There are an insanely high amount of free VST plugins out there, and any of them can be a great addition to your production toolkit.
But sometimes it’s overwhelming. There are literally thousands of options.
And which ones do you really need?
Don’t worry – I’ve done the work for you and found 57 of the best free VST plugins that you can download today in 2023.
Let’s start 👇
If you’re looking for every single plugin and its download link, we’ve grouped them all together at the end of this article 😉
What Makes Good Free VST Plugins?
To narrow the thousands of free VST plugins out there down to 57, I had to be quite selective. There are a lot of great options out there. But also a lot of low-quality ones.
Here’s the criteria I used to choose plugins for this list:
- Unique: these plugins aren’t easily replaced with stock DAW tools. So you won’t find basic EQ’s, compressors or other simple tools, unless they do something different.
- Quality: just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s good. This is why I’ve only included plugins that sound good, are simple to use, and are on a similar level to a paid option.
- Reputable: even if it’s not a popular plugin, the people who have used it highly recommend it.
- Compatible: although compatibility changes with many factors, these plugins are compatible with most DAWs (namely FL Studio, Ableton Live, and Logic Pro) on most operating systems.
With all that being said, let’s dive in 👇
Synths: The Best Free VST Plugins
A lot of stock synths are great. But often third-party ones are better.
Why? More features, better interfaces and easier to understand. Let’s go.
Vital by Matt Tytel
It features 3 full customizable oscillators with multiple different stock wavetables. You also get 2 filters and endless modulation capabilities.
But what makes this synth truly unique are the visuals. Every process has a visual representation, which makes it a great choice for beginners. If you’re looking for a full, in-depth guide on Vital, we have you covered here.
Helm by Matt Tytel free VST plugin
The creator of Vital also has another great synth known as Helm:
If you’re wanting a simpler workflow and a more ‘classic’ sound but with plenty of fun modulation capabilities, Helm is a must-have.
It’s got quality oscillators, filters, LFOs and FX that are on par with many other paid synths on the market.
Tyrell N6 by u-he
Tyrell N6 is a great synth modelled off the Roland Juno-6, a timeless classic:
But of course, they’ve made some great changes and additions.
You’ll get great analog sounds out of this one with plenty of modulation options and great presets. It also will open you up to the world of u-he’s great line of paid plugins.
Dexed by Digital Suburban
As far as FM Synthesis is concerned, Dexed will have you covered. It sounds great and can handle a plethora of FM sounds:
Granted, its interface is a bit daunting.
However, it features 6 quality operators. It functions basically like the original Yamaha DX7 – the world’s first digital FM synthesizer. So if you like those cheesy bells, warbly pads and plucky basslines, Dexed could be your go-to.
VCV Rack free VST plugin
Okay, so VCV Rack isn’t exactly a plugin. But it’s an insanely good tool if you want to get into the world of modular synthesis:
Modular synthesis can get very expensive. So if you want to find out if its something for you, check out VCV Rack.
Be warned though – once you’re sucked into it, there’s no coming back.
Pendulate by Newfangled Audio
Occasionally a synth comes along that truly does something groundbreaking. Pendulate is one of those synths:
Pendulate is “a chaotic monosynth that uses a brand new double-pendulum-oscillator to create previously unheard sounds.”
Basically, it utilizes a unique synthesis engine to create unheard of textures. Check it out if you want to create some really unique sounds. Beware however that its interface takes some getting used to.
Ribs by Hvoya Audio
Ribs is a great free VST plugin because it’s half synth, half FX unit. You can drag in audio or turn on the FX mode when on an existing audio track. You’ve also got endless modulation options and lots more.
Alter/Ego by Plogue free VST plugin
If you’re a fan of vocaloid-type vocal sounds, then this is your one-stop-shop:
Alter/Ego is a text-to-voice synthesizer that is surprisingly convincing and a lot of fun to use.
Simply type what you want it to sing, choose your voice and play notes, with a few other parameters you can tweak while you’re at it.
