27 Best Cheap VST Plugins 2022

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Best Cheap VST Plugins

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Generally, you need to pay for the best plugins. But the cost can add up fast, especially if you’re planning to purchase all the essentials like EQ, reverb, compression, and more.

The good news is that cheap VST plugins aren’t too hard to find. And while they can’t necessarily compete with higher priced plugins, they should still be considered significant upgrades over stock Digital Audio Workstation tools.

In this guide, we look at the best cheap VST plugins.

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FabFilter Micro by FabFilter – Best Overall

FabFilter Micro by FabFilter – Best Overall

FabFilter has been making waves with their range of premium plugins – FabFilter Pro-Q 3, FabFilter Saturn 2, FabFilter Pro-L 2, and more. But a cheap FabFilter plugin? Come on…

Well, FabFilter Micro (based on FabFilter One) is a simple analog style filter that’s capable of self-oscillation and saturation depending on the settings. The cutoff frequency can be modulated using the envelope follower, and it also comes with low- and high-pass shapes.

The saturation can be configured via the input and output gain parameters.

FabFilter Micro also comes with features FabFilter is well known for – MIDI learn, smart parameter interpolation, sample-accurate automation, and more.

If you want a taste of FabFilter, then this is a convenient and affordable entry point into their domain.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

DCO-106 by Cherry Audio – Best Premium Option

DCO-106 by Cherry Audio – Best Premium Option

Cherry Audio’s DCO-106 takes after the enduring classic, the Juno 106. It models and expands on the original, with pads, leads, drums, and more.

DCO-106 features over 300 presets (including the original 106 factory presets), 16-voice polyphony, stereo chorus, three reverb modes with a new algorithm, delay section with tempo sync, multiple voice assign modes, and single-key chord memory mode.

You also get an expanded LFO section (including six waveforms and tempo sync), unison detune, MPE support, MIDI control, and DAW automation. DCO-106 also works with 106 SysEx commands.

Overall, DCO-106 is quite good. It’s honestly amazing that it’s so affordable. That makes it a shoo-in for our best premium selection.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

HalfTime by Cableguys – Best Budget Option

HalfTime by Cableguys – Best Budget Option

Cableguys’ HalfTime is a half-speed effect for a variety of electronic music genres, be it EDM, hip-hop, trap, house, techno, or otherwise. It’s essentially the only plugin of its kind.

HalfTime makes it easy for you to turn your tracks into downtempo, moodier versions of themselves. Whether on loops, virtual instruments, or even organic material, the effect just works. To activate the effect, all you need to do is add it to your signal chain.

HalfTime comes with a power button, fade in / out, three modes (2x, 1.5x, and 4x), band split, band solo, dry / wet mix, loop length, and smooth. It also features a resizable UI.

While it can’t do more than one thing, HalfTime affects your audio at a macro level. For that reason, along with the fact that it’s the most affordable plugin in this guide, makes it our best budget pick.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

BLEASS Filter by BLEASS

BLEASS Filter by BLEASS

BLEASS Filter was inspired by classic analog filters found on the most sough-after hardware synthesizers.

To make things as interesting as possible, BLEASS added an LFO and envelope follower, great tools for adding dynamics and movement to your tracks.

The input section consists of the following parameters – gain, sens, attack, release, envelope, and meter.

The filter section comes with mode selection (low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, notch filtering), filter graph, and an X2 parameter for doubling the effect.

The LFO section gives you control over sync, waveform, rate, sync rate, offset, stereo, amount, and meter.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Things – Crusher by AudioThing

Things – Crusher by AudioThing

AudioThing’s Things – Crusher is a simplified bit crusher and multimode filter.

The filter can be set to lowpass, highpass, bandpass, or notch. The filter also features a two- or four-pole and output gain.

The bitcrusher can be controlled with bits, downsample, harshness, and mix parameters.

Things – Crusher also comes with a resizable UI.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Duck by Devious Machines

Duck by Devious Machines

Devious Machines’ Duck is a dedicated sidechain compressor, perfect for any genres or projects you need to inject some serious pump into.

Duck comes with eight preset curves, 57 patches, drawable and savable curves and rhythms, pump level or low and high bands with adjustable crossover, repeat mode, MIDI trigger, optional lookahead, smoothing, solo for low and high band, and MIDI filtering.

From tremolo like effects to trance-gating, if sidechain ducking is what you need, you’ll dig Duck.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

BLEASS Sidekick by BLEASS

BLEASS Sidekick by BLEASS

BLEASS Sidekick is a hybrid plugin, featuring the functionality of a ducker / sidechain compressor, step sequencer, and kick drum synth.

