If you decide to build a pedalboard in your DAW, we can help you. This article will show you The 20 Best Pedal Plugins, including Distortions, Choruses, Delays, Phasers, and more.
The digital realm gives us extraordinary possibilities and freedom for creativity. For example, if you’ve never been able to build an analog pedalboard, you can easily do it right in your DAW since there are now an immense number of pedal emulations. And that’s what we’ll talk about in our article.
Before starting, keep in mind that a guitar pedal plugin alone is not all you need to get a complete chain. In the DAW, it is built similarly to the analog world. So if you are using distortion, you will also need speaker emulation or a separate noise gate if the plugin does not have one. Remember this as you read through our options.
The 20 Best Pedal Plugins (Distortion, Chorus, Delay, Fuzz, Chorus, Overdrive, Reverb, Phaser, Flanger, Pitch Shifter & More)
1. Audiority Klirrton Grindstein (Death Metal Plugin Suite)
The Grindstein plugin from Audiority and Klirrton can be your primary tool in achieving a brutal death metal guitar tone.
The following plugin on our list is a versatile solution for getting the heaviest guitar tone. Grindstein is an emulation of the analog preamp from Klirrton and German producer Kristian Kohle. But unlike its actual predecessor, you will find a complete guitar chain here.
In essence, the preamp includes a combination of the two channels. It has all the necessary settings, including EQ, Boost, and a built-in Noise Gate. But the cherry on the cake is the cabinet emulation section. So you won’t need to add any other plugins to get a complete signal.
- Blend Two Distortions
The preamp section is the heart of the plugin. Here you will have complete control over two channels – the upper one is emulated with the Boss HM-2, and the lower one is the foundation, which will provide you with a nice and tight bottom-end. Both sections have their EQ settings and the ability to blend them in a specific ratio.
You will also have a separate equalizer at your disposal, located after the preamp section. So there are Input and Output controls and knobs for specific ranges with pretty funny names like Blade, Chainsaw, Scoop, Cleansing, and Dozer.
- Choose Your Cabs
The developers have also equipped this plugin with seven different cabinet emulations to help you achieve the guitar tone you want. In general, some of them sound modern and some more underground. These include Filth And Slime, More Gore, Modern Disgust, Northwards, etc.
- Add a Noise Gate
And, of course, at the beginning of your guitar chain, you get Noise Gate. It is responsive and can clean up your signal well from unnecessary noise. There is also a separate Boost, which will give extra volume to the tone.
Audiority Klirrton Grindstein is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Audiority and Klirrton’s Grindstein is an excellent emulation of an analog guitar preamp that the developers have packed with many digital realm features. For example, there’s the ability to combine two channels, separate EQ, Noise Gate, Cabinet Emulation, and much more. As for the sound, it can be both modern and classic tone of the Scandinavian metal scene. Unfortunately, the price of this software is a little higher – $99.
2. Kuassa CP3603 (Compressor)
The highly easy-to-use Efektor CP3603 plugin from Kuassa will be an excellent addition to your guitars, basses, and other instruments.
The Indonesian company Kuassa has tried many compression pedals to create an easy-to-use yet effective plugin. The result was a software that combined three types of legendary compressors that can be applied to guitars and basses. But despite this, you can easily use it for drums, vocals, and other instruments.
The CP3603 has only three knobs, a power button, and a mode switch. As for the design, it’s pretty restrained, but it still looks pretty good. Let us now talk about its features in more detail.
- Three Flavors of Compression
The CP3603 plugin has three modes of operation, including VCA, FET, and OPTO. If you are familiar with them, you will know what you need. VCA is fast and clean, FET is aggressive with its coloring, and OPTO is known for its smoothness.
- Set the Amount of Compression
You won’t find any ratio sliders or thresholds here. Instead, only one Comp control will be responsible for the amount of compression. With it, you can quickly adjust exactly how much compression you need.
- Release Control
If Attack is fixed for all three modes, you can adjust Release yourself. You can do this by using the knob of the same name. As you know, this parameter is responsible for how long the compressor applies gain reduction.
- Level Adjustment
The last option in the list of features is the Level knob. Without it, you can’t imagine any compressor because you have to balance the output signal after applying any gain reduction.
Kuassa CP3603 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The Kuassa CP3603 plugin can be your to-go compressor for clean guitar, leads, bass, drums, and vocals. It emulates three types of compressors that you can’t imagine any music production without. In addition, this software is straightforward to use and has a friendly price of $25.
3. Brainworx bx_yellowdrive (Overdrive)
Brainworx’s bx_yellowdrive will help add some dirt to your guitar tone.
The yellow color of this plugin gives you a significant clue as to what it is based on. bx_yellowdrive is an emulation of the legendary Boss SD-1 overdrive pedal, which is one of the most popular of its kind. However, Brainworx claims to have created this software based on its own modeling technique. But we must admit that they sound pretty similar.
This plugin will be as simple as stompbox itself. There are only three knobs and a power button. If you use it in an entire digital chain, don’t forget to put the plugin before emulation an amplifier with a cabinet. That way, you’ll get the most pleasant sound. But let’s take a look at the features of this software.
- Tone Control
In general, the layout is the same as in the original pedal. For example, you get a Tone knob that determines how bright your guitar tone will be. From our own experience, we can say that the middle position will be pretty suitable for most cases.
- Add Some Drive
Of course, the Drive knob will be responsible for the amount of saturation to your signal. Thus, you can only “warm up” the guitar tone a little at the start position or provide more dirt and growl by cranking it to the maximum.
- Level Balancing
The third knob is called Level. It will adjust the amount of output from your virtual pedal. Often, this knob is used in conjunction with Drive to balance the volume ratio.
- Tone Without Noise
Another advantage of the bx_yellowdrive is that, unlike the original pedal, this version has no noise. At least, that’s what the creators claim. In addition, this overdrive reacts naturally to the playing.
Brainworx bx_yellowdrive is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Brainworx bx_yellowdrive is a quality plugin that will give you a smooth overdriven guitar tone. You can use it by itself or combined with a high-gain distortion to “warm up” it. The software has the same settings as the original pedal and will be easy to use for those who have dealt with it before. As for the price, it is $49.
4. Audiority Green Reaper GR9 (Distortion)
Audiority Green Reaper GR9 will give you the legendary overdrive and a large number of shades of sound.
This little green pedal has long been one of the musicians’ primary tools for getting a tight and heavy guitar tone. It is the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer. The thing is, if you apply it in front of your amp, it will help add an upper midrange to cut through the tone in the mix and roll back unnecessary low-end. So many people use it more as a utility in the guitar chain.
There are many digital emulations of Tube Screamer these days, including free ones. But we have to admit that Italian company Audiority made a step forward and provided perhaps one of the most versatile options. It’s the Green Reaper GR9 plugin. In addition to the standard set of settings, you’ll find a large number of mods and a few more extra features here. We’ll talk about them below.
- Familiar Set of Settings
If you already have experience with Tube Screamer, this plugin will be easy for you to use – it has the same design as the pedal. In particular, there are three knobs: Drive, Tone, and Level. The last one will help balance the output signal, the Tone will make it brighter, and Drive will add distortion.
- 12 Different Mods
Perhaps the main feature of this plugin is that it has as many as 12 mods. That is, you can choose different flavors of Tube Screamer. Examples include Bronco, Brown, BSM, Flat, Tube, Stinky, etc. They all have different gain structures and output loudness.
- Mix In Parallel
It would seem that the presence of the Mix knob is not such an important feature. But it is not. You will not see such a feature in many similar plugins. It allows you to complement your guitar tone without making it too obvious. It is precisely what many professionals do.
