Rewind: Our favourite free software releases of 2020

With 2020 drawing to a close, we wanted to end on a note of positivity, so we're taking a look back at the past 12 months to highlight some of our favourite stories of the year. 

Free Software Friday has been one of our longest-running features and with this year granting many of us more time to dedicate to creating music, we've seen some truly wonderful releases that haven't cost a penny. 

So, we decided now was the perfect time to look back on 2020 and pick the five free releases of the year that really made their mark on us and that we highly recommend you try out.

1. Valhalla Supermassive Reverb

Free Software Friday - Valhalla Supermassive (Featured Image)

Valhalla have released several free plugins this year, all of which have been excellent, but their Supermassive Reverb was love at first sight for us. 

The name should be a clear indicator of the intent of Supermassive; to create sounds of otherworldly size. It really delivers too, offering a wide array of different reverbs and delays that are easy to tweak and transform into the perfect sound for your tracks. 

The plugin has gone through several updates since we first covered it and now features extra reverbs and delays to play with. Download it now for Windows or macOS using the link below.


2. Tracktion Waveform Free

Waveform Free (Featured Image)

This year we were very pleased to see Tracktion release Waveform Free; their latest iteration of their free and fully-featured Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). This may not appeal to those of you already working with Ableton Live, Logic or FL Studio, but for those of you just starting out with not much cash to spare, this is an excellent way to build your skills. 

Third-party VSTs and plugins are compatible with Waveform Free, and there are also bespoke tools like the MIDI Pattern Generator, 40SC Virtual Synthesiser and Micro Drum Sampler to expand the creative possibilities available.

Waveform Free is available to download for Windows, macOS, Linux and Raspberry Pi using the link below.


3. vMPC2000XL

vMPC2000XL (Featured Image)

Though 2020 has seen it's fair share of software emulations of classic hardware, none has impressed us quite as much as the vMPC2000XL. 

Painstakingly modelled on the iconic AKAI MPC2000XL sampler, this open-source plugin works as both an add-on to use within your DAW or as a standalone app. It's an excellent plugin for both producers looking for a hit of nostalgia, as well as new producers interested in sampling on a budget. 

vMPC2000XL is available to download for both Windows and macOS using the link below.


4. Analog Obsession LALA

FSF - Analog Obsession LALA (Featured Image)

The LA-2A compressor has been recreated as a software plugin by so many developers that it's hard to keep track. Universal Audio - who original released the LA-2A - are frequently tipped as the best in the game with digital recreations and with good reason, but they're plugins don't come cheap. 

However, earlier this year Analog Obsession created the LALA, their take on the classic compressor and it really stuck with us. While the recreation may not be as comprehensive as UA's version, for a free plugin it really does bring that iconic LA-2A warmth. 

The LALA is available to download for both Windows and macOS for free using the link below, though you can make a donation if you want to help support Analog Obssesion.


5. Spitfire Audio: BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover

Free Software Friday - Spitfire Audio BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover (Featured Image)

As well as continuing to release some excellent instruments for their LABS initiative, Spitfire Audio released BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover; the starting tier in their Symphony Orchestra line that costs £49 or, if you're happy to wait, absolutely nothing. 

All you need to do is create an account and register your interest and the plugin will be emailed to you to download after 14 days. We should preface that it is already amazing value at £49, so if you have the cash and want it straightaway you won't be disappointed. However, for those working on a smaller budget, the 14 day wait is a small caveat to what is a phenomenal resource. 

There are so many instruments available: violins, violas, celli, celeste and harp, percussion, tuned percussion, piccolos, flutes, oboes, bassoons, tubas, trumpets, bass and tenor trombones, as well as groupings of the relative instrument families, e.g. basses and horns. As per Spitfire's pedigree, these instruments have all been recorded to an excellent standard and are perfect for anyone getting into composing for picture or looking to add a touch of cinematic flair to their productions.

BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover is available for Windows and macOS and can be downloaded for free using the link below.  


Looking for more great pieces of free software? Check out our archive here.

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