Best Free Clipper VST Plugins

31 Best Free Clipper VST Plugins 2024

Last Updated on January 1, 2024

“Clipping is generally to be avoided in music production.”

Yes, but there is a time and place for clipping, as it can increase loudness and add harmonic saturation and distortion to your tracks.

Contrary to what some are saying out there, most clipper VST plugins are not for protecting your tracks from clipping (although they may come with peak protection), but rather for intentionally clipping your tracks for loudness maximization and some auditory grit.

In this guide, we look at the best free clipper VST plugins.

ClipShifter by LVC-Audio

ClipShifter by LVC-Audio

LVC-Audio’s ClipShifter is a wave-shaper / clipping-style limiter for mixing and mastering.

You can use it to distort drums and basses, maximize mix busses, or even add warmth to mixes. ClipShifter gives you several clipping distortion flavors to choose from, allowing for soft saturation with compression, intense brick-wall clipping, and everything in between.

ClipShifter can also respond to an incoming signal and its transient qualities, so you can set the threshold to fall or rise as the audio level increases. Speed can be set with Attack Time and Fast Release.

This plugin lets you distort the bass while leaving the rest of the audio clean or let the transients untouched while distorting the rest of the signal.

With the latest edition of ClipShifter, you get independent left / right or mid / side threshold control, with independent, maximum, or average options.

You can also change the clip shape and adjust the harmonic content to suit your needs. Thus, you can get everything from light compression to heavy distortion.

Altogether, you get controls for clip shape (hard to soft) and harmonics (even and odd), LVS-Audio metering, waveform history view, undo / redo history, A/B comparison, and preset management with import / export.

ClipShifter is available for Windows and Mac. The paid version includes a few additional features like a three-band crossover, independent frequency clipping, and mid / side processing.

Download: LVC-Audio

Free Clip by Venn Audio

Free Clip by Venn Audio

Venn Audio’s Free Clip is a multi-algorithm soft clipper / wave shaper with an array of unique wave shapes for everything from transparent hard clipping to soft but ultra-saturated shapes. The ceiling level can be set using the slider next to the level meter.

You can remove high-frequency aliasing with oversampling, though this function will set peaks over the ceiling level, so you may need to reset the ceiling level if you intend to use oversampling.

You can boost tracks, buses, and mixes transparently using Free Clip, though Venn Audio recommends you take advantage of specific shape settings for mastering to minimize saturation (hardclip, cubic, or quantic).

Of course, you can still use Free Clip as a saturator or distortion plugin by taking advantage of softer wave shapes like arctangent or algebraic. A lower ceiling level will introduce more saturation to your signal, though you will want to boost the output as well. The same effect can be achieved by boosting the input gain into the clipper.

Free Clip is conveniently available for Windows and Mac systems.

Download: Venn Audio

ClipStar by de la Mancha

ClipStar by de la Mancha

de la Mancha’s ClipStar is a vintage-style soft clipper for boosting loudness and adding a nice, saturated character without hard clipping your signal.

If you want to keep the lower frequencies intact to reduce signal degradation, ClipStar can keep your bass untouched.

ClipStar also works for loudness gain, sympathetic distortion, and peak protection.

ClipStar is a simple, Windows-only VST plugin with some decent features.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Voxengo OVC-128 by Voxengo

Voxengo OVC-128 by Voxengo

You can always count on Voxengo for an array of useful mixing and mastering tools, and here we have their Windows- and Mac-compatible soft / hard clipper, Voxengo OVC-128.

Voxengo says you can use OVC-128 for soft saturation / overdrive, drum bus clipping, master bus clipping, and EDM production applications alike! One of the most common uses for it, though, is for hard-clipping right before the final mastering limiter.

The developer says clipping with OVC-128 should prove similar to clipping with quality analog equipment, with a 5.6 MHz sample rate, and 44.1 kHz source sample rate.

Perfectly suited to modern electronic productions, OVC-128 uses extreme oversampling and is best used alongside a state-of-the-art computer.

Download: Voxengo

BT Clipper by ViatorDSP

BT Clipper by ViatorDSP

ViatorDSP’s BT Clipper is a clipper / limiter with three clipping voices (hard, soft, analog), and a mid-range tone knob for giving your mixes transparent-sounding compression and a bit of edge.

The plugin is divided into three sections – pre-tone with freq, gain, and width, a clipper with drive (with auto gain compensation), ceiling, mix, and trim, and post-tone with freq, gain, and width.

