bpb Freeware Studio: Best Free VST Host Applications

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bpb Freeware Studio: Best Free VST Host Applications
After covering numerous free VST plugins so far in our bpb Freeware Studio series (aka Free VST Plugins Directory), now would be the right time to take a look at the best free VST host applications currently available.

Various different types of VST host apps were included in the list, from fairly basic ones useful for plugin testing, to modular DAWs, trackers, and some full-featured live performance hosts.

Free VST Host Applications

Follow the links for screenshots & download info:

People often mention Reaper as a free VST host, but please note that Reaper is actually commercial software with a 30-day trial period. Although the actual software installation never expires, you should purchase a licence if you use it longer than 30 days (there is however Reaper v0.999 which is still available for free, many thanks to vian for sharing the info in the comments!).

MuLab FREE is my favorite freeware VST host application. Even with the 4-track limit of the free version, it is still a very powerful modular VST host which will let you create some crazy FX and instrument chains using your favorite VSTs.

Podium Free is without a doubt your best choice if you’re looking for a full-featured freeware DAW. The only serious limitation of the free version is that it uses a single CPU core, but the amount of features available at no cost is simply insane. It is very stable, perfectly designed, and definitely worth checking out (as well as the Pro version).

Podium FREE by Zynewave.

Podium FREE by Zynewave.

Usine Free, LiveProfessor, Rack PerformerVstBoard and Cantabile Lite are VST hosts suitable for live use, Usine currently being the most popular one.

Psycle is a free tracker which also works as a VST host. I must admit i’m not very experienced with trackers, but I know there are many people who don’t use sequencers at all and go for trackers instead, so this one’s for them.

SAVIHost, MiniHost and VSTHost are lightweight and easy to use VST host applications, perfect for quickly testing new VST plugins.

KRISTAL Audio Engine is an interesting 16-track sequencer which can load VST effects, but unfortunately doesn’t support MIDI, hence no VST instruments can be used.

Feel free to leave comments suggesting other free VST host applications I may have missed and I’ll include them in the list.

Many thanks to Ronnie for suggesting LMMS, a free cross-platform VST host application which is a great alternative to commercial loop-based programs like FL Studio, Greg for suggesting Jeskola Buzz and DarkWave Studio, two pretty awesome free VST hosts (and also Scooty!), bonzo for suggesting OpenMPT, Alex_HS for suggesting Macaw, and gropkcor for suggesting Rax’n’Trax! Finally, a big thank you to satt for suggesting Tunafish, a lovely old school sequencer!

Share it like a boss.

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.

32 Comments

  1. Mulab is the one I started with. It is especially comfortable for rookies…Fancy exspensive softwares can learn much about some great concepts inside of Mulab (sequence on a track does’t have to be send on same chanel as that track etc.)…

    • bedroom producers blog on

      thanks for the tips! XT Software has recently announced that the Core version of energyXT will we available for free for a limited time.

  2. Hi: I just purchased an Akai Professional LPK25. I only want to use it as a keyboard (for now anyway.) Can you tell me which freebie would be the best choice for me? I am completely brain dead when it comes to midi, so the easiest one to learn would be great!!! Thx in advance!!!

    • Bedroom Producers Blog on

      if you want to be able to record your performance, i’d suggest MuLab Free. the limitation of the free version is that you can have a maximum of 4 VST plugins per project, but that’s more enough for starters. it’s the first VST plugin host i ever used. :)

      it’s extremely simple to set up, btw. just point it to your VST folder and add an instrument to a track.

      have fun!

  3. Nice blog! Im looking for something like this, but i need some advice …

    I run dj software Traktor on my windows laptop
    I want to host some VSTs to route my audio in from traktor.

    Preferably i want to change the values in the VST with an iPad, is this possible?

    Thx!

  4. As a free DAW for Mac, I’m surprised Apple’s Garageband isn’t listed—Apple made it free some time ago.

    Also a coupple of updates to the Mastering Tools page (the comments are closed on that page):

    • Photosounder SplineEQ is now available on the Mac.
    • Pleasurize Music Foundation TT Dynamic Range Meter now requires a US$30 membership to access the download. Technically the download is still free, but requiring a paid membership first isn’t really in the spirit of free software.

  5. Please note that for VSTHost any commercial (in your studio?) or public (a public performance?) use is strictly forbidden by the licence. I also don’t see any way to buy a commercial license. An excerpt from the license:

    This free VSTHost is intended exclusively for private use. You may copy the complete program package and pass it on to others for private use only.

    The free VSTHost may not be used for commercial or professional purposes.

  6. In your blog about “What is a VST plug-in” you write: “Assuming that you’re happy with your hardware setup”. Can you spend some words about a typical / good hardware setup? Windows / Mac ? Many thanks.

  7. VstHost is great, you can get really low latency even without an ASIO audio interface (for use as a guitar amp, in my case). You have to set the sample rate really high (oddly enough) and then set it to process 6400 samples a second or something like that. Works great as an amp that you can just open up and not have to wait for load times like in a DAW such as MuLab or Reaper. Great for a low budget.

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