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11 free resources to pad your sound effect library

A blue moon with a stylized EQ

When your first starting as a sound designer, it can be incredibly expensive to build your sound effects library.  While there are a multitude of free sound effects libraries and catalogs online, many like Freesound don’t curate their content and often have SFX resources that are poorly recorded or now up to professional quality.

What do you mean “professional quality?”

A number of free sound effects are recorded at a 44.1 kHz sample rate or higher than 16-bit audio bit depth.  This means that the samples may sound great to the ear, but you’ll find them lacking when it comes to the quality when trying to manipulate the sounds, especially if, like me, you use a lot of pitch shifting and stretching.  

Instead, look for SFX collections that are recorded at a 96 kHz or 192 kHz sample rate, and for maximum stretch and pitch flexibility, your audio bit depth should be 24-bit or higher.

Ready to maximize your SFX collection?  Try these outstanding SFX resources:

High-quality free sounds

1. 99 Sound Effects 

A collection of free sound effects for music production, game development, cinematic trailers, movie scores, TV shows, creative sound design, YouTube, and more.

2. Free To Use Sounds

Free to Use Sounds is a huge boon to sound designers with their free and paid sound libraries. If you’ve got the money to spare, their $23 all-in-one bundles is a steal, with 1.6 TB of SFX for your collection.

3. A Sound Effect

A great resource for paid SFX, including all of the UberDuo libraries. Sign up for A Sound Effect’s monthly newsletter and get free pro-quality sounds in your inbox.

Curated, but lower quality

These collections offer curated, lower quality (48/24 or less) sound effects recorded by professional field recordists.  Many of the sites offer premium HD versions at a price.

4. Zapsplat 

A great resource with free SFX in MP3 format.  WHile not ideal for major sound design, they have an extensive library of sounds to use.

5. The BBC SFX collection

One of my first SFX collections!  I paid for mine, but they’ve been released for free by the BBC since.  There are over 33,000 clips from across the world from the past 100 years. These include clips made by the BBC Radiophonic workshop, recordings from the Blitz in London, special effects made for BBC TV and Radio productions, as well as 15,000 recordings from the Natural History Unit archive.

6. Orange Free Sounds

Offers a lot of Free Sound Effects, Music Loops and Background Music for both Commercial & Non – Commercial use. There are no hidden costs or need to sign-up. Download is completely free. The Site Database is updated with new material on regular basis.

7. Premium Beat by ShutterStock

Regardless of whether you’re shooting a short film, working on an exciting animation or composition, or even developing an app or video game and need some killer SFX, you’re covered at The Beat.

8. PacDV

PacDV has been producing royalty free sounds for filmmakers, sound designers, music producers, film students, and multimedia developers since 2001, and our sounds have been featured in a variety of independent films and videos, television programs, documentaries, commercials, games, radio shows, and new media projects.

9. Soundjay

Sound Jay’s free sound effects web site! Most files are 16 bit stereo 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz high quality sound effects. Remember to bookmark them, as they often add new sounds.

Special Collections

10. Retro Arcade Sounds

A comprehensive, royalty-free game sound effects library inspired by the classic 16-bit arcade games of the late 80’s/early 90’s.

11. The Macaulay Library

From Cornell University,  the world’s premier scientific archive of natural history audio, video, and photographs. Includes amphibians, fishes, and mammals, and the collection preserves recordings of each species’ behavior and natural history.


What are you waiting for?  Start building your sound effects library today!  Looking for more SFX, check out our premium sound libraries at A Sound Effect!

Author

  • Matthew is a writer with an obsession for "the right word", storytelling, and communicating big ideas in accessible ways. He's a fierce advocate for the written and spoken word, striving to inform and support the voices of other creators in his role as a Communication and Content Specialist. As a sound designer, Matt also crafts soundscapes and edits dialogue for audiobooks and fictional podcast productions. He has lived all over the United States and travels with his wife and son in search of craft beer and great stories.