Granular synthesis is one of the more interesting tools in music production. We picked the best free granular VST plugins for your DAW.
Unlike a waveform synthesizer, which would morph and shape a waveform, Granular synthesis chops up an audio source into tiny grains of audio.
These grains can then be shaped, modulated, fed back into themselves, and controlled in a whole manner of different ways.
Granular synthesis is perfect for rich, evolving textures and soundscapes that sound like they’re out of this world.
Best FREE Granular VST Plugins (2022 Update)
If granular synthesis seems like something you’d enjoy, then keep on reading for our picks of the best free granular VST plugins.
- Grain Strain
- Hadron Particle Synthesizer
- GVST GGrain
Ribs by Hvoya Audio is a FREE granular FX processor that offers extensive control of its unique granular engine.
This versatile granular plugin is compatible with digital audio workstations on Windows and macOS. A standalone version is also available.
You can use Ribs as either a polyphonic or monophonic granular synth. Additionally, you can route audio into the Ribs buffer to create unique granular textures.
What makes Ribs even more versatile is the FX button on the top left of the interface, which lets you turn the plugin into a granular FX processor.
Lastly, Ribs does not support loading or saving captured audio, and routing to the plugin can be quite a chore.
If you’re having any issues with Ribs, Hvoya Audio made a short video tutorial to help you out!
Emergence is a real-time granulator plugin perfect for granular textures, soundscapes, and strange sonics.
Emergence continuously looks at the input signal in its buffer and then lets you playback your audio as a set of grains.
The granular engine can handle up to 600 grains at any time. The grains can be generated in four separate streams, with parameters and grain control for each.
A great addition to Emergence’s feature set is the modulation system. It includes LFOs, macros, and randomization options.
Grain Strain is a free granular FX processor, available for Windows and macOS in VST and AU plugin formats.
Grain Strain is on the simpler end of granular plugins with its two control sections, Grain and Frame.
The Grain section lets you loop the grains, while Frame controls how the plugin switches to a new loop. Grain Strain can work in “free time” mode or sync to your host tempo.
Additionally, Grain Strain allows for Grain Frequency control using MIDI, with up to 8-voice polyphony, that can let you create a sort of granular vocoder sound.
Grain Strain is as fun as it is simple to use. The low CPU usage means it runs well in any DAW without compromising performance.
Download: Grain Strain
Argotlunar is a free real-time delay-line granulator plugin, available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, in VST or AU plugin formats.
Argotlunar chops your incoming audio into grains and lets you control the randomizer, amplitude, envelope, panning, pitch controls, and even glissando.
You also get a delay and comb filter to shape the grains further. In addition to this, the Correlation matrix allows for some pretty exciting routing options within Argotlunar.
Lastly, all grains are mixed, combined, and sent to the main output, which can also feed the signal back into the input.
Argotlunar is one of our favorites on this list. The experimental nature of the plugin means that stumbling upon different, unique sounds, rhythms, and textures is quick and effortless.
Hadron Particle Synthesizer
Hadron Particle Synthesizer is a free, open-source granular synthesis tool perfect for morphing and evolving granular sounds.
Made by Partikkel Audio, HPS is available for both Windows and Mac OS (32-bit/64-bit) in VST and AU plugin formats.
In addition to the pre-loaded samples, you can also use HPS for live sampling. You can even route a live audio input to use it as a real-time granular FX unit.
The XY morphing pad also allows you to morph between all the different states and functions of HPS in real-time.
Partikkel Audio also included a good selection of presets with great expression control so that you can get acquainted with HPS easier.
Download: Hadron Particle Synthesizer
GGrain by GVST is an easy-to-use granular resynthesis plugin that randomly selects grains from your audio and reassembles them after some modification.
At the core of GGrain are five controls: Grain amount, Size, Pitch, Gain, and Mix.
The Size, Pitch, and Gain controls have an additional “Variation” control, which lets you add some random variation for the parameter.
While the plugin’s interface is straightforward, GGrain can be quite taxing on your CPU. Even more so with the high-quality mode enabled.
CPU usage grows exponentially if you use a large number of grains. If you keep this in mind and keep the grain count relatively low, you shouldn’t face any performance issues.
Lagrange by Ursa DSP is an advanced stereo delay that uses granular techniques to achieve out-of-this-world echoes and delays.
Lagrange works similarly to a granular sampler and buffers the audio stream in real-time instead of picking a set loop point like a grain delay.
With Lagrange, you get three control modules: Grain, Feedback, and Feedback EQ. The plugin provides sub-controls for each parameter and an output module at the end of the signal chain.
There are also five different granular algorithms to choose from.
Lagrange can create a range of spaces, from the natural to the otherworldly, and the depth of control gives you tons of options to explore.
PolyGAS by Vasily Makarov is a free polyphonic granular synthesizer available for Windows 32-bit/64-bit in VST plugin format.
PolyGAS works by loading external audio as either a WAV or an AIFF file and passing it through its advanced granular synthesis engine.
A very well packaged synth, PolyGAS comes with 32-note polyphony, 18 envelopes, 11 filter types, and 11 distortion modes.
You also get reverb and delay effects, as well as a preset bank to store and organize all your presets.
Lastly, PolyGAS did have some bugs and problems in the past, but most of these have since been patched, so you shouldn’t experience any issues.
Smear by PlusPlusAudio is a freeware sample-based granulation effect available for Windows and macOS in VST and AU plugin formats.
Smear works by taking real-time audio in one-second chunks and splitting it into four grains. The length of each grain is set to a random value (you can adjust the minimum and maximum grain length).
Each grain has an individual level and pan control. The feedback control lets you feed the granulated signal back into the buffer.
Smear is perfect for glitchy sounds, “smearing” samples, and interesting delays, so if this sounds like fun, make sure to give Smear a try.
For more freeware plugins and instruments, return to our Free VST Plugins page.