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- Magdiel Zuniga says:Nov 27 2018
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Top 100 Free VST Plugins for Electronic Music Producers
Music production has become cheaper than ever. All that’s really needed to make good music is a laptop, a DAW, and a good pair of headphones. Beyond that, you don’t have to spend a dime.
The fact is, there’s a community of people out there spending hours of their time making plugins and tools for you to use. Whether it’s a fully-fledged FM synthesizer, or a simple stereo field effect – this list contains the best free VST and AU plugins out there on the web today.
Note: most of these plugins are for windows, mainly because the free and open source community leans towards that operating system for reasons I won’t go into. With that said, I’ve done my best to include a range of mac-compatible plugins so that you can still take advantage of what’s on offer.
P.S. This list isn’t in any particular order, so the synth at number 95 is not necessarily better or worse than the one at 94 or 96.
- Synths and Samplers
- Compressors and Limiters
- EQs and Filters
- Distortions and Amps
- Modulation Effects
- Stereo Field and Utility
- Visual Metering
100. TAL-NoiseMaker (Mac Compatible)
TAL-NoiseMaker is hands down one of the best free synths out there. It’s super easy to get started with, has great filters and effects, and features a rich, warm sound. You’ll feel guilty getting it for free.
99. Zebralette (Mac Compatible)
Zebralette is a toned down version of the popular Zebra 2 synth. Yes, it’s limited, but it’s still got the same pristine audio quality that Zebra 2 features. With one oscillator, Zebralette is easy to use and learn, and provides enough features to create dynamic, evolving sounds.
98. T-Force Alpha Plus
I first came across T-Force Alpha Plus after a friend recommended it to me. Initially I didn’t think much of it, being a free synth and all, but I was blown away after downloading it and having a play around. If you’re a trance producer, you’ll find it even more valuable.
97. Crystal (Mac Compatible)
Back in the early days when I couldn’t afford anything, Crystal was my go-to synth. It’s complex and intricate for a free plugin, and can be quite daunting at first (especially if you’re a new producer), but the sonic possibilities are endless. Serious sound designers will fall in love with this synth.
96. Synth1 (Mac Beta)
Synth1 is arguably the most popular freeware plugin of all time. It sounds fantastic, and it’s incredibly easy to program. The only downside is that it’s not that sexy in the looks department (if you care about that kind of thing). Check out this composition made completely with Synth1 to get an idea of what it can do.
95. FireBird 2
FireBird 2 used to be a paid product until Tone2 decided to release it as a free plugin so that more people could take advantage of the unique synthesizer. It’s an easy-to-use subtractive synthesizer that also features Harmonic Content Morphing synthesis, which allows for unique and complex sounds.
94. Triple Cheese (Mac Compatible)
Despite the name, U-he Triple Cheese is not a synth designed purely for cheesy music. It’s actually a lot different to most synths out there, as it uses comb filter delays to create and morph sounds. It can be a little confusing at first, so it’s a good idea to read the user guide.
93. TAL-U-NO-62 (Mac Compatible)
The TAL-U-NO-62 is a new and improved version of its predecessor, the U-NO-60. Modelled off the classic Juno 60 hardware synth, this free plugin is a polyphonic virtual analogue synth that’s sure to find a comfortable place in your plugin library. It sounds great and does what you need it to do, nothing less, and nothing more.
92. TyrellN6 (Mac Compatible)
I know this is the third time I’ve mentioned a U-he product, but there’s a reason for that – they’re fricken good. The TyrellN6 is inspired by the Juno 60, and is similar to the TAL-U-NO-62 in terms of functionality and ease of use. If you’re looking for a virtual analog synth that has warm sound oscillators and classic filters, then this is for you.
Let’s be honest, free plugins are always better named than paid ones, Oatmeal is a perfect example. But it’s not just a nice name. Oatmeal is a two-oscillator subtractive synth with a high quality sound straight out of the box. You’re not going to make extremely complex sounds with this synth, but it’s great for the basics.
Emulating the KORG Mono/Poly analog synthesizer that was popular in the early 1980’s, the Mono/Fury VST is a quality software synth with a range of helpful features that uses very little CPU. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the classics, then it’s perfect.
