There are a lot of free VST plugins out there offering a range of different virtual instruments, effects and music production tools available at no cost.
But which ones are actually worth installing?
Some freeware VST plugins are truly impressive, offering high sound quality and versatile programming that can really improve your music and sound design. Free plugins are a great way to expand your music production tool collection.
Although, it can take some time to test out which free plugins offer the best sound quality and functionality. That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you and put together a list of the best free VST plugins available in 2022 right here.
This list includes a collection of the most highly rated, downloaded and recommended free VSTs.
Summary: best free VST effects and mixing Tools
Summary: best free VST instruments
Best free VST effects
Getting creative with music production is all about using VST effects, and it doesn’t get more creative than the free VST plugins at Freakshow Industries.
On the Freakshow Industries site, users have the option to buy their VSTs, or steal them. Yes, really, they happily let you download their VSTs for free.
Mishby Tape Machine - The Mishby tape machine is a free VST that emulates analog tape sounds, with a glitchy twist. Play with pitch bends, tape noise, distortion, or go wild with repeater delay. Mishby is one of the most interesting free VSTs out there.
Backmask Reverse Delay - Described as a chaotic reverser, the free Backmask VST plugin is exactly that. Reverse tracks to give a completely different feel to your sound, with a range of creative reverse options to choose from.
Dumpster Fire Pitch Shifter - This free pitch shift VST is more than just your regular pitch shifting tool. Using Dumpster Fire, take sounds into unexplored sonic depths with a range of sound warping effects to alter your music with. This is a personal favourite, and can totally transform sounds into something completely new.
OTT is a free multiband compressor plugin used to add dynamics to your mix. This VST is already available as a stock plugin to Ableton Live users, who will know how great OTT is at emphasising dynamic and transient shifts in your mix.
The OTT’s compression tools liven your mix, with control over compression depth, attack and release.
The dearVR MICRO is a binaural panning tool that lets you create 3D audio production. Instead of only panning sounds left or right in your mix, control sounds to appear in front, behind, above and below.
A must have tool for immersive audio production, placing headphone listeners inside your song.
CamelCrusher by Camel Audio is a free VST plugin for distortion effects. Combine distortion sounds together to create a range of possible timbral effects in CamelCrusher’s easy VST interface.
Great for experimental musicians adding dirt and distortion to their mix, or producers looking to thicken up certain sounds by adding subtle colour.
Glitchmachines provide a range of weird and wonderful VST plugins. Amongst these are Fracture and Hysteresis. Fracture is a free buffer effect, letting you create sound jitters reminiscent of robotic artefacts and malfunctions.
It comes with 100 factory presets, as well as a randomise button - which allows for true creative discovery. Fracture’s glitchy effect makes it a great free VST for experimental or electronic artists.
Hysteresis is a free glitch delay VST effect. Process almost any sound through Hysteresis for an interesting result. It’s delay effects are perfect for drum tracks, adding character and creativity to your percussion with glitched sound textures.
Valhalla DSP offers some of the best quality VST plugins available. FreqEcho is a free delay plugin with a simple yet powerful interface. Manipulate delay, feedback, pitch shift, and frequency to create anything from subtle to extreme.
Supermassive by Valhalla DSP is a free atmospheric reverb VST. The reason this plugin makes it to the list is because of the impressive sound quality it delivers. As a free plugin, the Valhalla offers surprisingly rich and warm reverbs, combining delay and reverb to create atmospheric sounds.
The Supermassive VST is perfect for ambient music producers, or those looking to warm up their mix with blends of atmosphere.
Saturation Knob by Softube is one of the most popular free saturation plugins, designed with a simple singular knob interface. Add subtle distortion and harmonic frequencies to your mix. Perfect for warming up mid frequencies or adding body and pump to kicks.
This tool often provides a better alternative to your DAW’s stock saturation plugin, offering more colouration, and can provide a particularly good value saturation when used with a free DAW.
Nothing sounds better than the vintage touch of vinyl. Perfect for lo-fi tracks, Vinyl by iZotope is a free VST effect that adds a new level of retro warmth to your track. Bring character to your mix with vinyl hiss, crackle and saturation.
Another free VST from iZotope, the Vocal Doubler brings vocal tracks to life with doubling effects. It is designed to add warmth and depth to your vocals, all through a simple and intuitive interface.
This free vocal VST is great for adding finishing touches to vocals, and making your final mix sound more professional.
As a freeware EQ, Nova is surprisingly good - everything seems to just work. This free EQ plugin performs well, offering similar quality equalizing to Fabfilter’s ProQ 3.
Nova is available on PC, Mac and Linux.
Best free VST instruments
Spitfire LABS is one of the most impressive free VST instruments available. This VST offers a huge collection of free sample instruments, made by artists, for artists. The sound quality of many of these collections is seriously impressive for a free plugin.
