Best Freeware Saturation VST/AU Plugins

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It’s common knowledge that high-end analog audio equipment adds that “special something” to the sound. And for those who like keeping things in the box, there’s already a range of costly software emulations available out there.

But thanks to some seriously talented and generous developers, we can actually get pretty close to those expensive sounding results without ever spending a dime. This article list all of the best freeware saturation plugins available at the moment, so if you’re looking for a good free analog tape, tube, or mixing console saturation VST plugin emulation, you’re definitely in the right place! First we’ll take a closer look at the Top 3 picks in this category and then list all of the best freeware tools for saturating your tracks.

#1 FerricTDS by Variety Of Sound (Windows)

FerricTDS by Variety Of Sound.

FerricTDS by Variety Of Sound.

If I had to pick a single plugin from the list below and use that one for the rest of my life, it would certainly be FerricTDS by Variety Of Sound. This plugin is without any doubt my #1 freeware saturation tool. It emulates the effect of tape saturation perfectly and without any unwanted artifacts like noise and flutter. It can also be quite transparent if you want to use it for mastering and it is surprisingly CPU effective.

Some people say that FerricTDS is too subtle, but please note that that you will get more saturation out of it by boosting the volume of the signal on the input (you’ll be close to the sweet spot when that VU meter needle hits the red). Perfect treatment for sampled TR-808 drums! The only real bummer with Ferric TDS is that it will only work on 32-bit Windows. I’ve gone 64-bit a while a go, so I can’t really use my favorite free saturation tool anymore. It sucks, I know.

#2 Nebula3 Free by Acustica (Mac/Win)

Nebula3 Free by Acustica.

Nebula3 Free by Acustica.

But this rather massive setback brings us to my next favorite saturation tool and that is Nebula3 Free. It’s a multi-platform plugin and I regularly use it for saturation and subtle signal coloration in the post-mixing stage. It can also be used in the mix to great effect, but unfortunately it’s a bit too CPU hungry to be a go-to mixing tool for me. The plugin comes with a nice selection of emulated hardware, but you can add all sorts of additional emulations to it, as there are many free Nebula3 programs available online.

#3 SGA1566 by Shattered Glass Audio (Mac/Win)

SGA1566 by Shattered Glass Audio.

SGA1566 by Shattered Glass Audio.

SGA1566 is the absolute best freeware tube preamp emulation out there. Based on precise circuit modeling, the plugin sounds incredibly authentic and is easily among the best tube preamp emulations currently available, free or not. This kind of quality does come at the price of a rather large CPU hit, though. I tend to use SGA1566 in my mixes quite often, but I always freeze it if it’s used as an insert effect. You can use the Low CPU mode and lower oversampling settings to reduce the CPU impact a bit, but that will also reduce the quality of the tube distortion being applied to the signal.

And here is the extended list of free saturation VST/AU plugins:

As always, you are more than welcome to mention your own favorites in the comments section below (in case I’ve missed any good ones). I’m always open for suggestions, but I also try to include only the best freeware plugins in these kinds of articles.

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About The Author

Tomislav is a journalist, music producer and web designer from Belgrade, Serbia. He is also the owner and editor-in-chief here at Bedroom Producers Blog.

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27 Comments on "Best Freeware Saturation VST/AU Plugins"

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Red Black

The download link for FerricTDS is broken unfortaunately :[

Any chance of uploading the DLL to a file server?

bedroomproducers
bedroomproducers

hi, i’ve just checked it and the link works here!

Red Black

Sorry, I wasn’t very clear . . the link worked but the link on the linked page didn’t :]

I’ve since notified Variety Of Sound and they’ve already fixed it! Cheers!

bedroomproducers
bedroomproducers

ah, great! cheers! :]

Alex
Alex

JS Magneto – La simulation de mon vieux magnéto SONY.

http://membres.multimania.fr/jeje1999/plug.htm

vospi
M
M

Here is a link to Saturator by Jeff Rippe (of Rocksonics Professional Audio). When used correctly, I think it might be my favorite tape sim. One knob drives it into compression and saturation. :)

http://freemusicsoftware.org/1131

stldrms
stldrms

Good list, thank you! To add to this list,
there’s Preamp Emulator by Musicrow.

http://www.mcrow.net/Preamp%20Emulator%20VST.htm

bmovie
bmovie

My favorites are Ferox & R2R-FREE

James
James

I really wish someone would take 1-time and compile it to run as a windows vst. I wish I had the knowledge to do it myself

Aelfric
Aelfric

Clip Shifter by LVC-Audio, Retroband by Michael Kingston, and TubeDriver by Nick Crow are now available on the Mac.

Alexis

I’d like to recommend the TB Ferox http://www.toneboosters.com/tb-ferox/

and TB TimeMachine http://www.toneboosters.com/tb-timemachine/

Both excellent and very free :)

svrc
svrc

How about Vintager Toy From Solocito Musica? http://solcitomusica.blogspot.com.ar/p/virtuales.html

harrie
harrie

If you want to use FerricTDS on a 64bit computer, you can use Jbridger.

https://jstuff.wordpress.com/jbridge/

It’s not expensive and works like a charm. I’ve been using FerricTDS for a while in windows 8.1 and have not experienced any problems whatsoever.

Matt
Matt

Nasty VCS is SUPERB! Its a complete channel strip, but it has a tube saturation going in. I love the sound and use it to warm up instruments going in to my DAW.

analogfrog
analogfrog

Cant live without ferric, but i am exited about these options :) Thanks again for a killer site.

Jazzist
Jazzist
Cranky
Cranky

I keep seeing praise for FerricTDS in many forums, but I don’t know why. Once its output level is matched with that of the input signal, I detect no appreciable difference, even listening through my high quality Beyer DT880 Pro headphones. Furthermore, the same goes for every saturation plugin that I’ve ever tried. I’ve yet to experience one that actually does anything of any worth.

Esol
Esol

Really? I use it a lot and i hear a difference. It’s subtle though.

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