The 5 best free VST / AU instrument plugins of 2020

High-quality instrument plugins don’t necessary need to be expensive.

In the video tutorial above, we demo five great instruments spanning synths, strings, guitars, and more that you can use in your own productions for absolutely free. We’ve also included the full list of instruments below, along with key feature highlights and download links; all of the plugins are compatible with both Mac and Windows.

1. Piano One by Sound Magic

Piano One is a free instrument library for Sound Magic’s Neo Piano. Although note duration is restricted to 18 seconds and some advanced features such as sympathetic resonance are excluded, you can easily achieve some stirring sounds while working within these limitations. Go to 0:15 in the video to learn more about Piano One and hear it in action.

Download Sound Magic’s Piano One here.

2. TyrellN6 by u-he

While u-he’s TyrellN6 might be one of the older instruments on this list, it has stood the test of time and continues to be relevant in 2020. The instrument is a dual-oscillator synthesizer with analog-inspired ADSR envelopes, over 500 built-in presets, and more. Go to 1:32 in the video to learn more about TyrellN6 and hear it in action.

Download u-he’s TyrellN6 here.

3. Zebralette by u-he

Another creation from u-he, Zebralette is a synth that offers some unique sound design capabilities such as oscillator waveform editing and multi-stage envelope generation. Although it can be seen as a lite version of u-he’s Zebra2, Zebralette definitely stands on its own as a powerful free instrument. Go to 2:59 of the video to learn more about Zebralette and hear it in action.

Download u-he’s Zebralette here.

4. Ample Guitar M Lite by Ample Sound

Ample Sound is known for their quality instruments that capitalize on the powers of physical modeling. They have several free offerings to get your foot in the door, and their acoustic guitar plugin Ample Guitar M Lite is one of them. The instrument takes factors like strumming style, harmonics, and hammer ons / pull offs into account, trumping the native guitar instruments found in any DAW.

Go to 5:36 of the video to learn more about Ample Guitar M Lite and two other free instruments from Ample Sound, Ample Bass P Lite and Ample Percussion Cloudrum.

Download Ample Sounds’ Ample Guitar M Lite (and their other free instruments) here.

5. LABS by Spitfire Audio

Last but not least, LABS is a free library by none other than the highly-acclaimed developers at Spitfire Audio. A must-have for anyone looking for strings on a budget, LABS also features a wide array of other free instruments spanning keyboard instruments, horns, and more. Go to 7:48 in the video to learn more about LABS and hear it in action.

Download the instruments found in Spitfire Audio’s LABS here.

Which of these free instrument plugins are your favorites? Are there any hidden gems we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Take your music further with the weekly tutorials, new plugins, and fres sounds available in the Splice Creator plan—use code blog2021 for your first month free:

February 29, 2020

Nick Chen Content Marketing @ Splice. Nick Chen is a producer, performer, and educator under the aliases "nickthechen" and "Enix."