If you want to learn more about vocoders, check out our full guide here.
OB-Xd by discoDSP
When I’m looking for an analog feel, BX-Xd is my go-to:
The OB-Xd is based on the Oberheim OB-X. It attempts to recreate its sound, although some modifications were brought.
I find myself often coming back to this synth for several reasons:
- It features a MASSIVE amount of quality presets
- The interface is intuitive and easy to use
- It just sounds good 😅
Looking for more analog-modelled virtual synths? Check out our full guide here.
Regency by nakst Audio Plugins
In the world of free VST plugins, Regency stands out with its slick design:
I know, hard to believe this one is free 😅
Regency is a phase-distortion synth with 2 generative layers. Each layer features 3 fully-customizable curves that distort the phase of the generator.
On top of this, you get:
Regency offers a unique way to create new sounds. I find it works best when creating thich, layered chords. Oh, and it’s also extremely low on CPU 😉
Samplers & Instruments: The Best Free VST Plugins
Samplers and instruments can take a long time to develop, and are usually not free.
This is because of the laborious nature of recording individual samples. However, there are a few options nowadays. Let’s explore the best free sampler VST plugins for you to try out.
LABS by Spitfire Audio
LABS has truly made multisample instruments available to the masses:
Previous libraries like Kontakt were always behind a paywall. But Spitfire has put out LABS for free. And bets of all: it’s constantly updating it!
To this day, I still reach for LABS on the regular. In my opinion, it’s awesome for 2 things:
- realistic sounding pianos and other instruments (I love the Peel Guitar)
- Haunting atmospheres (the whole London Atmos section is amazing)
Go check it out right now. I use this on a LOT of tracks these days.
M Lite 2X by Ample Sound
Looking for a convincing guitar free VST plugin? Then M Lite 2X is your best bet:
You can shape the exact tone of your guitar and choose between different playing styles to get a pro-level sound out of it.
Of course, it won’t replace recording an actual guitar. But it’s pretty damn close.
Steven Slate Drums free VST plugin
If you want a high-quality virtual drum kit with a few bells and whistles, this is probably the best free option out there:
Personally I love to make drum loops and add further processing with this plugin.
It’s also the gateway to their full paid version, so be warned that you might dive even deeper.
MT Power Drum Kit 2
Sometimes simple is good. And that’s what MT Power Drumkit 2 is:
Featuring a standard drum kit, this is great for traditional drum sounds without having to dial in so many different parameters.
It’s major advantage is the amount of grooves available. Grooves come in different tempos, and include numerous fills:
However, one of its drawbacks is that you cannot swap out samples.
It has a bit of a dirtier feel to it than other drum kits though, so if that’s your thing, go nuts.
Poise by One Small Clue
Remember how I said you cannot swap out samples with MT Power DrumKit. This is where Poise comes in:
Poise is an MPC-style percussion sampler. With a bit of work, you can link it to the MT Power DrumKit. That way, you take advantage of the grooves, but you can easily swap out samples!
Poise features 16 pads, with up to 8 layers per pad. Each layer has its own ADSR envelope, volume, pitch and more.
You even get some randomization settings to create humanized drum patterns.
EQ & Filter: The Best Free VST Plugins
Here are some of the best free EQ and filter VST plugins.
Nova by TDR free VST plugin
Dynamic EQ has always been a paid-plugin-only realm. Until Nova came out:
Dynamic EQ’ing allows to cut or boost frequencies dynamically. Practically, you can cut a certain frequency only when it crosses a certain threshold.
But Nova is much more. Practically, it covers:
Additionally, it features 4 EQ bands, high-pass and low-pass filters and an equal loudness function.
If you’re looking for high-end (yet free) EQ’ing, this one is for you.
SlickEQ by TDR
When this plugin came out, I literally used it on everything:
Honestly, it’s an insanely good EQ for coloring your mix.
The EQ saturation models (American, British, German, and Soviet) are modeled off various analog EQs.
This gives you plenty options depending on your taste. Great for busses, mastering, or any sound that needs a bit of coloring.