You can download BT Clipper at PLUGINS 4 FREE for Windows and Mac.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

CL36 by J1000

CL36 by J1000

The Windows-only CL36 three-band clipper will separate your audio signal into low, mid, and high frequencies and give you identical parameters for each range – bias, clipping amount, and gain.

CL36 also gives you the option of normal and hard clipping, as well as random LFO modulation.

The final stage of clipping keeps peak levels below 0dBFS. You can use the mid / side mode for wider sounds.

For taming transients, you can use low setting for attack / decay times. CL36 will also work on full mixes before the final limiting stage.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

GClip by GVST

GClip by GVST

GVST often has a few things on hand so far as mixing effects and utility plugins are concerned.

Their GClip is an unfussy wave-shaping signal clipper you can use for audio editing, music production, and broadcasting.

Abrupt and smooth wave-shaping technologies have been built-in, and if you want to reduce aliasing, you can take advantage of the oversampling features as well.

It’s not a sophisticated entry by any means, but GClip does let you visualize your audio signal too, so you can see exactly what the effect is doing.

Download: GVST

KlipFreak by Audio Assault

KlipFreak by Audio Assault

Audio Assault’s KlipFreak is a no-nonsense peak clipper with two faders and two dials – input, amount, mix, and output.

Amazingly, I find KlipFreak to be a relatively transparent entry. It’s not for everyone, but you can always check out the video demo or try it for yourself to see whether it will work for you.

KlipFreak will work on Windows and Mac machines alike.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Advanced Clipper by Christian Budde

Advanced Clipper by Christian Budde

Christian Budde’s Advanced Clipper is a two-stage hard clipper with oversampling based on minimum-phase Butterworth filters, which will affect group delay. The transition frequency is also tunable.

With a basic setup and user interface, Advanced Clipper offers the bare minimum functionality necessary for various clipping jobs. Again, it might be your style, or it might not be, but you can try it for free, so you don’t have much to lose.

Download: KVR Audio Software

Rift Clipper by ViatorDSP

Rift Clipper by ViatorDSP

ViatorDSP’s Rift Clipper is a band splitter distortion for distorting just the high band of a signal. This eliminates the need for you to use complex workflows with AUX sends and filters to accomplish the same thing.

Rift Clipper has a very basic user interface design and setup, with input, drive, crossover, mix, and output controls.

Download: FREE VST PLUGINS

Initial Clipper – Free Soft Clipper Plugin by Initial Audio

Initial Clipper – Free Soft Clipper Plugin by Initial Audio

Initial Clipper was designed to keep your audio from shooting above 0 dB. It smooths the peaks using soft clipping, which you can adjust using the onboard threshold control.

The plugin features a peak display, which can come in handy for visualizing and monitoring your audio signal.

Initial Clipper also comes with everyone’s favorite – extra saturation. Take advantage of the positive and negative saturation controls for adding both harmonic and non-harmonic warmth and character to your audio.

Initial Audio warns that saturation will affect your mix’s dynamic range because it applies saturation to the entire signal, not just the peaks. User beware.

Initial Audio knows you may want to use the clipper on your master channel, so they’ve included an industry-standard LUFS meter to keep an eye on the loudness of your mix.

Initial Clipper can be downloaded for Windows and Mac systems.

Download: Initial Audio

KClip Zero by Kazrog

KClip Zero by Kazrog

KClip Zero is the free version of KClip 3. It comes with internal oversampling, a variable clipping curve, and saturation. It’s been designed for use on individual tracks, buses, and masters alike for transparent loudness.

KClip Zero features mastering grade oversampling set to 2x with 16x offline bounce, variable hard and soft clipping with Soften control, gain linking (for matching input and output), resizable window, and a preset menu.

KClip 3, by the way, also comes with multi-band processing, LUFS metering, seven additional clipping modes, mid / side processing, A/B comparison, and a delta function.

KClip Zero is a gettable plugin for Windows and Mac.

Download: Kazrog

Limiter No6 by VladgSound

Limiter No6 by VladgSound

And oldie but still very much a goodie, VladgSound’s Limiter No6 is a five-module limiter and clipper with an array of adjustable parameters for each module.

Limiter No6 comes with some great features, especially for a free plugin – optional 4x oversampling, M/S and multiband modes, brick-wall and soft limiting, true inter-sample peaks (ISP) limiting, stereo-linking in peak limiter, numeric editable parameters, and more.

The five modules consist of a clipper, RMS compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, and a true peak limiter. You cannot reorder the modules, but signal flow has been optimized.

If you want to perform your clipping and limiting jobs all in one place, Limiter No6 is a good plugin to consider.

