Today I’ve got a roundup of 5 of my go-to free VST plugins. As with anything on the internet, take my reviews with a grain of salt. In music production we all do things differently, these are just some tools I use to do what I do. If you find anything useful be sure to give the developers a like on their Facebook pages to show your support.
FerricTDS by Variety of Sound
FerricTDS is a Tape Saturation/Compression/Limiter plugin. I use it on my drum bus to glue my snares, claps, toms, hats, and cymbals together before sending them to the rest of my drum processing chain.
I also use this plugin with the Compression set to 10% and Saturation at 10% on my Master channel when mastering my tracks to liven up the mix a smidge.
Hint: To keep transparency with the compressor, don’t forget to turn up the “SC” (sidechain) 250hz knob to reduce “pumping”. What this does is inside the plugin, a high-pass/low-cut filter is applied to the signal before the compression stage, but we cannot hear this High-Passed signal because it is only fed to the trigger section of the compressor.
Limited-Z by LVC Audio
Limited-Z is a basic limiter plugin, the free version which operates with very few restrictions has 6 Modes, 3 Ceiling settings, Input Gain Control, and “Amount” which controls how aggressively the signal is Limited
Compared to Waves’ L1 Ultramaximizer, this plugin is superior. I find when set to “Aggressive”, with the Amount at 1 and input gain set to where the little indicator light is just a smidge yellow there are very few artifacts and no “pumping”.
Hint: If you don’t trust your own intuition, at the loudest part of your track, loop a 4 bar section, and click the “Learn” button, the Limited-Z will automatically set the input gain for optimal loudness and limiting.
In addition the plugin features a Peak/RMS meter on the right side, and real time waveform display of gain reduction and signal levels. I use this plugin at the end of my Mastering chain.
MDA RingMod by MDA (Download included on same page as developer’s info)
As a producer, I strive to find interesting sounds to use in my tracks. A trick I’ve recently come across is the use of Ring Modulation (A form of Frequency Modulation) on my Hi-Hats and Cymbals to completely mangle the timbre of my samples. Nobody likes hearing the same 909 Open High Hat all night.
Included in an older freeware pack from MDA is their RingMod plugin. Unfortunately, my DAW of choice does not include a frequency shifter plugin and MDA’s RingMod fills the need perfectly. Unlike the FerricTDS and Limited-Z, this is purely a creative effect. I can’t tell you what setting works well because it all depends on the material you apply it to. Download the pack, give it a try, you may find something new that works for you.
PanCake 2 By CableGuys
Pan Cake 2 is a Tempo-synced Auto-Pan plugin. Of all free Auto-panning plugins I’ve seen, this one has the cleanest, most intuitive interface with the ability to “draw” the wave of the LFO that controls the panning of the channel you put the VST on. The waveform display is incredibly clean and I’ve yet to have any problems with the plugin crashing.
Camel Crusher by the now defunct Camel Audio
Camel Crusher was, and still is the go-to saturation/distortion plugin of many. It was free before Logic bought out Camel Audio. Thankfully the file still floats around on the internet so all is not lost.
Camel Crusher simulates Tube and Mechanical (Solid State/Diode Clipping) Distortion, it also includes a compressor function. Be careful though, things get loud quickly with this plugin.
I use this plugin to add grit to synths, and saturation to my 808 Kicks and Sub-Basses (eat your heart out Carnage, this is the plugin you need to get the sound very very way more stronger)