Best free saturation plugins in 2023
When the first analog synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers entered the market we were intrigued by the harmonic distortion it adds to the sound source. Overdriving the built-in tubes and transistors is what adds warmth to the sounds. There are tons of high-end premium saturation plugins out there such as Decapitator, Saturn, etc. However, it’s tough to find good free alternatives. Down below you’ll find a list of the best free saturation VST plugins, re-built from the most iconic analog pieces of gear, that will color your sound source as desired.
Top 10 best free saturation plugins
1.SGA1566 by Shattered Glass Audio
Shattered Glass Audio took a single-channel vintage tube amplifier as an example while building this tool, and added some additional features on top of it. You have the ability to make the sound source stereo, choose between low or high CPU, choose 1x/2x/4x oversampling, choose whether you want to affect the bass & treble before or after the saturation, and get the right input/gain/output. One of the best free Saturation VST plugins out there.
2. CHOW Tape Model by ChowDSP
Originally modeled after the analog tape machine, Sony TC-260, ChosDSP holds on to many more additional features. Started as a class project at Stanford University, and it developed into a great saturation plugin. Choose the right input and output gain, choose whether you want tape or tone & control how much drive you want to apply, choose loss, degrade or CHEW going from subtle to extreme, and add flutter and Wow to the sound source.
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3. MIA Fat by MIA Laboratories
MIA Fat is a one-knob plugin that will simply add subtle to extreme saturation. Dial in the right amount of saturation by using the large knob, enable clipping in order to destroy the sound, and make sure you use the volume knob to get the desired volume. This plugin is recommended for DnB, Reggae, Dub, and Techno.
4. Tube Saturator Vintage by Wave Arts
The circuitry of the original tube saturator was re-built, combined with modern features, and developed into a digital version. Wave Arts implemented 2 cathode 12AX7 preamp stages, a 3-band EQ, EQ bypass, FAT mode, analog metering, mono/ stereo, and a drive control to achieve the right distortion.
5. X-Tube by Xenium Audio
This Microsoft VST plugin supports mono, stereo, Quadro, and 5.1 audio trackings. Get your hands on the separate adjustments of the drive and bias, a 1x/2x/4x/8x/12x/16x oversampling, a 3-band EQ with ±12dB range, 12 factory presets, and 8 user presets. Simply use the sliders to change the frequency spectrum and get the right amount of saturation.
6. FreeAMP by Klevgrand
Just like the MIA Fat plugin, you’ll only have 1 knob that will give you the desired amount of distortion. Choose how much of the distortion will emerge with the original sound by using the mix knob and choose the right output volume. Use the metering at the bottom to see how the signal is behaving. Use FreeAMP on single sound sources, stems, and full mixes.
7. IVGI by Klanghelm
Choose the right VU-mode: In, Out, Out-in, to have a graphic overview of what the plugin is doing to the incoming signal. Get the right amount of drive, output volume, ASYM mix, response, trim, and X-talk. IVGI can add subtle distortion up to extreme distortion effects.
8. Saturation Knob by Softube
This one-knob is commonly used within the music industry by many artists. Just like FL Studio’s Soundgoodizer, this plugin will add distinctive character to everything. Choose between 3 different saturation types: Keep high, Neutral, and Keep low in order to affect the desired frequency range. Use this on single tracks, and full mixes, and it can add some warmth to your master.
9. GSatPlus by TBProAudio & Gearspace
The TBProAudio CS5501V2 channel strip plugin has been scrutinized while developing this GSatPlus plugin. This plugin holds on to 3 different tube-based character modes, clip protection, 2x/4x oversampling, mono, stereo, left, right, mid, side, bypass feature, odd & even harmonic dials, and a preset manager including presets for a broad range of sounds.
10. Voxengo Tube Amp by Voxengo
Voxengo Tube Amp contains 2 processing modes, output saturation stage, stereo & multi-channel processing, internal channel routing, 2x/4x/8x oversampling, bias mix, LP frequency dial, dry mix, output gain, level meter, A/B comparison, and a range of different presets.
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Image Credits: Softube