Distortion and saturation processing are a must-have for almost any time of music producer. Nowadays, instead of buying a house full of equipment, you just need to get the right plugins for your computer, and you’re all set for recording and mixing.
Saturation and distortion are basically the same, with saturation just being low-key distortion that happens when you play your instrument through analog equipment, giving it harmonies and softer and richer sound. It is one of the most used effects in the music industry and with that, there are also loads of different plugins for saturation, both free and paid.
In this article we will give you our top 10 of saturation and distortion plugins, to try and help you narrow down your search for the right plugin to use. So, buckle up and scroll down.
1. Sound Toys Decapitator
Sound Toys Decapitator is one of the most known and most praised Sound toys plugins and there’s a reason for that too. This plugin will enable you to control more or less anything you want with your saturation levels, whether you’re a professional or just a beginner sitting at home learning how to mix.
This plugin is compatible with almost all of the DAW available and works with VST, AU, AAX Native and AudioSuite formats. Decapitator will offer you control from most subtle to another side of the spectrum in saturation levels, as well as five different buttons to emulate different analog sounds. Also, it comes with PUNISH! button, which will give you instant 20dB gain boost, when you just need that punch. It’s a more expensive option, but this plugin is totally worth it if you are serious in music work.
Download Sound Toys Decapitator
2. PSP Vintage Warmer2
PSP Vintage Warmer 2 is, like the previous item on this list, a plugin intended for professional use. This means that this plugin is loaded with options and will give you a perfect sound however you intend to use it.
Even though this is an older bit of software it will work perfectly with most of the DAW’s and supports almost all of the formats. It’s intended for professional use, but can be still used by a beginner. This is a paid product, but worth every penny.
Download PSP Vintage Warmer2
3. SoftubeSaturation Knob
There is no reason not to have this plugin. As the name says it – this is a saturation knob. Different from other plugins that mostly have several knobs and options, this plugin will give you one huge saturation knob and a three-stage button, to choose the level of saturation you need – low, normal or high. If you are a no-nonsense type of guy, this will be a great addition to your set of plugins.
This free plugin is great if you just need a simple saturation plugin, that will give you a surprisingly great sound and help you adjust saturation on all types of recordings you can have.
Download SoftubeSaturation Knob
Klanghelm’s SDDR is a great plugin with loads of options that comes at a really reasonable price. This plugin will provide you with 4 main types of saturation – Tube, Fuzz, Desk, and Digi, which are all different and provide you with a different sound. So, whatever the sound you need, from mild saturation needed to connect the recordings to strong distortion, this piece has it.
It’s really simple and easy to use, covers most of the formats and DAW’s and will give you great sound, and all that for a really small price.
5. Fab Filter Saturn
Saturn Fab Filter is a professionally made plugin intended for professional use. This software will allow you to change between 16 different saturation and distortion models, ranging from the tube, amp and tape sound to some completely made up sounds company created.
Huge screen and controls will give you a graphic track of everything you’re doing live and the masterpiece of this plugin is a built-in modulator, that covers several different modulations and can work with up to 50 bands simultaneously.
This is a professional tool that is paid, but even though the amount is in a higher price range, this plugin is also of high-end quality and make.
Download Fab Filter Saturn
This plugin is your choice if you need a tape saturation plugin. Even the visuals on this plugin are made to look like old tape recorders and the sound quality is great.
This plugin offers a great number of options that emulate working on an old-school tape recorder, of course with some more options in sound tweaking. If you need a subtle tape saturation, this plugin is perfect for you. Also, even though it’s paid, the low price is just one of its many great features.
This free plugin is a very popular one. It will provide you with distortion, compressor and filter plugins all in one.
CamelCrusher will give you high-end sound quality with ease of use and simple (although somewhat outdated) graphics. But, for a free plugin, there really is no reason you don’t have this plugin in your collection.
8. ShatteredGlass Audio SGA1566
Another one of the free plugins on our list, SGA 1566 is made to emulate tube preamp and it does its job perfectly. This is a simple plugin, that has one job and does it well.
This is a great free option that will provide you with some of the cleanest tube preamp sounds out there. This comes with a price and that price is high CPU usage, but you really shouldn’t have any second thoughts about downloading and using this emulator.
Download ShatteredGlass Audio SGA1566
9. McDSPFutzBox HD
This plugin comes at a price and is considered to be on a high-end of this list. Its main goal (which is successfully accomplished) is to be a noise/distortion generator and to emulate different sound-emitting settings.
Apart from just being a distortion and saturation plugin, this piece of software will enable you to generate a whole bunch of noises. That can be really useful, especially if you’re working in post-production besides the music, as you can use all those noises to create different audio settings. This, of course, translates to music as well.
It comes at a somewhat bigger price, but since it’s offering so much, it’s definitely worth it.
Download FutzBox HD
As the simplicity goes – you can’t really get more simple than this. As the name suggests, OneKnob is a plugin that has only one knob. And that’s it.
This is a paid plugin, although it is fairly cheap. The whole point behind these sets of plugins is that there is just one, good effect and you have a knob on which you control it. You can get 7 different effects in the OneKnob line, which will all give you different sounds and options. They are more suitable for beginners to use and as for simplicity goes you just can’t get simpler than this.
We hope that this list gave you some idea about what to look after out there on the market, as there are so many options for your DAW. Choosing the right distortion and saturation plugin(s) to use can really help to bring out your recordings to commercial standards.