Icon Picks: Top 20 Saturation Plugins

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This roundup of Icon Picks features a selection of professional sounding saturation plugins that will harmonically enhance your music.

Saturation

Saturation is the essence of what makes analog hardware sound so musical and pleasing. Driving sounds through tubes, transistors, and circuitry has long been the key ingredient in great-sounding analog recordings. Artists and engineers use saturation to add prescience, character, warmth, edge, cohesion, and much more. From subtle to extreme, analog saturation is an integral part of amazing mixes.

Soundtoys | Decapitator

Soundtoys Decapitator

With five different analog saturation models to choose from, Decapitator is perfect for adding character to every sound you run through it. This beast includes a modeled tone control for shaping the saturated sound, a mix control for parallel processing, and a Punish button to push your sounds harder. Decapitator does an excellent job capturing the vibe of vintage and modern hardware. You can actually hear subtle changes when it reacts to an incoming signal. From subtle to the extreme, Decapitator delivers every time!

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Slate Digital | VTM

Slate Digital VTM

Big, fat, warm, deep, rich and exciting are just some of the terms used to describe the sound of magnetic tape. Virtual Tape Machines is an excellent tool for injecting the musical analog vibe of tape saturation. Slate Digital did a great job capturing the sound and all the best features from two renowned hardware tape machines. Using VTM on your tracks and mixes will make them sound warmer, smoother, punchier, and more analog!

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SPL | Vitalizer MK2-T

Vitalizer MK2-T

Add clarity and life to your mixes with this renowned tube-based processor. Modeled after its hardware counterpart, Vitalizer MK2-T shapes sounds musically and effectively. It works amazingly well at enhancing loudness, widening the soundscape, and adding harmonic depth and richness. Moreover, this sonic shaping classic makes low frequencies sound more powerful and defined, mids more focused, and highs more vivid.

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FabFilter | Saturn

FabFilter Saturn

Saturn offers a range of different high-quality distortion models, inspired by the vintage sound of tubes, tape, and guitar amps. You also get three creative distortion styles. In addition, Saturn features a multiband design with a selection of tone and dynamics controls. Unlike other saturation plugins, Saturn offers modulation options, XY controllers, envelope followers, and more. This versatile tool excels at adding warmth and definition to anything you run through it.

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Sonnox Oxford | Inflator

Sonnox Oxford Inflator

The Sonnox Oxford Inflator is a longtime secret weapon for audio professionals. Its unique sound increases the apparent loudness of your mix or individual tracks without affecting the sonic quality or reducing dynamic range. The Inflator adds power, warmth, and presence to your mix. Furthermore, it delivers louder mixes without pumping and over-saturation commonly associated with compressors. This gem even adds loudness to heavily squashed or compressed material. It also can add musicality and dynamic range to previously clipped signals. When driven harder, Inflator also introduces tube-like musical warmth and provides the “sonic glue” needed to gel mixes together!

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UAD | Studer A800

UAD Studer A800

For more than 30 years, artists and engineers alike have been drawn to the warm analog sound, solid low-end, and overall presence of the original Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder. UAD’s take faithfully models the entire circuit path of the famous A800 machine from Allen Sides’ collection at Ocean Way Studios. This sought after plugin adds warmth, presence, cohesion, and low-end punch that only genuine tape can provide.

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D16 Group | Redoptor

D16 Redoptor

Redoptor is a high-quality vintage tube distortion emulator. Although not technically a saturation plugin, it still delivers some amazing results.

This harmonic sculpting device features both tube distortion and transistor distortion. Tubes produce even and odd harmonics and naturally compress the signal. Transistors produce only odd harmonics and limit the sound. In addition, Redoptor is a modeled tube distortion unit. The emulation focuses on both the characteristics of the tube as well as co-functioning circuits within the distortion unit. Moreover, this design captures all the subtleties’ and dynamics of analog tube distortion while also sporting modern features.

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iZotope | Trash 2

iZotope Trash

Trash 2 combines the power of multiband processing, dual-stage distortions, and advanced post-filtering for immediate sonic transformation. Give your low end some thump, add warm crunch on the midrange, and let your high-end soar – this beast does it all! Trash 2 also offers 60+ distortion algorithms, over 100 impulse responses, various filter modules, a customizable, multiband Waveshaper, and much more.

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brainworx | Vertigo VSM-3

Vertigo VSM-3

The Vertigo VSM-3 is an emulation of the beloved Vertigo Sound’s acclaimed VSM-2 Mix Satellite. This harmonic beast captures all the tone and character of the original hardware while also adding innovative new features. VSM-3 generates every characteristic from subtle saturation to air-ripping distortion with targeted preciseness. Among its versatile functions is also a M/S mode for adding solidity to the center of a mix, or air to stereo field. Try this bad boy on your master or bus groups and hear its magic!

