This legendary VST plugin is not only known for its obscure name. In fact, Camel Crusher by Camel Audio has been a staple distortion/saturation plugin for producers, and mixing engineers for over 15 years. The best part? It’s completely free. Let’s take a close look at some of its features, and how to use them in your productions!
What is Camel Crusher?
Although it’s a stripped-down version of the more advanced premium plugin CamelPhat, Camel Crusher holds its own against other big names in the distortion market. Truth be told, I’ve gotten better results with Camel Crusher than I have with expensive plugins such as iZotope Trash and Soundtoys Decapitator.
As a testament to how great Camel Crusher is, Apple acquired the plugin back in 2015 and merged its features into their own stock VST on Logic Pro X. Since then its been called Phat FX, and the original plugin Camel Crusher has been hard to come by.
- Easy-to-use interface
- Light on CPU
- Great variety of pre-made sounds
- No learning curve
- MIDI mappable
- Product discontinued – no updates or support available
- No official source to get the plugin files
- Not compatible with Logic Pro 10.5
Camel Crusher Features
- Two distortion types – Tube and Mech
- Warm, analog-style resonant low-pass filter
- Phat-mode allow you to supercharge the compressor
- 20 beautiful sounding presets ranging from subtle to beef effect
- Allow producers to load extra third-party presets
- Randomize button
- MIDI Learn function
The interface consists of four different modules: Distortion, Filter, Compressor, and Master. It also offers a preset menu and a randomize button.
The distortion section consists of two knobs, ‘TUBE’ and ‘MECH’.
As the name suggests, ‘TUBE’ is a tube saturator which is a highly popular form of analog emulation. It’s best used for subtle colorization to achieve a better, warmer, more expansive pro-sound. Tube saturation can be used on any given sound to make it stand out even more in the mix.
The ‘MECH’ knob is quite the opposite of ‘TUBE’, as mechanical sounding distortion is everything except subtle colorization. This is the knob to use if you’re looking to completely maul and destroy the audio. Great for heavy distortion and sound design!
The filter section is the same as any other filter interface and it includes two knobs, ‘CUTOFF’ and ‘RES’. You should have no problem understanding the filter section if you’ve worked with other filters in the past, as they behave in the same way.
‘CUTOFF’ is a low pass filter (LPF), meaning it cuts high-frequencies above your set threshold. The knob determines the threshold and the range of high frequencies to be cut.
The ‘RES’ knob adds a controlled boost of the cutoff frequency, which allows you to sharpen the response of the filter. You’re basically sending some of the filter’s output back to the input, allowing you to create some interesting pitch harmonics.
Overall, the filter in Camel Crusher is basic, yet useful. I would have liked to have more filter modes included, to be able to adjust the distortion filter even further.
In the name of simplicity, the compression section in Camel Crusher only includes the ‘AMOUNT’ knob. There are no additional controls for attack, release, threshold, or knee.
So what is ‘AMOUNT’? It controls the dynamic reduction of the compressor. If you push it all the way to the right, you’ll end up with a sound with no dynamic range. Think of it as your threshold.
To the right of the ‘AMOUNT’ control, you also have a button called ‘PHAT MODE’. It’s a big in-your-face boost that supercharges the setting to the extremes. It definitely “phattens” the tones, and the toggle switch is a helpful way to A/B the two sounds.
The compressor can also be used for subtle dynamic control. It really shines on percussions and drums, as it helps them stand out in the mix.
The master section includes knobs for “VOLUME” and ‘MIX’.
‘MIX’ is a dry/wet knob that allows you to dial in the amount of signal processing to your original sound. If you turn it down, you only hear the unprocessed signal. By turning it to the right, you start blending the unprocessed sound with Camel Crusher’s processed signal.
‘VOLUME’ is exactly what it sounds like, a volume control. This is handy if you need to change the amount of gain in the gain staging process.
Patch + Randomize
Last but not least, Camel Crusher also features a preset menu and a randomize button. The preset folder includes 20 presets, designed to encompass the wide spectrum of possible distortion effects. Using presets can be a great starting point when you’re dialing in your own settings.
You can also save your own preset settings, or use third-party presets from the internet. Unfortunately, they are hard to find.
‘RANDOMIZE’ is great if you lack creativity. Simply click the button, and see where it leads. Each of the four blocks has an ‘ON’ button and if it’s toggled, that block will be randomized. On the other hand, you can also only randomize the distortion section if all other sections are turned off.
How does Camel Crusher VST sound?
Firstly, Camel Crusher can be used for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from absolute sound crushing to subtle colorization. Over the years, it has served me well as a versatile distortion and saturation plugin.
Secondly, it can be used if you want to add grit to 808 kicks or thicken the sound of any guitar or synthesizer. The extreme presets and settings are ideal for sound design, and you can get some interesting results with extreme distortion mixed with a lot of dry signal.
I personally use Camel Crusher for subtle colorization. It’s my go-to plugin every time I want something to stand out in the mix. It doesn’t matter if it’s vocals, guitars, percussions, or piano. Camel Crusher’s subtle sound processing gets the job done.
Lastly, the algorithms used in the plugin are extremely high-end, giving it a clean and crisp sound. This is super-rare when it comes to free plugins, and more often than not you end up with unwanted ugly harmonics.
Camel Crusher is as light on the CPU as it can get. It requires a very basic skillset, making it ideal for beginners. On the other hand, you can achieve some premium results with this simple plugin, making it a go-to saturation VST for experienced producers. There is something for everybody between the presets, modules, and the randomize feature.
Another powerful feature is the MIDI mapping capability. All knobs and buttons in Camel Crusher are MIDI mappable, meaning you can control the whole VST plugin with your MIDI keyboard. Simply right-click on the desired knob, hit ‘MIDI Learn’, and assign it by moving any knob or fader on your MIDI controller.
MIDI mapping makes the whole process of music production much more enjoyable. Instead of using your mouse to draw automation, simply hit record and move your knobs until you reach your desired result.
Price and Value
In case you missed it, Camel Crusher is completely FREE. It’s hard to argue about the value when you don’t have to reach for your wallet.
Even if it’s free, Camel Crusher is a strong competitor that offers the same value as premium plugins. There is no reason you shouldn’t have it in your arsenal.
Artists Who Use Camel Crusher
Even if Camel Crusher is a completely free VST, it’s been used in tracks made by multi-million dollar producers:
- What So Not
- Major Lazer
How To Install Camel Crusher
The first step is to download the VST files. Once you have them downloaded to your computer, follow the steps below.
- Unzip the VST file
- Copy the .dll-file to your VST plugin folder
- Restart your DAW
- Rescan your plugin folder in your DAW
- Unzip the file
- Locate the .vst-file or .component-file
- Copy it to your VST plugin folder
- Restart your DAW
- Rescan your plugin folder in your DAW
Camel Crusher Alternatives
Camel Crusher by Camel Audio is a free distortion/saturation multi-effect used by music production pros all over the world. Even if the product officially is discontinued, you can find it floating around the internet.
Maybe you can’t afford premium distortion/saturation plugins such as iZotope Trash 2, Fabfilter Saturn, or Soundtoys Decapitator. Or maybe you just want a new toy in your music production toolbox. Don’t worry, the great performance Camel Crusher offers at absolutely no cost makes it a must-have in everyone’s VST library.
Add subtle warm tube saturation, completely maul your guitar recordings, or experiment with the randomize-feature. Camel Crusher truly is a workhorse, and you can download it for free here.