- In-Built Noise Gate
The cherry on the cake is the built-in Noise Gate. Another feature is often present in more advanced amp sim plugins but not in individual pedals. With this, you can get rid of unnecessary noise in the early stages and not amplify it in the later stages of the guitar chain.
- HQ Mode
You will see an HQ option at the top of the window that will help make your signal of more high quality. However, keep in mind that this can be costly for your computer’s CPU. But still, the availability of such a feature indicates a high level of this software.
Audiority Green Reaper GR9 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Audiority Green Reaper GR9 is one of the most advanced emulation plugins of the famous Tube Screamer pedal. You will be able to use it both to add overdrive and make the high-gain guitar tone tighter. In addition, there are 12 different flavors of sound, a built-in gate, and the ability to mix in parallel. Overall, the plugin costs $20, which is a steal considering the quality of its sound and features.
5. Kuassa Efektor FL3606 (Flanger)
With the Efektor FL3606 plugin from Kuassa, you get the ease of use and as many as three types of flanging.
Flanger is one of the most popular guitar effects, known as “jet plane.” It divides the signal into two and delays the copy in time, resulting in a swept comb filter effect and a change in the frequency spectrum. So you get the movement of the sound and more excitement.
Now we look at a virtual pedal from Kuassa called the Efektor FL3606. It gives you the ability to quickly apply a flanging effect in your DAW. It has the necessary number of settings and three types, which will give you possibilities for different creative situations.
- 3 Different Flangers
You will have a special switch between three types of flanges: Royal, Jet, and Electro. The first one is more vintage. The second one will give you a spacey sound with a bigger stereo picture. And as for the third one, it will give you a trippy and dark sound.
- Rate and Depth Control
It’s hard to imagine any flanger without these settings. They are essential because Rate determines how fast the LFO cycles are, and Depth determines how deep they are. The latter will help you adjust how much of the effect is noticeable.
- Adjust Delay and Feedback
In addition, the plugin has Delay control, which will allow you to adjust the midpoint of the LFO sweep, as well as Feedback. Finally, the last parameter controls how much of the output signal is fed back into the input signal.
- Sync With The Tempo
If you need to synchronize the effect with the song’s tempo, you can easily do so thanks to the Sync function. Press it to make the virtual pedal take the BPM set in the project settings of your DAW as a basis.
- Use Mono or Stereo
And, of course, the plugin has modes of operation, both mono, and stereo. The choice of this will be based on particular situations. We suggest using the stereo mode if you need the most significant amount of spaciness.
Kuassa Efektor FL3606 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Efektor FL3606 by Kuassa is a pretty good plugin that will give you three different types of flanger effects. There are enough settings here, but it won’t be hard to figure them out if you have already dealt with such pedals. In addition, this software has a pretty attractive price of $25.
6. HoRNet HDD1 (Delay)
The emulation of the legendary delay pedal in plugin form is HDD1 from HoRNet.
If you are an experienced guitarist, you probably know this well-known white pedal called Boss DD. It is the first digital delay created in the form of a stompbox. It has a distinctive sound that has made it one of the favorite instruments of many musicians in terms of adding space.
The Italian company HoRNet decided to recreate this unit but in the form of a plugin. It has almost the same settings as the original pedal but still has a few extra features like analog saturation, stereo mode, etc. So let’s try to look at the functions in more detail.
- Choose Your Mode
As with the original pedal, you will have a switch between four modes of operation that determine the minimum and maximum delay times. Specifically, the shortest is from 12 to 50 milliseconds. The middle one is from 50 to 200 milliseconds. Then from 200 milliseconds to 800, and the last is Hold.
- Three Main Delay Settings
You also get three central knobs, which will be responsible for the operation of the delay – they are Effect Level, Feedback, and Delay Time. Thanks to the first one, you will be able to get ahead of the relationship between the dry and wet signals. Feedback is responsible for creating loops, and Delay Time allows you to set it manually.
- Stereo Mode
HDD1 plugin also has a separate Stereo Mode switch. It allows you to split the signal between the right and left channels. So you will have dry in the left channel and delayed in the right one. You will get a nice broad stereo effect if you use a short delay time.
- Analog Emulation
The creators of this plugin have also added Analog Emulation here. These are the two switches at the top right of the window. With the first one, you can apply analog saturation to your effect, and the second one allows you to add hiss, which can also be helpful in some cases.
- Tempo Sync
Another helpful feature that makes the plugin suitable for today’s users is the ability to synchronize with the tempo specified in your DAW. Just specify the necessary parameters at the bottom of the window, and it will work following the BPM of your song.
HoRNet HDD1 is available for Windows and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The HDD1 plugin from HoRNet will give you a reasonably similar emulation of the first digital delay effect pedal. You will get all the usual settings and additional features that make the plugin more functional in the current conditions. We can’t forget to mention the price, which is only 5 euros, making this software extraordinarily affordable.
7. Kuassa EfektorRV3604 (Reverb)
The unusually simple yet versatile Kuassa EfektorRV3604 will give you the best reverb flavors.
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when you want to add space to a track is reverb. That’s why it’s one of the most popular effects in music production. It is also most commonly used on guitar solos, so reverb is used in guitar amps and as a standalone pedal. It is the stompbox emulation we are going to talk about now.
Here is another plugin from Kuassa called EfektorRV3604. It includes as many as five different types of reverb and only four settings knobs. Because it is so versatile yet easy to use, you can apply it to guitar parts and other instruments like vocals, keys, and more.
- Five Flavors of Reverb
The creators of this plugin have implemented the most famous reverb types here. There are five of them here: Room, Hall, Plate, Spring, and Shimmer. They all have different tails and flavors to be applied in many different cases.
- Tone Control
A separate Tone knob helps you make the effect darker or brighter. Again, it is beneficial to make it more prominent in the mix or push it to the background for an atmospheric feel. Use this based on your creative needs.
- Set the Amount of Reverb
The Reverb control on the left side of the window will be responsible for the amount of effect. It is another parameter that you should adjust to your liking. The more it is cranked up, the more spaciness you will get.
- Wet and Dry Level
Instead of the more familiar Mix knob, you get here two separate knobs, which will be responsible for the level of Dry and Wet signals. This way, you can adjust the ratio of both in more detail.
- Use Some Presets
If you are one of those who does not want to tinker with the settings themselves, you can try ready-made presets. Their names speak for themselves and will be well suited for different situations. For example, there are such options as Hall Prog Guitar, Hall Clean, Shimmer Drone, and others.
Kuassa EfektorRV3604 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Kuassa’s EfektorRV3604 plugin is a beautiful virtual reverb emulator that lets you quickly add space to your guitar parts. It has all the most famous effect types and a minimum of settings to make the creative process easy. As for the price, it costs $25, which isn’t too expensive.
8. Brainworx bx_bluechorus2 (Chorus)
The bx_bluechorus2 plugin by Brainworx brings the sound of a classic modulation effect to your DAW.
The Boss CE-2 is one of the most popular chorus pedals. It was initially released in Japan in the ’80s and has since been heard on hundreds of albums worldwide. The fact is that this unit is elementary to use and provides a rich and fluid tone. Now we’ll talk about a pretty good emulation of this pedal.
bx_bluechorus2 is a relatively similar emulation of this pedal. So again, you get a familiar sound that you can apply to guitars, keys, and other instruments. And, of course, this software completely repeats the set of pedal settings, so applying the effect will be very simple and easy.
- Rate Control
You can get fast sweeps and long wobbles like the original pedal. And that’s thanks to the primary chorus control, called Rate. This knob will be located on the left side of the plugin window.
- Adjust Your Depth
Another crucial control here is Depth. It will determine the amount of chorus in the ratio to your signal. Again, tweak this to your liking to get what you need for creative purposes.
- Mono or Stereo Operation
You can use bx_bluechorus2 in both mono and stereo. The second option would be fantastic to achieve the most incredible fullness of the stereo picture. So, experiment to see what you need.
