Royalty-Free Sound Effects Libraries for Film (free/paid)

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Royalty-free sound effects (SFX) are audio clips that can be used in various projects, such as videos, podcasts, or games, without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use. Instead, you pay a one-time fee or access them for free under specific licensing terms, allowing unlimited use within those terms.

Here’s a curated list of 12 places to find good royalty-free sound effects for film. I’ve divided the list into free options and paid ones. Each source varies in library size, licensing options, pricing, and whether you need to give credit to the creator.

Good Free Sound Effects Libraries

best free royalty-free sound effects libraries - illustrative image

The free sound effects libraries feature royalty-free SFX that are free to use without attribution or licensed under copyleft licenses such as Creative Commons. Be aware that the free sites rarely offer indemnification.

Read more about the different stock media licenses and indemnification.

Freesound

Library Size: Large, with sounds from various creators worldwide.
Licensing: Mostly Creative Commons, but check each sound individually.
Pricing: Free, but you might need to credit the creator.
Indemnification: Not included.
Why It’s Great: Freesound offers a wide range of sounds from its community. The site is easy to navigate, and you can find almost any sound effects you need for free. Just remember to check the license for each sound.

Freesound offers a vast library of sound effects uploaded by its users. You can find almost any sound here, from background noises to synthesized sounds.

The site operates under Creative Commons licenses, so the requirements for using each sound can vary. Most sounds are free to use, but some require attribution. There’s no indemnification, so you’re responsible for how you use the sounds.

ZapSplat

Library Size: Over 100,000 sound effects.
Licensing: Free, with an option to upgrade for more features. Attribution is required for the free version.
Pricing: Free, with a premium option starting at $5/month.
Indemnification: Not included without an upgrade.
Why It’s Great: ZapSplat offers a vast library and is user-friendly. The free version is generous, but the premium upgrade provides even more flexibility.

ZapSplat provides thousands of free sound effects and music tracks. The sounds are available under two licenses: standard and gold. The standard license is free and requires attribution, while the gold license offers additional benefits and requires a small donation. ZapSplat adds new sounds weekly and does not offer indemnification.

BBC Sound Effects

Library Size: Over 16,000 sound effects.
Licensing: Personal, educational, or research purposes only.
Pricing: Free.
Indemnification: Not provided.
Why It’s Great: You can access high-quality sounds from the BBC archives, perfect for non-commercial projects.

The BBC Sound Effects library gives you access to over 16,000 sound effects from the BBC’s archives. These are available for personal, educational, or research purposes under the RemArc license, meaning you can use them freely but can’t profit from them. There’s no indemnification provided.

Free Sound Effects

Library Size: Thousands of sounds.
Licensing: Free, but check individual sounds for licensing details.
Pricing: Free.
Indemnification: Not included.
Why It’s Great: This site provides a wide range of sound effects for various needs and has a straightforward licensing agreement.

Free Sound Effects offers a wide range of sounds for personal or commercial use without the need for attribution. While the site’s library isn’t as extensive as others, navigating and finding what you need is easy. There’s no indemnification for the sounds you use.

Sound Bible

Library Size: A moderate collection, updated regularly.
Licensing: Mostly Creative Commons or public domain.
Pricing: Free.
Indemnification: Not available.
Why It’s Great: Sound Bible is easy to use and offers a mix of quality sounds for any project, with new sounds added frequently.

SoundBible provides a collection of sound effects that are either public domain or under Creative Commons licenses. The site is updated three times a week with new sounds, and you can easily see the license for each sound. Indemnification isn’t included.

I recommend this article if you’re looking for gun sounds in particular.

Good Paid Sound Effects Libraries

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The paid options section includes some of the best professional sound effects libraries that feature boutique SFX used in everything from video games to Hollywood movies.

Soundly

Library Size: Thousands of premium sounds, with new additions regularly.
Licensing: Royalty-free, with various subscription levels for different needs.
Pricing: Starts at $15/month for the Pro version.
Why It’s Great: Soundly is not just a sound library; it’s also a powerful tool for managing and using sound effects. It’s perfect for professionals looking for high-quality sounds and an efficient workflow.

Soundly is a sound effects platform offering both free and premium sounds. The free version gives you access to thousands of sounds, while the paid version unlocks the full library and additional features like cloud storage. Soundly’s pro version starts at $9 per month and offers indemnification for the sounds you use.

