Photo (CC-BY) Martin Hearn.

Get the sound of an abandoned US surveillance tower, free

Over fifty years ago, it was built in West Berlin atop a mountain of rubble to listen in on the Communists in the East. And now, the infamous Teufelsberg UA National Security Agency tower can lend its cavernous sound to your tracks. It’s available as a free plug-in for Mac, Windows, and even Linux, and it’s open source. Someone found this idea appealing already, as the impulse samples we wrote about previously became the creators’ most popular download. But now, you get a plug-in you can drop in your host. It’s actually a pretty nice array of stuff here: Lush …

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Get a powerful step sequencer as a Windows VST, free

Quick! You need a step sequencer! Sometimes you want a full-featured sequencing tool and your host doesn’t have one (or it doesn’t do what you want). HY-SEQ16 is a terrific, versatile option. I could talk about the whole feature set but: randomize. Probability controls. There you have it. Okay, also, preset management, separate randomization per parameter (ooh), sequence direction – basically everything you need. If you really fall in love with this one, US$28 buys you 3×16 steps and an LFO. This looks great to me, not least for controlling external hardware. Heck, I thought I didn’t need it, and …

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Celebrate Sludgemas with some free Detroit Underground groove

There are things that make your butt wiggle. There are things that make your brain tickle. There are things that get glitched and grungy. Well, here’s something that does all those things at once – it’s a glitchy good time, and it’s free. Merry Sludgemas. And for anyone bored with overly-shiny, overly-restrained, dark fashion-label sound-alike techno – meet “sludge,” which is totally none of that. Our parade of year-end music queuing continues with some goodness from one of our favorite labels of the year, Detroit Underground. They’ve been experimental and glitchy and groovy and IDM and weirdo and excellent. They’ve …

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Spaceship Delay is an insane free plug-in inspired by hardware

Spaceship Delay is a free modeling plug-in for Mac and Windows with some wild effects. And it’s made possible partly thanks to the openness of hardware from KORG (and us). The plug-in itself you shouldn’t miss, and if you’re interested in how it’s made, there’s a story there, too. First, the plug-in — it’s really cool, and really out there, not so much a tame modeling effect as a crazy bundle of extreme sonic possibilities. In fact, it’s as much a multi-effects processor as it is a delay. Here it is in action, just quickly applying some of the sounds …

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Minitaur, (CC-BY) Audiotecna Música.

Get a pile of free one-shots of vintage instruments for Ableton Live

Get a gift that keeps on giving: a massive trove of one-shot samples of classic instruments that begs you to make your own sounds. That’s the latest freebie packaged for Ableton Live (though you could also snag the samples for other tools, too). And, wow, here are some beloved instruments: Prophet 12, Prophet 08, Minitaur, SubPhatty, SH101, MS20m, Bass Station II, Custom SEM/Doepfer modular, VL-Tone (drums), Mattel Synsonics (drums) I’ve made no secret of being a fan of Francis Preve’s sound design prowess, honed in years of work for companies like Roland and Ableton. His latest FM pack was a …

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NI just gave away a bunch of morphing toy sounds from your childhood

Mighty morphin’ nostalgia rangers. That Fisher-Price “Pull-a-Tune” xylophone. The plastic turntable Fisher-Price musicbox. L.G.B. and Lionel locomotives. A tin robot. Even if these don’t bring up memories of your own childhood playtime or your family’s playthings or (uh, depending on age) a visit to the local toy museum, they’re full of charming, magical sounds. And in a free sample library from our Berlin neighbors at Native Instruments, you can mess around with them in a morphing 3D interface. It’s just what you need to produce some ghastly, gothic, creepy horror soundtrack to scare the living f– Oh, wait. Sorry. Holiday …

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Skinnerbox’s free M4L Device is the MIDI curve Ableton forgot

Ableton Loop in its second year was a vastly expanded event, with more people, more interactions, and a greater sense of community. And it was more hands-on. The workshop with Skinnerbox, the duo that makes such robust use of Live, well, live, was overflowing. But now there’s a gift for everybody, not just those lucky enough to pack into the Berlin session. It’s simple, but that makes it handy to learn from. And it’s quite useful. (I like stuff like that for learning patching for the first time. Sometimes you need a screwdriver, not a CNC machine.) Curve does what …

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Grab a free secret sauce channel strip for Ableton DJ and live sets

The beautiful thing about software is that it’s flexible. You can reconfigure an entire live rig on the fly. But it’s still necessary to channel that flexibility into consistency, especially playing live. Reuse the stuff you need most so it’s always there. And train your hands and muscle memory so you can play fluidly. Savages – the Chicago/Dallas duo of Ted “TJ” Pallas and Alexandra Hartman – have shared their go-to channel strip full of all their favorite tools. And while they were at it, they recreated a unique EQ. EQ differently PLAYdifferently’s Model 1 mixer takes a different approach …

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Finally, a different EQ model – and it’s free from Soundtoys

Vanilla. I love vanilla. But I don’t want to eat vanilla ice cream all the time. EQs lately have been like vanilla ice cream – you get the same old model over and over and over again. You can get really amazingly accurate models in digital form, enough that you might reasonably skip hardware. But it’s too much of one thing. The folks at Soundtoys apparently felt the same. And they’re giving us something different. Now, I’m happy with my Oxford plug-ins and my Pulteqs and so on – don’t get me wrong. Really; I use them all the time …

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Slow is a super long reverb delay from Tim Exile and it’s free

Well, if you’re on a tight deadline for delivering an ambient/experimental/IDM album, and you’re totally out of money (and even possibly ideas), good news. You’re saved. Tim Exile just released S L O W, for free. To those who don’t know him, Mr. Exile is a professional mad scientist specializing in Reaktor engineering, virtuoso laptop musicinator, electronica personality, and man about town. Tim’s exploits are widely known and buzzed about among nerds and sonic weirdos, but since they won’t reach everyone’s ears that way, he also has a mailing list. Signing up for said mailing list is your key to …

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