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Free AU (mac) synths and effects

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I decided to go through my catalogue of freebies I've found. For users of GarageBand, Logic, and other AU-compatible DAWs. Synths, samplers, stuff.

Note that the AU format is Mac-only!

last update: Aug 19th 2010




subtractive synth

Capable 3xOSC. 9 modulation vector envelopes that can be routed to different oscillator and filter parameters. A lot of parameters to tweak if you're into sound design, but if you're not it might be a bit intimidating. It comes with a handful of presets, but you can just as use its randomizing feature until you find something you like and then tweak that to your needs.

personal comment: I really should learn this one. I was a fan of its predecessor buzzer2, and Automat is a lot more versatile and capable.




drum synth

A simple drum synth, with three different models of drums to customize, each with its own set of parameters and effects. Nice for pure synth percussion. Not much to say.

personal comment: Okay so with just three different drum sounds it's not the most useful, but that's not to say it's useless either. You just have to use multiple instances of it.


Big Tick:

Cheeze Machine

string machine

One saw oscillator fed through a filter, a phaser, an ensemble effect, and reverb. That's it. Supposed to be an old strings machine, it seems. Can make some nice retro pads.

personal notes: Bothers me that there's only one waveform to work with, and it's some king of saw. A choice of waveform, and some PWM modulation would be nice. I don't use this, I can make these kinds of sounds with the synths I'm more used to, and with more tweakability.

Ticky Clav

clavinet synth

Like Cheeze Machine, limited. CM was a retro strings machine, Ticky Clav is a clavinet synth with a funky sound. Good for jazz and funk.

personal notes: I don't do much funk. I'm not good at keyboards either, so this isn't for me. Fun sound tho.

note: the mac ports of the above are available on apulsoft, scroll down to find them.




monophonic subtractive synth

Simple monophonic synth with a really cool filter as it's main feature (and a really cool interface). You can get some phat basslines or leads out of it, that's it. Key-sensitive, so the limited number of paramteres to tweak is made up for at least a bit.

personal comments: I find myself distracted by the interface, it's... hypnotic. Anyway, just 6 parameters, monophonic only, and yet... funky. You have to sign up to get it tho.


Green Oak Software:


ensemble synth

I'd best describe Crystal as an ensemble synth, it has three oscillators but can load a variety of samples into those oscillators so it can do more than just your run-on-the-mill variations of sawtooth waves and square pwm. Each oscillator has its own filter and vector amp envelope. Finally, all oscillators meet up in a big mixer. Aside from a large collection of useful presets, Crystal also has a feature of blending those presets together.

personal comments: it reminds me of Omnisphere. Omnisphere takes a samples and runs them through its STEAM engine to produce something new. Kind'a what crystal does, too. Just with smaller samples and a free engine. Can be a bit buggy, so make sure to save backups often.




e-piano model

Not everyone needs a Wurlitzer, but if you do, here's one. Some tweakbility, all parameters controllable by midi cc.

personal comments: Sounds pretty sweet, even with my limited keyboard skills.




subtractive synth

High points for a clean interface, comes with a lot of interesting presets. 2 oscillators each with two waveforms and a large variety of different waveforms to chose from. Easy to use, easy to learn.

personal comment: I like recommending this to ppl new to synths. It's cross-platform which is always a plus, it's got a really neat and clean interface, and it's fast. It doesn't take a lot of work to make a cool new sound with it.

note: FreeAlpha is in the bottom right of the linked page. Click the download buttons, not the image.



Combo Model V

additive organ

An electric organ with a simple interface and (only) 4 octaves to play (C2-C6). Built-in vibrato, and individual tuning of keys. Not terribly complicated, not very advanced features.

personal notes: I'm no keyboardist by any means other than playing the occasional bassline, melody or series of 7th chords, but this is something I'm thinking keyboardists would enjoy. At least if they like jazz and/or church music... and stay within those 4 octaves. What's with that, anyway?


Native Instruments:

KORE Player

synth/sampler interface

So, KORE isn't so much a sampler or synth as it is a controller for one. Yeah, but it still works and makes pretty sounds. It's best feature is the navigation, it's easy to find the sounds you want, assuming you have them. KORE can be supplemented by a couple of free compilations of sounds from various NI products. Yeah, also free. It's varied, has good sounds, and despite that it only has 8 tweakable parameters per instrument, you do have a lot of control over those sounds.

personal comments: Pretty good for a freebie, but it's intended to be a gateway drug to other NI products. No matter, nice sounds are nice sounds, and even better when they're free.