Inspired by classic beatboxes, BLEASS Sidekick comes with an analog style engine. It can be triggered via external MIDI input and the built-in 16-step sequencer.

In a manner of speaking, you could call BLEASS Sidekick a creative rhythmic tool.

The kick section is comprised of tune, waveform, hardness, body, impact, punch, punch decay, decay, ghost, and gain.

The sequencer section is made up of seq. lens, steps res., groove, MIDI in, and step grid.

Finally, the ducker section comes with threshold, attack, release, ratio, and makeup parameters.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Schlap by Caelum Audio

Schlap by Caelum Audio

There are some surprisingly good free compressors out there. Is it any wonder, then, that there are also some phenomenal cheap compressor VSTs available?

Here we have Calelum Audio’s Schlap. Taking inspiration from rackmount RMS compressors, this baby features intense, program-dependent compression (attack and release settings adjust on their own).

Schlap will automatically find the average loudness of your material so that short peaks can remain uncompressed, and hard hitting. Early transients also stay punchy, sneaking through in the slight delay.

Schlap also features four ratio styles – standard compression, expansion and gating, infinite limiting compression, and negative over-compression.

There’s also optional external side-chain input with sidechain filtering options.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

LUXE by Klevgrand

LUXE by Klevgrand

Klevgrand’s LUXE was designed to enhance your audio. Essentially, it’s a compressor / saturator, and it’s perfect for slotting your track into its proper place in a mix.

LUXE gives you the option of choosing from two algorithms (LUXE, FINESSE), and from there, it’s simply a matter of dialing in the preferred amount of processing.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

WidthShaper 3 by Cableguys

WidthShaper 3 by Cableguys

As the third iteration on WidthShaper, Cableguys’ WidthShaper 3 allows you to take control of your stereo image.

The three bands of mid / stereo control each come with an envelope follower and drawable LFO. Perfect for use on individual tracks, buses, mixing and mastering, even sound design.

Loved by electronic music producers, WidthShaper 3 lets you tighten up your bass, widen your treble, enhance your drums, and create powerful, memorable risers.

The sides-only stereo widening effect has been designed to work in mono as well, no matter how hard you push it.

This plugin lets you design your own waveforms, allowing for virtually any kind of mid / side modulation imaginable. Waveforms can also be synced to beats and follow rhythms.

All in all, WidthShaper 3 comes with a resizable user interface, retina / HiDPI support, wave presets, custom waves (save up to nine), switch user waves via MIDI, dry / wet mix for all bands, master mix, smoothed bypass, and solo bands.

You’ve also got spectrum view, oscilloscope view, expandable LFO, draggable width parameter, LFO loop length, audio-rate modulation, trigger smoothing, 2x/3x parameter for doubling or tripling patterns, wave or selection controls (flip, resize, move, randomize), copy / paste, undo / redo, and selection skewing.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Pivot by Venomode

Pivot by Venomode

Venomode’s Pivot is a powerful and simple tilt equalizer. It works a bit like a seesaw. You can turn you dial to the left to cut down on clipping bass or turn it to the right to reduce piercing highs.

The slope is adjustable, and so is the mid-way point. That means you have complete control over the EQ balance.

Mono and stereo processing are onboard, but a mid / side mode has also been supplied with Pivot. This is a great feature for making final tweaks to your master.

On top of it all, Pivot is also lightweight.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

BLEASS Motion EQ by BLEASS

BLEASS Motion EQ by BLEASS

BLEASS Motion EQ is an easy to use but versatile graphic equalizer. What makes it interesting is that it comes with adjustable band widths – so you can dial in the exact frequencies you want to affect.

It comes with multiple filtering options (low-bass, band-pass, high-pass), which makes it an equally competent filter. You even have the option of creating an all-pass filter depending on the configuration.

Of course, it would not be called BLEASS Motion EQ if you weren’t able to add motion to the effect. This plugin comes with two LFOs, which you can sync to host.

Each band’s signal can also be sent to its own output bus, effectively changing the operation to crossover.

The two LFO sections feature sync, waveform, offset, stereo, target, amount, and meter parameters.

The EQ section comes with low / mid / high, band cutoff frequencies, mute, and output bus.

This is an excellent effect for electronic music of all kinds. Also see what it can do in the video below.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Ratshack Reverb 3 by Audio Damage

Ratshack Reverb 3 by Audio Damage

Audio Damage’s Ratshack Reverb 3 takes after the classic Realistic Electronic Reverb, one of the first battery-powered analog delay units most producers ever owned.

