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

Pepto Audio DR-84

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST2/VST3/AU | Download

Capture the sounds of classic '80s drum machines with this free drum machine plugin from Pepto Audio. A free rompler with a simple interface, DR-84 contains six drum machine kits aimed at recreating the sound of early sample-based drum machines like the LinnDrum, TR-707, DMX and RX-11. Perhaps you're partial to a bit of synthwave, or perhaps you're feeling nostalgic - either way, this one's for you. 

ToguAudioLine TAL-Reverb-4

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST2/VST3/AU/AAX/CLAP | Download

A reputable name that's behind some of the finest free software going, ToguAudioLine make regular appearances on our surveys of the best free plugins

Their TAL-Reverb isn't new by any means, but TAL-Reverb-4 is a weighty update that brings a refreshed GUI and improved functionality to this classic plate reverb. In addition to the new lick of paint and a general improvement in sound quality, TAL-Reverb-4 boasts a new tuning control, dampener, and controls for bit-reduction and sample-rate. 

Infected Sounds LITTL3-P

Platforms: Windows | Formats: VST2/VST3 | Download 

This free soft synth takes inspiration from Moog's Little Phatty, a '00s analogue monosynth that squeezed chunky sounds out of a relatively simple subtractive architecture. LITTL3-P aims to do the same thing, and its capable of producing an impressive array of virtual analogue sounds using two oscillators equipped with 16 waveforms, five FX modules, three LFOs and much more. 

Xynth Audio Le Phonk

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

Xynth Audio's new distortion plugin, Le Phonk, comes with an official warning attached: "WARNING: Le Phonk may make your music sound too good!" Those looking to take the risk and dive in should be informed that with six individual distortion types, OTT-style compression and a soft clipper for gentle colouration, this signal-mangling multi-tool is an absolute no-brainer. 

Acustica Audio Arctic

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST2/VST3/AAX/AU | Download

Acustica Audio's Arctic is a free, all-in-one dynamics processor for your mix bus. Packing a compressor, limiter and a saturator into a single tool, Arctic aims to make things simple for the user, thanks to a single 'morphing' slider that dials in all three effects at once, making possible everything from subtle colouration to hardcore limiting and extreme overdrive. 

Spitfire Audio LABS Bell Swarm

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST2/VST3/AAX/AU | Download

We know, we know - the festive season's well and truly over, but that's no reason to disregard this freebie from Spitfire Audio. Made up of a "joyous assortment" of glockenspiels, vibraphones and hand bells recorded in a medieval church, this charming collection of sounds would make a worthy addition to any software instrument library. 

Native Instruments Hypha

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: Kontakt-only | Download

Native Instruments celebrated the festive season this year with a free ‘acoustic-electric’ hybrid instrument known as Hypha. Running inside the free Kontakt 7 Player, this comes with 156 “inspired by nature” presets and plenty of sound-sculpting options, including eight effects, randomisation features and a mod wheel-powered performance mode that enables you to generate a chord progression from a single keypress. Multiple tuning systems are supported, too.

If you're intrigued, act quickly - this one's only available until 16th January 2023. 

Baby Audio Pitch Drift

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: VST2/AU/AAX | Download

Powered by the Drift algorithm in Baby Audio’s Super VHS plugin, Pitch Drift introduces variable amounts of pitch fluctuation so that you can make your potentially sterile digital tracks sound more natural. The effect can range from subtle instabilities to extreme detuning. You can set the depth of the effect with a slider and hover over the screen to adjust the speed.

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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