Best Free Distortion VST Plugins 1

7 Best Free Distortion VST Plugins of 2023

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to imagination and life to everything,” – a wise man once said.

Imagine that you have created a mix that is amazing. But it’s not really what you wanted – it sounds way cleaner than what you’ve expected. The rawness is missing from the music and you want to bring it back. This is where distortion comes into the picture.

We use distortion to give a perfect feel to the sterile digital tracks and to give them a more analog type of feel. This type of music gives a pleasant feel to our ears and we all love to listen to it, day in and out.

Distortion, as a word, seems negative, but its meaning has completely been reversed in modern times. It has become an undesirable effect on the most widely used creative tools in the music industry (digital audio workstations, or DAW). Guitar amps are excellent examples of this – they are often used to give electric guitars their raw and rocky edge.

In this section, we will be looking at the best free distortion software applications in VST and AU plugin format for the digital audio workstations on your laptop or personal computer. So if you are looking for new ways to experiment with your music and distortion, give these plugins a shot. You will enjoy using them and won’t be disappointed.

FuzzPlus 3 by Audio Damage (macOS, Windows)

Audio Damage Fuzzplus 3 review - free vst distortion

Audio Damage introduced FuzzPlus 3, a significantly updated version of their FuzzPlus series which was an emulation for both Windows and Mac OS. The Fuzzplus 3 now has a wonderful juicy low pass filter which is mixed with the original fuzz distortion algorithm that will make your hip hop track sound very crispy!

It comes with a newly designed UI/UX which gives it a good style factor and is based on OpenGL technology which results in better performance. What’s better is its control parameters.

You can completely control the frequency and resonance of the filter section, the amount of distortion in the input section with which you can get a good amount of feedback and decent output. It’s a terrific option and can add some unique flavors to your tracks. So be sure to check it out if you need something simple for your recording studio.

You can download it here.

Krush by Tritik (macOS, Windows)

Tritik Krush bitcrusher review - distortion vst free

With its bit crushing and downsampling algorithms, Krush combines the crispy taste of the digital realm with the warmth of its drive stage and analog modeled resonant filters. A modulation section allows you to quickly add extra life to the sound by modulating any parameter.

The sound palette produced by Krush ranges from the dirtiest digital effects to crunchy modulated colors, with all the classic and weirdest bitcrushing effects in between. Krush is something more extreme, it is a multi-faceted bitcrusher.

You will enjoy its simple controls which allow you to set the type of distortion – drive, crush and downsample. The filter section comes with a low pass and high pass options with controls for frequency and resonance.

The electronic styles, dry and wet slides, sound design set the overall balance and gives you such an experience that once used, you will never go back to your original plugin.

You can download it here.

Temper by Creative Intent (macOS, Windows)

Creative Intent Temper phase distortion review- best free distortion vst plugin

Distortion comes with many preconceptions and notions. But Temper by Creative Intent smashes them all. It looks a little confusing at first glance, but there is no need to be worried about it. It’s complicated but gives you more handling and customization than any other free distortion plugin. It can do much much more than traditional clipping.

Curve, drive, and saturation are the parameters you can control with it. Based on the saturation and curve controls that you have set, it all together applies a different flavor to distortion, which is very soothing to hear.

Adding a bit of harmonic excitement along with showing dry and wet signals simultaneously, this plugin is the one you will miss if not used for electrical instruments and different styles of music.

You can download it here.

SGA1566 by Shattered Glass Audio (macOS, Windows)

Shattered Glass Audio SGA1566 review - distortion plugin free

SGA1566 brings the authentic tone of a single channel vintage all-tube mic preamplifier. The whole circuit is simulated in real-time using the high-performance circuit simulator to recreate every nuance of the preamp circuit, from subtle coloration to overdrive and distortion.

Use SGA1566 to add warmth to a track, as a saturation compressor, or to add “dirt” with tube overdrive.

It features authentic analog sound through real-time high-performance circuit simulation, mono, and stereo processing unit, up to 4x oversampling and two-band active Baxandall EQ.

It comes with a pretty sophisticated control scheme and is notorious for eating a lot of RAM. There also exists a switch for lower and higher performance so it gives overall a good control and features in our best plugins list.

You can download it here.

Marauder by AudioParlour (Windows)

AudioParlour Marauder review - free distortion plugin

Marauder, by Audio Parlour, is an interesting freeware dynamic distortion effect plugin, only available for Windows as of now. It works on a network of 4 gain stages that operates together to create a dynamic and organic distortion effect.

What’s brilliant is that the plugin offers various distortion flavors, so you have a lot to choose from.

The saturation is also brilliant but you need to be careful with it as it can go from round tube style to the silky tape-style saturation in a moment. You need to fine tweak it to get the best possible result but if you manage to hit the right screws, it’s more rewarding than anything else.

You can download it here.

Saturation Knob by Softube (macOS, Windows)

Softube saturation knob review - saturation vst free

Saturation Knob is in business for quite some time now. However, it had a limited base and was restricted to only a few DAWs.

It has a one known style effect so it is optimized for the best possible result with minimal tweaking. Its controls are incredibly simple, so if you are a person who doesn’t want to mess up with the technology, it’s one of the best distortion VST plugins out there for you.

It also saves you a lot of time during mixing sessions and works in 3 different modes, depending on the saturation flavor you are looking for. It might be too simple, but it’s one of the most beautifully and creatively designed tools out here, especially considering that it’s a freebie.

You can download it here.

Tube Saturator Vintage by Wave Arts (macOS, Windows)

Wave Arts Tube Saturator Vintage review - best free distortion plugins

The Wave Arts Tube Saturator 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.

The plugin is a detailed emulation of a dual 12AX7 triode preamp, paired up with a 3-band Baxandall-type equalizer.

The user interface features a drive knob, three equalizer knobs, on/off switches for the EQ module and “Fat” processing mode (which increases the gain and saturation amount by changing the bias circuit of the first preamp), an output volume knob, and a VU meter. It also includes a preset manager, undo-functionality, and A/B testing buttons.

Most importantly, Tube Saturator Vintage sounds incredibly good. The resulting saturation is everything you’d expected to get from a tube amp, or, at least, as close as you can get to it in a software emulation.

In fact, it sounds very similar to the excellent SGA 1566 plugin by Shattered Glass Audio (also freeware), although the Wave Arts product seems to be a bit better optimized in terms of CPU usage (if it’s still hard to run, maybe it’s time to upgrade?).

It is still a very “hungry” software, so little lag is expected if your PC’s specs are not up to to the mark. But this shouldn’t deter you from using this free distortion plugin.

You can download it here.

And that’s everything! 

  • If you’d like to see more plugins to improve your mix, check them out here!
  • Looking for sample packs instead? Download free ones here!