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

Ronan Fed RF-AB303

Platforms: PC | Formats: VST/VST3 | Download

There's a ton of free emulations of Roland's iconic, genre-defining TB-303 out there, but very few that you can download absolutely free. However - the RF-AB303, from Ronan Fed, delivers instant acid goodness for the low, low price of $0. The single-oscillator monosynth is capable of sawtooth and square waveforms, and is equipped with a multimode filter and several effects, including compression, distortion, delay, and reverb. 

Kiive Audio Xtressor NUKE

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

Kiive Audio's XTressor is an effective, versatile plugin compressor that takes inspiration from Empirical Labs' powerful EL8 Distressor rackmount compressor, a staple of high-end studio set-ups. Though the XTressor will set you back $149.99, Kiive have made the XTressor Nuke, the plugin's "little brother", absolutely free. 

Despite its stripped-back feature set, the Nuke still packs a punch, as you can hear in the video above. Perhaps not the right choice if you're after a full-featured, go-to compressor plugin, but certainly worth a download for some instant (and free) punch and power.

Arturia Mello-Fi

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

If you missed out on Arturia’s giveaway of its $99 Tape Mello-Fi plugin last holiday season, you’ve now got another chance to download it for free courtesy of Audio Plugin Deals.

This is a vintage tape-emulation and lofi effect based on the sound and behaviour of the classic Mellotron (and, in turn Arturia’s Mellotron V emulation). Parameter knobs enable you to adjust the amount of Noise, Flutter, Wow, Wear and ‘Mechanics’, and you can also dial in subtle distortion and saturation. This leaves you with an effect that promises to apply lo-fi vibes to anything you stick it on - drum loops, vocals or even your entire mix.

PreSonus Notion Mobile

Platforms: Mac/PC/iOS/Android | Formats: Standalone | Download

This month, PreSonus unveiled Notion Mobile, a freemium, cross-platform music composition tool that builds on the blueprint laid out in Notion for iOS.

By cross-platform, PreSonus means more than just Windows, macOS and iOS/iPadOS, as Notion Mobile also runs on Android, ChromeOS and Amazon Fire OS devices. You can compose using both standard music notation and guitar tab, and switch between operating systems at will.

While you can download Notion Mobile for free, if you want to go beyond the core sound library and access full functionality, you’ll need to purchase the optional Feature Bundle. 

ReplicatAudio GreenWave

Platforms: Windows | Formats: VST3/Standalone | Download

ReplicatAudio describe the GreenWave as a "flexible, modern software synthesizer with classic roots." That's marketing copy that we can get down with. Their claim that the synth is capable of producing "handcrafted waveforms", however, has us stumped. What's next? Artisan filters? Fair trade presets? Locally sourced lo-fi? 

Silliness aside, this subtractive, dual-oscillator number packs in a decent amount of features for a free synth plugin, and deserves your attention. 

Kilohearts Dual Delay

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

This free delay plugin from Kilohearts is equipped with two stereo delays that are coupled together, enabling you to set the second delay time as a ratio of the first, before panning the pair outwards into each speaker. The Crosstalk control allows you to route the feedback of each into the other, creating complex systems of echoes. 

Dual Delay is part of Kilohearts Essentials, a bundle of free effects plugins that you should most definitely check out. 

Pro Tools Intro

Platforms: Mac/Windows | Formats: Standalone | Download

Avid are known for manufacturing Pro Tools, the industry-standard DAW that's used in top recording studios across the globe. This month, they announced the release of Pro Tools Intro, a free version of their flagship DAW.

Pro Tools Intro gives you eight audio tracks, eight instrument tracks and eight MIDI tracks. There’s also AAX support - so you can run compatible third-party plugins - and Pro Tools Intro uses the standard .ptx session format.

Pro Tools Intro ships with 35 Avid plugins, including a channel strip, compressor, EQ, filters, reverb and delay. You also get the AIR Xpand!2 virtual instrument, which includes more than 2,500 presets.

  • Read more: The best free DAWs 2022: the best free music production software for PC and Mac

GPU Audio Modulation Bundle

Platforms: Windows | Formats: VST3 | Download

The launch of a new collection of chorus, flanger and phaser plugins might not sound like too much to get excited about, but GPU Audio’s Modulation Bundle is a little different in that all the effects are powered by your computer’s graphics card.

The company’s GPU-powered platform was launched at this year’s NAMM Show, with the first evidence of its capabilities being an early-access convolution reverb. The Modulation Bundle is the next step; the first in a new ‘beta-suite’ of plugins, it uses GPU Audio’s patented technology to harness the parallel processing power of your computer’s graphics system, taking the pressure and workloads off your CPU.

The Modulation Bundle is available initially for Windows machines with NVIDIA GPUs only, but AMD support is coming soon. GPU Audio says that it’s working closely with Apple and that it hopes to roll out macOS support in November.

BPB Dirty LA

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

The second free compressor plugin we're highlighting this month comes from our friends over at Bedroom Producers Blog. The Dirty LA takes its name from the legendary LA-2A compressor, aiming to reproduce the sound of this storied bit of vintage kit and bring classic-sounding compression and saturation to your productions. Get involved. 

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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