P-Teq X by Ignite Amps
When this first came out, I couldn’t believe it. This EQ manages to accurately model the MQ5, PEQ1A, and HL3C classic analog EQs:
And now you can get them all for free in one VST plugin. How neat! If you’re looking to color your mix with a classic EQ, look no further.
DJM Filter by Xfer Records
If you’re a DJ, you’ll know the sound of this filter. It has a nice resonance, great for sweeps, buildups and breakdowns.
The interface is simple – a cutoff, resonance boost and drive.
bx_subfilter by Brainworx free VST plugin
Sometimes, your low-end lacks that presence. This is where bx_subfilter comes in:
Or, you could just use bx_subfilter, which allows you to accurately dial in the perfect amount of sub frequencies.
Its filtering unit is designed specifically for cutting problematic frequencies in bass-heavy tracks. The resonance selector lets you control how much “punch” vs “rumble” you need in your sub.
Grab this one if you work with 808s.
Free Ranger by SPL
Graphic EQs might look old, but they can be highly useful and amazingly musical:
Personally, these types of EQs are great on mix or master busses when you want to add a bit of something without overthinking things.
Filterstep by Audiomodern
Looking for something more… sequenced? Check out Filterstep:
Filterstep is a motion filter plugin. This means you can set each step to have a different filter shape.
Check it out:
Oh, I also love the fully-resizeable GUI. Not enough plugins have it 😅
Dynamics & Compressor: The Best Free VST Plugins
Finding the right compressor can be a challenge. FET, Vari-MU, Opto… Where do you even start?
That’s why I would recommend getting different types of compressors. You can then trial them on different sounds to see which one sounds best.
Here are some great free compressor VST plugins from across the spectrum.
Rough Rider 3 by Audio Damage free VST plugin
This plugin got me well acquainted with parallel compression. Because without dialing back that dry/wet mix, it sounds brutal:
Rough Rider is not designed to be subtle, and the pumping effects are extreme.
So if you’re after insane compression, don’t sleep on this.
Bittersweet V3 by Flux
Free transient shapers come in many different sizes and flavors. Bittersweet sits in the more “extreme” camp:
You can choose to make your sound either more “sweet” or more “bitter”. “Sweet” will remove some attack and lengthen the release. And “bitter” will do the opposite.
There are also a few other controls to get it sounding exactly like you want, such as stereo effects, transient period, or response time.
The effect can be quite extreme. So try using it for minimal processing 😉
Transient by Sleepy-Time Records
This free VST plugin was my go-to transient shaper for years:
For a free transient shaper, you get an amazing amount of control. Controls include:
- External sidechain input
- Solo mode
- Adjustable volume range
- Adjustable frequency range
- Link mode
This is definitely one I would recommend grabbing TODAY 😁
If you want to learn more about transient shaping, we have a full guide over here 🔥
OTT by Xfer Records
A guide on free VST plugins wouldn’t be complete without the almighty OTT:
OTT is one of those effects that has truly shaped music production forever. This is thanks to its extreme compression sonics.
OTT is a multiband compressor modeled off the OTT preset in Ableton Live’s Multiband Dynamics.
It features both upwards and downwards compression, giving any sound a very ‘squashed’ feel. Simply dial in the ‘depth’ and you can blend to taste.
Leveling Tool by ADHD Audio Tools free VST plugin
If you’re looking for a free emulation of the 1176 compressor, the ADHD Leveling Tool is it:
But it’s more than just a standard emulation.
Beyond the normal 1176 features, you’ve got a dry/wet control, a more adjustable ratio knob, drive, and an input filter. Sounds great on vocals, drums, or just about anything that needs colorful, musical compression.
Kotelnikov by TDR
Kotelnikov solves the unique problem of master buss compression. It helps tame transients and dynamics in a transparent way, giving it a very natural sound.
This makes it great as a pre-limiting compressor, as it helps to control the mix before the limiter does all the hard work, allowing you to get a silky smooth yet well-balanced master.
