In this Ableton tutorial, I explain the strengths and weaknesses of all the Ableton warping/time stretching algorithms along with some shortcut keys to help.
For any modern producer, a sampler is essential. However, if you’re strapped for cash or just starting out, it can be difficult to find good-quality sampler plugins that actually work and add to your beats.
Luckily, we’ve cut through the weeds and compiled 9 of the best free sampler VST plugins out on the market today.
Free Sampler VSTs
Without delay, here are our top picks. Sit back, relax, and explore these excellent samplers.
Grace Sampler by One Small Clue
The Grace Sampler is simple, sleek, and suited to synth users. The sampler has optional patches free for download on its website, most of which are for synths, but there’s also a couple for drum kits, keys, and bass.
Free Time Stretch Vst Machines
This sampler comes in both 32 and 64-bit versions, so you won’t have to worry about compatibility from device to device. With most DAWS, you can drag and drop your samples right into the sampler, simplifying your workflow.
Grace Sampler comes with 2 step sequencers, 2 LFOS, and 4 different control pads. The sampler supports WAV, AIF, and SND formats directly which is impressive for a free plugin.
Grooove by BPB
If you’re looking to create some vibey drums, Grooove by BPB is a great pick. This drum sampler is perfect for techno and EDM musicians, looking to create catchy, unique loops.
The plugin has different slots in which 2 different drum samples can be layered and played simultaneously. The slots all have built-in LFOs for altering filter cutoff, sample delay, pitch, and standard attack, volume, pan, and start/end times. Luckily, the VST is supported in both 32 and 64-bit versions.
Grooove BPB is the free version of a full-on instrument, so if you like the notable sampling capabilities that come with the free VST, the purchased version by brunsandpork is a great step up.
TX16W Software Sampler
The TX16W software sampler has a wide array of features that usually only come with paid plugins. With this sampler, you can record samples directly and edit keyboard mappings making it a great pick for musicians looking to incorporate their DAWs into live performance.
As for modulation, the sampler has 2 LFOs and 3 step sequencers. Velocity and mapping can be handled by drawing a custom curve or using the integrated knobs. The plugin also acts as a bus so you can send in and out effects in real-time.
TX16W has 64-bit support and has a built-in arpeggiator, for a paid add-on, you can have time-stretch and pitch-bend modes. For free or otherwise, this plugin is no joke.
Sforzando by Plogue
Sforzando prides itself on its simplicity, with no graphic visualizer. There’s only one sample slot, with no effects or mixers.
The plugin simply consists of standard ADSR knobs, volume, pan, tone, and tune controls. Although this may feel limiting, for seasoned producers looking for a specific sound that doesn’t need a whole lot of extra fluff, Sforzando can be extremely helpful.
If anything else, the plugin works as a great ear-training tool and can train musicians to rely on their skillset rather than software. It comes with 64-bit support.
Zampler by Plugin Boutique
Zampler by Plugin Boutique is an excellent add-on for electronic musicians as you can download drum & bass, hip hop, even dubstep expansion packs.
The sampler has 3 LFOs and a large effects library including chorus, phaser, tube saturation, and many more. There are 2 sample banks and 3 ADSR envelopes for full modulation control.
Zampler has a step sequencer as well as sample oscillators for you to further tweak your sound. Unfortunately, Mac users only have 32-bit support. Windows has both 32 and 64-bit support, but any sample formats outside of sfz must be converted.
Paraphrasis by VirtualAnalogy
Paraphrasis helps you create those retro analog tones with any sample. Simply place your sample into the Paraphrasis sampler, and the modeling synthesizer will analyze the sound data to produce a more classic sound.
This VST is pretty simple, and the UI reflects that; there’s simply a pitch, resolution, analyze, and source toggle with no extra bells or whistles. There’s only one slot to the plugin, but on the upside, it doesn’t take up a large amount of CPU.
There’s also a handy reverse toggle, so you can reverse your sample before giving it that added analog touch. Some users had trouble using this plugin in 64-bit though it supports both versions, so make sure you’re downloading the proper .dll when acquiring this plugin.
XTT01 by Synthedit Labo Japan
The XTT01 has that classic rack-mount feel and is designed to give you a sound reminiscent of the past. This sampler is known for its signature glide function.
This VST is pretty bare bones. There are the standard ADSR knobs to toggle the filter and amp envelopes, and a built-in LFO with speed, PW, and depth knobs. You can also pitch shift by semitones within the sampler.