- Can What the Pedal Can’t
Of course, when thinking about the advantages of the plugin over analog gear, we can think of things like stereo bus processing and automation. So working with this software, you can achieve excellent creative solutions that are hard to get with an actual pedal.
Brainworx bx_bluechorus2 is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
bx_bluechorus2 by Brainworx is a very easy-to-use plugin that allows you to quickly apply the sound of the legendary chorus in your DAW. Of course, you only get a few controls, but there are enough possibilities to achieve a quite subtle sounding effect and a pretty extreme one. As for the price, it’s $49.
9. Audiority Heavy Pedal MKII (Metal Distortion)
With the Audiority’s Heavy Pedal MKII plugin, you can add a “Swedish chainsaw” to your guitar tone.
Every experienced guitarist has heard of the Boss HM-2 pedal. More than one generation of musicians grew up with it. Moreover, this unit became decisive in forming such genres as black and death metal. And it’s all thanks to its dirty-sounding character.
The wonderful thing is that we live in a time when we can apply this sound even without the original pedal. And this is made possible thanks to Audiority, which has created an emulation of this unit, called Heavy Pedal MKII. You’ll have all the settings you need, but the cherry on the cake is the availability of different mods with different flavors of sound. Let’s take a look at all the features.
- Simple Layout of Settings
All the basic settings here are similar to the original pedal. For example, you will have a Level knob to adjust the output signal. There is also a Color Mix section with L and H knobs, which will act like an EQ. And, of course, the Dist knob determines the distortion amount.
- Choose Your Mode
The Heavy Pedal MKII has six different mods with different EQ curves. These are Default, 808 Mod, MIJ Japan, SWEDE, and Zed. So the MIJ Japan has a thick tone, SWEDE will please you with lots of low-end and gain, and the Zed will give you a unique midrange character.
- In-Built Gate
Using such pedals without the Noise Gate would be a wrong decision because you will get a lot of nasty hiss. The guys at Audiority understand this and implemented the built-in Gate function in this plugin. And we have to say that it works just fine.
- Blend It To a Taste
As with the other Audiority virtual pedals, you will also have a separate Mix knob. It will allow you to mix the effect to your original signal, which can be excellent for just a slight flavor. You will see this feature at the bottom right of the plugin window.
- HQ and Randomization
Another good feature is HQ, which will make the signal of higher quality but somewhat burdened by the computer’s performance. There is also a Randomize button. By clicking on it, the plugin will provide the most different settings. Pretty cool to see all sorts of variations of his work.
Audiority Heavy Pedal MKII is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The Heavy Pedal MKII plugin will become your favorite tool if you’re a fan of the most extreme metal subgenres. You can use it to get that chainsaw sound that many legendary albums were made with. In addition, this virtual pedal will give you a lot of different mods and, therefore, versatility. Overall, the software is suitable for both the amplifier’s clean channel and lead, which depends on your taste. Plus, the price here is only $20, which is excellent.
10. BBE Sound Stomp Board (Bundle)
The BBE Sound Stomp Board can become your easy-to-use virtual pedalboard.
Having a single plugin containing all the major effects pedal emulations is a handy solution. You can quickly change any units, rearrange them, and experiment with the sound. And it is precisely the kind of product that the California-based company BBE provides.
The Stomp Board is a bundle that consists of eight virtual pedals. You’ll find spatial effects as well as modulators and filters here. On top of that, there’s also amp emulation and a few other very useful features. Let’s talk about them now.
- 8 Virtual Stompboxes
The pedals available here include Fuzz, Overdrive, Vibrato/Chorus, Opto Compressor, Sonic Maximizer, Phaser, Tremolo, and Delay. All of them are pretty easy to use, as they don’t have a crazy amount of settings. By the way, you can also use them separately, not only in the bundle.
- Choose Your Amp
At the top of the plugin, you will see the Amp Select knob. You can switch between the four different amplifier emulations or disable it altogether. They all have quite various sound characters, which will give you quite a bit of versatility.
- Tone Control
You don’t have to bother with the equalizer settings because there is a single knob called Tone. The sound will be darker in the left position, and in the right position, it will be brighter. That way you can easily find what you want.
- Add Some Gate
And, of course, the developers of this plugin didn’t deprive you of Noise Gate. It is a feature in the form of another knob at the top of the window. The creators claim that this is a well-tuned gate, which will be especially useful when using fuzz and overdrive.
- Spring Reverb
You won’t find reverb among the pedals, but that doesn’t mean it’s not here. The plugin has a built-in Spring Reverb emulation in the form of another regulator. It sounds pretty good because the creators implemented it in the form of an impulse response.
BBE Sound Stomp Board is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The BBE Sound Stomp Board is a reasonably versatile yet straightforward plugin that will provide you with a wide range of virtual guitar pedals. However, you can still easily use them for bass tracks as well. In addition to the units themselves, there are four amplifier emulations, a built-in noise gate, and a reverb. And the Tone knob lets you quickly find the proper EQ configuration. Unfortunately, since it is a whole bundle, the price is a little higher, and it is $129.
11. Kuassa Efektor CH3604 (Chorus)
Kuassa’s Efektor CH3604 gives you three different types of chorus.
Chorus is a beautiful effect that, by doubling the signal, produces a new, atmospheric and richer sound. As for emulating a chorus pedal, it’s always cool to have several different types of this effect. So that’s what the following software on our list is.
The Efektor CH3604 from Kuassa is part of the same series as the previous products we described earlier. The blue color of this plugin gives us an idea of which pedal creators emulated this software. But its main advantage is that they included three different kinds of choruses. Let’s talk about them.
- Three Different Choruses
You will see a separate switch that allows you to choose the type of effect you want. These include the more classic Ensemble, the deep and spatial Dimension, and the rich Tribunal. The latter is a combination of several choruses.
- Rate & Depth Control
These are the two main settings that almost no chorus can do without. Rate will help you adjust the speed of sweeps, and Depth will determine how much of the effect will be in your signal. These two controls are located on the left side of the window.
- Adjust Level and Mix
And, of course, you will have the opportunity to adjust the level of the output signal and the ratio of the affected and original signals. You will find corresponding Level and Mix knobs that will help you to do this – they are on the right side of the window.
- Mono or Stereo and BPM Sync
Efektor CH3604 has a synchronization function with the BPM. It means that the plugin will be in tune with the specified tempo in your project. You can also use it in both mono and stereo modes.
- A Set of Ready-Made Settings
You will have a set of presets that you can use as a starting point or when you don’t want to fuss with the settings. There are options such as Ensemble Clean, Ensemble Solo, Dimension Classic, and Solo, and the same set for Tribunal chorus.
Kuassa Efektor CH3604 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Simple, but with relatively advanced features – this is how we can characterize the Efektor CH3604 plugin from Kuassa. You’ll be able to experiment with three types of chorus, which differ in the character of the sound. In addition, you’ll have a simple set of settings. The plugin is suitable for guitars but can be used on other instruments.
12. Brainworx bx_metal2 (EQ, Distortion, Stere)
Brainworx’s bx_metal2 gives you the aggressive sound of the famous pedal designed for metal.
The Boss MT-2 is another guitar pedal on which more than one generation of guitarists grew up. It provided an insane amount of gain and was quite affordable. That’s why it became the primary tool of many musicians to create heavy metal riffs.
Brainworx created an emulation of this pedal, the bx_metal2 plugin. It has approximately the same settings and repeats the sound of the original unit quite well. All you have to do is determine the amount of distortion, adjust the EQ, and you’re ready to make stunning riffs. But let’s talk about the features in more detail.
- 3-Band EQ
You will get three knobs, which will be responsible for the number of Low, Middle, and High frequencies. Each region can be cut or boosted by 15 decibels and is exactly like the original pedal.
