What is a vibrato effect, and what are the best vibrato plugins? This post will feature the top 7 vibrato effects of 2021.
What Is a Vibrato Effect?
Vibrato is a pitch-based effect used to add character, color, and expression to an audio signal. Vibrato has been used in several music areas. It’s created by the warping or fluctuating of a sustained note or sample’s pitch.
The effect has been widely implemented in a list of traditional musical situations. Guitarists are most well known for utilizing the vibrato effect as they do so in various ways. Guitarists create vibrato by pushing down on a string with their fretting hand and then bending the string up or down as the note plays out. This bending action causes the string to lengthen and temporarily shifts the pitch of that note.
With fast, repetitive bending or hammer-ons, the quick pitch changes make a note sound as if it is vibrating. This sound is what we define as vibrato. Singers have an alternate means of creating vibrato, but the effect is still fundamentally the same. Trained or gifted singers can produce vibrato by quivering their vocal cords as they sustain a note. This sound effect is very prevalent amongst gospel and R&B singers.
In singing, vibrato is sometimes confused with vocal runs, which are a series of improvised vocal licks that can end, start and end at different notes. The same technique is used in brass and woodwind instruments such as trumpets, clarinets, and flutes to generate an identical result. In the same vein, specific organs and keyboards also possess vibrato generating capabilities.
How Do You Get a Vibrato Effect?
Electronic vibrato is created by sending a signal through an audio crossover in an electronic circuit. The crossover splits the signal up into various frequency bands, which can then be stretched or modulated to different LFO parameters.
You can find these types of circuits in the core components of most analog vibrato effects pedals and outboard gear, and these are what most vibrato VST’s are modeled on in digital music production.
Automated vibrato is created by using an LFO to modulate a signal’s speed at a constant rate. The Leslie Speaker is a long-revered organ that exhibited one of the first widely used vibrato designs. A note played on the organ is sent into a chamber where it is exposed to a rotating baffle drum or horns before being sent through a loudspeaker.
The rotation chamber causes the signal to warp consistently, creating the vibrato effect. This vibrato version is the most common form of the effect used in modern production due to its rhythmic applications and appeal.
However, there are a variety of means to reproduce the vibrato effect. Traditionally, the vibrato effect was first made mechanically accessible through the introduction of the whammy arm. The whammy arm was an accessory first used by electric and slide guitarists as early as the 1920s. The arm can be screwed or fixed onto the bridge of a guitar and is pulled or pushed to temporarily shift the tension on a guitar, causing variations in pitch.
There are a few parameters that you can control with vibrato effects;
- Rate – This will control the speed at which your pitch changes over time. The higher the rate of vibrato, the faster the change in pitch.
- Depth – Using this control determines to what extent your LFO affects the audio signal and the extent to which your signal waivers pitch.
- Waveshape – The waveshape control will determine the characteristics of your pitch modulation. Sine waveshapes produce smoother modulations, whereas square or triangle waves are more defined and generate more extreme modulations.
What Is The Difference Between Tremolo And Vibrato?
The fundamental difference between tremolo and vibrato is pitch behavior. Vibrato can very easily be mistaken for tremolo as the two produce deceptively similar sounds. The effect has even been mislabeled by instrument and gear manufacturers well into the modern era.
The easiest way to tell the difference between tremolo and vibrato is to pay attention to how each effect changes an audio signal’s pitch. Tremolo is essentially a volume-based effect. With tremolo, an LFO causes fluctuations in an audio signal’s amplitude and creates ducks in volume.
The result is an aural illusion whereby the signal sounds as though it is shifting in pitch, even though it stays consistently in tune. Vibrato is pitch-specific and does not naturally affect the volume parameters. In essence, tremolo affects an audio signal’s pitch parameters, whereas tremolo focuses solely on generating changes in the volume and amplitude of a signal.
The 7 Best Vibrato VST Plugins of 2021
1. Audiority Tube Modulator Review
Audiority’s Tube Modulator features a wide range of spatial and dynamic effects, including vibrato.
The plugin hosts a healthy handful of emulations of classic analog effects units from the late 1950s and early 1960’s psychedelia eras. The user interface is straightforward to understand and centers around an attractive X-Y scope that gives you real-time feedback on your signal modulations.
- 7 Modulation Modes
The Tube Modulator features vibrato and options for tremolo, chorus, and uni-vibe modulations. There are also combinations such as chorus-vibe and trem-vibe that modulate more than one parameter of your signal at equal rates.
- 11 Waveshape options
Tube Modulator features 11 LFO wave shapes that you can apply to your vibrato. Shapes range from traditional forms like sine and triangle waves to more experimental shapes for more avant-garde sounds. You can also adjust the modulations’ rate and depth with quick access dials underneath this control knob.