Modelonia Player

physical modeling

A weird synth that combined plucked string and blown instrument models. Very limited controls, but some interesting sounds. Some of the presets could fit into an orchestra (just add reverb), some are more synthetic sounding but complex enough to not sound like your average 3osc with a filter or two.

personal notes: I want more parameters, and I hate the stiff sound and not being able to do anything about that. I want more tweakability. Also, you must sign up for their newsletter to get it. Annoying, I know, but it's worth it just to check it out.


Ohm Force:

Symptohm Melohman Performer Edition

syncgrain synth

Another weird synth. 2 SGOs, a sub osc, a noise gen, ring mod, 4 filters... Has good sounds, but it's main attraction would be its various morphing features, controlled by keyswitches. As such, this is probably a tool (or toy, it's a lot of fun) for musicians more than for composers, or for those who are a little of both.

personal notes: Apparently, you can also load your own samples into this and hear them disassembled and repurposed by the synth. I gotta learn this one. :D




wavetable synth

One filter, adsr volume envelope, and a bitcrusher. Oh and a fully customizable wavetable. Draw your own waveform, see how it sounds.

personal notes: Would be nice if this could be routed into a more advanced synth with pitch control, multiple oscillators, and stuff like that, but as-is, it's a toy. As a toy, it's fun. As a tool for simple, chippy music, it's useful.

note: Mac port on apulsoft again. Scroll down to get it.


TAL - Togu Audio Line:


monophonic subtractive synth

Monophonic bass synth. Built-in arpeggiator, portamento, and a set of nice presets. Its interface mimics a hardware keyboard synth, which on one hand can be useful if you don't have a keyboard.

personal notes: The keyboard is fine but the rest of the synth doesn't have to be dressed like hardware. It looks good, but it's design above function, and I don't like that. Aside from that this also does phat bass, it's the opposite of Orca.

TAL-Elek7ro, TAL-Elek7ro II

subtractive synth

Two oscillators, mixer, filter, 2 LFOs... It's actually a pretty simple synth since everything is clearly marked and grouped. Monophonic or polyphonic, lots of presets... And it's crossplatform.

personal notes: I'm combining the two into the same entry, because aside from some behind the scenes changes they're about the same. Also, seems like TAL likes this kind of hardware-lookalike interface. Also, the interface is simple and the synth is easy to use, so I can recommend this for beginners.

note: vII is an update with a sound distinct enough for TAL to consider it a separate version. Otherwise they're pretty much the same.


subtractive synth

Based on the Juno 60 synth, U-No-62 is... like an old synth. Three waveforms (plus noise), multiple filters... Not spectacular, but useful for more analog sounds.

personal notes: Yup, TAL likes that kind of interface. No keyboard this time tho.

TAL NoiseMaker Plugin

subtractive synth

This is basically TAL-Ekec7ro... but with a face replacement and remodeled insides. Capable of really cool sounds. Two oscillators+sub, ring mod, multiple filters, simple controls for velocity-sensitive filter and volume and stuff, built-in chorus, reverb, even a basic bitcrusher. One major drawback is severley hampered polyphony. Six notes max.

personal notes: These guys need to learn to name their products better. Anyway, limited polyphony means those sweet pad presets that otherwise sound great are gonna go unused. I like having a lot of notes in my chords. This just won't do. Great for leads and basses tho, this one.




comb synthesizer

3 oscillators and lost of tweakability for each, Various built-in effects. A great variety of mostly ugly presets. Mostly. I know what comb filter is, what's a comb synth, really?

personal notes: Looots of parameters. I should like this. I really should.


Yellow Tools:

Independence Free

sample player

Okay so the freebie doesn't have a thousand instruments, no strings section, no regular piano, but it does have a lot of nice instruments. It has synths, but synths are all over the place. What's cool about this is the percussion. Not because it has lots of it, but because it has a lot of each. It comes with a nice guitar and a bunch of other instruments.

personal notes: This was my introduction to keyswitches. A word of warning, the interface is pretty cluttered and ugly, so ignore that for now and just load some nice instrument to play with.




chip synth

Simple waveforms, adsr amp envelope, and a sweep feature. It's almost as simple as it gets. A bit of a cheat, as it's polyphonic, then again, Chip32 had a filter.

personal notes: meh. I'd take simple waveforms into PlayerPRO or something, screwing with them there. More freedom, more control. If you're lazy or in a hurry, or otherwise can't do it outside your DAW of choice, this might be for you.