- Mid Frequency Selector
Another feature borrowed from the analog unit is the Midrange Select. There will be another small knob in the unit’s center for this. Overall, there is a choice from 200 to 5K hertz, which is a pretty wide range.
- Dist & Level Knobs
With the Dist knob, you can adjust the amount of distortion. The more it is, the more compressed your sound will be. The virtual pedal also has a Level knob responsible for the output signal.
- Original Tone
As we said before, this pedal is known for a lot of gain, and bx_metal2 is no exception. So you get a long sustain, which is suitable for lead parts. However, you can experiment by combining it with high-gain amp sims to get a nasty flavor.
Brainworx bx_metal2 is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Brainworx bx_metal2 is a worthy recreation of the famous Boss MT-2 pedal, which has the same settings and tone. You get a lot of gain and the ability to sharpen the sound quite in detail with the EQ and midrange selector. Regardless, we can still state that the plugin is pretty easy to use, and its price is $49.
13. Nembirni Quinta (Pitch Shifter)
The Quinta Pitch Machine from Nembrini can be your to-go pitch shifter.
The pitch shifter is another popular effect that will make your sound more interesting. It adds an interval to a note in real-time, making it sound more harmonious. There are all kinds of pitch shifter pedals, but now we’re talking about one in plugin form.
It is a product of the Italian company Nembrini, which produces amp sims, emulation pedals, and other gear. The plugin is called Quinta Pitch Machine and gives you the ability to add an octave down or up and a fifth up. It is pretty simple and has excellent sound quality. Let’s take a look at it.
- One Octave Up or Down
You will see white knobs responsible for adding octaves, which are -1 Octave and +1 Octave. They work like volume controls for these intervals, so you can always add them to your liking. You will hear them most clearly in the noon position.
- Add +1 Fifth
Another knob will be responsible for adding a fifth. It is the same interval that is so popular in rock and metal music. So, you can get a power chord by playing only one string. This feature also works in the same way as the previous ones.
- Mix With the Original Signal
Of course, you will also have the Mix control located on the right side of the virtual pedal. Thanks to it, you will be able to adjust the ratio between dry and wet signals. The pitch shifting will be the most distinct in the far right position.
- High Q Function
You will have a special switch High Q at your disposal, which is responsible for the quality of the processed signal. However, remember that it is better not to use it for tracking because the mode can cause some latency.
- Take Advantage of Presets
The plugin creators did not forget to include a few ready-made presets here. For example, you can turn the guitar’s sound into a bass with the Bass Guitar mode. There are also Guitar Harmonium, and Just Fifth presets.
Nembrini Quinta is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Nembrini Quinta Pitch Machine is a straightforward but high-quality-sounding plugin. It gives you the ability to add both lower and upper octaves and fifth. Overall, you can apply this software to guitar, bass, and synths. But you can experiment with other instruments as well. As for the price, it is $49.
14. Kuassa Efektor DL3606 (Delay)
The Kuassa Efektor DL3606 gives you ease of use and five different delay types.
As you already know, delay is one of the most popular guitar effects. Since its invention in the 1940s, it has gone through many stages of evolution. Accompanied by technological advances, it went from tape to the digital realm. We will show you a plugin that includes emulation of all of these types.
It is the Efektor DL3606 from Kuassa, which, like other products from this company, boasts a simple interface and versatility. You’ll get different flavors of delays here and the ability to change their settings to suit your creative needs better. Let’s take a closer look.
- 5 Different Delays
The DL3606 allows you to switch between five types of delays: Digital, Analog, Tape, Lo-Fi, and Reverse. Digital will be the cleanest, and Tape will add a warm, vintage sound. As for Reverse, it’s a backward repeating that will be perfect for ambient.
- Adjust Modulation
You get a separate Modulation section in this plugin. It consists of two knobs: Rate and Depth. The last one will be responsible for how much delay you get. Experiment with these settings to get the desired sound of the effect.
- Delay and Feedback Settings
As you can see, the creators of this plugin have taken care to give it the most appropriate number of settings. At the top of the window, you will still have Delay and Feedback knobs to adjust the effect in more detail.
- Separate Level Control
It is crucial to adjust the effect in parallel with your original signal. It is where the two Wet and Dry Level knobs help. Thanks to them, you can get only a light flavor, which will provide the atmosphere.
- Sync & Pong
You will also have two buttons in the upper left corner – Sync and Pong. The first will help synchronize the effect with the tempo of your DAW. As for Pong, it will allow you to get bounces between the left and right channels.
Kuassa Efektor DL3606 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Kuassa’s Efektor DL3606 is an excellent enough all-in-one plugin that won’t burden you with too many complicated settings. You’ll be able to experiment with five different types and choose the sound that best suits your music. Of course, this plugin works great with guitar, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in other situations.
15. Brainworx bx_opto Pedal (Opto Compression)
This little bx_opto Pedal plugin can be your primary compression tool for guitars or basses.
Optical compressors have long been one of music production’s leading tools for controlling dynamics. This kind is known for its soft attack, release, and particular coloration, making the sound more expressive and crisp. Brainworx has created a pretty good emulation of an Opto compressor in the form of a small pedal. So that’s what we’re going to talk about now.
bx_opto Pedal does not emulate the operation of a single Opto compressor but includes several at once. As a result, you get the most straightforward set of three controls and lights that help you monitor the plugin’s operation. All to make the operation process as easy as possible.
- Density Control
You won’t find a ratio control or a threshold here. In this case, the main knob performing these functions will be Density. It is how you can control the amount of compression of your tracks.
- Choose Your Speed
There is also no attack and release. Nevertheless, the Speed control makes it easy to adjust these parameters. Thus, in the left position, the compressor will work slower, and in the opposite position, it will work faster.
- Level Trim
This small knob in the center is responsible for the amount of output. When applying compression, you need to balance the affected signal with the original signal level. It is what Level Trim will do.
- GR Monitoring
When using compressors, it is always important to be visually guided on how they perceive the signal. This plugin has a particular indicator called GR. It will show how fast or slow the plugin works and how much gain reduction is applied.
Brainworx bx_opto Pedal is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Brainworx bx_opto Pedal is an unusually easy-to-use emulation of multiple optical compressors that does a great job. You won’t need to spend a lot of time figuring out the settings if you’re not familiar with the basics of how compression works. Instead, focus on your hearing, and you’ll be good to go. This plugin works well with guitars, bass, vocals, and drums. By the way, Brainworx also has an extended version of this plugin, which is called bx_opto.
16. Kuassa Efektor DS3603 (Distortion)
You can easily use the Kuassa Efektor DS3603 plugin for classic rock and modern metal riffs.
The development of guitar amp and pedal emulation has reached a point where you can pick anything of any color and taste. Moreover, it will be hard for you to distinguish it from analog gear. However, some plugins emulate the work of only one piece of equipment, and there are pretty versatile solutions, and that’s what the Efektor DS3603 is.
This virtual pedal gives you five types of distortion, from classic to modern. You will also have one tone knob and another that will be responsible for the amount of clipping. Let’s dial in to see what’s available here in more detail.
- Choose Your Distortion
You will choose five different types of distortion with different sounds. Their names speak for themselves, and they are Classic, Heavy, Lead, Metal, and Pro. Choose the one that best suits your creative needs.
- Adjust The Gain
The Distortion knob will be responsible for its amount. It works like gain – the more you twist it, the more clipping and harmonics you get. So, for example, it may sound like crunch at the beginning and then be more aggressive.
- Single Tone Knob
What’s great is that you don’t have to bother with EQ settings – you only have one Tone knob. It will be responsible for the frequency spectrum of your distortion – darker or brighter.