The plugin offers a range of different sounds, making it a versatile tool. From piano, drums, strings and more.
The Glass Piano preset sounds mellow and natural in comparison to most DAW stock piano presets. As well, there are many experimental sounds to choose from, making LABS an exciting instrument for creatives.
New sound libraries are added monthly. The Spitfire library makes these easy to download with one simple click.
Take a listen to the free sounds in Spitfire Labs in the video below.
Native Instruments offer some of the most comprehensive and quality VSTs on the market. Its free VSTs are no different, offering quality sounds at no cost with a selection of free starter plugins.
Komplete Start is a free VST bundle package offering a collection of basic sounds and plugins to help get your sound library started. This free bundle includes:
- 7 synths
- 9 sampled instruments
- Over 2000 sound effects
- 1,500 loops and samples
- Kontakt Player - a free sample player that runs all NI Kontakt instruments and instruments from other developers
- Reaktor Player - runs all REAKTOR-based synths and effects
- Komplete Control - manage all your sounds, instruments and effects in one simple plugin
It is available for both Mac and PC. Additionally, you’ll also get Native Instruments’ popular Kontakt 6 and Reaktor 6 players. Kontakt is used to play a huge amount of sound libraries, and it will most likely come in handy throughout your music production journey.
Dexed recreates the FM synthesiser sounds of the Yamaha DX7. Notorious for its rich and warm synth sounds, Dexed is reminiscent of some of the most beautiful sounding vintage electronic piano patches.
Dexed has over 3,000 presets to get started with. With such a huge sound library, you’re sure to find the perfect synth for your mix.
Vember Audio Surge is a powerful free synthesiser plugin. It was previously a paid plugin offering premium sound, although Vember now offers Surge for free as an open-source plugin.
Surge is a hybrid synth plugin, letting you create subtractive, wavetable and FM synth sounds.
It has over 1,000 presets, over 180 wavetables and a huge number of effects. Surge’s interface also lets you edit and control sounds in detail, with features to help you get truly creative with sound.
HELM is a free VST synth plugin developed by Matt Tytel. This polyphonic synthesizer comes with over 200 presets, with 2 oscillators and 1 sub oscillator.
Filters morph between HP, BP and LP. This synth has 3 LFOs with a range of shape choices, as well as several effects including:
- 32 step sequencer
Its visual interface gives live visual feedback on modulation. HELM is available for PC and Mac.
Ample Bass P Lite II is a simple free bass VST plugin. Not only is the sound quality impressive, Ample Bass adds realism with sound details such as hammer-ons and slides.
It contains 1GB of quality orchestral sounds, including orchestral strings, staccatos, brass clusters, percussion and dystopian soundscapes.
This free VST is ideal for making movie trailer soundtracks, or documentary music.
Oatmeal by Fuzzpilz offers a versatile range of sounds. From bells, synths, pads and FX, Oatmeal is a great free VST plugin for expanding your DAW's sound collection.
Oatmeal features 2 oscillators, with sine, sawtooth, pulse (square), triangle, user, and "user PWM" waveforms. Plus, a range of distortion, envelope, filter and chorus effects.
This VST's sounds are pretty raw, but with some effects, many of Oatmeal's free VST sounds could become something much more intriguing.
Triple Cheese by u-he has been a popular free VST plugin for a long time, known for winning the 2006 KVR Developer Challenge.
This freeware synth eliminates traditional interface options such as oscillators, wavetables, distortion and FM.
The Triple Cheese offers high sound quality and versatility. From basic synth sounds to the more bizarre, you can really get a lot out of this plugin.
Can free VST plugins make good music?
Free VST plugins are fully capable of producing high quality and creative music. While they may lack the full features and functionality of paid plugins, there are many free VST plugins that offer impressive sound qualities and music production tools. It's true that some free plugins just aren't worth the time, but it's just a case of finding the good ones. Most of these are available for macOS, Windows and even Linux.
It's also worth remembering that many free VST plugins are made by experienced indie developers who just want to help fellow producers expand their creativity with the right tools. For instance, it's clear that Freakshow Industries are passionate about helping users produce music more creatively, without the costs of paid VSTs. Their plugins ooze good quality, creativity, branding and user experience - all of which you'd expect to see in paid plugins.
Similarly, the larger developers such as Native Instruments are unsurprisingly stringent on quality when it comes to free VST plugins. Many of their plugins are designed to help producers create music much more freely, with free tools such as Kontakt Player opening up huge possibilities for additional sound libraries and sample instruments.
Our list of the best free VST plugins is carefully selected, including only the plugins that offer quality, creativity and good user experience. This will help you find the best free tools to improve your music production skills, without having to pay a premium.
Where can I get free VSTs?
Freeware VST plugins are usually available on their manufacturer websites. There are also a number of reputable VST plugin websites where you can download free VSTs. Some of these include: