Head Crusher Free is the freeware version of it’s bigger sibling, Head Crusher, from Audio Assault.
Head Crusher ($39.99 USD) has seven more switches and two more knobs, so is obviously more versatile and configurable than the free version reviewed here. In fact, it looks a lot like (and the name is reminiscent of) Soundtoy’s Decapitator plugin. The model on review here is the freebie and I must admit that I use it quite a bit.
It’s great for adding solidity to groups such as electric guitars and basses and I’ve even been guilty of putting it on the master bus on occasion.
The three tone controls, labelled Low Cut, Tone and Hi Cut work remarkably well and allow for a surprising amount of control over the sounds available. The Low and Hi cut pots allow for bracketing of the frequencies over which the unit works, from broadband 20Hz – 20 kHz to somewhere in between 1kHz and 1kHz.
The Tone control shifts the tonal centre. Darker to the left, brighter to the right.
The Output control speaks for itself and allows for overall gain adjustment, while the Drive control depends on the level of the signal fed to the input of the plugin. In most cases, it works really well as a “beefer upper” with the Drive set to minimum. Other times you may find that increasing the Drive will give you the result you’re after. At higher drive levels, the result is sheer overload.
I haven’t tried the paid version because I’ve had so much fun with this freebie. Overdrive / saturation effects are everywhere these days and are built into many eq’s and channel strips, as well as a zillion dedicated crunchers like the Soundtoys versions and great freebies such as Camel Crusher.
However, there’s both sublety and power in this unit that appeals to me – and you can’t argue about the price!
The only tiny downside is that sometimes Head Crusher Free’s performance depends on the level of the signal you’re feeding in to it, so an extra input level trim before the drive knob would be great. But, then again, that would take away from the simplicity and you can always load up a gain trim plug before this one to get that little job done. Generally, though, it does the job just as it is.
∗ Update: This is no longer available, but the fully featured version sells for $50, and I’ve seen it on sale at $20. Bargain.