Since the switch to 64-bit, I’ve had my plugin library halved and had to re-evaluate what I can and can’t use on a daily basis when producing. Many plugins I have relied on, such as Bram.Smartelectronix.Com’s s(M)exoscope, iZotope Vinyl [EDIT iZotope have rereleased Vinyl as a 64-bit plugin!] and Tone2’s BiFilter2, have sadly not made the switch from 32-bit.

Lots of the paid-for plugins have switched to 64-bit but it’s free ones that I want to focus on. I’ve put together a list of the free plugins that I rely on daily, and are useable with a 64-bit DAWs such as Logic X or Ableton Live 9. Anyway, here are my top six:

01. Voxengo SPAN

Absolute staple for me, can’t live without it. Voxengo make numerous free plugins but their resident spectral analyser, SPAN, is by far their most useful.

Spectral Analysis is an incredibly useful tool in both sound design, mixing and mastering. Available as an Audio Unit and VST, it’s a non-mover from my master channel strip.

Download it here:

http://www.voxengo.com/product/span

02. Audio Damage Rough Rider

Perhaps more known for their Eurorack modules now, Audio Damage started life as plugin developers. Their Rough Rider is a hugely dirty compressor, great for one particular type of sound.

This isn’t really for the faint-hearted as it only really deals in brutal and bypassed. Have a look at this guide to parallel compression in Live that exploits the heavier side of this plugin.

Download it here:

http://www.audiodamage.com/downloads/product.php?pid=ADF002

03. Native Instruments free content

Native Instruments produce some of the most forward-thinking synthesisers around right now. I’ve been using Reaktor for years and the Komplete library is probably one of the most widely used bundles about.

However, the nice people at NI give away lots of free, ready-to-use stuff including stripped down versions of Reaktor, Komplete, Guitar Rig and Kontakt. Though these patches aren’t as flexible as their full-release counterparts, they’re more than enough to get going.

Download them here:

http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/free/

04. Tokyo Dawn Labs

Relative new-comers to the plugin scene, future-funk stalwarts Tokyo Dawn Records have set up a development arm of the label. Their plugins come in at around £30, however they offer free version of their EQ, Compressor and dynamics processor.

Download them here:

http://www.tokyodawn.net/tokyo-dawn-labs/

05. Max4Live

Okay, this might seem like a bit of a cheat because it is, in fact, not entirely free. To obtain M4L functionality you have to have purchased Ableton Suite (not Standard or Intro); however, once you’ve installed it, there’s a plethora of user-designed and library plugins you can download and customise to your own ends. Have a read about the looking glass that is Max4Live here.

Download here:

http://maxforlive.com/library

06. Ohm Force Frohmage

A really quirky hybrid effect that’s hard to pin down what it does exactly. Not helped by the bemusing interface, it falls somewhere between a warm, hazy distortion and a filter of sorts.

Download it here:

https://www.ohmforce.com/ViewProduct.do?p=Frohmage

Notable Omissions

Togu Audio Line series

TAL’s line of free synthesisers and effects is pretty extensive: they have most of the things you need to get going with a modest home studio, from synths to effects units. Some of their instruments model classic synths like Roland’s SH-101 and Juno 106, both of which I am a huge fan of. In addition their tube distortion and bit/sample reduction tools are a must for everyone, too.

Sadly TAL’s free content is unsupported and 32-bit only. However their commercial products look very appealing so certainly worth checking out.

Download them here:

http://kunz.corrupt.ch/Products

Sound Magic Piano One

Probably my favourite upright piano sound out there. For me, it perfectly encapsulates that ‘primary school piano’ sound: brash but cuts through the mix really nicely. Not many controls, but that just adds to it’s brilliance.

It would have made it into the top six but the downloads have been temporarily switched off while they try and find somewhere new to host it. Once it’s back it’s definitely worth getting.

Download it here:

http://www.supremepiano.com/product/piano1.html

RIP Camel Audio Camel Crusher

This distortion plugin is sadly no longer supported by Camel Audio (who have rumoured to have been bought out by Apple). Billed as the little brother of Camel Phat, it was a great tube and digital distortion with a built in low-pass filter and compressor. The dry/wet mix is always handy, too.

Klanghelm IVGI

More of an afterthought really, this handy device is a nice free alternative to PSP’s Vintage Warmer, albeit with slightly less functionality. I did really like the built in EQ (or response as it calls it) which is great for either adding or removing a little slice of top-end. At higher values I found the Drive unusable, though.

Download it here:

http://klanghelm.com/IVGI.php

32-bit Wrappers

For those of you mourning the loss of your 32-bit buddies there are wrappers available. By far the most popular is 32 Lives (~£67) or a significantly cheaper option at about £6 is jBridge (however I think this only wraps VSTs, so do some reading around it before paying the price). These will take your 32-bit plugins and make them compatible with your 64-bit DAW.

This guide is just for free 64-bit Audio Units, as they can be used in both Logic X and Ableton Live, but cloud music creation platform Splice offer a great list of free plugins of all varieties. Check it out here.