Best Free Plugins For Mixing Metal Drums

Best Free Plugins For Mixing Metal Drums

There are a shit ton of plugins in the market today and honestly if you go down the rabbit hole of comparing all the different compressors and EQs and saturation plugins you will forget your initial goal – making more music.

So in this post I won’t be give you a list of 15 different compressors and 10 different limiters to “try out”. Instead I have selected specific plugins for specific sources (kick, snare, Toms, Overheads, Rooms) which I personally like and I will show you those along with the settings I use.

If you like it you can download those for free and use them!

1. The Best Compressor Plugins

A) DC1A by Klanghelm

As far as free compressors go, this one packs a solid punch! It brings out that fat attack from your shells.

It has a simple interface with just an input and output knob and no attack and release times.

Some additional controls include the Deep button which enables a side chain high pass filter to keep low end intact, a Relaxed button to give gentler compression and less saturation, a Dual Mono button to process left and right channels separately and a Negative Button which is basically a nuke button and gives you an extremely aggressive pumping effect.

I targeted roughly 10db of gain reduction on the kick, 15db on the snare (with the negative button) and about 6-7db on the toms. Push the Input knob until you get it sounding right and then adjust the output knob to bring it to about the same level so you can get a good comparison when you bypass the plugin.

1. klanghelm dc1 Best Free Plugins For Mixing Metal Drums Whack Studio

Check out the audio samples below to hear it in action!

Kick Raw

Kick Compressed (~10db gain reduction)

Snare Raw

Snare Compressed (~15db gain reduction)

Toms Raw

Toms Compressed (~6db gain reduction)

B) TDR Kotelnikov

The Kotelnikov by Tokyo Dawn Records works superbly for smashing the crap out of your drum rooms. 

As per their website it has a ton of features you can play with but honestly all I care about is how it made the drum room sound exciting with enough of the snare sound coming through. I kept the attack at 3ms, the fastest possible release time, a ratio of 4:1 and then pulled the threshold till I got it pumping and exciting enough. I had roughly 10db of gain reduction.

2. TDR K Best Free Plugins For Mixing Metal Drums Whack Studio

Check out the audio samples below to hear it in action!

Drum Room Raw

Drum Room Compressed (~10db gain reduction)

C) BUSTERse by Analog Obsession

BUSTERse is Analog Obsession’s take on the SSL bus compressor. It is a superb alternative to the SSL Bus Compressor 2 or the Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor.

It has that “glue” you would look for from an SSL style compressor and dialling it in is fairly simple.

I am using a 3ms attack time, the fastest release, a ratio of 4:1 and then pull the threshold down to where I get roughly 4db of gain reduction on the hard snare hits and the kick barely moves the needle.

3. busterse Best Free Plugins For Mixing Metal Drums Whack Studio

Check out the audio samples below to hear how it brings the whole drum kit together!

Drum Bus Raw

Drum Bus Compressed (~4db gain reduction)

2. The Best EQ Plugin

MEqualizer by Melda Production

I can’t emphasise enough that your DAWs stock EQ plugin is probably all you need! Sure there are EQs which have been modelled after hardware units and have different tonal qualities, but your stock EQ will get you at least 95% of the way. The main benefit of going with another EQ plugin would be a better user interface.

BUT, if you absolutely need something else, the MEqualizer from Melda Production is a great free alternative.

It is a 6 band EQ which includes some additional features like Tube Saturation and a dry/wet knob. 

Melda offers this a part of their MFreeFX Bundle which includes a bunch of other plugins as well.

4. mequalizer

3. The Best Saturation Plugin

Saturation Knob by Softube

The Saturation Knob plugin by Softube is definitely one of the best saturation plugins in the market and surprisingly its free! It has an extremely simple interface and is great at what it is does – adding grit to any track.

The plugin has three different saturation modes – Keep High, Neutral and Keep Low. The Keep High mode keeps the high end intact and distorts the lows while the Keep Low mode keeps the low end intact and distorts the highs. Neutral mode distorts throughout.

5. softube saturation Best Free Plugins For Mixing Metal Drums Whack Studio

Check out the audio samples below of saturation on the drum bus. I kept the setting on Keep Low to not have the kick drum distort and drove the knob roughly 40% of the way. This may be over saturated, but it will let you hear the saturation better!

I also got the audio samples roughly at the same volume by pulling down the output bar on the right side of the plugin.

Drum Bus Raw

Drum Bus Saturated

4. The Best Clipper Plugin

Gclip by GVST

In spite of the ugly user interface of this plugin, it actually works very well! Unlike a limiter which would push down the transient, a clipper just chops it off and helps make the bus louder without distorting. 

The simple controls on Gclip include a gain knob, a clipping threshold and a softness knob.

The graphic interface of GClip is very useful in understanding how much of the transient is being cut. You can also zoom in if the overall volume is lower.

6. gclip Best Free Plugins For Mixing Metal Drums Whack Studio

Check out the audio samples below of clipping on the drum bus. By checking the limiter at the end of my chain I could see almost 7-8 db of the snare transient is being chopped off.

Drum Bus Raw

Drum Bus Clipped

5. The Best Limiter Plugin

Limited-Z by LVC Audio

Limited-Z by LVC Audio is a good limiter plugin with some additional bells and whistles.

You can select some different modes which will help make the master bus more smooth, more clean, more punchy or more aggressive or a mix of these.

It’s worth trying out the different algorhythms to see what works best for the track.

7. Limited-Z

Check out the audio samples below of a drum bus with a few db of limiting.

Drum Bus Raw

Drum Bus Clipped

6. The Best Drum Reverb Plugin

Valhalla Supermassive

Valhalla makes some of the absolute best reverb plugins in the market, and the Supermassive is no different.

The plugin was made for massive delays and reverb but it can work great as a drum reverb.

7. valhalla

This is how I used the reverb plugin:
a) I send moderate amounts of cymbals and room sound into a separate bus along with the snare and toms.
b) I used the settings shown in the picture above.
c) On the reverb bus I used an eq to cut out some 200hz and almost 5-6db from the midrange from about 350-650hz.
d) Blended it into the main drum bus.

Check out the sample below to hear the drum bus with and without the reverb and see what a difference it makes!

Drum Bus

Drum Bus With Reverb

All in all these are a really good bunch of free plugins which should help you take your drum mix to the next level!

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Naman Sachdev
Naman Sachdev

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