High-quality audio equipment can really hollow out your pockets. It makes sense, then, that musicians, engineers, and producers of all skill levels constantly seek ways to save a buck here or there. Fortunately, many modern DAWs feature hundreds of built-in plugins and sounds that can be used to your heart’s content at no extra charge. Still, while most of these tools function well and exhibit versatility, you might find yourself wanting more. The good news is that there is no shortage of unique, well-designed, Mac-free plugins available for download this very instant.
The only downside to this renaissance of digital audio software is that there’s simply too much to comb through all by yourself. The number of brilliant coders and designers grows every day, and along with it vast swaths of new Mac free plugins and other hardware. But don’t get too overwhelmed. We’re here to make it easy for you by laying out 25 of the best Mac-free plugins out there right now. We can’t name them all, of course, but this list has something for everyone, so take a good look!
EQ Mac free plugins
Getting those frequencies just right presents one of the greatest challenges for any producer. Whether you’re mixing or mastering, EQ plays a major role. These Mac-free plugins make mixing with EQ a bit easier.
HOFA 4U + DynamicTiltEQ
You won’t find another free tilt EQ plugin out there right now. This works out because the DynamicTiltEQ does the job well. This sleek equalizer makes the process enjoyable. A single control allows you to visually EQ in real-time by placing a single point and rotating a straight line on its axis to filter out certain frequencies. The line can also be curved tangentially on either side of the point, allowing for more nuanced EQ control. As the name suggests, this tool also features dynamic EQ, meaning it can add compressed high or low frequencies. Overall, this tool makes EQing easy to grasp and fun to perform.
Code Red by Shattered Glass Audio
For a great, free 60s EQ emulation, check out Code Red. This EQ mimics the classic Abbey Road Studios REDD console used by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and countless other legends. Unlike the original version, Code Red also adds control for the middle frequencies. This plugin sounds great, looks cool, and works wonders.
TDR VOS SlickEQ
Unsurprisingly, the SlickEQ by Tokyo Dawn Records is indeed pretty slick and great for both mixing and mastering. This free EQ plugin provides smooth transitions with minimal phase interference. It even allows for five output stages: Linear, Silky, Mellow, Deep, or Toasted. These settings slightly change the harmonic and dynamic responses. You’ll also find four different EQ models: American, British, German, and Soviet. For a free EQ, this one boasts several features.
Voxengo Marvel GEQ
Marvel Graphic Equalizer by Voxengo is particularly useful for linear phase EQ. This tool supports all sample rates, allows for freehand drawing, and compensates for latency. This one is worth a download for its level of control and ease of use.
Anyone who’s serious about mixing knows the importance of proper compression. This tool helps regulate dynamic range and maintain consistency between mix elements. Some brilliant designers have been gracious enough to share their digital compressors online at no charge. Take a look at these Compressor Mac free plugins.
Here’s a compressor with an elegant, intuitive interface and the ability to remarkably alter the dynamic range of a song. As an added perk, the TDR Kotelnikov doesn’t aim to emulate any pre-existing compression hardware. Rather, it’s been built from the ground up as an original entity. With plenty of control, this free compressor competes with hardware compressors on the market.
MJUCjr by Klanghelm
Airing more on the simple side, the MJUCjr only features two knobs (compress and make-up) and a three-tiered switch at the bottom (slow, fast, and auto). Simplicity aside, this compressor works well, and its central display accurately represents an analog compressor’s output meter.
Xfer Records OTT
This multi-band compressor has a unique layout and is optimized for electronic genres. The first knob on the plugin, “depth” controls how deep you want the compression effect to go. The “time” knob controls attack/release time. Standard input and output gain options are here as well. Xfer Records OTT also includes upward and downward ratio knobs at the bottom, controlling the directionality of the compression.
GMulti by GVST
Another multi-band compressor, the GMulti offers three separate bands. Each band has its own knobs for threshold, ratio, attack, and release, as well as gain reduction. There is also an overall mix knob that controls the combined wet and dry signals. This tool allows you to maintain the dynamics of the original dry signal while reaping the benefits of compression, sort of like with parallel compression. One caveat here for Mac users: the Mac version of this plugin is still in beta.
Reverb is that subtle effect that can make a song feel much bigger than before. While Logic Pro X features reverb controls, it never hurts to explore other options for added versatility and different types of reverb. Here are some Mac free plugins for all your reverb needs.
