Downloading sound effects

You know when you’re doing sound design really quickly, and you just need a quick .wav of a sound (rather than recording it yourself, which you would do if you had the time)? That’s when websites with free downloads are useful. Usually the website creators and/or uploaders are happy for you to download, sometimes requesting that you credit them for it (especially if their sound file is used in a film). Yay for Creative Commons.

The danger of downloading free samples is that you could waste time trying to find the perfect sound. Browsing takes time, and can suck it up far too much.

Ideally, one should record the sound on-set – mainly so you can get the ambience of the room/location, and also so that you own the rights to the sound recording. Second most ideal is recording it yourself in foley – again so you own the rights to the sound recording. One also has to replicate or fake the same location ambience that was on set. Third most ideal is downloading a file.

So far, I’ve quickly grabbed a chain saw and a light switch, and may grab a cupboard door sound (time dependent) for [SIC]. Unfortunately I’ve only found chainsaw sounds of a chainsaw revving, not of it cutting through something. I’m wondering whether I have the time to buy a pumpkin or watermelon, rev up the chainsaw, and cut through it.

But, where to download from? Which pages are best?

I usually do a google search, (i.e. light switch sound effect free), and open the first few pages on different tabs. Then you can preview the sounds available, and pick which to download and from where. But maybe it would be best to make a few notes on some of the pages available, so I can just go there later…

  • Came up with multiple options of what you searched for, which makes it easy to compare.
  • It has a description of the sounds (i.e. Light switch on the wall; Metallic switch turned on/off; Light switch on the wall (double-click)), although many of the descriptions are the same.
  • Format = download each file in .wav or .mp3
  • lists duration, stereo, sample rate, 16 bit
  • Stereo = yes
  • Sample Rate 48 kHz = yes
  • 24 bit rate = no
  • Disclaimer = You are allowed to use the sounds on our website free of charge and royalty free in your projects but you are NOT allowed to post the sounds on any web site for others to download, link directly to individual audio files, or sell the sounds to anyone else.
  • Rating = good, would use again.

Pacific Digital Video

  • Comes up with a huge list of unrelated things – so you need to use Find to get what you want. A couple of options available.
  • Format = whatever the sound file was uploaded as. Either .wav or .mp3 by the looks of things.
  • Lists Format, duration, sample rate, file size (so not bit rate).
  • Stereo = no
  • Sample rate 48 kHz = No. Mainly 44.1. They also have 22.050 (why?).
  • 24 bit rate = unknown.
  • Disclaimer = “You may use the sound effects on this web site free of charge in your video, film, audio and multimedia productions (but do not re-sell them or post on a web site for download).”
  • Rating = would use if they had what I wanted. But I tend to use 48 kHz for film, and not knowing the bit rate would put me off.


  • Premium and Free options
  • Comes up with a list of options, each with a description
  • Uploaded by members
  • You can sign up to an email newsletter
  • Format = Available in .wav or .mp3
  • Lists duration, bitrate, sample rate
  • Stereo = no
  • Sample rate 48 kHz = mainly 44.1
  • 24 bit rate = here’s the thing, and I’ve not really seen it before… the bit rates that they’ve listed are 1,000kbps. So, um, no?
  • Disclaimer = Creative Commons. “All the sound effects available for download on freeSFX are uploaded by the owners of the sounds who have granted permission for them to be downloaded and used… The sound effects we provide can be used in any commercial, non-commercial, broadcast multimedia/audio visual production. Certain restrictions are in place on how the sounds can be used which can be viewed in our End User Licence Agreement
  • Rating = very good, would definitely use again.
Audio Network

  • Not free! Abort! Abort!

Which pages have you used? What are your thoughts?

Published by phetheringtonnz

Film Producer, Director, Lecturer. From NZ based in London.

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