Marauder (currently in beta) is an interesting free dynamic distortion effect in 32-bit VST plugin format for Windows based host applications, released by AudioParlour.
Being much more than just a simple linear distortion unit, Marauder is based on a network of four gain stages which operate together creating an outstandingly organic distortion effect. I won’t go too much into detail here (you can check out the demo video embedded below to hear the plugin in action if you want), however I can’t help but say that I absolutely loved how the device responds to the amplitude of the audio signal on the input, even at the most extreme high gain settings.
Adding to that, the plugin offers a broad palette of distortion flavors. If you want to use it as a subtle saturation tool, Marauder can go all the way from a round tube style sound to that silky tape style saturation. At high gain settings, I was able to get two or three different great sounding types of distortion by experimenting with the Gain A, Gain B and T.D.M. parameters. In short, this is one of those plugins which really need to be fine tweaked in order to get the best possible result, but the work you put into it is extremely rewarding if you manage to dial in the right setting for your audio material.
The currently available version of Marauder is basically a public beta, however the developer has pointed out that this version will remain free forever. An improved commercial version of the plugin which is planned for release this year will include some additional features, although it’s not yet clear what those features will be. Thinking about the possible improvements on this already great concept, I would definitely like to see an auto-gain switch which would make the sweet spot detection process a whole lot simpler.
Although Marauder is currently available only as a 32-bit VST plugin, the developer has announced that more platforms will be supported in the future. I’m not sure if that relates to the commercial version exclusively, or if the basic free version will also be updated in that direction.
Marauder is available for free download via AudioParlour (28.5 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit VST plugin format for Windows).