You are here

Freeware/Shareware Plug-ins

Professional Sound Projects have developed the first VST shareware plug‑ins to emerge from Poland.Professional Sound Projects have developed the first VST shareware plug‑ins to emerge from Poland.

Now that so many plug‑ins are available for free or cheap and easy download on‑line, it's possible to build up an impressive arsenal of virtual effects without hurting your credit card. Martin Walker homes in on some of the most interesting products on offer for Mac and PC.

The Internet provides an ideal distribution medium for software plug‑ins, since the files are normally fairly small and therefore quick to download, and web sites are accessible worldwide. Many developers offer freeware and shareware plug‑ins, either out of the goodness of their hearts or as a sales incentive, and in this month's Net Notes I thought I'd round up a few of the best sites where these can be found.

Probably the most popular plug‑in standard today is VST: because Steinberg made their VST software development kit freely available (service.steinberg‑ show/developer_e), third‑party developers have had all the information they needed to write their own VST‑compatible plug‑ins for both Mac and PC without a large investment. On the PC, the other main standard is Microsoft's DirectX: details of this can be found at

Share And Enjoy

FXpansion have a colourful and genuinely different range of shareware plug‑ins.FXpansion have a colourful and genuinely different range of shareware plug‑ins.

One of the first developers to launch his wares was Dave Brown, whom I first mentioned in my February '98 PC Notes column. His first product was the freeware Tempo Delay, but like many other developers he subsequently expanded his range with more advanced plug‑ins at modest shareware prices. In March 2000 he established a smart new domain of his own under the name db‑audioware (db‑ — note the lack of an initial 'www.'), where you can find details of his latest plug‑ins. The range now includes the dB‑D dynamics processor, dB‑L mastering limiter, dB‑M multi‑band limiter, and dB‑S de‑esser, which are $49 each (about £30) or $129 (£80) for the complete bundle. They look good, sound good, and seem destined to do well.

The original Tempo Delay is still available as freeware, but a new version, incorporating a graphic facelift and new features, is available in the form of dB‑T. All of these current releases are PC DirectX only, and
can be downloaded as a single bundle which includes 21‑day demo versions of the shareware products and the full version of the Tempo Delay.

Various other developers have followed Dave's route from freeware to shareware. Vincent Burel is one to watch, although his web site (webperso.alma‑ burel/) is currently rather confusing, with some products apparently superseded, and others not yet available. However, if you look carefully through his site you can download three freeware plug‑ins (D‑Limiter, DX Plug‑in Remover, and Karakao), and read details of some intriguing forthcoming products. These include the Sculptura series of mastering tools, and DX Rack — a way to manage up to 16 DirectX plug‑ins in a single chain accessible to any host application.

Professional Sound Projects ( are a new company based in Poland. Their new VST‑compatible PSP_StereoPack contains the PSP PseudoStereo, PSP StereoEnhancer, PSP StereoController, and PSP StereoAnalyser plug‑ins, designed to create, expand, and analyse your stereo image — see this month's SOS News for more details. Registering the entire pack costs just $24 (£15), and further plug‑ins for bass and high‑frequency enhancement are also in the pipeline.

The entire range of AnalogX ( PC plug‑ins and utilities are freeware, and these include the extremely useful DXMan (see this month's PC Musician for more details), an Audio Arpeggiator, DCOffset remover, and BitPolice, which examines the internal workings of any DirectX plug‑in.

Many shareware and freeware plug‑ins are PC‑only, but there are also Mac ones out there. Paul Kellett's Maxim range contains five packs of freeware effects available in both Mac and PC versions ( ~maxim/vst), while Fraser Stuart has one pack of six plug‑ins for Mac and PC at Vellocet have a new URL at, where they offer a variety of useful utilities plus a collection of plug‑ins including the excellent VReorder, again for both Mac and PC. DIV/Zero also have a Ring Modulator plug‑in available for PC, Mac VST, and unusually MAS (for Digital Performer) formats (

MIDI Control

The entire AnalogX range is freeware and includes some useful utilities and DirectX plug‑ins.The entire AnalogX range is freeware and includes some useful utilities and DirectX plug‑ins.

