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The Best Distortion Plugins for Mixing and Music Production


The Best Distortion Plugins for Mixing and Music Production  · 

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Add tone colour, character, and texture to your productions and mixes with the some of best distortion plugins available for your DAW.

Distortion and saturation are powerful tools for imparting unique tonal characteristics to any sound in your mix. Not only can these effects add and accentuate the tonal aspects of a signal, they also affect the dynamics.

When used aggressively, saturation can also function in a similar way to a compressor or limiter. However, instead of simply reducing the dynamic range, saturation and distortion can thicken a sound harmonically with some interesting and unexpected results.

The Best Distortion Plugins

This is why it can go from being a creative processor to a functional tool for achieving better mixes. While some plugins give you access to characteristics modelled from one or even several hardware units, others introduce additional features such as multiband or modular signal processing.

When mixing or producing music, there isn’t a right or wrong way to use distortion. Instead, think of these plug-ins as a way to provide new possibilities. Moreover, it can add a degree of sonic dimensionality that might not have been possible before.

Whether you use them subtly or aggressively, each distortion plug-in can give you a different approach to working with your sounds. Moreover, once you start using them as parallel signal processors, even more doors can open.

D16 Group Devastor 2

Devastor 2 is a multiband distortion plug-in derived from the distortion section of the Phoscyon acid bassline softsynth and expanded into a versatile effect that can be used on more than just synths.

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D16 Group Devastor 2
D16 Group Devastor 2

The processing is divided across the three multimode filters that can be used as low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, or band-reject filters. In addition, there are several signal routing options for more flexible tone shaping.

Meanwhile, the diode-clipper has a range of different shapes to use, and with the threshold, preamp, and dynamics knobs you can have a good degree of control over your sound.

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XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color

With its six internal effects modules, XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color provides a wide range of processing options based on vintage recording equipment. On each one, you’ll find the Flux control which adjusts how much of the analogue modelling engine interacts with your sound.

XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color
XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color

For starters, the noise generator allows you to layer tape and vinyl noise. Meanwhile, the Distortion module offers a selection of saturation and distortion types to add character. In addition, the Digital reduction module emulates the conversion chips from old-school samplers.

Overall, it’s an intuitive and versatile processor, perfect for adding texture and tonal depth to any sound. From drums to vocals and channel groups, the RC-20 will become an essential tool in your arsenal in music production and mixing workflows.

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iZotope Trash

Now in its 3rd version, iZotope Trash has slimmed down some of its more technical features, to offer users a more intuitive and easy-to-use processor. With its flexible 3-band interface, you can isolate and tune the processing to fit the exact application you need it for.

iZotope Trash
iZotope Trash

With the Trash module’s XY matrix, you can choose from 60 presets over each of the four quadrants. What’s more, the Convolve module gives you the ability to select and model ambiences to introduce spatial qualities to your sounds.

In addition, you have an envelope and filter with which to shape sounds. What’s more, the gain staging section has a limiter and an auto-gain function to control the dynamics of your signal.

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Soundtoys Decapitator

The popular Soundtoys Decapitator is a saturation plug-in offering a range of effects. Here, each is carefully modelled from classic hardware units such as the Ampex 350, the Chandler EMI TG Channel, the Neve 1057, and the Thermionic Culture Vulture.

Soundtoys Decapitator
Soundtoys Decapitator

With the five organic-sounding algorithms, you have a huge range of uses for the Decapitator. From drums to vocals, synths, and even your mix bus, there are ways that this processor can add depth to your sound.

Furthermore, the control interface gives you just the right tools to target the degree of saturation or distortion you want to add. Also, features like auto-gain and the wet/dry mix make it easy to adjust the level of processing taking place.

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FabFilter Saturn 2

With FabFilter Saturn 2, you get a versatile multiband modular distortion processor. Moreover, it’s equipped with 28 different types of distortion ranging from tube modeling saturation and amp simulation to digital reduction.

FabFilter Saturn 2
FabFilter Saturn 2

With up to 6 frequency bands, you can control drive, feedback, tone, dynamics, and mix. Moreover, the is a monster modulation section with a 50-slot matrix and 16-step LFOs to shape and animate your sound.

In addition, Saturn 2 supports mid-side processing and offers intuitive features like transient detection within the envelope followers. Overall, Saturn 2 is a distortion processor that goes way beyond simply changing a sound tonally and becomes a unique instrument.

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More about the Best Distortion Plugins:

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  • iZotope Trash: iZotope
  • pb: Plugin Boutique
The Best Distortion Plugins for Mixing and Music Production

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John Smith

My John Smith is a seasoned technology writer with a passion for unraveling the complexities of the digital world. With a background in computer science and a keen interest in emerging trends, John has become a sought-after voice in translating intricate technological concepts into accessible and engaging articles.

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