Free alternative products to the BEST VST instruments and effects

cheap vst alternatives

Hello ladies and gentlemen, for today iDesignSound.com will bring you our own favourite free alternative vst plugins to the most popular digital music production tools on the market.

Sure, VSTs are great, and VSTs are usually much more cheaper than actual hardware music production tools. Still, when it comes to digital products, there will always be a free option. This is because digital is literally, well, digital meaning without physical form. This means that once some effort has been put into development, copying and distributing the product can be free of charge. This has in turn provided never before seen accessibility and democratisation of the music landscape. Now, all you need to make music is basically talent, a (fairly cheap) computer and your DAW of choice (which can also be free, of course). Let’s dive straight in and see what’s on “offer” in 2021:

Serum free alternative plugin synth: Vital

We start with the biggest one, in our oppinion. So big that it is extremely hard not to use. Ok so we all know and love Serum, it is one of the best sounding and most powerful sound design tool there is. We stand by our words here, and we actually wrote a lot of articles here at idesignsound.com involving serum, such as a detailed comparison between Serum and Omnisphere and also there is an evergreen, always updated article on the top best VST synth which Serum won (on the Value/Budget choice).

Thus, finding an alternative is a bit hard, but it is possible. Without further ado, we present the closest match in the free vst market for a Serum replacement: Vital. It comes pretty close in terms of power and sound quality, albeit it does have some bugs.

You can get Vital from their website right here, unfortunately there is no mac version, only windows. Don’t confuse it with Glitch 2, which is a (very good) paid effects unit.

Effectrix free alternative vst: Glitch

Step into the world of sequenced effect units. Basically, they apply effects only to certain parts of your sound, and you control which part you want to modify with a simple and known interface. The resemblance is not there, but trust us, it is basically the same thing. The effects are on par in sound quality, and there is even a randomiser on board for those that like to experiment.

Glitch is available free of charge here.

RC-20 Retro Color free alternative vst: Izotope Vinyl

This is one of our favourites. It is soo simple to use and the results are extremely good. What we like about Izotope Vinyl that is comparable to RC 20 VST is the instant gratification element. You just slide a little fader and the sound takes so much color and character, a smile is guaranteed to appear on your face.

Sure, the graphical user interface is extremely spartan compared to the RC2o plugin but who cares, as long as the results are comparable. And they most certainly are. You even have the wobble from RC-20, represented on Izotope Vinyl as the “warp” control, with the added bonus of actually controlling the warp shape.

On the RC-20 there is the “Digital” and “Distort” control which is basically a bit reduction and a form of distortion that can be replicated in any daw with built in effects, it’s really nothing special. If you really must have a 3rd party VST alternative, any distortion and bit reduction plugin works. Also, the “Space” control on the RC-20 is just a normal reverb, there are a lot of free reverb options out there. If you don’t know any free reverb, bit reduction and distortion plugin, let us point you in the right direction with this free vst mega list.

Izotope vinyl is available on Izotope’s website.

Guitar Rig alternative: Amplitube

Well, kind of. Yes, Amplitube is a paid/licensed piece of software that has a free of charge version. Guitar rig also has a free version, a demo mode. Still, we consider that Amplitube is a good contender if you want to find a Guitar Rig replacement that is also free of charge. We decidecated a whole article on comparing Amplitube to Guitar Rig here.

Antares Auto Tune free replacement: Graillon 2

Ah Auto-tune, the effect we really love to hate here at iDesignSound. That is because we consider ourselves serious music makers who don’t really like pop and the pop sound that you can find in basically all mainstream music including a lot of hip hop.

Still, if you must use it, there is really no point in getting a paid plugin unless you really really need all the very pro features, But if you just want to tune vocals without ruining the sound qualities then the alternative vst called Graillon 2 will work just fine, and you can find the free version here.

That was it, we hope we managed to make your music production journey a bit more budget friendly. Still, if you want to use the paid plugins like a bigboy, sign up to our newsletter, we always provide our subscribers the best deals on the market!

