Best FREE Distortion VST Plugins

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In this section of our free VST plugins directory, we’re taking a look at the best freeware distortion effects in VST and AU plugin format for digital audio workstations on PC and Mac.

Everybody loves distortion. No matter what style of music you make or what kind of sound design you do, distortion is universally used in a way that few other audio tools are. You can use it to warm up sterile digital tracks and give them a more analog feel, add grit and grind to guitars or vocals, or beef up drum tracks to make snare drums cut through the mix better.

The applications are pretty much endless.

While distortion plugins used to be somewhat one-dimensional, they have come a long way and have gotten a lot more elaborate. It used to be that gain and volume were pretty much the only parameters that distortion plugins offered, but those days are gone.

Nowadays, distortion plugins fall into many categories: multi-band and phase distortions, bitcrushers, hardware preamp emulations, dynamic distortions, you name it.

So if you are looking for some new ways to play with distortion, give some of these plugins a shot. Your tracks have a lot to gain.

FREE Distortion VST Plugins

So, here are the best free distortion plugins in 2023:

  • FuzzPlus 3
  • Krush
  • CamelCrusher
  • Temper
  • SGA1566
  • Tube Saturator Vintage
  • Saturation Knob
  • Greed Smasher
  • Marauder

FuzzPlus 3 by Audio Damage (MacOS, Windows)

FuzzPlus 3 by Audio Damage

FuzzPlus 3 is a free distortion plugin by Audio Damage. It’s not often that the developer’s name and the plugin name coincide so perfectly, but that’s the case here.

While many of the options on this list lean more toward saturation and straight-up distortion, the FuzzPlus 3 sits directly in fuzz territory, as the name implies. It offers a low-pass filter, Audio Damage’s take on the same found in the Korg MS-20 synthesizer. You can even feed the processed signal back into the “circuit” for more creative options.

The FuzzPlus 3 sports a sleek interface with five simple control parameters. You can set the specific Frequency and Resonance (the amount of frequency boost) of the filter section, the amount of Distortion, and at the output section – the amount of Feedback and Output Level.

Visually, there is a spectrum analyzer that shows you the amount of clipping of the waveform of the signal. It is not extremely accurate, but it does give you a general visual representation of how your signal is being affected.

FuzzPlus 3 is a terrific option for sonic annihilation, and while its usefulness is a bit esoteric, it can add some unique flavor to your tracks. If sonic annihilation is your thing, be sure to check out the amazing Rough Rider compressor, which was also developed by Audio Damage.

Krush by Tritik (MacOS, Windows)

Krush by Tritik

Krush is a multi-faceted bitcrusher plugin that delivers both analog and digital distortion. It offers three simple controls to set the type of distortion – Drive, Crush, and Downsample.

Drive adds a more traditional distortion, and this parameter applies pleasant amounts of saturation throughout its entire range. Crush sets the bitcrusher controls and can sonically annihilate any signal, while the Downsample control is excellent for creating chaotic 8-bit sounds. There is also a Filter section that features low-pass and high-pass options with controls for frequency and resonance.

The second row of parameters offers modulation controls for the distortion and filter settings, as well as a waveform selector and Rate option. You can sync the modulation to the tempo of your session as well, taking out some of the guesswork. Finally, there are dry and wet sliders to set the overall balance.

For electronic music styles and sound design, this free distortion plugin absolutely crushes it.

CamelCrusher by Camel Audio (macOS, Windows)

CamelCrusher Camel Audio

CamelCrusher is a legendary free distortion plugin from Camel Audio. It is currently discontinued, but the freeware plugin is still available for download, and you can use it in your DAW.

The plugin combines three different effects into one capable sound coloration tool. It includes a distortion module, a filter, and a compressor. All three modules feature simple controls and provide great-sounding results.

I love using CamelCrusher on drums. Apply a tiny bit of tube distortion, a subtle filter cutoff, and some gentle compression in Phat Mode, and a thin-sounding drum loop transforms into a heavy-hitting version of itself.

Another great feature is the Mix knob which lets you apply parallel processing to your signal. This is particularly useful when using higher amounts of distortion, as it lets you dial down the intensity while preserving the distorted texture.

