It’s the digital age, the internet is flooded with new audio plugins that offer everything from emulation of analogue gear to digital effects and synthesis methods. But since premium products from companies like Waves and Native Instruments are quick to rack up the bill, I’ve put together a list of free plugins that are often overlooked and generally useful to have in your arsenal.
This plugin is part of Blue Cat’s “Freeware Plug-ins Pack II” and features 9 different effects. They are available both for Mac and PC. Triple EQ is a light and versatile three band EQ. It enables you to do just about anything you could want from your equalizer. In addition, It handles mono, stereo and dual compatibility. Dual is a combination of mid/side processing and independent L/R processing. In dual mode, there are a few different ways of processing the sound.
Link Channels enables you to control the left and right channels using one frequency parameter but affect each band differently. For the shelf bands, if you have the left and right channels set to different gain settings, you are able to adjust both bands in proportion to each other using the Relative mode. Furthermore, The Absolute setting enables you to affect both bands by the same exact amplitude value. Mirror reflects the left and right channels across the 0 dB line, which is useful for fixing imbalances in the stereo image. The bell curve reacts the same way except the channels are linked. The relative and absolute modes have no effect and the L and R channels remain at the same frequency and amplitude. Lastly, switching the plugin to mid/side substitutes the left and right channels for mid and side bands, giving you another way to treat your stereo image.
Another notable effect from the sample pack is Blue Cat’s Chorus. First off, it’s a fully functional chorus that gives you control over the pre-gain, delay, depth, rate and spread – as well as the percentage of dry and/or wet signal coming through. Furthermore, the range of the parameters makes this a creative tool that enables you to affect your sound beyond what you’d expect a chorus to sound like.
The wet signal can be delayed up to 30 ms and the rate can be brought up to 20 Hz, which definitely intrudes into delay effect territory. Finally, the plugin features a slider that gives you control over the waveshape of the chorus. Additionally, switching to a triangle wave helps distinguish the wet signal as different notes; which means that with the right setting you can make an element harmonize with itself.
~ Here’s a sample taken from Lumit’s default sample pack.
~ Using the triangle shape, I am creating a delayed chorus effect that is harmonically related to the dry signal. This gives the initial sample a completely different feel.
PianoVerb is an award winning creative reverb plugin that emulates the reverberant effect of moving strings. In short, using Transpose, Tune and Detune you can customize the intonation of the strings that are being emulated. Transpose and Tune enable you to change the tuning of the strings via semitone and cent increments, respectively. Detune will actually undo the established tuning of the strings by shifting their pitches in opposite directions.
Furthermore, you can regulate the percentage of dry signal through the Mix knob. This makes this plugin an effective parallel unit. Also, the preset menu is great for trying out pre-made reverb settings. In the end, what makes this reverb stand out is how different it sounds from other reverb plugins on the market. It’s a great plugin to add a little sonic twist to a particular element.
To demonstrate, here is a little MIDI sequence playing the music box from Kontakt’s factory sample library.
~ Music Box Passage
~ Same passage with PianoVerb on it.
Bark of Dog is one of those handy plugins that can save you a lot of time. In essence, it consists of a resonant high-pass filter that gives you control of amplitude (resonance), frequency and mix. Additionally, the plugin also offers a trim slider that controls your output level. In EDM, high-passing channels is one of those mix hygiene reflexes that clears up a lot of mud and creates space for other elements. Altogether, having a minimalist, low-CPU high-pass filter like Bark of Dog really helps. In addition, it features a mix knob, which is somewhat uncommon. It enables you to retain some of the low frequency content in the stop band which, for example, is useful when mixing individual drum hits.
Plugin Alliance has released some FX bundles that have become standards across the producing community. Similarly, this parametric EQ features 8 bands, all determined to bring out particular qualities depending on the specific frequency they are dealing with. Unlike a lot of other digital EQ’s which try to be as surgical and neutral as possible, this plugin adds a certain color to your track. This is because it emulates its hardware predecessor. This fact makes it great for treating the master with small amounts of gain or boost to add some presence. The four different banks are also a welcome addition. They enable you to compare different sets of parameter settings without loading up a new instance of the Free Ranger.
In the final analysis, above are 5 free plugins that you should consider getting. They exceed the expectations of freeware and compete with high priced plugins on the market. As shown above, from the perspective of creative application to general mixing, they are fully functional. Furthermore, they might add that “little something” your mix needs. In the end, the price of the tool is not what makes it good.