Adobe Audition

Library Size: Over 12,000 sound effects.
Licensing: Royalty-free for subscribers.
Pricing: Standalone subscription at $22.99/month, with options for Creative Cloud bundles.
Indemnification: Included with subscription.
Why It’s Great: High-definition, uncompressed files for professional use. License sounds individually here.

Adobe Audition is a powerhouse for sound editing and effects. While it’s a paid service, it offers subscribers a huge library of over 12,000 royalty-free sound effects.

You can also license sounds individually on Adobe’s stock site. Adobe provides indemnification for licensed sounds, but check the specifics for each download. Subscriptions start at $22.99 monthly, with options for individuals, students, teachers, and businesses.

Pro Sound Effects

Library Size: Hundreds of thousands of sounds.
Licensing: Royalty-free, with single-user and multi-user licenses.
Pricing: Various, with options to buy single effects or subscriptions.
Indemnification: Available, often requiring license upgrades.
Why It’s Great: Used by Hollywood sound professionals.

Pro Sound Effects offers an extensive library with over 700K sound clips, catering to professionals with flexible licensing options, including royalty-free. Pricing varies by project or subscription. Provides attribution simplicity and indemnification for risk-free usage.

Boom Library

Library Size: High-quality, professional-grade sound effects.
Licensing: Royalty-free, with a one-time purchase for lifetime use.
Pricing: Varies by collection, starting at around $100.
Indemnification: Must upgrade the license for indemnification.
Why It’s Great: Boom Library is known for its cinematic-quality sounds, ideal for film and video game production. The sounds are meticulously recorded and curated.

Boom Library specializes in high-quality sound effects suitable for filmmakers, game developers, and content creators. While the library is a paid resource, it offers detailed, themed sound packs. Prices vary by pack. Boom Library sounds come with indemnification, ensuring you’re covered when using their sounds commercially.

Epidemic Sound

Library Size: Wide, with music tracks and sound effects.
Licensing: Subscription-based, royalty-free.
Pricing: Starts at $15/month for personal use, with business plans available.
Indemnification: Included with subscription.
Why It’s Great: Besides sound effects, Epidemic Sound offers an extensive music library, making it a one-stop shop for creators. The licensing is clear and straightforward.

Epidemic Sound is known for its wide range of music tracks, but it also offers sound effects. Subscription plans start at $15 monthly and provide music and sound effects access. While primarily focused on music, its sound effects library is growing. The subscription includes indemnification, making it a safe choice for commercial projects.

Artlist

Library Size: Expansive, with both music and sound effects.
Licensing: Subscription-based, royalty-free.
Pricing: $199/year for unlimited downloads.
Indemnification: It is not included in the standard subscription and requires an Enterprise solution.
Why It’s Great: Artlist is valued for its high-quality selection and simple licensing. It’s an excellent choice for creators needing both music and sound effects.

Artlist goes beyond music with a collection of sound effects available through its subscription service. The annual subscription fee is $199, giving you unlimited music and sound effects downloads. Artlist includes indemnification with its subscriptions, adding an extra layer of security for your projects.

Soundsnap

Library Size: Over 320,000 sound effects and loops.
Licensing: Royalty-free licensing.
Attribution: No attribution required for any of their plans.
Indemnification: Offers indemnification up to $1,000, but terms apply and may vary based on the membership level.
Why It’s Great: Known for its high-quality, professionally recorded sounds and its ease of use for filmmakers, sound designers, and podcasters.

Soundsnap focuses exclusively on sound effects, offering a library of over 280,000 sounds. It’s a professional favorite for its high-quality effects and ease of use. Membership starts at $199 per year, and Soundsnap offers indemnification, ensuring you’re protected when using their sounds in your work.

Closing Thoughts

In choosing the right source for your project, consider what you need:

  • Do you require various sounds?
  • Is your project commercial or non-commercial?
  • How important is it to have unique sounds that are not widely used?

By considering these questions and comparing the features of each option, you can select the best source for your sound effects.

Whether you choose a free or paid service, you can use a wealth of high-quality sounds to enhance your projects.

Up Next: Tips and Tricks to Get Great Music for Your Short Film

Author

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  • Grant Harvey

    Grant Harvey is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own feature-length screenplays and television pilots, Grant uses his passion and experience in film and videography to help others learn the tools, strategies, and equipment needed to create high-quality videos as a filmmaker of any skill level.

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