If you really want to give your YouTube videos some personality, you need to integrate sound effects into your edits. The problem is that you cannot just publish any old sound effects as part of your project. You have to make sure you have the proper license to use the sound effect, which can be an absolute problem if you need to check individual clips.
This is why sites with free sound effects are so useful. You can use whatever effects you like, and you never have to worry about getting billed or sued for using the wrong “Bang!” or “Pow!” clips.
Public Service Announcement: Royalty is not free
Before we start looking into royalty-free sound effects, it’s very important to make sure you know what royalty-free is. This not means you don’t have to pay to use the sound effect clip. This means that at best, you only need to pay for it once, and then you can use it without paying the creator extra money for each view or copy of the final product sold.
You will also need to carefully read the terms of the licensing agreements for the clip in question to make sure your project type does indeed apply! Of course, royalty-free sound effects can also be given away for free, but the two facts are not related.
Most importantly, royalty-free sound effect clips are not necessarily public domain or Creative Commons content! They may have a traditional copyright license. That being said, many sites that advertise themselves as free directories also mix with public domain and Creative Commons clips.
The bottom line is that you should also carefully check the license attached to a particular clip before using it.
SoundBible is incredibly easy to use. Once you get to the first page of the site, you can immediately start downloading the sound effect clips you see for free. The special license for each clip is clearly marked next to it, and there are thousands of them. If you can’t find the sound you want on SoundBible, you can request it from the community, which is a great feature.
The only thing we didn’t like about this site is that finding clips can be a little awkward, and the design of the site itself can take a few seconds to figure out. It is also a great resource and great credit to the community that supports it.
Freesound differs from SoundBible in one major way – you need an account to download sound clips. Plus, it’s pretty easy to find the clip you want, and they’re usually licensed under the Creative Commons licensing scheme.
While the Freesound library is fairly average in size, the site itself has some very good features that should cement it into your sound library bookmark list. The forums are filled with helpful information and probably answers to most of the questions you want to ask.
There are also very useful sound packs that group sounds by theme or purpose. For example, this special effects pack has some cute firearm effects.
As the name suggests, GameSounds hosts free sound effect clips that are meant to be used in video game projects. The site is really as simple as it gets with just one page. It also reflects sounds from other sites (eg 99Sounds), with the advantage that game-specific sounds are collected and processed from the site.
While GameSounds may not have a large collection of clips, all 9,505 tracks are focused on that single purpose. So if you’re working on a video game project and don’t have a big budget, this is an important destination.
ZapSplat not only has the best name of all the sound effects sites on this list, but also has a huge library of 59,000 sound clips. While you can download almost all of the clips for free, there are some restrictions for users who don’t donate a little money by upgrading their account or making donations.
If you choose to pay, you can download clips faster and with less effort. You also don’t need to do attribution and have access to higher quality audio clips. The site owner is constantly creating new sounds, so no matter your budget, there is always a reason to come back.
Even though it has a website from the mid 90s, in fact freeSFX is designed in such a way that you will very quickly find the category of sound effects you want. Unfortunately, even if you find the sound you want quickly, you’ll need to register for an account before you can actually download anything.
While all royalty-free sound effects can be used in your project for free, you need to specify a site. The 4500 collection is relatively small, but there are so many that you are bound to find more than a few that are perfect for your needs.
Here we have a site that hosts over 400,000 sound effect clips, many of which come from fairly well-known media sources. It sounds too good to be true, and to some extent it is.
While these clips may be free, you still have to spend a few dollars on AudioMicro. Sometimes you just have to pay for the perfect clip, but at least you know it’s a one-time payment and you can use it however you want.
SoundEffects + only has a small clip library of 5,000 files, but sometimes quality is more important than quantity. Every clip on this site has been recorded by audio professionals.
While all clips can be used in your projects, there are some important limitations in their licensing agreement. The usual rules not to resell sound effects by themselves apply, but there are also rules such as the limit of 100 clips per month, otherwise you will get an account ban.
Aside from these minor flaws, you will no doubt be very happy to have SoundEffects + as part of your sonic toolbox.
GR Sites has a very small sound effects library with just under 2,000 free sound effect clips, but these are perfect for website projects. This way, you’ll find exactly those sound clips that will save your bacon as you build a website and realize at the last minute that you don’t have the right call or call to put it all together.
Of course, many of these effects are just perfect for your video or podcast project. The site navigation is simple and you don’t need to register for an account before uploading items, so it’s definitely worth bookmarking if you get stuck.
Partners In Rhyme
Partners in Rhyme may have a trite name and focus on music, but it has a really decent library of professional grade clips. It does have to be paid for, but the site claims to have one of the most liberal licenses in the business and no questions are asked after you’ve paid to use the clip for a project.
There are some really amazing things here, and they are organized into logical collections that can also help speed up your production.
SoundGator is another site that doesn’t look special, but sounds pretty good in the end. After registering and logging in, you can quickly download whatever you need and continue working on your project.
A user license is also pretty typical for these sites as you can use the clips however you like, as long as you don’t resell the clips themselves. SoundGator made it to this list simply because of how simplistic and simplistic it is.
The choice of sound is also quite good in its variety, if not in full volume. Chances are good that one of these clips will be the sound effect you still need to get the job done.
We think these ten sites represent the top 10 royalty-free sound effects sites to date, and a good chunk of the many sound effects sites available for those who want free content. You will almost certainly find what you need for this video, podcast, or weird retro flash game you make. It’s definitely better than deafening silence.