Top 10 Free Mixing Plugins

 

Sete Chave – Audio Fusion Bureau 

Feedback Compressor II – Tokyo Dawn Labs

MEqualizer – Melda Audio Production

Blindfold EQ – Audio Thing

Tape Cassette 2 – Caelum Audio

FET Drive – Analog Obsession

MAutopan – Melda Audio Production

Stereo Expander – Melda Audio Production

MCharmVerb – MeldaAudio Productions

TAL Reverb 3 – Togu Audio Line

Mixing is shifting more and more from being a studio process to being one that’s performed at home.  Although stock plugins cover the bases, they rarely offer a unique sound or one that’s more creative rather than technical.

That said, it’s important to branch out and find some new plugins and sounds if you plan on creating more mixes.

More mixing is occurring from home.  Finding some new plugins can be helpful
More mixing is occurring from home. Finding some new plugins can be helpful

We’ve found 10 great plugins that you can use to add some character to your mixes – plugins that will hopefully help you to find new sounds and timbres.

We’ve divided the plugins into 5 categories:

  • Compressors
  • Equalizers
  • Saturators
  • Stereo Imagers
  • Reverbs

We’ll be looking at these plugins in that order.

Although these won’t cover every plugin you’ll need for mixing, they’ll give you a great start on your project.

If you know of some more free mixing plugins that we missed here, let us know in the comment section (of the embedded video).  We’d love to hear from you.

Additionally, if you’re working on a mix that needs to be mastered, send it to us here:

We’ll master it for you and send you a free mastered sample for you to review.

10. Sete Chave – Audio Fusion Bureau 

Sete Chave provides unique distortion and compression, unlike that of any stock plugin.
Sete Chave provides unique distortion and compression, unlike that of any stock plugin.

If you’re looking for a compressor that’s miles apart from your clean stock compressor, the Set Chave is a fantastic option.  

With this plugin, the more you compress the signal, the more it begins to distort in a unique way.  Whereas other analog emulation compressors use simple and order harmonics, this plugin contorts the signal in a really unexpected way.

In the plugin, you have an input and output dial, both of which have a range of 48dB.

In the middle are your attack and release knobs.  The attack ranges from 1.2ms to 500ms, while the release ranges from 20ms to 5 seconds.  The time range between the two means you can create a lot of different timbres.

The release time can be up to 5 seconds, which can significantly affect the signal.
The release time can be up to 5 seconds, which can significantly affect the signal.

The threshold ranges from 0dB to -36dB, while the ratio offers a clean 1:1 all the way up to 20:1, meaning you can just about use this plugin as a limiter if you wanted to.  

Lastly, the knee dial lets you introduce soft-knee compression by increasing the number from 1 to 5, with 1 being your hard-knee setting.

9. Feedback Compressor II – Tokyo Dawn Labs

This is a feedback compressor, meaning the output is used to drive the compression.
This is a feedback compressor, meaning the output is used to drive the compression.

First off, the Feedback Compressor works by measuring the compressor’s output and then determining how to compress the signal, instead of the type feed-forward routing.  

This gives the compressor a rare sound, one in which mild harmonic distortion is introduced more than a traditional compressor.

Up top is your threshold, a peak crest that changes the threshold of your loudest peak meaning you can compress your signal without compressing the peaks.  

Soft knee introduces a soft knee threshold which causes more natural-sounding compression, but more overall attenuation.  To the right of this, you can switch your ratio between a traditional ratio, and a limiter.

At the bottom of the plugin are your attack and release times.  The attack ranges from 0.01ms to 500ms making it great from incredibly fast compression.  The release ranges from 5ms to 2 seconds.

Attack times can be as quick as 0.01ms.  The release is broken up into 2 release types.
Attack times can be as quick as 0.01ms. The release is broken up into 2 release types.

You’ll also notice that the release is broken up into 2 types – ‘Peak’ which measures the signal in peak reduction, and ‘RMS,’ which measures the signal in RMS or essentially its average loudness.  

Whichever release type results in more attenuation will be used by the compressor.

On the left, you can introduce a high pass filter to your side-chain.  In the middle window, you have a visualization of your threshold and a meter for gain reduction.  The precise mode is a more accurate form of processing, whereas eco is less taxing on your computer.

This window shows your threshold/ratio, as well as your gain reduction.
This window shows your threshold/ratio, as well as your gain reduction.

Delta lets you listen to the compression that’s occurring, while bypass turns the plugin off.  

Lastly, in the output section you can alter your make-up gain, introduce your dry mix back into your output, and change the output gain.

If you want to check out some more free compression plugins, check out our video and blog post on the topic:

Like this blog post, we cover their functionality and listen to audio examples in the embedded video.

8. MEqualizer – Melda Audio Production

This equalizer offers an immense amount of options.
This equalizer offers an immense amount of options.

The Equalizer is one of the most versatile equalizers I’ve ever come across.  The fact that this plugin is free is pretty incredible considering I won’t even be able to cover all of its functionality here.

