The best new free music-making software: unmissable freeware synths, drum machines and effects for March 2023

Spitfire Audio LABS Harmonic Flights

Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST2/VST3/AUX/AU | Download

Last month, Spitfire Audio put us in a good mood with their free Cello Moods plugin, and it looks like they're doubling down this month with another orchestral freebie, Harmonic Flights. Built around a sample library from Pianobook contributor Sage Reynolds, this sample instrument pitch-shifts and processes the sound of double bass harmonics to create gritty and evolving organic textures. 

Audiomodern PANFLOW

Platforms: Mac/Windows/iOS | Formats: VST2/VST3/AUX/AU/AUv3 | Download

There's a wide variety of free effects plugins available on the internet these days - plenty of tape emulators and distortion plugins, in particular - but we don't often see a free panner land in our inbox. Imagine our surprise, then, when Audiomodern released Panflow, a creative panning modulator that's designed to shape complex patterns across the stereo field and add fluid, rhythmical movement to any sound. 

Vienna Symphonic Library Harp Glissandos

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST/AU/AAX | Download

This is a free sample instrument from Vienna Symphonic Library that focuses on the most blissful of sounds: the harp glissando. These heavenly flurries of notes evoke angelic scenes and celestial feelings, and could provide a fitting accompaniment to your next spaced-out ambient track - or an unexpected addition to an industrial techno thumper. 

Xfer Records OTT

Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST/VST3/AU | Download

One of the most popular free plugins out there, Xfer's OTT is a powerful multi-band compressor that brings the in-your-face dynamics processing of Ableton Live's legendary OTT preset to any DAW, free of charge. Though it's been around for a good few years, OTT received an update this month that fixed some pesky bugs, giving us the perfect excuse to include it in June's round-up.

Smaolab Tarabia-Nation Distortion

Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST/VST3/AU | Download

Smaolab have truly delivered the goods this month with a set of not one (and not two) but three free distortion plugins aimed at helping you get the filthy tones you know you deserve. TaraTube emulates the tasty sound of vacuum tube distortion,  TaraLead is a simple lead enhancer that utilizes asymmetric wave clipping and oversampling, and Tarabia MK1 is a subtle affair that'll apply the sound of what Smaolab call 'Indian distortion' to your audio. 

SuperflyDSP Lost-Tapes

Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST3/AU | Download

Tape emulation plugins are admittedly ten a penny these days, but does that mean we're not still on the hunt for that perfectly imperfect blend of lo-fi warmth, hiss and crackle? It certainly doesn't. SuperflyDSP have satisfied our cassette-based cravings this month with Lost-Tapes, a free audio effect that'll allow you to fine-tune the tape emulator's crunch, depth, noise and flutter frequency.

ToneLib TubeWarmth

Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: VST/VST3/AU/Standalone | Download

If Lost-Tapes and Tarabia Nation aren't providing enough heat to keep your signals warm and toasty, here's a third option. ToneLib's TubeWarmth is a tube emulator that aims to replicate the saturated, characterful sound of the tube amplifier. By adding even-numbered harmonics and gentle overdrive, TubeWarmth is said to bring "cold and precise digital sound closer to the warm and vivid sound of the tube". 

Majetone ACX8

Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: Kontakt | Download

Majetone emailed in to tell us about the free drum loops they're giving away, and while we were perusing their website, we spotted this free Kontakt instrument that - while it may not technically be new - deserves a look. The ACX8 is an acoustic recreation of Roland's classic TR-808 drum machine, built from meticulously recorded acoustic drum samples that use mic placement, dampening, stick choice and drum tuning in an effort to imitate the 808's sound with a real kit. Neat idea. 

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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