- Up to 8x Oversampling
As we know, oversampling is an essential part of any plugin that deals with clipping. The more it is, the better the sound will be. But it can also be hard for the CPU. So, in general, this software has from 1x to 8x oversampling.
Kuassa Efektor DS3603 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.5 or higher, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Kuassa Efektor DS3603 is an excellent emulation of the distortion pedal, which will give you five types of it. You will have a minimum of settings, which will make the operation of the software very easy. Remember that this is only a pedal emulation, so you’ll need to use a separate plugin with IRs.
17. Kuassa Efektor OD3603 (Overdrive)
Kuassa’s Efektor OD3603 gives you a warm and rich overdriven sound.
If you want crunchy saturated sound, go no further. As in style with the other Kuassa plugins – this one will also give you a few kinds of overdrive and a minimum of settings. You can stick it in front of a virtual amp and quickly get an excellent pushed sound.
OD3603, like the previous plugin, is part of Kuassa’s Efektor Distortion Bundle. However, the most exciting thing is that you also get five overdrive types, both classic and modern. And, of course, the software will provide you with other features that will make working with it easy.
- 5 Different Overdrives
You can start your experiments with Blues Overdrive based on British amplifiers. Then there’s dynamic and fat Boutique, thick Mad Overdrive, more distorted Modern, and warm Pro Overdrive. As you can hear, they all have a different sound character.
- Simple Layout of Settings
As with the previous plugin, you will only have three knobs to adjust the effect. In particular, these are Overdrive, which is responsible for the amount of gain, Tone, and Level. With the latter two, you will be able to tune the frequency spectrum and the amount of output signal.
- Dry/Wet Control
A nice bonus here is the Dry/Wet knob. It helps you blend the overdrive to the original signal, thus making it in parallel. On the other side, you will also find Input, which will determine the amount of input signal to the plugin.
- Oversampling Feature
In this virtual overdrive pedal, you can also choose the amount of oversampling. As you already know, it will affect the quality of the distortion. In general, there is up to 8x oversampling.
Kuassa Efektor OD3603 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.5 or higher, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Kuassa Efektor OD3603 is a reasonably versatile overdrive plugin. You can use it as a utility to tighten your distortion or use it on the clean channel to get a rich saturated tone. There are enough different flavors of overdrive to satisfy the tastes of musicians of different generations. As for the price, it’s only $25.
18. Kuassa Efektor TR3604 (Tremolo)
The Efektor TR3604, a tremolo plugin, can be indispensable in your guitar chain.
Tremolo is one of the first guitar effects. That’s because it works pretty simply – it’s a sound modulator. That is, these units perform signal interruption. You have to adjust the desired speed and shape of wave oscillations. You end up with an excellent vibrating sound that gets some movement.
If you want to achieve this effect in your DAW, the Efektor TR3604 from Kuassa helps. Here, you can select different waveforms and their shape and adjust the rate and depth. Everything looks pretty straightforward, so you definitely won’t get lost in the settings.
- Types of Wave Oscillations
You get to choose between three different types of wave oscillations. These include Sine, Square, and Triangle. By switching between them, you will immediately notice the difference in sound, where sine will be smoother, and triangle and square will be sharper.
- Three Different Shapes
In addition to the various types, you can also select three different Modulation Models. There is a separate knob for this. It will also have a more specific effect on the character of the swings.
- Rate & Depth Control
You can use the Rate knob to adjust the speed of oscillations manually. The further this parameter is turned up, and the more frequent the vibrations will be. And, of course, Depth is responsible for the amount of effect.
- Sync with BPM
It will not be a problem if you need to synchronize the oscillation speed with a specific tempo. It is because the plugin has a separate BPM Sync function. Press the corresponding button to make the software follow the project’s tempo.
Kuassa Efektor TR3604 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
With the Efektor TR3604, you can quickly get one of the most popular effect in your DAW. This plugin has excellent sound quality and all the parameters you need to get the desired result, namely the choice of wave oscillations and modulation models. Its price is also quite attractive – $25.
19. HoRNet HCS1 (Compressor/Sustainer)
Get expressive guitar parts with HoRNet’s HCS1 plugin.
The following plugin on our list is an emulation of the famous Boss CS-3, a compressor, and a sustainer guitar pedal. This unit was produced from the 70s to the 80s and became one of the main tools for many guitarists to get their signature sound. All because of providing a crisp, smooth and expressive tone.
The guys from the Italian company HoRNet decided to make a digital version of this unit named HCS1. You will immediately see similar settings if you are familiar with the pedal. But the point is that this plugin got some more cool features.
- Set Your Attack
Want more punch in your guitar track? The Attack knob will help you do just that. In its initial position, it will prevent peaks. The more you crank it, the more you will hear the initial stabs on the strings.
- Sustain Knob
With the Sustain knob, you can make the body of the guitar part more expressive and continue the sound of long notes. Again, adjust this to your liking to get the result you want.
- Analog Emulation & Hiss
The plugin developers have also taken care to give you the ability to apply saturation to your guitar tone. A separate Analog Emulation switch helps you do this by adding harmonics to your signal. In addition, there is a separate Analog Hiss function.
- Bright Mod
Some users of the original pedal complained that it gave too dark a sound. The developers of the plugin also took care of this. So, a particular Bright mod will provide you with the appropriate tone.
- Use In Parallel
On top of that, HCS1 is equipped with a Dry/Wet knob, which will allow you to mix the affected signal with the original one. It can be helpful when you need more subtle compression.
HoRNet HCS1 is available for Windows Vista of higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 32 or 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The HoRNet HCS1 can be an excellent tool for you to extend the sustain of your guitar performance. In addition, this plugin can make the attack more expressive and give an analog saturation. Also, excellent is its price, which is only almost 10 euros.
20. Kuassa Efektor PH3605 (Phaser)
The Kuassa Efektor PH3605 plugin will give your tracks a cosmic phaser effect.
You’ve heard this sound in songs featuring Brian May and Eddie Van Halen. And we are referring to the phaser, which can give a cosmic flavor to guitar tracks. This effect splits the signal into two and makes phase cancellation between them. As a result, you get sweeping across the frequency spectrum.
Efektor PH3605 is another plugin from Kuassa’s effects collection. Its interface is as simple as other products – it’s a virtual guitar pedal with three different types of phasers and all the necessary settings. But first, let’s try to understand the functionality.
- Three Types of Sound
The plugin lets you choose between three different types of sound. For example, Phase One is quite conservative and will suit clean guitars. Dual Phase Two is ideal for distortion and other instruments. And Multi Phase is the most radical and intense.
- Basic Phaser Settings
You’ll get the main settings to make the phaser work the way you want. For instance, there are Rate, Depth, and Feedback controls. With these, you can adjust the speed of the sweeps and how noticeable they will be.
- Level & Mix
These are the main controls to adjust your output effect. In particular, the Level knob will determine the total output amount, and the Mix knob will determine the ratio to the original signal. Use this to find the right balance and the perfect sound.
- Sync and Stereo Functions
You can easily synchronize the plugin with the tempo of your project. To do this, you need to click the Sync button, which is located in the upper left corner. There is also a switch between the Mono and Stereo modes on the opposite side.
Kuassa Efektor PH3605 is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The PH3605 is an excellent virtual phasing pedal for your guitar tracks to get a kind of cosmic sound. Thanks to the three different types, you can easily use this effect on bass, keyboards, and vocals. If you’re interested in its price, it’s $25.
The 5 Best Free Plugins For Bass & SubBass 2021
1. Audiority Dr Drive (Overdrive)
With Audiority’s Dr Drive, you get modern overdrive and the ability to sculpt your high-gain tone better.
