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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Oct-16 > TOP 50 FREEWARE 2016


It’s time for our annual MusicTech freeware roundup! We’ve gathered the best free software titles in a variety of music-production categories and presented them here – with as many as we could get on this month’s MTDVD. Want to make music for nothing? Look no further…

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Last year, we predicted that this would become an annual event here at MusicTech, and we were right! So successful was 2015’s Freeware 50 that we’ve decided to do it again for 2016 – that is, list the best 50 freeware plug-ins in the world, right now!

The freeware scene has been around since the birth of software. It highlights either free versions of paid-for apps (these might act as an advert for a more fully featured version), or complete fully functioning software from a small company which programs for fun. There are a huge number of developers – from big names like Native Instruments right down to one-person companies. We admit that we have some favourites, but this year we’ve kept a tight rein on things, with firm rules for our list of the best free software out there. These are:

1. It’s an-all new list, apart from half a dozen that just had to be included again and, yes, Crystal is one of them.

2. We’ve included both real and synth instruments; effects (creative, mixing and mastering); plus other studio production options, including utilities.

3. We’ve also chosen all (bar one!) titles that are available on Mac or PC.

So, sit back and enjoy MusicTech’s freeware of 2016… and don’t spend a penny on any of it.


We kick off with freeware synths and a whole host of newbies, plus a comeback king and a couple that will never go away…


Wavetable synth

We included TAL’s Elek7ro last year and its BassLine is a firm SH-101 freeware favourite. Add the fact that this is but one of three TAL inclusions this year, and you could conclude that we like the company a lot. NoiseM4k3r (as it‘s stylised) is a new and improved version of Elek7ro and includes a couple of oscillators plus sub, LFOs, ADSR and four oversampled filters. The effects really give it a nice pro edge with reverb, delay and bitcrusher on offer among others. But 256 presets also explore the full sonic palette of a virtual analogue synth, with leads, pads, arps and basses aplenty. An essential freebie.

Platform: Mac, PC


Classic synth emulation

There’s no getting away from what OBXd is emulating: a classic Oberheim synth, as is everyone and his dog at the moment (including, thankfully, Tom Oberheim!). OB-Xd does it very well, and claims to take some of the features further than the original. There are a dozen banks of presets to explore including bass, drums, pads, leads, keys and brass and, in the main, it offers a great stab at all of them (even though we all know that brass emulations should really be made illegal in this day and age). The front panel is functional and large, with a Voice Variation section particularly handy. A very solid and useful synth.

Platform: Mac, PC


Complex waveshape synth

They say: ‘Sinnah the sinner, is it a sin to be free, or is it a sin to sound so lush?’ We’d say ‘no’ on both scores, but Sinnah certainly stands out in the freeware-synth world. It only has one oscillator, but delivers a wide sound with complex waveshapes, a noise element and a rather bold and fully featured Delay Matrix, which takes up almost half the space on the GUI. It results in some complex presets and some fairly mediocre ones on first listen. But there’s plenty to get these beefed up – and a fantastic, clean GUI to do this – and the bank of 50 free presets has got to be worth downloading, too.

Platform: Mac, PC


Comb-filter synth

Like Frohmage, this is another cheese-based freeware plug-in that’s been around for a while, but now deserves a bit of a comeback. We suppose you could say they have ‘matured well’ (sorry). Triple Cheese is a comb-filter based synth that first appeared a decade ago. Since then, it’s been updated, had presets added and should run in whatever DAW you have. We had it up and running in Logic (although needed to reinstall it) and were soon enjoying its rather more unusual presets. There are lots to get your teeth into across more than a dozen banks: lots of percussive and out-there types, plus some great delayed sounds. Superb.

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