Download: Plugin Boutique

TDR Limiter 6 GE by Tokyo Dawn Records

TDR Limiter 6 GE by Tokyo Dawn Records

TDR Limiter 6 GE is a lot like Limiter No6, except that instead of five modules, it comes with six.

Limiter 6 GE includes a clipper, dynamics compressor, high frequency limiter, peak limiter, output protection limiter, and true peak and EBU loudness meter. These modules can be ordered differently depending on your end goal.

The onboard parameters give you control at the micro and macro levels. The plugin has been designed to allow for loudness maximization while keeping your dynamics, punch, and musicality intact.

The onboard metering functions let you keep an eye on your audio and its dynamics, so you can see not just hear what’s going on (only hearing what’s going on can be problematic, especially when there’s a discrepancy between what you think is happening and what is happening).

From performing basic limiting and clipping functions to more creative applications, TDR Limiter 6 GE is almost too good to be free.

Try it out for Windows or Mac.

Download: Tokyo Dawn Records

W1 Limiter by George Yohng

W1 Limiter by George Yohng

And so, we’ve come to the “sales bin digging” part of the guide. The plugins that follow, including this one, may not be exactly what you’re looking for. But you know how it is – sometimes you find a game, or DVD, or in this case a VST, that’s good for a biit of a laugh.

Anyway, first up is George Yohng’s W1 Limiter. This one is legitimately good, and I use it all the time. Reportedly, it was modeled after Waves L1 and L2 and might even be on par with these. The only thing is that it’s not a clipper. It’s a limiter / maximizer.

W1 Limiter is very easy to figure out, with just four controls – threshold, release, adaptive release, and ceiling. Yohng says it’s in beta, but it has basically stayed that way for as long as I have known about it, so for all intents and purposes, it’s as good as it’s ever going to get.

You’ll be happy to know that W1 Limiter works on Windows and Mac systems.

Download: yohng.com

Multi Peak Limiter by Yuri Semenov

Multi Peak Limiter by Yuri Semenov

Yuri Semenov’s Multi Peak Limiter is a three-band peak limiter with low, mid, and hi controls. It makes it easy for you to solo every frequency range so you can hear exactly what’s happening in each and boost or attenuate the ranges as you see fit. Handy!

Again, Multi Peak Limiter is not a clipper, but it is Windows- and Mac-ready.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

SimpleSqueeze by BetaBugsAudio

SimpleSqueeze by BetaBugsAudio

BetaBugsAudio probably calls SimpleSqueeze what it is because of its simplistic design. This one-knob limiter makes the process of limiting a total no-brainer.

With automatic makeup and a smooth brick-wall limiter at the end, you’re not going to get any clipping with this VST (which in this case might be a bit of a disappointment).

The central knob adjusts threshold and gain simultaneously, so your signal squashes the harder you push the effect.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

SN05/SN05-G Brickwall Limiter by Sender Spike

SN05/SN05-G Brickwall Limiter by Sender Spike

Sender Spike’s SN05/SN05-G Brickwall Limiter was designed as a mastering limiter, but the developer says it could work on individual tracks as well. It just so happens that it has clipper functionality built in too.

This limiter comes with three stages (limiter, soft clipper, hard clipper), gain, ceiling, adjustable limiter attack and release time, adjustable hard clipper release times, fixed hard clipper attack time, optional adjustable soft clipping stage, optional HPF for limiter’s sidechain, limiter on / off, and dual GR meter.

This Windows-only plugin is available in 32- and 64-bit variations.

Download: Sender Spike

VariMoon by Analog Obsession

VariMoon by Analog Obsession

Patterned after the 660 style Variable-Mu limiting amplifier, Analog Obsession’s VariMoon is a simple to operate and highly rated limiter VST plugin.

With input, release, DC threshold, AC threshold, dry / wet mix, output, and HPF controls, VariMoon should prove very straightforward.

Whether for Windows or Mac, you can find a version of VariMoon that should work for you.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

XTRESSOR NUKE by Kiive Audio

XTRESSOR NUKE by Kiive Audio

Kiive Audio’s XTRESSOR NUKE is a simplistic compressor / limiter with three release modes (fast, normal, slow), mix knob, and adjustable Sc HPF.

Kiive Audio says XTRESSOR NUKE is the perfect solution for crafting explosive drum tracks.

Whether Windows or Mac, you can take advantage of this free compressor / limiter on your system.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Maxwell Smart by Lively Audio

Maxwell Smart by Lively Audio

Lively Audio’s Maxwell Smart is an ITU-R BS.1770-4 compliant true peak limiter / loudness maximizer with look-ahead and 4x inter-sample peak detection (ISP).