This might sound strange given its name, but the original was an analog delay and not a reverb – one of those weird details that may have ultimately contributed to its success.

Audio Damage went out of their way to get every detail right. With the original, running a line signal into the mic inputs would result in distortion, and this is a nuance they didn’t hesitate to add to Ratshack Reverb 3.

Overall, Ratshack Reverb 3 comes with a bucket brigade style delay model, with modeled mic and line inputs. There’s also an XML-based cross-platform preset manager with copy and paste, and a resizable user interface.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

BLEASS Shimmer by BLEASS

BLEASS Shimmer by BLEASS

The BLEASS Shimmer reverb is a pitch shifting reverb, endowing your tracks with a great sounding, harmonic tail.

Try it on synths, pads, guitars, strings, vocals, drums, and more.

The input stage comes with input gain, reverb pre-delay, and touch control filter (with two types – low-shelf, high pass).

Then you’ll find the two pitch shifter stages (A and B) with three modes (pre, post, feedback), pitch control, fine control, delay time control, and amount slider.

The reverb stage is next, with room size, color parameter (for controlling higher frequencies), reverb room size modulation (amount, rate), and length control.

The ducker stage comes with compressor settings (threshold, attack, release), and a visual input sidechain meter.

Of course, you can control the dry / wet mix at the mix stage too.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Dubstation 2 by Audio Damage

Dubstation 2 by Audio Damage

Audio Damage’s Dubstation 2 is a modeled bucket brigade delay. With the success of the original Dubstation in the rearview mirror, the developer added a host of new features to this release of Dubstation – saturation, LFO, dual-mode for control over left and right delay times, and ping-pong.

Altogether, Dubstation 2 features time controls, a low frequency oscillator, filters, saturation, feedback, reverse mode, loop mode, mix control, and gain staging controls.

It also comes with a cross-platform preset format (XML) and a resizable retina / Hi-Dpi UI.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Droplet v2 by Sinevibes

Droplet v2 by Sinevibes

Sinevibes’ Droplet v2 lets you create “raindrop delay” style effects, literally like the sound of a raindrop falling onto a surface below.

With plenty of settings and high- or low-frequency damping, you can achieve a variety of effects using Droplet v2. There’s a built-in modulation oscillator as well.

Altogether, Droplet v2 comes with 32 stereo delay lines and proportional feedback scaling, adjustable delay time and output pan, low- and high-pass damping filters (per delay line), sine-wave oscillator, lag filters, and several channel configurations (mono / mono, mono / stereo, stereo / stereo).

Droplet v2 also has a resizable user interface.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

BLEASS Chorus by BLEASS

BLEASS Chorus by BLEASS

BLEASS Chorus is a two-stage chorus with stereo image controls (featuring a variety of effects). This chorus takes after various chorus stomp-boxes and rack units, offering significant creative freedom in shaping your tones.

The VST comes with an array of presets, perfectly suited to guitars and synthesizers.

The input section consists of input gain, as well as a low-shelf / high-pass input filter.

The chorus section is the largest, with delay lines, time, rate, left depth, right depth, equal depths, offset, width, feedback, and oscilloscope.

Of course, you can control the dry / wet mix at the output stage.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Eternal v2 by Sinevibes

Eternal v2 by Sinevibes

Sinevibes’ Eternal v2 is best described as a “barberpole flanger.” It achieves the seemingly “endless” effect by taking advantage of three stereo flangers and six low-frequency oscillators.

Overall, the triple-layer flanger (with positive or negative feedback), comes with a multi-output modulation generator, low-cut filter, lag filters, and well as multiple channel configurations (mono, mono / stereo, and stereo / stereo).

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Megaphone by AudioThing

Megaphone by AudioThing

What do you do when you want to make your voice sound like its coming through a bullhorn or loudspeaker? You turn to AudioThing’s Megaphone, of course.

The feedback section features two parameters – time and amount. This is essentially a slapback effect.

The noise section offers source and level knobs as well as trigger and envelope buttons.

Altogether, Megaphone features two loudspeaker emulations, overdrive and bandwidth controls, feedback / slapback, preset system, and randomizer.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Octaver 82 by Audiority

Octaver 82 by Audiority

Well, it’s really no mystery what guitar pedal Octaver 82 is supposed to be emulating… if you don’t know, then either you aren’t a guitarist or you just haven’t been around instrument stores all that much.

This monophonic octave plugin was based on the BOSS OC-2 stomp-box, stemming from the early 80s. For guitarists, using the Octaver was like adding a bass to the low end, because it inserts two tones – one an octave lower, another two ocatves lower than the original signal.

