There are many lists of plug-ins out there that point you to free plug-ins. And, yes, many of these plug-ins are useful, fun and throw you a bone before your gear lust kicks in and you move on to the next batch of virtual, or depending on your budget, physical goodies.
So, you know, I've read many of these lists, myself, over the last several years. In fact, I did so much reading on the subject of free audio plugs that I became the guy that friends of mine went to when they were looking for something cheap and unusual. It's always good to be thought of as 'cheap and unusual', right? And, in short, when this realization kicked in, I took a step back from my interest in 'cheap and unusual' so that I might be thought of as 'productive and accomplished'.
But, just so you know, I do still have a few favorites from my days of scavenging. And, some that I've recently been enlightened with.
Bassline by TAL Audio
I love TAL audio! They do an amazing job of recreating devices that they are passionate about, as well as creating devices that they want to see. Really, their whole website is a must know because they are very giving people. But, to their credit, they've finally released something to purchase- A bad ass update to their Juno 60 emulator known as TAL-U-NO-LX.
But, what's free is a really cool graphical and audible homage to the SH-101 known as TAL-Bassline.
It's got a really nice, big sound, it's easy to program and it has a basic, fun arpeggiator that I've used more than several times. Be sure to check out their other stuff too!
Reaktor Player by Native Instruments
I, only recently, put two and two together to realize that Reaktor Player is free of purchase. And, if you're new to computer music and are in need of sounds, I would head here fast. Not only is it chalk full of free patches, but it's a great introduction to a product that can exponentially build your knowledge of synthesis, programming and so much more. I have Reaktor, but if I didn't, Player would still be in my arsenal.
Berrtill by Shuriken
I'm a fan of bit-crushers and the circuit bent sound, but I'm not much of a bender, myself. So, when I want this sound, I always fall back on this bad boy. It's so evil, it's got skulls for knobs. And, it's free for use. Though, I'd highly suggest kicking something back to the developer if you like it. Like TAL, most of Shuriken's stuff is free, and he has some really cool stuff, beyond Berrtill. Check it out! Especially Sqak Attack, one of my other favorites. You can download it here.
Steinberg Classics Volume 2
An officially unsupported product of Steinberg's would be the Classics Volume 2 pack which includes the first VST instrument, ever- Neon. Granted, it's a slightly updated Neon, but it sounds as good and quirky as ever and still makes a nifty, little bass synth. This pack also comes with Karlette, an excellent tape delay emulator that I would also recommend. It's kind of tricky to find the download for this, so try here.
Synth 1 by Ichiro Toda (VST)
Several years ago, I was exclusively a PC user and had another set of plug-ins entirely that I dearly cherished and miss daily. However, I was very pleased to learn that Synth1, one of my all time favorites, is now in beta for Mac. And, it's as free as ever. Synth1 is an amazing recreation of the Nordlead 2, with the delay, chorus, arpeggiator, filters and everything else. It's also highly regarded by many VST enthusiasts. The only catch is that the site is mostly in Japanese, and there's no installer, at all. You even have to create your own sounds folder in your documents folder to save and retrieve patches. But, if you care to brave this small amount of do it yourself work, you won't be disappointed!
Do you have free audio plug-ins you adore? Share the love in the comments below!