Plugin Picks: The 7 Best Free Plugins of 2020

Digital tools came into our lives like never before in 2020.

If you spent the year on video calls or collaborating remotely, it might have seemed like we got one step closer to science fiction.

But technology still came through to benefit musicians in 2020—with some the best music production tools ever released for free.

Here are the free plugins we loved most this year.

Some of the most usable plugins focus on simplicity and great results.

1. Slate Digital Fresh Air

Some of the most usable plugins focus on simplicity and great results.

That’s the approach behind Fresh Air, Slate Digital’s new top end sweetener tool.

Based on vintage style exciter circuits and updated with modern precision, Fresh Air makes it easier than ever to achieve the airy highs of a polished pro production.

Fresh air can brighten up individual tracks, busses or entire mixes with just the right amount of brilliance and sparkle.

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With only two simple parameters Fresh Air opens up the clarity and presence your sounds need to stand out in a mix.

If you’re looking for a way to lift the blanket off sources that need soaring top end to work, Fresh Air is worth a try.

2. TDR Molotok

tdr molotiok

There’s nothing quite like the smooth warmth and saturation of quality analog gear. But you don’t have to invest in a massive rack of outboard equipment to experience analog sound.

Modern plugins have made big strides when it comes to capturing these highly sought after tones in your DAW

There are plenty of usable options for analog sound in 2020, but TDR Molotok is something special.

For Molotok, TDR took the DNA of the notoriously difficult to use VladG Molot compressor and turned it into a stylish, intuitive experience that sounds incredible.

You don’t have to invest in a massive rack of outboard equipment to experience analog sound.

The original Molot was renowned for its ability to convincingly replicate a whole spectrum of compressor sounds from the vacuum tube era.

Molotok gives you the same sonic signature in a highly convenient free package.

3. Caelum Audio Tape Cassette 2

caelum audio tape cassette 2

Lo-fi music took over the world in 2020.

The key to the vintage sound that makes it so satisfying is lo-fi plugins.

I’m talking about tools that emulate the hiss, crackle, noise and wow and flutter of old school recording gear.

Cassettes have been associated with lo-fi DIY recording since the beginning. But capturing the heart and soul of their nostalgic sound isn’t always in your DAW.


That’s why Caelum Audio Tape Cassette 2 is one of the best free tools for achieving the mood and texture needed for lo-fi.

With detailed controls for sculpting the exact flavor of lo-fi you need, Tape Cassette 2 brings the best of the cassette era to your plugin folder.

4. Spitfire Audio LABS

spitfire audio labs

Spitfire LABS is the gift that keeps on giving.

Filters are some of the most fundamental tools in sound design.

The simple and powerful sampled instrument platform has become one of the top free resources for producers.

With new expansions being launched all the time, LABS hosts some of the most creative sound design ever seen in a free tool.

The sounds range from cinematic to experimental, but they’re always playable and beautifully presented.

Fresh LABS releases like Arctic Swells, Guitar Harmonics and Textural Pads are just as inspiring as classic patches like Soft Piano.

LABS is a must have for your plugin folder in 2021.

5. ValhallaDSP Supermassive

valhalladsp supermassive

Epic reverbs, cavernous delays and impossibly large spaces—ValhallaDSP Supermassive does them all with style.

If you’re looking for a creative ambience processor to explore uncharted sonic territory, Supermassive is worth a look.

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This combo delay and reverb is the latest in visionary DSP engineer Sean Costello’s line of affordable boutique plugins.

It’s built from the ground up to create enormous ambient soundscapes using a variety of different techniques.

Each algorithm has its own unique textures and behaviours, with even more on the way in the future.

With names like Great Annihilator and Large Magellanic Cloud, every mode in Supermassive is a joy to explore.

6. Audiomodern FilterStep

Filters are some of the most fundamental tools in sound design.

But creative developers are still finding new ways to make them more inspiring and musical.

Audiomodern FilterStep is a unique sequenced rhythmic filter that can bring any sound to life.

By cycling through filter cut off values in a sequence, filter step can instantly bring a sense of action and development to static boring sounds.

If you’re looking to create thrilling momentary effects, animated textures or left-field sound design, FilterStep is worth downloading.

7. DiscoDSP OB-Xd

discodsp obx-d

For many synth fans, the Oberheim polysynths of the late 70s and 80s are the holy grail.


But buying and maintaining one of these original machines in 2020 is too costly for all but the most well-heeled musicians.

Even modern plugin versions of synths from this era can be hard on your wallet.

That’s why DiscoDSP’s completely free OB-Xd synth plugin is so appealing. Ob-Xd is a faithful recreation of the legendary OB-Xa polysynth.

The sounds of this synth are fat, powerful and suitable for any style of music.

For many synth fans, the Oberheim polysynths of the late 70s and 80s are the holy grail.

If you’re looking for an analog-style polysynth tone with plenty of character, OB-Xd should be high on your list.

Free music production gear

Every producer needs quality tools to shape their sounds and build their mix.

But you don’t have to pay a fortune to get plugins that will inspire you.

As you look forward to a better year in music in 2021, these top picks will help you stay creative and keep going.

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