Best Free Sampler VST/AU Plugins For Windows & Mac!


We’re continuing the bpb Freeware Studio article series with a list of the best free sampler VST 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:

  • Grace by One Small Clue (Windows)
  • Highlife by discoDSP (Linux, Windows) No longer free!
  • LinuxSampler by The LinuxSampler Project (Linux, Windows)
  • Sforzando by Plogue (Mac, Windows)
  • Shortcircuit 1 by Vember Audio (Windows)
  • TX16Wx by CWI Technology (Mac, Windows)

Without any doubt, the best freeware sampler on today’s plugin market is Grace by One Small Clue. It lacks some of the more advanced features found in various commercial samplers (and even some freeware ones such as Shortcircuit 1 and TX16Wx), however Grace makes up for it with a brilliant workflow and easy access to all of the plugin’s parameters. Building a new sample library from scratch is an incredibly simple task with this plugin and it is now my go-to sampler 90% of the time. A highly recommended download!

FREE Grace Sampler VST plugin by One Small Clue.

FREE Grace Sampler VST plugin by One Small Clue.

In addition to the standard sample editing controls, Grace also features a highly flexible modulation section which can help you transform static samples into exciting and lively sounds. It also comes with a nice sounding set of multi-mode filters, a pair of step sequencers and several XY pads which are very helpful in live performance situations.

My second pick for the best freeware sampler would most definitely be Shortcircuit 1 by Vember Audio (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.

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 multi-sample libraries and export them in SFZ format. 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. UPDATE: Unfortunately, Highlife by DiscoDSP is not free anymore.

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.

It’s worth noting that TX16Wx is actually the only Mac OS compatible plugin on this list, actually making it the best freeware sampler choice for Mac users. Windows users could definitely benefit from it as well, although it is slightly more complicated to use when compared to Grace.

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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About Author

Tomislav is a musician and a blogger. He writes about free and affordable music production tools on a daily basis here at Bedroom Producers Blog.


  1. 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).

    • bedroomproducers on

      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.

    • bedroomproducers on

      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!

  2. 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.

    • bedroomproducers on

      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. :]

  3. 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.

    • bedroomproducers on

      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!

  4. 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!

    • Bedroom Producers Blog on

      hmm, as far as i know the Mac version is commercial and the Windows version is still free.

  5. 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.

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

  6. Bryan Blackburn on

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

  7. 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…

    • Bedroom Producers Blog on

      Aelfric, a huge THANK YOU for all your useful comments on the site. I’ll update the articles as suggested. Thanks for the support!

  8. TX16Wx is no longer free either :( where can I get the older free version of this program showed in the image displayed on this page? If it’s still available.

    • TX16Wx is free. However, I think their “no catch, no limitation” text on their website should be corrected. There ARE considerable limitations (wave matrix, send effects, etc.) that can only be unlocked with a pro license. That being said, given how fantastic this sampler is, I reckon its developers deserve a little reward for all their diligent programming…

      …a wave matrix?! Awe, hell, TAKE MY MONEY!!:)

  9. Completely agree about Grace – amazing that it’s free now! I would replace the old “SFZ Player” with the more modern Plogue’s Sforzando, as it does the same thing and more. And TX16Wx can read now Rex and EXS24 too – worth a mention! :)

  10. If someone really wants to go crazy with the old school hardware design, Sonic Charge’s Cyclone is amazing. Its also modeled after the tx16w, but with their excellent alternative os (seriously, if you got a physical tx16w, this is required).

    Works on both windows and macs too; quite old macs in fact, there’s a ppc download hidden on their forums.

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