Enhance your Drums for FREE – Diablo lite VST

If you always compared your own drum works to the professional sound and felt a little off, Diablo lite is for you. This VST is pretty nice, as our test shown, and really works especially on electronic drums.

So what is Diablo lite?

Diablo lite is a FREE VST offering by Cymatics. You know them mostly for their (paid) sample packs but they actually have a lot of free products too. And not just sample packs but plugins and also presets for popular plugins.

And if FREE VSTs are your thing, we actually are maintaining a very extensive list of more than 400 freebies here, where we actually added Diablo lite.

Now, about Diablo lite, this VST is part compressor and part transient shaper. The compressor is actually a clipper, so the compression ratio is very high, close to the well-known “brick wall” style of compression. Because of this dual nature of this sound treatment device, it is excellent for drums.

How do you use it?

So basically every producer uses some form or compression on the drums, either on the whole drum bus or individually. This is because most source material, be it sample-based, synth or live recorded is kind of in the middle in terms of dynamics. It can cut through your whole song but in it’s dry form doesn’t. It has the neutral drum sound, is not in your face but is also not absent. What you want to do is actually fit the drums in your sound.

Let’s take the 808 for example, it is ubiquitous and used in a lot, i mean A LOT of music genres. Some genres use it in a more aggressive flavour, some prefer it more mellow. So you basically do this with either a compressor, a transient shaper or both. Transient shapers basically dictate the initial snap and also the remaining tail of the sound.

This is the Punch control knob and dictates the presence. For dynamics, you have the Clip setting, which actually enganges the limiter and makes the sound more compact as you crank it. If you used too much Punch and the drum just jumps out of the mix and commands too much of the user’s attention, try to not use Clip and just turn it down in the mix instead.

But if the Punch knob does not actually do the trick for you because it makes the drum loose it’s initial character, then Clip can save you and achieve the strength that you are looking for in that particular sound.

Actually the website has a lot of samples for this product, and you can actually hear it in action. But why not download it yourself from this download link?

Very interesting free VST – Lyra 8 recreation

For those that know and for those that don’t, Lyra-8 is a very interesting synth with a very interesting sound engine and layout.

I know, because I own it (the orange sunset colorway of course) and I can say that it is nothing short of incredible.

Lyra 8 is all about cross modulation and finding atmospheric chords

Yes, that’s right, there is no keyboard you don’t really get to play standard notes (western division into notes and semitones). There is also no MIDI so the VST version is interesting because you can get to play standard chords very easily. I got it mostly for that.

On the hardware unit you close the circuit and play the note with the two buttons on the bottom, by putting your finger or any conductive material on both for each oscillator. You only have knob tuning to select the note/pitch that each oscillator plays.

There is a also external processing on the hardware.

So having both the hardware unit and the VST makes sense if you plan to use the hardware for the BBD style delay and distortion on external sounds only.

Be sure to check also our list of 400+ free VSTs (regularly updated, we just added the Lyra 8 VST here as well).

Here is a video demonstrating the hardware, it is advised you check it first to see what to expect from the VST:

To be honest, it does not really matter what you plan to do because the VST is free. I fully recommend you test it out as I am sure you will find a place for it in your sound design pallettte.

The free VST can be downloaded here.

Freebie Alert – Juno Chorus Clone From Arturia FREE

Ho! Ho! Ho! Arturia has done a very good clone of vintage vibe and it’s free of charge until 29th of December 2020

Let’s end this year in style and in class!

This plugin is good. Sure, it will never be like the real thing, right? This is not really that important, what is more important is that you as a producer will have one more tool to fit your sound design ideas in. You all know what this is, namely a clone of the legendary chorus found on the Juno synth. Arturia’s take is exactly the one that can be heard on their Juno software emulation. They even put a web preview for you, so you can instantly hear it.

https://www.arturia.com/freegift-chorus-jun6

Amplitube vs Guitar Rig – a detailed comparison

As any guitar player knows, Guitar Rig and Amplitube are undoubtedly two of the most famous and popular guitar emulators available. They’re the best at what they do, but which one is actually THE BEST?

