Saturation plugins are special tools that can add character to the sound. They help instruments to cut in the mix. Choosing a good saturation is very important.
There are great saturation or distortion plugins out there. Some are based on popular classic analog gear. But some of them are modern. All the plugins do the same but the flavor and approach are different.
In this post, you will find one of the best distortion plugins. The list consists of free and premium plugins.
How To Use Saturation Plugins
A saturator plugin can be used in many different ways. Most of the time they are used on individual tracks to add more grit. This adds power to the sound and helps it to cut into the mix. So, distortion plugins are mixing tools.
You can use saturation on every instrument. It’s great for bass, drums, vocals, and so on. If you want to add clarity and grit on the top end, then you need some kind of distortion plugin.
Of course, saturation is not used to add too much distortion. It should be subtle. For example, if you have a good snare sound but lack some power or don’t cut well in the mix, use saturation. Add a little distortion and you will see the difference.
Best Premium Saturation Plugins
First, let’s see some of the best premium distortion plugins we have today. These plugins don’t cost too much. They offer great features to shape your sound even further. Some have a modern, digital interface but some of them look more analog. But all of them do the job perfectly.
1. FabFilter Saturn 2
FabFilter Saturn 2 is an amazing and the best saturation plugin I have ever used which comes with awesome features. It’s a very surgical tool and you can tweak almost everything. The interface of the plugin is very good. You can visually see what is happening to the sound. Also, it’s very easy to use.
Saturn 2 lets you choose different types of saturation such as tape, tube, amp, etc. Each type includes several sub-categories. Also, it has a 4-band EQ, and controls for drive, mix, feedback, dynamics, and so on. Another great feature is that you can choose different frequencies and add distortion only to that particular frequency. Saturn 2 by FabFilter is a very versatile plugin.
2. Soundtoys Decapitator
Decapitator by Soundtoys is an analog saturation modeler plugin. It’s a powerful, cool-looking, and great-sounding plugin. Popular among mixing engineers. The interface is very simple with several control knobs. Also, you can choose the style of distortion for more flexibility and flavor.
It has a standard drive, output, and mix knobs. These knobs control the amount of distortion and output. Additionally, it has low-cut and high-cut knobs with a thump and steep switches. The tone control lets you shape the sound of saturation from dark to bright. This is a great distortion plugin for drums. But it can be used for other instruments too.
3. Redoptor 2
Redoptor 2 is a feature-rich distortion plugin. It’s made by the D16 Group which makes other great mixing tools. The options and features the plugin offers are amazing. You can control almost anything with the Redoptor saturation plugin. It’s based on vintage tube distortion and has its own character. Great for almost every instrument.
The list of features is huge. You have HPF and LPF, preamp section, and drive section with the tone, brightness, body, etc. It has one of the best EQ sections for the saturation plugin. You can control gain and width for different frequencies. Also, it has a limiter option that is not found in many distortion plugins. Additionally, has a preset library.
FireCobra by FireSonic is a saturation plugin that combines digital and analog worlds and creates an awesome experience and sound. It’s a plugin with a simple interface and controls which allows you to enhance and add punch to your tracks. This saturation VST plugin is great for vocals and instruments.
The plugin has input and output faders to control levels, you can switch linear phase on or off, and has oversampling options. A big dry/wet is for blending two signals which give you more control over the saturation. And the main power comes from three knobs – intensity, smack and analogize. With these controls, you can add punch, distortion, and analog flavor to your tracks.
5. RC-20 Retro Color
RC20 Retro Color is one of the most unique saturation plugins. It adds analog warmth to the sound and you have many options to choose from. The plugin interface looks awesome and it’s pleasure to work with it. The plugin has six sections and each adds a different character to the sound. And each section has its own parameters you can control.
It has a noise generator to add character, wobble for pitch inconsistencies, saturation for grit, and a bit crusher for vintage digital gear flavor. But also has a reverb section to add depth to the sound. The options you have with this plugin are limitless. It’s a great plugin if you want to add a vintage vibe to your tracks. Also, comes with many presets.
6. Kazrog True Iron
Kazrog True Iron offers a simple distortion solution. But because it’s simple, it doesn’t mean it’s powerless. True Iron is a powerful and diverse saturation tool for mixing engineers. Your songs will become more powerful and punchy with this awesome plugin from Kazrog. One of the best saturation plugins you will find.
