Q. What are the best freeware plug-ins?

Published in SOS November 2010
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There are loads of freeware plug‑ins floating around out there now, so I find I'm getting swamped by choices. One site I checked out listed 670 of them! I'd rather not slow down my sessions looking for the perfect delay when just sticking with a good one and working with it would be much more productive. I've checked out a few of the ones mentioned in Mix Rescue and have been quite impressed, so I was wondering whether you could give me some further suggestions for a couple for each basic category of plug‑in. In particular, I'd be interested in any 'go to' freeware choices. I'm on a PC, so VST would be best.

Eoghan Brady via emailSome good freeware and donationware VST equalisers: Cockos ReaEQ, Bootsy Nasty CS, Antress Modern Black Dragon, and DDMF LP10.Some good freeware and donationware VST equalisers: Cockos ReaEQ, Bootsy Nasty CS, Antress Modern Black Dragon, and DDMF LP10.Q. What are the best freeware plug-ins?Q. What are the best freeware plug-ins?Q. What are the best freeware plug-ins?

SOS contributor Mike Senior replies: First of all, you could do worse than just download the ReaPlugs VST suite, which is a big chunk of the Reaper plug‑in complement and includes everything you're after, in one form or another. I've done whole mixes with just Reaper's plug‑ins, so I can vouch for their effectiveness. Other particularly worthwhile sets I've found are those from Antress Modern (http://antress.er‑webs.com), Bootsy (http://varietyofsound.wordpress.com), GVST (www.gvst.co.uk), MDA (http://mda.smartelectronix.com) and Voxengo (www.voxengo.com), which cover a lot of bases between them.

But on to some specific things I like, all of which have proved their worth in the heat of Mix Rescue! For general‑purpose EQ'ing, I do like Reaper's ReaEQ a lot, but for extra colour, try Bootsy's Nasty series and the Antress Modern emulations. DDMF (www.ddmf.eu) have a great donationware linear‑phase EQ called LP10, too. For synth‑style filtering, I usually just tend to automate ReaEQ, but Camel Audio's Camel Crusher (www.camelaudio.com) and Ohm Force's Frohmage (www.ohmforce.com) have more obvious attitude, if required. As far as dynamics are concerned, ReaComp and ReaXcomp in the ReaPlugs set are, again, good all‑round workhorses, but things like Georg Yohng's W1 (www.yohng.com), Buzzroom's BuzMaxi 3 (www.x-buz.com), Bootsy's Density, Jeroen Breebaart's PC2 (www.jeroenbreebaart.com) and the Antress Modern vintage emulations all get regular use on my projects. ReaGate and ReaFIR are a solid bet for most expansion and noise‑reduction tasks, so I've never really bothered looking elsewhere.

My freeware fallback for chorus, phaser, and flanger effects is Kjaerhus Audio's Classic series, and although I could no longer find a web presence for them at the time of writing, it's still possible to find the plug‑ins hosted on other sites via Google. MDA's Leslie and The Interruptor's Wow & Flutter (www.interruptor.ch) are cool for general modulation grunginess and I use those a lot. For tremolo/chopper effects, try Tweakbench's Cairo (www.tweakbench.com) or Oli Larkin's Autopan and LFO Chopper (www.olilarkin.co.uk). When it comes to distortion/saturation, there's lots of good stuff and I admit to being a bit of a collector in this respect. Some of my favourites are Bootsy's Ferric, GVST's GClip and GRecti, Jeroen Breebaart's Ferox, MDA's Combo and Bandisto, Mokafix Noamp (www.mokafix.com), Silverspike's Rubytube (www.silverspike.com), and Voxengo's Tubeamp: so much dirt, so little time! For more outrageous grainy and grungy effects, DBlue's Glitch (http://illformed.org) is a good bet, as are Jack Dark's outrageous Darkware series (www.gersic.com/plugins/hosted/darkware/darkware.html) and Tweakbench's Pudding and Sideslip.

The Interruptor's delay plug‑ins are good, as are GSi's WatKat (www.genuinesoundware.com), Tweakbench's Maelcum and GVST's GDuckDelay. That said, I tend to use ReaDelay for basic delay requirements most of the time. Smart Ambience is a great functional reverb demo, but Christian Knufinke's SIR (www.knufinke.de/sir/sir1.html) with impulses from Echo Chamber (www.memi.com/echochamber/responses/index.html) takes the cake for me in the freeware reverb department. For stereo image adjustment and M/S processing, my clear favourites are Voxengo's MSED and Flux's Stereo Tool (www.fluxhome.com). The latter has one of the best stereo vectorscope displays I've encountered anywhere. Speaking of displays, Roger Nichols' Inspector (www.rndigital.com) was my metering and spectrum-analysis plug‑in of choice for a long time, although Voxengo's SPAN is also good. I tend to use Schwa's payware Schope instead for most things these days, however. And speaking of Schwa (www.stillwellaudio.com), they have a great freeware bitscope plug‑in called Bitter that can be handy for digital troubleshooting. The TT Dynamic Range Meter is great if you're interested in the mastering 'loudness wars'; you can get it free on request via the Brainworx site (www.brainworx‑music.de).

Finally, here's a couple of odds and ends. Although I've yet to come across a decent, simple, freeware pitch‑shifter, if you're after freeware pitch correction, look no further than GVST's GSnap, which is pretty effective and has seen use in a number of Mix Rescues before now. If you're a fan of Aphex‑style psychoacoustic enhancement, also be sure to fire up Stillwell Audio's exciter, one of the plug‑ins available within the ReaPlugs ReaJS host, which does the same kind of thing.  .


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