Many people are fascinated with analog studio gear’s ‘warmth’. And why not, it sounds complete, human, and present. However, simulation technology has advanced to the point that it can now accurately simulate the effects of analog circuitry. Our computers and DAW software are easily capable of handling these VST workhorses.
So forget about shelling out a lot of cash for analog gear.
Here are 7 VSTs (for PC and Mac) that will give you that warm analog sound.
7. PreBox by Analog Obsession
Analog Obsession is a fantastic indie developer who often appears on our lists, boasting an impressive range of excellent free plugins that are based on well-known analog gear.
This is certainly the case with the PreBox preamp plugin. Whether you’re trying to add character to a digitally recorded signal or crushing a signal with a bus or auxiliary track, the PreBox is a simple but versatile choice.
You can create various types of harmonic saturation to fit the style of your music, or by recording with 11 different preamp settings on offer. The input rotary increases the input’s amplitude, while the output does the same. By increasing the input gain while decreasing the output, more harmonics can be produced, making this a true saturation plugin.
Since saturation is essentially a mix of harmonic distortion and soft knee compression, a true saturation plugin must have some kind of dynamic control or attenuation. With that in mind, observe how the initial signal’s gain decreases as the amplitude of the harmonics grows. This indicates that our complexities are being controlled and that compression is taking place.
Finally, this plugin has a high-pass filter with a frequency range of 380Hz and a low-pass filter with a single setting of 3kHz. A bypass switch lets you match your original signal to your affected or processed signal easily.
6. Klanghelm IVGI
IVGI allows you to customize the saturation like few others, highlighting the amount of thought and time clearly put into the making of this plugin. It’s not just distortion slapped on top of your track – it’s a living, breathing organism that responds dynamically. We believe this is the most genuine free tape saturation plugin we’ve ever seen.
With controls over the Response, Drive, and Asymmetrical Mix of the sound you can go for the vibe of any era. There is also a knob to regulate the volume of crosstalk! It works well on mono and stereo loops, and busses would undoubtedly profit. It’s also internally calibrated at -18dBfs for use in the digital world.
- Download page (Windows VST/3, AAX | Mac VST/3, AU, AAX)
5. Tomato Preamp – Roxolder
Despite the fact that the Tomato preamp looks visually as though it generates pleasant-sounding harmonics that add warmth to the signal, it actually produces a rough and lo-fi tone. This makes it ideal for infusing a signal with unexpected character and evoking the feel of classic low-fidelity recordings. Three separate tube models produce various lo-fi sounds. The oldest is the harshest and more warped, while the newest is marginally less distorted but also has a lot of it.
Various settings between old and new tubes alter the tonality of the distortion, but the sound is always heavily distorted with this plugin. It also sounds as though each setting produces a high-pass filter that attenuates the lower frequencies to produce a thinner signal.
While the three tube forms and two plate voltage choices seem to be similarly chaotic in design, they give a significant difference in tonality. The input, gain, and output levels do little to reduce the amount of distortion, limiting the functionality of this plugin. Having said that, it still has something unique to deliver and needs some publicity.
Finally, an oversampling feature helps to reduce aliasing.
4. SGA1566 Tube Preamp
Shattered Glass Audio’s SGA1566 is a freeware tube preamp simulation. It reproduces the saturation characteristics of a single-channel vintage tube microphone preamp using high-performance circuit simulation.
Two 12AX7 tube amplification stages and a two-band Baxandall equalizer are included in the plugin. The EQ module may be placed at either the input or output level. SGA1566 has a very authentic voice, accurately reproducing the distortion and sound of an old tube preamp. It can be used to improve the sound of virtual instruments and to warm up recordings.
The main disadvantage is that it uses a lot of CPU. SGA1566 especially requires a fast CPU, which will slow down your DAW. The addon, thankfully, has two separate CPU output modes. The low CPU mode reduces sound quality while improving reliability and usability for computers with less processing power.
FreeAMP is a stripped-down version of Klevgränd’s REAMP analog modeling plugin. It uses a mix of saturation algorithms from the software’s complete version.
FreeAMP’s saturation algorithm is a special blend of tape and tube distortion. As a result, it fits well for a wide range of audio sources.
Just three control parameters make up the user interface. The Drive knob controls the amount of distortion, the Mix knob controls the dry and processed audio’s relative speeds, and the Output knob controls the master frequency.
2. Molot Compressor
Vladg’s Molot is an interesting compressor, even the retro Soviet aesthetic is spot on.
Molot can lend the sound a unique flavor. I recommend reading the manual to learn how to better tune it, it’s well worth your time.
1. Tape Cassette – Caelum Audio
The Tape Cassette plugin is great for anyone looking for some unique saturation.
Tape Cassette is a simple audio plugin that adds warmth, noise, and character to your songs. Tape Cassette allows you the tools to make your music into a cosy, nostalgic listening experience, whether as an impact on the master for an overall lofi / indie texture or as an insert to fire up specific outlets.
Using the wow and flutter parameters to spin your sounds into a flurry, or use the saturation parameter to heat up the sounds into a warped cacophony, to take the plugin into unconventional territories.