The list is organized into three sections: Top 20 freeware effects, Top 20 freeware instruments and Top 10 freeware utilities and MIDI tools in VST plugin format. Use the menu below to quickly browse the article and please make sure to share this page with your friends if you find it useful.
Thank you in advance and make some great music in 2016! See also: The plugin’s biggest strength, though, is the way in which the user interface is intentionally streamlined so that it can be fully controlled with most MIDI keyboards. A standard MIDI controller nowadays features between eight and ten sliders and just as many knobs, along with several buttons and/or switches. And this is exactly the amount of controls you’ll see on Kern’s user interface, which means that you can map all of the available parameters to your MIDI controller and use the plugin almost like a proper hardware synthesizer.
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Kern also features an alternative interface layout which resembles the look of a standard MIDI keyboard in order to simplify the MIDI mapping process. Video: More info: (870 KB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit & 64-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows) #9 Aegis by Xenobioz (Windows) Inspired by an old AmigaOS virtual instrument called, Aegis is an interesting phase distortion synthesizer that can be used to create some surprisingly organic sounding pads, leads and bass patches.
The feature that makes Aegis stand out is its phase distortion module, which adds a sense of movement and character to the timbre created by the freely-drawable oscillator waveform. With just two controls (speed and depth), the phase distortion module is very easy to use, even if you haven’t used such a feature in a synthesizer before. Other parts of the sound engine are pretty much what you’d expect to find in a standard subtractive synthesizer, with the addition of a harmonic distortion module that adds 2nd and 3rd harmonics to the signal on the output.
The same developer has released another interesting freebie this year, a slightly more advanced phase distortion synthesizer called Lynx. It features additional modulation options and a 7-voice unison mode, but lacks the simplicity and ease of use that make Aegis so much fun to experiment with. Mac Os X 10.8 Download Free. Both plugins were developed using SynthEdit and will only work in 32-bit host applications on Windows.
Video: More info: (2.6 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows, made with SynthEdit) #10 JuceOPLVSTi by Bruce Sutherland (Windows, Mac OS) The highest ranked FM synthesizer on this year’s list is JuceOPLVSTi (phew, should have copy/pasted that instead of typing!), a charming little virtual instrument that emulates the legendary Yamaha OPL sound chip. JuceOPLVSTi (also known as AdlibBlaster on Mac OS X) is actually based on the two popular MS DOS emulators, DOSBox and ZDoom, using their sound chip emulation algorithms as the core of its synthesis engine. Much like the original Yamaha OPL chip, JuceOPLVSTi is a simple 2-operator FM synthesizer which works best for creating those nostalgic lo-fi sounds you’d expect to hear in an 80s video game.
Although programing new patches in JuceOPLVSTi is very easy, the coolest thing about it is that the plugin is distributed with a huge collection of retro preset sounds from old video games, adding up to over one thousand retro FM synth patches! Browsing through these old sounds is a blast and there are some true gems hidden in there, waiting to be discovered. Video: click here More info: (1.6 MB download size, ZIP archive, contains 1,339 instrument patches in SBI file format, 1 virtual instrument in 32-bit & 64-bit VSTi/AUi plugin formats for Windows & Mac OS) #11 Quad Zamp by Zvon (Windows) Although it looks like some sort of weird contraption from a science fiction B movie, Quad Zamp is actually a rather capable little drum sampler with loads of sample mangling firepower under the hood.
The plugin features four sampler modules with three WAV sample slots per module. Each module has its own audio output and an array of useful sound shaping tools like filters and pitch envelopes.
Quad Zamp is optimized for a quick beat making workflow, allowing you to load up to twelve samples in WAV format and easily tweak and shape them so that they sound well together. It also offers an easy way to randomize various parameters of the sound engine, which can lead to some unexpectedly cool sounding results. Unfortunately, the GUI components are a bit smaller than what we’d like to see in a modern plugin, making Quad Zamp quite fiddly to use on higher resolution screens. Video: More info: (2.5 MB download size, RAR archive, 32-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows, made with SynthEdit) #12 Drumper 1 by Syntler (Windows) Hey, if Marazmator and Quad Zamp weren’t weird enough for you, be prepared because Drumper 1 is on a whole new level of eccentricity. Advertised as a freeware groove box virtual instrument, Drumper 1 is a weird little sequencer-based drum synthesizer which you’ll either absolutely love or absolutely hate.
