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Free Saturators: Here Are The Best Free Saturation Plugins and Distortion VSTs You Can Snag In 2022

Saturation and distortion adds analog warmth and powerful punch to your tracks. Here are the best free saturation plugins and vsts that emulate the punch and power of expensive hardware.
Free Saturation Plugins

Saturation adds warmth to an otherwise sterile and bland backdrop

In the day and age when everyone is making electronic music in the box (AKA in their laptop), making your music sound like it wasn't is the gold standard of what constitutes a professional sound.

So how do achieve this level of 'professional sound' in your music production'?

Saturation and distortion mimics the effects of the expensive hardware pieces of yesteryear by adding drive, color, and harmonic excitement to the sound. If you dial in the drive knob just right, you can get a synth like Serum or Massive to sound like it's an expensive piece of analog hardware that was produced and recorded in a million dollar studio.

Need More Free Plugins? Here's The Ones You NEED for Vocals

Each plugin on this list has the ability to recreate this level of warmth and clarity by adding saturation to the channel and bus. Sure, premium plugins and saturation modules will always yield a better result, but many of us are producing on a budget. And just because we are producing music on a budget doesn't mean that we can't use the plugins available to use to mimic the sounds of professional producers. 

Quality saturation may be hard to find, but you can get most of the way there with the free plugins on this list. So let's dive into the best saturation and tape plugins music producers can be using this year...

PreBox By Analog Obsession

What Is It?

Analog Obsession is a famous indie creator that we often mention these types of plugin recommendations. The reason is that they offer some great free plugins modeled after special analog equipment.

This level of quality is the case with the PreBox preamp plugin. Whether you're trying to add some character to a digitally recorded signal or you want to crush a signal via a bus or auxiliary track, the PreBox is a concise yet versatile choice.

Why We Love PreBox by Analog Obsession

There are 11 additional settings for the preamp, which allows you to revise the harmonic generation to better suit the style of music or recording.

By glancing at the frequency analyzer, we can see that the original 5 test saturation tone are present. Still, when you turn the plugin on, various harmonics are generated that shift in amplitude and order with each different preamp model type.

This freebie's good, but this is our favorite paid alternative <<<

Tube Amp By Voxengo

What Is It?

Voxengo is another developer with some great free plugins. Some of these plugins contain saturation, like the TubeAmp, while other free plugins from Voxengo vary from metering and delay to equalization.

The Tube Amp is something to get excited about.

There are three rotary controls in the first panel on the left – drive, bias, and a low pass filter. Two modes present different types of tube saturator, with mode one being quieter and mode two being more pronounced and noticeable.

Learn How This Producer Uses Voxengo Plugins To Get A Pro Sound

Why We Love The Tube Amp

TubeAmp is not going to be your go-to device for slight compression. It excels at overdrive and distortion, compelling that asymmetric overdrive to add more attraction to your processed audio. But TubeAmp can also work as a subtle tube saturation unit if you hold the Drive levels low. It's not quite as versatile as some of the other plugins on this list, but it's definitely got a remarkable distortion sound that can make your tracks stand out.

This is one of those plugins with something new to offer, no matter in what genre you're working in. It can be mild, transparent, brutal, and forceful — whatever you need for the track you're working.

Need More Free Sounds For You Mix? We got you

SGA1566 By Shattered Glass Audio

What Is It?

SGA1566 has a fantastic ability to sound like a real vintage tube preamp. It can cause virtual instruments to sound very lifelike and enhance the overall quality of your recordings. The only downside is that it requires a lot of processing power, which could restrict your DAW.

Why We Love SGA1566

Luckily, the plugin comes with two different CPU performance modes. The low CPU mode drops the sound quality a bit, but it also makes the plugin more durable and compatible with small, powerful machines.

TUBA By Analog Obsession

What Is It?

The TUBA channel strip plugin uses classic tube saturation to create complex harmonic generation. Placing the plugin on the channel will increase the number of harmonics while decreasing the original signal. 

A producer can use the high and low gain compensation to adjust the harmonic generation amount further. Do this by maintaining the amount of feedback sent to the amplifier's input gain. By changing the feedback, we can control how much distortion is generated.

Why We Love TUBA

One advantage of this rotary level is that it is gain-compensated, which decreases the gain of the output to take into account the increased amplitude of the harmonics, thus keeping the gain somewhat constant.

IVGI By Klanghelm

What Is It?

Klanghelm's IVGI is a free saturation effect that utilizes the same saturation algorithm as the company's flagship SDRR plugin.

As with its big brother SDRR, IVGI features a Controlled Randomness, which defines the internal drift and variance inside the unit. This contributes to the liveliness and realness of IVGI's saturation character. All internal processes are modulated to some extent to achieve this.

Why We Love IVGI

IVGI can be used either as a subtle analog-style saturation effect on the master bus or as an aggressive distortion effect for sound design. It sounds lovely in both scenarios, providing analog-style warmth and character within your digital audio workstation.

This freebie's good, but this is our favorite paid alternative <<<

TubeDriver By Nick Crow Lab

What Is It?

Because of its comprehensive control scheme, TubeDriver can offer great flexibility compared to other saturation plugins. The user can change the tube's drive, bias, and volume settings and add an optional boost for extra gain. 

The plugin also has pre-EQ, allowing the signal to be shaped before it reaches the virtual tube. In addition, oversampling (16X) is included to ensure that the saturated audio sounds high-quality when rendered.

Need More Free Analog Presets? Check This

Why We Love TubeDriver

The layout of this plugin is simply fantastic.

