibility: Win10+, macOS 10.3+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit

best free saturation plugin softube

Pros

✅ Realistic analog distortion plugin

✅ Intuitive interface

✅ Ability to distort high and low frequencies individually

✅ Amazing to make drums, basses, and vocals sound fatter

Cons

❌ You need an iLok account

❌ Installation and activation can be a real pain

❌ Not very good with ambient tones

If you have an internet connection and are reading this list, is very likely that you've heard about this plugin at least a couple of times in the past. Nevertheless, in case you've been living under a rock, the Saturation knob is a free saturation plugin by Softube which can bring analog warmth to your sounds.

What made this plugin so successful in the music production world is its simplicity, with the only control being the drive knob, with a toggle that contains three different, self-explaining saturation modes.

However, the simple interface is not all this plugin has to offer – it also has a particularly great sound and it's super helpful to color any signal with realistic analog saturation.

What's the catch?

It requires an iLok account to be able to use this software, so if you don't have one and aren't planning to get it, you should check out Klanghelm's IVGI saturation plugin, which we'll talk about below.

How Does It Sound?

Saturation knob sounds fairly good and the distortion is pretty natural. The neutral type is very round and creamy, which is great for aggressive rock vocals.

Keep low mode feels a lot more like a tube distortion, it feels like it cuts high frequencies a bit too much, but is very round and bulky. It works wonders on male vocals.

Keep high mode keeps the clarity and does a very nice-sounding and airy distortion, which is great for female vocals.

We have personally used Softube saturation knob in the sound design of our sample packs to add analog warmth and a gritty distortion to our melodies, drums sounds, and more

4. Couture Transient Shaper

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.11+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit

best free transient shaping VST effect

Pros

✅ Understandable user interface

✅ Bass filtering works great to round up the low end of kicks and bass

✅ Versatile and incredibly organic transient shaping

✅ Three focused transient detection modes optimized for high frequencies and vocals, and a flat detection for other inputs

✅ Input and output oscilloscope visualizers let you see how you're processing affects transients in real-time

✅ Detects the start of notes for vocals to prevent harshness

✅ Low CPU consumption

Cons

❌ Couldn't find any

Couture is a free transient shaper plugin by Auburn Sounds that helps you shape the dynamics of your tracks. Couture has a paid version that grants you access to the distortion section, but we'll focus exclusively on the transient designer module for this since it's the free part of the plugin.

It has three transient detection modes:

  • Neutral
  • Human
  • Sybil

You can additionally specify the amount of low-frequency energy that you want it to detect, which is extremely helpful when using this effect on a kick or bass to keep these frequencies from being processed and only focussing on the higher transients.

Couture is a wonderful tool to work with and is useful to shape the tone of your tracks.

It can be game-changing especially with basses and synths, attenuating transients to get a rounder sound. The ability to exclude the detection of low frequencies is also incredible because it allows you to add sustain to bass by attenuating the transients and keeping a round & consistent low-end.

How Does It Sound?

Couture is fantastic at dealing with transients. It works exceptionally well on drums, and helps them to smack a lot louder and punchier. It's the most transparent transient designer out of all the other free picks and creates the cleanest sound.

On drums

On bass

Listen for the kick and snare. Notice how the drums feel wider after the second half when the plugin is active.
Notice the improvement in the sustain during the second half when the plugin is active, and how it feels less aggressive.

It sounds great with vocals too, it can be truly helpful to make it sound more exciting or to even up dynamics without boosting the esses.

5. Fresh Air

Compatibility: Win10+, macOS 10.13, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit

Pros

✅ Great sound quality and character even in extreme settings

✅ Intuitive user interface

✅ Low CPU impact

✅ Great to add clarity to any signal or bus on the fly

Cons

❌ You need an iLok account

❌ It's really easy to overdo

Fresh Air is Slate Digital's free high-frequency harmonic exciter. It's a simple but ideal solution to make dull recordings sound more crisp and clear on your mix, and it works exceptionally well on things like hats, synths, guitars, vocals, and more.