For many guitarists, this free plugin is a beautiful gift. That’s because it’s an emulation of the famous Precision Drive overdrive pedal from Horizon Devices, owned by Misha Mansoor of Periphery. This unit was the next stage in the evolution of overdrives and won the hearts of many fans of modern metal guitar tones.
The Italian company Audiority decided to step toward musicians and provided the analog simulation of this pedal utterly free of charge. As a result, you get virtually the same functionality, including Noise Gate. Of course, how this plugin sounds compared to the original unit is up to you. But we’ll try to tell you about its features in detail.
- Set Your Attack
Like the original pedal, this control will answer how tight or loose your performance will be. So in the left position, the sound is more suitable for classic metal riffs and in the right position for modern ones with pronounced percussiveness.
- Bright Control
You can control the high frequencies in your guitar tone with just one Bright knob. So, in the left position, the sound will be darker, and in the right position, it will get a boost in the treble. Use this to cut through the mix better.
- Adjust The Overdrive Amount
Of course, this virtual pedal has a Drive control. It is the one that will determine the amount of overdrive. However, if you are using this plugin for boost, this control can be at or near zero. If you want a slightly overdriven clean tone, feel free to crank this knob.
- In-Built Noise Gate
The wonderful thing is that this free plugin, like the original pedal, also has a Noise Gate. So you can get rid of unnecessary noise early in the guitar chain and get a pretty tight muted sound. It is perfect for modern metal riffs.
- What The Analog Unit Doesn’t Have
The digital realm allows you to get several extra features that are not possible with an analog unit. For example, here is the Mix knob for blending with the original signal and the HQ mode, providing better sound quality.
Audiority Dr Drive is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Audiority Dr Drive is an excellent emulation of the famous overdrive pedal that you can get for free. You can make your metal tone tighter or use it on a clean channel for a subtle grit. Overall, the plugin has enough settings similar to the original and will please you with its sound.
2. Nembrini Audio Black Distortion (Dist)
Nembrini Audio’s Black Distortion plugin will give you a nice guitar tone for jazz, blues, punk, or metal.
The Rat guitar pedal from Pro Co needs no introduction, as it is one of the most popular units, as it has been used in many recordings for over 30 years. That’s all thanks to its distinctive sound and versatility – it can be a distortion, overdrive, and fuzz at the same time if you want it to be.
We will tell you about the emulation of this pedal from Nembrini, which you can get for free. This plugin is as simple as its original predecessor – it has only three knobs but gives that unforgettable tone. Let’s move on to the features.
- Dial Into a Drive Amount
Of course, the main one here is the Drive knob, which will determine how much congestion your signal will be. You get crunch tones up to the half position and then distortion. And if you crank it up, you get a dirty and nasty fuzz.
- Add Some Filtering
You will get a Filter knob, just like in the original pedal. With it, you can remove the hissing high frequencies if they are too annoying. This knob works like a Low Pass filter.
- Level Control
The last third knob here is responsible for the amount of output signal. Turn it down if you are experiencing clipping or up if you feel the signal is too weak. If you need to turn the pedal off at all, press the button at the bottom.
- Available Presets
Besides the extraordinary ease of use, you still get a few presets here that can help you achieve the results you want faster. These include Blues Type Tone, Fat Strat, Heavy Type Tone, Lead Mellow, Lead Type, and Raw Rhythm.
Nembrini Black Distortion is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Nembrini Audio’s Black Distortion can be your essential tool for heavy distortion and lighter overdrive. It’s an emulation of the legendary pedal that’s been around for a long time. You will like the ease of use of this plugin and the incredible variety of tones it can provide.
3. Mercuriall Audio Metal Area MT-A (Distortion)
If you need a tool to get a crushing metal tone, the Metal Area MT-A pedal from Mercuriall Audio can help.
Previously we told you about a paid emulation of the famous Boss MT-2 Metal Zone pedal. Now it’s time to talk about the free version as well. Mercuriall made it possible for us with their product Metal Area MT-A. You can download it from their website.
This plugin looks precisely like the pedal itself. You will see the power button, EQ, distortion, and level settings here. Overall, everything is very straightforward. So if you already have experience with this pedal, you can find the sound you want very quickly. But first, let’s talk about the software more substantially.
- Familiar EQ Layout
As for the equalizer, you will have the same knobs as on the pedal. Specifically, they are High, Low, and Middle. Again, be careful with the high frequencies, as this pedal has a lot of noise in the top-end unless that is your creative goal.
- Mid Frequencies Selector
The plugin also provides the ability to choose which midrange frequencies to boost or cut. A separate Mid Freq control will help you with this. The frequency selection range here is from 200 to 5K Hz.
- Choose the Amount of Distortion
As you know, Metal Zone is known for an incredible amount of gain and saturation, and this emulation is no exception here either. So, you will have at your disposal the Dist control, which determines the amount of distortion. At maximum, the sound will be as compressed and saturated as possible.
- Set Your Level
And, of course, you get a particular Level knob, which will be responsible for the output signal from the plugin. That way, you can prevent clipping and ensure that your signal has a healthy headroom for later processing.
Mercuriall Audio Metal Area MT-A is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher. It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
Audio Metal Area MT-A is a lovely free plugin that makes it easy to get your favorite guitar tone of your youth. Like the original pedal, there is an incredible amount of distortion here that will be perfect for the most extreme metal subgenres. Plus, the familiar EQ will delight you with efficiency and responsiveness.
4. TSE 808 2 (Overdrive/Tube Screamer)
Get a warm and thick guitar tone with TSE’s free 808 2 plugin.
It’s always good to get a free emulation of the Tube Screamer pedal. For one thing, it can provide you with warm tube crunch tones for your guitar quickly and easily. Second, it’s a popular utility to make a high-gain amplifier’s distortion more focused and punchy.
So, now we will show you a plugin called 808 2 from TSE, which you can get from their site completely free of charge. It will be as easy to use as its analog predecessors. In addition, you will get a few more features of the digital realm.
- Drive & Volume Control
As with the original pedal, you can adjust the amount of overdrive with the Drive knob. The more it is, the more saturation and harmonics you get. Balance your guitar tone with the second Volume knob.
- Tone Instead of EQ
This feature is also borrowed from the real Tube Screamer – it’s a Tone knob. With it, you can adjust the sound in terms of frequencies – darker or brighter. It’s very convenient, so you don’t have to bother with a regular equalizer.
- Hi or Lo Quality
There is also a separate function responsible for the quality of the output signal – it is a small Hi/Lo switch in the lower right corner. So, for example, if you don’t want to load the system, you can track on Lo position and mix on Hi.
- Use Mono or Stereo
And, of course, this little plugin can work in both Mono and Stereo modes. It is recommended to choose mono if you are working on two tracks of the right and left channels. Choose the stereo if you want one powerful part in the center.
TSE 808 2 is available for Windows Vista or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST2 and AU formats.
It is a minimalistic free plugin that will provide the famous sound of the legendary Tube Screamer. That’s how we can characterize 808 2 from TSE in a few words. You’ll have everything the original pedal has, including the Drive, Tone, and Volume controls. As for the sound, we have to note that it’s pretty good quality compared to other free emulations of this unit.
5. Mercurial Greed Smasher (Overdrive)
With Greed Smasher from Mercurial, you can get the tone emulation of another very famous overdrive pedal.
Mercurial is known for providing very high-quality digital emulations of guitar hardware. And this applies to both paid and free products. Now we’ll look at another good plugin, which can take its place in your arsenal for getting a gritty guitar tone.
The Greed Smasher is a digital replication of the Mesa/Boogie Grid Slammer overdrive guitar pedal. It is known for its relatively low gain, but it still provides a nice breaking sound despite this. As with other emulations, you too will have a minimum of settings and the ability to achieve results as quickly as possible.