Ambience by Magnus
You can’t ask for much more than a fully-featured reverb plugin that costs nothing to download. Ambience holds its own against some of the best paid-for reverb plugins, all while showing off an elegant display. Unfortunately, this presentation gets lost with Mac hardware, but all of the functionality of Ambience remains. This functionality includes gating, decay (with a “hold” feature), shape, EQ, and damping. The wetness or dryness of the signal can also be tweaked in small increments. If you’re looking for a great free reverb plug-in, this fits the bill.
TAL Reverb II
This simple reverb plugin doesn’t overwhelm the senses with too many knobs, numbers, or jargon. The TAL Reverb II still gives you plenty to work with, however. Six EQ knobs line the left of the interface. In the center lie three more knobs, one for room size, pre-delay, and stereo width. Then on the very right, you’ll find the wet and dry signal faders.
Acon Digital Reverb Solo
If the TAL Reverb II is simple, then the Acon Digital Reverb Solo is downright minimalist. With just one knob and one slider, the Reverb Solo makes adding space to your track fiendishly easy. The central knob controls how small and bright or large and dark the sound will be, while the slider at the bottom dictates how dry or wet the signal is. No numbers, no specific frequencies–this plugin is all about ease of use and feel. If you rely less on technical details and more on the way a track sounds, this ones for you.
As its name suggests, this free reverb plugin from Voxengo offers a more classic reverb sound. Oldskoolverb features several parameters, making it as versatile as other high-end reverbs. This reverb is optimized for gentle attack, meaning it works best with vocals, piano, etc. For a classic reverb sound with the ability to achieve plate, room, and hall reverbs, you can’t do much better than this.
Voxengo Sound Delay
Voxengo not only makes a great reverb, but their delay also leaves an impression, too. The free Sound Delay plugin allows for precision control (to the millisecond), sample delay, A/B comparison, mid/side channel processing, stereo and multi-channel processing, preset control, a maximum of three seconds of delay, and more. Due to its precision control, it’s fairly easy to achieve a chorus effect with the proper parameter setup as well.
On the surface, this delay doesn’t look as versatile as the Sound Delay, but it does offer some unique qualities that make it worthwhile. In particular, the Valhalla FreqEcho can do wonders with its feedback knob. When cranked, the knob allows audio to feedback into itself, creating an infinite, ever-building signal. This signal can be manipulated in real-time, resulting in some trance-like, perhaps nightmarish loops. The plugin also features delay sync, meaning the signal will repeat at different note lengths. There’s a lot to discover and mess with here.
Admittedly, the KR-Delay FS might not be the flashiest plugin of the bunch, but that doesn’t negate its functionality. In addition to standard delay time and feedback controls, this tool is complete with panning, EQ, resonance, low- and high-pass filters, dry/wet signal control, and output gain. The simple visual display makes it easy to see how these parameters play out in real-time. The KR-Delay is surprisingly useful and versatile. Plus, it’s free.
Voxengo Latency Delay
Sometimes you don’t want a delay. In fact, when recording, delay (latency) can be a great adversary. Latency is often caused by a lack of processing power. When too many plugins are running at once, latency enters the equation, making recording difficult at times. Voxengo has another trick up its sleeve with this Latency Delay plugin. Without getting too technical, it allows you to trick the DAW into compensating for its own latency, by either milliseconds or samples. In other words, it artificially eliminates any potential lag while recording. This comes in handy for most producers.
Guitar Effects/Amp modelers
Most guitarists love their effects pedals and various tones. While it’s fun to collect physical pedals and heads, tinker with their functions, and build the perfect board, stompboxes and amps can get pricey. Logic Pro X already comes packed with different amp simulations and effects, but if you’re looking for some free alternatives, check out these guitar effects and amp modeler plugins.
Guitar Rig 5 Player by Native Instruments
The Guitar Rig 5 Player might be a free bite-sized version of its bigger brother, Guitar Rig 5 Pro, but that doesn’t mean it lacks in features or functionality. This free amp modeler offers 17 different cabinets to play with, along with 13 effects. If you want to plug and play, the plugin also comes equipped with 50 effects presets. For a free version, the Guitar Rig 5 Player has a lot to offer.
