8 Free VST Plugins That Will Improve Your Sound Design


There's never any harm in adding a few extra plugins to your DAW—they offer new ways to create, simplify workflow and inspire sonic experiments. For this post, we focused on plugins that shape and manipulate sound.

Here are 8 free VST plugins that will improve your sound design. 

OSL Chorus

Oblivion Soundlab modelled the OSL Chorus after the Juno 60 onboard chorus, known for it's rich and wide sound. Apply to synths, bass, guitar and just about anything else to give your sounds more movement and warmth. Main features include LFO rate/depth, low pass filter and adjustable delay offset. Listen to some demos of the OSL Chorus in action here

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BlackRooster Audio offer up a high/low pass filter based on the sought-after Pultec EQ from the 1950s. Use the VHL-3C to clean up hum on low end or harsh frequencies on the high end before your final mixdown. Super simple interface, natural sound and smooth filters make this plugin a keeper.  

Synsonic BD-808 and BD-909

These kick drum generators are modelled after Roland's classic TR-808 and TR-909. The BD-808 includes all of the parameters of the original drum machine (accent, output level, decay, tone) with the additional option to control the pitch of the generated kick drum via MIDI, so you can play the VST as you would a bass synthesizer. Another tool in the bag for shaping subs and giving your tracks some extra punch. 

The BD-909 is nearly identical in terms of controls, minus the ability to play it chromatically. A solid standalone emulation of the Roland machine, which can be a great tool for layering drums. 

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Sonic Anomaly just pushed out a re-release of Transpire, a transient shaper. Transients are the attack portion of a sound, which give your kicks and percussive hits their character. This plugin can intensify or soften the initial attack and sustain of a sound, bringing out small details that help your track sound punchier and groovier. Output is set at -0.1 dB to prevent digital clipping in your DAW. 


Frontier by D16 Group is a simple but versatile limiter for your mixing and mastering needs. It can be used to level out instruments in a busy mix or bump up the volume of your club tracks. Hit the soft clip switch for a top-notch saturation sound, then explore the extreme settings of the plugin to get some crunchy distortion. Frontier includes an automated gain normalization algorithm for the loss in signal volume after limiting. A great studio tool that can be used as a transparent mixing or mastering plugin or a creative sound shaper. 



Get a new perspective on your sound with Filterjam, a wacky and weird multi-band resonant filter from Audio Thing. It produces a ring modulation-like effect that can totally transform the sounds you're working with. A creative tool for bringing out grittier textures, new rhythms or to just mangle audio sources into new forms. Another plugin on this list with a simple interface that makes it all the more fun to use.


Youlean Loudness Meter

Reference your mix with a commercially produced track to get an idea of what amplitude tweaks you need to make to hit the industry standard. Features a histogram display, which allows monitoring of loudness levels as you're making a track. Measure loudness of an entire song, or use the time code feature to measure specific sections in order to make more informed gain changes throughout your mix. Check out an awesome tutorial on the Youlean Loudness Meter by ADSR here

Sound design is a super important part of production. It's all about the details that add character, depth and feeling to your music. With these 8 free VST plugins you'll be equipped with some of the best tools for sound shaping, processing and manipulation. Which one was your favourite on this list? Let us know in the comments section. 

Daniel Dixon

Daniel is a music producer with a love for breakbeats and basslines. Content writer at Outro.
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