Best free plugins and freeware of the month: January 2024

January’s round-up of freeware goodies includes a vintage synth module, a characterful delay, and a modelled spring reverb.

Producer working in music studio, photo by wundervisuals via Getty Images

Producer working in music studio. Image: wundervisuals via Getty Images

January is always a treat for freeware hunters, thanks to developers often giving away their software as holiday gifts. We’ve rounded up some of the best new plugins and instruments for you to check out, including a vintage synth, a feature-packed delay, a characterful spring reverb, a vibrato panning effect and a pumping parallel compressor.

Cherry Audio – Synthesizer Expander Module

  • macOS& Windows
  • 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX

Let’s kick things off with Cherry Audio’s Synthesizer Expander Module, a free emulation of the Oberheim Synthesizer Expander Module. The original SEM was a keyboardless mono module released back in 1974. It features two oscillators and a delicious 12 dB/oct state-variable filter, plus two envelopes and an LFO for sound shaping.

To take things further, there’s a Unison mode, a unique Phasor effect based on the vintage Oberheim stomp box, and a high-quality echo effect. You also get 100 presets, and a user-adjustable oversampling control so that you can really crank up the quality.

Download at https://cherryaudio.com/products/synthesizer-expander-module

PSPaudioware – PSP stepDelay

  • macOS& Windows
  • 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX

If you’re after a highly flexible delay, then PSPaudioware has got you covered.

You can use PSP stepDelay to craft a large array of effects including lush analogue tape echoes, shimmering chorus and flange sounds, bouncing ping pong and panning effects, simple doubling, and even crazy, modulated special effects. It includes tape saturation and head cueing emulation to help give a warm, crunchy sound, plus built-in filters, LFOs and more to help shape the output.

There’s also an especially helpful Feed button that toggles the signal going into the effect on and off, which can be used for easy spot delay effects.

Download at https://www.pspaudioware.com/products/psp-stepdelay

Klanghelm – TENS Jr

  • macOS& Windows
  • 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX

We tend to see a lot of fancy algorithmic, convolution and plate reverbs, but there seem to be fewer spring-based plugins. Thankfully, Klanghelm is here to help, with TENS Jr, which is a cut-down version of the full TENS spring reverb collection.

TENS Jr is based on the AKG BX5 rackmount spring unit, and offers a very high reverb density, fast build-up and low boing artefacts. This gives it a unique sound compared to the familiar, classic spring reverbs found in most guitar amps and organs. There’s a Character slider that can drastically change the sound, and the decay time ranges from 0.5 to 20 seconds.

If you want to upgrade to get more models, then the full version is available at the bargain price of €24.

Download at https://klanghelm.com/contents/products/TENSjr

Rhodes – Rhodes V-Pan

  • macOS& Windows
  • 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX

You’ll have to be quick to get this one – it’s only available until the end of January.

A couple of months ago, Rhodes released a multi-effects plugin called Rhodes V-Rack, which emulates the sounds of the analogue preamp and FX circuit of the Rhodes MK8 keyboard. V-Pan puts the Vari-Pan module into a single plugin, allowing you to recreate the company’s iconic vibrato panning effect. It has a central dial to sweep between super slow pulsing all the way up to audio rates, and you can morph between waveforms, and then further tweak with Slew and Smooth controls.

Download at https://rhodesmusic.com/rhodes-v-pan-plugin/

BABY Audio – Beat Slammer

  • macOS& Windows
  • 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX

BABY Audio has a habit of releasing small but perfectly formed freebies around Christmas time, and this year it didn’t disappoint.

Beat Slammer is based on the company’s IHNY-2 plugin and works as an aggressive parallel compressor, but minus the extra tweakability. The simple controls include an XY pad for controlling the compression and dry/wet mix amount, plus Make Up gain and Output sliders. There’s also clear visual feedback with circles in the centre that show gain reduction, allowing you to fine-tune adding punch and pumping compression to individual beats, or the mix bus.

Download at https://babyaud.io/freebies

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