Best Saturation Plugins

What is a saturator?

A saturator is a non-linear type of distortion that depends on the input drive. The more you drive the signal into the ceiling (clipping point), the more harmonics and dynamics squashing you get.

Free

These plug-ins are all available for free. However, this doesn’t make them not worthy of your attention.

Camel Audio Camel Crusher

Camel Audio Camel Crusher

This plugin has made the history of bass music. You’ve been into music production for so long that you’ve seen it in action, or you’ve heard about it from someone remembering the times it was one of the best weapons for loud mixes with character.

What makes this tool even more extraordinary is the variety of modules and presets.

It comes with a distortion module, a filter, a compressor, and a master module for volume and Dry/Wet. Each of them can be turned on or off.
It’s laid out in such a simple way that you won’t waste much time tweaking it.

The randomize feature is the cherry on top for those who just want to explore all its potential with a single click.

Voxengo Tube Amp

Voxengo Tube Amp

Wrapped in a simple GUI, it applies a tube triode-based overdrive usually found in single-tube pre-amp boxes for microphones.  The sound this plugin produces varies from a mild “warm” overdrive to a fuzzy distortion.

You can control the sound with the input drive and the bias knobs, along with a 6db slope lowpass filter to emulate a lower-quality tube triode.

Softube Saturation Knob

Softube Saturation Knob

It’s as simple as it looks. You get one knob to drive the input, and then you get to choose with a switch whether you want it to be distorting the whole spectrum equally or keeping the lows or highs intact.

This is the place to start with saturation plugins.

Klanghelm IVGI

Klanghelm IVGI

Definitely the most complex free plugin on this list. It offers a unique ASYM MIX knob to alter the symmetry of the signal without affecting the harmonic content much.

Also, the Response knob lets you alter the frequency dependency of the saturation, which is a feature that very few plugins allow with such a level of accuracy.

As Klanghelm states, it’s mostly suited for master bus applications.

Caelum Audio Tape Cassette

Caelum Audio Tape Cassette

Are you looking for the tape sound for free? This is the best option available.
It has plenty of controls such as Wow, Flutter, Noise, and Impulse response, along with the classic Drive and Low-Pass knobs. The most notable feature that’s unique on saturators is the Auto Gain switch.

Budget

These plug-ins are all for sale. We can say that they’re all worth more than what they cost. If you want to commit to some expenses without breaking the bank, this is the place to start.

Tone Empire Reelight Pro

Tone Empire Reelight Pro

Probably the best non-AI-based tape plugin on this list. The GUI is a classic-looking one, but it packs all the needed parameters together in an intuitive way. The way they decided to manage the speed toggle, especially in conjunction with the multitude of machines reproduced, is the most intuitive I’ve seen, as simple as Slow/Fast, unlike other plugins where they specify the actual speed. Also, the choice of having from 2x to 8x oversampling is clever since there’s no actual need to have insanely high oversampling rates for such a plugin.

Get it at Plugin Boutique

Sausage Fattener

Sausage Fattener

The legend. It’s been used by countless top-notch artists. Two knobs for drive and color, plus an often overlooked little one for the output trim. It was said that it had more than saturation going on, and in fact, it’s advertised as a musical compressor when used at light settings.
Put in simple words, if you’re going for the modern sound, then you can’t go wrong with it.

Waves J37 Tape

Waves J37 Tape

The GUI makes you feel like you have your hands on a real tape. A precision model of the very machine used to record many of the greatest masterpieces in modern music. It offers a variety of user-adjustable controls, including Tape Speed, Bias, Noise, Saturation, Wow, and Flutter. It faithfully recreates the inimitable sonic signature of the original machine.

Wavesfactory Cassette

Wavesfactory Cassette

If you love the sound of cassettes, then this is the way to go. It offers four different types of cassette sound, with tapes that spanned from the ‘60s to the ‘80s.

On each type, you can dial in the desired amount of erasures, spread, stability, static/dynamic noise, and artifacts.

That being said, you can use it for both creative and technical purposes.

Get it at Plugin Boutique

BABY Audio TAIP

BABY Audio TAIP

What makes this plugin stand out from the rest of the market, apart from its simple yet elegant interface, is that it’s being modeled around an AI algorithm instead of a traditional DSP, designed to decipher the invisible nuances of analog circuits.
The other two great features are the input modes (Normal and Hot) and the modes (Single and Dual), allowing the user to explore a variety of textures.

Get it at Plugin Boutique

Honorable mentions

There’s so plenty of options that we couldn’t test and write about yet, but that are indeed among the best options available on the market, so here are some more interesting names:

  • Softube Tape
  • Soundtoys Decapitator
  • Plugin Alliance Noveltech Character
  • Brainworx Bx_saturator V2
  • Plugin Alliance Black Box Hg-2
  • Initial Audio Analog Pro
  • Waves Maserati Gti
  • Analog Obsession Prebox
  • Tuba Analog Obsession
  • SPL Vitalizer Mk2-T
  • D16 Group Redoptor 2
  • Dsp Fielding | Reviver
  • Brainworx Vertigo Vsm-3
  • Soundtoys Radiator
  • Waves One Knob Driver
  • Baby Audio Super VHS
  • Toneboosters Reelbus 4
  • Klanghelm SDRR
  • SPL Twin Tube

Top Tier

These are the elite of the digital realm. They require some commitment to your wallet, but the number of features and the quality of performance they offer is among the very best you can find around nowadays. The sonic character is the main thing you should consider when pulling the trigger on the buy button.

All these tools will make your mix sound the way you want. They don’t have the magic of doing the job for you, but they will help shape the tone in the best way possible.

Fabfilter Saturn 2

Fabfilter Saturn 2

One of the most advanced saturators out there. It comes with many algorithms allowing you to pick the flavor you want. The preset library offers several inspiring starting points.

The amount of control over several aspects like saturation type, dynamics, tone, frequency, feedback, and mix adds up to the flexibility of multiband processing.

On top of that, the modulation section allows for interesting sound design and mixing/mastering shenanigans.

Get it at Plugin Boutique

XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color

XLN Audio Rc-20 Retro Color

While this isn’t a plugin entirely dedicated to saturation like the rest of this list, it does include a distortion module with some saturation algorithms. The rest of the modules can help you achieve a warm and degraded sound that somewhat mimics the imperfections of tape saturation. This plugin is more suited for sound design and production purposes than mixing and mastering ones where accuracy and sound quality are required. 

Get it at Plugin Boutique

iZotope Ozone 9 Vintage Tape

iZotope Ozone 9 Vintage Tape

Don’t let the modern and minimalistic interface you convince that it can’t deliver some quality warmth. With a total of five parameters to tweak, you will have the most accessible learning experience than you’d have with most other tape emulations.

You can mix in even harmonics for a warmer saturation or leave them out for authentic tape saturation.

Get it at Plugin Boutique

Honorable Mentions

  • Ohm Force Ohmicide
  • U-He Satin
  • PSP Vintage Warmer 2
  • UAD RAW
  • UAD Studer A800
  • Sonnox Oxford Inflator

Featured products

EVERYTHING Bundle 2021
EVERYTHING Bundle 2021
Sale price€125,00 Regular price€165,00
Tips Bundle
Tips Bundle
Sale price€25,00 Regular price€40,00

Popular posts

  1. Best Compressor Plugins
  2. How to Optimize your Computer for Music Production
  3. 10 Rules of Mastering
  4. How to build a DIY Studio
  5. How To Start a Mix

Recently viewed