SGA1566 is a freeware vintage tube preamp emulation in VST/AU plugin format for Windows and Mac based digital audio workstations, released by Shattered Glass Audio.
The plugin emulates a vintage single channel tube preamplifier, featuring two 12AX7 tube amplification stages and a two-band Baxandall equalizer which can be placed either at the input or the output stage. The plugin also features two different CPU modes, offering improved stability and compatibility with older and less powerful machines. The low CPU mode is less CPU intensive, at the cost of a slightly less accurate simulation of the tube circuit.
See also: Free Saturation VST Plugins!
Sound-wise, I really like this plugin. I love the type of saturation I was able to get out of it, especially on drum loops and synthesized bass sequences. It colors the sound in a very pleasant way, adding the right amount of tube style saturation on top. The built-in EQ also does its job rather well and it works great in combination with the tube circuit. SGA1566 is definitely worth a try if you need a device for coloring your audio tracks and adding a bit of depth and sparkle to digital sounds.
Performance-wise, things could be better. The default setting takes around 25% CPU on my Intel Core i3 processor (tested in a 64-bit DAW). The low CPU mode drops this value by around 10% and turning off stereo mode can reduce the CPU hit a bit more. On the other hand, increasing oversampling from 1X to 4X on the default setting increases the CPU hit to over 90%. Either way, the plugin definitely sounds good enough that I can see my self using it for offline editing and sound design in the future, however I doubt that I’ll be using it as an insert in music projects too often.
But that’s a fair trade-off. I’ll always take a great sounding effect which puts a bit more strain on the CPU and bounce the track when I’m happy with it, than a low quality plugin which just doesn’t sound that good. I actually found that it’s significantly beneficial to my workflow when I bounce a track which uses CPU intensive plugins and then simply remove those plugins from the project. It eliminates the temptation of re-tweaking various plugin parameters later on in the mixing stage.
Shattered Glass Audio has recently released another interesting freeware plugin called Ace. It is a rather spot-on emulation of the old Fender Champ guitar amplifier, perfect for getting that creamy vintage guitar tone ITB.
Check out the SGA1566 audio demo:
SGA1566 is available for free download via Shattered Glass Audio (1.12 MB download size, EXE installer, 32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU plugin format for Windows).