The best free effects plugins you need in 2021 (VST / AU)

Sometimes, the best things in life are free.

Last year, we showcased a collection of some of the best effects plugins out there that you could download for absolutely free—and now we’re back with more. In the video above, we go over our revamped list of top free effects plugins for 2021. Join us to take a listen to how the plugins sound in action, and learn more and download each of them via the links below.

1. Krush by Tritik

Krush is a distortion plugin from Tritik that features bitcrushing, downsampling, and overdrive. It combines the crispy sheen of the digital realm with the warmth of analog-modeled resonant filters, and a modulation section allows you to quickly add extra movement to your sounds. Go to 0:13 of the video to learn more about Krush and hear it in action.

Download Tritik’s Krush here.

2. Baby Comeback by BABY Audio

Baby Comeback is a free delay plugin that was born from the collaboration between BABY Audio and Computer Music Magazine. Though it’s a lite version of their award-winning Comeback Kid plugin, Baby Comeback can absolutely stand on its own, featuring an on-board ducker as well as four wet signal flavors (wide, analog, saucy, and cheap). Go to 1:10 of the video to learn more about Baby Comeback and hear it in action.

Download BABY Audio’s Baby Comeback here.

3. Magic Switch by Baby Audio

We couldn’t help but include one more entry from BABY Audio—Magic Switch is a lush chorus unit based on the “magic” feature in their Super VHS plugin. Its simple one-button UI and timeless timbres make it a great addition to all sorts of sounds across an array of genres. Go to 2:40 of the video to learn more about Magic Switch and hear it in action.

Download BABY Audio’s Magic Switch here.

4. More by Mod Sound

More is another distortion plugin that’s touted by Mod Sound as “the one-knob distortion plugin with too many knobs” (it all makes sense once you try it out yourself). Inspired by the world of guitars but modified for general use, More features tube amplifier emulation, transistor fuzz pedals, diode distortion circuits, and more. Go to 3:22 of the video to learn more about More (pun intended) and hear it in action.

Download Mod Sound’s More here.

5. Youlean Loudness Meter 2 by Youlean

A plugin we featured in our video on mastering myths, Youlean Loudness Meter is a plugin adored by professional mastering engineers and DIY producers alike. The metering plugin helps you monitor and get insights on short-term and integrated LUFS values, overall dynamic range, and more; it’s great to use on your own tracks as well as your favorite references. Go to 4:11 of the video to learn more about Youlean Loudness Meter and see it in action.

Download Youlean Loudness Meter 2 here.

6. Voltage Modular Nucleus 2 by Cherry Audio

This collection of 22 modules and 176 presets is the ultimate hands-on introduction to modular synthesis. Voltage Modular Nucleus includes all of the fundamentals of subtractive analog synthesis, including oscillators, filters, envelope generators, amplifiers, and mixers—and much, much more. The visual UI lets you discover the joys of patching modules together in endless creative ways, which is an integral part of the experience too. Go to 5:02 of the video to learn more about Voltage Modular Nucleus 2 and hear it in action.

Download Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular Nucleus here.

7. Valhalla DSP’s free effects plugins

Valhalla DSP is a household name when it comes to free effects plugins, and there was no way we couldn’t include them again in this year’s list. Super Massive, Space Modulator, and Freq Echo in particular are some incredibly versatile and high-quality effects plugins that can be used to give that extra shimmer to your sounds. Go to 5:56 of the video to learn more about these plugins and hear them in action.

Download Valhalla DSP’s free effects plugins here.

8. AMP by Produce RNB

Produce RNB’s AMP is a soft clipper, EQ, and stereo effects plugin that particularly exceeds in adding perceived loudness to your sounds. Although it’s specifically designed to add punch to drums, you can absolutely use it on a variety of instruments. Go to 8:58 of the video to learn more about AMP and hear it in action.

Download Produce RNB’s AMP here.

9. Influx by FKFX

Described by FKFX as an “instant ‘sonic retox engine,'” Influx is a rhythmic resonator and distortion plugin that’s great for adding an industrial grit to everything from pads and basses to drums and percussion. Go to 9:32 of the video to learn more about Influx and hear it in action.

Download FKFX’s Influx here.

10. STFU by ZEEK

STFU is ZEEK’s volume-shaping plugin that lets you dive deeper into that classic sidechain sound. Don’t let its playful name fool you—STFU is not only easy-to-use (thanks to features like BPM sync and MIDI triggers), but also lets you make some surprisingly granular edits to your envelopes. Go to 10:28 of the video to learn more about STFU and hear it in action.

Download ZEEK’s STFU here.

11. Clon Minotaur by Nembrini Audio

Clon Minotaur is an overdrive plugin based on the Klon Centaur, a guitar pedal developed between 1990 and 1994. The unit is characterized as a ‘transparent overdrive,’ meaning it adds gain to the signal without significantly altering the tone of your guitar (or whatever sound you choose to apply it on). Go to 11:08 of the video to learn more about Clon Minotaur and hear it in action.

Download Nembrini Audio’s Clon Minotaur here.

12. Tape Cassette 2 by Caelum Audio

Tape Cassette 2 is a free effects plugin that emulates the warmth, noise, and character of old tape cassettes. It features dynamic saturation, oversampling, wow, flutter, and more, making it a great plugin for adding a lo-fi texture to any sound. Go to 11:49 of the video to learn more about Tape Casette 2 and hear it in action.

Download Caelum Audio’s Tape Cassette 2 here.

13. L12X Solid State Amplifier by Audiority

L12X is an analog simulation inspired by the Marshall Lead 12 solid state amplifier of the late ‘80s. A little box that offers a lot of gain, cabinet simulators and diverse tone options easily make L12X one of the best free amp simulators on the market. Go to 12:22 of the video to learn more about L12X and hear it in action.

Download Audiority’s L12X Solid State Amplifier here.

14. The classics

Last but not least, we have ‘the classics’—these aren’t necessarily the newest free effects plugins out there, but are nonetheless ones you should be aware of. If they’re not a part of your arsenal already, definitely go check them out:

What’s your favorite free effects plugin that we featured above? Are there any gems that we missed? Let us know in the comments below, and check out this Collection to download the individual loops we used to demo each plugin.

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September 4, 2021

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