6 of the best FREE plugins for creative sound design

Valhalla DSP Super Massive


From the makers of such revered reverbs as VintageVerb, Shimmer and UberMod, SuperMassive is a combination reverb/delay geared up primarily for the creation of enormous virtual spaces and epic modulated echo-based effects, but perfectly at home defining smaller rooms and halls, as well as standard delays, as you’d expect.



The fun starts with 16 diverse algorithms, each one named after a star constellation to keep you in a suitably vast frame of mind (‘Andromeda’, ‘Capricorn’, ‘Orion’, etc), and establishing the fundamental characteristics and envelope timings of the delay network at the heart of the plugin. From there, you can tailor the effect by adjusting the delay time (up to 2000ms) and LFO modulation, Feedback, Density (the ‘reverbiness’ of the echoes), stereo Width, filtering and Warp (mad harmonic and resonance manipulation). The focused control scheme makes Super Massive fun and rewarding to experiment with, and a huge preset list provides a wealth of excellent starting points.


Valhalla Super Massive


Baby Audio Baby Comeback


The cut down but fully functional version of Baby Audio’s awesome Comeback Kid is a perfectly straightforward delay plugin with which any combination of four character-altering ‘Flavor’ algorithms can be simultaneously brought to bear on your echoes. The Wide Flavor applies variations between the left and right signals to widen the sound; Analog is a beautiful tape saturation emulation; Saucey introduces a touch of reverb for size and depth; and Cheap runs the signal through an 11-bit DAC emulation for a crunchy vintage digital vibe. The delay itself can be run free at up to 2500ms or synced to host, switched between Ping Pong and regular stereo modes, and fed back into itself, while the handy Ducker control determines the amount by which the wet signal is lowered in volume whenever the dry signal is present – ideal for restoring clarity in processed vocals, for example.



Wonderfully authentic in its retro sonic styling, and supremely quick and easy to use, Baby Comeback is a must-have. It also forms a set with Baby Audio’s other three equally stellar free offerings (Pitch Drift, Magic Dice and Magic Switch), and since the download links for all of them arrive together, you might as well grab the lot.


Baby Comeback


Togu Audio Line TAL-Vocoder


Just one in a raft of truly indispensable free plugins from Togu Audio Line, TAL-Vocoder is an 11-band vocoder that imbues vocals, drums and anything else you fancy feeding into it with that awesome ‘harmonised robot’ effect capitalised on by everyone from Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk to Coldplay and, perhaps most famously, Daft Punk. Despite being free, the control panel cuts no corners, enabling adjustment of individual band volume levels, release time, additional harmonics, a chorus effect and more; and while the built-in synth, with its mixed and syncable Pulse, Saw, Sub and Noise oscillators, sounds great, you can, of course, route any external carrier signal you like in through the sidechain input.



Essentially, this is all the vocoder you could ever need, and why Togu doesn’t charge for it is a mystery.


Acon Digital Multiply


Acon Digital Multiply


Looking at the interface of Acon’s feature-packed chorus plugin, you’d be forgiven for assuming it had a pricetag attached – but no, it really is yours at the click of a download link. Multiply simulates up to six voices alongside the input signal, and lets you collectively modulate their pitch and volume with dedicated LFOs running from 0.5 to 10Hz. The Stereo Spread knob facilitates widening and narrowing of the stereo image, while the Pre-Delay setting offsets the wet signal by up to 500ms. There’s also a very capable five-band EQ (high- and low-pass filters, high and low shelves, and a parametric band), separate dry and wet level controls, A/B comparison buttons and limitless undo/redo.



Sonically, Multiply is a thing of beauty, the notable clarity of its output being at least in part down to the phase randomising filter applied to each voice. A genuinely characterful option for enhancing and widening guitars, basses, vocals, electric pianos and more.


Glitch Machines Hysteresis


A one-stop shop for wild glitch treatments, Hysteresis combines a stereo delay with a stutter effect, a resonant low-pass filter and a chorus module (Mod FX), strung together in a path that feeds the fully processed signal back to the delay at the start via the adjustable feedback circuit. The Delay features stereo offset and the option to mute the initial (pre-feedback) delay line; the Stutter section slices up the input signal for looped playback, forwards or backwards, with the Size and Speed knobs setting the loop length and playback speed; the Filter incorporates an LFO for cyclical modulation; and the Mod FX Rate can be multiplied or divided by 10 for extreme modulation effects.



It’s not the most immediate of plugins to get to grips with, so reading the manual is certainly recommended, but once you’ve got your head around Hysteresis’ flow and functionality, you’ll find no end to the lively, highly animated noises and textures you can wring out of it. Utterly brilliant.


Glitch Machines Hysteresis


AudioModern Filterstep


Every producer should have a quality step-sequenced filter in their plugin arsenal for the rhythmic transformation of beats, pads, vocals, percussion, basses and all the rest of it, and honestly, for most, there’s no need to look any further than AudioModern’s fabulous freebie. FilterStep makes light work of programming groovy cutoff modulation sequences (up to 64 steps long) for its multimode filter (high-pass, low-pass, band-pass), with supplementary controls for tweaking filter resonance and step smoothing, and a superb randomisation system. It’s unarguably one of the best free plugins ever made, so what are you still reading this for? Go get it!


AudioModern Filterstep


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