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

Sptifire Audio LABS Cassette Synth

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

Spitfire Audio's latest addition to the ever-expanding LABS series is Cassette Synth, a tape-treated software instrument that promises to bring instant depth and emotion to your productions. 

The plugin's based around the sound of an '80s Yamaha CS-80 played through a unique installation made up of 100 individual cassette players, giving the CS-80's pad sounds a nostalgic, fuzzy vibe that's sure to please even the most discerning ear. 

Soundtoys Little Radiator 

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

A free version of Soundtoys' Radiator plugin, Little Radiator models the sound of a classic tube mic pre-amp, giving you instant '60s-style warmth and saturation. Specifically, the plugin's modeled on the Altec 1566A, a preamp from the Motown era that's known for applying rich harmonic distortion. 

As far as tone-shaping goes, users can adjust bass and treble, dial in subtle line noise for an authentic vibe, or hit the Bias switch and introduce some gritty flavour into the signal. If you're interested, act now, as Little Radiator is only available until January 2nd. 

BPB Dirty Filter Plus 

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

Two years on from the release of its free Dirty Filter plugin, Bedroom Producers Blog has released a ‘Plus’ version. This is a completely overhauled edition of the original version of this dual filter and multimode distortion plugin that gives you four Dirt Modes, separate Slope controls for the filters, a compressor module and a new, resizable GUI.

The original plugin's Dirt mode is now joined by three more: Acid is said to sound similar to the way your recordings would “if sprinkled with acid”; Dust promises an instant lo-fi sound; and Cyber reduces the bit depth and sampling rate to give you a bitcrushed tone.

BPB Dirty Filter Plus can be downloaded for free, though it’s actually a ‘pay what you want’ product with a suggested price of $5. 

Sound Particles Air | Music Edition

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

If your music is lacking a sense of space, you might want to check out Sound Particles’ free Air | Music Edition plugin. This is designed to add distance and depth to anything you apply it to, and can be controlled with just a single knob.

As well as being able to tweak the main Distance control, you can also adjust the amount of additional attenuation you’d get with different distances by controlling the variation of the audio gain. Air | Music Edition is a streamlined version of the full Air plugin, which is priced at $69.

Ujam Drive

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

Drive is German-American plugin developer Ujam’s new free synth plugin for deep house and other electronic music production. Designed to “make a complex machine intuitive and welcoming,” this presents you with a simplified interface that enables you to tweak your sounds with just a few simple controls.

Drive comes with 100 global presets, 25 Sequences, 100 Synth Modes and 90 Finisher Modes, plus a ‘Surprise’ feature that will immediately generate randomised patches. 

Full Bucket Music PECS

Full Bucket Music PECS

(Image credit: Full Bucket Music)

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

Full Bucket Music has made a habit of releasing free plugin versions of vintage Korg keyboards - the FB-3300, a DAW-friendly version of the PS-3300, actually made it on to our list of the best free VST synths - and now it’s back with an emulation of the PE-2000 Poly-Ensemble S string machine.

Released in 1976, this was a 3-oscillator, preset-based orchestral instrument that Full Bucket has recreated in a plugin it’s calling PECS. This recreates the machine’s eight factory presets, offers plenty of tweakable parameters and promises an authentic “vintage vibe”.

TrapTune Second Hand Edition


(Image credit: TrapTune)

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

SounDevice's TrapTune is a vocal tuning plugin that achieves the same effect as plugins like Antares Auto-Tune. In addition to its tuning capabilities, it's equipped with a reverb, delay, and distortion modules. Traptune's 'Second Hand' Edition is a free version of this plugin that offers a limited set of features and controls. 

To download it, just grab the free trial download on Traptune's website, and the plugin will automatically default to the free version once the trial is finished.

Nakst Fluctus

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: CLAP | Download

Fluctus is a simple three-operator FM synth with powerful controls for a free instrument. There’s saturation, filtering, delay and phaser effects, as well as 60 preset patches to get yourself thoroughly frequency-modulated. Interestingly, Fluctus is only available in the newly developed CLAP format, which is currently only supported by Bitwig. 

iZotope Audiolens

Platforms: Mac/PC | Formats: Standalone | Download

iZotope is promising to make track referencing easier than ever with the launch of Audiolens, a free desktop application that will analyse audio from any streaming platform or other source without the need to download any files or set up any routing.

Reference analysis from Audiolens will seamlessly integrate with iZotope’s own Ozone 10 and Neutron 4 plugins. Once the relevant reference target is loaded into one of these tools, you can use their AI-powered assistants to match the mastering (Ozone 10) or mix (Neutron 4) settings, which you can then customise yourself.

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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