We have updated our article in light of the recent Amplitube 5 release, available on IK Multimedia’s website. Comparing to Amplitube 4, this one has been upgraded user experience department, being by far much more user friendly. It now suports Retina-displays and the GUI is fully-scalable. Also, in the new department you now have the option to do parallel effects, with the addition of the dry/wet control and a lot more devices to play with.

For those interested in an upgrade path from Amplitube 4 to 5, here is a sheet from IK Multimedia, explaining the differences and also listing the contents of the Amplitube 5 package.

And if you are interested in a music production laptop as well, we have an updated comparison article right here for you.

Today we’re going to talk at length about the differences and similarities between Amplitube and Guitar Rig, their pros and cons, features, specs, and ultimately decide which platform offers bigger and better benefits, so let’s begin with the most recent price, avaialble by clicking these buttons:

To be fair, we will compare Amplitube 5 to the “PRO” version of Guitar Rig – because the free version is in a league of it’s own. Sadly there is no free entry point to Amplitube, so we have to have an apples-to-apples comparison.

Guitar Rig 6 Amps

For the lack of better words, the selection of amps, cabinets, and effects stacked into the Guitar rig is absolutely incredible. Of course, its eclecticism and versatility mainly depends on which package you’ve opted for, but even the factory Guitar Rig 6 Player is better-rounded than the vast majority if boutique guitar emulators.

You’ll be able to choose between some of the iconic amps, such as Hot Plex, Citrus, Tweed Delight, Jazz Amp, Hot Solo+, and many others, although the bulk of these presets are reserved for Guitar Rig 6 Pro users.

The newest additions (in comparison to the Guitar Rig 5 Pro) are the Chicago, Bass Invader, and the Fire Breather amps, all of which bring brand-new and highly unique features to the table.

Overall, Guitar Rig offers surprisingly authentic, great-sounding amps.

Amplitube 5 Amps

Amplitube’s selection of amps is perfect for literally all kinds of music styles and subgenres. The Standard Amplitube 5 package has 34 devices while the MAX version has a whopping 107 items.

You’ll be able to use five British Stack amps, including Brit 8000 and Brit 9000, the Red Pig, Brit Valve, the Brit Silver, two American Tube amps, as well as a solid-state Bass preamp. The standard edition of Amplitube 5

If you want the full list of devices available, IK Multimedia has created this sheet, which also compares Amplitube 5 with the previous version.

These amps work wonders regardless of whether you’re looking for a poppy sound, a fuzzed jazzy tone, or a heavily distorted metal timbre. However, Guitar Rig’s selection of amps is just slightly broader.

Guitar Rig 6 Cabinets

Guitar Rig 6 offers matched cabinets for their amps, which is generally pretty great. Furthermore, you’ll be able to make great use of the Control room cabinets & mics features if you’ve upgraded to Guitar Rig 6 Pro.

However, the downside here is that you won’t be able to mix and match ‘unmatched’ cabinets like you would with Amplitube.

Amplitube Cabinets

As far as cabinets go, Amplitube 5 offers 27 models, while the MAX version comes equipped with a HUGE ARRAY of 101, including six 4 by 12s (matching the amps), one 1 by 12 Open Vintage cab, a 2 by 12 Closed Vintage cab, and a 1 by 15 Bass Vintage cabinet.

While Guitar Rig had the upper hand in terms of the amp selection, Amplitube does a bit better job in the realm of cabinets, offering more than twice as many models and presets.

In a nutshell, this is more than you’ll need to capture the sonic essence of the recognizable sounds of guitar heroes with ease.

Guitar Rig 6 Effects

There are almost more guitar effects aboard the Guitar Rig 6 platform than can be counted, starting with five delays (Twin, Delay Man, Psyche Delay, Quad Delay and Tape Echo), 12 Distortions (Fuzz, MeZone, Sledgehammer, Gain & Treble boosters, Cat, Demon, Skreamer and more), 10 Dynamic effects, 5 EQs, 7 filters, 8 modulation effects, 3 Pitch effects, 9 reverbs, and three ‘Special’ effects (Resochord, Ring Modulator and Grain Delay).

