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My Top 15 Best Vocal Saturation VST Plugins

My Top 15 Best VST Plugins for Vocal Saturation

Saturation is a powerful tool in the world of audio production, particularly when it comes to vocal mixing. It can add warmth, depth, and character to vocals, making them stand out in a mix. In this article, we’ll delve into the best saturation VST plugins for vocal mixing and how they can be used to enhance your tracks.

Understanding Saturation

First, let’s quickly explain what saturation is. When you are using analog studio gear like preamps, tape machines, and other physical hardware, driving the audio signal into these devices at a certain point will start to produce what’s known as saturation.

Audio saturation can be pleasing to the ears when used subtly because it adds harmonics to your audio signal, making it sound fuller. Think about what happens when you boost the saturation on a photo: the colors become more vibrant and everything seems warmer. This is the effect you’re aiming for when adding saturation to vocals for example.

Read more about how audio saturation can improve your mixes.

Best Plugins for Vocal Saturation

There are various saturation audio plugins available to emulate these analog devices. Some saturation plugins are easier to use than others, but all can add that desirable warmth and character to your vocals. In this article, I compile a list of some of the best saturation VST plugins you can use to add warmth and character to your vocals and other instruments in the mix (and also in the mastering phase).

1. Fabfilter Saturn 2 Plugin

Fabfilter Saturn 2 Saturation Plugin

Fabfilter Saturn 2 is an incredibly versatile multiband saturation and distortion plugin I use almost in all of my mixing projects. It offers a wide range of distortion styles, from subtle tape and tube saturation to heavy guitar amp effects. The interface is intuitive, making it easy to apply the right amount of saturation to different frequency bands of your vocal or other instrument track.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: Fabfilter Saturn 2

2. Black Box Analog Design HG-2 Plug-in

Black Box Analog Design HG-2 Best Saturation Plugins

The Black Box HG-2 plugin emulates four vacuum tube stages in series and parallel circuits, offering a wide range of rich harmonics. With separate gain controls for pentode and triode tubes, you can dial in the perfect blend and use the Density control to add girth without changing the output level. The Calibration menu adjusts the high-frequency response, while the Air knob and Mix control allow for precise high-frequency enhancement and preservation of mix details.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: Black Box HG-2

3. PSP Saturator Plugin

PSP Saturator Best Saturation Plugins

PSP Saturator is a new addition to the PSP Audioware lineup, offering refined algorithms for quality audio saturation. It emulates analog devices like tape recorders and valve circuits, using three algorithms and eight shape modes for flexibility from subtle enhancement to audio destruction. Features include adjustable band processing, parallel mix options, multiple metering modes, and 200 presets for diverse tonal flavors.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: PSP Saturator

4. Softube Overstayer M-A-S Plugin

Softube Overstayer Best Saturation Plugins

Handmade in Los Angeles by Jeff Turzo, Overstayer gear quickly gained a devoted following among audio professionals. The Overstayer M-A-S plugin, modeled meticulously by Softube, delivers the same saturation and peak-bending capabilities as the original hardware, offering advanced harmonic shaping for enhancing mixes and smoothing transients. This saturation plugin provides versatile, high-fidelity saturation options, emulating the sweet harmonics of large-format consoles with exceptional precision and quality.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: Softube Overstayer

5. Soundtoys Decapitator Plugin

Soundtoys Decapitator Plugin

Decapitator is another of my go-to saturation plugins for adding saturation and distortion. It offers five different analog saturation models, each providing a unique color and character. The mix knob allows blending of the saturated signal with the dry vocal, preserving the original transients.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: Soundtoys Decapitator

Also read my article: Soundtoys Decapitator – The Secret to Authentic Analog Tone

6. Waves Abbey Road Saturator Plugin

Waves Abbey Road Saturator Best Saturation Plugins

The Waves Abbey Road Saturator is modeled after the saturation effects used in the legendary Abbey Road Studios. It offers two types of saturation: TG and REDD, each with its own distinct character. The plugin excels at adding a sheen and warmth to vocal tracks and other instruments, like drums, and guitars, and even for mastering.

Buy at Waves: Abbey Road Saturator

7. Waves J37 Tape

Waves J37 Tape Best Saturation Plugins

The Waves J37 Tape plugin is an excellent choice for tape saturation. It emulates the sound of the iconic Abbey Road Studios’ tape machine, offering three tape formulas and various speed options. This plugin is perfect for adding analog warmth and character to vocals.

Buy at Waves: J37 Tape

8. Waves Lil Tube

Waves Lil Tube Best Saturation Plugins

Waves Lil Tube is a fantastic plugin from the Waves’s Magma series for adding tube saturation to your vocals. It provides a warm, vintage tube sound that can add depth and richness. The plugin is easy to use, with simple controls for dialing in the perfect amount of tube warmth. If you want an easy-to-use but effective plugin, I would definitely choose this one.