FuzzPlus 3 AAX by AUDIODAMAGE
The FuzzPlus 3 is a nifty little digital fuzz pedal with tons of control options. Its interface allows you to tweak frequency, response time, distortion, feedback, and level. Additionally, the screen shows you the waveform output in real-time, so you can clearly see the level of distortion. This is an impressive free plugin that can hold its own compared to physical fuzz and distortion pedals on the market.
Few software developers are more skilled or generous than Poulin Amplification. The LePou Plugins are a series of amp simulators that run the gamut of rock and metal tones. You’ll find simulations of Marshall, Mesa, Orange, EVH, and much more. Every single one is free, though you can donate if you want to return the love. You might be compelled to after seeing how much Poulin has to offer.
While a limiter is a type of compressor, compression and limiting are not to be conflated. Limiters are defined by their high ratio and attack time. In other words, limiters completely block a signal from exceeding a certain threshold. They’re more akin to walls while compressors are more like sponges. Limiting can be a useful tool for mastering and when dealing with extremely hot signals that risk clipping or distorting. There are quite a few Mac-free plugins out there for limiting purposes. Take a look.
Limiter No6 by Vladislav Goncharov
This might be the most popular free limiter plugin out there, and for good reason. The No6 by Vladislav Goncharov can compete with any paid-for limiter on the market. With both brick wall and soft limiting options, an analog-looking display, mid/side, and multi-band modes, and five modules, this free limiter has it all. The interface might overwhelm those new to limiting, but fortunately, a free manual is available too.
Thomas Mundt’s LoudMax
For a simpler interface, check out LoudMax by Thomas Mundt. This limiter is mainly for mastering, though it serves standard limiting purposes for mixing as well. The plugin only features two faders, one for threshold and the other for output level. There isn’t much to this one, but that’s part of its charm. For some quick and easy limiting, this fits the bill.
ClipShifter by LVC Audio
The LVC ClipShifter plugin doesn’t only look cool, it functions in a unique way, too. This limiter sort of works backward. In other words, its goal is to distort the audio rather than prevent distortion. In some ways the ClipShifter is effectively a distortion plugin, but with more versatility. The plugin can produce both clipping distortion as well as transparent compression. The paid version of this plugin offers even more features, but the free version already boasts quite a bit. For a different kind of limiting and distortion, ClipShifter has you covered.
There is more than one way to widen your mix across the stereo field. That said, plugins can come in handy in this process. Whether you want to make a mono track stereo, vice versa, or just control the overall spaciousness of your track, check out these stereo effects and control Mac-free plugins.
Voxengo Stereo Touch
Voxengo makes the list yet again with another great free plugin. Their stereo touch plugin allows you to artificially create spacious stereo-sounding tracks with ease. On the technical end, this plugin utilizes a mid/side coding technique. The plugin also features built-in high-pass and low-pass filters, A/B comparison, two delay lines, and supports all sample rates.
STC-3 by RAZ Audio
The Spatial Expander STC-3 by RAZ Audio simplifies things a bit further. This stereo expander takes an existing stereophonic track and can widen it even further. The bold visual display makes it easy to see how wide and at what angles the left and right sides are going. The STC-3 can even turn a stereo track into a mon track if desired. This free plugin is yet another useful tool in your mixing arsenal.
A1StereoControl by A1 Audio
Like the STC-3, the A1StereoControl plugin offers a central visual display that makes tinkering with a track’s panning simple and fun. Additionally, it features a large knob for the amount of stereo width, as well as a smaller knob above indicating pan control. A unique feature, the safe bass button, allows for full stereo modification without affecting the low end. In other words, this plugin will keep the bass tones in the center of the mix while widening the field for the rest of the track. For a free plugin, this stereo controller offers great versatility and functionality.
And there you have it! These are 25 of the best Mac free plugins, and we haven’t even mentioned all the free instrument plugins for Mac yet. Still, this list should keep you Mac users busy for a while. Remember that most of these are also compatible with PC. Let us know of any other Mac-free plugins or other devices worth our while. Happy downloading! And don’t be afraid to throw a donation or two at those hardworking developers who make this all possible.
About the Author
Ethan Keeley is a musician, voiceover talent, and writer from Rochester, New York. When he's not on tour with his band Unwill he's working on new songs and stories.
Leave a comment
Log in to comment