Amp, Distortion & Saturation: The Best Free VST Plugins
It can be handy to have a variety of different distortion types at your disposal. From subtle saturation to destructive distortion, here’s a list of these free options.
Saturation Knob by Softube
This was one of the first free plugins I ever got, and it sounds great for gnarly distortion and subtle saturation alike:
Simply dial in the knob until you get the desired effect. Plus you can relegate it to the low end or high end of the frequency spectrum.
Freeamp by Klevgrand
In the vein of one-knob plugins comes Freeamp:
This effect combines both tape and tube saturation to get a full-bodied sound.
you can then dial in to taste with the MIX knob. For a no frills, yet effective saturation unit, look no further.
Tubes Creamer by Mercuriall
Mercuriall are known for their solid guitar pedal effects, and the Tubes Creamer is one of their free options:
This particular VST plugin designed to model the TS808 guitar pedal.
It sounds really crunchy, which can be great for getting rough guitar-like tones out of anything. They also have some other great free pedals on their site, which you should check out.
CamelCrusher by Camel Audio
I’ll be honest – I still use this plugin on every tune I make:
For some reason, it transforms anything into something huge and thick. Probably thanks to its combination of distortion, compression, and filtering.
Unfortunately, Camel Audio went under quite a few years ago and all of their stuff was acquired by Apple.
CamelCrusher is and was free, but it’s no longer updated. And many users report compatibility issues (the interface personally doesn’t load for me, but I can control it via Ableton).
IVGI2 by Klanghelm
IVGI is one of the best saturation plugins for controlled buss saturation:
I like to drive it a little bit and tweak the knobs to taste. Some of these include:
- Asym Mix: manipulates the character of the saturation
- Response: lets you alter the frequency response of the saturation
Sounds great on bass, drums, instruments or even the whole mix.
Krush by Tritik
Krush is less of a distortion plugin and more of a downsampler and bitcrusher with added saturation:
Similar to CamelCrusher, it’s the combination of included effects modules that make this plugin shine.
Simply dial in the amount of the 3 distortion types, and adjust the filter and modulations to taste.
Looking to learn more about saturation and distortion? We have a complete guide over here 🔥
Reverb & Delay: The Best Free VST Plugins
ValhallaFreqEcho by ValhallaDSP
Freq Echo is a grossly underrated free delay VST:
Not only does it sound nice and ‘stretchy’ out of the box, but the shift knob adds a nice frequency modulation.
- shifting (controls the amount of frequency shift in the delay tail)
- delay time
But don’t mistake this for ‘just another delay’. It’s not. Plus the longer feedback amounts are great for crunchy-driven sounds.
Recommended: Pitch Shifting & Time Stretching – 9 Unique Tips
ValhallaSupermassive by ValhallaDSP
When Valhalla released this plugin at the start of lockdown last year, I was immediately hooked:
This is a reverb, echo, delay, chorus and more all in one.
I can’t really give you a specific use case for it. But if you want trippy or spacey sounds, this is the plugin for you. I use it all the time for creating atmospheres.
Dimension Expander by Xfer Records
This little free VST plugin is modelled of NI Massive’s Dimension Expander effect:
The Dimension Expander within Massive was a sought after sound for big leads and plucks.
It’s basically a very short slapback delay with a big reverb tail. Simple but effective. Control it with the size and dry/wet.
Protoverb by u-he
This is an interesting one – Protoverb functions off a randomized reverb model:
All you control is the dry/wet and the reverb decay time.
By randomizing the model and delays, you get a combination of crazy reverbs. Some can sound amazing. Other downright horrible. Up to you to find out 😅
Reverb-2 by TAL
Yet another underrated reverb, TAL-Reverb-2 is a creamy free VST:
It sounds great if you’re going for ethereal or dreamy sounds.
It’s a plate reverb but just sounds so good – you’ll see what I mean.
