Pro Audio Files

7 Free Plugins That Will Improve Your Mixes

It’s the end of the month, and your bank account is empty…

…again.

Oops.

And as much as you might feel like buying that new Waves plugin…

(You’ve had your eye on it for months, right?)

It’s probably not a good idea.

But if you’re still looking to expand your plugin library, don’t worry.

Sometimes, the best things in life are free…

Here are 7 of my favorite free plugins. Each of them offers something new and unique (no boring EQs or compressors). Download them all to extend your sonic palette and ultimately, craft better-sounding tracks.

And if you’re looking to dive deeper, I also put together a list of five plugins I use on every mix. If you’re wondering which plugins I recommend, download the list below to make sure you’ve got my top tools for the job.

1. iZotope Neutrino

iZotope Neutrino—one of my favorite free VST plugins

Neutrino is the baby brother of Neutron—iZotope’s newest channel-strip plugin. While Neutron has a number of innovative features, Neutrino spins off the best of them.

Neutrino tames undesirable resonances caused by poor room acoustics, cheap gear, and heavy-handed processing. iZotope calls the effect “spectral shaping,” and it can sound similar to gentle, low-ratio multiband compression. This can make tracks sound smoother and more polished—like sanding the rough edges off a freshly cut piece of wood. I find Neutrino particularly useful on electric guitar tracks, which often have lots of harsh resonances.

➥ Download iZotope Neutrino

2. Voxengo SPAN

Voxengo SPAN

People say “don’t mix with your eyes.”

Meh.

The truth?

Tools that provide visual feedback, when used properly, can help you make better mixing decisions.

A spectrum analyzer is one of these tools. It plots the frequencies of sounds out on a graph, which allows you to “see” what tracks are comprised of.

SPAN is my favorite spectrum analyzer. You can control the ballistics and response of its graph, which makes it flexible enough for a wide variety of tasks. You can even route multiple tracks into SPAN and compare their frequency content.

➥ Download Voxengo SPAN

(P.S. Voxengo has a few other free VST plugins. They’re worth checking out too, but SPAN is my favorite.)

3. Brainworx bx_solo

Brainworx bx_solo

Bx_solo is a no-frills, stereo-imaging plugin. While it’s the least sexy of this bunch, it can still be pretty useful.

I like to add bx_solo to my mix bus. While I rarely push the stereo width past 100%, collapsing it to zero is an easy way to check for mono compatibility. The mid and side solo buttons are also useful. It’s great to have this one around—you never know when you might need it!

➥ Download Brainworx bx_solo

4. HOFA 4U Project Time

HOFA 4U Project Time

Mixing is a race against time.

The more time you spend on a mix, the more attached you become to what it sounds like. This makes it progressively harder to make good mixing decisions. Given enough time, even the worst mix will start to sound decent.

This is one reason I recommend mixing quickly and impulsively. You’ll get to the finish line faster, retain more objectivity, and ultimately, craft better mixes.

The first step towards more efficient mixing is to track how much time you spend doing it. Without this information, it’s easy to get lost in a black hole of endless tweaking.

Project Time makes this easy. Add it to a track, and it will start counting. The timer automatically stops when you close the session, and starts when you open it up again.

Keep an eye on Project Time, and you’ll train yourself to mix faster and more efficiently. It’s also an invaluable tool if you bill by the hour!

➥ Download Project Time

5. MeldaProduction MFreeFXBundle

MeldaProduction MFreeFXBundle

MeldaProduction makes some great plugins. They’ve earned the praise of many notable engineers, including mastering guru Ian Shepard.

The MFreeFXBundle contains 30 free VST plugins. They range from workhorse tools like a compressor and EQ, to less common effects like a ring modulator, flanger, and oscilloscope.

If you’re looking to fill some holes in your plugin library, this is a great place to start.

➥ Download the MFreeFXBundle

6. Flux BitterSweet

Flux BitterSweet

BitterSweet is among the best transient shapers out there. It can produce results on par with studio mainstays like SPL’s Transient Designer and Waves’ Trans-X.

This simple plugin can achieve a wide variety of effects. Turn the knob to the right to add punch to drums, enhance the pluck of an acoustic guitar, or boost the consonants in a vocal performance. Turn the knob to the left to soften tracks and push them back in the soundstage.

➥ Download Flux BitterSweet

7. iZotope Vinyl

iZotope Vinyl—another one of my favorite free VST plugins!

Sometimes a little crackle is a good thing.

Vinyl will make tracks sound like they’re being played on a turntable. You can vary the intensity of the effect by controlling the volume of different types of noise, the degree of wear and tear, and the decade your sound is from. The results range from subtle filtering to Edison phonograph.

This plugin is great for special effects, like filtering down a vocal or making an intro sound tiny.

➥ Download iZotope Vinyl

Moving Beyond Free Plugins: My Favorite Plugins

I hope these 7 free plugins help you craft tracks that sound fresh and unique.

If you’re looking to dive deeper, I also put together a list of 5 plugins I use on every mix. If you’re wondering which plugins I recommend, download the list below to make sure you’ve got my top tools for the job.


Before you go—what’s your favorite free VST plugin? Share your pick in the comment section below.

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Jason Moss

Jason Moss

Jason Moss is an LA-based mixer and educator. Learn how to craft a clear, balanced low end by downloading these free excerpts from his premium training course, Mixing Low End.


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