Want to make high-quality music productions for nothing? We’ve created a comprehensive guide to the best free VST plugins 2018, best free VSTs.
I’ve included every effect you could ever need from vintage style EQ, Compressors, Classic Synths, Amp Simulators, Delays, Drum Kit, Reverbs, Autotune alternatives, Limiters, Bit Crushers, Nexus VST, Lo-fi FX and a ton more.
There are hundreds of free VST effects or music producers in this list, so take your time, you are going to need a large mug of coffee to after receiving a large volume of these beauties!
For ease, I’ve split up the list of free VST Plugins into categories in the following order: Classic Synths, VST Instrument Bundles, EQ & Compressors, Channel Strips, Amp Simulators, Reverb, Delay and finally FX.
To get you started.
What Is A VST Plugin?
Virtual Studio Technology VST Plugins for short. It allows the person using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to install software from 3rd party companies. VSTs give you various audio FX (effects) and virtual instruments as plugins inside your DAW. This was first developed and introduced to the market by Steinberg with their DAW Cubase in 1996, it was a game changer for sure and gave huge flexibility and opportunity for software development and huge benefits to the music creators.
So without further ado, let’s get to it!
Classic Synth Sounds
For me having a new synth or plugin inspires me to create new music. I’m constantly looking for new synths and FX to use in my own music productions. So, I’ve done the hard work for you to bring together, in my opinion, the best VST plugins available right now.
This compiled list is the best of the best and features everything from classic synth sounds to vintage compressors, fantastic delays and guitar amp simulators. I think if you downloaded all of these you could produce most genres of music to a pretty high standard.
Dexed FM Synth
The Dexed FM Synth is closely modelled on the sound quality of the classic Yamaha DX7. The DX7 was used on countless recordings in the ’80s. Everyone from Prince, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston to Brian Eno have used sounds from the DX7 in their chart-topping hits.
Many artists used the default presets the rom synthesizer had to offer at the time as it was very complicated to use. You can make use of the cartridge manager to load some of these iconic patches/sounds, thanks to Black Winny from KRV Audio, oh and check out spitfire audio as well!
This is an emulation of the classic Minimoog with a couple of extra features thrown in for good measure including a very nice user friendly audio interface.
This is a classic sound which you should ensure you have in your plugin folder. For me, some of my favourite artists and producers have used the Minimoog’s classic sounds in their audio productions.
From the bass lines of Parliament-Funkadelic to Dr Dre using the synth for lead lines on The Chronic album to J Dilla using the Minimoog Voyager on his legendary album cut, Donuts.
TAL – Noisemaker
TAL-Noisemaker is arguably one of the best free VST plugins for logic pro x you can download. The synth includes a small effect section with a reverb, chorus and a simple bit crusher effect. TAL-NoiseMaker includes new filter types as the self resonating 6dB low pass and a notch filter. Its improved amplitude ADSR is very suitable for slow pads as for really fast envelopes.
TAL U No 62
TAL-Noisemaker is arguably one of the best free VST plugins you can download. The synth includes a small effect section with a reverb, chorus and a simple bit crusher effect. TAL-NoiseMaker includes new filter types as the self resonating 6dB low pass and a notch filter. Its improved amplitude ADSR is very suitable for slow pads as for really fast envelope.
TAL U No 62
This one is a great free VST synth. TAL used a Roland Juno 60 as a reference for the oscillators and filters. The classic Roland Juno 60 synth has been considered by many to be one of the most important synths in popular music. Artists such as Mac Demarco, Tiesto, Disclosure and many more are fans of this classic.
Crystal is a great free VST and it’s been around for a while. Nonetheless, it is still capable of generating some great sounds. It was created by Glen Olander who later went on to create Spectrasonics Omnisphere.
Synth 1 is an emulation of the classic Clavia Nord Lead 2 (Red Synth). The plugin has a huge range of useable sounds. I’ve seen so many session players that still use Nord Lead for live performances and in the recording studio. It’s another must-have addition to your plugin folder.
It is a synth capable of a wide variety of sounds from great bass tones to pads and lead synth.
Another synth we’d love to add to this list is the Xfer Serum VST plugin. You can read our in-depth guide about Xfer Serum!
VST Instrument Bundles
Next up I have put together a number of fantastic bundles to download, which include a huge array of sounds and all the best free VST instruments 2018 has brought us.
Native Instruments Komplete Players
This is an incredible set of free VST instrument plugins and sounds from our friends based out of Berlin, Germany. This bundle is available totally for free. It includes three virtual instruments with over 500 sounds to choose from. Komplete Players features everything from free piano, vintage Rhodes, Organ, Strings and some awesome inspiring sounds from Reaktor 6.