Inspired by the classic JX-8P synthesizer, the PG8X is a polyphonic software synth that features two digitally controlled oscillators as well as hard sync, ring modulation, and stereo chorus. It’s old school, and super fun.
88. Plex 2
Plex 2 is a next level restructuring synthesizer that allows for endless sonic possibilities. It comes packed with a load of presets, and is generally suited for those who like using textures and dark ambient sounds in their productions. It’s worth experimenting with regardless of whether you think it’s suitable or not.
87. SuperWave P8
Superwave P8 is a virtual analogue synthesizer with a few more features than the ones already mentioned so far in this post. It’s got 2 dedicated oscillators (7 in SuperWave mode), and a decent selection of envelopes, LFOs, and filters. The modulation capability is great, and the synth comes with 64 high quality presets.
86. Analog Warfare Synths
Analog Warfare is a virtual analog synth with intricate routing possibilities that comes in three different layouts/styles. It goes above and beyond what you would expect a standard VA synth to do, which makes it great for those who wanting to take their sound design skill to the next level.
MauSynth is a more recent addition to the freeware world, and it’s quickly proved itself as one of the best sounding (and best looking) synths. The analog modeled subtractive synth is easy to navigate and has a range of features such as zero-delay filters, audio-rate modulation, stereo unison, band-limited oscillators, and much more.
84. Elektrik Piano
Elektrik Piano is a fine example of DSK’s attention to detail that’s prevalent among their wide range of virtual instruments. The plugin has 2 layers featuring 13 waveforms each that allow you to easily change the timbre and style of the piano.
TranceDrive was made as part of the KVR developer contest a few years back. It’s a subtractive synthesizer built for trance music, so you’ll find making supersaws and pads a breeze. It’s also versatile and easy to understand.
82. Drum Boxx
Everyone needs a good drum synth, right? Drum Boxx from SonicXTC is an easy to use drum machine that can be used to create unique drum sounds such as kicks, snares, hats, and much more. If you don’t own a drum synth already, Drum Boxx is a great choice.
If you’re familiar with the classic Roland TR-808, then you’ll be glad to know that the TS-808 is a highly accurate software emulation. Use it in your productions and learn about the ins and outs of a piece of gear that helped shape the dance music scene.
80. Tunefish (Mac Compatible)
Tunefish is a super lightweight virtual analog synth with an interface that’s easy to navigate. In addition to all the features you’d expect from a virtual analog synth, Tunefish also features an additive synthesis based wavetable generator. The mod matrix is also great!
Voyager is a four oscillator subtractive synth with FM capabilities as well as a 32-band stereo vocoder (which can be used as an effect insert on an audio track). It looks complicated, but it’s really not after you spend some time with it.
Alieno is a sci-fi influenced monophonic synth that’s a great tool to have in your studio collection. It comes shipped with 216 presets that can be tweaked with the filters, extensive modulation parameters, and much more.
Ultrasonique from EVM is a fairly and simple straightforward polyphonic synthesizer. It does, however, feature an X-Y pad and multi-function sequence controller that’s essentially a hybrid between an arpeggiator and step sequencer.
Softdrum is a simple drum sampler that allows you to load both mono and stereo wav files. If you’re using a DAW such as Reaper that doesn’t have dedicated drum sampler, then it might be worth picking this up.
75. Drumatic 3
If Drum Boxx is too complicated for you, then you’ll feel right at home with Drumatic 3. It’s a simple drum synthesizer that allows for up to 7 voices. Drumatic 4 exists too, but it’s not free.
74. B-Station 2
Odo’s B-Station 2 is a nifty little bass synthesizer that features all the basics plus a little extra. Make use of the modulation oscillator, or effects such as vibrato or drive.
Based on the same architecture of hardware synthesizers in the past, Prodigious is a fantastic two-oscillator mono/poly synth with fat sounding filters and a non-audio FM modulation oscillator for more intricate sounds. It also comes packed with 128 well made presets.
I’ve covered a lot of VA and subtractive synths, so here’s something different. eFemme is a 4-operator FM/PM synth that’s easy to use and understand. It’s great for those who want to learn more about FM synthesis but become overwhelmed by the complexity of most FM synths.
71. TDR Feedback Compressor II (Mac Compatible)
The TDR Feedback Compressor II is one of my favorite compressors of all time, and it’s free! Not only does it have a great user interface, it also sounds fantastic and is a joy to use. Believe me when I say that this should be in every producer’s collection.
