There’s nothing subtle about the sparkling selection of effects we’ve assembled here. These plugins aren’t meant to enhance, but rather to entrance; to ignite the spark of creativity into a conflagration. They exist to transform, transmogrify and transcend the ordinary. Some shake up your signals - others carry them aloft and away. We encourage you to give each and every one a go.
For more on making music with freeware, check out the March 2015 issue of Computer Music (CM214), which is in sale now. Also be sure to browse our round-ups of the best free plugin synths and free mixing plugins.
Circular Labs Mobius
Few things are more inspirational than a good sound-on-sound Frippertronics-style looper. Don’t confuse this with a loop-based sequencer like Acid - Mobius is all about building up layers in real time.
This classic does just what the name suggests, imparting the character of a vinyl record to your tracks. Mac and Windows, but 32-bit only, alas.
Part of the outstanding MFreeEffectsBundle also featured in our round-up of mixing effects, this ultra-bizarre plugin allows you to twist your signals with a frequency shifting process not unlike that seen on the modular synthesisers of yore.
Not to be confused with a pitchshifter, a frequency shifter does not leave the relationship between the harmonics of your signal intact. Nasty!
Glitch can transform a basic beat into something far more gripping and modern. It’s not just one effect, but many, and they can be sequenced in the step sequencer-like grid. Glitch 1.3 is included in a bundle called Old VST Plug-ins Pack from the Illformed site. This classic plugin will show up as dBlue Glitch in your VST folder.
This one’s Windows only, we’re afraid. To get a Mac or Linux version, you’ll have to pony up a few bucks.
DestroyFX plugins have been around for yonks, but they’re still perfect whenever you need something that’ll bend and break your signals beyond recognition.
Michael Ourednik Argotlunar
The idea of granular processing has been around for decades, but it’s only become commonplace with the advent of desktop music production. Granular processors break a signal into tiny grains that can be played back out of order, out of time and otherwise manipulated. Michael Ourednik’s Argotlunar is a free granular processor.