Bedroom Producers Blog announces the best free VST plugins of 2020.
Instead of writing a massive article with 20+ freebies, I had to do something different this year (click here to learn why). This year, BPB selected the five best entries in five different categories:
- Best Free VST Synthesizer 2020
- Best Free VST Effect 2020
- Best Free VST Host 2020
- Most Improved VST Plugin 2020
- Most Improved VST Developer 2020
Also, be sure to check out the Honorable Mentions section, where I listed a few more must-have free VST plugins from 2020.
So, if your plan was to sleep through the entire 2020 (totally understandable!) and you just woke up, this article is here to inform you that some quite amazing free VSTs were released in the meanwhile.
These are the best free VST plugins of 2020.
Best FREE VST Synthesizer 2020: Vital Basic
Vital Basic is a free VST plugin by Matt Tytel, the developer behind Helm. Its synthesis engine rivals today’s best-selling virtual instruments like Xfer Serum and NI Massive while delivering a revolutionary user interface and an unmatchable price tag.
The basic version of Vital is, and will always be, free. You can pay $25 or more to get additional presets, more wavetables, and exclusive perks. A $5 subscription is also available, bringing priority support and first-access to new features and updates.
Back to the free Vital Basic plugin, its feature set is identical to the paid editions. You’re getting an insanely powerful wavetable synthesizer with virtually unlimited modulation capabilities. It also includes a waveform editor, built-in effects, unison, and a state-of-the-art user interface that makes Vital much easier to use than the feature set might suggest.
Vital is the best free VST instrument of 2020. Download it for free and unleash the power of wavetable synthesis in your DAW.
More info: Vital Basic
Best FREE VST Effect Of 2020: Valhalla Supermassive
Valhalla Supermassive is a free delay VST plugin developed by the reverb gods at Valhalla DSP. However, describing Supermassive purely as a delay effect is a massive understatement.
If your audio craves enormous virtual spaces with never-ending echoes and infinite reflections, Valhalla Supermassive is the ticket to paradise. The plugin uses Valhalla DSP’s experimental delay and reverb algorithms, delivering gigantic atmospheres that are hard to find elsewhere.
Valhalla Supermassive is my favorite free VST effect of 2020. It deserves a place in any sound designer’s VST plugin arsenal.
Be sure to check out the Valhalla Space Modulator plugin, too. It is another magnificent freebie that Valhalla DSP released this year.
More info: Valhalla Supermassive
Best FREE VST Host 2020: Waveform Free
Waveform Free is a free digital audio workstation by Tracktion Corporation. First announced at NAMM 2020 and released a few months later, Waveform Free joined Cakewalk by Bandlab is one of the best free DAW applications on the market.
Building on the foundation set by Tracktion’s previous DAWs, Waveform Free brings more than a handful of new features. It delivers Tracktion’s signature efficient workflow while introducing a full-blown mixer, a plugin sandbox, a pattern generator, and more.
Tracktion also offers a paid version of Waveform Free called Waveform Pro (starting at $69). It adds more virtual instruments, more effects, advanced arrangement tools, plugin macros, video playback functionality, and premium support.
If you’re an electronic musician looking for the perfect first DAW, Waveform’s free edition is well worth considering. Of course, Waveform Free can also host VST plugins so that you can put your entire arsenal of virtual instruments and effects to good use.
Waveform Free is my favorite free production music software of 2020.
More info: Waveform Free
Most Improved VST Plugin 2020: Sitala
It’s easy to disregard Sitala as “too simple” of a plugin to be taken seriously. But the simplicity is what makes this freeware drum sampler by Decomposer so unique.
Sitala is a drum sampler plugin with sixteen channels. It is optimized for a super-fast workflow. You can load the samples via drag-and-drop and apply tweaks like pitch and envelope adjustments on the fly.
In late 2020, the developer officially released the 1.0 version of Sitala, following a lengthy public beta testing period. The new version of the plugin added sample trimming and beat slicing to the feature list, making Sitala a must-have production tool in any beat maker’s arsenal.