Barely a dozen of these effects are available as factory presets, though, which means that more than half of aforementioned guitar effect models are only available with the Guitar Rig 6 Pro package.

Amplitube Effects

The Amplitube simulator offers 10 different stompbox models, including choruses, flangers, delays, wahs, diode overdrives, volume pedals, graphic equalizers, compressors, tremolos, and acoustic simulators. With the new Amplitube 5 version you can run them in paralel with the dry/wet setting.

All of these effects are taken from actual analogue effect pedals and sound as original and authentic as can be. The same list of items contains an inventory of all the stomp effects contained.

The good and the bad of Guitar Rig 6

Basically, Guitar Rig 6 is free to download, which is a massive benefit in itself. However, the factory presets selection is modest, to say the very least, which means that it’s a pretty basic software with relatively poor versatility if you don’t upgrade to the ‘Pro’ version at some point.

Let’s discuss the positives and negatives of Guitar Rig 6 PRO:

Pros:

  • Decently affordable upgrade to Guitar Rig 6 free
  • Exceptional range of guitar amps
  • Quality analogue bass amp
  • Authentic sounding tools, models and presets
  • Unparalleled selection of effects
  • Decently easy to use, even by beginners

Cons:

  • The basic (free) package is not overly versatile
  • Difficult to mix and match cabinets
  • Almost no effect pedals and stompboxes to speak of in the free package

The good and the bad of Amplitube

Amplitube is decently approachable guitar software that packs a hefty selection of stompboxes, amplifiers, cabinets, speakers, microphones, effects, and rack units. With the new update to Amplitube 5, the user interface is extremely well built, scalable and looks great on Apple devices.

Obviously, it’s more expensive than the (free) Guitar Rig 6, but it is well worth the buck considering how beginner-friendly and eclectic it is. Some of the highlighted advantages and disadvantages of Amplitube are:

Pros:

  • Highly intuitive interface
  • Excellent selection of stompbox effects, amplifiers, cabinets and microphones
  • Several rack effects and speakers
  • Onboard tuners
  • Constantly expanding roster of amps and effects
  • Great for beginners and seasoned veterans alike

Cons:

  • Not available for free, although demo can be downloaded free of charge

Conclusion

The specs, features, and UI were some of the most notable parameters we took into consideration when comparing the performance of Amplitube and Guitar Rig.

Even though these guitar simulator programs are completely different, they actually do have a lot in common. Both programs are laden with a myriad of top-quality amps and effects, and both actually sound extraordinarily great.

Be it as it may, Guitar Rig tends to do a bit better only because there is a free version to which Amplitube cannot compete.

Without cutting Amplitube’s worth short, it’s amazing software that has enormous potential to usurp Guitar Rig’s throne in near future.

OrilRiver Reverb Review- The Free Reverb Plugin

No matter the instrument that you’re playing, no matter the genre, and no matter the type of recording – it’s never good to have a completely dry sound.

This is why all of us are using atmospheric effects like echo/delay and reverb.

Without them, it just seems that there’s no real point in doing any type of recording and processing, especially if it’s the lead instrument or leading vocal track in question.

Now, some may prefer delays, some may like reverbs more. It usually comes down to either personal preferences or specific settings that you’re trying to make.

For example, delays are popular with more “modern”-sounding settings, while reverbs are often “vintage”-oriented. (Of course, this is open for discussion.)

Either way, it’s always good to have both in your collection of plugins. This is why we decided to go into one of the reverb plugins that caught our eye.

The software in question is OrilRiver Reverb. It was made by an independent developer Denis Tihanov (or so they say) and offers a few interesting twists to this classic effect.

There are some things that make it so exciting, so we decided to dive more into it and share our thoughts on it.

After all, it’s completely free of charge, so who wouldn’t really get excited about it?

Overview and features

First, it’s important to note that the OrliRiver reverb plugin is completely free of charge. Which is kind of a surprise for a reverb of this caliber, but we’ll get to that later.