I'm also working on a similar thing for other effects. We'll see how that turns out. It's a lot of effects, and I've only covered reverb, delay, and distortions so far. And i haven't been as eager to pick up everything, either.

Anyway, do you have a favorite AU freebie from somewhere, some thoughts about any of these, found a mistake I've made, disagree with me, other related thoughts?

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  • 4 months later...

I lost all of my freeware plugins (and everything else on it) when my hard drive recently died, so I went out and got the ones that I felt were worth it, and found a couple of new cool ones. Here are my suggested picks for other Mac users looking for good free effects.

Note that the AU format is Mac-only!

Effects are grouped and sorted by company/manufacturer/developer name as follows:

volume, stereo width

eqs, filters

reverbs, delays


diverse groups/multis

In other words, all of mda's products are packed together in the diverse groups/multis category, while Flux's products (a transient processor and a stereo tool) are in volume, stereo width. I could ahve just sorted by company name, but this should make it a little easier to find stuff. Maybe.



Aradaz Maximizer 5


Volume maximizer. Not a lot of parameters, but it does the job ok. Recommended, as long as you don't expect it to do the mixing for you.

personal notes: The character parameter does just about nothing. Still, useful plugin.



Stereo compressor

It's a compressor, and a pretty nice looking one at that. Some oddly labeled parameters, but for most part sensible. Only problem I encounter is the lack of parameter displays, so I have no idea whether their idea of medium attack is 10ms or 100ms.

personal notes: Turn the makeup knob down to +0 first (should be labeled output volume boost or something instead). +30dB is a lot, especially if you're dealing with audio levels near full amplitude.


Bitter Sweet II

Transient processor

Simple but capable tool for dealing with those pesky transients. You can reduce them... or you can boost them. A bunch of different options spread over a clean interface.

personal notes: I like Flux's products. Now if only I knew how I should process transients... note that you probably have to register with them to get the downloads. It's worth it if you don't have tools like these already.

Stereo Tool

Stereo processing

Nice looking tool for controlling the stereo width. Its automation controls clutter up the interface a bit, but they're grouped at the bottom of the interface, out of the way.

personal notes: I mostly just used the width knob, until I realized that Logic's own stereo widener might do that job for less processing power. I like it, and I like the scope. I just don't need it.

Slim Slow Slider

C3 Multi Band Compressor 1.2

Multiband compressor

Not only not the prettiest interface, it's also more confusing than Apple's own AU multiband compressor... which doesn't even have a custom interface. A handy little static graphic displays how it works, but that's all the help you get. Not worth getting into until you understand compressors and know how the frequency balance should look like. And then it's only 3 compressors rolled into one, how hard can it be?

personal notes: I stopped using multiband compressors when I realized that I could achieve better stuff without expecting some miracle tool todo the job for me. While a multiband compressor is great when you're still learning to mix (when your bass is just waaay too loud), and useful when you really know what you're doing, there's that time in between where you don't really need it. I should figure out how to use them properly. /rambling Apulsoft port, link here.

Thomas Mundt



Calling it a maximizer might be stretching it, it's a compressor. has a threshold slider and an output slider, and a dB display for both of them. While it does all right with smoothly boosting soft tracks without clipping, it's not really a maximizer. A soft limiter, maybe?

personal notes: I was looking for a maximizer the other day, and this one came up. It does all right on boosting individual track, but didn't do much on the output track. I guess it's more of a dynamics squasher, turningsoft parts loud and not really doing anything with the loud ones. Like a compressor, just very smooth. Certainly useful, especially if you suck/are lazy at evening out the dynamics of your mixes.


Crayon Filter

LP filter

A basic filter, with cutoff, resonance, and drive. Works well with automation. Nice looking interface, with numeric displays.

personal notes: It's been one of my favorite freebies for a while. I don't use it much anymore, I prefer working within synths and samplers themselves, or with an EQ. In lieu of a good EQ, this can do a decent filter sweep. Apulsoft port, link here.


niveau filter


Surprisingly big interface for two parameters (and two buttons). It does what it does well, which is to boost a specific frequency area and balance the output level so as be about as loud before the effect as after... just with a different frequency balance. Simple and elegant.

personal notes: More of single-purpose EQ than a filter imo. Useful if you know you mix with too loud lows and not enough highs/mids or so. You need to sign up to get the download link.