With a transparent sound, Maxwell Smart supports all samples rates between 8 kHz and 384 kHz.

It’s a Windows- and 32-bit only entry, but it could be worth a go.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

W1 Limiter by BetaBugsAudio

W1 Limiter by BetaBugsAudio

W1 Limiter has no relation to George Yohng’s W1 Limiter (at least we don’t think so, but it could be based on the same limiter).

This W1 Limiter follows in the established BetaBugs formula of simple is better. It comes with three basic controls – threshold, ceiling, and release, for a streamlined workflow.

It’s a Windows-only entry.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

LALA by Analog Obsession

LALA by Analog Obsession

Based on the Teletronix LA-2A optical limiter / compressor, LALA comes with HPF for cutting the low end, HF / MG for setting the sensitivity for mid frequencies, HF / FLAT for setting the sensitivity for high frequencies, and MIX for blending the wet and dry signal.

This compressor / limiter can be gotten for Windows and Mac.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

A1StereoControl by A1AUDIO

A1StereoControl by A1AUDIO

A1StereoControl can limit or expand the stereo width of your tracks with just one knob. You can use it on independent tracks, groups, or even on the master bus.

Sometime, stereo expansion can do undesirable things to your mix, especially to the bass frequencies. A1StereoControl comes with a Safe Bass feature to keep the low end in the middle of your mix. The Safe Bass feature is automatic, and you can turn it on or off depending on the desired results.

A1StereoControl also features advanced panning, including multiple pan laws (0 dB, -3 dB, -6 dB), multiple pan curves (linear, logarithmic, sin / cos), and dual panning or balance modes.

A1StereoControl is free for Windows and Mac systems.

Download: A1AUDIO

Limiter Box by Synthescience

Limiter Box by Synthescience

Designed as a simple Windows limiter, Synthescience’s Limiter Box makes it possible for you to set the threshold for your mix so that it doesn’t exceed a set level. This prevents clipping. Limiter Box can be automated, and it can store up to 32 presets as well. It even comes with a few factory presets.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Dynamic Frequency Limiter by SirSickSik

Dynamic Frequency Limiter by SirSickSik

SirSickSik’s Dynamic Frequency Limiter is a compressor / limiter / transient designer / band-peak filter. This plugin can scan a frequency region and apply compression, limiting, ducking, transient enhancements, or all the above, simultaneously.

The compressor comes with all the standard features including gain, threshold, ratio, attack, and decay.

The onboard transient knob transforms the attack stage into a transient designer. This is a handy tool for boosting, adding punch, and even grit as needed.

The exaggerate button doubles compressor ratio, which creates a ducking effect.

These and other features mean you can tame peaks, reduce feedback, create peak-controlled resonances, shape the envelope of sounds, block one frequency range while letting through another, add different types of distortion to your tracks, maximize loudness / sustain, sculpt your sound, and more.

This versatile effect works on Windows machines.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

YALA by Analog Obsession

YALA by Analog Obsession

Analog Obsession’s YALA is yet another Variable-Mu tube limiting amplifier. This is the perfect plugin for enhancing your mixes. Analog Obsession says it’s well suited to vocals and basses, but it can also be used as a summing amp or line amp.

Analog Obsession says they meticulously modeled the original circuit in creating this handsome plugin, which is Windows and Mac ready.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

LA school esquire limiter by DSPplug

LA school esquire limiter by DSPplug

DSPplug’s LA school esquire limiter is a limiter with two algorithms – envelope and pumping.

In pumping mode, LA school esquire limiter works a lot like a peak limiter.

The limiter is a capable piece of technology whether used on individual tracks or the master.

Overall, users found this limiter very clean.

LA school esquire limiter is Windows ready.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Thrillseeker VBL by Variety Of Sound

Thrillseeker VBL by Variety Of Sound

Variety Of Sound’s Thrillseeker VBL is a vintage broadcast style limiter adopting Variable-Mu design principles.

Broadcast limiters were used to manage the sudden change in signals, and they share quite a bit in common with today’s brick-wall limiters. They are best thought of as gain structure levelers though.

In addition to classic gain reduction controls, Thrillseeker VBL gives you control over the analog tube circuit, as well as amount and appearance of harmonic tube amplifier distortion.

The plugin also features an authentic sounding audio transformer simulation, for even more of an analog feel.