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To the right of the plugin are a high-pass and low-pass filter with what seems to be a pretty open slope. An oversampling rotary declines aliasing, with the chance to use 16 times the sampling rate when rendering – which is likely unnecessary but an option. Bypass, mono monitoring, and phase inversion buttons are also available. To the left of the plugin is a pre-eq which affects the frequencies before the saturation.

This freebie's good, but this is our favorite paid alternative <<<

FerricTDS By Variety of Sound

What Is It?

The Ferric TDS Tape Dynamics Simulator is a great free plugin for anyone looking to add more profundity to their sound. Inspired by high-end tape recorders, the FerricTDS features dynamic control, limiting, and saturation – from one easy-to-use interface. 

And as with many grand things, quality endures over time. And FerricTDS is a free, top-notch saturation plugin.

Why We Love FerricTDS

FerricTDS is unique among free tape saturation plugins in that it only applies the positive effects of analog tape. It doesn't simulate the pitch inconsistencies, hiss, noise, or other lo-fi properties of tape recordings. Instead, FerricTDS emulates the harmonic distortion and dynamics of analog tape.

As a result, it functions tremendously well as a saturation apparatus and a gentle compression tool that carries out your audio's finer details.

Tomato Preamp By Roxolder

What Is It?

Despite the Tomato preamp's appearance, it produces a lo-fi sound. This makes it perfect for adding some classic character to a signal and giving it an old-school lo-fi feel.

Why We Love Tomato Preamp

There are three separate tube models that each produce unique lo-fi sounds. The oldest model has the harshest and most distorted sound, while the newest model is only slightly distorted. It also sounds like each set makes a high-pass filter that stops lower frequencies from creating a more delicate sound.

Roth-AIR By Rothmann

What Is It?

Roth-AIR can help you add a light, airy presence to your audio with a combination of compression and saturation. This will give your highs a more substantial, more consistent presence and work great with vocals, synths, and strings.

Why We Love Roth-AIR

Do you want your mix to have more air and crispy highs? Roth-AIR is the perfect free saturation VST for you. If you've been struggling to make a sound pop, equalization may not be the answer. Roth-AIR can help you enhance all of your sounds.

I'm obsessed with this one; it's excellent for making romplers, samples and synths sound brighter than almost any other synth on the list.

This freebie's good, but this is our favorite paid alternative <<<

ChowTape By Chowdhury DSP

What Is It?

The Chow Tape Model is a digital copy of an analog reel-to-reel tape machine. The original algorithm was made to act like the Sony TC-260 but has since been changed to be able to model different types of tape machines. Chow Tape was first developed as part of the Music 420 class at Stanford University.

Why We Love ChowTape

This plugin is similar to the actual tape 'vibe' I've found. It's also open source, and there are Linux builds available, which is fantastic. Plus, it's free (though I subscribed to the dev's Patreon). 

ChowTape is easy to use and sounds incredible.

This freebie's good, but this is our favorite paid alternative <<<

Crush By Sleepycat Audio

What Is It?

Crossover distortion is a form of distortion that is common in class-B amplifiers. This distortion produces a crunchy sound that has been noted as a characteristic of class-B tube amplifiers for years.

Why We Love Crush

Some may argue that the crossover distortion algorithm is lazy, but I think it offers a unique flavor of distortion. Do you need to use this saturation plugin on every channel? Not...

But in certain situations and specific circumstances, it may just be the coloration you are looking for.

This freebie's good, but this is our favorite paid alternative <<<

STEQ By Analog Obsession

What Is It?

STEQ combines different types of processing, including analog emulation and introducing harmonics. With other saturation plugins, the sound may hide the compression, but with STEQ, you can smooth optical compression separate from the harmonics.

Why We Love STEQ

This is a soft and subtle saturation that is great for adding a bit of extra beef to master busses and instrument busses. Lighter moves are what is essential here, and this saturator offers a warm glow to groups of elements and channels to it is applied to.

This freebie's good, but this is our favorite paid alternative <<<

Beef By Caelum Audio

What Is It?

is an audio plugin that makes your music sound warm, noisy, and characterful. Whether you use it as an effect on the master for an overall lofi / indie texture or as an insert to warm up individual channels, gives you the tools to turn your music into a cozy, reflective listening adventure.

Any producer can use the wow & flutter parameters to take the plugin into the experimental territory and create distorted and cacophonous sounds.

Why We Love

This is an excellent plugin for adding some vintage sound to your music. It's simple to use and really gets the job done. You can get some great-sounding results with just a few clicks, although it might be even better with a few more options

Honorable Mentions For Best Free Saturation VST Plugins

Softtube Saturation - Perfect For Adding Warmth and vintage distortion to drums, leads, and vocals. A simple one knob plugin that you can't mess up (unless of course, it's intentional).

BPB Saturator - A simple saturator with useful high-pass and low-pass functions for helping you shape the color and tone of the sound.

Aux Saturation - A great analog emulation plugin that has a simple, retro interface and a sound profile that adds richness and life to your mix.

2 - Perfectly recreates those old tape emulation recorders and adds heavily unpredictable sounds and unique saturation profiles. It's signature saturation curve adds a bit of oversampling as well to achieve one of the most realistic saturation effects you can find in a free plugin.

Burier - A heavy saturator with a pair of filters and output attenuation. It can handle light overdrive all the way to hard and heavy grit on drums and bass.

GSatPlus - Tube-based saturation and clip protection allow you to drive this plugin pretty hard without running the risk of clipping and red lining your synths, master channels, and more.

Level Tool - Great VST with 4x oversampling that offers results of the highest qualities. Its straightforward interface makes it easy to use and professional looking (which always helps... sort of).

ACE - Amp simulator that faithfully recreates iconic hardware from the 50s and 60s.

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