Nice looking EQ with an drive effect built in. The boost and attentuation knobs for the lows might be confusing to some. Three bands of EQ, plus HP and LP filters. Not one of those eqs with a graphic display of the exact processing throughout the frequency range, this is perhaps more ear-oriented. Which you should be, too.

personal notes: If you have to have an interface that looks like hardware, make something like this. Its clean and easy to understand, has that hardware look with screws and even an oldskool VU meter, but the design doesn't get in the way of its function.


Marvel GEQ

Linear Phase EQ

16-band linear phase eq. Judging from the features blurb it's a good tool. Most ppl might not be used to mid/side processing so this tool should provide some help working with audio in that form. Decent interface, nothing superfluous, the interesting features tucked away in drop-down menus.

personal notes: Okay I've never had a need for a linear phase eq, except possibly in some mastering situations... which don't come around often. Also, I hate the Voxengo site, they're intentionally placing another product's download links on the same page so you're gonna download the wrong thing and try out a demo instead of a freebie... and then buy it. The links ARE on the product's page, just make sure you're looking in the right download box.


KR-Delay, KR-Reverb

Delay, reverb

A delay and a reverb, both well designed and with displays that respond to every parameter to show what exactly is going on under the hood in easily understood graphics. The delay interface can feel a bit cluttered due to its separate stereo processing and tempo sync requiring a few more parameters. Still, two capable and nice looking effects.

personal notes: I like these products, mostly for their interfaces. They make it very clear what their controls do.

Lowcoders & Bitplant

Kingdubby Dub Delay


Designed to look like a big portable hardware effect, it might feel a bit silly to use, but it has tempo-synced delay and a built-in filter.

personal notes: I'm really starting to get bothered by these hardware-looking software plugins. This is design over function, not design that highlights the function or at least stays out of its way.

Martin Eastwood



A reverb with a decent sound and a few included presets.

personal notes: I like it. I'm no expert on reverbs, but it feels smooth, even with those hard, percussive sounds. Recommended.

Mdsp @ Smartelectronix


Multitap delay

Stylish and simplistic, yet surprisingly confusing interface. The effect takes the input audio and repeats it a few times, messing it up in the process.

personal notes: I'd keep this as a cool effect for intros and outros, but besides that I don't think it'd see much use.

Togu Audio Line

TAL-Reverb II Plugin


Decent-sounding reverb, tho with diffusion, damping and room size all rolled into one room size parameter you don't have much control over it. So, weak when it comes to the length of the reverb, and a bit difficult to control the frequency shaping of it.

personal notes: I've said it before, I'll say it again - these guys are terrible with names. They make decent products tho, this just doesn't feel like one of those.

NOTE: It's been updated to III, which I haven't tried yet. So I'm not linking this atm. It's not hard to find, go find it yourself if you think you need it.

Valhalla DSP, LLC


Delay/pitch shifter

This is a fun one. The interface is childishly simplistic, and while it has a nice little text field that explains the knobs as you mouse over them, it's not really that complicated an effect. You set a delay time, you set how messed up the delay should be and in what direction, and you set delay feedback. Aside from the pitch shifter, these are all standard delay controls. The pitch shifter turns it into a wacky specialty thing, or perhaps a secret weapon for electronic music producers?

personal notes: This is probably the craziest effect on the list. Never used it, but man I should. :D


Multiple distortion plugins

Amp simulation

Some of them more capable and sounding better than others, we've got a set of amps here. The good ones sound pretty good, the others not so much. With the good ones, my only complaint would be the metallic delay they suffer from. Whamdrive, tho, comes with a pitch shifter built-in, so you can get some thick power chords from single notes.

personal notes: Running my piano sim through these sounds pretty cool. Not convincing but appropriately distorted. I'd recommend California Sun and Whamdrive, the others are kind hit n' miss.

bram @ Smartelectronics

Cyanide 2


Distorts the dynamics of the audio. basically an overdrive, except on a whole 'nother level.

personal notes: it's like an overdrive, except with more control. Can't honestly say the extra control is needed, but it might be useful for some distorted sounds... or as a learning tool or something. I do like it. (fyi, ported by apulsoft)


Slice/glitch tool

While not on the same level as some of its VST-side analogues or manual slicing and processing, it's a useful tool for screwing with your sound. Like most such tools, it works on probablity, so there's little control over when it does stuff.

personal notes: I tend to use it for quick reverse effects on background tracks, not much else. Still, fun to have.