It’s intended as an algorithmic stereo reverb that’s able to emulate reverberation of smaller rooms, larger halls, and everything in between.

So let’s start with the interface. At first glance, we can see that it presents only the controls, without any special visual representations of the signal.

However, all the controls are pretty clear and laid out in such a way that it’s easy to figure out and use for any purpose. There are also two graphical interfaces to choose from, depending on what kind of style you prefer more.

Controls are laid out from left to right as if they were on a standard rack-mounted unit or any other type of physical format.

Going from the left side, we have the main input signal slider, labeled as “dry.” Here, you can determine the amount of the input signal fed into the plugin.

On the right side, we have three additional sliders for saturation (labeled as “wet”), reverb level, and E.R. or early reflections level.

While we’re at it, there are 12 of these early reflection presets in total. At the same time, it allows 5 different reverb tail variations.

Of course, there are basic controls as well, like the pre-delay and width. The latter handles the stereo mode, allowing a more “spacious” feel in the mix.

There’s also the room size parameter, but the plugin offers a few other great additions. We have diffusion parameter, damping intensity plus other damping controls, as well as gain and shelf sections.

As far as gain and shelf goes, each of these sections has three dedicated knobs. Basically, gain controls the EQ of the dry signal, while the shelf section adjusts the EQ of the wet signal.

Overall, the plugin is capable of its internal 64-bit processing and has a sample rate between 44.1 and 192 kHz. There’s also a great deal of pre-made factory presets for many different settings.

Performance

Released back in 2016, it still delivers quite a punch. Especially knowing that the plugin is completely free.

So to put it simply, its performance is pretty close to a lot of the commercially available reverb effect units and plugins out there.

Of course, it’s nothing too flashy and it does lack a few features a more professional reverb would have. It would be a good idea to have something more visual in the GUI. But nonetheless, it’s far from something you’d want to look over.

First, from reading through all the features, it’s pretty clear that this is one very versatile reverb plugin.

You don’t often see even some of the most expensive ones with so many detailed parameter controls. Sure, some may prefer to have a simpler plugin that does a quicker job, but having such control over every parameter is something music makers from all sides prefer.

The addition of input signal dry level, blend control, as well as the overall reverb level really makes it special. Just with these few controls, you’re able to do a lot.

Not to mention the early reflection section, which creates such a realistic representation of any type of room that you need.

Well, okay, it may not be that realistic as compared to some expensive and really advanced plugins, but we’re still baffled how great and versatile it is for a free plugin.

But as if this wasn’t enough, it’s also great to see the EQ options for both the dry and processed signal. This offers a great opportunity to shape all the aspects in detail.

Conclusion

The fact that it’s completely free of charge makes it a great choice for beginners or just home recording enthusiasts.

Although this is the first thing that comes to mind, we assure you that the plugin is way more potent than just that. While it’s nothing flashy or luxurious, it still brings quite a great performance, even for some semi-professional and professional users.

And like we said, it’s surprising that such a versatile plugin is available for free.

Of course, some beginners might find it a little bit too confusing, as they might not be familiar with what every parameter control actually does.

But if you’re experienced and are operating on a budget, then there’s not a single reason in the world why you shouldn’t give OrilRiver reverb at least a try.

We’re pretty much certain you’ll like it.

Best Free EQ Plugins

With such an abundance of effects, VST plugins, and all the other stuff, things might kind of get a bit chaotic.

At one point, we tend to forget about some of the most basic stuff that’s essential to making our recordings sound better. And this same thing happens no matter the instrument that you play, or whether you’re a vocalist or a mixing engineer.

We get so obsessed with effects that we might forget about the fact that a simple EQ can help us completely improve the recorded audio, to the point where it sounds completely different, or just fits the context of the song or the song section better.

The problem with some plugins these days, in general, is the fact that they might be expensive for some. If you’re a home-recording enthusiast just looking for a simple way to do some EQing, then you just might want to avoid paying ridiculous amounts just so you could have some basic stuff.