This plugin is one of the cleanest high-frequency exciters because unlike Waves' Aphex emulation or Maag's EQ4, it doesn't add any harshness unless you overuse the “high air. And the best part? You don't need to know the first thing about EQ to make something sound professional using it.

Fresh air only has two knobs to excite the high mid-range around 3 and 5KHz to add presence and the top-end around 12KHz. The plugin itself is pretty straightforward and superb for a vocal chain.

This free software is comparable and most of the time better than several paid plugins made to solve the same type of problems. However, the catch is that you need an iLok Cloud user to make it work.

How Does It Sound?

Fresh Air sounds really good on vocals, making them sound clearer. The mid-air does a really good job bringing the little details forward and I'd dare to say it's boosting somewhere between 2 and 4KHz while the high air knob boosts around 12KHz.

It's surprisingly clean, and it doesn't add much harshness, although in a home studio setup it might. Nevertheless, if used with care, fresh air can help your vocals sound pro with minimal effort.

We personally used Fresh Air a tonne in our sound design for the Redd Velvet Hyperpop Melody pack, because it really helped to bring out the bite needed in the high-range frequencies.

Hear that crisp, bright air sound. That came from using Fresh Air to boost the mid-air and high-air of the sound.

6. Caelum Audio plugins

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.11+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bmage

caelum audio free plugins

Pros

✅ Amazing and simple sound design tools

✅ Flux mini 2 is amazing to create intricate modulations in moments

✅ Casstete 2 supports x16 oversampling

✅ Incredibly flexible tools to accomplish a broad variety of distortion and modulation effects.

✅ Cassette 2 is great to use on vocals, synths, and mid-range-focused instruments like guitars and pianos.

✅ Flux mini 2 works great to ad movement to pads, synths, guitars, basses, and more

Cons

❌ Cassette 2 is set to x16 oversampling by default, which can be very taxing for your CPU when you load it up

❌ Flux mini 2 is not too good with percussive elements

The free effects from Caelum Audio are fantastic.

First, we've got the Tape Cassette 2, which is an evolution of their cassette and tape saturator – which is super cool to use if you're into lo-fi music production.

caelum audio free tape vst effect

It supports up to x16 oversampling and comes with a brand new selectable Type 1 cassette impulse response, including an improved natural-sounding saturation algorithm, with real sampled tape noise.

Secondly, we have Flux mini, which is a modulation plugin with an LFO that can add tons of dynamic movement to your tracks. This plugin is great to add movement on synths, use as a tremolo, create subtle effects, and much more.

It also lets you choose among three modulation targets in the LFO module (BPF, LPF, and HPF) to focus the effect accordingly.

free modulation plugin

Flux mini 2 includes a graph where you can draw the shape of the modulation. On top of that, you can sync it to your DAW's tempo and all controls, including the mix knob, can be set parallel to the original input with negative and positive settings. This gives you more possibilities to craft your sound to perfection.

How Does It Sound?

Cassete 2 is awesome with subtle saturations and lo-fi textures, but if you crank it up it doesn't sound as good, even with x16 oversampling. It's really warm and vintage, but can sound bad – sometimes sounding like a bit crusher that you can't control and is very unpleasant.

Effect comes on halfway through the sample

Flux mini 2 is incredible with synths and melodic instrumentation, it works great to make them come to life and increase the sense of movement in a mix making it more interesting to hear.

Effect comes on halfway through the sample

7. Tritik Krush

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.9+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit

tritik krush free bitcrusher

Pros

✅ Individual dry and wet effect controls with the ability to disable them

✅ Analog modeled resonant filters

✅ Ability to freeze functions

✅ Easy to use and create intricate distortion and modulations

✅ Integrated high and low-pass filters

✅ Incredibly easy-to-use interface, suitable for beginners and experienced users

✅ Flexible effect and amazing sound design tool

✅ Low CPU consumption

Cons

❌ Mediocre preset system

❌ Some presets are too distorted and loud, which can hurt your ears

Krush by Tritik is a free bitcrusher plugin.