- Spatial Effects
Included with this plugin’s features are three classic spatial effects that you can use to add some stereo dynamic to your modulations. There is a panner, wow & flutter, and a classic Leslie speaker effect with LFO, rate, and depth controls for extended modulation options.
- Link/Sync options
You can sync this plugin’s LFO’s to a host clock or choose to link it with another device to help ensure that your modulations maintain rhythmic integrity regardless of how far you push the depth of your oscillations.
Character and Sound:
This plugin is modeled on equipment from a specific classic era in music. As such, the Tube Modulator’s sound has a very retro feel to it and carries the warmth you generally hear from valve amp technology. The spatial effects add to this plugin’s throwback theme and are useful for adding some creaminess to your vibrato.
Tube Modulator is compatible with Windows 7 or above and Mac OS X 10.9 or higher. It is available in VST, AAX, or AU formats.
Fans of cloudy, spacy vibrato will appreciate the Tube Modulator. It sounds great over guitars and organs but will also be useful when used subtly on things such as vocals or pads that may need livening up.
Fans of Lo-Fi production will enjoy the Leslie Speaker and Wow and Flutter controls. Producers that like to design custom LFO’s may find this plugin a bit limiting, and the lack of a quantized rate parameter might be a bit of a hindrance for some.
2. MeldaProduction MVibratoMB Review
The MVibratoMB is an incredibly versatile vibrato emulator from Melda Production.
The GUI is fully customizable, and you can change the shape of all the windows and color schemes of every aspect of the interface so that it’s less harsh on your eyes while using. There are also two user modes to choose from.
You can select an easy mode to access a basic interface and fundamental vibrato parameters, such as the effective rate and depth. Alternatively, you can use the expanded mode, which opens you to a nearly overwhelming set of control options.
- Multiband LFO
You can apply your vibrato parameters to up to 6 independent bands with the Mmultiband Vibrato for some intriguing tonal dynamics. Each is entirely adjustable and works with three crossover algorithms to help prevent any frequency clashes during processing. You can also set peaks and limits for each separate band and the master output of the plugin.
- LFO Draw Tool
The MMultiband features an LFO editor that lets users design custom LFO patterns for their vibrato. The editor includes a draw mode and a list of stock slopes and curves that you can piece together to generate intricate oscillation sequences.
- Smoothness control
Use this setting to flatten out any slopes in your LFO shapes that are too steep or sharp. This will give your vibrato a more organic overall sound and really helps to blend your output with your overall mix.
- Step Sequencer
Within the interface’s LFO Editor is a step sequencer that you can apply to your vibrato patterns. This feature is great for creating defined rhythmic modulations around your audio signal.
- Multiband LFO
Character and Sound:
The MMultiband Vibrato’s in-depth interface creates modulations that you could not necessarily recreate with analog gear. Features such as the step-sequencer and custom shape editor work very well in modern sound design circumstances, such as film or game scoring.
Mmultiband Vibrato comes in 32 and 64-bit Vst, Au, and AAX formats. It’s available for Windows 7 or higher and Mac OS X 10.7 or later.
The MMultiband Vibrato’s greatest asset is its multiband processing capabilities. You can apply independent LFO modulations to different sections of your signal’s frequency range. For instance, you could apply harsh, choppy modulation to your signal’s sub-bass area while leaving the high end completely dry and free of processing. This gives you some unique expressional artillery and makes this plugin well worth a try.
3. Martinic Scanner Vibrato Review
Scanner by Martinic consists of a minimal GUI with a shortlist of modulation options on offer to producers.
This plugin is modeled on the effects unit with a vintage tone-wheel organ from the early 1940s. There aren’t many features with the Scanner vibrato plugin, but the built-built ones offer a great selection of modulations.
- Dual LFO
Scanner’s Vibrato operates with two independent LFO’s. You can choose to run your effects with either one or two LFO’s linked or unlinked, and each comes with rate control.
- Vibrato + Chorus
The organ that this VST is modeled on offered players three options of modulation. A Chorus and Vibrato unit are built into this emulator, and you can run them in combination with each other or choose to have just one on your signal.
- Depth Control
Adjusting the depth on this plugin will determine to what degree your signal is modulated; higher values equate to steeper modulations, and you can use this control to set the harshness of either your chorus or vibrato.
- Width and Mix
You can utilize these controls to find the right blend for your vibrato in your overall mix. The width will spread your vibrato to either side of your stereo image, and the mix knob acts as a dry/wet knob to help you control the overall effect level on your signal.
Character and Sound:
Naturally, this plugin is excellent for padded instruments such as organs or strings. The emulation adds a signature motion to these instruments that you can’t quite get with other effects like flanger or delays. The chorus and vibrato combinations are a treat to work with and generate some very smooth, natural-sounding modulations that can easily blend into most mixing situations.
Scanner Vibrato is available to Windows 7 or higher and Mac users with OS X 10.7 or later. It is available as a VST or AAX.
