Four fantastic freeware tools: SonEQ, NastyDLA, LeCto and TSE 808

First, Sonimus SonEQ 1.1
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SonEQ v1.1 is a superb, Windows AND Mac compatible preamp and equalization plugin that draws on some “vintage” flavor but with very effective controls and a crisp, modern look. Check it out at Sonimus.com’s Download page! (That page is bilingual, but much of the site is in the developer’s native Spanish, great opportunity to put that 2-year language requirement to use!), There aren’t many cross-platform freebies around, but this continues the tendency for cross-platform freeware to be rather exceptional. Definitely a commercial-quality plugin, I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually the developer does release some commercial software. Try it and believe. You might notice that 1.1 looks pretty different from version 1.0; there were a number of improvements made (in a really short period of time, too, kudos to the developer) and a new GUI was added to highlight some of them. The “Drive” component is great, you should definitely give it a whirl and see what it can add to your track. “Woow” is a sort of psychoacoustic enhancement, gives a little bit extra perceived punch and clarity to the track. In my opinion the Drive section’s “WooW” function offers the same level of enhancement that, say, the BBE Sonic Maximizer is intended to offer, with the bonus that it’s free AND it’s just one small part of one single component in a really nice, robust, cross-platform EQ. Very cool.

Second, VarietyOfSound NastyDLA

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NastyDLA is Windows only as usual for the developer, but it really, really shines. Sorry, Mac guys. Bootsie, with no regard for “saving it” for any upcoming developer challenges – he won last year’s KVR Dev Challenge with FerricTDS – has released what I am finding to be easily the best freeware tape delay simulators, competitive with commercial tape delay simulators for sound quality: NastyDLA! Read the manual before use. I can’t believe it – you’ll probably think I’m dumber for hearing it – but this is actually the first time I’ve consulted one of Bootsie’s manuals, because I had a bit of confusion over how the knobs functioned. I found out that I’ve really been missing out. Bootsie’s straightforward explanations manage to take very abstract signal processing concepts and make them easily accessible to any user, without going on forever or meandering. A manual that could teach some of the big software companies a thing or two. But, hey, now I’m going on – the basic idea behind NastyDLA is to use what he created in FerricTDS (Tape Dynamics Simulator) to make a realistic, great sounding, versatile tape delay plugin. I am personally a huge fan of the way that tape delays sound, and I can comfortably say that he’s managed to capture something here that would fit right in with great tape delay plugins from commercial makers. Not to mention I’m sure he’s got more in store for the plugin, he’s not the kind of developer to rest on his laurels and there have already been a number of additional feature requests (including one from me, crossing my fingers he puts mine in). Another really high quality plugin from one of freeware’s true golden devs.

Third, LePou Plugins LeCto
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From the excellent freeware developer LePou, the LeCto high-gain amp sim is inspired by an American high-gain amp with a similar name. LePou’s credentials in amp modeling are very well established already, so you should know that you can expect extraordinary quality rivaling commercial plugins. It’ll need a cabinet IR after it for best results; LePou previously came up with an excellent freeware cabinet IR loader, LeCab, so nab it if you don’t have a preferred cabinet sim. Right now, all of his plugins are Windows only, BUT! He got a Mac last month, and he has expressed interest in porting many of his plugins to Mac VST or AU. I know there’s a real lack of cross-platform freeware due to the powerful development tools that Windows users have in SynthMaker and SynthEdit (granted, a lot of garbage comes out thanks to them, too – that’s just the nature of widely available toolsets – but the real stars of SM and SE, people like Bootsie and Ken at AcmeBarGig, write everything important in assembly and use SynthMaker for simplifying GUI elements and other such tasks). It would be fantastic if LePou were able to port his body of work over to the Mac side of things. One thing the developer notes, as is common with the amp that is being modeled in LeCto, you can get a really focused, aggressive tone by throwing a Tubescreamer up front to boost and tighten the signal. Enter…

Fourth, Onqel’s TSE 808
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TSE 808 is a plugin that isn’t super new, having been released in late September,  but which I haven’t commented on yet. Apologies, readers, especially because I believe to be decisively the best Tubescreamer emulation made so far. Download it here: Onqel’s TSE 808. It took awhile, but BTE Audio’s TubeScreamerSecret no longer holds the throne for most authentic TubeScreamer. This thing ROCKS. If you need a boost to go in front of an amp model, you need this plugin. Who knows what the future holds, but for now, this is the business! Again, Windows only, sorry Mac guys. At least you’ve got Core audio while we’re fooling around with troublesome ASIO, that’s some consolation, right?

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