70. VoS ThrillseekerLA
Considered to be one of the best free analog modeled compressors on the web, the ThrillseekerLA is a must-have plugin. It’s got incredibly smooth gain riding and a very low amount of distortion and artifacts.
69. Roughrider (Mac Compatible)
I used to use Roughrider on my drum buss in almost every single production (until I came across Ableton’s Glue Compressor which has slowly but surely replaced it). Roughrider is a warm-sounding vintage style compressor that sounds great on drums and bass.
If you’re doing any sort of vocal recording or processing then you’re going to need a de-esser. Lisp is a free de-esser that automatically detects and lowers the volume of harsh sibilant sounds. It may not be a replacement for an experienced audio engineer using a de-esser manually, but it’s damn good for being completely free.
67. Blockfish (Mac Compatible)
Blockfish is a part of DigitalFishPhone’s "Fish Fillet” collection which also includes a de-esser and expander. Blockfish is a versatile compressor that looks simple on the front, but has an accessible back panel offering useful parameters such as saturation levels and EQ. It’s available as part of a free package.
66. Ferric TDS
Ferric TDS is inspired by classic hardware such as reel-to-reel tape recorders and features 4 simple yet effective controls: Recovery, Dynamics, Saturation, and Limiter. If you’re looking for a free plugin that will enhance your sound and add extra harmonics through analog-like saturation, then this is perfect.
65. Antress Modern Compressor
The Antress Modern Compressor comes as part of the Antress Modern Plugins collection. It’s an easy-to-use compressor with classic features such as post-gate and gate time control, ratio switch, and sidechain capability.
64. SSL LMC-1
There’s quite a bit of history behind the SSL LMC-1, and it’s worth reading about it. The LMC-1 (Listen Mic Compressor) is a compressor with fixed attack and release times, making it quick and easy to use. It’s not an all-purpose compressor and is limited in terms of functionality and features, but it’s still worth having.
63. Density MKII
Density MKII is a versatile buss compressor that adds a very subtle coloring to the audio signal. It’s great for use as a mastering compressor or a standard buss compressor, and it looks pretty cool too.
JsCompShaper is a soft-knee compressor that allows you to morph between compression and wave shaping. It’s analog characteristics are sure to be a hit among hardware fans, but it’s feature-packed interface may be a bit too confusing for those new to dynamics processing.
61. Spitfish (Mac Compatible)
I already mentioned Blockfish above. Spitfish is a de-esser that comes included in the same "Fish Fillets” package. It’s simple, straightforward, and does the job as you would expect.
60. C3 Multiband Compressor
The C3 Multiband Compressor is rather simplistic, not only in terms of functionality but also design. Some people may find it too basic, but if you haven’t got a multiband compressor and need somewhere to start, then it’s ideal.
59. JB Broadcast
Broadcast by Jeroen Breebaart is a lightweight but powerful multiband compressor featuring automatic gain control as well as a gate and limiter function. It’s very well developed, and a great tool to have in your studio arsenal.
58. Nasty VCS
Nasty VCS from Variety of Sound is an opto-electric style compressor featuring pre-amp saturation in addition to a convenient safety brickwall limiter. It also includes an EQ section that allows you to add rich color to your audio signal.
If you want to really slam your music, then LoudMax is the perfect limiter for you. It’s a look-ahead brickwall limiter that offers a clean transparent sound even at high compression levels. You should definitely give it a go.
56. Stereo Buss Compressor
I’ve always been a huge fan of MSI’s plugins, not only because of their design, but also because of their functionality and price. The Stereo Buss Compressor is a true reflection of this. It’s 100% free yet offers the same quality compression that you’d expect from a high-end software compressor.
55. Limiter No6 (Mac Compatible)
Limiter No6 is a versatile limiter that features 5 different limiter modules: RMS compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper, and true peak limiter. It’s also multiband enabled and gives you the ability to process the mid/side information of your audio. If you’re looking for limiter that goes beyond what most do, then Limiter No6 is a great choice.
54. GMulti Compressor
The GMulti Compressor is a pretty standard 3-band compressor, nothing new under the sun. What’s nice about it though is its spectacular visual feedback. It’s practically got an oscilloscope built in so you can see how you’re affecting the audio over time.
