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Best Plugins to Try for Free

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FabFilter Pro-Q 3

This is probably the most popular EQ out at the moment - it lets you create up to 26 bands, all of which are fully parametric, can be made dynamic, and can be placed on the stereo, left, right, mid or side image. Its matching function is also incredibly useful.

FabFilter offers a 30-day free trial, so if you’ve been curious about why so many people like this plugin, try it out.

Let’s take a listen to it.

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FabFilter Saturn 2

Saturn 2 is a really complex plugin that offers multiple forms of modulation to create program-dependent and unique saturation. It offers 28 different saturation algorithms, each causing unique harmonic formations, pre, and post-emphasis EQ curves, as well as frequency-specific compression thresholds and ratios.

Like with the Pro Q 3, FabFilter is offering a 30-day free trial.

Let’s use a preset that showcases just how in-depth this plugin can get, and notice how it both sounds great and offers a lot of nuances.

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PSP Impressor

Although some compressors offer more functionality, it’s rare I come across one that sounds this good - it offers peak down and RMS compression, 6 algorithms, very short to very long attack and release times with automatic settings, internal side-chained EQ, and optional saturation or limiting on the output.

Oversampling keeps aliasing distortion at a minimum, and we can choose feedback, feedforward, or a combination of the 2.

The demo is fully functional and lasts for 30 days.

Let’s take a listen to the processor attenuating our mix, and notice how the sound is full, complex, and comes incredibly close to the sound of analog equipment.

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God Particle - Cradle

This plugin’s interface is incredibly simple, but its sound is massive - it imparts harmonic distortion, maximization, and multi-band limiting, but in a way that I personally haven’t heard before. In the middle is the main maximization and distortion effect, and to the left is an emphasis EQ.

The gain reduction section shows us the optimal amounts of attenuation, whereas an overall attenuation meter is shown to the right above the limiter’s gain.

The trial unfortunately only lasts 5 days, but, it sounds so good I wanted to share it with you regardless. Let’s take a listen.

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Invigorate - NewFangled Audio

Invigorate is a brand-new plugin that combines compression, limiting, and overdrive, all blendable with the window in the middle. The mix function makes it perfect as a parallel effect to add fullness and power to a bus or full mix, while the detection, curve, and EQ functions offer control.

I personally like this plugin on a full mix to control dynamics and add distortion, before blending it in to just the right level. The trial is for a full 30 days, so definitely check it out.

Let’s take a listen.

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Super VHS - Baby Audio

VHS isn’t a commonly emulated medium, so having this plugin is a great and convenient way to achieve a unique lo-fi sound. With it, we can introduce compression, modulation, stereo imaging, artifacts, and a form of maximization and stereo widening with the Magic switch.

Unfortunately, the demo attenuates the output every 60 seconds - but if you do enjoy it, the price is very reasonable and the Magic switch used in the plugin is offered as a separate free plugin.

Let’s take a listen and notice how it really does sound like a VHS tape, just with a lot more creative aspects added.

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Soothe 2 - OekSound

Soothe 2 is a resonance reducer and a personal favorite of mine - it’s great at balancing the frequency spectrum and reducing harsh excessive frequencies. I like how it can be used aggressively to completely tame a harsh or poorly recorded signal but it can still be subtle enough for mastering.

The trial lasts for 20 days, which is more than enough time to explore the plugin and see how flexible it can be.

Let’s take a listen to it.

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Seventh Heaven - Liquid Sonics

If you’re looking for the iconic reverb of the Bricasti M7, but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, this is a great alternative. It uses impulse responses from the original unit and combines that with additional functions like EQ and parameters you’d expect in a modern reverb.

The trial lasts for 14 days and doesn’t limit any of the functionality or sound.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but if you run 1 sample of white noise through the plugin and record the output, you could create your own impulse responses from this plugin, similar to how they did with the original unit.

Let’s take a listen.

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Oxford Reverb - Sonnox

Another great reverb is Sonnox Oxford’s - it offers immense control over the reflection's length, density, and configuration, as well as the general frequency response. Although it takes a moment to get used to, this reverb is incredibly versatile and has a sound quality I don’t think is matched by any other reverb.

The demo lasts for 15 days and is currently 50% off if you do decide to get it.

Let’s take a listen.

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Gullfoss - Soundtheory

Last up is this intelligent EQ that dynamically amplifies and attenuates the signal to create a balanced sound. Although the interface is simple, with a recover and tame function as well as range isolation, the work it’s doing is something other plugins cannot currently do.

I find this plugin is perfect for reducing masking on buses, or when trying to find room for 2 competing signals by using the side-chain function.

The demo lasts for 14 days, so you get plenty of time to figure out if it’s something you’d use.

Let’s take a listen to how it balances a mix, and how we can hear more details when it’s activated.

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