The music production world can be a generous place. We regularly highlight free plugins and music software here at MusicRadar, and we continue to be astonished by both the quality and quantity of music-making freebies that we come across each year.
Every now and again, though, we stumble on something special. Something that reminds us that, despite all appearances, music technology isn't about making bank; it's about (surprise, surprise) making music. Today, that something is the absolute goldmine of free plugins and audio tools made by software developer Airwindows.
When we say 'goldmine', we're not exaggerating; Airwindows' website offers a bundle of 307 free plugins available for download. No, that wasn't a typo. 3-0-7. This colossal resource is made up of a rich variety of mixing and effects plugins. Inside, there's everything from compressors to distortion plugins, delays to sub-bass generators, amp simulators to pitchshifters, tape emulators to chorus plugins, reverbs to lo-fi processors, EQs to auto-pans... need we go on?
While the full bundle of 300+ plugins might be a lot to get acquainted with, Airwindows has put together a starter kit that collects 17 of the plugins likely to be most useful to those starting out.
Those interested in finding out details of each plugin in the full bundle can check out the full list here or browse the Airwindows Cheatsheet, a reference guide put together by a 2000-strong fan Facebook group. Airwindows also runs a regularly updated YouTube channel featuring walkthroughs of each new plugin that's released.
Airwindows is Chris Johnson, an experienced software developer that's been releasing plugins on a pay-what-you-can basis since 2016. Airwindows plugins are outfitted with basic, simple interfaces and typically focus on doing just one (often very specific) thing, and doing it very well. (If you don't believe us, just ask James Holden, who used Airwindows plugins to mix his latest album.)
Johnson says that the generic interfaces are a deliberate choice, made for two reasons; one, to improve reliability; and two, to allow him to spend the time he might use on designing a GUI on improving their sound. "Airwindows is about listening," reads the Airwindows website. "It’s about the sound being far more exciting than looking at the screen, because that’s all your audience will have to go by."
Though all Airwindows plugins are available to download for free, Johnson runs a Patreon page that supports his work. If you end up using any of the Airwindows plugins, we urge you to consider contributing via Patreon.
In a note published on Patreon, Johnson explains the thinking behind his incredibly generous pay-what-you-can approach. "I sold close to a quarter million dollars worth of plugins over the decade I've been in business and want to do something that feels more honest to me," he says.
"I will be doing my development work to benefit working musicians, DJs and producers. The evolution of the music business has left these folks with no money and a host of predators trying to drain their wallets in various ways, and that's why I will be supplying sound engineering tools (the best and most reliable in the business) and asking only a dollar a month, or whatever they can afford, or nothing.
"Musicians get an impossibly raw deal and I can no longer justify charging them for my tools at $50 a pop. This is me putting the tools in the hands of people who might just be getting started, and people who might have all the talent and literally no money."