- +20 dB of Boost
The Level knob speaks for itself – it is a regulator for the Output Signal. In general, it can give you up to +20 decibels of boost. Use it to adjust the right amount with the proper headroom.
- Gain Control
You will see the Gain control on the right side of the plugin window. It will be your primary tool for determining the right amount of saturation. You won’t get an aggressive distortion here, but still, in the far right position, the tone will be pretty gritty.
- Set Your Tone
Of course, like many other overdrive pedals, there is also a Tone knob. Turn it to the right or left to adjust whether your sound is darker or brighter. That way, you can get a pretty cut-through sound in the mix.
- Add More Input Gain
At the top of the window, you will see a separate slider to help you add more Input Gain. In fact, with it, you can feed more guitar signal into this pedal and thus get even more breaking sound. Again, it will be helpful if you have too little overdrive.
- Stereo & Quality Modes
In addition to all this, you will also have the ability to switch between Stereo and Mono modes. You will find these settings at the top of the window. There will also be a separate switch responsible for Signal Quality.
Mercurial Greed Smasher is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher. It comes in VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
Mercurial Greed Smasher is a worthy emulation of the famous overdrive pedal, which will please you with its ease of use and sound quality. You only need a few minutes to get the desired guitar tone. Overall, you can use this software to boost high-gain distortion or create individual overdriven parts.
6. Mercurial Chorus WS-1 (Stereo Chorus)
This modern-sounding free WS-1 chorus from Mercurial can be a great addition to your DAW.
Many guitarists like to add chorus to their sound to achieve a new, more exciting sound. They use this effect parallel with the original signal to provide a specific flavor and atmosphere. Now we will look at a plugin that will do the job.
It is another virtual pedal from the free Mercurial line, the WS-1 Stereo Chorus plugin. There are very few settings here, but with just a few knobs, you can achieve quite drastic results in the sound. Let’s see what the creators have included here.
- Blend To Taste
The Mix knob on the right side allows you to adjust the effect to your liking. In the right position, the signal will be as wet as possible. If you turn it back to the beginning, the result will be the same as bypass.
- Control Your Depth
Use the Depth knob to control the amount of pitch modulation. Note that if you turn it past 3, the sound may be off-key. However, the Mix knob will help soften this a bit and get quite interesting results.
- Speed Adjustment
And finally, the last control Speed will allow you to determine the pitch modulation speed. Use this based on what your material needs. The far end position of this knob will sound quite specific.
- Switch From Mono to Stereo
Of course, you also get the ability to switch between Mono and Stereo modes here. You will find this option in the upper left corner of the plugin. Stereo would be ideal for creating a broader spatial picture.
Mercurial Chorus WS-1 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher. It comes in VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
Do you want to add space and excitement to your sound? Mercurial’s Chorus WS-1 plugin will help you do just that. It’s a good-sounding plugin that won’t burden you with a lot of settings – on the contrary; you’ll get control over the three primary parameters – Depth, Mix, and Speed. You can download this plugin by following the link from our article.
7. TSE Audio BOD 3 (For Bass Tone)
TSE Audio’s BOD 3 will help make your bass dirtier and stand out in the mix.
The SansAmp from Tech 21 is one of the most popular bass overdrives and DI pedals. Many musicians have been using it for years, and it’s pretty well deserved. This unit helps to add more dirt to the bass sound, thereby making it more expressive. That’s why SansAmp is often used by professionals, both in the studio and on stage.
BOD 3 works as emulation of this unit, which TSE Audio provided completely free of charge. You get the same equalizer settings and the ability to adjust presence and add harmonics. Overall, this plugin will be easy to use if you have dealt with the actual unit before. Let’s take a closer look at its characteristics.
- Simple EQ
All you get in terms of EQ is essentially two knobs – Low and High. If you analyze the frequency spectrum, even if the knobs are at noon, you will get some boost at 50 and 2000 hertz. The low mids, around 200 hertz, will be somewhat scooped out.
- Presence Control
A separate Presence control helps you get more bass definition in the mix. It is a knob that is located further down from the others. For example, it will boost the range to around 4000 hertz and change the frequency spectrum to around 50 hertz.
- Add Some Drive
Of course, you can add harmonics to your signal with the Drive control. When you do this, you’ll immediately hear the appearance of distortion. Use the Level knob on the side to balance the signal in terms of loudness.
- Mix to The Original Signal
If you don’t need to use the full wet signal of this pedal, you can just roll back the Blend knob, which is responsible for the ratio with the clean signal. It is a handy thing for parallel processing.
- Oversampling Options
You will also have the ability to choose different oversampling in this plugin. The exciting thing is that it can calculate automatically and let you know the upsampled amount. So, in addition to the 2x, 4x, or 8x variants, there are also three upsampled options.
TSE Audio BOD 3 is available for Windows Vista or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST/2, AU, and AAX formats.
BOD 3 from TSE Audio would be a great free tool to get a good bass tone. This plugin, emulated from an actual unit, can add grit and definition to bass tracks. Moreover, it’s easy enough to use because it has a simple equalizer and a few other essential controls like Drive, Presence, and Blend.
8. Nembrini Audio NA808 Overdrive Pro (Overdrive)
NA 808 Overdrive Pro from Nembrini Audio is another free pedal emulation to add to your DAW arsenal.
Tube Screamer is considered the “holy grail” of overdrive pedals, so it is not strange that there are so many emulations of this pedal. However, we want to present you with one more option, this time from the Italian company Nembrini and it is NA 808 Overdrive Pro plugin.
It is an emulation of the Japanese version of the pedal, and you will immediately notice it by the distinctive design of the plugin. You still get three central knobs and the On/Off button. In addition, the guys from Nembrini have also prepared some ready-made presets for you. Below we will try to understand all the nuances of this software.
- Drive Your Tone
The first knob at your disposal is the Drive knob, which will provide saturation. If you use the pedal as a booster for a high-gain amp, you can leave it at zero or crank it up if you need to get overdrive on a clean channel.
- Make It Bright or Dark
The Tone control will be your one-knob equalizer. Use this to get a darker or brighter guitar tone. The responsiveness of this setting is entirely reasonable to cut through more in the mix.
- Level Control
As with any other overdrive, you will have a Level knob that controls the amount of audio output. Use it to adjust exactly how much signal this plugin delivers or when balancing with Drive.
- Number of Presets
In addition to all this, the virtual pedal provides a set of 15 presets that you can easily use in your production—for example, Bluesy Drive, Bright Boost, Crunchy Solo, Dirty Funk, and Fast Solo. There are also a few personalized setups from musicians.
Nembrini Audio NA 808 Overdrive Pro is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The free NA 808 Overdrive Pro plugin is an excellent addition to your DAW as another lovely Tube Screamer emulation. It is effortless to use and has a vast number of presets. As for the sound, we can say that it is pretty decent and well replicates the original.
9. Mercuriall TSC 808 Core (Overdrive)
Mercuriall’s TSC 808 Core Tubes Creamer is another overdrive pedal you should check out.
The next pedal on our list is also an Ibanez TS-808 emulation, and the good news is that you can get it for free. This Mercuriall plugin is relatively light for the CPU and will please you with a few extra features.
In particular, in addition to the standard set of settings, you will be able to switch between the two modes, which will also affect the sound. In addition, you will be able to adjust the input gain and signal quality. Let’s see what’s under the hood here.
- Three-Knob Operation
You get all the familiar Drive, Tone, and Level knobs. Use them to get the amount of saturation, sharpen the frequency spectrum of the tone, and balance the output signal. You can get all of this here very quickly.
- Two Modes
The main advantage of this free plugin is the switch between the two mods – 808 and MOD. The first will react like a standard tube screamer, and the second will provide a little less gain but a boost in the low frequencies, which is also pretty good.
