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There’s no doubt that Logic Pro X is an amazing DAW filled with a variety of stock sounds, effects, and loops to use in your tracks. But in addition to these features, Logic allows you to add third-party plugins into your workflow with ease. In fact, it’s designed for that. So you can feel free to browse the websites of awesome plugin manufacturers like Waves, Slate Digital, Native Instruments, UAD, and Arturia to see what they’ve got for sale anytime.
But if you’re just getting started with plugins and don’t want to invest in stuff you’re not sure you’ll use just yet, why not go the free route?
To alleviate some of the daunting stress of navigating the world of plugins, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 favorite free plugins available for download that are of competitive quality and just plain fun to try out. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re exploring soft synths, learning to mix on your own, or trying to make your beats sound like what you hear on the radio.
Let’s check them out.
1. Valhalla Frequency Echo (frequency shifter combined with echo emulation)
Valhalla is known for its digital reverbs and delays that pay homage to digital reverbs of the late 1970s and early ’80s, and otherworldly algorithmic reverbs that sounded huge and atmospheric. The Valhalla Frequency Echo is a combination of a vintage echo delay and a frequency shifter, giving you sonic results that “range from subtle chorusing and double tracking to barber pole phasing and flanging to endless glissandos and runaway echos.” Whether you’re putting mono or stereo signal in, it converts to a stereo signal out.
My preferred application: Frequency Echo sounds great on keys and synth leads.
2. Klanghelm IVGI (saturation/distortion)
Saturation and distortion are usually used to add bite and roughness to instrumental tracks to help them stand out in a mix. Klanghelm’s IVGI can give you a full spectrum of colors, ranging from subtle saturation and warmth to dirty, grainy distortion. This is a very musical plugin that reacts dynamically to the instrument on which it’s placed, so it doesn’t create any tonal imbalance. You can also control the frequencies that are being saturated to get the detail necessary to make your instruments sound just the way you want.
My preferred application: IVGI sounds great on guitars, drums, and vocals.
3. Datsounds OBXD (synth, Oberheim OBXA clone)
Datsounds’ OBXD is an emulation of the famous Oberheim OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-8 synthesizers. It features a continuously blended multi-mode filter that allows you to shape the EQ of your sounds easily, as well as a random micro-detuning feature that emulates oscillator drift, which was common in the original analog synthesizers. This plugin comes with three different color themes that you can choose from, depending on your own mood drift. While this synth does not come with any internal effects, it can be paired with delays, reverbs, and choruses in the DAW to enhance its sound.
My preferred application: OBXD is great for creating lush pads and fat bass lines.
4. u-he Tyrell N6 (synth, Juno-60 clone)
Tyrell N6 is an emulation of the famous Roland Juno 60 polyphonic synthesizer. It features two oscillators, a noise oscillator, a ring modulation, and over 500 presets to choose from. The Tyrell N6 synth comes with chorus, overdrive, and filter feedback on board. This synth also has an oscillator drift feature that emulates the original Roland Juno 60 for a very authentic sound.
My preferred application: Tyrell N6 is perfect for creating soaring lead sounds, thick bass tones, and big pads.
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5. Flux Bittersweet (transient designer)
Flux Bittersweet is a straightforward transient designer that can be used on drums to enhance or dull their attack. To enhance the attack of an instrument, turn the knob towards bitter. To reduce the transients or dull the attack, turn the knob towards the sweet side of the spectrum. This plugin is crucial for getting your drums to sound clear in your mix, whether they’re programmed samples or live recorded drums.
My preferred application: Flux Bittersweet is great for adding or reducing the attack on rhythmic instruments, samples, and drums.
6. Spitfire Audio Labs (sample-based synth)
Spitfire Audio Labs is a software instrument made by musicians in London. The company releases new digital instruments every month, so you can continue to build your collection of sounds. The instruments are created with samples from keyboards, strings, guitars, and synthesizers. A lot of the sounds have a very cinematic tone to them, but they can be used in other capacities by adjusting the simple sliders on the plugin that control their expression and dynamics. The large dial in the center controls variations such as reverb, attack, decay, sustain, and release.
My preferred application: Labs is great for ethereal sounds and epic melody lines.
7. ADHD Leveling Tool (compressor)
ADHD’s Leveling Tool is a tube compression emulation in the style of the LA-2A compressor, an analog studio classic for compressing vocals due to its subtle, slow gain reduction and overall transparent sound. But I find that it also sounds great when used on mix elements such as bass and keyboards. The ADHD Leveling Tool tames instrument peaks and adds colorful character with its emulated tube drive. The release and attack time can be adjusted to suit your needs, which adds to this compressor’s versatility.
My preferred application: The Leveling Tool sounds great on vocals, bass, and keys.
8. TAL-Reverb-III (plate reverb)
TAL-Reverb-III is a stereo plate reverb plugin that comes with onboard EQ filtering. It features very simple controls and 10 presets. This reverb is great for blending with room reverbs, and can also be used to create surreal effects only possible in your imagination. This is a very musical plate reverb that doesn’t over-color your instruments with digital-sounding harshness.
My preferred application: TAL-Reverb-III sounds great on vocals, drums, percussion, and guitar.
9. Black Rooster Cypress TT-15 (guitar amp head)
Black Rooster’s Cypress TT-15 guitar amp head is an emulation of the Orange Tiny Terror amplifier, and is great for creating distorted lead guitar tones when you’re recording your guitar direct in. I find that it even works nicely on bass guitar and lead synths, especially when you don’t want your track to sound predictable. It has very simple functions, but it’s creatively playable and easy to dial in a great tone.
My preferred application: Cypress TT-15 is great for adding a bit of density to your electric guitar sound in the box.
10. Tokyo Dawn Records TDR Nova (EQ)
TDR Nova is a parallel dynamic equalizer that actually covers a number of tasks: parametric equalization, side-chain compression, dynamic equalization, frequency selective compression, multi-band compression, and wide-band compression. Essentially, this is a Swiss Army knife EQ that can solve pretty much all of your home recording problems, whether it’s vocal sibilance, lack of drum bus weight, or overall master bus clarity. Trust me — you want this EQ.
My preferred application: TDR Nova works great on instrument busses, as well as on vocals.
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