The dual-LFO engine makes the Tube modulator a deceptively versatile plugin, despite its unassuming, straightforward interface. The plugin might not offer enough control options for some people, but its basic design is very light on the CPU and should appeal to anyone looking for a unique but straightforward vibrato VST.
4. ReasonStudios CustomVibe Multi Vibrato Effect Review
Customvibe by Reason Studios is an extensive multi-vibrato effects VST.
This plugin combines the design concepts of a few different guitar and organ modulation devices from the late 1960s. There are a few types of vibrato to choose from, as well as a few additional features and controls to give users a variety of modulating options at their disposal.
- Vibrato types
You have access to 8 types of vibrato, some traditional and exclusive to the CustomVibe itself. These include a standard Vibe mode TriMod, JetMod, and a Doppler mode modeled on the Doppler Effect, or the sound of a rotating speaker cone.
- Wobble Oscillate control
Wobble Oscillate adds a movement dynamic to your overall vibrato. It does this by nudging the peaks in your LFO, causing them to wobble and sound less predictable. You can push this parameter to high values for some strange, harsh modulations.
- 12-Step Custom Wave
One of the vibrato types of this plugin is a 12 Step Custom Wave model that features the interface’s bottom right hand. Here, you can set sequenced modulations for catchy, rhythmic sound design options.
- Chorus Control
The CustomVibe features a basic chorus unit that you can combine with their vibrato for extended processing. You can also blend this chorus layer in with your vibrato’s level using the chorus mix knob.
Character and Sound:
Thanks to the inspiration behind this plugin’s design, it works incredibly well with electric guitars. The mod types all reflect some sort of guitar amp or stompbox effect unit, and going through the presets feels like trying out successive guitar patches. Anyone looking for more modern modulating options should look elsewhere for their vibrato plugins.
Windows 7 and higher users can enjoy Tube Mod as a VST. Mac users with OS X 10.9 or above can download this plugin in VST or AAX formats.
The CustomVibe comes with a few contending pros and cons. The generous array of vibrato modes gives you a decent scope on this effect’s capabilities. The optional extra of a chorus combo that you can blend in with your vibrato is also a nice touch. Navigating the interface can feel a bit clumsy at times.
Unfortunately, there is no option to sync your modulations to a host click or metronome, which may slow you down when creating quick, tight modulations.
5. Melda MVibrato (FREE) Review
The Mvibrato is a free vibrato emulation VST by the team at Melda Production.
This plugin is a more concise version of the MVibratoMB Vibrato with added features for producers or engineers to utilize. The same sturdy engine is at the core of this plugin, though, and the MVibrato can handle numerous surround sound channels without compromising audio quality.
- Custom LFO-Editor
The LFO editor in this plugin comes with an extensive LFO editor, which includes pre-defined oscillator slopes and curves that you can combine. There is also the option to design in your own custom LFO shapes withdraw mode.
- Harmonic Mode
Harmonic mode is a wonderful coloring tool that lets you select specific harmonic regions of your signal to have your LFO respond to. You can apply custom waveforms to your LFO’s in this mode as well.
- Smoothing control
Using the smoothing function will help remove any brash clicks or crackles that can sometimes be caused by signal modulation.
- Automatic Gain Compensation
This feature acts alongside the limiter to ensure no unanticipated or uncontrolled gain peaks in your output signal. You’ll be able to push your modulations as high as you want without having to worry about causing clipping in your mix.
- Tremolo Option
This plugin comes with a tremolo control as an optional extra. You can use the tremolo knob to blend with your vibrato, and you can also adjust the phase or starting point of your tremolo.
Character and Sound:
The Custom LFO Editor in this plugin allows you to create oscillation patterns that are very modern sounding. The vibrato lends itself quite well to be used for ambient or atmospheric sound design as well. Guitarists and beatmakers may find the sounds a bit disconnected from what they are used to seeing on analog vibrato effects or stompbox devices.
MVibrato is available in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX to Windows (7 or higher) and Mac users (OS X 10.9 or later).
Anyone who finds the MMUltiband Vibrato plugin a bit too in-depth or over the top may find that this plugin is a comfortable downsize. You’ll still have access to the same fundamental processing that this plugin’s predecessor has, but with a slightly smoother workflow.
6. MGF Audio Timewarp (FREE) Review
The Time Warp Vibrato is a pretty flexible vibrato emulator despite its small packaging and presentation.
You have access to two independent LFO’s with control over the fundamental parameters of pitch modulation.
- Dual LFO Engine
You can control two independent pitch modulators on the Time Warp VSt. Each one has separate controls for depth and rate, and you can opt to have them run linked or unlinked.
- Stereo Pan
You can set each LFO to run on different regions of their stereo image with the panning function. You can use this to create some interesting echo-type effects by setting the rate of one side’s vibrato slightly quicker than the other.
