Lots of people are obsessed with the warmth of analog studio gear. Sure—it sounds fuller, more human, more present.
But what are they really talking about when they use the term warmth? For many, it’s an effect called saturation—a smoother more musical cousin of distortion.
These days, modelling technology has become really good at simulating the effects of analog circuitry. In fact, are even a handful of free saturation plugins out there that do a great job of bringing it to your DAW.
So forget about spending tons of money on analog gear.
Here’s 7 VSTs (for both PC and Mac) that will give you that sweet analog warmth.
- SGA1566 Tube Preamp
- TDR Slick EQ
- Ace Amp
- Molot Compressor
- Voxengo Tube Amp
- MJUC jr. Compressor
- Softube Saturation Knob
What’s all the analog fuss about?
Ok, so what does analog circuitry do to your sound? What’s everyone so obsessed about?
What people like about analog sound are the quirks and imperfections.
So when people talk about ‘warm analog sound’ they’re referring to:
- Subtle distortion and drive
- Harmonic distortion
- Tape Saturation
- Vacuum tubes
What these processes do to your sound is often hardly noticeable. That’s what the magic’s about—you won’t hear them, but they’ll make a huge difference in how your track sounds and feels.
The cumulative effect of analog processes is what people are gushing about.
1. SGA1566 Tube Preamp
Shattered Glass Audio’s SGA 1566 gives you a single channel vintage tube preamp. The whole circuit is simulated in real time to get you that authentic analog sound.
Use the SGA 1566 as a saturation compressor to boost the warmth of your track. Or add a bit of grit with the tube overdrive.
The newest version is also lighter on your CPU––so no computer freak outs!!
Download the SGA 1566 for free here.
2. TDR Slick EQ
“This little guy sounds amazing” –Dave Pensado
The TDR Slick EQ is a sleek easy-to-use three-band EQ that gives you amazing sound—like all Tokyo Dawn Records plugins.
Warm up your sound by choosing a non-linear option under Output Stage. That’ll add subtle harmonic distortion and texture.
Download the TDR SlickEQ for free here.
3. Ace Amp
Ace Amp—another Shattered Glass Audio creation—is based on classic 1950s style tube amps.
Control the input, volume, feedback, output. Choose between three resampling options.
This amp plugin has simple controls and doesn’t eat up your CPU.
Hot Tip: Try it on vocals for a cool aesthetic effect.
Download the Ace for free here.
4. Molot Compressor
Vladg’s Molot is a compressor with character. Even the vintage Soviet look is on point.
Molot will give your sound interesting color. I recommend reading the manual to learn how to tune it properly—it’s worth the read.
Download Molot for free here.
5. Voxengo Tube Amp
Voxengo’s Tube Amp gives you warm overdrive, fuzzy distortion and everything in between.
It imitates tube overdrive in the style of single-tube mic preamps.
Hot Tip: Use the low-pass filter to imitate the texture of lower-quality tubes.
Download Voxengo’s Tube Amp for free here.
6. MJUC jr. Compressor
Klanghelm’s MJUC jr. compressor is simple and elegant.
Use it for smooth compression or a heavier pumping effect. MJUC jr. is based on vintage compressors of the 1960s––it even looks like one.
Flip the ‘Time Constants’ switch to choose between slow, fast and auto. This changes the attack and release time. It affects other parts of the circuitry too, giving you interesting analog-style saturation.
Download the MJUC jr. for free here.
7. Softube Saturation Knob
This Saturation Knob is one the best free analog emulation plugins out there. Even Dave Pensado gives it two thumbs up!
Use it anywhere to add some character and distortion. Drag it on your vocal track to add shimmer.
The great thing about this one is how simple it is: literally one knob and a switch. Change the switch setting to choose between the kind of distortion you’ll get.
Download the Softube Saturation Knob for free here.
Fake It Till Ya Make It
These effects are the missing ingredient in your digital sound.
The key with analog emulation is to avoid overdoing it. Bring in the effect until you hear it, then dial it back a notch. It’ll still make a huge difference. Your sound will be fuller and warmer.
Use these plugins and people will be asking for your studio secrets in no time.
Make sure to grab the whole LANDR-approved free VST plugin collection:
- 10 Free VST Plugins That Will Give You Better Bass
- 10 Free VST Plugin Effects That Will Spice Up Your Mix
- 10 Free VST Plugins That Will Give You Better Drum Tracks
- The 7 Best Free Synth VST Plugins
- 8 Free VST Plugins That Will Inspire You in Strange Ways
- Every Free VST Plugin You Need For Mixing Perfect Vocals