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Soundtoys | Radiator

Soundtoys Radiator

Radiator is a dual drive tube input channel and EQ, based on the classic Altec 1567A tube mixer from the 1960s. It brings the classic Altec tube sound, capturing the distinctive warmth and punch of the original hardware. Moreover, Radiator features the modeled bass and treble tone controls from the original unit as well as a mix control for easy parallel processing. It even comes with the saturation and harmonic effects of the original hardware’s input and output amplifiers. Push any sound through this simple device and hear the magic happen. It instantly warms the signal up and enhances tones in a subtle musical way.

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iZotope | Ozone 8 Vintage Tape

iZotope Ozone 8

Ozone 8’s Vintage Tape module brings the distinctive richness and vibe of tape saturation to your modern digital recordings. Inspired by the innovative Studer A810 tape machine, this full-feature device brings all the frequency coloration, distortion, and phase effects of classic tape. Introduce analog tone to individual tracks or full mixes. Moreover, Vintage Tape works great for adding dimension, fatness, depth, and punchy low-end response.

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Klanghelm | SDRR

Klanghelm SDRR

SDRR was built to satisfy almost all of your saturation desires. It provides a comprehensive set of controls to manipulate the character of the saturation in various ways. SDRR offers four different main modes: TUBE, DIGI, FUZZ, DESK. This versatile plugin can also operate as a saturator, a compressor, an EQ, a bit-crusher, and a subtle stereo widener. It can also be used to add some movement to your tracks with the DRIFT control. Moreover, this flexible harmonic enhancer adds warmth, depth, and character to your tracks or full mixes.

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u-he | Satin

u-he Satin

Satin is another authentic sounding tape machine emulation that captures the unique characteristics of several different units. Mix-and-match hardware-inspired models spanning over decades of developments in tape technology. Satin excels at transient-smoothing and “gluing” multiple tracks together. In addition, Satin features extra FX modes such as tape flanging and tape delay.

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PSP | MixSaturator2

MixSaturator2

PSP MixSaturator2 simulates the warmth, drive, and compression of tape, tubes, and other analog circuits. Control the bass frequency to add low-frequency harmonics or crank the treble frequency to simulate tape saturation. This plugin also offers seven curves characteristic of valve devices, analog tape machines, and the sound of digital clipping.

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Waves | J37 Tape

Waves J37 Tape

Created in association with Abbey Road Studios, the J37 is another excellent tape saturation emulation. J37 Tape faithfully recreates the inimitable sonic signature of the original machine. This plugin also features three modeled oxide tape formulas. Specially developed by EMI during the ‘60s and ‘70s, each formula has its own unique frequency response and harmonic distortion behavior. In addition, J37 comes equipped with a comprehensive Tape Delay unit. Deploy the analog warmth of J37 to apply a level of hardware realism to your digital recordings.

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DSP Fielding | Reviver

DSP Reviver

Reviver creates harmonic distortion inspired by vintage gear. It does not emulate analog equipment, but instead gives the user full control of overtone generation and volume. Despite this high level of controllability, Reviver’s user interface is intuitive and provides impressive results. Furthermore, Reviver features different styles of coloration and an anti-alias filter. Second-order harmonics produces the characteristics of tube amplifiers that sound warm and smooth. Third-order harmonics delivers the sound of tape and overdriven solid state amplifiers. This type of coloration gives your sounds punch, fatness, and detail.

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Kush | Omega A and N

Kush Omega N

Kush Audio’s Omega Transformer Model N and Omega Transformer Model A are a pair of heavily colored saturation plugins. Model A imparts a tone reminiscent of a classic API console, while Model N emulates the coveted vintage Neve preamp. Moreover, they are both simple to use and highly effective!

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brainworx | bx_saturator V2

bx_saturator V2

The bx_saturator is a multiband saturation tool with Mid/Side processing. It offers warm and subtle distortion which works wonders for mastering, mixing, and sound design. Moreover, this full-featured processor increases the perceived volume of mixes without clipping them. It also works great at bringing out delicate signals like acoustic guitars and percussion as well as adding punch to drums. Furthermore, the ability to saturate the Mid/Side signals independently is awesome!

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Plugin Alliance | Noveltech Character

Noveltech Character

Add presence, air, and crispness to your music with Character. This unique plugin instantly increases the definition of individual tracks and full mixes. The dynamic process automatically adjusts complex sets of parameters rather than specific frequency regions. This revolutionary approach delivers impressive results every time. In addition, it only has three intuitive parameters to control the process!

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URS | Saturation

URS Saturation

Inject some classic tonal preamp saturation vibe into your tracks. The URS Saturation plugin includes ten vintage analog algorithms ranging from vintage to modern, American to British, and even German. In addition to having multiple flavors of coloration, this harmonic enhancer increases the richness of any sound with simple controls. URS Saturation also features different types of input stage saturation, even and odd harmonics, and soft clipping. This plugin works great at injecting the vibe of different eras and enhancement styles.

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