Mixing vocals is an essential part of music production, but it requires quality plugins that can be expensive. However, if you’re working on a tight budget, there are plenty of free vocal plugins available from generous developers. Using the right combination of plugins is crucial for achieving a polished sound. This guide will walk you through each type of plugin needed for vocal processing, explain their importance, and recommend the best free options to download. With this essential guide to free VST plugins, you can achieve perfect vocals without breaking the bank.
1. Vocal Tuning Plugins
Vocal pitch correction has become an essential aspect of modern vocal production. Before you start mixing, you may need to use this plugin type to refine your vocals and achieve the desired sound.
Whether you want subtle performance enhancement or dramatic T-Pain effects, it’s worth having a good vocal tuner in your plugin collection. Here are some free options to consider:
- Auburn Sounds Graillon: A live vocal changer that can transform vocal timbre and create robotic hard tuning sounds. The free tier provides access to a stripped-down version of the paid plugin with pitch shifting and pitch correction.
- Melda MAutoPitch: Another automated pitch correction option with a simple interface. This one is capable of more subtle effects as well as classic hard tuning.
- Voloco: Perhaps the simplest vocal tuning plugin out there. Select the key, scale, and tuning type, and adjust the intensity with the correction amount.
2. Vocal EQ Plugin
In music production, an equalizer plugin is an essential tool for balancing the vocal in a mix. It can be used to refine the frequency balance and eliminate issues for a more polished sound. However, using more than one EQ is often necessary for professional-level vocal processing.
Here are a few free options that serve different purposes:
- TDR Nova: A precise digital EQ that can be used for surgical frequency sculpting and troubleshooting. It is typically used at the beginning of the vocal effects chain to address any frequency issues before proceeding with other mixing tasks. TDR Nova is perfect for cutting excessive low-end, softening clicks and artifacts, and reducing resonances.
- Ignite Amps PTeq-X: On the other hand, Ignite Amps PTeq-X is an analog-style EQ based on the iconic Pultec EQP-1A hardware. It is renowned for its musical curves, which many engineers use to add sparkle, character, or midrange cut to vocals.
- Analog Obsession Britchannel: The legendary EQ found in Neve mixing consoles is another classic processor that many pro engineers use on vocals. Analog Obsession Britchannel is a plugin that brings a 1073-style channel to your DAW and includes preamp gain modeling for extra sweetness and character.
3. Vocal Saturation Plugins
To make your vocals stand out in a mix, you might want to try adding some subtle harmonic distortion with saturation plugins. These plugins can add warmth and character to your vocals, making them more exciting and dynamic. Here are some of the best free saturation plugins to consider:
- Klanghelm IVGI: Klanghelm offers a free version of their SDRR multi-saturator called IVGI. This plugin adds a pleasing layer of harmonic distortion that can make a dull vocal more prominent in the mix.
- Softube Saturation Knob: For a simple and effective option, check out Softube Saturation Knob. This plugin has a single parameter that adds smooth saturation and punch to your vocals.
4. Vocal Compressors Plugins
Vocal compression is an essential part of mixing vocals, helping to control dynamics and ensure the vocal sits well in the mix even during quieter moments. Compression is a broad topic, so if you’re new to it, check out our detailed guide. While every compressor plugin has its own unique sound, here are some free favorites to get you started:
- FETish by Analog Obsession: If you’re after the classic sound of the 1176 FET compressor, Analog Obsession FETish is a great plugin option to consider. This fast and punchy compressor is perfect for taming aggressive transients in a dynamic vocal performance.
- LA-LA by Analog Obsession: For a smooth vintage sound, the LA-2A optical compressor is a popular choice for vocals. Its gradual attack time and gentle release create a buttery and pleasing effect that compliments a great vocal. Analog Obsession’s LA-LA plugin is a compelling free take on this classic compressor. Analog Obsession offers many excellent free plugins, including those listed above. If you end up downloading them all, consider supporting the developer.
Whether you’re after gentle and transparent compression or something more aggressive and colorful, these free VST plugins are an excellent place to start.