Plug-in signal processing is the mother’s milk of creative in-the-box production. Unfortunately, it can cost big bucks to fill your glass. Thankfully, many manufacturers offer one or more plug-ins for free. I'm not talking about demo-mode free. I mean forever free, with absolutely no time limit or restrictions on use.
This article is your handy guide to some of the best free plug-ins available for mixing and mastering. And while “no cost” usually implies low quality, that’s simply not the case here. True, some of the free plug-ins detailed in this guide are lesser-featured versions of paid plug-ins offered by the same manufacturer. But while the freebies’ capabilities may be somewhat limited compared to those offered by their cutting-edge, commercial counterparts, their sound quality is just as high.
This guide by no means covers all the gratis plug-ins available on the Internet. You’ll find an incredible bounty of freebies online once you start digging. (Better bring a backhoe!) Rather than fill this article front to back with a laundry list of all the software you can possibly hoard, I’ll focus on a core group of products and tell you what you can actually do with them in the studio. Happy shopping!
BLUE CAT’S BOUNTIFUL BUNDLE
Blue Cat’s Freeware Plug-ins Pack II (bluecataudio.com) includes six free plug-ins in AAX, AU, RTAS, VST, and DirectX formats and mono, stereo, and (for some of the plug-ins) dual-mono configurations (see Figure 1).
|Fig. 1. The Blue Cat’s Freeware
Plug-ins Pack II comprises a
lavish offering of free plug-ins,
including a flanger, phaser,
chorus, 3-band semi-parametric
equalizer, real-time spectrum
analyzer, and master
Blue Cat’s Chorus includes all the controls you need to create lush chorus effects: delay time, depth, rate, LFO waveshape (sine or triangle), separate level controls for dry and wet signals, and (in the stereo version) a spread control that adjusts the stereo image. But you can also mangle sounds in really cool ways that go way beyond chorusing. For example, by switching the waveshape to triangle, cranking the depth control fully clockwise (to 100 percent), plunging the spread control all the way to mono and killing all dry signal, you can make a stereo synth pad pulse with a rounded at- tack to sound more like an electronic piano than a pad; adjust the rate control to determine how quickly the pulses repeat, making them synch with your song’s tempo.