Looking for free and premium VST plugins to download?
You can scour the web for manufacturer websites, blog posts, legacy link farms, and more. But this process can be very time consuming, and it’s not the best option, especially when you can almost always find exactly what you’re looking for on just a handful of sites.
In this guide, we show you the best sites to download VST plugins, free and premium.
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There’s very little you can’t find on the Loopmasters-owned Plugin Boutique, the authoritative source on VST plugins.
Besides some of the most popular virtual effects and instruments via Vengeance Sound, Soundtoys, iZotope, Sonnox, Universal Audio, Antares, Softube, Soundiron, Leapwing Audio, u-he, Arturia, and many more, you can also find bundles, sample packs, courses, and more.
If there’s a specific manufacturer you’d like to purchase from, you can click on the Manufacturers tab in the menu to bring up all the developers whose products Plugin Boutique carries.
And, by the way, they have every virtual effect, instrument, and utility category covered, whether it’s bit crushers, channel strips, delays, echoes, EQs, exciters, filters, gates, harmonizers, limiters, multi-effects, pitch shifters, preamps, reverbs, samplers, saturation, sequencers, synthesizers, transient shapers, vibratos, vocoders, or otherwise.
Looking for Windows, Mac, or cross-platform compatible plugins? Plugin Boutique has those too. Further, most if not all plugins have system requirements below the product description on every page in case there are any specific requirements.
Some plugins, for example, require Native Instruments Kontakt to use.
Plugin Boutique Plugins
Plugin Boutique doesn’t spend all their time developing VST plugins, but they do have a few of their own music theory tools, FX bundles, instrument bundles, generators, synths, and utilities, some of which they’ve likely purchased from developers who are no longer in business.
Their product range is generally highly rated.
When searching for plugins on Plugin Boutique, you rarely come across the free ones. Naturally, you might assume there are very few free ones on the website. But this is not the case!
You can find free effects in an array of categories – amp simulators, channel strips, choruses, compressors, enhancers, filters, flangers, limiters, phasers, and more.
The same goes for free instruments – you can find drum machines, generators, instrument bundles, samplers, synths, and other virtual instruments.
Overall, you can find some very decent free plugins on Plugin Boutique if you go looking for them.
We’ll be looking at the search functionality of each of the top VST plugin sites. With so many plugins out there, and sites with huge catalogs, your ability to find them quickly obviously plays into the experience.
I must admit, it’s basically taken for granted at Plugin Boutique, though, because in addition to a very prominent search bar at the top of the site, there are a myriad of ways to find what you’re looking for, whether it’s under the Software or Manufacturers tab.
What I especially like about the search bar is when you type a keyword into it, it will automatically populate results without you having to hit enter or load another page. On Plugin Boutique, this is the best way to find what you’re looking for fast.
But if you want to see all results related to a keyword, you can hit enter and proceed to organize the search results by match, release date, popularity, price, and rating. This is the ideal setup, and a great example for other sites to follow.
Deals & Rewards Program
Although not unique to Plugin Boutique, you will often find plugins on sale at their site (check the Deals tab in the menu), especially if you are a first-time buyer. If you go hunting for the sales, you can almost always find them, which gives you a good reason to return to the site often.
Speaking of sales, they also have a rewards program, which can get you access to free sample packs, big savings or free products, or money off your next purchase.
Plugin Boutique’s course selection is quite robust, and the content is largely tailored to music producers. Whether it’s hip-hop, breakbeat, remixing techniques, groove fundamentals, funk bass production, synthesis, tech house production, beats production, or otherwise, if there’s something you want to learn about making music, you can probably find it here.
I have almost no complaints. My only nitpick of Plugin Boutique it that it doesn’t have everything. It has most everything. You can’t, for example, purchase the omnipotent Omnisphere synth on their website, even though you can purchase synth presets for it. The same goes for Serum.
Of course, that could be more a matter of distribution than anything else. Some developers maybe don’t want their software available for sale outside of their own ecosystem or with redistributors they haven’t given permission to. That’s completely understandable.
At the end of the day, though, whenever I’m starting my search for a new premium plugin, I like to begin my hunt on Plugin Boutique. I’ve become used to the site, know how to navigate it, and can easily find what I’m looking for.
You’ll love it too.
Waves is an authority on one thing – their own much praised plugins! Distinct from sites like Plugin Boutique or PLUGINS 4 FREE where you can download the plugins of other developers, Waves primarily develops and manufactures their own, oftentimes with skilled and knowledgeable collaborators.