Transient from Sleepy-Time DSP is an intricate transient-driven signal shaper, which allows you to process and adjust the attack and sustain portions of a sound. It’s got more controls than your standard transient shaper, so it may be a bit confusing at first.
52. Flux Bittersweet II
If Transient from Sleepy-Time DSP is a little too over-the-top for you, then you’ll love Flux Bittersweet II. It’s a super simple transient shaper that also features mid/side processing for a little extra versatility.
Finally, we have Endorphin, a dual-band mid/side capable compressor that features two basic compressor designs: modern VCA and vintage style opto. If you’re looking for something simple that sounds great and adds some analog warmth, then Endorphin is a fantastic compressor.
50. VoS Slick EQ
Slick EQ is a beautiful mastering equalizer from the popular freeware developers Variety of Sound. It’s easy to use, has a very nice tonal characteristic, and comes packed with a number of great sounding presets.
49. Bx_cleansweep (Mac Compatible)
Brainworx are known for their professional level effect plugins. Typically they’re unaffordable for most hobbyist producers, but fortunately bx_cleansweep V2 is 100% free. It’s a hi-pass/lo-pass filter plugin built to remove any unwanted frequencies on the low or high end of the spectrum.
48. BootEQ MKII
BootEQ MKII is an analog inspired musical mixing EQ from Variety of Sound. With tube style saturation and subtle audio coloring, it’s the perfect EQ for those who want an authentic, warm touch.
47. Prism EQ-3
All this talk about analog warmth, saturation, and different compressor styles – it can be confusing. Prism EQ-3 is a straightforward 3 band EQ that’ll play nice with your CPU.
MQ57 is a parametric EQ specifically designed for mastering (though it can also work quite well on single channels and groups). It’s powerful, but has a small learning curve and key features that make it a joy to use.
45. Ohm Force Frohmage (Mac Compatible)
Ohm Force are well known for their out-of-the-box plugins and products. Frohmage is an interesting plugin. It’s a multi-band resonant filter that can create heavy distortion effects and completely change a sound (or ruin it if you’re not careful).
44. Thrillseeker XTC
The last plugin in our EQ list is an exciter from; you guessed it, Variety of Sound. The Thrillseeker XTC is based on a parallel analog style equalizer, and helps users add weight, vibe, and attitude to the desired audio.
43. CamelCrusher (Mac Compatible)
If you haven’t come across CamelCrusher before, then you’re in for a treat. It’s a nifty little multi-effect distortion plugin that can make the difference between a weak sound, and an incredibly powerful one. With two distortion parameters, a filter, and one-knob compressor, you’ve got enough tools to tweak and shape to your heart’s content.
42. IVGI Saturation (Mac Compatible)
Saturation is one of the best tools in a producer’s arsenal. It can be used to reduce dynamic range, provide warmth, and give a more round characteristic to a sound, and much more. The Klanghelm IVGI is a beautifully made saturation module that can be used for very subtle purposes such as mastering, or on single tracks to give them a more dense, dirty characteristic.
41. Izotope Vinyl (Mac Compatible)
It’s not often that a big software company releases a free product, but I’m not complaining. Izotope Vinyl is a great tool to add that lo-fi vinyl-esque feel to your track or instrument. It’s a breeze to use, and being from Izotope - you know it’s quality made.
40. HeadCrusher Free
If you’re not a huge fan of the IVGI saturator, then you may like HeadCrusher Free. It’s a simple two-knob saturation plugin that’s a stripped down version of Audio Assault’s premium plugin – HeadCrusher. It only has one saturation mode, but it’s still incredibly useful and you’re sure to find some value in it.
39. IK Multimedia Amplitube
IK Multimedia’s Amplitube is designed more for traditional musicians (you know, guitarists and all that), but being an innovative and creative electronic music producer you’re bound to find a use for this comprehensive plugin.
There is a range of free bitcrushers out there, and while I’d love to include them all – this is a top 100 list, not top 1000. SicknDstroy is an extremely versatile multimode bitcrusher. It can split your signal into two parts, a bit-crushed signal and samplerate-reduced signal, and then combine them again. Basically, you just have to try it out for yourself.