One of the most exciting additions to Steinberg's VST version 2.0 standard was the ability to let plug‑ins receive MIDI data, so that you can not only automate their controls, but link them directly to MIDI commands. Freeware and shareware developers have already risen to the challenge, and one of the simplest results is Rob Belcham's midiGate for PC, a noise gate operated by MIDI note on/off commands. This seems ideal for trancy pads and vocals, and you can download it at

The Digilogue ( range is developed by Markus Stahlberg, whose Blue Line pack contains 11 plug‑ins for PC VST and DirectX, comprising flange, phase, chorus, delay, multitap delay, parametric EQ, multimode filter, gate, compressor, reverb, and pseudo‑stereo. The DirectX versions are unusual in providing full automation (see this month's PC Musician), and you can download the full versions — he simply asks that you register for a modest $35 (about £22) if you use his plug‑ins regularly.

I've mentioned Angus Hewlett's fxpansion ( range several times before: his Series One bundle contains six varied designs ranging from the Phat.Sync filter with built‑in step sequencers for frequency and resonance, to the M.Tap four‑tap delay line with dual stereo busses for creating complex ping‑pong delay patterns. The beauty of these is that, with MIDI automation built in, they automatically lock on to the tempo of your sequencer to stay perfectly on the beat as required. With prices ranging from $20 to $30 (£12.50 to £19), or $100 (£62) for the complete bundle of six, this is seriously good value for money. The products currently support PC VST and DirectX, but he promises Pulsar and Mac versions very soon.

The FXpansion VST‑to‑DirectX Adaptor Basic is still available for $30 for those with DirectX‑only host applications who would like to use VST plug‑ins as well. VST Adaptor 2.0 is more expensive at $60 (£37.50), but with the huge improvement that it adds MIDI‑controlled automation to your VST plug‑ins from a DirectX‑only host application, and even supports VST Instruments!

Ring Mains

Apart from setting the ball rolling with freeware VST plug‑ins, Dave Brown also did us all another favour by establishing the Cubase Webring — a set of links to like‑minded developers and support sites for Cubase VST users on both the Mac and PC platforms. The Cubase Webring Homepage is still available at Dave's original web site at" target="_blank: click on the 'List All Sites' link to see the latest complement of sites (there are currently 35 members). Some will be of interest only to other developers, some provide user support, FAQs and tips for Cubase users, but the majority have plug‑ins on offer. Some are Mac‑only, some PC‑only, while others such as Bram's SupaPhaser ( ~bdejong/) are available in versions for Windows, Mac, and BeOS! The new DirectX Files site (, which I cover in more detail in PC Notes this month, is also well worth a look.

Another very useful source of links is the famous Harmony Central site, which not only carries loads of news about new products, but a comprehensive section devoted to software on a variety of computer platforms (www.harmony‑ Both the Mac and Windows sections list quite a few freeware plug‑ins in their respective Audio Processing sections, as well as demos of commercial ones. Yet another listing of PC plug‑ins is provided by The Sonic Spot (, which allows you to download freeware, shareware, and demo versions directly.

There are various forums dedicated to plug‑in‑related discussions. AudioForums ( has forums devoted to Waves plug‑ins, as well as a more general software forum covering plug‑ins, audio utilities, and miscellaneous other software. It also hosts a variety of manufacturer‑specific forums for users of audio software from the likes of Cakewalk, Emagic, MOTU, Opcode, SEKD, Steinberg, and Syntrillium. For those who use Cubase, there is also a forum at devoted to VST plug‑ins.

Freeware Plug‑in Of The Month

It's not often that a piece of software really surprises me, but Jezar's Freeverb did just that. Written by a professional sound engineer, Freeverb is available in a basic VST version, without a dedicated front panel, or as a DirectX version. I can't tell you exactly what features will be available by the time you read this, since I've already downloaded two versions in as many days, and it keeps on sprouting extra functions, but the most recent DirectX version 1.01 has just three controls — Room size, Damping, and Mix — and the download size is just 40K. It's simplicity itself to use and the sound blew me away. I compared it to every other reverb in my collection, including Cakewalk's FX3 SoundStage, Hyperprism HyperVerb, TC Native Reverb, and Waves TrueVerb, and while not as versatile as some of these, Freeverb's reverb tails sounded as smooth as any of them! It also sits well in an overall mix, and is just as happy creating small rooms as cavernous spaces. I suggest you download it quickly, before someone makes Jezar an offer he can't refuse and turns it into a full commercial product.