Finding where to download free sound effects was a constant annoyance of mine when I first started working with audio. If you search for “free sound effects” you’re likely going to have to trawl your way through tons of websites, many of which are poor quality and many of which will ask you to pay because free doesn’t always mean free.”Royalty-Free” for example, doesn’t mean free to download.
I don’t want to get too lost in the legality of sound effects. My simple rule of thumb is as follows, if you’re not making any money on a project and need sound effects? (ie for a college project, a video for the family, a scratch audio track, an animatic or a test) then there are a number of resources for getting a good standard of sound effects.
What I’m looking at here is websites to download free sound effects that are actually free! ie you won’t need to pay ANYTHING.
If you are using sound effects for commercial productions, or anything in which you plan to make a profit, or even if your putting the content online BE SURE to check the legal terms of your source, it might just require a link or credit (Sound effects obtained from…), but always check the license terms on the website from which you downloaded sound effects.
Free Downloadable Sound Effects
As well as looking for completely free sounds, I’m also going to focus on good quality.
A decent library of sounds but you might find what if you find what you need quality is very good across the board and it also contains music tracks available for download. The license is very generous, you can download and use any of the audio for almost any commercial or non-commercial project, as long as you give the website a credit somewhere. An excellent resource for downloading free sound effects and music.
Orange Free Sounds
Not a massive collection but could be enough to find some basic sound effects, it also includes drum loops and generic music instrumental tracks. The quality is definitely good enough for online material, for something bigger you’d need something more high definition. As of now they are still adding content regularly, so this may become a really useful resource for media producers.
A random selection of sound effects, you’ll need to know exactly what your looking for and just do a search as the categorization isn’t great for browsing. Quality is good for the most part but a lot of them are rough enough. Everything is free to download without sign up but while some tracks are completely free to use others have more complicated licences so be sure to check.
This is a user submitted website, the sound effects are created by people themselves which means the site is very hit and miss. There is LOTS on there, searching for any phrase you’re likely to get what you want, but the quality of the sound might not be up to it. It’s one where you’ll have to crawl through a ton of crap to find the odd gem – licences vary so make sure you check.
We all have spotify accounts now right… well, a lot of people don’t realise but spotify is effectively a sound effect library as well and gives you access tons of sfx albums (including Hollywood Edge and other professional libraries). You can find almost anything on there and you can play and record with a stereo-mix enabled soundcard or a good software that supports recording playback. You will need to be careful with this, using it on anything in the public domain is not recommended, but it’s a very resourceful to know about, even just for research purposes.
Similarly to spotify, itunes is also awash with great sound effects albums. The beauty of Itunes is it will gives you a 30 second preview of tracks, which is longer than the length of most sound effects, so again you could potentially record it to your hard drive and use them on a scratch or unprofessional project.
However, if you’re going to use it for something bigger, it is also a great resource for buying full, good quality sound effect albums. These are the albums found used in professional studios, and you can get 70 or 80 sound effects for £5 / €6 – but be sure you listen to the previews first. The quality doesn’t change noticeably from an itunes preview to a download, so if it sounds bad on a preview, don’t buy it.
Record sound effects yourself
The final option, and something I have done numerous times is to record sound effects yourself. If you have a good standard of microphone and a room that soaks up sound well, you can easily record an endless amount of sound effects.
If it’s human sound effects (shocked reactions, kids screaming, crying, roaring) you can do most of them yourself or call in a family and friends. Things like eating an apple, change in a pocket, using electronic devices are so easy as well. If you have access to a portable recorder, go out and about and get what you need, bring it back to studio and with a bit of processing you can have something of great and organic standard (the best standard!).
As you can see from the various websites that sell sound effects, there is also money to be made from producing sound effects, especially if they are of high quality.
A Summary of Where to Download Free Sound Effects
There are some but not lots of good resources for downloading sound effects online, and many of the above sites give access to content that can be used anywhere. This is particularly helpful for students, teachers and producers working on content before it goes into full production. I hope this will save you trawling through sites that try and sell you awful quality sound effects.
Do you know of any other websites for free downloadable sound effects, let us know below.