12 of MusicTech’s favourite free plugins and software releases in 2022
From creative effects and cutting-edge processors to powerful synths, these are our favourite freeware treats from across the year.
It’s been a fantastic year for cash-strapped software nerds, with a wealth of inspiring tools to rival their more expensive counterparts released for nothing at all. We’ve picked our top five of the month throughout 2022, and here we’ve rounded up those that we think truly deserve a place in your plugin folder.
Klevgrand – Rassel pocket shaker iOS
We had a lot of fun with this shaker instrument. It’s the kind of app that shows off what the iPhone can do in a creative way, with anyone able to get a kick out of giving it ago.
The free pocket shaker from Klevgrand transforms your phone into a tactile percussion tool, with egg, shaker, tambourine and bell options. Its unique audio-rendering engine maps the device’s gyroscope to the velocity to recreate the acoustic instruments. There are Loose, Normal and Tight settings, plus a loudness boost function. It all comes together to make this a legitimate instrument for live performance.
Download at Klevgrand
Minimal Audio – Rift Feedback Lite
With its tuneable feedback, various delay types and stereo comb filtering, this is the feedback section of Minimal Audio’s spectacular Rift 2 distortion plugin adapted into a single package primed for inventive sound design.
You can choose from traditional, synced and free, stereo and ping-pong delay settings, or go for a more pitched sound using the MIDI, Tune or Comb modes. Here, you can select a key or specific notes that can be swept through using the frequency dial or played in via MIDI. Additional dials let you control feedback, spread, low- and high-pass filters, and the overall feedback mix, allowing you to create anything from subtle drones to wild, resonating squeals.
Download at Minimal Audio
TheZhe – The Split
Its GUI may look basic but it belies The Split’s surprisingly useful functionality. The plugin can split any audio signal into two outputs, and can be used as an effect in itself or to split a portion of the signal for further processing using other plugins.
There are four modes: Centre Sides does a mid-side split in the spatial domain; Low & High uses a crossover for a split in the frequency domain; Attack & Sustain uses a transient splitter to split in the time domain; and Loud & Soft uses a gate to split in the amplitude domain. Each mode has several controls for fine-tuning the output, and optimised anti-aliasing bolsters the audio quality.
Download at Ko-Fi
Mixland – FreeTILT!
At the mix stage, if you find that you like some of your individual sounds but that your overall balance is a little off, reach for this free tilt EQ plugin. FreeTILT – a cut-down version of Mixland’s broader TILT plugin – allows you to make broad-strokes changes to your spectrum. It features classic tilt functionality with fixed high and low shelving points at 100Hz and 12kHz, plus a rich and detailed Class-A triode vacuum-tube output stage with an adjustable grit parameter. The tube circuitry and EQ curves are inspired by old and modern tube gear, and the results can range from subtle warmth to sizzling clipping.
Download at Mixland
Lese – Sweep
Ever heard a sound that feels like it’s infinitely rising or falling? Perhaps while running up the stairs in Super Mario 64 or listening to Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight score? That’s the Shepard’s tone in action – and this free plugin uses multiple filters to recreate it.
You can also create subtler barber-pole flange effects and other tonal modulations, as well as split the left and right channels for a wider stereo spread, with up to 16 bands per channel and additional controls for fine-tuning the sound and motion. Sweep also features a fractal, noise-based frequency randomisation system for adding some humanisation and chaos to your sounds.
Download at Lese
Audiomodern – Panflow
Audiomodern dropped this fantastic creative panning modulator during the summer. It’s much more powerful than it first seems. On the surface, Panflow is a familiar LFO-based modulator that can sync to your host and then let you draw complex curves using a graph editor to modulate the panning.
However, it also has built-in randomisation features, including Audiomodern’s unique Infinity section that creates a new random curve every time it loops, allowing you to craft ever-evolving patterns. There are preset buttons for jumping between shapes, and you can even turn the output into a CC message to control the parameters of anything that accepts MIDI CC.
Download at Audiomodern
Valhalla DSP – ValhallaSupermassive 2.5
Although Supermassive has been out since 2020, Valhalla DSP saw fit to update its incredible reverb plugin not once but twice in 2022. In July, it added new reverb/echo modes called Aquarius and Pisces, and then in November we got two more modes in Scorpio and Libra.
This takes the total to 18 styles of wonderfully lush reverb and delay effects perfect for creating vast, cosmic-sounding effects. It only confirms Supermassive as a contender for best freeware ever.
Download at Valhalla DSP
BLEASS – Monolit
It’s rare that a freeware synth stands up to paid-for alternatives with such a polished design and interface. BLEASS’ free monosynth was built for both touchscreens and desktop, which explains its striking layout. It can be used to create rich analogue basses, leads, arpeggios and effects. Oscillator 1 can produce a blend of four different waveforms, and oscillator 2 features a single morphable waveform shape.
There’s also a third oscillator for FM synthesis, plus a filter, modulation section, unison feature and an arpeggiator. The super-efficient low-CPU synth engine means you can run many instances, and there’s also a smart randomisation feature for creating unique sounds.
Download at BLEASS
Lese – Codec
Codec cropped up in September with a simple but striking pink 8-bit-style GUI. Continuing the trend of plugins that can recreate the (previously unwanted) sounds of degrading signals, it simulates a poor internet connection through the use of a lost-packets system.
Packets can be lost totally, and then the algorithm will try to reconstruct them in real-time, or they can be held and repeated to develop glitchy effects. You can apply additional grit with the crunch control. Codec can make anything sound atmospheric and lo-fi, and might even prove useful for film sound effects.
Download at Lese
Aphex Twin – Samplebrain
When an artist of Aphex Twin’s calibre releases a free plugin, it’s probably worth taking note. Samplebrain is a unique sample-matching program that lets you reconstruct source audio from a selection of other audio files. It’s as complicated, obtuse and unpredictable as its infamous creator, but it’s also every bit as fascinating as AFX is to listen to.
Developed with help from Dave Griffiths of UK non-profit Then Try This, the open-source software chops up your audio into interconnected sections called blocks. It then processes a target sample into blocks and attempts to match and replace each block with one from the brain to create a rough new copy. You can then have fun manipulating a range of parameters with names like Novelty and Boredom, as well as autotune and normalise the results.
Download at GitLab
SuperflyDSP – Lost-Vinyls
SuperflyDSP’s degrading effect offers the traditional analogue sound of vinyl. It’s a lovely way to lend your tracks and sounds a dusty, lo-fi aesthetic. You can choose from four modes: Broken, Lost, Old and New, each of which affect the frequency bandwidth of the signal in different ways.
There’s a depth control to increase the tape effect, a rate dial to control the flutter frequency, and a noise slider to increase the volume of the background noise. There’s also an artefact slider for added glitches and distortion, a crunch button for additional harmonics, a stereo mode for added width, and a mix slider so you can balance the wet with the dry.
Download at SuperflyDSP
BPB – Dirty LA
A lovely compressor with a modelled, vintage sound, Dirty LA is inspired by a classic limiting amplifier and delivers musical-sounding compression via a clear workflow and simple interface. It includes a compression mode, plus a limiting mode with faster attack times and a higher ratio.
There’s a mix dial, plus a dirt feature that enables saturation with gentle transient reduction. With Dirt engaged, the plugin uses four times the internal oversampling to deliver high-quality results.
Download at Bedroom Producer’s Blog
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