A bitcrusher is a tool that intentionally lowers the quality of an audio input by reducing the bit depth and sample rate, which can be somewhat confusing, but all you really need to know is that a bit crusher is what you'd use to make an 8-bit chiptune style sound. This can be very useful for vintage-sounding distortion in sound design.

It additionally gives you the possibility of using it as a parallel effect with its individual dry/wet controls, which are amazing to blend the effect in a way that brings interest to the signal rather than destroy it. This plugin works especially well with synthesized sounds.

How Does It Sound?

If you're into EDM music, either producing or mixing, you'll find this plugin a rapid solution for making drums and pads sound great. In combination with the Flux plugin you'll get a sound that's exciting and catches people's ears.

Before

After

Krush has a particularly rich sound pallet, so its sound can go from warm analog drive to the craziest digital modulation and everything in-between.

8. YouLean Loudness Meter

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.9+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit, 32-bit

YouLean free loudness meter

Pros

✅ Multi-channel metering with 12 channel configuration options, including mono, stereo, 5.1, and 7.1 surround

✅ Customizable histogram with four separate visualization modes

✅ Simple and intuitive to use

✅ Dynamic range measurement

✅ 9 Presets with EBU, ITU, ASWG, and other standards for films and videogames

✅ Scalable interface

Cons

❌ Almost all of the metering options are exclusive to the paid version but loaded anyways

❌ It's not possible to scale the interface downwards, so you can only make it lager

YouLean is a free metering plugin that can help you understand the loudness levels and dynamics of a mix. This is an ideal plugin to keep around, especially during mastering.

When you get the free download there will be some features that will be unavailable for use, as they're exclusive to the paid software. However, most of these extra features are only a couple of presets, the dynamic range meter, and some other options to fine-tune its behavior.

This plugin as it is, introduces a real-time accurate measurement of your signal's loudness. You can see True Peak metering, LUFs and more important information to help dial in the loudness of your mix or master.

It's incredibly simple, yet effective, especially for engineers working on film and game audio post-production, where you might want to mix using it to avoid big dynamics that could damage the listening experience.

9. TDR Nova

Compatibility: WinXP SP2+, macOS 10.9+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit, 32-bit

TDR nova free EQ

Pros

✅ Seamlessly transparent dynamic processing

✅ 4 bands with fully dynamic sections and gain equalization

✅ You can use the wideband to do upward and downward compression to the whole spectrum

✅ Link and unlink individual bands from wideband processing

✅ Allows parallel onboard processing

Cons

❌ It's not too good for precision EQ

❌ Can be taxing for you CPU

TDR Nova is a free EQ plugin that you can use to sculpt your mixes.

If you need a plugin similar to FabFilter's Pro Q because you can't afford it, here's the solution. Nova is a transparent dynamic free EQ that you can use for mixing or mastering to achieve a cleaner and more professional sound.

Similarly to YouLean, it has a paid version too, but with the difference that Nova doesn't have any exclusive features that you can see but not touch.

Nova gives you 4 bands, a high cut, and a low cut, all with dynamic capabilities and a wideband control to boost or attenuate simultaneously. It supports stereo and mid/side processing too, which works great to enhance the stereo image without making a mess with phase.

This is an excelent free EQ that many people, including myself, use on every single project because it gives you fast and efficient results without adding any kind of artifact or coloration even at extreme configurations.

How Does It Sound?

Nova is pretty transparent but not particularly accurate. although it doesn't have any particular sound, but it does an excellent job keeping the natural sound and texture from your input even after processing.

Before

Notice how this bass is good, feels too thin as it lacks strength in the lower frequencies

After

After boosting 60Hz by 5dB and using the dynamic band to control it, see how it rounds up and feels thicker.

It's really good to use to control harshness, tighten up the low-end, and to place things in space. Its parallel processing capabilities work even better for these purposes.

