Everybody loves a free plugin. We'd wager that even the most affluent music-makers, smugly reclining in their padded studio chairs while they bask in the radiant glow of a specced-out M1 Mac, feel a twinge of excitement when a gratuitous VST pops up on their 6K Retina display.
This is our monthly free software round-up's raison d'être. It exists to serve you, the sonically curious and financially prudent producer, in your pursuit of the internet's finest freeware.
We know you're a busy bunch, so here we present the most intriguing freebies from our regular news coverage that you may have missed, plus anything else that's caught our eyes (and ears) over the past 30 days.
Platforms: Windows/Linux | Formats: VST | Download
This free and open-source pitch correction plugin offers Melodyne-style pitch manipulation, enabling you to visually map out and adjust individual notes in any audio clip or automatically tune incoming signals to any key. MXTune's algorithm is based on the open-source software SoundTouch and AutoTalent.
Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST/AU | Download
Back in the '60s, a composer by the name of Iannis Xenakis began his research into the concept of stochastic synthesis, a tone generation technique that uses probability distributions to manipulate digital samples.
Xenakis’s Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis (DSS) algorithm has now been implemented into a free synth plugin, Xenos, that - despite the complex concepts behind it - appears to be relatively easy to control.
Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST3/AU | Download
Mensla's MS-2 synth has what's quite possibly the least intuitive interface we've ever seen attached to a plugin. Crammed into a smallish square, the poorly-labelled controls look like tiny wires on a circuitboard: it's certainly a unique design choice.
What it lacks in usability, though, MS-2 makes up for in sound and functionality: an FM synth equipped with three operators, each operator has selectable waveforms and has its own pitch and envelope controls. This runs through a multimode filter and surprisingly powerful modulation section. MS-2 is definitely worth a punt.
GPU Audio Space & Time
Platforms: PC | Formats: VST3/AU | Download
Instead of running on your CPU, GPU Audio's plugins utilise your computer's GPU (graphics processing unit), freeing up CPU power for your other plugins. The company has released a free bundle of software tools that demonstrate these capabilities: FIReVerb and FIR Convolver are reverb plugins, while the aptly-named Delay does what it says on the tin.
The Space & Time plugins will run on PCs running Windows 10+ and are compatible with graphics cards from Nvidia (10XX and above) and AMD (Radeon RX navi 1.X and higher). Beta support for Apple systems will be available later in the year.
Modalics EON Arp
Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST/AU/AAX | Download
EON-Arp is a powerful arpeggiator that delivers a great deal of rhythmic and melodic control. The note grid is completely customisable: you can adjust the position, length or velocity of every note with either quantised or freeform timing. As such, everything from finely-honed grooves to experimental polyrhythms should be within your grasp.
Up to 128 steps and 11 pitch positions are available to you, and as well as being able to trigger your existing synths, EON-Arp also has its own built-in mini wavetable synth. As such, it can be viewed as a completely self-contained melody and chord pattern generator.
Platforms: Mac/PC/Linux | Formats: VST3/CLAP | Download
One of the most inventive free plugins we've come across in months, Prisma is a modular multiband distortion with a brilliantly unique interface. Splitting up a signal into four bands, Prisma allows the user to process each separately by dragging in an array of distortion modules to its 4x4 grid.
Prisma's developer Unplugred is behind a few more plugins (opens in new tab) that are worth a look: if you're a fan of their work, consider purchasing the paid versions or joining their Patreon.
Spitfire Audio LABS Autograph Grand
Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST2/VST3/AU/AAX | Download
Autograph Grand is a virtual piano based on recordings of a Yamaha C6 grand piano, housed in Malibu's Woodshed recording studios, a space frequented by a laundry list of high-profile artists that includes Coldplay, Bono, Shawn Mendes, Lady Gaga and Metallica, many of whom have signed the studio's piano.
As with the majority of LABS instruments, Autograph Grand is a simple, but great-sounding plugin with little in the way of sound-tweaking capabilities. However, Spitfire have added pedal up/down controls and captured release triggers to recreate the Autograph Grand's sound with realism and authenticity.
EAS Audio TapeStop
Platforms: Windows | Formats: VST3 | Download
We like plugins that do one thing and do it well. That's the case with TapeStop, which simulates the effect of a cassette player or tape machine stopping or starting. This is a fun way to finish a track, or begin a new chorus or verse, and TapeStop makes it easy to achieve without fiddling around with automation.
Morbid Electronics Ring of Saturn
Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST/VST3/AU | Download
Another simple but effective free plugin we've discovered this month is Morbid Electronics' Ring of Saturn. If you like the unsettling, somewhat intergalactic sound of ring modulation, then this cute little plugin will deliver it for you with ease.
In addition to its 1-voice ring modulation, Ring of Saturn also doubles as a chorus and stereo spread plugin, and is equipped with parameter randomisation for chaotic sound-mangling.