This EQ has 6 bands in total – by right-clicking, you can affect the band in greater detail.  You can switch the band type between 10 different filters, change the frequency, Q value, invert the gain, make the band linear in its phase, change the channel its on, introduce harmonics, and more.

In the middle display, you can add areas that can be really helpful when equalizing particular instruments.  You can also turn on an analyzer, and affect this analyzer’s display in the settings tab.

These are the settings you can choose for each band.
These are the settings you can choose for each band.

Up top, you can alter your wet/dry, increase your output’s amplitude, and introduce some compression and harmonics with the saturation dial.  

Like all Melda Audio plugins, you can randomize the settings up top, and alter the output’s routing from stereo to mid-side, and more.  

You can overlay a graphic to show how the EQ affects certain parts of a signal.
You can overlay a graphic to show how the EQ affects certain parts of a signal.

You can also switch your EQ settings between 8 different options, turn on a limiter, and a lot more I’m not covering here.

If you’re working on getting the right equalization settings for a mix, and it’s just about ready to be mastered, send it to us here:

We’ll master it for you and send you a free mastered sample for you to review.

7. Blindfold EQ – Audio Thing

The Blindfold EQ offers 4 bands in total.
The Blindfold EQ offers 4 bands in total.

If you’re looking for something that’s a bit simpler and more straightforward, the Blindfold EQ by Audio Thing is a good option.

4 frequency bands keep things simple.

The low-frequency band ranges from 20Hz to 200Hz.

The low-mid frequency ranges from 200Hz to about 2.1kHz.

The high-mid frequency from about 700 Hz to 7kHz.

The high-frequency from about 3kHz to 20kHz.  

The low and high filters are shelf filters, whereas the middle 2 are bell filters with variable Q values.  Each band offers a range of about 48dB.

In the output section, you’ll notice a soft-clip function that introduces a limiter and causes some harmonic generation, and an analog option which introduces even more harmonics as well as attenuates some of the high-frequency range.

In the output section, you can engage both a soft clipping limiter and analog emulation.
In the output section, you can engage both a soft clipping limiter and analog emulation.

Up top you can save your settings, delete a preset, or randomize your settings.

If you want to check out some more free equalization plugins, check out our video and blog post on the topic:

We detail their functionality as well as listen to some examples of them in real-time.

6. Tape Cassette 2 – Caleum Audio

The Tape Cassette 2 plugin is an updated version of their original tape cassette plugin.
The Tape Cassette 2 plugin is an updated version of their original tape cassette plugin.

This tape cassette emulator allows for both lo-fi and hi-fi saturation and timbre altering.  We’ve covered a previous version of this plugin before, but this updated model offers some additional functionality.

At the bottom are 5 rotaries:

  • A saturation rotary which introduces soft-knee compression, make-up gain, and harmonic generation
  • A low pass filler which can be used to attenuate the high-frequency range.
  • A noise dial which real sampled tape noise.
  • Wow, which introduces frequency and amplitude modulation to lower frequencies.
  • Flutter is similar to wow but on the higher frequencies.

The plugin also offers a tape type 1 impulse response tab which seems to attenuate the high-frequency range as well as introduce other lo-fi artifacts and timbres.

The 5 functions at the bottom affect the compression, harmonic generation, frequency response, and phasing.
The 5 functions at the bottom affect the compression, harmonic generation, frequency response, and phasing.

Lastly, the signal can be oversampled, which comes in handy when using more intense saturation levels.

5. FET Drive – Analog Obsession

The FET Drive is a easy-to-use saturation plugin.
The FET Drive is a easy-to-use saturation plugin.

For a FET sound, and an ability to equalize instruments while saturating them, the FET Drive plugin works well.

The mix rotary works as a wet/dry input, determining how much of your signal will be run through the 3 remaining plugin functions.

The tone dial is a frequency attenuator, which in turn determines which frequencies will be distorted but the drive function.

The transformer icon at the bottom can be clicked to bypass the plugin.
The transformer icon at the bottom can be clicked to bypass the plugin.

The drive works as described by introducing more or less compression and distortion in the form of even and odd harmonics.

The output rotary offers 30dB of range, and a bypass icon can be clicked at the bottom of the plugin.

For more free saturation plugins, here’s a blog post and video we made showcasing some of the best ones we found

In it, we showcase their sound, discuss some of their uses, and listen to them in real-time.

4. MAutopan – Melda Audio Production

MAutopan allows for automated panning of a signal.
MAutopan allows for automated panning of a signal.

The next few plugins on this list are going to be from Melda Audio Productions – the reason being, they have a huge free download of 38 plugins that are perfect for mixing. 

A huge download of 38 Free plugins can be accessed from Melda Audio's site.
A huge download of 38 Free plugins can be accessed from Melda Audio’s site.

The MAutopan is one of these free plugins, and it allows you to alter the panning of a signal over a period of time.  

In the main window, you can alter your panning type by altering the shape of your waveform, or by clicking one of the waveform shortcuts.  In the harmonics section, you can generate harmonics on top of your panning.

