If you're looking for some of the best distortion plugins on the planet then you've come to the right place!
This page below lists 3 distortion plugins that can each in their own right become your go-to workhorse for most of your music production needs.
The purpose of this series of posts is to provide you with only 3 good DAW audio plugin choices for the different types of available professional music production plugins.
This, as you can imagine, is no easy task given the sheer amount of plugins available in most of the various audio plugin categories. Some really excellent contenders had to be left on the virtual cutting-room floor.
Why not just list more?
That would've been the easier option for me, but there are countless blog posts listing the 20 or 10 "best [.....] plugins". While these types of posts have their place and purpose they can still leave you with a bit of overwhelm when it comes to making a choice. Even more so when you start comparing plugin features.
So, the general idea of these posts is...
... to narrow-down to just 3 top contenders in each of the popular DAW plugin categories. This means you can start with a solid shortlist and demo the plugins which appeal to you most, knowing that these have been selected for good reasons.
So, how are the included plugins selected?
Nothing too scientific. It's a mix of my what I've picked up in my experience in audio and music for the past 20-ish years, coupled with some light research on sites with ratings and reviews and various lengthy "what's the best plugin for... ?" music production and audio forum posts. You know the ones. ;-)
So, you can think of it as my opinion plus a bit. Take it with a grain of salt as you would with any opinion about music production software and gear in general. My hope is you'll find the 3 recommended plugins in each category a good starting point and find the plugin that suits you best, faster.
First on the list of best distortion plugins is Saturn 2 by FabFilter.
From sweet subtle saturation to mindblastingly warped-out mangled decimated destruction, this beast of a distortion plugin can pretty much handle most of your distortion needs.
To start with you get to select from 28 different distortion styles. So, whether it's tube, tape, amp, transformer, smudge, breakdown, foldback, rectify or destroy you're after, you're covered.
Oh, and did I mention it's multi-band distortion? Well it is and that means you can add feedback, dynamics, drive, tone and modulation to specific bands of your frequency spectrum. Lovely.
Next, you get to modulate your sound in the modulation section with all the drag-and-drop style modulators you've come to expect from FabFilter plugins.
Saturn 2 is available for Mac and Windows and a trial version is also available.
Learn more about Saturn 2 and grab it right now here. (affiliate link)
Another one of the best distortion plugins for music production is Trash 2 by iZotope.
At the heart of this monster of a plugin you'll find dual-stage multiband waveshaping distortion. This allows you to chain two different stages of distortion together.
You can split the spectrum up into 4 separate frequency bands and apply different distortion to each band. You can therefore have up to 8 different flavors going per instance and you can choose from over 60 different distortion algorithms. You can further design your own distortions with Waveshaper.
The filter sections allows you to add pre and post distortion filters. These filters give you 20 nodes which are each able to be modulated to create filter sweeps, wahs, tremolo and other modulation effects.
After this you can send your sound through the convolve module. This powerful module allows you to place your sound in another space or object with amp, device, cabinet, effect and speaker convolution modeling. You can take it even further by loading up your own impulse responses.
Next you have the dynamics module which allows you to apply multiband compression and gating and the delay section which provides you with Tape, Tape/Tube, Analog, Lo-fi Digital, Broken Bit, and Digital delay types.
Finally your sound can be sent through an output limiter so that you can tame the behemoth you've just conjured in existence!
Trash 2 is available for Mac and Windows and there's a free trial so you can try before you buy.
You can learn more and grab Trash 2 here. (affiliate link)
Last but by no means least on our list of the best distortion plugins we have Devastator 2 by D16 Group.
Don't let the simple hardware-looking interface fool you. This is a powerful little sonic-mangler!
It consists basically of 4 main sections or blocks which are:
It features 9 different topologies for connection of the diode clipper and the filters so you can filter before, after and in even alongside the clipper.
Each of the 3 filters can be set to low-pass, band-pass, high-pass and band-reject and you can adjust the cutoff and resonance on each of the filters individually.
You can also add an output limiter should you want to bring your sound back under control dynamically.
Devastator 2 is available for Mac and Windows and a there's a demo version so you can check it out first.
Learn more about Devastator 2 right now and grab it here. (affiliate link)
There's no denying the vital role distortion plays in sound design, production and mixing today. It may be subtle or in your face but you'd be hard-pressed to find a popular track that doesn't have distortion somewhere in the mix.
I trust at least 1 of the 3 distortion plugins listed above will serve your needs and requirements well but if you want to discover more great options then be sure to check out Plugin Boutique's current selection of distortion plugins, sorted by rating for your convenience, here.
Learn to understand equalisers and frequencies to supercharge your mixing skills and get results, fast...
New producer? Learn everything you need to produce your first professional track right now...
Would you like to discover the simplest and easiest way to learn music theory as a music producer?