It is important to note that it’s monophonic, mind you, so its tracking wasn’t designed for chords – more so for single note riffs, melodies, and solos. You’ve got to play clean for best effect.

Octaver 82 comes with pre and post effect gain, mix control, detector tracking, a resizable interface, and six pedal circuits.

The developer was also sure to add envelope filtering, overdrive, and synth tones, just to make this an even more exciting selection.

Besides guitar, I think it would be worth trying on monophonic synth lines as well.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

The Overseer by Audiority

The Overseer by Audiority

Here’s another stomp-box style entry via Audiority. This time, The Overseer – this one was modeled after none other than the classic Marshall Guv’nor overdrive, offering up a tone not unlike the famous JCM800 and Plexi amps.

Besides the standard gain, bass, mid, treble, and level controls, The Overseer also comes with pre and post effect gain, mix control, noise gate, a resizable interface, and five pedal circuits.

It’s worth trying in different configurations, whether as a standalone “amp” head, or as a virtual pedal for an amp sim.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Green Reaper GR9 by Audiority

Green Reaper GR9 by Audiority

It’s no mystery what Audiority’s Green Reaper GR9 is supposed to be – the infamous Tube Screamer TS-808, found in the signal chain of innumerable guitarists, including, of course, the incomparable Stevie Ray Vaughan.

With a smooth, responsive sound, this three-dial overdrive pedal exploded in popularity. And it’s still considered a must-have by many.

Green Reaper GR9 features drive, tone, and level parameters, pre and post effect gain, mix control, noise gate, 12 circuit types, “To Amp” output mode, and a resizable UI.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

EFEKTOR FZ3603 Fuzz by Kuassa

EFEKTOR FZ3603 Fuzz by Kuassa

Kuassa’s EFEKTOR FZ3603 Fuzz is effectively a stomp-box style fuzz distortion effect with built-in customization options.

There are five fuzz algorithms, consisting of vintage fuzz, big fuzz, sustainer fuzz, and Zepp fuzz. These shouldn’t require much explanation if you know your guitar history! But it’s certainly nice to have so many classic fuzz sounds right at your fingertips.

You’ve also got parameters for gain, tone, and output, bypass, dry / wet, up to 8x oversampling, and CV inputs for automation.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

EFEKTOR DS3603 Distortion by Kuassa

EFEKTOR DS3603 Distortion by Kuassa

The EFEKTOR DS3603 Distortion is a stomp-box like distortion effect, except with multiple algorithms.

From hard rock to metal, there are plenty of usable tones here. The five types of distortion include classic distortion, lead distortion, heavy distortion, metal distortion, and pro distortion.

Of course, you’ll find controls for gain, tone, and output, a bypass switch, dry / wet control, up to 8x oversampling, and CV inputs for automation.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

EFEKTOR OD3603 Overdrive by Kuassa

EFEKTOR OD3603 Overdrive by Kuassa

This one probably doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation if you’ve looked at the other Kuassa entries found in this guide, but here goes.

EFEKTOR OD3603 Overdrive takes after the overdriven tone of vintage guitar amplifiers pushed to their limits, and is perfect for crunchy, saturated sounds, tailor mode for all rock genres.

The five modes include boutique, blues, mad, modern, and pro. You can fine tune the flavor using the overdrive, tone, and level parameters.

As with all EFEKTOR stomp-box style effects, you also get a bypass button, dry / wet control, up to 8x oversampling, and CV inputs for automation.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Groovemate One by ujam

Groovemate One by ujam

Looking to fill some empty space in your tracks? Then ujam’s Groovemate One is well worth a look.

This module was developed to add some percussive flavor to your projects. It features 30 styles (combi and solo), four sounds (claps, shaker, one-shot shaker, tambourine), nine mix presets, four ambience presets, and MIDI drag and drop.

Use a ready-made phrase or sequence from scratch – the choice is up to you. But Groovemate One offers plenty of complex, syncopated phrases you can incorporate into your projects without all the hassle.

It doesn’t get a whole lot simpler than that. If your track needs percussion, check out Groovemate One.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Tape XX by Loot Audio

Tape XX by Loot Audio

Created by Audiowarp, Tape XX features a library consisting of an array of loops – 54 electronic drum loops, 37 live drum loops, 54 drones, and 44 sample loops featuring guitar, pluck, analog synth, bass, pad, and mallet.

The samples, of course, were recorded to tape for a warm, vintage analog effect. All samples come with a tempo synced Kontakt NKI and ADSR settings.

This collection could be great for lo-fi, ambient, chillhop, etc.

