The expression there's no such thing as a free lunch almost doesn’t apply in the world of music production and mixing. The reason I say almost doesn’t apply is, you usually have to do something to get the free plugin or a free sample pack or a free soundset. Create an account, enter an email, that type of thing. But those are small prices to pay for mixing plugins.
There are a bunch of “free” mixing plugins out there that can really get the job done. I actually use a these plugins weekly in my work as a producer and sound designer.
Some companies make freeware to promote their paid products and some just like making free stuff, bless their hearts. Either way, if you can support these developers, you should!
This is list is by no means comprehensive, these 6 free plugins are a must-have in my opinion. There are probably hundreds of free plugins out there, but a lot of them are really bad. I’m also only going to include plugins that are Mac and PC compatible. I use a Mac for music production, so I can’t include the PC only free plugins because I would have no way of testing those.
If you're looking to find out about every free plugin out there, maybe check out Music Radar's list. I wanted to trim the fat for you guys and only link you to some truly great plugins.
So here are my top 6, must have freeware plugins.
WRAPPING THINGS UP
6 MUST HAVE FREE MIXING PLUGINS
Molot is made by a Russian developer Vladg/Sound. As you can see the GUI in the picture above is in Russian, that can be switched to an English version, thankfully!
It's a character compressor, so not something you would use when you need a compressor to squash fast transients. But it would be great as a second, character compressor on things like drums. Also works well on guitars, bass, and vocals.
As far as free compressors go, this one is up there with the very best.
Valhalla Freq Echo really doesn't feel like a free plugin and that's because Valhalla DSP is a high quality plugin maker that has created some of the most revered reverb plugins in the world.
They make a few appearances on our Top 15 Reverbs of 2018 List
Freq Echo is one part frequency shifter and one part analog echo emulation. It's definitely a great creative tool to have in your arsenal. I use it quite a bit on synth presets.
Stereo processing has become such an essential part of modern mixing. A1 Stereo Control by Alex Hilton is a great tool to enhance and add extra width to any source in the mix.
A1 Stereo Control is also loaded with a bunch of other awesome features. One of them I use constantly.
The safe bass button will make any frequency under the cutoff limit stay mono. This is perfect when using plugins like Serum for sub basses or detuned reese basses. Works wonders on supersaws as well!
Having a high quality spectrum analyzer is a must! I have used paid analyzers, I have used the ones that come with Logic X and Ableton and Span is my favorite one.
It has so many features, a whole post would be needed to cover them all, but lets highlight some of the best ones:
RMS Meter for loudness measurements
Phase correlation meter
Hertz to note read out
Bless Steve Duda's heart for making this plugin. This is a must have for anyone not using Ableton. Live comes with an OTT compressor effect and it was the envy for any producer not using Ableton for a long time.
The OTT is an upwards and downwards compressor. It can really make your mix sound huge. It works wonders on instrument groups, drum groups and even your mix buss.
We used it when we mixed the first demo for SMORES. That's why the drop sounds to tight and big!
If you don't have this and use Logic, FL Studio, Studio One, Cubase, etc., definitely download it, you won't regret it!
Flux Bitter Sweet is a no frills, great sounding, and easy to use transient shaper.
Transient shapers can be huge difference makers in any modern mix. If you are struggling to get a tight snare or kick to really snap through the mix without sacrificing a ton of headroom, try a transient shaper! They can even work wonders on synths, guitars, and keys.
Most DAW's come with some type of transient shaper, but not all of them sound that great. Bitter Sweet does sound highly professional and will consistently give you great results.
So that's our list of the 6 must have free mixing plugins. We are truly lucky to be able to access some powerful mixing tools for next to nothing.
If you have any questions or comments or want to suggest an awesome free plugin that didn't make the list, let us know in the comments below!