- Adjust the Input Gain
At the top of the plugin, you will have a separate slider that allows you to adjust the amount of Input Gain. Use this if you want the virtual pedal to eat more of your guitar’s signal. That way, you can get a little more overdrive sound.
- Stereo & Quality Switches
You will have two more controls to adjust the output more. The first is a switch between the Mono and Stereo modes. On the opposite side, you will see another one called Quality. In Hi mode, the oversampling will work in 4x mode.
Mercuriall TSC 808 Core is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher. It comes in VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
Mercuriall’s TSC 808 Core will give you great overdrive and provide a few more features that will be handy in your music production. It has a pretty good sound, familiar settings, and the ability to switch between the two modes. As with other similar products, you can use the plugin both just for overdrive and for boosting a virtual amp.
10. TSE R47 (Overdrive)
The TSE R47 is a superb emulation of the legendary 1979 pedal that can give you different guitar tones.
If you look at the design of this plugin, you’ll immediately realize that it is an emulation of the famous Rat pedal from Pro Co, which has been an essential tool in studios since 1979. As you already know, it is known for its relatively dark sound and the variety it can provide – from light crunch to mean fuzzy distortion.
This virtual pedal still has slightly less gain than other similar plugins, but that doesn’t mean it will disappoint you. On the contrary – it has a pretty cool sound, which repeats its legendary predecessor. And as for the controls – they are the same as those of the original pedal.
- Drive Capabilities
Use the Drive knob to determine precisely how much gain you need. In its initial position, the sound will be clean. Then you get a good crunch, and at the very end, you get a fat distortion with some flavor of fuzz—quite a wide range.
- Filter The Frequency Range
While other overdrive pedals change the ratio of frequencies to produce a dark or bright sound, this one works a little differently – it filters the high frequencies, leaving the lower and middle frequencies. So that’s what you can do with the Filter knob to get the guitar tone you want.
- Input And Volume Control
At the bottom of the plugin window, you will see a green scale, which will be responsible for adjusting the Input. As you already know, this will allow you to route more of the pickup signal to the plugin. As for the Volume knob, it will be responsible for the Output.
- Stereo Processing & Quality
And, of course, you will have a few extra features of the digital realm – switching between Stereo and Mono modes and Hi and Lo quality. As for the latter, these are 2x and 4x oversampling options.
TSE R47 is available for Windows Vista or higher (32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.7 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST/2, AU, and AAX formats.
A fantastic free plugin that replicates the benefits of the original pedal well. It is how we can briefly describe the TSE R47 from TSE. So it is not the kind of overdrive used as a utility. Instead, it is a pedal for getting a fat guitar sound on the amp’s clean channel. So, experiment with the drive and filter to shape the tone the way you want it.
11. Ignite Amps TS-999 SubScreamer (Overdrive)
The TS-999 SubScreamer from Ignite Amps can give you a warm overdrive sound.
Don’t let the gray design of this plugin confuse you – it’s still another tube screamer emulation. But this time, it’s a product from Ignite Amps, who make lovely amp sims. And the cool thing is that you can also get this pedal without any investment.
The developers of the TS-999 took care to model this plugin in as much detail as possible from the analog unit. In addition, they’ve also provided a few extra options to help you sharpen the sound in more detail. Let’s try to break down its features.
- Three Main Knobs
Of course, you will have the familiar knobs that no emulation of this popular pedal can do without, namely Drive, Tone, and Level. They will provide you with good responsiveness and help both get a guitar bite and make the amplifier distortion tighter.
- Add Some Fat
Some TS pedal users have complained that they take away too much low-end. So in this plugin, you will find the FAT function, which will do some low-end boost. As a result, it will provide you with a thicker guitar tone.
- Asymmetric & Symmetric Clipping
Another switch is responsible for two modes of operation – Asymmetric and Symmetric Clipping. These are two different forms, the first of which should provide more compression and sustain, while Symmetric will be more characteristic of TS. The difference is small but still noticeable.
- Zero Latency
You can easily use the plugin for recording because it has zero latency. At least, that is what the developers claim. It also uses Switchable Input and Output Buffer modeling, which reduces CPU usage.
Ignite Amps TS-999 SubScreamer is available for Windows (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS (64-bit only). It comes in VST and AU formats.
The TS-999 SubScreamer is a pretty cool plugin that will give you a warm and high-quality overdrive sound. All details of the analog circuit are modeled here, giving you a very close tone to the original. On top of that, you get some extra FAT and ASYM functions and zero latency.
Evil Sound Lab The King (Distortion – Win Only)
The King plugin from Evil Sound Lab sounds as sinister as it looks.
If you want the most ominous high-gain guitar sound, go no further. The guys at Evil Sound Lab have developed a free plugin to help you achieve that goal. It’s a virtual pedal called The King, which has tons of tonal possibilities and a great sound. But unfortunately, this software is only available for Windows users.
Nevertheless, if you are lucky enough to use this plugin, you get a sinister design, the ability to control the distortion structure, add air and choose what kind of midrange accent you want. Then, all you have to do is put in your favorite IRs, and you’re good to go. In that case, the pedal can easily replace the amp sim.
- Choose Your Destiny
The Destiny knob in the upper right corner will be responsible for the distortion structure. It is a pre-distortion emphasis peak filter. You can tweak this knob and choose the frequency you want, which will help you get different tones, from blues to hard rock and beyond.
- Mid Character
You will find a toggle on the left side of the plugin that you can use to change the Character of the Mid frequencies. There are three positions: Scooped, Neutral, and Nasal. The first would be great for rhythm parts, and the last would help cut through the mix for your solos.
- Gain and EQ
The amount of gain will be controlled by the Reign control. Before noon you will already hear that there is enough distortion, and when you turn it up, you will hear an incredibly saturated and compressed sound. As for EQ, adjust it with the two lower knobs, Low and High.
- Add Some Air
You can add some articulation to even the most distorted guitar tone with the Air control. That’s because it emulates the leakage of strings into a condenser mic. In addition, there is another Air Saturation knob next to it, which helps to make this effect warmer.
Evil Sound Lab The King is available for Windows, 64-bit only. It comes in VST format.
With The King plugin from Evil Sound Lab, you can achieve a mix-ready guitar tone. It is a high-gain pedal, packed with somewhat non-standard controls for other similar products, which gives it a pretty good versatility. So it is perfect for black, death, and other extreme metal subgenres. The only drawback is that you can only use the plugin on Windows.
As you can see, the selection of virtual pedals is incredible. You can find almost any filters and effects to create your unique guitar circuit and tone accordingly. But if you’re lost in this assortment, let us help you with some tips.
If you need an all-in-one solution where several pedals are assembled at once, we recommend checking out plugin number 9 – it’s BBE Sound Stomp Board. As for the universal option for the heaviest guitar tone – number 14 – Audiority Klirrton Grindstein will help you here.
If you ask what we think the best overdrives are, we’ll name #3 Audiority Green Reaper GR9, and the free list options are #1 Audiority Dr Drive, #9 Mercuriall TSC 808 Core, and #11 Ignite Amps TS-999 SubScreamer. And if you need distortion, cool plugins would be #16 Kuassa Efektor DS3603 and the free #2 Nembrini Audio Black Distortion.
And of course, excellent virtual effects pedals, in our opinion, are number 4 Kuassa Efektor FL3606, 5 HoRNet HDD1, 12 Nembrini Quinta, and free number 6 Mercurial Chorus WS-1.
Feel what your sound needs, experiment with different pedals, and you will achieve a distinctive and unique tone. Good luck, and enjoy your creativity!
Ilarion Ivanenko is a remote mixing and mastering engineer from Ukraine, a musician with more than 15 years of experience. Specializes in rock, metal, progressive and the other genres. He can’t imagine his life without music, as it is the biggest passion in his life