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Top 12 Underrated Free Plugins

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MVibrato - Melda Audio

Vibrato often gets overlooked as an effect, but it has a lot of potential to create a unique sound - personally, I enjoy adding these effects to drum loops. This plugin lets you control tremolo and vibrato or volume and pitch modulation in a truly detailed and nuanced way.

Randomization is also a helpful feature if you want to cycle through various sounds and get ideas.

Let’s take a listen to the plugin on drums.

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ISOL8 - TBProAudio

Monitoring plugins aren’t too exciting, especially when compared with distortion, reverb, and other creative effects - but they do serve a really useful purpose. ISOL8 makes it easy to monitor various aspects of yo

ur mix or master, based on controllable frequency bands and left/right or mid/side stereo placement

Let’s listen to a mix and use these controls to monitor it.

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ChowPhaser - ChowDSP

ChowDSP has made some great and recognizable plugins like CHOWTape, but their ChowPhaser is a unique and well-designed plugin that deserves some attention. It separates the signal into left and right and offers 3 channel strips with multiple effects for each - like modulation amount, distortion options, and center frequency.

A helpful graphic representation is also included in the top right of the plugin. Let’s listen to the effect.

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Krush - TriTik

Krush combines digital distortion like bit depth and sample rate reduction with modulation to create a truly unique and creative plugin. It also blends the digital sound of its distortion with analog emulated resonance filters to add some warmth - and includes parameter freezing and midi linking for live performance.

Let’s listen to the plugin and combine the different features it offers.

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BPB Dirty Filter - Bedroom Producers Blog

Dirty Filter combines very simple but incredibly useful functions - a high pass filter, low pass filter, and tube distortion on the remaining signal. I often find the need to perform this type of processing but with multiple effects, so having it combined in one plugin makes a lot of sense.

Variable slope settings and wet/dry make the plugin even more useful, so let’s take a listen to what it does.

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Bertom Curve Analyzer - Bertom Audio

This is honestly one of my favorite plugins, free or paid since it lets me observe any and all changes a plugin will make to the frequency response. This is great for understanding analog EQ emulations without a display, and even finding hidden frequency shaping applied by various plugins.

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Room 041 - Analog Obsession

Analog Obsession gets a good amount of attention for their recreations of well-known and beloved analog equipment, but one plugin that flew under the radar is arguably one of their best. Room 041 is a room reverb plugin, that unlike a lot of their plugins, isn’t modeled on any particular equipment.

Simply put, it’s well-designed, sounds great, and offers all of the needed parameters like stereo separation, pre-delay, decay time, and more. Let’s listen to it and notice how it creates a surprisingly complex and realistic sound.

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Boogex - Voxengo

It’s a bit of a shame that this plugin doesn’t get more love since it’s incredibly well-designed and a lot of work clearly went into it. It’s a speaker emulator that starts with EQ sections, before running the signal through amp emulation, and then IR cabinet modeling.

There are over 13 amps to choose from with various microphone and placement settings diversifying the options even more.

Let’s listen and notice how this plugin can be used for guitar, but also for re-amping purposes.

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MLoudnessAnalyzer - Melda Audio

YouLean Loudness Meter is a popular free analyzer, but the MLoudnessAnalyzer offers more functionality, including some helpful presets. With it we can measure up to 9 metrics or simplify the display to see only the metrics we want - additionally, a graph to the right shows these metrics in real-time.

Although we can’t listen to this plugin, let’s increase the gain of a track while measuring its LUFS to better understand how this plugin responds to changes in amplitude.

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MangleVerb - Audio Damage

MangleVerb is a strange plugin for sure - it isn’t often that reverb and amplitude modulation are mixed, but when they are the effect is really useful for creative applications. To the left, we’ll notice some reverb settings and a filter section that can be modulated with our LFO and envelope.

Next, we can affect our LFO’s timing, wave type, phase, and the timing of our envelope. Let’s listen to the plugin and imagine how it could be used creatively.

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Vocal Doubler - Izotope

Izotope’s free imager typically overshadows their other free plugins, but the Vocal Doubler is arguably more useful and better designed. It combines duplication with timing and amplitude modulation to create a dense and rich-sounding vocal, while keeping the controls intuitive, incredibly simple, with a very low CPU.

To affect the signal use the dials, or just drag the bar in the middle to change both parameters at once.

Let’s listen to it on some vocals.

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LimiterOne - CIS DSP Factory

Let’s end on a high note and talk about what I think is the best sounding free limiter. LimiterOne is surprisingly transparent due to how well it retains transients, and somehow doesn’t introduce significant overs even when attenuating and amplifying the signal by 15dB or more.

The controls are simple, there’s a threshold with auto-make-up gain, a release ranging from 200 to 500ms, and a ceiling function.

Let’s listen to it and notice that even when I drastically attenuate, the only easily noticeable issue is pumping.

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