So in this short article I am going to share some of the top free plugins that I have been using for the past few years. As they are all different as I use them at different points when writing and mixing, I will not be putting them in any ranked order. Let’s jump into it!
- Softube Saturation Knob
Like many of you reading this we will find that we are often using samples and soft synths as apposed to hardware. Often these audio files can sound fairly digital and not have that much warmth or life to them and so we use plugins to beef them up. I use a fair amount of complex plugins with multiple parameters but if something can do the job with 1 button/ knob then I am very interested! Softtubes saturation knob is incredibly simple and easy to use with just a few parameters to choose from:
- Saturation Knob
- 3 Saturation Types
Although incredibly simple, it packs a punch adding colour and analogue warmth to anything you put it on. With 3 types of Saturation to choose from, it gives you a touch more control when deciding on the characteristics you want in terms of distortion applied. If you want to slam your drums, squash you synths our add colour to your vocals, this is definitely one to try!
Now this has been a big secret in my productions for a very long time and a plugin that few people actually know about. Why is that the case? Well it is pretty much extinct now. With no maintenance or upgrades, the plugin is incredibly difficult to find – but when you do, hold on to it! It is not an easy plugin to understand straight away but with a large bank of presets to choose from, you can quickly begin to understand what each parameter is used for. If any of you have used any glitch type plugins before, think of this as the same – but with far more control and on steroids!
3. Voxengo SPAN
This plugin for me should be in every producers plugin folder. The ability to see what your audio is doing in real time while using very little CPU is fantastic. This plugin should not be free put it that way! I have used tonnes of spectrum analysers in the past that give you far to much pointless information and because of it – don’t do the basic things right. By having a tool that you can back up your ears with your eyes is incredibly important and it is one that sits on my master bus whether I am producing, mixing or mastering. You can switch it up from Stereo to Mid/side which massively helps when EQing and understanding where your elements are sitting in the mix. On top of this, you can use this as a metering tool (not the best in the world) and find out your true peaks as well as RMS and a correlation meter. Grab this now before for any reason, they start charging for it!
4. Alex Hilton A1 Stereo Control
This is a very simple and easy to use plugin that doesn’t require any explanation. Essentially you can change the stereo width, monitor in mono, flip your left and right channels or use it’s safe bass function. For me, I am using this for the safe bass mode. The ability to put frequencies under a set amount in mono (for instance an acid bass line) is incredibly important. I will hardly ever put my whole bass channel in mono, but select the frequencies that need to be in mono. A simple to use plugin that does the job well and a for free. What more could you as for.
5. Klanghelm MJUC Jr
So for the last one I thought I would throw in an odd ball and this time it is a compressor. I have tonnes of compressors in my arsenal and this one always seems to work it’s way in to my records. Why? – It is very easy to use and get the sound you want in just a few parameters. No threshold to understand, no ratio to play with – instead this is all determined by how hard you compress. I have used this on a wide range of material and now believe i am using their paid version which is a tiny bit more fiddly to use, but as far as compression goes and adding a touch of colour – the MJUC jr is great!