Buy at Waves: Lil Tube

9. Waves BB Tubes

Waves Magma BB Tubes Best Vocal Saturation Plugins

Waves BB Tubes is another great analog saturator plugin that offers rich tube saturation, making vocals and instruments stand out with a big-fat sound. Its Beauty and Beast controls provide a wide range of analog brilliance, from delicate harmonic saturation to aggressive crunch distortion, suitable for vocals, guitars, drums, bass, synths, mix bus, and any other element of your mix.

Buy at Waves: BB Tubes

10. UAD Studer A800

UAD Studer A800 Tape Saturation VST Plugin

The UAD Studer A800 is a renowned tape machine plugin that provides warm, analog tape saturation. It’s modeled after the classic Studer A800 tape recorder, offering authentic tape saturation and harmonic enhancement, making it ideal for vocal processing.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: Studer A800 Tape Recorder

11. Soundtoys Radiator

Soundtoys Radiator Best Vocal Saturation Plugins

Soundtoys Radiator is a unique saturation plugin modeled after the classic Altec 1567A tube mixer. It provides vintage tube warmth and character, making it a great choice for adding analog vibes to your vocals.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: Soundtoys Radiator

12. Waves Kramer Master Tape

Waves Kramer Master Tape Top Vocal Saturation Plugins

The Waves Kramer Master Tape plugin emulates the sound of the vintage reel-to-reel tape machine used by legendary producer Eddie Kramer. It offers rich tape saturation and can add a warm, analog feel to your vocal tracks.

Buy at Waves: Kramer Master Tape

13. Softube Tape

Softube Tape MT Saturation Plugin

Softube Tape provides high-quality tape saturation with three different tape machine types. It’s easy to use and can add warm, analog saturation to your vocals, enhancing their presence and depth in the mix.

Buy at Plugin Boutique: Softube Tape

14. T-RackS Saturator X

IK Multimedia Saturator X Top Vocal Saturation Plugins

The T-RackS Saturator X is a powerful audio plugin for adding classic analog saturation to your recordings, offering 10 individual styles of saturation and distortion. It includes modes like Tape, Tube, and Transformer, each accurately delivering the unique behavior and character of its analog counterpart.

Avaialble at Plugin Boutique inside the T-RackS Bundle

15. Waves NLS Channel

Waves NLS Channel Vocal Saturation Plugins

Another effective plugin for saturation is the NLS Channel by Waves, which emulates three different analog mixing boards: Spike (SSL), Mike (EMI), and Nevo (Neve). The primary control is the drive knob, which adjusts the saturation level. Testing each setting helps determine which best suits the vocal.

Buy at Waves: NLS Channel

The Mention: Kazrog True Iron Plugin

Kazrog True Iron Analog Saturation Plugin

The True Iron VST Plugin by Kazrog brings analog warmth and depth to your productions, emulating the sound of six iconic hardware transformers. I love True Iron for its natural transformer saturation, and is always in my mixer inserts whether I need a subtle touch or a more intense analog warmth effect.

Buy at Kazrog: The Iron Plugin

The Freebie: Softube Saturation Knob

Softube Saturation Knob Best Saturation Plugins

The free Softube Saturation Knob plug-in offers three modes (Keep High, Neutral, Keep Low) to add grit and harmonics to your tracks, making it perfect for fattening up drums, bass, and vocals. Available in three versions for different setups (native plug-in, Modular, and Amp Room), it provides a versatile distortion character with a single knob and a switch for easy use. You can download it for free from Softube Central.

Free Download at Softube: Saturation Knob

How to Use Saturation in Vocal Mixing

When using saturation plugins, it’s important to use them subtly to avoid overpowering the vocal. Here are some tips for adding warm saturation to your vocals:

  1. Start with a Clean Vocal: Ensure your vocal track is clean and free from any unwanted noise or artifacts.
  2. Choose the Right Plugin: Select a saturation plugin that complements the character you want to add to your vocal.
  3. Dial in the Drive: Adjust the drive or saturation amount to add harmonics without distorting the vocal.
  4. Use the Mix Knob: Blend the saturated signal with the dry vocal to retain clarity and transients.
  5. Adjust Tone and EQ: Use tone and EQ controls to fine-tune the color of the saturation.
  6. Placement in Chain: Experiment with placing the saturation plugin at different points in your vocal chain (e.g., before or after EQ and compression).

Conclusion

Saturation is a powerful tool for adding warmth, depth, and character to vocals. By using the best saturation VST plugins, you can achieve professional-quality vocal mixes that stand out.

Whether you’re using the versatile Fabfilter Saturn 2, the rich Black Box HG-2, or the simple Softube Saturation Knob, each plugin offers unique features to enhance your vocal tracks.

Experiment with these plugins and find the perfect saturation effect for your mix.

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