Sound effects are absolutely essential in the entertainment world. Imagine an action movie without the sound effect of guns, explosions, footsteps, or broken glass! Adding sound effects to films, TV, radio, podcasts, video games, voice-over commercials, or audiobooks is absolutely necessary because most of the time the way things sound in real life is not easily recognized by the audience, therefore sound effects have to be re-recorded or created in a sound studio.
To get the best sound effects library you can purchase the bundles offered online by positioned film producing brands like Soundmorph and Prosoundeffects, or get a monthly subscription on websites like Artlist.io for $16.60.
In this post, I show how to get the best sound effects from paid and free websites, to get the best material for your productions, and make them sound professional:
- What is SFX sound effect
- What Are Examples of Sound Effects
- What is the most famous sound effect
- Where Can I Get Free Sound Effects
- Best Sound Effects Paid Libraries
- Types of Sound Effects Licenses
- Which App Is Best for Sound Effects
- What Is Foley Used For and What Are the Three Categories
What is SFX sound effect?
The letters SFX stand for Sound Effects, not for science fiction (Sci-Fi). Sound effects are specific audio clips inserted during the editing stage of most audiovisual products (films, TV, radio, podcasts). Most of the time they have to be created using different resources (foley) or recorded live from real sources or locations.
The real audio generated in a film set is prompt to capture tons of unwanted sounds, which wouldn’t make the original sound effects be perceived properly.
That’s the reason why you can see on backstage movie and TV trailers the sound recordists staff pointing a large shotgun microphone with a hairy windshield above the actors’ heads and following them whenever they move.
Shotgun condenser microphones are designed to capture the main sound (actors’ voices) and reject other sounds from around, like the original sounds from the elements in the scene.
What Are Examples of Sound Effects?
The most common examples of sound effects can be classified into the following categories: Indoors, outdoors, nature, transportation, sci-fi and technology, war, and fight. Sound from nature is called background sound and can be easily captured with a portable recorder, a stereo condenser mic, and a super-cardioid shotgun mic.
|Transportation and Vehicles|
|Sc-Fi and Technology|
|War, Fight, and Destruction|
|Footsteps||Street background sound||Seashore||Cars||Spaceship doors||Bomb explosions|
|Doors||Sports fields and courts||Animals||Motorcycles||Spaceship control desk||Bomb dropping|
|People chatting||Crowds in a stadium||Caves (reverb)||Trains||Laser shots||Pistols, guns, cannons|
|Restaurant cutlery||Amusement park||Thunders||Airplanes||Explosions||Shotguns|
and kitchen work
|Market||Tornadoes||Helicopters||Alien voices||War tanks|
|Light switches||Medieval life||Sea waves||Metro||Robots||Swords|
|Broken glass||Army base||Rain||Buses||AI voice||Body grab|
|Elevators||Soldiers marching||Hail||Bicycle||Processing data sound||Punches|
|Windows (opening, closing)||Parades||Wind||Ambulance siren||Distorted communication transmission||Building exploding|
|Door keys||Backyard sounds||Waterfall||Police siren||Interface, telemetry, scanning sounds||Stabbing|
|Door key card||Playground||Stream water flow||Submarine||Data disruption||Face slapping|
|Fax machine, Typing machine, Telephone ring, Keyboard typing||Fireworks||Forest animals||Boat||Virtual assistant voices||Electromagnetic shield|
|Coffee maker||Church bells||Fire||Ship||Emergency room machines||Electricity discharge|
|Laughter||Whooshes||Volcano eruption||Vehicle collisions||Camera flash||Collapsing building|
|Office equipment||Reverse drum set cymbals||Water splashing||Vehicle brakes||8-bit retro video games||Rocky avalanche|
Let’s begin with the best sound effects you can get for free.
What Is the Most Famous Sound Effect?
The most famous sound effects are the Wilhelm Scream from the 1950s to the present, suspense short orchestra sound, Dun Dun Dunn, swoosh, fight punches, fail sound with 4 trumpet notes, evil laugh, bell ding, violin string slide, record scratch, explosion, dolphin, suspense drum roll, Star Wars lightsaber, Star Trek opening doors, baby crying and baby laugh.
In the times of analog sound we can hear numerous examples of the Wilhelm scream in The Charge at the Feather River (1953), Them (1954), the Star Wars Saga (1977, 1980, 1983, 1997, 1999) Indiana Jones Saga (1981, 1984, 1989), Disney movies (1977, 1991,1992), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Toy Story (1995), Batman Returns (1999), Small Soldiers (1998), Lethal Weapon 4 (1998).
Another good bunch of famous effects from all times is nature sounds like rain, thunder, tornadoes, strong wind, birds and felines, massive sea waves, and horses galloping.
Where Can I Get Free Sound Effects?
You can find free sound effects on websites that already have a significant background in producing effects for movies and video games, like Soundmorph, Prosoundeffects, Freesound.org, OpenGameArt, and Audio Micro. Although they can be free, keep in mind that some of them can be HQ, but most are medium or low quality, to encourage the user to purchase the paid HQ version.