It is a little limited, though, at least in the sense that you can only get it as a 32-bit Windows download.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Modern Limiter by Antress

Modern Limiter by Antress

Antress’ Modern Limiter is somewhat false advertising, because in their own words, it’s a classic limiter. Oh well. It is free.

Modern Limiter comes with all the standard controls you would expect from a limiter – power on / off, gain reduction light, link / split modes, input, release, limit range, and output.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

dBComp by Analog Obsession

dBComp by Analog Obsession

Analog Obession’s dBComp is a drum compressor / limiter that can also be used on acoustic, electric, and bass guitars for extra snap.

Its standard set of controls include – attack time, release time, threshold, compression, HPF, mix, external sidechain, and oversampling (click on the logo / label to engage).

dBComp is Windows and Mac ready.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

What Is The Difference Between Clipping & Limiting?

The two effects are often mentioned in the same breath because they have certain things in common, with one of the commonalities being that both effects are frequently used in mixing, and more often, in mastering workflows.

Another thing they have in common is that both effects exhibit similar behavior, in that they prevent signals from going above the threshold you’ve set. They boost the perceived loudness of the audio they are affecting.

Additionally, both clippers and limiters will cut off the audio at a specific level, but where clipping will tend to add saturation and distortion, shaving off peaks in the audio, limiting will tend to preserve more of the dynamic content (peaks), and will usually introduce less distortion (though some limiters come with intentional, built-in saturation).

When you think of clipping more generally, it occurs when your gain levels are too aggressive, and the audio source is peaking. The result is a little unpredictable, with audible artifacts, muffling, distortion, and more.

While there are audio restoration plugins out there, trying to repair or restore a track that’s been recorded with noticeable imperfections is harder to fix. You may be able to reduce background noise, or boost the hard to hear audio, but taking something out of the recording that’s already there is difficult if not impossible.

There are times when you might want to introduce a bit of clipping into your tracks, though, and soft clipping, specifically, is known to enhance the sound of drums (presumably because drum sounds are often captured with slight peaking at the source).

So, the distinction here is that clipping during recording sessions can be problematic, but adding clipping after the fact, in the right situations, can enhance your tracks.

Meanwhile, limiters can be thought of as extreme compressors. They squash the signal to achieve maximum loudness. But they also limit how loud the track can go. And that’s what makes limiters perfect for mastering.

Should Clipping Be Avoided In Music?

Avoiding clipping during the recording process will allow for the maximum flexibility possible at the editing and mixing phase. That means taking the time necessary to achieve optimal level settings as you are tracking.

This only applies to the recording of live vocals or instruments, mind you, and it should not be a concern with samples, loops, or virtual instruments (though some level setting will still be par for the course, especially during the mixing process).

A little bit of clipping, especially with the snare or kick usually isn’t problematic (especially if we’re not talking excessive clipping). It can be a bigger issue with guitars or vocal tracks, though, so you want to make sure that your gain settings aren’t too hot while tracking.

Once you’ve captured your tracks in pristine clarity (or as close as possible), clipping your tracks after the fact probably has more benefits than downsides, though it will depend on the intended result.

Certainly, you will have tracks you don’t want to distort or saturate, but these days, the effect is pervasive across all musical styles. It comes in especially handy when you want a track to stand out in a mix.

There are ways of achieving saturation or distortion without clipping, of course, and you may prefer those methods instead – distortion, saturation, compression, etc.

As with anything else, though, clipping has its place in modern mixing and mastering, and if nothing else, it’s an effect worth keeping around.

How Are Clipper VST Plugins Used In Mastering?

As with limiters, clippers are often used for extra loudness in the mastering process. As clippers generally are the furthest thing from transparent, however, they will often add coloration / distortion to your mixes.

For certain types of productions, especially more aggressive genres, clipping can be quite complementary to the sound – percussive tracks, metal, dubstep, etc. It’s a different matter entirely for something like acoustic ballads, where the added harshness is bound to sound a little out of place.

Many producers or engineers avoid clippers or only use them sparingly. That said, clippers still have their creative uses and can be very effective for kicks, guitars, mixes, and more.

Since the loudness wars are over, clipping for added loudness (beyond established standards) is no longer a common practice. So, at this point it’s more of a creative mixing tool than anything else.

Final Thoughts

From clipping to limiting and more, we hope you found everything you were looking for in this guide.

And if for some reason the above is not enough, don’t forget that there are plenty of premium clippers waiting for you. Sure, they cost some money, but since they usually come with better features, support, and updates too, they are often worth the extra expense.

Either way, we wish you all the best on your recording journey!

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