OldSkoolVerb by Voxengo
Closing this section off with one last reverb is OldSkoolVerb:
Granted, the UI isn’t the most attractive. However, it does give you a great vintage sounding reverb. Its settings allow you to achieve either plate, room or even hall reverb tones.
You can even custom design your own reverb mode. Not bad for a free plugin, right?
Chorus & Stereo: The Best Free VST Plugins
Getting full, wide, and fat mixes is truly an art form. Thanks to the wide variety of free stereo VST plugins available, these sounds can be achieved without breaking your budget.
Wider 2.0 by Polyverse
Given the importance of mono compatibility, stereo imagers have had to up their game:
Not only do they have to sound good, but preserving the mono signal is paramount.
That’s where Wider comes in. A simple knob allows you to widen the stereo image of any sound.
However, mono compatibility will always be guaranteed. In addition, a Low Bypass knob lets you control the frequencies affected.
Vocal Doubler by iZotope
In wide and lush mixes, a mono vocal can sound quite thin and out of place:
That’s why vocal doubling has become widespread. The result is a thick, moving vocal, without overdoing the stereo image.
Vocal Doubler allows you to blend the exact amount of the doubling effect that you want. You can also control the amount of pitch and stereo separation, plus any randomness you want to add via the variation knob.
Magic Switch by Baby Audio
If you want instant chorus that sounds incredible on any sound, look no further:
The best thing about this free plugin is that all you have is a button and a mix knob.
The chorus sound in Magic Switch is warm, thick and vintage. It’s truly magic.
Ozone Imager 2 by iZotope
Ozone Imager 2 is a free VST plugin version of the multi-band imager included in the full version of Ozone:
The only difference here is that there is only one band.
You control the level of the stereo signal with the width knob, but you can add a stereo effect to anything with the ‘Stereoize’ button. Simply enable it, select mode I or II (I tend to prefer I for drums, and 2 for subtle pad/lead widening), and dial the miliseconds amount to taste.
If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge fan of simple yet effective plugins:
The TAL-Chorus-LX is just that – a simple chorus plugin yet again modeled off the infamous Roland Juno-6.
This one extends the original functionality by allowing you to control the stereo width, as well as the dry/wet.
A1StereoControl by Alex Hilton
This is probably one of the most in-depth stereo shaping plugins out there, and it’s weirdly free:
While it doesn’t ‘add’ any new stereo information to an existing signal, it’s great for shaping what’s already there.
You can do any number of stereo adjustments, including
- mono-ing bass
- increasing the volume of stereo information
- swapping the left and right channels
- inverting phase
- changing pan laws
- and more
I personnaly like to use it on my master to add that little bit of width.
Recommended: How To Use Chorus, Phasers & Flangers
Other Effects: The Best Free VST Plugins
Sometimes you just need a certain tool for a certain job. These weird and wonderful free VST plugins may do just that for you.
Pancake 2 by Cableguys
This is one of those great creative plugins that you can load up and see what happens:
In a nutshell, Pancake 2 applies manually-drawn pan curves to a sound over a specified period of time. This is great for adding stereo interest to any sound.
Something about old vinyl can make a sound feel nostalgic and dusty:
Luckily for you, that no longer requires you to press a record, play it on repeat and wait 50 years.
iZotope Vinyl allows you to choose the era of record, plus dial in the amount of gain, dust and scratch and any surface noise you’d find on a regular vinyl record.
A1TriggerGate by Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton delivers again with A1TriggerGate, one of my favorite free plugins:
One classic examples is the trance-gate effect that you hear on a lot of modern techno tracks.
Personally, I love to pull up any of the presets and see what works – there’s always something you can use.
Hysteresis/Fracture by Glitchmachines
I’ve put both Hysteresis and Fracture in the one listing as I feel they are quite similar and are great companions:
Both are designed to create nice glitchy effects through advanced modulation and routing. Honestly, you’re best just to check them out and see what they do.
Span by Voxengo
If you’ve ever watched a YouTube tutorial, you’ve probably seen Span being used at some point:
This is because it’s a solid option for a spectrum analyzer and gives you all the information you need. Honestly, it’s a must-have for pre-mastering and mastering. I especially like the correlation meter to ensure mono-compatibility of my mixes.