So, with only 5 knobs for effects, it can't do much, right? Wrong. Two forms of distortion, an LP filter, and a compressor, and while it lacks any parameter display it's a good looking interface and easy to use. has a randomizer button, tho with the limited number of effects it probably won't create anything too spectacular.

personal notes: personal favorite of mine. Good design, good sound.




Insert audio, output crushed audio. This crusher has an EQ built in, which accounts for most of the controls. Confusing, perhaps a custom interface would help?

personal notes: I prefer Logic's own bitcrusher for its interface, but this one seems more exact.

Two Notes

Torpedo PI-FREE

Amp simulation

Stripped down version of their PI-101, but what features remains still sound good. The site says it's convolution-based and modeled after a Marshall 4x12 cabinet and a Shure SM57 mic. It has some built-in effects such as compressor and low cut. It's got lots of knobs but a well organized interface. Custom mic placement with a little graphic thing showing the room, amp, and mic.

personal notes: Did some quick testing, and it sounds ok. Already have guitar amp sims, so I don't think I'll be using it much. Still, nice looking, nice sounding thing.

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  • 4 weeks later...

...stupid 15000 letters limit...


Michael Norris

SoundMagic Spectral


Multiple effects. Most of these are tools to work with the spectral profile of the audio fed into them. No custom interfaces, but they're all specialty effects anyway. Except the chorus.

personal notes: I've only really used the dronemaker, but that was an interesting effect. Could be used for a lot of cool stuff...

bram @ Smartelectronics


Waveform visualization

Plots the waveform over time. Clicking in the waveform view displays the dB value of where you clicked. You can also freeze the waveform window, adjust the redrawing rate. Analyzes left or right channel only. Ported by apulSoft.

personal notes: This let me adjust my layered drums and side-chained bass to gain a few dB more out of my mixes. Invaluable.



Levels and frequency display

Frequency display, RMS and Peak meters, stereo correlation meter... It shows almost everything I imagine you'd need to see when finalizing a mix. At least on a hobbyist/semipro level, dunno about the really pro pros. Highly recommended.

personal notes: Cool to have them all in one - for free. I use this on most, if not all of my mixes when I finalize them... and usually built into my project templates.




A filter combining LP and HP functionality into a single 2d control.

personal notes: This is the kind of controls you'd prefer to have in hardware. Still, the filter works well.


Stereo widener

For stereo width adjustment. Rather clunky interface but gets the job done.

personal notes: So it's a gateway drug to bx_control (which isn't free, obviously). Still, if you don't have a stereo tool, it's useful, and the S Solo feature could be pretty useful.

Pleasurize Music Foundation

TT Dynamic Range Meter

Levels display

Measures Peak and RMS levels, which is useful when finalizing a mix. Only a display, but a decent looking one. Designed with an emphasis on displaying the dynamic range rather than just levels.

personal notes: cleansweep might be cool if used with a hardware controller, but just in-DAW it's kind'a lame. solo works ok, but I still prefer the display of Flux's stereo tool. The TTDRM is pretty cool, but if I try to comment on it more I'll just complain about modern mastering practices and the loudness war. Let's say say dynamic range needs more love. Link available in this branworx list.

Blue Cat Audio



If you don't have a mid-side processor, a flanger with enough controls, or a proper frequency scope you should pick these up. While not quite comparable to Logic's built-in tools, they should supplement GarageBand quite well.

personal notes: I have Logic, so I don't really use these. No need.




Built around a library of simple effects designed to be stacked in a row, this is a really versatile tool. While the number of parameters per individual effect might limit the tweakability of the individual effects, its versatility more than makes up for it. has a pretty big (albeit poorly organized) preset library too.

personal notes: I mostly just use it to make parts of my mixes sound like old records, so the LP Noise effect gets the most use.




Uh... lots of effects, some of which do exactly what it says on the tin, some of which do... something.

personal notes: Before Logic, I used Combo as a speaker sim, and sometimes prefer it over Logic 8's amp sim. Of the other effects, only Tracker feels like a useful one, and it's a pretty rare occasion thing anyway. I've run a bass through it, turning the bass into a saw. I have no place for that sound irl tho, and don't have a bass of my own anyway. Note: scroll down for the AU versions.


Missing something cool that you use or know of?

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