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

Audio Damage Legacy Plugins


(Image credit: Audio Damage)

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

Audio Damage surprised music-makers this month by making not just one or two, but 33 of its products available for free download. Weary of providing ongoing support for older software that may not work on newer systems, the manufacturer decided to chuck the whole lot online for free. The upshot is that you now have access to 33 previously paid-for plugins for free, though there may be a bit of trial and error involved to find the ones that will work on your system.

There are some real zingers to choose from, including the Phosphor and Basic synths, the Mangleverb reverb, the Bitcom bitcrusher, the Filterstation filter, the PanStation auto-panner, the Discord 3 pitchshifter, the Automaton buffer effect, the Kombinat multiband distortion and the Axon ‘neural network’ drum machine.

Toneboosters Legacy Plugins

Toneboosters free plugins

(Image credit: Toneboosters)

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

Audio Damage appear to have started a trend: following their announcement, Toneboosters also decided to make 23 of their 'retired' plugins available to producers for free. These legacy effects will come without any support or warranty, but that’s no reason not to give them a try. They hail from Toneboosters’ TrackEssentials and BusTools series’, and cover everything from dynamics processors to EQs, tape sims, de-essers, reverbs and pitch-shifters.

Waves Cosmos

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: Standalone | Download

Waves made waves in the music production world this month with the announcement of a free sample management tool, Cosmos, that comes bundled with 2,500 free royalty-free one-shots and loops. 

Cosmos is designed to bring order to your sample collection, putting all the loops and one-shots on your hard drive into one easy-to-search place. Waves says that its Neural Networks technology can analyse, auto-tag and sort your samples, leaving you with a single unified database where you can easily find everything you have. The tool runs as a standalone app, or can be integrated with Waves' CR8 creative sampler plugin. 

Spitfire Audio LABS Glass Piano

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

We’re big fans of all of Spitfire Audio’s free LABS instruments, but the new Glass Piano plugin - a collaboration with composer Philip Glass - looks particularly appealing. Powered by samples that were captured at Glass’s home in Manhattan, NYC, and released to mark his 85th birthday, this gives you the sound of his baby grand piano, which has been in the same room since the 1990s.

Glass Piano comes with six presets that cover everything from ‘standard’ grand piano tones to more atmospheric and warped sounds. The fittingly minimalist interface and control set means that both beginners and more experienced players will be able to get started quickly and easily. 

Kia move.ment

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

In what's certainly the month's strangest free plugin news, car manufacturer Kia announced that they're switching gears, changing lanes and taking a sharp left turn into the world of music-making software.

Launched as part of a marketing campaign and created in collaboration with DaHouse Audio, Kia's free software instrument move.ment is based on the sounds of nature. Its development was driven by science, we’re assured: “The sounds of movement in nature produce what’s known as pink noise,” says Kia. “This increases the alpha waves in the brain, inducing the flow state of consciousness, the state in which the brain is at its most creative.”

Beyond the marketing flim-flam, move.ment isn't quite the car crash you might expect. After selecting your nature sound source, you can shape it in the Mixer section, which comes with individual controls for the Sampler, VCO, Noise and Reverb effect. There’s also a filter, an ADSR envelope and an Output section. 

GuitarML TS-M1N3

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

This one's for the guitarists amongst you - in a delightful mashup of cutting-edge tech and classic gear, GuitarML have used machine learning techniques to recreate the sound of the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer overdrive pedal in a free plugin. Using sophisticated neural networks, the developer has created a faithful emulation of the Screamer that should reproduce the full spectrum of sonic possibilities presented by all combinations of the Tone, Drive and Level knobs.

(Image credit:

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: Browser-based | Play

Though it's not technically music 'software', is a free music-making tool that's so powerful we couldn't bear to exclude it from this list. Released in December last year, the browser-based groovebox received an update this month, with the most exciting addition being an open source library of free-licensed drum samples that features, among others, 808, 909, and household percussion kits from Bedroom Producers Blog

Inspired by Elektron’s hardware grooveboxes, offers some pretty advanced sample-based sound generation and sequencing possibilities. You have eight tracks to work with, and plenty of flexibility. For example, each track has its own multimode filter, distortion, frequency shifter, sample-rate reducer, and amp envelope. Almost all parameters can be modulated on a per-step basis, and there are three freely assignable modulation sources per track.

Each step can have its own micro-timing, retriggering, probability, and trigger conditions, while tracks can have individual lengths and sequencer speeds. There are four send effects (chorus, phaser, reverb, delay) and a master compressor and soft clipper. Collaboration is possible, too, thanks to the option to export and share patterns in their proprietary file format. You can also render patterns to WAV files so that you can continue to work on them in your DAW.

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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