6 of the best free vintage gear-inspired plugins

(Image credit: Ignite Amps)

This September, we've been showing you how to nail the sound of classic analogue hardware with modern plugins and software. 

For the final instalment in this series, we're looking at some of the best free plugins that recreate the look, feel and sound of vintage gear.

1. Ignite Amps PTEq-X

ignite amps

(Image credit: Ignite Amps)

Platforms: Windows/Mac | Download

We’ve recently shown you two proper developers emulating the Pultec EQP-1A… for a cost. But you can also get it for free with this 3-in-1 plugin from Ignite Amps. You get the three EQ modules – the original, MQ5 and HL3C – plus four different tube types. For something that doesn’t cost a bean, this really is one of the steals of the vintage plugin market (only you needn’t steal it). 

2. Cana San Martin Mystique

cana san martin mystique

(Image credit: Cana San Martin)

Platforms: Windows | Download

All the fun of a real reel-to-reel but in plugin form. Here you get tape saturation aplenty, a bias control plus bass and treble options, which all add up to a plugin that helps get your digital sounding setup back on a right and proper path to a vintage past. This is an easy to use TARDIS – albeit a PC-only one – to a happier analogue time. 

3. ADHD Audio Leveling Tool


(Image credit: ADHD Audio)

Platforms: Windows/Mac | Download

The Universal Audio version of the Teletronix LA-2A optical compressor is widely regarded as the best, even a classic plugin, but here’s a free version, the ADHD Audio Tools Leveling Tool. It will tame peaks, is great for vocals and even features extra controls over the original, like a Sidechain option and a Drive knob.

4. Klanghelm MJUC Jr.


(Image credit: Klanghelm)

Platforms: Mac/Windows | Download

The Fairchild compressor is such a legend that it gets two entries here, with this very different take from Klanghelm. You can go for gentle compression without too much added character or more full-on processing. There are simple controls to operate it – like some kind of vintage submarine – but the results are very effective.  

5. Analog Obsession VariMoon


(Image credit: Analog Obsession)

Platforms: Windows | Download

We’ve obsessed about Analog Obsession before now, as they really do produce some amazing freeware (Channev is a great channel strip and they also do some great bundles). The VariMoon is more like a Fairchild than anything else, even though it doesn’t particularly resemble one, aside from its sonic character. 

6. Engelen Audio Kaput

engelen audio

(Image credit: Engelen Audio)

Platforms: Mac | Download

We’ve had a PC-only tape simulator so it’s only right that we finish with a Mac-only tape sim, this time of the cassette variety. We used to curse our cassettes for the noise they made. Who knew it’d be in fashion one day. Here you can get all of that, plus distortion and the sounds of a cassette player on the verge of falling apart.

Andy Jones

Andy has been writing about music production and technology for 30 years having started out on Music Technology magazine back in 1992. He has edited the magazines Future Music, Keyboard Review, MusicTech and Computer Music, which he helped launch back in 1998. He owns way too many synthesizers.

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