Loudness Meter 2 Free by Youlean
Another MUST if you’re mastering your own tracks:
If you want a modern tool to measure your LUFS, then this is your best bet. It safely sits at the end of my master buss for every tune I make.
It gives you the short term and integrated values, as well as other helpful measurements like your loudness range, dynamics, and max/min LUFS.
I haven’t yet found even a paid version of a plugin that can do what s(M)exoscope does:
It’s a great waveform analyzer that allows you to see exactly how your mix and master translates.
You can use the ‘Time’ and ‘Amp’ knobs to zoom in and out, allowing you to see all the detail you’ll need.
Bundles: The Best Free VST Plugins
These bundles feature a number of different effects, instruments, and synths that can help you level up your music production game at no cost.
Although many bundles feature too many superfluous plugins, these ones don’t.
MFreeFXBundle by MeldaProduction
The MeldaProduction bundle is quite possibly my favorite free FX bundle out there:
From waveshaping to vibrato to auto-tune, these plugins are a great addition to your arsenal.
Most of these are top quality plugins. You’ll see them recommended by a lot of top YouTubers. They also all share a similar user interface, so once you understand one the rest will be easy to navigate.
Kilohearts is mostly known for its ground-breaking modular synth PhasePlant. However, each effect of PhasePlant can also be used as a separate VST effect:
Inside this amazing you get a whopping 32 effects, including:
- Different types of EQ and filters
- Gating effects
- Chorus, Flangers and Phasers
- And more!
A lot of these effects come with a minimal amount of dials. But sometimes, simpler is just better. And in this case, I can whole-heartedly recommend each of these.
Komplete Start by Native Instruments
Keyboards, samples, synths, and FX – Komplete Start is a healthy introduction to the world of Komplete, and music production in general:
Included in the package are plugins like Kontakt Player, Reaktor Player and Guitar Rig player – 3 lite versions of their powerhouse devices. You’ll also get a lot of libraries for all 3 of those players – including Hybrid Keys, Analog Dreams, and more.
T-Racks 5 CS by IK Multimedia
The T-Racks 5 Custom Shop is a collection of IK Multimedia’s free plugins, but more than that it’s a gateway into their world of great plugins:
The benefit of the Custom Shop is that you get a couple of free plugins (the Classic Equalizer and the metering section) but also demo and purchase all of their other paid plugins in the same interface.
Some Final Thoughts on Free VST Plugins
There are some amazing options in this list that might be exactly what you’re looking for. But hold up before you go plugin-crazy.
There are 3 things you should consider before diving in.
#1: Don’t get EVERY SINGLE free VST plugin
There are 51 plugins on this list, and chances are you currently know how to use zero of them.
Each plugin you add to your library should be something you intend on at least solving an issue you’ve come across.
Otherwise there’s no point to downloading them.
#2: Free VST plugins are not better than paid ones
On this list there are many plugins that compete on the same level as many of the paid options out there.
But that doesn’t mean you should assume the free versions are better. Sometimes a high-quality paid plugin can be far more useful & save a lot more time.
#3: Updates of free VST plugins are not guaranteed
Let me be transparent – a lot of these free plugins come from hobbyists or small companies. They don’t have huge budgets and infinite time.
So, this means that updates are likely to trickle through a lot slower, or could stop at any time.
If you become overly reliant on any free VST plugin and they stop updates, it could prove frustrating for your workflow.
Check out this video where I explore this problem more in detail:
A Summary of All the Best Free VST Plugins
That just about wraps things up. To summarize, here are all the plugins we mentioned in this article!
SAMPLERS AND INSTRUMENTS
EQ AND FILTERS
DYNAMICS AND COMPRESSORS
AMP, DISTORTION AND SATURATION
REVERB AND DELAYS
CHORUS AND STEREO
Want more free stuff? Check out our free downloads page 👀