In Plugin Boutique’s latest Top 5 Friday video series, Tim Cant takes a look at some of the best free VST/AU plugins that are useful for improving your mixes.
Here’s Tim’s top 5 list:
If you’re looking for a free reverb, the chances are, it’s going to be a pretty simple affair. And while TAL’s mini spatial processor is indeed simple, it’s also unapologetically effective on all kinds of instrument.
TAL-Reverb-4’s characterful vintage sound gives you the spatial tones of yesteryear with only two reverb-specific controls – Delay and Size – taking command of how the reverberant signal sounds. There’s also Low and High Cut filtering onboard, and separate Wet and Dry knobs to control the blend of those signals separately.
Fancy a small collection of analogue-modelled mixing tools for no money? eaReckon might just have you covered. With FR-COMP 87, FR-GATE 87, FR-EQUA 87 and FR-LIMIT 87, you’ve got the basic building blocks of any mixing signal path, and the sophisticated analogue-modelled sound that this developer is known for.
FR-LIMIT is a simple but effective limiter sporting just a Threshold control and a Slow Release switch, plus a meter. FR-COMP has Threshold and Make Up dials, and three choices each of Attack and Release times, plus a switch to put it into Limiter mode. FR-GATE again features a Threshold and Attack and Release dials, while FR-EQUA is a single peak band with Frequency, Q and Gain.
They may be simple, but often that’s all you need to get a smooth signal moving through your virtual circuits.
It might only have a couple of controls, but Ozone Imager is still an essential free choice to add depth and width to tracks within your mix.
The Width slider can widen a stereo signal at positive values or make it narrower at negative values, with the Amount slider controlling how much of the effect is applied. IT’s as simple as that to get great stereo width manipulation, and iZotope’s algorithms do it all for you underneath it all.
Where Ozone Imager comes into its own is with its visualisation controls. Gauging the width of your mix – or individual instruments in it – is an essential step to take if you want your mixes to compete with modern releases, and the three monitoring modes, Polar Sample, Polar Level and Lissajous, give you an indication of how your sounds stack up at the beginning and the end of the mixing process.
From the makers of Serum and LFOtool comes another legendary effect – and this time it’s free. OTT mimics the preset of the same name in Ableton Live’s Multiband Dynamics preset, bringing it to those who use other DAWs.
You get three bands, High Mid and Low, and you can dial in compression or expansion using the coloured bars in the centre of the interface. You can also tweak the gain for each band separately on the right-hand side.
As for global controls, you can set the Depth of the signal used pre-processing, and the Time of the onset for dynamics processing. There are also global controls over the amount of upward and downward compression as a whole.
For high-grade, low-price signal smashing, this is one to get straight into your plugins folder.
There’s not just limiting in this dynamics toolbox – you’ll also find analogue compression baked into this complex and powerful plugin, meaning you can apply glue to buses and control dynamics to bring sounds out on the microscopic level.
You get five compression modules: a flavourful compressor with Mid/Side operation and wet/dry mix, a peak limiter with stereo linking, an HF Limiter module to crack down on illegal highs, a comprehensive Clipper module with Upsampling to catch even the most sneaky peaks, and a Protection module to ensure no signal exceeds a certain level.
Each of the five modules is replete with a VU-style meter, and each can be switched in and out as you see fit. With so much dynamics processing power onboard, this one’s a particularly big deal.
You can download these and more free plugins from Plugin Boutique.