The panning shape can be quickly altered with the waveform icons.
The panning shape can be quickly altered with the waveform icons.

Up top, you can affect your panning with a depth dial, change the rate at which the panning occurs, change the pan law to make the panning more or less intense, and blend in the oscillation with the LFO override.

Your panning can also be set to be in time with the tempo of your track based on various note lengths, types, and as they relate to phase.

3. Stereo Expander – Melda Audio Production

Stereo expander offers a quick way to alter your stereo image.
Stereo expander offers a quick way to alter your stereo image.

For a simpler stereo imaging plugin, Melda Audio also makes the MStereoExpander – a rudimentary delay stereo expander.

In the middle window, you have displays for your input, output, and the stereo width from mono, to 100% expansion, all the way to stereo inversion.

On the left is your depth dial, which increases or decreases the stereo width.  A high-pass and low-pass filter can be enabled to expand only certain aspects of the frequency response.

This plugin uses delay and delay modulation to create an impressively wide stereo image.
This plugin uses delay and delay modulation to create an impressively wide stereo image.

A resonance filter can be added to these cutoffs by using the resonance slider.  

The width can also be increased by using delay and made more intense or powerful with the delay depth slider.

This plugin offers a quick way to create an impressive stereo image for an individual instrument or an instrument bus.

For more free stereo imaging plugins that you can use to widen your mix or master, check out our blog post and video that showcases some great options:

We’ll detail each plugin and listen to them on a stereo mix.

2. MCharmVerb – MeldaAudio Productions

MCharmVerb is an incredibly comprehensive and well designed reverb plugin.
MCharmVerb is an incredibly comprehensive and well designed reverb plugin.

The last of the Melda Audio Productions plugins, the MCharmVerb is a comprehensive algorithmic reverb.

In the global section, you can affect the dry/wet, reverb length, room size, low and high-cut filters.  You can also introduce pre-delay, adjust its gain and the reverb’s stereo width.

Under the global section, you can affect your reverb damping by setting the frequency, amount of attenuation, and Q for each filter.

The random button up top lets you cycle through unique parameters.
The random button up top lets you cycle through unique parameters.

In the designer section, you have the ability to make your reverb more complex by adding additional delay threads and interdicting modulation to these threads.  Various functions allow you to alter your delay taps settings.

Up top, you can introduce various presets, as well as randomize your settings.  The input, output, and stereo width can be observed in the output window of the plugin.

1. TAL Reverb 3 – Togu Audio Line

TAL-Reverb III offers a classic algorithmic plate reverb sound.
TAL-Reverb III offers a classic algorithmic plate reverb sound.

Last up is the TAL Reverb 3, another algorithmic reverb that introduces classic reverb tonality to a signal.  This plugin consists of 7 sliders.

The low cut attenuates the low-frequency range of the input, while the high cut attenuates the high-frequency range.  The room size slider increases the emulated room’s size, while the stereo width increases the stereo expansion into the 180-degree stereo image.

Pre-delay delays the reverberation.  A Wet and dry slider allows you to increase or decrease the values of both the dry and wet signals by turning them down by up to 18dB, or up by as much as 6dB.

The 7 sliders control you various reverb parameters.
The 7 sliders control you various reverb parameters.

Up top, you can enable stereo input processing which is best when adding reverb to an already stereo signal.  You can also turn the plugin off with the power button on the top right.

Lastly, if you’d like to see the signal chain diagram, you can click on the bottom banner to pull up its graphic.  Although you can’t interact with this graphic, it does help if you’re trying to better understand the plugin.

For more free reverb plugins,  check out our blog post and video on that exact topic:

In it, we offer a comprehensive look at each plugin, as well as listen to them.

Conclusion

Mixing is an incredibly challenging part of creating music.  Using stock plugins can make it more difficult by limiting the sounds that you can create and the styles that you can evoke.

Although it isn’ best to focus entirely on what’s new in plugins and ignore some of the fundamental aspects of how you can use even the simplest plugins to create great sounds, having some new ones can be great for getting new ideas and inspiration.

The 10 plugins we listened above, although not a complete list of free mixing plugins, does give you a great starting point for your next mix.  

Whether your mix is missing some character that some saturation could provide – or maybe, so precision compression or equalization, at least one of the aforementioned plugins should complement your mix nicely.

With them, you can craft a new sound, one that stock plugins wouldn’t be able to provide.

Although it almost goes without saying, new plugins alone won’t be enough to create mixes.  In order to get the most out of these plugins, you’ll need to understand how they work, when they should be used, and how they can augment your particular mix.

With that said, if you want to learn more about mixing be sure to check out some of our other videos and blog posts where you can find not only more lists for plugins, but mix tutorials, mastering tutorials, and so on.

Also, if you’re a mastering engineer, and you have a mix that you want to hear professionally mastered, send it to us here:

We’ll master it for you and see you a free sample for you to review.

Have you tried any of these plugins before?


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