Distortion and saturation processing is a must-have for any music producer. Nowadays, instead of buying a house full of equipment, you just need to get the right plugins for your PC/Mac, 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 harmonics with 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 15 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
- 2. PSP Vintage Warmer2
- 3. SoftubeSaturation Knob
- 4. KlanghelmSDRR
- 5. Fab Filter Saturn
- 6. SknoteRoundtone
- 7. CamelCrusher
- 8. ShatteredGlass Audio SGA1566
- 9. McDSPFutzBox HD
- 10. WavesOneKnob
- 11. Waves J37 Tape
- 12. iZotope Trash 2
- 13. D16 Group Redoptor 2
- 14. BRAINWORX Vertigo VSM-3
- 15. BRAINWORX bx_saturator V2
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 the most subtle like the “keep high” function to another side of the spectrum in saturation levels, as well as five different buttons to emulate different analog sounds.
Also, it comes with a punish button, which will give you an 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 about music work.
Check it out: 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.
Check it out: 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 plugin is great if you just need a simple and free saturation plugin, that will give you a surprisingly great sound and help you adjust saturation on all types of recordings you can have.
Check it out: 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 styles, 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.
Check it out: KlanghelmSDRR
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 modes, 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 modulation options 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.
Check it out: 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 the parameters. 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.
Check it out: SknoteRoundtone
This free plugin is a very popular one. It will provide you with distortion algorithms, compression knob, and filter plugins all in one.
CamelCrusher will give you high-end sound quality with ease of use and simple (although somewhat outdated) graphics.
For a free plugin, there really is no reason you don’t have this plugin in your collection.
Check it out: CamelCrusher
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.
Check it out: ShatteredGlass Audio SGA1566
9. McDSPFutzBox HD
This plugin comes at a price and is considered to be on a high-end plugin 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 with the presets. 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.
Check it out: 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.
Check it out: WavesOneKnob
11. Waves J37 Tape
The Waves J37 Tape is an awesome saturation plugin emulates an analog tape machine.
Aside from its beautiful appearance, this saturation plugin has a distinct frequency response and harmonic distortion pattern.
With many options and controls on the table, the Waves J37 Tape has a list of useful controls like Saturation, Speed, Noise, Tape Delay, Flutter, and a few more exciting ones.
One of the most inconspicuous saturation tools on the market.
Check it out: Waves J37 Tape
12. iZotope Trash 2
iZotope Trash 2 is a plugin that caters to distortion and saturation.
With a choice between 60 different distortion and saturation models, iZotope Trash 2 also has a selection of filters for further editing the saturation.
There is also an extension pack that is very affordable if you want to take it even further. Trash 2 also includes a modeled-in cabinet/amplifier that lets you place any sound in a unique setting.
A plugin worth your while.
Check it out: iZotope Trash 2
13. D16 Group Redoptor 2
The Redoptor 2 from the D16 Group adds a distinctively glossy tube saturation to your sounds, which is quite different from other tape saturation plugins.
This plugin is a paid product that offers a note-worthy amount of controls and input channels for extra options and warmth to your sound. From a 4-band EQ to a tube drive, and a preamp section to cater your sound just the way you want. It also has a nice distortion processing that just adds value to this plugin.
The great thing about it is its simplistic and laid-out user interface for seamless use.
Check it out: D16 Group Redoptor 2
14. BRAINWORX Vertigo VSM-3
Vertigo VSM-3 is another worthy contender on this list developed by BRAINWORX.
This unique hybrid amplifier combines the tone and character of the vintage hardware while also incorporating new features. This plugin caters from indistinct saturation to crushing distortion effects that feel right.
What makes this one stand out is the 2nd Harmonic FET Crusher that delivers exceptional saturation and distortion. Also, the 3rd Harmonic Zener Blender takes the saturation and distortion to a whole new level.
Applicable to specific signal frequencies, the Vertigo VSM-3 is more than worthy!
Check it out: BRAINWORX Vertigo VSM-3
15. BRAINWORX bx_saturator V2
Another BRAINWORX product to top off this list is the bx_saturator V2.
This plugin is a multi-band saturation & mid and side gem. With the option to increase the volume of mixes without the clipping effect, all the while having a satisfying saturation and distortion algorithm.
It works beautifully with any virtual guitars, basses, and other instruments, while also targeting low, mid, and high frequencies to cater to your needs even more.
It’s no secret that BRAINWORX has a great selection of plugins and this one just fits the description.
Check it out: BRAINWORX bx_saturator V2
Saturation and distortion are two of the most commonly used production techniques in audio engineering. Saturation is the process of adding distortion to a signal while still keeping it analog, which can provide quality saturation without unwanted oddities.
While some plugin companies have developed plugins that rely solely on these two concepts, others have developed complex processors that blend saturation and distortion.
This list comprises the best distortion plugins & saturation plugins for all users, from novice producers to sound engineers. Some even provide a free version of their paid plugin which only adds more value to the plugin’s worth.
The sounds that can be achieved with these plugins can range from gentle saturation that enhances your sounds while some add a high-quality crunch to your sound. The plugins on this list are some of the best choices for saturation and distortion, and they can genuinely enhance your tracks.