It has only a couple of knobs but it can do anything you want. The crush knob is for distortion, the strength adds more power, and the mix is just a wet/dry control. The main power of the True Iron plugin comes from the voicing option. You can choose from six famous transformers and add different characters to your tracks. A simple plugin that can do powerful things.
7. Loc-Ness 2
Loc-Ness 2 from Tone Empire is one of my favorite saturator plugins. The tone options and features it offers are awesome. The interface is simple yet intuitive and looks like analog gear. This plugin can add power and punch to any track. It can be used on drums, bass, vocals, and so on. Also, it’s a very affordable plugin. A really great tool for home recording studios.
First of all, Loc-Ness 2 offers 4 types of saturation and small features such as mix and trim functions. It has two big knobs for the crust and smashes. These are the main power of distortion. But a very interesting feature is pre and post-filters. You are able to control low and high cuts for pre-distortion and post-distortion. This means that you have full control of your sound. Loc-Ness 2 is a powerful and diverse plugin to add distortion to any track.
Best Free Saturation Plugins
Free saturation or distortion plugins are great tools for testing or using in final mixes. Most modern free plugins have great features ad sound quality. So, if you don’t want to spend money on additional plugins or just want to try them, free saturation plugins are great for that purpose.
8. Voxengo Tube Amp
Voxengo Tube Amp is a very popular plugin. It’s simple, high-quality, and can be used on different tracks. Voxengo has other great free plugins you can check out. Their Spectrum Analyzer is one of the best. Tube Amp is a distortion plugin and it can add power and clarity to any instrument.
The plugin has a simple interface. You have controls for drive, bias, LPF, mix, and gain. It’s more a distortion or amplifier plugin than a saturation but you can freely use it as a saturation. Additionally, it has the option to control other parameters. If you want to have a simple, powerful, and free plugin, definitely check it out.
9. BPB Saturator
BPB Saturator has a modern interface and its a digital approach to saturation. A simple interface and ease of use make it a great option for beginners mixing engineers. A really great plugin for any home recording studio. Although it can be used in many different situations, perhaps it’s the best solution for electronic music. If you are in EDM, then this is a great plugin for you.
The options are very simple. You have HPF and LPF controls, input and output gain, and two types of saturation – tube and tape. The great thing is that you can blend these two styles and create a unique sound. Simplicity, features, and sound quality make this plugin a great free tool.
10. Slam Pup
Slam Pup with an interesting interface and features is one of the best free saturation plugins you can find. It has a dog and a bone and it looks awkward but the sound it produces is amazing. The interface is simple and modern. With a few control knobs, you can dial in diverse and powerful tones.
The input and output knob controls the gain of the sound. Also, it has a dry and wet mix fader. But the power comes from the bark and the bite knobs. Bark adds the distortion and bite adds more saturation. You can blend these two sounds and create really powerful and punchy tones. Great for bass or drums.
Krush saturation plugin by Tritik is a feature-packed free tool to add grit and clarity to your sound. Although it has many knobs and faders, it’s very simple to use. A modern interface and sound quality make it a great solution for any music producer or mixing engineer. A great free distortion plugin.
With Krush, you can add drive, distortion, filters, dry/wet signal, etc. Additionally, you have the ability to tweak and add modulation to the sound. It has options for rate, wave type, resonance, drive, and much more. A simple yet powerful free plugin for adding saturation to any track.
12. Orange Flavor
Orange Flavor is the king of simple saturation plugins. It has only two knobs but can do much more. The interface of the plugin looks futuristic and minimalistic. And with this simplicity comes great power. A really awesome plugin for beginners. It’s a free, simple, and awesome-sounding tool.
It has only an output gain and a drive knob. The big screen shows the harmonics it adds to the sound and that’s it. But cool things happen behind the scenes. Its anti-aliasing algorithm removes any digital artifacts. So, the sound is pure. Just try it and see the result for yourself.
Saturation plugins like EQ or compressor are essential mixing tools. These premium or free plugins help us to make our tracks more awesome and pleasing. You can use them on any instrument and vocal to add power, enhance the top end, and help it to cut in the mix. If you are new to distortion plugins, start with free. Get used to it and then try premium plugins with more features.