In this Free VST Roundup we look at analog modeling with TAL-Noisemaker, bitcrushing with CamelCrusher, FM synthesis with FMMF, multiband filtering with Frohmage, and more!
Free VST Roundup
Experimentation is important in the music creation process and trying new methods and techniques in your production workflow will help you develop your artistic voice. You may also stumble upon some “happy accidents” along the way. What’s even more valuable is the ability to experiment with new production techniques without any risk or investment. That’s where we can help!
Noisemaker by VST developer Togu Audio Line (TAL) is a great, light-weight 3-oscillator polysynth plug-in. The VST also features some built-in effects like reverb, delay, bitcrush and a chorus based off of Roland’s Juno chorus. The VST is an updated version of TAL-Elek7ro, a popular, if a bit basic, free synth from the Swiss company. While the synth engine isn’t as complex as say Massive or Sylenth1, you can definitely get some cool, warm analog-style sounds through it’s analog-modeling synth engine. It’s also pretty light on CPU usage. TAL has a bunch of great free VSTs available on their website like Reverb-2, a solid reverb plug-in, and Vocoder, a vintage vocoder emulator.
If you’re looking for something a bit more thorough than your DAW’s built-in 3 band equalizer, SonEQ is a solid choice. This effects processor gives you the standard controls over your bass, mid and treble but also has some pre-amp and drive features, to get a bit more warmth or distortion, depending on the amount you use. SonEQ has a basic lowpass and highpass filter section as well. All-in-all a well-designed, very functional tool.
Nebula3 is a unique multi-effects VST that emulates expensive outboard equalizers, compressors, reverbs and time-variant effects like phasers and flangers. This plug-in is a lite version of Nebula3 Pro, but still maintains usability with a ton of free presets. The development company for this VST, Acustica, used sampling techniques to recreate the effects digitally. While the description of their proprietary technique is kind of vague, it sounds like they used some sort of impulse response methods with the original hardware units. The results sound great and can add some analog warmth to your tracks.
Dub Siren from The Interruptor is a synth and delay unit VST that sounds remarkably like the classic homemade dub sirens used by dub and reggae soundsystems. The synthesizer architecture of this tool is quite simple, offering just one oscillator and 2 LFOs. The plug-in features a built-in tape delay emulator with highpass and lowpass filtering of the signal path and tape hiss emulation. It’s a simple tool for a specific task which it performs really well. Try pre-making your own DJ drops using Dub Siren to bring some dub into your sets. Also check out the other free dub-related VSTs on the Interruptor’s website.
Upstereo is a cool plug-in which allows you to alter the stereo width of your tracks. This VST also has a bass-boost knob, making it great for making fat, wide basslines. The interface is really slick as well, allowing you to rotate in 3d and customize any colors. Upstereo is also very low on CPU usage, so having instances run on each of your instrument tracks won’t bog you down.
Feedback Compressor 2 from Tokyo Dawn is a unique full-featured compressor that stands up to many paid alternatives. Instead of analyzing input like most other compressors, this VST measures output levels which they claim results in a very transparent sound. Other than the method by which it compresses audio, Feedback Compressor 2 looks like other compressors with attack, release, ratio and threshold controls. Check it out if you’re looking to take the mixing and mastering of your tracks more seriously.
While certain effects plug-ins are focused on delivering transparent, natural sound, CamelCrusher is all about coloring your sound with distortion. With CamelCrusher, the distortion comes in two varieties. “Tube” aims to emulate the warm distortion from a tube amp and “Mech” is a more industrial sounding mechanical distortion. Also included is a filter which allows you to shape your sound and eliminate any distorted high frequency harmonics. There’s an included one-knob compressor (complete with “Phat” mode) but with almost no control available, you’re better off using separate plug-ins for compression duties.
Frohmage by Ohm Force is an interesting multiband filter plug-in with controls to dial-in exactly what you want (and don’t want) from your sounds. Frohmage can also be used as an effect to make frequency bands resonant, dirty and full of warm character. The interface is quite unique and helps to make this filter a lot of fun to use. While the interface may look simplistic, there’s surprisingly a lot of creative possibilities that can come out of using a stand-alone filter if you’ve never used one.
The Soundhack delay trio is a bundle of three in-depth delay units that can drastically alter your sounds in ways outside of typical delay VSTs. +delay is a standard delay with the usual controls and an attractive interface. +pitchdelay has many of the same functionality but offers controls aimed at pitch shifting, which sounds interesting and purposely low-fi. +bubbler is even wilder still. It’s a granular delay in which aspects of the grain selection are randomized, sure to lead you down paths of sonic exploration. Try using the feedback function on all three to get satisfying ambient drone effects.
FMMF is a 4 operator FM synth that aims to help users understand FM synthesis through its user-friendly graphical interface. But FMMF is no mere learning tool. FMMF is a fully functional synthesizer with complex multi stage envelopes, LFOs, a low pass filter, delay and distortion effects. There’s also a wealth of modulation options, a 6 mode arpeggiator, and portamento. The list of features on this one is as lengthy as most of the paid alternatives. If you’re trying to get into FM synthesis without a budget, FMMF is certainly worth the download.