If you’re looking for a freeware drum sampler that will speed up your beat making workflow, look no further than Sitala. It was my favorite VST plugin update of 2020.
More info: Sitala
Most Improved VST Developer 2020: Analog Obsession
Analog Obsession re-released all of their VST plugins as pay-what-you-want in early 2020. You can download the plugins for free or support the developer via Patreon.
In the past, there was a lot of talk about Analog Obsession’s plugins showing promise but not being good enough to rival the very best out there. However, a lot has changed since then, and Analog Obsession now develops audio effects that are more polished and well-made than ever before.
If you’re looking for freely downloadable plugins inspired by legendary analog gear, check out Analog Obsession’s page for some cool gear. Chances are you’ll find more than a few keepers.
Analog Obsession gets the “most improved VST plugin developer of 2020” award. Check them out and consider supporting that work.
On that note, with everything that happened in 2020, it is now more important than ever to support independent developers and sound designers. If there’s a donation button on your favorite VST plugin vendor’s website, now is the time to click it.
More info: Analog Obsession
Best FREE VST Plugins 2020: Honorable Mentions
There were so many free VSTs released this year that it’s almost impossible to mention them all in one article. Be sure to check out the Software News section to find all the best freebies from 2020.
I listed some of my favorite free VST plugins from 2020 below (this section of the article is still under construction. I will add more VST plugins later today).
Pendulate by Newfangled Audio
Pendulate is an innovative virtual monophonic synthesizer by Newfangled Audio. It uses a new oscillator technology based on the physics properties of a double pendulum.
This chaotic freeware synthesizer is an excellent source of dark electronic pulses, glitchy bass tones, and synthetic soundscapes drizzled with static noises. Sure, you can use Pendulate to produce some more musical and mellow sounds, but dark and glitchy electronica is simply the nature of this beast.
More info: Pendulate
BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover by Spitfire Audio
Spitfire Audio’s new BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover is arguably the best orchestral virtual instrument for beginners. It costs €49, but you can get it for free by filling out a survey on Spitfire Audio’s website.
You’re getting 33 orchestral patches that use Spitfire Audio’s state-of-the-art sampling. Download this one right away if your sound arsenal lacks strings, brass, woodwinds, and orchestral percussion.
More info: BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover
Odin 2 by TheWaveWarden
Odin 2 is a monstrous cross-platform hybrid virtual synthesizer for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It is a 12-voice polyphonic beast with a flexible synthesis engine and “endless modulation capabilities.”
There are too many features to count, but here’s a quick look at some of the highlights.
Odin 2 has three oscillator slots, each capable of hosting one of the eleven (!) available oscillator types. It also has a wavetable oscillator, an FM oscillator, a chiptune oscillator, a vector oscillator, and even an oscillator that lets you draw custom waveforms.
More info: Odin 2
TDR Molotok by Tokyo Dawn Labs
TDR Molotok is based on the legendary Molot freeware compressor by Vladislav Goncharov. He is also the same developer who released Limiter №6, another “Hall of Fame” freeware plugin (and one of the best free limiter VST plugins ever).
You can use TDR Molotok to add grit and character to drums, bass guitars, and mix busses. Or, go completely crazy with it and use it as a hammer for smashing drum loops into pieces (after all, the word Molotok means “Small Hammer” in Russian).
More info: TDR Molotok
CHOW Tape Model by Jatin Chowdhury
CHOW Tape Model is an incredibly well-made tape emulation plugin. It simulates multiple properties of reel-to-reel tape, from analog saturation to pitch inconsistencies and noise.
The software is based on a physical model of an analog tape machine that was developed as a class project for Music 420 at Stanford University. Although the plugin was initially intended to model the Sony TC-260 tape machine, the algorithm was later changed to be a more flexible simulation of a wider variety of analog reel-to-reel machines.
More info: CHOW Tape Model
HY-Poly Free by HY-Plugins
HY-Poly Free is a freeware polyphonic virtual synthesizer by HY-Plugins. It features a pair of oscillators with vibrato and sync capabilities, a sub-oscillator, a noise generator, dual multi-mode filters (low-pass, high-pass, and band-pass), four envelopes, dual LFOs, S&H, three sequencers, and three effects (delay, chorus, and a utility effect).