- Optional Upsampling
If you find yourself low on CPU, you can turn off the upsampling setting to lower your output signal’s overall sample rate with a simple quality toggle.
Character and Sound:
The Custom LFO Editor in this plugin allows you to create oscillation patterns that are very modern sounding. The vibrato lends itself quite well to be used for ambient or atmospheric sound design as well.
Timewarp is available as 32-bit VST to owners of Windows 7 or later.
If you’re a fan of minimal GUI or like to experiment with long-effect chains, you’ll appreciate the Time Warp Vibrato. It would have been great to synchronize your LFO’s to click with this plugin, but unfortunately, Time Warp does not offer this feature. It is also only available to Windows Users as a 32 bit VST, which dramatically decreases its usability options.
7. Audec Vibrato (FREE) Review
Less is more with the Audec Vibrato VST. The plugin is designed to encourage a speedy workflow and only offers two types of waveforms for producers to use on their signal processing. You won’t find yourself messing with any custom LFO’s or advanced coloring features with this plugin. However, it is very handy if you find a configuration that you like as it’s easy to save and store for later use.
- Two LFO Wavetypes
You can select between sine and square LFO wave shapes for their vibrato. Sine waves will generate smoother pitch modulations, while square waves produce harsher ones.
- Rate and Depth Control
Using these controls determines the overall behavior of your signal oscillations. Turning the Rate knob up increases the vibrato’s speed, while the depth knob decides how much your pitch varies from its origin.
- Dry/Wet Knob
This control will help you balance your input signal with the affected output. If you use this plugin in a return track or as a send, make sure to leave this setting on 100 percent.
Character and Sound:
The type of sound you create with the Audec Vibrato is highly dependent on the type of signal you send through it, as it is a relatively rudimentary vibrato emulator that isn’t modeled on any particular analog gear or devices. We recommend trying it on anything that carries a pitch, from vocals, strings, and brass to organs and synths.
Audec Vibrato requires Windows 7 or higher or Mac OS X 10.11 or later. It’s available in VSt3 and AU versions.
Audec’s Vibrato plugin bears a striking resemblance to a few stock Ableton devices, although it does not quite pack the same punch as its counterparts. With that in mind, it is by no means.
Motor is a hardware-based audio morphing mechanism.
Based on “The Crystal Palace” machine by Dave Young, Motor is an advanced audio modulation tool that also offers the vibrato effect. The workflow is super simple: all you need to do is set the modulation rate and turn up the Vibrato knob. The Wave graphic will let you select the waveforms for modulation.
- Synced Rate
By clicking on the little eighth note next to the Rate knob, you can make Motor synced to your DAW as well. It’s probably best not to use it for vocals or any other manual instruments. However, for synths or keyboards, it might have an interesting effect.
- More Than Just Vibrato
Other than vibrato, Motor has tremolo and auto-panner effects as well. Altogether, they can turn this simple plugin into an audio-mangling experimental tool. Try it out on guitars or organs for a “Leslie” effect.
- Audio Modulation
Motor supports a side-chain input as well. While it doesn’t do much for the vibrato effect, it creates exciting modulation effects using the tremolo or panner parameters. The effect is best suited for creating strange sound effects and “robotic” voices.
Motor is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The plugin is obviously not for vibrato alone, and it’s probably a good thing for your creativity. We would suggest you set the rate to somewhere around 4.5 to 6 Hz and automate the Vibrato knob for vibrato. It works excellently to create natural sounds.
Tips and Tricks For Using Vibrato
1. Try to consider that your vibrato is a time-based effect as much as it is a pitch-based one. Having a great dynamic range on your vibrato won’t matter if the effect is not in your song’s time or if it intrudes on the groove of another element in the track.
2. When using combinations of vibrato such as uni-vibe or chorus-vibe, try to apply one effect at a time instead of both at the same time if possible. Start with small modulation levels and work your up until it becomes overbearing, and then back off from that point.
3. While vibrato is traditionally used on the guitar, it has so much scope and usability in modern production areas. Try putting your vibrato in unconventional regions of your mix, such as on a group bus or after a reverb. Experimentation is key.
Final Words & Verdict
Vibrato is a wonderful means of livening up any dull parts of a melody or mix. There are quite a few Vibrato VST listed above that range from highly expansive and in-depth to quick, minimalist, and essential. We really love Auriority’s Tube Modulator for its collection of classic emulations.
Still, we recommend trying out the MMultiband Vibrato by Melda Productions for those who want to get deeply involved with the Vibrato parameters. Thanks for taking the time out to read our article on the seven best vibrato plugins of 2021. Take care and have fun creating.
Kieron Brown is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and writer from Cape Town, South Africa.
He has spent over a decade in the music industry working as a musician, events curator, and consultant.