Let’s begin with the top best free sound effects libraries you can use for video games, podcasts, cartoons, videos, and films:
|Source||Description||Formats||Type of License|
|BBC Sound Effects||Over 32,000 free sound effects||WavMP3||Personal, educational, or research purposes|
Note: Pro Sound Effects operates the commercial licensing of BBC sound effects
|Soundmorph||Great sound free demos of Sinematic, Users of Tomorrow, Robotic Lifeforms, Dust, Universe Bundle|
All demos have background music
|Wav||CC Common Creative|
You must give the credits to the author
|Freesound.org||When you register, you will have access to almost 800 free sound effects and music loops||AiffFlacM4aMP3OggWav||CC Common Creative|
You must give the credits to the author
|Opengameart.org||Over 1300 free sound effects|
Note: To download any file, just click on the title and scroll down to the download link
|Wav||CC-BY 4.0CC-BY 3.0CC-BY-SA 4.0CC-BY-SA 3.0GPL 3.0GPL 2.0OGA-BY 3.0CC0LGPL 3.0LGPL 2.1|
*Check license description at the end of this post
|Kenney’s Free Audio Resources||730 sound effects||Wav||CC0 1.0 Universal|
|Audio Micro||1942 free sound effects||MP3 from 86 kbps to 192 kbps||Royalty-Free|
|Mixkit.co||681 free sound effects||Wav||Royalty-Free|
|Zapsplat||102,041 free sound effects||Wav||Royalty-Free but attribution is required|
Now, take a look at the best sound effects paid libraries for individual downloads and monthly subscriptions in the market.
Best Sound Effects Paid Libraries
|Source||Description||Formats||Type of License|
|Envato Elements||Over 415,250 sound effects|
In addition to music, stock video and photos, graphics, fonts, and web templates
7-day free trial
Billed monthly after a free 7-day trial
Billed yearly at $198 after a free 7-day trial
|Unity Asset Store||From $8 to >$200|
Choose from a wide range of options at excellent prices
|16-bit 44.1kHz WAV Stereo and Mono||Single Entity|
For individuals and small businesses
|Soundmorph||From $99 to $2999||Wav||Royalty-Free|
|Prosoundeffects||Pay per sound $5 a month|
Basic $29 a month – 15 sounds
Plus $49 a month – 30 sounds
Pro 89 a month – 60 sounds
|16-bit 44.1kHz and 48 kHz Wav |
|Epidemic Sound||90,000 sound effects$12 – $25 monthly subscription||MP3 file – 320kbps 48kHz|
Wave file – 24-bit 48kHz
|Audio Micro||5 sounds$14.95/month|
|Wav bit speed from 86 kbps to 192 kbps||Royalty-Free|
Types of Sound Effects Licenses
When using free sound effects, music, and software, it’s important to have clarity in matters of what a license allows you to do (free use, commercial use) and whether or not you are committed to attributing the original or previous authors.
Below you will find a table that summarizes the license type, the attribution, adaptions, and the possibility of using the original resource for commercial purposes:
|License type||Attribution to the creator||Adaptations||Commercial Use|
|CC BY-SA||Obligatory||Yes||Yes“The reuser must license the modified material under identical terms.”|
|CC BY-NC-SA||Obligatory||Yes||No“The reuser must license the modified material under identical terms.”|
|CC0 1.0||Obligatory||Yes||You’re free to use these audio resource game assets in any project, personal or commercial. There’s no need to ask permission before using these|
|Obligatory||Yes||Take a careful look at the exceptions in the Common Creatives official website|
CC-BY 4.0CC-BY 3.0CC-BY-SA 4.0CC-BY-SA 3.0
*It requires approval of all creators when the original work is modified collectively
*You must provide your public with license and copyright information for the library
*You must grant the library open source to be accessed by the public
|OGA-BY 3.0From OpenGameArt||Obligatory||Yes||Details of this license|
Now, what happens if you want to use SFX on smartphones and tablets? Is there a sound effects app that can do a good job?
How Do I Get Sound Effects on my iPhone?
Using iPhones can be easy and practical, suitable for informal projects like home videos and fun moments you want to capture and upload to social media.
The best sound effects companies for professional projects don’t focus on creating SFX apps. Nevertheless, I’ve found a few useful apps for iPhones: AppStore: Gun Sound Effects Pro Free, SoundLab Audio Editor. Apple Music: Sound Effects Library,
Another way is to use DAWs for mobile devices, such as FL Studio and Cubase as they contain virtual instruments. Most virtual synthesizers allow the user to experiment and mix a bunch of sounds that can end up being really good sound effects!
If you need smartphone SFX for your projects, you can easily find them on:
What Is Foley Used For and What Are the Three Categories
When a sound effect is created in a studio, foley artists choose a wide variety of elements to be recorded separately and then combined, according to what has been instructed by the sound designer of the project.
The objective is to create a sound that really represents a specific action in a film, TV episode, videos, podcasts, audiobooks, and other audiovisual formats.
Ironically, on many occasions, the elements used to record a sound effect have absolutely no relation with the object they represent, no matter how familiar or abstract they can be (more details in acmi.net.au):
- The sound of aliens in ET: jelly, popcorn, and liver
- The Fight Club: smashing chicken carcasses, crashing walnuts, beating pieces of meat
- Avatar: creature’s vocals from a few days old baby swans, horses, and reptiles
- Ice and snow: pillowcases full of rice or cornstarch
- Broken bones: celery and pasta
The three main categories (according to adobe.com) are walking, props, and cloth: finding the right type of surface and shoes according to what the character performs in a specific moment; re-creating every sound perceived in an outdoors scene; the swooshing and rubbing of textiles and fabrics.