10. Klanghelm Free VSTS

Compatibility: Win7+, macOS 10.11+, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit

klanghelm free vst effects

Pros

✅ Low CPU usage

✅ Straightforward GUIs

✅ DC1A is perfect to make sources feel more aggressive and punchy

✅ DC1A has upward and downward compression abilities

✅ DC1A is also great to fatten up drums, vocals, and bass

✅ IVGI's crosstalk knob can help to enhance the stereo image

✅ IVGI is great to add analog warmth to vocals, guitars, and synthesizers

✅ IVGI gives you full control over the distortion

✅ MJUC jr works great as a bus compressor to glue things together

Cons

❌ Although DC1A is great to make a signal punchier, it's very easy to overdo

❌ If you go too far with IVGI's distortion knob it can bring incredibly unpleasant artifacts to your signal

Klanghelm has 3 freebies: two free compressors and a drive distortion unit. They're amazing.

First, there's the DC1A compressor, which is a vintage-style compressor with the twist that it has the “negative” button to switch its behavior from downward to upward compression.

This compressor can be incredibly helpful when you're mixing vocals to place them right up front without using parallel compression or limiting.

klanghelm free compressor effect
free compressor vst

Then, we have another compressor named MJUC jr. This one's different from the DC1A because it's a lot less transient-focused and you can use it to round up a sound.

It's got a nice analog sound to it that tightens up the low-end and fattens up the signal in a smooth and unique way.

MJUC jr. is particularly good for bus processing, so use it on your mix bus to tighten things up and add some glue.

Last but not least, we have the IVGI, a valve distortion plugin that's great to add warmth or brightness and character to a signal with analog-style saturation.

This plugin does an excellent job improving dull basses and crisp vocals.

However, we don't advise you to go beyond number seven with the drive knob because it sounds awful.

free distortion vst effect

How Does It Sound?

All three plugins sound great and are part of my regular processing chain for different reasons. DC1A is particularly punchy, so we recommend you to use it to bring aggression to your drums or vocals, and use it as a parallel compressor.

Quick tip: if you want a punchy “in your face” drum sound, open two instances of the plugin, set them up exactly the same, and switch one to “negative.” Works great with vocals too.

Before

After

IVGI is a pretty clean and warm distortion, that works terrifically when you use it on different things to help blend them together in a mix.

Before

Notice how both tracks don't feel like two elements of one song, but rather two separate things sounding together.

After

Applying distortion to both elements made them feel more cohesive.

Last but not least, the MJUC jr. is super warm and makes audio sound fatter. The auto-attack mode is outstanding to preserve dynamics without crushing your sound and it just has two knobs and a toggle.

With only one instance in the mix bus, notice how it glues everything together making it sound more professional.

Honorable Bonus Mentions

We know that sometimes it can be hard to find what you're looking for and it's often easy to run into common places. If you made it this far and still feel undecisive, here are other amazing free vsts that we think can help you find the way:

  1. Camel Crusher, an all around multi-effect plugin good to use on 808's, vocals, guitars and synths
  2. Voxengo Span, an accurate spectrum visualizer great to monitor several aspects of your audio
  3. Melda Production free vst plugin bundle, has everything you need, from basic plugins to advanced effects
  4. Kilohearts free vst plugin collection, has an amazing effects catalog and the Snap Heap makes sound design seem easy
  5. Glitchmachines Hysteresis, great sound design tool to achive cool glitchy modulations
  6. Izotope Vinyl, a vinyl record emulator great to achive natural-sounding lo-fi effects
  7. Decomposer Sitala, an amazing drum sampler that lets you load and edit your own samples, ideal for beatmakers on a budget
  8. Native Instruments Komplete Start, includes over 6GB of free synthesizers, virtual instruments, samples, etc.
  9. Analog Obsession's entire catalog, if you like a good digital emulation, these are for you
  10. Klevgrand FreeAmp, it's another tube distortion digital emulation great to use it on any signal.
  11. Acon Digital Reverb Solo, a one-knob free reverb vst plugin particularly great for vocals, guitars, and synths
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