HOFA-Plugins has released SYSTEM Basic, a powerful freeware multi-effect plugin for PC and Mac based on the full version of the HOFA SYSTEM 2 (€79.90) software.
SYSTEM Basic is a modular plugin with 22 modules that can be patched together to create a variety of multi-effect setups. The plugin comes with delay, reverb, compression, EQ, distortion, panning, gate, gain, and other FX modules, along with a set of tools to enable multi-band processing, parallel processing, M/S splitting, etc. The interface can be resized freely, providing enough space to accommodate complex patches with more than a dozen individual effects.
Of course, being a freeware version of the commercial SYSTEM 2 plugin by the same developer, SYSTEM Basic comes with some limitations. For example, the ratio and release parameters are fixed in the compressor module and the delay module can’t be synced to the host tempo. The EQ module offers only a single band, but that particular limitation can be remedied by loading multiple EQ modules in series. However, despite these limitations, SYSTEM Basic is undeniably a powerful tool for mixing and sound design. The parallel processing, M/S, and multi-band processing modules allow the user to create fully customized and quite complex multi-effects which would be hard to replicate in a regular, non-modular digital audio workstation. The plugin also includes a feedback module which makes it possible to load any of the available FX modules in the delay effect’s feedback path.
I’m usually rather skeptical when it comes to testing “lightweight” feature-limited versions of commercial software, as the limitations can often outweigh the usefulness of the included features. However, the free SYSTEM Basic plugin by HOFA goes to show that this concept can be pulled off without annoying the end user with severe limitations while still reserving the premium features for the paid version of the software.
The only potential issue is the CPU consumption which, although not extremely high by today’s standards, might prevent some users from loading multiple instances of SYSTEM Basic in a project. I was easily reaching over 20% on the CPU meter on my test machine with some semi-complex patches.
Another minor drawback is the HOFA-Plugins installation system which might be a turn off for users who prefer offline installers. Whereas offline installation is possible, it requires the download of an 834 MB large installer package and manual selection of the plugins to be installed (SYSTEM Basic in this particular case). The online installer is a much smaller 6 MB download which, on the other hand, requires an active internet connection during the installation process. When installing SYSTEM Basic, ignore the “Buy” and “Trial” buttons to install the free version of the software.
SYSTEM Basic is available for free download via HOFA-Plugins (6 MB download size for the online installer, 834 MB download size for the offline installer, ZIP archive containing EXE installer, 32-bit & 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX/RTAS plugin format for Windows & macOS).