One of HY-Poly Free’s coolest features is the oscillator’s ability to morph between the saw and pulse waveshapes, with adjustable pulse width. Another highlight is the modulation infrastructure, where almost every parameter can be modulated using one of HY-Poly’s own generators or an external source.
More info: HY-Poly Free
VariSpeed by GSi
I’m a huge fan of analog delays, which is probably why VariSpeed by GSi is one of my favorite free VST plugins of 2020. It emulates the Copicat IC400, a legendary analog tape delay unit by Watkins.
The feature that made the Copicat IC400 so unique back in the day was its variable-speed belt drive motor. The motor made it possible to change the tape delay speed, which is something we take for granted nowadays.
That said, the VariSpeed plugin delivers all the charm and dirt of vintage analog delays. Guaranteed fun if you like experimenting with long feedback delays, swirly echoes, and pitch automation.
More info: VariSpeed
BPB Dirty Filter
I’m not the bragging type, but designing and releasing free VST plugins on Bedroom Producers Blog was one of my major goals. That is why I can’t resist the temptation to include BPB Dirty Filter on this list.
BPB Dirty Filter is Bedroom Producers Blog’s very own distortion and sound design weapon. Use it to add character and grit to drums loops, bass riffs, synths, or even vocals. Make your drums sounds like they were recorded in the 60s, or apply some crunchy resonance to your virtual synths.
The plugin combines tube-style distortion with a pair of resonant filters. The results can range from subtle parallel processing to all-out audio destruction, depending on your settings.
BPB Dirty Filter isn’t the only freeware VST plugin we released this year. It was followed by BPB Saturator, a more nuanced plugin for tape and tube saturation.
More info: BPB Dirty Filter
Hey Tomislav, where’s the Top 20?
Long-time BPB readers will notice that 2020’s free VST plugin roundup is shorter than the previous entries.
The reason for this is that I’m going through some personal difficulties at the moment, and there’s not enough time available to write the epic article that I’d typically publish at this time of the year.
I would also like to apologize for not covering some of the freebies and deals that appeared in the past few days. Thanks to all of you who posted comments and kept sending me emails about the latest freebies. You rock!
Don’t worry, though.
BPB will be back stronger than ever in 2021. There are just a few things that I need to sort out in the meanwhile.
My thoughts on 2020
While 2020 has been a terrible year globally, I can’t help but notice that it led to some quite extraordinary things happening in our little virtual music producer community.
First of all, being stuck at home, terrible as it is, also meant that people could spend more time on their favorite hobbies. For many of us, making music is the creative valve that keeps us going, but we don’t devote nearly enough time to it. I can bet that hundreds of thousands of people around the world made their first music this year. That can’t be bad news (unless you’re my neighbor).
Also, I could devote a lot more time to writing articles, creating new content, and generally improving Bedroom Producers Blog. As a personal highlight, I designed and released two freeware plugins, BPB Dirty Filter and BPB Saturator (thanks to the developers for their fantastic work on the code). For me, designing a couple of plugins and publishing them on BPB was a dream come true.
I also have to thank all of YOU who are reading this and posting comments on Bedroom Producers Blog. Our community has grown so much in 2020, and I will do my best to help us grow even more next year. I’m looking into new ways to help us connect outside the comments section – more news on that coming early next year.
And finally, in my ten years of writing about music production software on Bedroom Producers Blog, I have never witnessed so many developers stepping up and offering their paid products for free. I won’t name any names here, simply because it wouldn’t be possible not to leave someone out, and that wouldn’t be fair.
The music software industry, as an entity, was astoundingly generous and supportive this year, making this difficult period at least somewhat easier for everyone. From major software companies to independent developers and sound designers, everyone was at the top of their generosity game.
Here is a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone, every developer, every sound designer, every music lover, and every kind and creative soul who tried to make 2020 easier for others.
Thanks for reading BPB. See you again in 2021! ❤