XTT01 has no visualizer, so it’s a great tool to use for musicians who are more auditory based learners. You can only load one sample at a time in this plugin. Unfortunately, this simple yet powerful sampler only supports 32-bit software, so it may not work for you if you have more modern equipment.
Bassje by Odosynths
Bassje by Odosynths is a great drum sequencer to give your beats the funky groove they’ve been missing. It’s loaded with 3 different toms as well, so if you’re just looking for a great tom loop generator, Bassje is a great addition to your library.
The plugin is separated into two main sections: An octave and filter sequencer. Nothing can describe the sounds you can get out of this puppy other than using is. Bassje has a volume, reso, and volume knob.
Its retro UI speaks to the nature of the plugin, as it’ll generate patterns very reminiscent of physical drum machines. For any musician trying to create retro-inspired music, Bassje is perfect.
Helios by TobyBear
Helios is an impressive audio sampler unit that is meant to be used during live performance. It has 8 different LFOs, including 2 that sync up to the sample’s tempo.
This plugin is able to tweak a sample is real-time with pitch-bending, looping, delays, and LFO filters. You can drag and drop wave files directly into the interface, making it ideal for DJs or musicians who have to improvise often. Unfortunately, it only supports a 32-bit connection so newer equipment may not work with this plugin.
What We Recommend
Any of these VSTs are excellent to try out but there are two that stand out in our minds:
Grooove BPB stands out in its flexibility and abundance of features for a free plugin. With 6 different drum slots and a variety of effects, it’s a versatile sampler that can act as an effect bus if nothing else.
Oftentimes rhythm is the core and soul of music production, so having a drum sampler to assist in that process is priceless (literally).
TX16Wx Software Sampler
This sampler is a full-on replacement for any stock sampler you may have, and then some. No other sampler can compare to this VST’s level of flexibility: With separate windows MIDI mapping, envelopes, modulation, arpeggiator, and samples themselves, it’s hard to believe that this plugin is free.
Another great thing about this plugin is the ability to record and drag samples directly into the interface. This may seem like a small factor, but for the right producer, it can significantly simplify your workflow.
If you’ve tried out a couple of these free options and you’re looking to take the next step, be sure to check out our guide on the best-paid sampler VSTs of 2019. Here are our two standout picks from that piece.
Phalanx by Vengeance Sound
Phalanx is an impressive sampler and sound effects generator that is very versatile in use. The plugin has a number of optional expansion packs catered to specific genres of music, so you’re sure to find one that works for you.
The plugin has a polyphony threshold at 256 notes, and 32 single samples can be played at once. In addition to its bevy of embedded effects, Phalanx holds its ground when used as a drum sampler.
Read more at Best Sampler VSTs
Polygon Sampler by Glitchmachines
This sampler is relatively affordable, making it a great paid VST to consider in your transition. Although it is mainly geared towards electronic music, the unique user interface and 120 embedded presets make this a fun tool for any producer.
If anything else, this sampler surprisingly works well as a synthesizer with an impressive 8 LFOs. It has a lot of granular synthesis capabilities, making it a great way to boost your low-end frequencies without altering the timing of your samples.
Read more at Best Sampler VSTs
All in all, any of these options are great to test out considering there’s no upfront cost other than your time. Have creating exciting new beats using your free Sampler VSTs!
Xenakios released today version 1.0 of PaulXStretch, a new free time-stretching plugin based on Paulstretch standalone audio processor. It’s not only design to time stretch your audio material but also to manipulate them extremely using great spectral processing effects.
Time Stretch Vst Free
PaulXStretch is only suitable for radical transformation of sounds. It is not suitable at all for subtle time corrections and such. Ambient music and sound design are probably the most suitable use cases. It can either load an existing audio file from disk to process or it can capture audio from the plugin inputs. (The capture mode is started/stopped with the “Capture” parameter.)
Also it will require the DAW audio engine to be running on the track it is inserted on. How that is achieved in various hosts is specific to those hosts. Some hosts will just immediately start running the plugin, in other hosts one may need to record/input monitor enable the track or something else needs to be done. The plugin has lots of latency, that isn’t reported to the host currently. I will have to investigate later what, if anything, can be done about those issues.
Xenakios PaulXStretch is now available as a free download for Windows and Mac (VST/AU).
More information here: Xenakios PaulXStretch