Temper by Creative Intent (MacOS, Windows)

Temper by Creative Intent

As the only phase distortion on this list, Temper is a bit confusing at first glance. Based on a phase distortion algorithm, it can do what nothing else on this list can – much more than traditional clipping.

The flavor of distortion is set with three controls – Curve, Drive, and Saturation. The Drive knob goes from -10 to 10. With the gain set to zero, there is no distortion at all. At any other setting, the plugin applies a different flavor of distortion that is determined by how the Saturation and Curve controls are set. The Cutoff control sets the frequency of the low-pass filter, and the Resonance controls emphasis. Temper also adds a bit of harmonic excitement.

Showing dry and wet signals simultaneously, the spectrum analyzer gives a solid visual representation of what the plugin does to your signal. You might not find much use for it on guitars or a drum buss, but it can do great things for electronic instruments and styles of music.

SGA1566 by Shattered Glass Audio (MacOS, Windows)

SGA1566 by Shattered Glass Audio

SGA1566 is a hardware preamp emulation, and its design is a take on a two-stage 12AX7 tube preamp. It can add a lot of life and fatten up tracks recorded digitally or through solid-state gear. The plugin is excellent for use on pretty much any mix element, from vocals to bass, as well as a tool for subtle saturation on busses and the master channel.

The control scheme is pretty sophisticated, with knobs for Input and Output gain, as well as a Gain knob that controls the amount of drive to the tube section. One of the coolest features is that the Baxandall EQ section can be placed before or after the distortion, adding versatility.

SGA1566 is notorious for eating up a lot of CPU. To remedy this issue, there is a switch for high or low performance, but the sound has more fidelity at the higher setting. It can also be run in mono or stereo.

Tube Saturator Vintage by Wave Arts (MacOS, Windows)

Tube Saturator Vintage by Wave Arts

Tube Saturator Vintage is an authentic digital model of a dual 12AX7 triode hardware preamp. It features a sleek GUI and robust feature set, and while it uses a lot of CPU, it is a fantastic alternative to expensive preamp emulations from companies like Slate and Waves.

As with hardware tube pres, a Drive knob controls the amount of gain, and an Output control sets the level. The EQ section is pre-distortion and allows for control of Bass, Mid, and Treble frequencies. The EQ section can also be bypassed, turning it into a two-knob overdrive of sorts. The plugin also sports two toggle switches, one to bypass the EQ section and another to turn on “Fat” mode which simulates changing the bias of the first tube stage to increase gain and saturation.

It’s great for adding color to digital tracks or those recorded with digital or solid-state preamps. It can also add analog saturation to any source. You don’t really have to be judicious with it either, as it pretty much makes any track you use it on better.

Saturation Knob by Softube (MacOS, Windows)

Saturation Knob by Softube

Distortion plugins don’t get any more straightforward than the Saturation Knob from Softube.

Saturation Knob is an easy-to-use plugin that will work with almost any setup, as it comes in 64 and 32-bit versions in multiple formats. A single knob controls the amount of saturation, and a 3-way toggle switch lets you control which part of the frequency spectrum of your signal is affected by the saturation – Highs, Neutral (changing all frequencies), and Lows.

Saturation Knob is great for adding an analog vibe to sterile digitally-recorded tracks or when you’re looking for a little warmth and a bit of compression. Throwing it on a vocal can help it sit right in the sweet spot, it can make acoustic guitars cut, and can glue groups of tracks and busses together.

The plugin works best as a subtle saturation tool, as there isn’t much gain on tap, and the Gain control can get a little smeary around 75%. There is no way to control the output volume, so subtle is the name of the game.

Greed Smasher by Mercuriall (MacOS, Windows)

Greed Smasher by Mercuriall

Greed Smasher is a guitar distortion plugin that sounds great on various inputs, from synths to vocals and beyond.

Mercuriall plugins are known for making high-quality plugin guitar pedals, and the Greed Smasher takes that a step further as it emulates the Mesa/Boogie Grid Slammer overdrive. Like most 3-knob stompboxes, it features controls for Gain, Tone, and Level.