Their products primarily consist of EQ, reverb, compressors, gates, de-essers, channel strips, mastering, analog modeled plugins, and Abbey Road plugins.
Besides VST plugins, Waves offers an array of products like plugin bundles, StudioVerse (a community for plugin chain presets), Waves Creative Access (subscription plan for their plugins), courses, mixers and racks, hardware, and the Live System Builder.
As with most providers, Waves has plenty of special deals on their products. Simply scan the Specials section of their website to find which plugins you can purchase at a discount.
To be fair, there are almost always incentives for first time buyers too.
Waves has a robust search function to make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for. There’s a “Products I have” toggle, which you can use to find any plugins you’ve already bought. You can also sort by Trending, Most Reviewed, Product Name: A-Z, and Product Name: Z-A. There’s a convenient keyword search bar too.
Plugins are also organized in a variety of categories, like most popular, by effect type, by instrument, by usage, by series, by genre, and compatibility.
Waves is the authority on Waves, period. We don’t know of any other site where you can get their products.
It’s not all upsides with Waves, mind you. I want to make it clear that I like Waves. I really do. But some people believe… well… that they are the very definition of snake oil. To be fair, many analog emulations have been called out for being exactly that.
But you’ve heard of sugar pills (placebos), right? When the doctor tells people to take one without telling them what it is, they often feel better. Despite the fact that the placebo has no specific health benefits.
I’m not saying that Waves plugins do nothing. There are some, though, that are so transparent sounding, you do wonder at times.
The fact that you are kind of forced into their ecosystem the moment you buy one of their products is also a downside to some. Again, not an issue unique to Waves…
Bottom line, if you take your time and do your research, you can find plenty of excellent plugins on Waves. They really do have some great products! There’s a reason some of their plugins have 1,300+ five-star reviews.
PLUGINS 4 FREE
PLUGINS 4 FREE is usually among the first sites to pop up when you’re searching for free VST plugins. And honestly, it does deliver on its promise. Whether you’re short on cash or are interested in trying out something new, you can find something in just about every category on PLUGINS 4 FREE.
There are both virtual instruments and effects on PLUGINS 4 FREE. In the instrument section, you can find entries for drums, instruments, samplers, synths, and vintage. In the effects section, you can find VSTs in the categories of time, signal, frequency, character, and miscellaneous.
While the categories are nested, and begin more broadly before going more specific, all the familiar instrument and effects are here – drum synths, drum machines, guitar, FM synths, wavetable synths, keyboards, reverb, gate, EQ, lo-fi, multi-effects, and more.
There is one last category of plugin, however, and that’s the MIDI plugin section. Here you can find controllers, generators, effects, and other tools.
It’s a mixed bag. It’s important to remember, first, that the plugin archives are made up of a big jumble of old and new plugins. This doesn’t mean that old is always bad and new is always better. But let’s face it – we’ve come a very long way since the legacy plugin days of yore when anything free was a big deal.
Something that’s considered a quality free plugin today is very different from what was considered an amazing plugin just 10 years ago.
Fortunately, you can sort plugins by best rated, so if you’re looking for the best user rated plugins on PLUGINS 4 FREE, you can find them quickly and easily.
Fundamentally, though, we are talking about free plugins. And some free plugins can be great – they really can be. But your expectations should never be that you’re downloading the best quality VSTs available. There’s going to be quite a bit of hit and miss on PLUGINS 4 FREE.
One could argue that the hit and miss aspect of it can be a lot of fun, mind you.
Okay, so you want to use the plugins you’ve downloaded. But you don’t have a VST rack, loader, editor, recorder, loop machine, sequencer, or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). What’s one to do?
Well, while we do recommend getting yourself set up with a quality free or low-cost DAW (like Waveform or REAPER), if you want to get a free host from PLUGINS 4 FREE, you can do that too.
You will find entries like Giada, VSTHost, Audacity, Podium Free, Bespoke, Kristal Audio Engine, LMMS, and many others on their website.
In addition to a standard keyword search bar, PLUGINS 4 FREE lets you select a developer, or sort all plugins by name, best rated, or last added. This is really a godsend when you’re trying to dig up decent quality free plugins.
In all honesty, PLUGINS 4 FREE is great for what it is. It’s not striving to be the best designed, best-looking website in the world. It’s decent enough, but it knows its purpose is to disseminate free VST content to the masses, and maybe make a bit of money on the back of ads and donations.
