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Top 10 Free Vocal Plugins in 2023

  • FrankCS - Analog Obsession
  • COMPER - Analog Obsession
  • RO-GOLD - Black Rooster Audio
  • TEQ-421 - Voxengo
  • HZ Multiplier - Higher Hz.
  • Gatelab - Audio Modern
  • Lost-Vinyl - Superfly DSP
  • Triple Drive - Sofier Sound
  • VREV-666 - Fuse Audio Labs
  • Fresh Air - Slate Digital

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FrankCS - Analog Obsession

FrankCS is a fantastic combination of a Pultec-style EQ mixed with solid state or tube emulation and a very useful compressor. We get 5 different bands, including high and low pass filters, and low, mid, and high-frequency semi-parametric filters, before introducing pre and post-compression circuit emulation.

The compressor sounds great and can be transparent with the right settings, or incredibly colorful if we drive the input while reducing the output. Let’s take a listen.

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COMPER - Analog Obsession

COMPER shows how some indie developers understand what engineers are looking for, even more than a lot of established audio companies. It offers 2 compressors in series - these can be VCA, FET, or OPTO compressors, a 50/50 split between 2, or a 1/3 of each type.

Both compressors offer internal side-chain filters, whereas the second also includes external side-chaining functionality.

Let’s listen and notice how the vocal is controlled, while we simultaneously achieve a great tone.

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RO-GOLD - Black Rooster Audio

This is a great free plate reverb plugin, that works well for vocals due to the bass cut and pre-delay options. The controls are super simple, we have the 2 aforementioned functions as well as a damper that introduces more reverb at higher settings, and a wet/dry.

Let’s listen and notice how this plugin works great on a vocal when the pre-delay is set to about 5ms.

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TEQ-421 - Voxengo

Voxengo makes great free and paid-for plugins - even though this is one of their simpler releases, it works incredibly well at quickly shaping vocals. We only have control over 3 filters, 1 low shelf, a mid band, and 1 high shelf - when affected, these automatically compensate for the other band’s levels.

With the bands at 0, the signal is relatively flat, but we’ll notice this quickly changes with an alteration to the gain.

Let’s listen to how amplifying the high shelf in particular creates a clear and upfront sound.

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HZ Multiplier - Higher Hz.

Although this plugin might not have the most modern interface, the sound is fantastic and the combination of effects is really useful for vocals. With it, we can introduce multiple delay taps at varying times and then pan these to the left and right channels.

We also get access to pre-delay, stereo expansion, feedback, and modulation, as well as low and high pass filters with respective optional resonances.

Let’s take a listen and notice how it creates a great doubling and chorusing effect, perfect for blending in BGVs.

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Gatelab - Audio Modern

This is a perfect effect if you want a creative vocal sound, maybe for a BGV or to capture the listener’s attention. It’s a stereo gate that lets you program the level of the vocal at various times - up top we can set the BPM, as well as randomize the level modulation.

In the main window, we can determine the rate at which the levels are read, if the processing is mono or stereo, the number of steps or potential level modulations, as well as introduce smoothing, shuffling, changing the wet/dry, and create subdivisions.

The preset tab is especially helpful since it comes with 40 different options.

Let’s take a listen, and keep in mind the effect is definitely for more creative uses than practical.

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Lost-Vinyl - Superfly DSP

If you want to make your vocal sound lo-fi, or quickly change it from a modern sound to an antiquated one, this is a great plugin. It offers both vinyl record noise and artifacts, as well as distortion, 4 different EQs, and timing modulation or wobble.

Let’s listen and notice how the combination of processing it introduces creates a realistic effect.

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Triple Drive - Sofier Sound

Triple Drive is a great, albeit simplified alternative to Saturn 2 or Izotope’s trash plugin - it lets you introduce up to 3 bands of saturation, each with 9 optional distortion types. In the middle, we can control the band’s gain, the level of saturation, and the output volume.

Below this, we can access the crossovers, and to the left, we alter the input’s frequency with a high pass filter.

Lastly, on the right side, we can perform some quick and simple EQ, cut off the high frequencies, and lower the output if needed.

Let’s take a listen.

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VREV-666 - Fuse Audio Labs

If you want a classic spring reverb sound, but with a lot more density than usual, this is a perfect free option. Like some of the other plugins in this video, the pre-delay function makes it great for vocals, since it lets the transients pass through unaffected.

The limiter also helps create a dense and impressive sound, and the tone emphasizes important high frequencies. Let’s listen and notice how this is great for layering in subtle to aggressive vocal reverb.

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Fresh Air - Slate Digital

Last up is a personal favorite of mine - I’ve covered it a lot before but it’s so useful on vocals that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. The controls are simple, we have 2 high-frequency bands that both increase high frequencies and introduce high-frequency harmonics.

This makes it perfect for achieving a bright and modern vocal sound.

Let’s take a listen.

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