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Top 11 Free Sound Design Plugins

  • Volitions - Venus Theory
  • Soft Nylon Guitar Lite - Mike Georgiades
  • Swarminet - Paul Koch
  • Zumzet Lite - Audiolatry
  • Atmos 3 Lite - Electronik Sound Lab
  • Singing Bowl Renaissance - Sample Science
  • Labs - Spitfire Audio
  • Lost-Vinyls - SuperflyDSP
  • Codec - Lese
  • TheChorus - TheZhe
  • Sweep - Lese

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Volitions - Venus Theory

For this video let’s start with some free instruments and synths before moving on to free effects.

Volitions is a series of free instruments that work within decent sampler - which is also free to download and use. It was made by Venus Theory whom you might know from YouTube for his videos on production - the plugin offers 6 different versions, all with greatly varying orchestral sounds.

We can control a low-pass filter, the ADSR, the level of sub-frequencies, and some temporal effects to the right. Overall if you’re trying to create a complex and rich score or some ambient effects I think this is a fantastic free option.

Let’s listen and try to cycle through some of the varying sounds.

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Soft Nylon Guitar Lite - Mike Georgiades

Getting a good-sounding classical guitar synth or sampler is pretty rare - that’s why I’d recommend checking this one out. Again it’s housed with the Decent Sampler and offers a low-pass filter to change the response, as well as reverb, delay, and delay time and feedback.

My only critique is that the instrument is a little quiet, but I just increased the output up top. Overall I think it’s a great free option for film composition - let’s take a listen.

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Swarminet - Paul Koch

Swarminet is a personal favorite of mine - I think it works both in a musical context and for ambient effects, especially when increasing the swarm function. In short, it uses 10 clarinets playing simultaneously, and lets you vary this pitch in relation to one another.

It creates this uncomfortable and suspenseful sound that would work great in a horror or thriller movie. Let’s take a listen.

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Zumzet Lite - Audiolatry

This synth offers a lot of varying emotion in its presets - it can be creepy and uncomfortable, or ethereal and dreamy, as well as kind of quirky - the point being you can create a lot of different moods with it. It includes a lot of parameters like reverb, chorus, distortion, and delay.

There’s also an ADSR, some modulation, a filter, and gain. Also, I think the paid-for version is like $9, so it’s worth checking out if you like this lite version.

Let’s take a listen, and let me know in the comments if you could use synth for something you make.

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Atmos 3 Lite - Electronik Sound Lab

Atmos 3 has this kind of billowy, romantic sound to it that seems pretty consistent across the 7 different modes it offers. You can affect the piano's ADSR if there’s a chorus effect, the level between the piano and atmospherical signals, filtering and modulation, and delay.

In the middle, we can affect the LFO’s waveform, source, and what it affects, as well as our delay timing.

Let’s listen to it, and notice how we can create different sounds using the ADSR.

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Singing Bowl Renaissance - Sample Science

Free eastern percussion like Tibetan singing bowls isn’t too common, so it’s great to get access to it. With the plugin we get 20 different presets that vary greatly in sound, as well as some modulation, filtering, panning, reverb, ADSR controls, and a preamp function that I think adds harmonics.

If you need to compose something using more meditative-type instruments, I can see this plugin being incredibly useful.

Let’s take a listen to it using a few of its settings.

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Labs - Spitfire Audio

This is probably the free instrument I use the most - if we look at their stand-alone app we can see just how many free packs they offer within Labs and they seem to add to it about once a month or so. Back to the plugin, we’ll notice we have an expression and dynamics slider.

Sometimes the dynamics slider introduces more layers to the sound, sometimes it increases the velocity, and one time I noticed it switched the signal between close and ambient mic recordings.

Like the dynamics slider, what the main dial can edit will vary between packs - it might include ADSR, reverb, playing variations, and some others. Up top can usually change the reverb type as well.

Although a lot of these are great, I personally enjoy Foghorn, which includes samples recorded on-site from the Sumburgh Foghorn used in the A24 film the Lighthouse.

Let’s take a listen to this instrument being layered with some other free experimental samples they offer, and notice how it would work well for a suspense trailer or something along those lines.

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Lost-Vinyls - SuperflyDSP

Moving away from instruments and onto effects, let’s look at Lost-Vinyls - it introduces distortion, noise, artifacts, and frequency and pitch modulation that I think sounds impressively close to an actual vinyl record. Whereas a lot of free vinyl plugins only offer 1 or 2 functions, this seems to cover all the bases.

Let’s put it on the Volitions instrument we used in the first chapter, and notice how it instantly gives it a lo-fi and classic feel.

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Codec - Lese

This plugin recreates all the artifacts and unwanted distortions that come along with lossy file types like MP3s, but it lets you introduce that sound with a lot of control. We can lower the bitrate, introduce sample loss to varying degrees, lower the bandwidth and add some frequency-specific distortion.

I could see this plugin being really useful for sound design, maybe if a phone signal was breaking up or the computer’s audio was being affected by something.

Let’s listen to it on the nylon guitars from chapter 2, and notice how it creates distinctly digital distortion.

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TheChorus - TheZhe

Since some of the chorus effects included with these instruments are pretty bare bones, I found this free one really useful. It includes all the functions you’d want from a chorus effect, like depth and rate, LFO modes, filters, and even stereo imaging and panning.

I think both the plugin’s interface and sound are great , so let’s listen to it Zumzet synth from chapter 4 and notice how it adds some complexity.

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Sweep - Lese

Sweep was created with sound design in mind since it lets you quickly introduce filtering that gives a rising or falling feeling. We can control the EQ, the speed of the sweep and if it’s synced to the BPM, and randomization and phase of the filters.

If we de-sync the timing we can even control the left and right channels separately.

I don’t think I introduced this effect to one of the demos as well as I could have, but even then I liked the complexity it added to the signal - so let’s listen to it included on Lab’s Foghorn from chapter 7.

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