A version of Guitar Rig is also included which has a great AMP model and some really nice effects, delays, reverbs and modulation. Many engineers use guitar effects on a bus channel for vocals or drums. If you had to download one bundle, this would be the one I would recommend.
Sampletank Custom Shop
Sampletank is another awesome bundle of high quality sounds for you to use entirely free. It includes 30 instruments from a free VST Piano, Violins, Flutes, Saxophones, Choirs, Acoustic Guitar and Electric Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drums and more.
Syntronik Free (Sampletank)
This is another great VST that is a must-have. They have sampled 38 of the most desirable synths. This version includes 50 presets which all use different sample sets. The sounds of this analogue style synth are incredible from great Minimoog to Jupiter sounds.
The possibilities are endless with this Synth as you can layer up to 4 presets on top of each other to create a new sound and then alter the sound with a huge range of effects inside the instrument.
Steven Slate Drums SSD5 Free
This is, in my opinion, one of the best free live drum VST plugins you can get. Steven Slate has created a name for himself producing some of the best live kits with world-class engineers like Chris Lord Alge. You only get one kit but you can tune it differently and use all the features of the SSD5.
VST Instrument Bundles: Paid Options
If you have a few dollars/pounds to spare a month or you are working on a specific project for a brief I’ve decided to include some great paid monthly services that I think you should check out:
This would be a great option if you are working on music for a film score or TV series. The quality of the recordings in these sample libraries is simply fantastic and has been used by many top composers.
This service includes over 40,000 audio recordings, which includes everything from orchestral music to world music instruments and rock sounds. The subscription cost is $19.99 per month (around £16 in the UK & Europe)
Over the years, Roland has created some of the greatest synths and drum machines known to mankind. They have influenced modern music culture and inspired so many top artists and producers, especially in early Hip Hop. So it’s no surprise that their cloud service is very popular, they have made available their most iconic synths and drum machines on a digital platform, meaning you can now gain access to them all for around £18.95 a month.
This is pretty good value if you can’t afford to buy a vintage original 808 drum machine, for example. I believe that Roland also has some of the top VST plugins for FL Studio all in all.
I think the updates and the overall quality of sound that Native provide is incredible. Komplete Select offer 7000 sounds and 45G of audio samples, all for the price of around £159. Which, if you work it out over the year you’re paying the same price as the East West Composer Cloud, but you get to keep all the samples and instruments. Their FL Studio plugin expansion pack is especially neat.
EQ, Compression & Channel Strips
Most DAWs that you will use have amazing built-in digital EQ and compression plugins. These are great tools for cutting out unwanted frequencies in a boxy sounding acoustic guitar track or levelling out the volume of a vocal recording with a high-quality compressor plugin.
I’ve put together a list of my favourite EQ, Compressors and Channel Strips that add character to your mixes and help colour the sound in a specific way. Most of them are emulations or inspired by top mixing consoles or outboard gear you would find in some of the best recording studios from around the world.
This plugin takes inspiration from an early British console from the ’60s. So if you’re looking to give some of your tracks a 60’s over-driven sound this is the plugin for you.
This EQ is also another take on a classic EQ from 1967 it’s a 10 band graphic precision equaliser. This plugin can be used on anything from heavy drum breaks to soft acoustic guitar tracks. It is also one of the best free VST Plugins for vocals.
This is another free product from ikmultimedia, this time in a 6 band EQ from T Racks. Its a nice sounding EQ on most audio material but I think it’s best suited to acoustic guitars and rock vocals. I would say it’s one of the best free vocal VST plugins 2018 brought us.
Ceil is based on a heavily modified British channel strip that we sampled at the end of 2017, during one of our official workshops held at a studio near the lake of Como.
This is a free plugin, but only until 14th February 2019. After this, it will be available at a price of $99 (around £79). So if you are reading this in time, sign up for an account to grab this channel strip for free. I’ve downloaded it, had a play and it sounds great on most audio recordings I’ve tried.
Inspired by the famous “nine thousand series” British console, the Logic Channel. Great sounding plugin it includes dynamics, EQ and gate. Sounds great on drums! Smack labs also do two other plugins inspired by the 5000 series British console.
Levelling Tool Compressor – Audio Tools
This is a great sounding compressor taking huge influence from LA 2A compressor. If you are looking to add character and saturation to drum tracks, this compressor will do the trick. You can use this lots of different ways, from really driving the input to get an over-driven sound to using it on a bus for some parallel compression.
Monster Extreme Dynamic Processor
This compressor is one of the most versatile compressors on the list. Again from Slate Digital, I’ve used these compressors in many projects and really like the sound of them. You can use them on drum tracks to get a really aggressive sound or on a vocal track and even on a master bus for a mix.