With the Gain low and the Volume up, it provides a great push when used on the front end of amp sims – just like a real overdrive pedal. Mesa/Boogie products are known for having loads of gain on tap, but even with the Gain maxed out, it doesn’t seem to lose clarity or focus.

Marauder by AudioParlour (Windows)

Marauder by AudioParlour

Marauder is the only dynamic distortion on this list. The design is based on two gain stages that determine the character of the distortion, with the signal going through a preamp stage and then being fed into two VCAs. A feedback-style compressor controls the envelope, which determines how the signal is distributed between the gain stages.

It is versatile and right at home on electronic sources like synths and pads. While it does take a bit of fine-tuning to get the right sound for your source, what you can do with it is impressive. In addition to offering many ways to control the effect, the coolest control is the Mix knob. It allows you to blend in the amount of dry vs. wet signal to taste. Dynamic indeed.

Marauder’s biggest drawback is that it is only compatible with 32-bit VST plugin hosts on Windows.


If you need more freeware tools for making music, check out our free VST plugins directory! Enjoy using the plugins listed on this page, and please consider supporting BPB by sharing this article on Facebook, Twitter, or your favorite forums. Thank you!

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About Author

Tomislav is a music producer and sound designer from Belgrade, Serbia. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief at Bedroom Producers Blog.

21 Comments

  1. heavymetalmixer

    on

    I would add to that list three more plugins: Klanghelm IVGI 2, TDR SlickEQ (The OUT STAGE and CALIBRATE are a separate saturation unit from the EQ and the EQ SAT button), and the Audio Assault HeadCrusherFree.

    Very good choices, gotta share this post with some friends.

  2. These are all great plugins, all of which I discovered through this page, so thanks! Temper is my favorite. These are all fairly new though, so I wanted to mention an old favorite, OctBUZ from Buzzroom, which is still quite good.

  3. corrosiveabuser

    on

    Nice list, and +1 for the Klanghelm IVGI. Also worth a mention is Airwindows, – Density, Drive, Loud, BusColors4 and Channel5 are but just a few of his adventures into saturation, distortion, overdrive, etc.

    • Airwindows really satisfies ALL distortion needs at the BEST quality i’ve heard. Throw in his DC voltage plugin in the front of ANY chain and Bend new distortions unheard of (and classic) out of his other plugins. Changed my life!

      • Corrosiveabuser

        on

        Raven, agree 100%, – Chris from Airwindows is the real deal, a true innovator within the plugin scene IMO, and a really affable character too, – he’s the only reason I have a Patreon account.

  4. Very good list of very helpful tools. I’m missing Klanghelm IVGI2 and the free Audio Assault Head Crusher. Cheers

  5. Hi there, and greetings from australia.

    As far as Distortion, i think you may have forgotten one of the most versatile plug ins out there:

    DISTO FX, by Distocore.
    Goes from subtle saturation to extreme distortion/overdrive, with so much curve shaping and much much more.

    http://distocore.net/disto_fx.html

    As far as a saturator, i wanted to bring attention to a little known; but rather incredible, plug in from GVst:
    GSatMax!!!
    https://www.gvst.co.uk/beta.htm

    It’s in the little known “beta” section, along with many other free plugs (in 32 & 64 bit!). Simply click on each plug and it downloads before you know it.

    Anyways, GSatMax is a very skillful saturator.

    By the way, i just wanted to finally be able to say “thanks” for all you do here. I stop by here regularly and ;along with VstPlanet, download lots of freeware. Even if i don’t end up keeping them all, they’ve all helped me understand how to use various fx alot better, so cheers!

  6. Almost overkill in a good way (-:

    Wasnt there a free version of Decimort too?

    Mr. Stoner might ha to do Part Two of this Article.

    Why not, good topic either Way.

  7. Camel Crusher should be on this list. Still great after all these years.

    Also AXP’s Softamp PSA is a great emulation of the Sansamp PSA. Kiler distortion engine.

  8. I’ve been out of the music production hobby for a while so, if someone could fill me in: what happened to all the varietyofsound plugins? They seem to no longer be available for download?

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