Best free plugins and freeware of the month: April 2024

You’d be an April fool not to check out these free plugins, including a digital distortion, an EQ and a Prophet-5 replica.

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Musician working at a desk, photo by Westend61/Getty Images

Image: Westend61/Getty Images

April’s name is rooted in the Latin ‘Aprilis’, derived from the Latin ‘aperire’ meaning “to open”. It’s a month when Spring bursts into life, with new nature blossoming dramatically.

For a music producer, this symbolism could carry over to the transformation of your creative process, opening yourself up to new sounds or new ways of making music. Or April could simply symbolise the blossoming and growth of these new techniques or sounds.

We’ve gathered a selection of the best free plugins and software that could help you open yourself up to new production possibilities. Included in this list are Spectral Plugins’ catalogue – recently made available for free – a digital distortion by Kilohearts, and a one-knob reverb. For free, you’d be an April fool not to install these plugins.

April’s freeware at a glance:

  • Audified – U78 Saturator (free with PB purchase)
  • Excite Audio – VISION 4X Lite (free with PB purchase)
  • Spectral Plugins – Spacer, Pancz & OCS-45
  • CMajor – Pro-54
  • BlauKraut – Charlatan
  • Kilohearts – Shaper
  • Katistix Studios – Passo
  • ZAK – Atmospheres
  • Vox Samples – Pitchmunk

Audified – U78 Saturator

Free with any purchase on Plugin Boutique until 30 April 2024, Audified’s U78 faithfully recreates the analogue saturation of the vintage TAB U73b compressor/limiter. This unit was a popular choice for mastering studios in German broadcasting from the 60s through to the 80s.

The plugin has a modelled tube circuit that makes for authentic analogue character, an automatic output level control, high and low-pass filters for shaping your audio’s frequency response and a tone filter for added sound shaping.

This plugin comes free with any purchase until the end of April. Find out more on Plugin Boutique.

Excite Audio – VISION 4X Lite

A slightly stripped back take on the original, Excite Audio’s VISION 4X Lite plugin, created in collaboration with drum ‘n’ bass producers NOISIA, is a visual analyser plugin that can give you in-depth insight into the characteristics of your waveform.

Syncing seamlessly with your DAW, it dons a detailed spectrogram which is perfect for those who like to work in a visual way. It also has enhanced low-end resolution and ten types of Colour Maps that each provide key information density. You can use it to analyse your audio in real-time, with the ability to take freeze frames of your sound for closer examination, and zoom in or scroll through the display.

This plugin comes free with any purchase until the end of April. Find out more on Plugin Boutique.

Spectral Plugins – Spacer, Pancz & OCS-45

Sadly, plugins developer Spectral Plugins recently announced it’d be shutting up shop. However, the company, alongside this announcement, said, “We want to ensure that you continue to have access to them even after our closure,” and has made all of its catalogue of plugins free.

These free plugins include Spacer, Pancz and OCS-45. Spacer is a versatile multi-effects plugin with five modules, three reverbs, two delays, and tone controls. Pancz is a multiband transient shaper, clipping tool and waveform analyser, while distortion plugin OCS-45 emulates cassette tapes, so you can add imperfections like pitch modulation and background noise.

Find out more on Spectral Plugins.

 CMajor – Pro-54

Pro-54 is a free, quick and accessible route to analogue-style sonics. The long-discontinued Native Instruments Pro-53, a Sequential Prophet-5 emulation, is resurrected here in a web-compatible port by Cmajor, playable in browsers. It’s open-source and faithfully preserves the original Native Instruments synth’s 500+ patches. According to Cmajor, the possibility of VST, AU, and iOS versions aren’t off the cards, promising a potential nostalgic return to DAWs for this popular Prophet emulation after being discontinued in 2020.

Find out more on C Major.

BlauKraut – Charlatan 3

BlauKraut Engineering has delivered the third edition of Charlatan, a virtual analogue polyphonic synth that prioritises sound quality and user-friendliness. With a streamlined UI that’s easy to use, this synth provides powerful oscillators, customisable waveforms, and flexible modulation. Charlatan also has powerful filters, and top-notch effects, such as distortion, phaser, chorus, reverb, delay, and EQ effects, all in a neat – and free – package.

Find out more on BlauKraut.

Kilohearts – Shaper Table

Not to be confused with Kilohearts’ 2017-launched Transient Shaper, this plugin, Shaper, is a powerful digital distortion effect. It offers customisable waveform shaping with parameters like drive, DC filter, and mix control, alongside overflow modes for nuanced effects. Shaper can seamlessly integrate into modular setups as part of the Kilohearts Ecosystem, so you can shape your sound even further.

Find out more on Kilohearts.

Katistix Studios – Passo

Passo is a fairly simple plugin to explain. Available to buy for a price of your choosing – so, $0 – Katistix Studios’s plugin is a minimal 3-band EQ plugin built for both Windows and macOS. Described by Katistix as the “only EQ plugin you really need,” the EQ offers all the simple controls you’d expect, focusing on sound quality without unnecessary, distracting features.

Find out more at Katistix Studios.

ZAK – Atmospheres

Atmospheres is a free reverb plugin designed for “immersive spaces and dreamy textures”, says its creator, ZAK. Built upon the Deep Waters processor, which powers its big brother reverb plugin of the same name, this lets you generate expansive reverbs with a single click. If you’re not aware, the Deep Water processor involves a “water-based approach to creating distinctive reverbs”.

It’s incredibly stripped back. With a simple one-knob interface, Atmospheres lets you create effects intuitively. The Randomiser function makes Atmospheres even easier to use. You tap this, and it will run through a number of different reverb types. This free reverb plugin is compatible with Windows 7 or later (64-bit) and macOS 10.11 or higher.

Read more on ZAK Sound.

Vox Samples – Pitchmunk

Vox Samples is a brand that regularly releases free music production software. Pitchmunk, a pitch shifter effect, is the latest addition to Vox Samples’ already bulging collection of free effects plugins. Included in this list already are the Fat Cat saturation effect, Fire Boy bass enhancer, Time Turtle delay, Pixel Rabbit bit crusher, Rainbow Bird EQ and its Wider Tiger stereo enhancer.

Pitchmunk lets you alter pitch and formant without changing tempo. There are Pitch and Formant knobs for shifting pitch up or down two octaves smoothly. There’s also an option to link formant to pitch for a crisp sound or adjust separately, and you can adjust the filter, drive, and mix knobs for added modulation.

Read more on Vox Samples.

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