But worry not, as we’ve done some digging and found a few interesting EQ plugins that are completely free of charge.

You should be familiar with how the EQing process works in order to use them, but that shouldn’t be much of an issue as all these are pretty straightforward. So let’s get into it.

Melda Productions MEqualizer

Melda are pretty well-known for their abundance of useful plugins. So here, we’re including their cleverly named MEqualizer.

And it’s a pretty straightforward one, that can handle any type of simple processing or coloration you need to apply to your recordings.

There are 6 frequency ranges that you can edit, as well as 7 different filter types. The plugin also includes tube saturation and a few other useful additions.

But in order to get it, you’ll need to download their entire MXFree bundle, which includes a few other great plugins, all of which are free of cost.

Cockos ReaEQ

ReaEQ became known as one of those very useful plugins that come free of charge with the famous Reaper DAW.

Nonetheless, you can also download it for free as a ReaPlugs package. Knowing how well Cockos made Reaper, there’s no doubt this is another one of their great products.

But what really makes it stand out is the fact that you can technically have an unlimited amount of bands to tweak. It’s the classic parametric type EQ where you can determine the frequency, its level, and the bandwidth.

To put it simply, it’s one of the best and most intuitive EQ plugins out there, and it’s pretty weird that it’s available for free.

Vladg-sound Nova-67P


Here we have a parallel parametric EQ on our hands. There are five bands that you can edit, as well as optional low-pass and high-pass filtering.

Now, what makes it stand out is the addition of a compressor within the same plugin. Yes, it may look a bit weird with its interface, but it’s actually a very potent EQ.

We wouldn’t recommend this one to beginners though. But if you’re more experienced, you’d be surprised by what this plugin is capable of doing.

This is yet another one where we need to admit that it’s pretty weird to know that the plugin is completely free.

Blue Cat Triple EQ

Blue Cat’s Triple EQ is, as its name suggests, a simple 3-band parametric equalizer plugin. You can completely customize the curve’s shape and even do some basic frequency filtering with it.

It works with low shelf and high shelf filters. We also have a very wide range of gain here, with 40 dB of both boost and cut.

It also comes with its own “Smooth Update” mechanism which helps you control the equalizer curve in real time. To be fair, it’s not a very versatile one, at least compared to some other EQ plugins here.

Nonetheless, it’s a great option for those who need to do some filtering and tweaking for free.

Voxengo Marvel GEQ

But not to make this whole guide just about parametric EQs, there are some great classic linear ones that are worth checking out. After all, these might be easier to use for some. For instance, Voxengo’s Marvel GEQ is a pretty great and simple-to-use plugin.

In it, we can find 16 different bands for tweaking. The exciting part comes with the fact that it comes with multi-channel support, covering up to 8 inputs and outputs.

Overall, Marvel GEQ is one of the easiest ways to do additional EQ tweaking in combination with parametric equalizers.

Sonimus SonEQ

Knowing that Sonimus has a lot of great stuff in their line of products. One of the examples is their SonEQ equalizer plugin. Just like with some of their other stuff, the plugin adds somewhat of a vintage vibe to the processed signal.

It’s a pretty simple one, rocking only three basic bands to tweak. However, it also comes with the pre-amp section that can add some of that classic analog mixing console feel to it.

We can also find low and high-pass filters on it, as well as a bass booster. It’s able to achieve great clarity with the detailed resolution of 64 bits and 192 kHz sample rate. It’s a good addition for anyone who’s into vintage stuff.

Leftover Lasagne Pushtec 5+1A EQ

While the brand name is a little weird (to say the least), Leftover Lasagne has one great equalizer plugin to offer, the Pushtec 5+1A EQ. Now, this is something for those who are looking for more exciting plugins.

It’s unlike any of your standard EQs and it might be a little confusing to some beginners. But after getting a hang of it, you’ll be able to do some serious tweaking.

It sort of works like a parametric EQ, although you don’t get the intuitive graphic interface experience with it. Nonetheless, it’s a great equalizer plugin.