SicknDstroy might be a bit too much for you. If that’s the case, then you’ll love the simplicity of Compakt. The name says it all; it’s a simple three-knob bitcrusher that does what it’s supposed to do.
36. Bionic Delay
I’ve been using Bionic Delay since as long as I can remember purely due to its simplistic design and ease of use. You can get the type of delay you want within seconds, or create a more complex delay pattern using the groove and flutter parameters.
Note: There’s actually a newer version called Bionic Supa Delay, which you might prefer.
With the character and sound of a vintage delay, combined with modern features and options – RetroDelay is a flexible delay plugin that can be used in a variety of ways.
34. Sweetboy SH-1 Delay
The Sweetboy SH-1 Delay comes as part of the free SH-1 7 plugin package. It’s simplistic in design and functionality but is great for quick use due to how lightweight it is.
33. VoS NastyDLA
NastyDLA is a classic chorus echo plugin from Variety of Sound that features tape-delay simulation. It’s super fun to use and adds an authentic coloration to any signal passed through it.
FreqDelay is a multi-band delay module that allows you to process the delay time, feedback, filter shape, level, frequency, and resonance. It may be a bit overkill for some of you, but it’s worth a look.
31. Classic Delay
Classic Delay from Kjaerhus Audio features is a delay machine that features three different delay styles: Tape, Analog, and Digital Delay. It’s completely transparent and syncs perfectly to your DAW’s tempo.
30. TAL-Dub 2
TAL-Dub 2 is one of the most enjoyable delay plugins to use. It’s an improvement on the first one, featuring a new sound engine and a range of new features. If there’s one delay plugin in this list you should download, it’s this one.
29. Tape Delay
Finally, there’s Tape Delay from E-phonic. It’s not pretty, and it’s not filled with features, but it does emulate the classic tape delay sound that we all love. Definitely worth downloading and having a play around with.
EpicVerb was one of the first free reverb plugins I ever got. I didn’t expect much initially, but after using it for a few weeks I was blown away at how versatile it was. With two reverb options (reverb and ambience) in addition to a range of other parameters such as EQ, damping, and mid/side control – EpicVerb is truly one of the best free reverbs out there.
27. Ambience (Mac Compatible)
While I’m not a huge fan of the sound of Ambience, it is a fantastic reverb plugin with a lot of control. Whether you want a short room reverb or long, dramatic tail, Ambience has you covered.
26. PianoVerb (Mac Compatible)
PianoVerb isn’t anything like your standard reverb. It produces reverberation via piano strings, which can be tuned to specific notes. It also features damping and decay time as one would expect from a reverb plugin.
25. Sweetboy SH-1 Reverb
Sweetboy SH-1 Reverb comes as part of the free 7 plugin SH-1 pack. It’s pretty standard as far as reverbs go, but it doesn’t hurt to have it in your collection, as it’s very well designed and easy to use.
24. Voxengo OldSkoolVerb (Mac Compatible)
You’re probably all up in arms about the fact that this is a top 100 VST list and I haven’t mentioned a Voxengo plugin yet. Well, here you go. Voxengo OldSkoolVerb is a classically inspired reverb plugin that delivers a clear, untouched sound.
23. KR-Reverb (Mac Compatible)
I first came across KR-Reverb in a Computer Music issue a while back and have been using it ever since. It’s an incredibly versatile reverb that has a range of adjustment options.
22. Antress Modern Spacer
I’ve already plugged the Antress Modern Compressor. Included in the same comprehensive VST pack is the Antress Modern Spacer, a hardware inspired reverb plugin with a range of simple, easy-to-use features.
Waterverb definitely isn’t for everyone. I’m not a huge fan of it myself, but I know some of you reading this will be. It’s a randomized reverb plugin, so basically it’ll give you randomized decay/delay times. If you produce ambient music then you’ll love it, otherwise it might just be too frustrating.
Space360 is a well-designed room simulator and reverb plugin. It features a logical GUI, which is refreshing in the free plugin world, and can be a very handy tool when it comes to adding space to recorded or synthesized sound.
19. Classic Chorus
Another one from Kjaerhus Audio, Classic Chorus is a minimally designed chorus effect that can help you add depth, width, and size to your audio. It’s a simple plugin, and as a result uses very low CPU.