I would even say their plugin archives are well organized, and the search functions work. They are forward thinking too, and it’s clear they keep their website updated. They even have social media accounts set up on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
So, the downside, besides its site design and advertising, is the fact that you’re not guaranteed to find a quality plugin in the categories you browse. It’s obvious enough, but let’s face it – it can be a little frustrating when you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for.
More than a plugin redistributor, Splice is also home to royalty-free sounds, music production lessons, and a Discord community for producers and engineers.
In terms of plugins, though, in addition to an array of virtual instruments and effects, you can also find DAWs on their site, which is a recent addition.
Of course, you can find all the major category of plugins – synthesizer, sampler, distortion, reverb, limiter, compressor, vocal processing, drums, and more.
Splice has somewhat of a unique purchasing model in that they have “rent-to-own” options for most if not all the plugins you can purchase on their website. This is great for anyone looking to make small, monthly payments on plugin purchases.
This is probably one of the most attractive features of Splice, that instead of outright buying plugins that normally cost $200 to $500 or more, you can make small, very manageable payments on popular plugins like Xfer Records’ Serum, Arturia’s Analog Lab V, Softube’s Parallels, and others.
Buying one plugin at a time is generally not expensive, but the cost can add up fast if you’re buying multiple VSTs in one go. Which is one of the appeals of rent-to-own.
Some of the product links on Splice’s website lead to other manufacturer websites. Thanks for curating, I guess. Fortunately, you can click on the “Rent-to-Own” tab to find just the DAWs, instruments, and effects you have the option of paying for in installments.
You likely would not come across them unless you were browsing the Splice website, but Splice does have a few of their own plugins, including the Astra synthesizer, Beatmaker drum sequencer, and the Bridge sampler / utility.
We’re interested to see what else they might add in the future too.
It’s not hard to find free plugins on the Splice website.
To be fair, it’s mostly the usual suspects here – Matt Tytel, Ignite Amps, Flux, Voxengo, Valhalla DSP, TAL Software, Blue Cat Audio, u-he, MeldaProduction, Plugin Alliance, Xfer Records, and so forth. You could find most of these on your own if you did enough digging, but it is a time saver, nonetheless.
Also, unlike PLUGINS 4 FREE, the free plugins you’ll find at Splice are curated. You will only find the best of the free VSTs here.
You will not find a huge array of DAWs on Splice yet, but they are a recent addition to the site, so give it time. As of this writing, you can rent-to-own Bitwig Studio and Studio One 5 Professional, which are admittedly popular DAWs.
Splice’s rent-to-own option is attractive to the casual visitor or buyer. But Splice is very much built on their memberships for music producers. Here’s an overview of the three membership levels:
- Sounds+ gives you access to millions of pre-cleared sounds, presets, MIDI, 100 monthly Sounds credits, Bridge plugin, Sounds library, desktop app, and mobile app.
- Creator gives you access to everything in Sounds+ as well as 200 monthly Sounds Credits, Astra synth plugin with presets, Beatmaker plugin with presets, and exclusive Skills learning content.
- Creator+ gives you access to everything in Creator along with 500 monthly Sounds credits.
If you just want the plugins, then the membership probably isn’t for you, but it’s something to think about if you’re interested in building your skills in music production.
As noted, one of the best things about Splice is that you can rent-to-own select plugins. Unless you’re part of their community, I feel like this might be the only reason to visit their website, as their plugin selection is decidedly smaller than Plugin Boutique or Waves.
They may have a few plugins you won’t find elsewhere, like Serum, but these are also few and far between. To be fair, Serum is kind of a big deal, and it’s nice to know you can put it on a payment plan if you so desire.
Overall, we feel that Splice is still trying to find its identity in the plugin space. They’ve obviously created the platform to be more of a comprehensive destination for music producers, and they do have plenty of resources. But it seems like the plugins, at least for now, are a bit of an afterthought or component of their offerings.
We’re still excited to see how they develop, though, because we do like the rent to own option ourselves and see a lot of potential in the future of Splice.
Top Sites To Download VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
And now you know where to go if you’re looking for the best VST plugins out there. There are still plenty of great plugins you can only find on manufacturer websites and not redistributors, but who knows? It may only be a matter of time before Plugin Boutique or Splice strikes up a deal and adds it to their libraries.
We wish you all the best on your plugin hunt.