Tape XX itself is not expensive, but it does require the full version of Kontakt to use. If you don’t already have Kontakt, then it may not be the most affordable option.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In A Cheap VST Plugin?

If you’re reading this guide, there’s one thing we know for sure. You’re either a) on a tight budget and need to build out your VST toolkit with affordable options, or b) you don’t necessarily have a limited budget, but you are curious to see what’s out there (and you might even buy a plugin or two if it suits you).

We’re not going to judge you one way or another. You are in the right place at the right time, because we’ve looked at dozens of the best cheap VST plugins available. There are many plugins, in many categories, all high quality, all affordable.

As for what to look for in a cheap VST plugin, that depends on multiple factors. In this section, we explore the following:

  • Plugin category
  • Sound quality
  • Features
  • Budget

Here’s an explanation of each:

Plugin Category

When choosing a cheap VST plugin, we need to start here, because there is an assortment of offers available – EQs, filters, reverbs, compressors, distortions, and more. We must be clear on what it is we’re after.

Most cheap VST plugins are one trick ponies, not as versatile as their higher priced counterparts. But they are competent standalone modules, and they do offer more than your DAW’s stock effects and instruments. So, a good quality plugin is virtually assured.

But in case you’re lost, here’s an overview of the different plugin types featured here:

  • Compressor: Schlap, Duck, etc.
  • EQ: Pivot, BLEASS Motion EQ, etc.
  • Filter: FabFilter Micro, BLEASS Filter, etc.
  • Stereo widener: WidthShaper 3
  • Reverb / Delay: Ratshack Reverb 3, Droplet v2, Dubstation 2, etc.
  • Modulation: Eternal v2, BLEASS Chorus, etc.
  • Half-time effect: HalfTime
  • Synthesizer: DCO-106
  • Guitar: Octaver 82, The Overseer, EFEKTOR FZ3603 Fuzz, etc.
  • Vocal processing: Megaphone
  • Percussion: Groovemate One
  • Kontakt library: Tape XX

Look for gaps in your plugin library. If there’s something you need that you don’t have yet, prioritize that category of plugin over others. If you’re looking for an upgrade, then ensure that the plugin you’re thinking about buying is indeed an upgrade over the one(s) you already own.

Sound Quality

Whether it’s an EQ, reverb, compressor, or a synthesizer, the sound quality of the plugin is always a key decision-making factor.

First and foremost, personal exploration and self-study are encouraged. Most if not all plugins have video demos / reviews and / or audio samples you can take in. This should help you decide on plugins that are worth your time.

Ultimately, none of the plugins featured here have a bad sound quality, but we must also keep in mind that they all do different things. Some are EQ, some are compressors, some are synths. You’ve got virtual effects, instruments, and even Kontakt libraries to choose from.

You’re going to be listening for different things depending on the plugin category you’re browsing.

A good personal barometer to employ is to figure out whether something is going to work for you on your projects. If “yes,” add it to your wish list. If “no,” then it probably isn’t a great fit for you, and no matter how much tweaking you do after purchasing the plugin, you’re not likely to achieve satisfactory results.

Purchase solutions that make you feel more confident in your ability to deliver quality projects.

Features

Having decided on the category of plugin you want to buy, it’s well worth studying its features. In the cheap VST plugin category, most plugins are sure to have limited settings, parameters, and features, but it’s still a good idea to know what you’re ultimately getting.

Given the broad range of plugins introduced here, be sure to compare apples to apples. It doesn’t make good practical sense to compare EFEKTOR OD3603 Overdrive to HalfTime, as an example. They are two very different effects and are therefore going to have very different parameters and features too!

Aside from that, since you are hunting the budget section of the digital marketplace, you mostly get what you get in terms of features. Don’t expect too much.

Budget

Plugins featured in this guide range from about $12 to $39 – obviously, nothing that should break the bank! A small investment can go a long way if you choose well.

Even so, we know well the temptation to pick up five, 10, even 15 plugins at a time. Expanding your available tool-set can be quite exciting and addicting!

We nevertheless encourage you to stick to your budget. Don’t spend more than you planned to, and certainly don’t go into debt for VST related purchases! You can always save up if you need more later.

Top Cheap VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

If you’re on a budget, cheap VST plugins are practically a godsend. You can practically build out your entire VST arsenal without worrying about overspending.

And just because they’re cheap doesn’t mean they’re bad. We’ve featured the highest rated of all cheap VST plugins here, and they all do a very competent job at what they do. Some are even superb.

So, pick and choose, mix and match, and you should be off to the races with your next recording project. Enjoy!

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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