It can also work as a great free vocal mastering VST plugins. This is a must-have in my opinion. You need to sign up for an Ilok 2 account but its worth it.
I have a few bundles I’d like to point you towards.
Guitar Rig 5
The first is Guitar Rig Free which I mentioned earlier. It can be downloaded separately and the full version has been used by top recording bands such as Nine Inch Nails.
They are making some fantastic products for guitarists and bassists, from amp simulations to great sounding distortion pedals.
Amplitube Ik Multimedia
They offer a free version of Amplitube 4 which has 4 amp models and lots of effects.
Smarteletronicx Ambience Reverb
This is a convolution reverb that can compete with some of the best reverbs in the market. It sounds great on strings and lovely using it on an upright piano that worked really well.
This is a great vintage sounding reverb.
Ambient Reverb Stone Voices
This one is fantastic for long reverbs and spacey soundscapes if you’re creating ambient music. It has 100 second reverb time which is mad! Great on long notes/drones.
Natural sounding reverb with a variety of different room settings.
Voxengo Old Skool Verb
This is another great vintage style reverb, very good on vocals, pads and piano.
Voxengo Tempo Delay
Tempo delay is a good delay plugin for adding movement to synth or bass sounds and lines, percussive grooves and vocals. In fact, great when mixing vocals and create harmonies in conjunction with a pitch shifter. It’s one of the free vocal harmony VST plugins I would most recommend.
If you’re a guitarist you will need to download this. It’s an emulation of the Wem Copy Cat tape Echo used by countless top guitarists. If you’re looking for a great 50’s rock n roll or rockabilly sound, this is a killer piece of software!
Tal Dub Delays & Various FX (Chorus to Vocoders and Filters)
They offer three delay plugins from vintage tap echo to classic delay.
Tal has a great chorus, reverb and distortion fx that is worth adding to your collection.
Dead Duck 25 Effect Bundle
This includes everything; compressors, delays chorus etc.
This is an interesting effect. It adds low end or high end to the signal. I know it sounds boring, but trust me it’s not. It warms up the signal as if it were running through an old tube preamp or tape. Great for acoustic guitars and drums!
This is an effect the emulates double tracking.
This one is a great effect for adding a lo-fi vibe to your songs. It can make your song sound like it was created in the 1920s! I know that artist Just Blaze has used this plugin before!
Mfree FX Bundle
This has everything from autotune, pitch corrects, reverbs, compression eq and analysers. Deadmau5 is a fan of these plugins so you can’t go wrong downloading this bundle.
Last but not least some plugins from Xfer Records
OTT Compressor and the Delta Modulator (a bit crusher)
Before I finish up here are my favourite plugins from each category:
– For Synths it has to be the Syntronik free, it’s incredible! I have lots of hardware synths in the studio and the guys at ikmultimedia have done a great job recreating classic synths.
– EQ wise it has to be the EQ 560 console emulation. This is very very close to many commercial plugin emulations.
– One of my favourite compressors is the Leveling Tool Compressor. I’ve always liked the sound of LA2A compressor on a drum bus or electric guitars. I believe they used this compressor on many of the red hot chilli peppers guitar tracks.
– In terms of bundled instruments, I’d go with the Komplete Players as it includes the fantastic Guitar Rig and tons of sounds. I’ve been a fan of Native instruments products for years and use everything from Maschine to Traktor in a career. I’ve even used Guitar Rig live in a DJ set and works well.
– In terms of the Reverb, I really like Ambience which I’ve been using for a long time.
– The Wat Kat delay is a great sound for guitarists so for me at the moment that’s the best for me in the list.
– FX wise it would have to be Mfree FX as it has so many tools from autotune to delays and much more besides.
Free DAW Recommendation
If you are looking for free VST effects the chances are you might need a great free DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
So in this regard, I would point you in the direction of the best free DAW available right now (In my opinion) Cakewalk by Bandlab.
Bandlab by Cakewalk is essentially Sonar Platinum minus some bundled fx. Sonar was around $600 for the platinum version and now it’s available free.
It includes some excellent FX and a wide range of VST instruments with unlimited audio tracks. I think if I was looking to create music on a budget this DAW, together with the best free VST plugins effects above would give me a dream starting point for a home recording studio and plenty of scope to create great recordings.
Of course, there are plenty of DAW options on the market to choose from, Reaper, FL Studio 12, Cubase, Logic Pro X, Garageband for example, so do your research before you decide what’s best for your set up.
I hope you enjoyed this list and found it helpful, please share this with fellow friends and musicians. Spread the word, as they say.
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