User friendliness is out of the question here. There is no manual and the labels on the GUI don’t provide too much information about their functionality. You’ll feel totally lost the first time you fire up Drumper 1 in your DAW. You know how does this thing even work? But, if you enjoy experimenting with unusual groove boxes and weird sequencers, chances are you’ll have tons of fun with this one. Once you spend some time figuring out the controls (and it’s not really that hard to figure it all out, after all!), you’ll be able to make some stunning percussive sequences with Drumper 1.
To familiarize yourself with the plugin’s control scheme, program a percussive loop using the sequence editor and then tweak the various sound engine parameters during playback in order to create different variations of the same groove. Video: More info: (3.0 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows, made with SynthEdit) #13 Anubis 2 by B.Serrano (Windows) Anubis 2 is pretty much your standard subtractive virtual synthesizer, apart from the fact that it features an interesting modulation envelope with up to 32 envelope stages. This fully customizable envelope can be used to modulate the pitch and pulse width of both oscillators, the FM amount for oscillator 2, filter cutoff and oscillator mix. Even though having a wider variety of possible modulation targets would be pretty cool, the mod envelope can still be used to create some pretty complex sounds that evolve over time. It works equally well for making huge evolving pads, long risers and other FX sounds, as well as wobbly bases and unstable FM leads. More info: (2.6 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows, made with SynthEdit) #14 Nero by MaxSynths (Windows) In November this year, plugin developer MaxSynths has announced that all of their commercial products have been re-released as freeware. The plugins can be downloaded completely free of charge from the developer’s website, although without any form of official support.
The plugin which we liked the most is Nero, a cool little monophonic synthesizer for making bass and lead sounds. It features a pair of internally synced oscillators, zero-delay filters and an interesting sequencer with 64 preset sequences. Although it is not possible to create your own sequences from scratch, the included preset sequences can be tweaked and shaped to create new melodies and progressions. More info: (5.3 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows #15 Ample Guitar M Lite II by Ample Sound (Windows, Mac OS) Ample Guitar M Lite II is a sample-based acoustic guitar virtual instrument for Windows and Mac OS based VST/AU plugin hosts. It sounds very nice and uses a very low amount of available CPU resources, which is even more noticeable when loading multiple instances of the plugin in the same project. If you need a simple and easy to use virtual acoustic guitar for your DAW, look no further!
More info: (265 MB download size, RAR archive, 32-bit & 64-bit VSTi/AUi/RTAS/AAX plugin format for Windows & Mac OS X) #16 XM2 by Music-Society (Windows) Quite possibly the simplest virtual FM synthesizer in existence, XM2 (developed by Music-Society forum member LazyDog) is a great starting point for users who would like to learn about frequency modulation synthesis and its basic principles. Providing all the basic features of a 2-operator FM synthesizer and pairing them up with a low-pass filter module, the plugin is very easy to operate and won’t make your head spin like most FM synths out there. On the negative side, XM2 comes with a very small number of factory presets and also requires you to be a registered Music-Society forum member in order to get the download link.
The registration process is completely free, though, and totally worth the effort if you’re looking for a decent little FM synthesizer for Windows. Video: More info: (1.01 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows, made with SynthEdit) #17 4 Tune by Noizefield (Windows) Noizefield was very active this year, having released four interesting EDM oriented freeware synthesizers. Our favorite one is 4 Tune, a well-designed and nice sounding VA synthesizer featuring four oscillators, two multi-mode filter slots with over a dozen filter types, four LFOs, a built-in chorus effect and a handy 9-slot modulation matrix. The oscillator section features 58 different waveform types, with pulse-width modulation, ring modulation and frequency modulation controls for each oscillator. With so much firepower in the OSC section, generating those metallic sounding mid-range heavy leads and bass patches is a piece of cake for 4 Tune. Video: More info: (3.53 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VSTi plugin format for Windows, made with FlowStone) #18 SUPER-7 by CFA-Sound (Windows) SUPER-7 is a simple virtual instrument designed for emulating the legendary Supersaw waveform which was first introduced by Roland in their JP-8000 hardware synthesizer. CFA-Sound’s freebie instrument is as simple as a subtractive synthesizer can possibly be, featuring one (Supersaw) oscillator, one low-pass filter and a pair of envelopes.