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bpb Freeware Studio: Best Free Sampler VSTi/AU Plugins

bpb Freeware Studio: Best Freeware VST Samplers

We’re continuing the bpb Freeware Studio series with a list of the best free sampler VSTi/AU plugins for Windows and Mac.

This list features standard samplers – sound modules, dedicated drum samplers and soundfont players are covered in separate articles.

Follow the links for download info, demo videos and screenshots:

If I had to pick one freeware sampler VSTi for my studio, it would definitely be Shortcircuit (make sure you get v1.1.2). Once a very pricey piece of commercial software, this plugin was built by a talented developer who later worked for Ableton and now develops Bitwig Studio. Simply put, Shortcircuit is a powerhorse sampler with pretty much all the features you’d need in a sampler plugin, and then some. It’s multitibral, supports multiple outputs, and works with WAV, SFZ, SF2, Akai, REX, and a bunch of other formats. If you’re a Reaper user, you’ll find some shortcircuit goodies here.

Shortcircuit 1 by Vember Audio.

Shortcircuit 1 by Vember Audio.

Highlife is another very good freeware sampler, with one very special feature – it can be used to automatically convert VST instrument patches into multisample libraries and export them in SFZ format (here’s a video demo for that). So, if you have a virtual instrument that is taking up a large amount of CPU, you can load it up in Higlife and thus significantly reduce the CPU load! Other than that, it works with standard WAV files and can also load SFZ and Akai libraries.

Highlife by DiscoDSP.

Highlife by DiscoDSP.

TX16Wx is a powerful freeware sampler for Windows, inspired by older hardware sampler designs. Probably not everyone will be a fan of the classic hardware-style workflow (it took me quite a while to figure out how it works so I eventually had to reach for the manual), but it does come with certain advantages and can actually be quite fun. Without any doubt, TX16Wx is a very powerful tool once you become skilled at using it. The plugin can work with WAV, SF2, and AIFF files.

TX16Wx by CWI Technology.

TX16Wx by CWI Technology.

That’s all for this edition of bpb Freeware Studio! Feel free to suggest your own favorite sampler in the comments and please support BPB by spreading the word about your favorite articles! Thanks!

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25 Responses to “bpb Freeware Studio: Best Free Sampler VSTi/AU Plugins”


  • Shortcircuit and SFZ Sample Player are really a fundamental part of my workflow. The only complaints I have are that SFZ Sample Player does not permit multiple instances (at least it’s not working on Reaper for me) and that in Shortcircuit you can’t just move a sample around on the mapping editor by dragging it (you have to move the “in” and “out” points, which is not ideal in some cases where you placed the A sample on a C and just want to drag it on its correct position).

    • yes, as far as i understand, SFZ doesn’t allow multiple instances only on multicore systems. now, i use Mutools Mulab as a host program most of the time, and it only uses one CPU core, so it lets me load more instances of SFZ. so if Reaper has the option, you can try setting it to single core processing.

    • You may have already downloaded but what you’re for is SFZ+. download at Ckewalk

  • Check out linux sampler has some cool specs (Win, Linux, Mac).
    http://www.linuxsampler.org/
    Not very easy to use (not that hard either) but very capable.
    Gigasampler is the native format for saving instruments.

    • I tried linuxsampler… but couldn’t get it to work… but that was on osx, maybe on windows it’s different…

    • i tried linuxsampler a while ago but it didn’t really work on my Windows machine. i will give it another spin though, perhaps the latest version will work better. thanks for the tip!

  • I’ve tried UVI Workstation which i liked very much. Looks good, and great effects. Also a very addictive ARP!

    But since i bhought contact i don’t use free samplers much. I like the straight forward look in Shortcircuit though.

  • shortcircuit yay!!!!
    absolutely love it!!!!

    (i still would love to see this one go Open-Source :-D )

    • true, if it went open source we might get an improved v2. but i love shortcircuit v1 so much that i’m not really sure if i would do the switch. :]

  • do you think arcdev’s H4xx0r would be good for this list? it is a slicer so i dont really know how appropriate it would be.

    • not sure it would really fit here because i’d like to keep this article focused on full-blown samplers only, but H4xx0r is certainly a great plugin and it will be included in an upcoming ‘best freeware beatslicers’ list. cheers for the suggestion anyway!

      • Actually Shortcircuit, Highlife and especially TX16Wx (with it’s automatic beat detection) are great beat slicers too!

  • HigLife by DiscoDSP is not freeware anymore. they sell it for like 29Euro. Maybe it’s just a joke! The full featured Reaper DAW (includes a synth and a sampler) it’s cheaper. Damn capitalism!

  • Thanks for the site, it has led me to many happy discoveries.

    I try to do a natural rock thing, but my bedroom studio just doesn’t have the resources to record real drums, so that’s where I use samplers. Thanks for the free acoustic drum sample page BTW.

    I understand the unsupported nature of freebies might mean different things to different systems, but shortcircuit (v1.1.2) was not the best sampler for my system. It worked fine, was simple, easy, and CPU light, but a few things weren’t quite right when I ran it through MIDI channel 10 on Cubase Artist 6 with the drum map editor. Most importantly it didn’t recognise the sfz “off_by” parameter. The most obvious need for this on a drum kit is when you have hit an open or loose hi hat, and then you hit the closed hi hat… the open hi hat sample should stop (be turned “off_by” the closed hi hat).

    The best sampler for drums on my system is the Cakewalk SFZ player, also delightfully lean. It recognises every SFZ parameter I have tried. But again my system found he official version of this very unstable, especially with multiple instances. Then I found this version of the SFZ player on the Reaper forum (hope the link works). After a few days it has been perfectly stable.

    http://forum.cockos.com/showpost.php?p=149663&postcount=10

    BTW, I run Cubase Artist 6 (usually the 32-bit version) on a Windows 7 64-bit OS.

  • Perhaps too much verbage in my previous post:)

    Hey, try multiple instances with this version of the Cakewalk player.
    http://forum.cockos.com/showpost.php?p=149663&postcount=10

  • TX16Wx has changed remarkably. Time to update this page I guess ;-)

  • the plogue sfz player sforazando is remarkably simple and easy to use. Allows me to use sfz files in alchemy and dimension pro

  • Do you have a roundup of dedicated drum samplers? I tried to find it on your site, but mostly just came up with sample packs in the search results…
    Thanks

  • I’m not sure if anyone has reported this, but Highlife is no longer free.

  • There a new highly SFZ 2.0 compliant sample player from Plogue called Sforzando. It use tha Aria Engine used by Garritan Bank and it’s free. Plugin format is VST (Windows & Mac), AU (Mac) and RTAS (ProTools), 32 bits or 64 bits.

    Sforzando : http://www.plogue.com/produits/sforzando/
    Aria : http://ariaengine.com/

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