5 of the coolest free plugins we discovered this month

(Image credit: Future)

Who doesn't love a free plugin? From amateur bedroom producers to big-time pop hitmakers, a penchant for free music software is the great leveller that unites us all.

That's why here at MusicRadar HQ, we maintain a watchful eye on the world of music-making software, taking note of the latest and greatest freebies that we deem worthy of lining your channel strips and filling up your hard drives.

Here, we present a monthly round-up of this month's discoveries. Without further ado, let's dive into some fantastic free plugins...

1. Audacity AI plugins

Audacity AI plugins

(Image credit: Audacity)

Platforms: Windows | Formats: Standalone | Download

It might be free and open-source, but Audacity certainly isn’t an audio editor that’s failing to move with the times. It recently got itself a new suite of plugins that are powered by Intel’s OpenVINO AI toolkit, and it sounds like some of them could be pretty useful.

First up, we have Music Generation and Music Style remix, both of which use the Stable Diffusion AI model - specifically in its Riffusion guise - to create either new music from a prompt, or existing music. 

Music Separation, meanwhile, does what it says: breaks a song up into either vocal or instrumental parts, or into vocal, drums, bass and a combined ‘anything else’ part. Audacity also gets Noise Suppression, which is designed to remove background noise from an audio file, and Whisper Transcription, a tool for transcribing spoken word audio or vocal recordings.

2. Vox Samples Fat Cat

fat cat

(Image credit: Fat Cat)

Platforms: Windows | Formats: VST3 | Download

Everybody loves cats and everybody loves the thick, fuzzy sound of analogue saturation. Vox Samples has done the smart thing and brought these two crowd-pleasers together in a singular free plugin. 

Modelled on an unspecified analogue tube preamp, Fat Cat is a simple tool with a big sound; amp up the drive to push things into distortion territory or use the mix knob to blend dry and wet signals to achieve parallel saturation.

3. Firefly Synth

Platforms: Windows | Formats: VST3/CLAP | Download

There's a whole lot of excellent free synth plugins out there, but there's always room for one more on our hard drive. Firefly Synth is a Windows-only synth that's still in development, lacking presets and a monophonic mode, but it's still a capable instrument that's worth a look. 

An updated version of developer Sjoerd van Kreel's InfernalSynth, Firefly Synth is a semi-modular instrument equipped with four oscillators that can handle standard subtractive, FM, AM and Karplus-Strong synthesis. These run through a comprehensive effects section that includes distortion, reverb, delay and filters, and parameters can be modulated using the mod matrix. 

4. The Crow Hill Company Shimmer Guitar

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

The Crow Hill Company is a new(ish) music tech brand founded by Christian Henson of Spitfire Audio. Since its inception, Crow Hill has been sharing free software instruments as part of its Vaults series; all you need to do to download all four of these is sign up to its newsletter.

The latest delivery from Crow Hill is Shimmer Guitar, a plugin that captures the sound of a gorgeously shimmery Les Paul pumped through a vintage Supro tube amp and recorded at the historic AIR Studios' Lyndhurst Hall in London, with shimmer provided by delay pedals run through three additional Marshall stacks. 

5. Chaos Audio Starlight

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

Speaking of shimmer, here's another plugin that serves up twinkly, glistening tones. Chaos Audio has taken the Starlight reverb from its Stratus multi-effects pedal and generously offered it up in plugin form for us DAW-bound producers. 

Capable of producing expansive, stratospheric reverbs that chime with its celestial theme, Starlight offers controls for Space (reverb size) and Lumens (shimmer amount) in addition to a tone shaper and mix control. 

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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