You probably know by now that the cost of creation comes at a price. It’s an investment of your time but it's hard to avoid the issue of cost. Music production can be an expensive hobby.
Usually, you get what you pay for in the plugin market, a glance at some of the Waves bundles or Kontakt libraries can be enough to make any bank card shudder.
What if a plugin can take your music to the next level, where does the price point stop being an issue?
Weighing up if the rent can be paid this month, or if eating baked beans and noodles for a few weeks is worth those expensive sounds has been a recurring debate for many of us.
Drooling over Omnisphere isn’t going to make it any cheaper, but finding a free alternative that can do a similar job might go some way to solving the problem.
So let’s take a look at some of the best free plugins on the market right now in 2020.
Camel Crusher (Camel audio)
One of my favourite free plugins has to be Camel Crusher. It’s listed as a ‘colouring’ multi-effect plugin; it features a compressor, a distortion, and a filter. I always use this on buses as it’s perfect for bringing the volume of quiet parts up.
If there is a sample or a part that just isn’t playing out the speakers at the level you want it to, slap some camel crusher on it. It’s also got some wonderful distortion tones in the presets.
The ‘American crunch’ preset will give you that YEEZY-esque drum tone, and beautiful crunch on the upper mids and highs. The ‘tube warmth’ preset is a lovely light distortion perfect for guitars.
Download Camel Crusher here.
Zampler//RX (Plugin Boutique & Beat.de)
This is a sampler plugin that comes with two expansive loopmasters sample packs.
The beauty of Zampler is that you can create all the fundamentals of a song with just Zampler; Drums, Bass, leads etc, all programmed in a flash.
You can load sample banks with ease in the main window, and then manipulate the samples with the three LFOs, the main filter or the amp envelope, filter envelope or modulation envelope. The well-designed modulation matrix allows for intricate connectivity between Zampler’s features, enabling for a range of complicated sound design choices.
Zampler also features an ARP function as well as an extensive effects section including distortion, two equalizers, phaser/chorus, reverb and delay.
Download Zampler here.
This is an FX processor aimed at making those glitchy and otherworldly sci-fi sounds. It features a delay, stutter, low pass and modulation. The stutter, low pass and modulation are routed in series after the delay, so they affect the delays feedback signal by default not the dry original sound. So Hysteresis ‘could be described as a Ping-Pong delay with a corrupted feedback path’.
Because of the wild feedback of the plugin there is a panic button to prevent damage to your speakers if things get out of hand. At first, you should approach this plugin with caution.
That being said you can run any chosen part, be it drums, vocals etc, through hysteresis to achieve those glitchy sounds and otherworldly textures. The stutter effect can create reverse delays, pitch shifting or granular effects.
Take a listen through some of the presets below.
Download Hysteresis here.
Glitch 1.3 (Illformed)
This is essentially a multi-FX processor within a sequencer. That may sound confusing but Illformed have done a great job of executing this.
The incoming audio’s playback is divided into four even sections. You can insert one of the 9 effects to be switched on for a duration of your choosing.
The FX included are Tapestop, Modulator, Retrigger, Shuffler, Reverser, Crusher, Gater, Delay and a Stretcher. So as an example, let say you have a 20-second drum loop, you can turn on the ‘Delay’ for the first 5 seconds, then the ‘Retrigger’ for 10 seconds and then the ‘Crusher’ for 5 seconds. This leaves you with an interesting sounding 20-second loop full of FX turning on and off.
Try running some drum loops through it and toy around with the effects and parameters to come up with some crazy sounds.
Check it out in action below.
Download Glitch 1.3 here.
Panagement 2 (Auburn sounds)
The focus of this plugin is binaural panning but it also offers a reverb module.
It’s a very intuitive and easy to use plugin, allowing the user to achieve binaural panning in one single click. The reverb module offers 5 different material presets, allowing you to ‘feel the wall material change’.
Panagement 2 also calculates early and late reflections for you while moving the pan position from the front to the back of the stereo field, providing you with a very accurate binaural panner with reverb built in.
Check it out below!
Download Panagement 2 (Free Edition) here.