18. Blue Cat’s Flanger
There isn’t a huge range of flanger plugins out there, especially free ones. Fortunately Blue Cat Audio have a professionally developed flanger plugin – The Free Vintage Flanger - that will sit comfortably in any producer’s plugin collection.
17. Full Phase
It’s hard to explain what Full Phase really does, so you’re going to have to try it out for yourself. What I can guarantee, however, is that it you will use it frequently.
Phazor is an emulation of the famous phaser effect found in the Virus TI. It’s very well optimized and lightweight, making it CPU friendly, and it’s laid out logically. All this makes it a joy to use.
15. Flux Stereo Tool
Flux Stereo Tool is one of the most comprehensive free stereo utilities out there on the web. Featuring precise input gain for left and right channels, as well as a phase inversion setting in addition to global controls – you’re getting all that’s required to fix up stereo problems or make enhancements.
14. Voxengo MSED (Mac Compatible)
Voxengo’s MSED plugin is an intuitive mid/side encoder/decoder plugin that should be in every producer’s collection. It’s simple to use, and can be a lifesaver when it comes to fixing stereo issues in your mix.
13. Voxengo Stereo Touch (Mac Compatible)
If your DAW doesn’t come with a decent stereo widener, then it may be worth getting Voxengo’s Stereo Touch plugin. The effect can take a mono signal, enhance it, and turn it into a stereo signal. It’s great to use on recorded audio or sounds that just need that extra little bit of width.
12. Line-up (Mac Compatible)
Line-up from Nugen Audio is primarily a utility tool, designed to fix up misaligned tracks or nudge audio slightly one way. However, it can also be used on a send channel as a creative effect.
11. Proximity (Mac Compatible)
Proximity is an easy to use tool that helps you move elements backwards or forwards in the mix (in terms of depth). I probably use it in every production, and you should too.
Tone Project’s Basslane is a simple yet helpful plugin that allows you to reduce the stereo field of frequencies below a specific threshold. It’s great for use on basses, where you might want content below a certain frequency to be completely mono.
9. S(M)exoscope (Mac Compatible)
Whether you’re trying to find DC offset or simply look at how your kick drum stacks up to a professionally made one, you need an oscilloscope. S(M)exoscope from Smart Electronix is one of the most popular.
8. SPAN (Mac Compatible)
Even more important than an oscilloscope is a spectrum analyzer. SPAN helps you see where sounds like in the frequency spectrum, and follows a customized curve that’s more close to the human ear.
7. Signal Analyzer
Signal Analyzer is a combined oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer with an information rich display. It may be straining on the eyes, but it gives you the exact information you need in real time. You can also freeze it and export the graphs.
6. TT Dynamic Range Meter (Mac Compatible)
Built for the purpose of ending the loudness war, the TT Dynamic Range Meter gives you a read-out of the DR level in your track, and is very useful when mixing and mastering.
5. Illformed Glitch
Illformed’s Glitch is probably one of my favorite plugins of all time. It’s a multi-effect plugin that allows you to add a creative layer of complexity to your music through the use of effects such as stutter, tape stop, reverse, and many more. It’s no longer being supported, as the creator’s have launched Glitch 2, a premium plugin – but it can still be downloaded from Illformed’s website.
Fracture is similar to Illformed’s Glitch in the sense that it’s a, well… glitch plugin? Create robotic artifacts and automate LFO’s and delays on sections of audio that need spicing up. This plugin is time consuming, so beware.
Clarity is a simple plugin that uses phase shifting and comb filtering to sonically enhance any audio that’s passed through it. Users may want to take advantage of its sister plugin, Full Phase, which has been mentioned in this post.
Where do I start? Fragmental is literally mental. It’s a multi-effect plugin that also features a phase vocoder. If you’re crazy, or you make crazy music, then this is a must have.
1. Mnotepad (Mac Compatible)
Finally, we have the most anti-climatic #1 plugin (I told you this list wasn’t ordered!) – Mnotepad. What does it do? It lets you write stuff. This is incredibly helpful if you want to stay focused when composing, producing, or mixing and need to write something down such as "turn ride cymbal down in chorus.” You get the idea.
That’s it! Before you go, though, I’d like to hear what you’d add to this list. Do you know of any great free plugins that I’ve missed out? Leave a comment and let me know!
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