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

FKFX KrishnaSynth

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

"Over the years, hundreds of synthesizers have been lost in time... but miraculously, one has returned!" So goes the promo video for KrishnaSynth, a soft synth that was originally released all the way back in 2007, only to make a comeback this month. Fully re-engineered for the modern DAW, it's available as a free version with 88 presets and limited functionality, or a paid version with over a thousand. 

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this instrument is what FKFX are calling Frame Synthesis technology, which allows you to "import, build and modify textures from sampled instruments and synth waveforms". To our ears, this sounds like wavetable synthesis, which is a pretty solid feature for a free VST. 

Bedroom Producers Blog BPB 64

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

Nostalgic MusicRadar readers will rejoice at the sound of this freebie from Bedroom Producers Blog, which recreates the sound of the classic Commodore 64 home computer and its storied SID (Sound Interface Device) chip. 

BPB 64 delivers 30 presets, covering bass, pads, leads and arpeggios, and we're told that its sounds were captured directly from the SID chip, in order to preserve the  "infamous grit and lo-fi crunch" that you'd get if you connected a C64 directly to your audio interface. 

Meat Beats Micro Keys

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

The nostalgia trip continues with Meat Beats' Micro Keys, a no-frills ROMpler packed with classic sounds from '90s house and garage. Inspired by productions from Masters At Work, Kerri Chandler and Terry Hunter, this little instrument captures presets from rackmount samplers popular in the era to provide an assortment of highly usable sounds: keys, bass, sax, synth, organ and more. 

Patent Sounds Scratchpad

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST | Download

One for the lo-fi heads here. Scratchpad is a virtual instrument that's equipped with sampled keys, pads, bells and basses for head-nodding hip-hop grooves and breezy beatmaking. 

The plugin's sounds are run through a "lo-fi-ness" section, which combines chorus, distortion and tape emulation to nail the grainy goodness you're looking for, and instruments can be layered with three built-in noise generators that feature tape hiss, vinyl crackle and the wistful sound of rain on your window. 

DixonBeats Dixon's Zither

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST | Download

From the same (very generous) team that brought you Scratchpad, comes a sample instrument based on the sound of the zither, a fretless stringed instrument that features in various world music traditions from across the globe. 

Dixon's Zither has four presets, Natural, Dark, Pad and Reverse, each of which deliver a different tone. There's an ADSR envelope for further sound sculpting, and a delay and reverb built into the plugin. 

Audiosingularity Neurontube Debut

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST3/AU/Standalone | Download

Neurontube Debut is an astonishingly feature-packed amp simulator that's an essential download for any software-inclined guitarists out there. The plugin emulates the Soldano SLO-100 and Laney TF300 and offers a variety of cabinet and mic choices, producing tones that stretch from "the insane roar of American high gain to the British clean bliss".

As if that wasn't enough, the developers have modelled five boutique stomp pedals using AI techniques, meaning you can access delay, chorus, reverb, distortion, fuzz and compression without once leaving the plugin window.

Kilohearts kHs ONE

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

Kiloheart kHs ONE was once a paid-for product, and a venerable soft synth at that - we reviewed it and gave it four stars. Fast forward a decade, and it's been discontinued, so you can snag it for nothing. This subtractive, polyphonic synth is aimed at punchy virtual analogue sounds, and equipped with two oscillators, a waveshaper, multimode filter, and built-in chorus and delay. 

Igorski Rechoir

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

Rechoir is a delay effect that's capable of producing complex, pitch-shifted soundscapes from your source audio. Harmonic changes can be synced to the host's tempo, while all parameter changes can be automated and hooked up to hardware controllers. The plugin's also outfitted with a Decimator bitcrushing effect, and a Freeze mode for producing never-ending drones.

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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