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Best Distortion Plugins That Sound Like The Real Thing

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he biggest benefit about so many plugins is they don’t have to be used on one thing. The versatility that comes with them, especially distortion, is that you can put them on anything. Yeah, the standard is guitars and such, but to help bring out a vocal on a track (especially with parallel compression) many will throw on a distortion plugin. 

The Best Distortion Plugins Highlighted

But thinking about these in the regular approach, distortion has become iconic for guitars. With the right distortion, you can take a track from being “so so,” to being cranked in the car with everyone’s head banging. 

What To Look For When Choosing a Distortion Plugin

Below you will find what you need to look at specifically whenever you are looking for your next distortion plugin.

Pricing

Many of these plugins are a total steal if you look at the right times. Distortion and saturator plugins are way better than pedals when it comes to recording due to their customization that goes more in-depth than many pedals, at half the price

Compatibility – System Requirements

Most plugins will work with any operating system, but you will want to make sure yours is up to date. The biggest barrier that many producers, especially newer ones, will run into is having slower and outdated computers that cannot keep up. 

DAW Compatibility

For compatibility, you need to find a good distortion that works on your DAW, and any other you will come in contact with. If you are like most engineers, you have your one main DAW and then one that you will work in on the side. 

Frequency of Use

You want to be able to pick a plugin that will help you in as many ways as possible. A lot of engineers will track a guitar with a straight DI signal as well as through an amp. If you add distortion to the DI it can create a great tone in combination with the amplifier. 

AMP Features & Tone

Each distortion will have its own style and tone you will need to look for. Make sure you know the style you are looking for. Or if you want one that works for many different styles, you will most likely have to pay a little more to get all of the universal options in one package. 

Skill Level

Most distortion plugins are designed to work in the same way as a pedal. So if you have experience with that, you will be all set. However, some will have a layout like an amp head, with more options for more detailed settings. 

7 Best Distortion & Saturation Plugins

For these plugins, we are looking for purely distortion and saturation in the plugin. If you are wanting to learn about the best emulators and amp heads subscribe to see our guide on best guitar VSTs.

These are our picks for the best distortion and saturation plugins.

1. MDMX Distortion Modules

MDMX Distortion Modules

Waves has outdone themselves when it comes to distortion plugins. This one, in particular, comes with 3 different styles of distortion in one package that allows you to dial in literally any tone you want to. Although commonly utilized for guitar, it’s common to add depth and tone to something like hip hop vocals.

  • Who’s it for? Intermediate Engineers and Above
  • Tone: Any
  • Price: $99
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Pro Tools. 

System Requirements: 

MacWindows
Memory8 GB RAM8 GB free disk space on the system drive8 GB RAM8 GB free disk space on the system drive
Operating System10.12.6-10.15Windows 10 64 bit

Get this plugin.

2. Abbey Road Saturator

Abbey Road Saturator

The Abbey Road Saturator is one of my personal favorites and is known for its ability to bring out the raw grit on any track. If you want to drive anything from guitars to drums or even vocals, this is the best choice.

  • Who’s it for? Intermediate to Advanced
  • Tone: Raw and Gritty
  • Price: $199
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Logic.

System Requirements: 

MacWindows
Memory8 GB RAM8 GB free disk space on the system drive8 GB RAM8 GB free disk space on the system drive
Operating System10.12.6-10.15Windows 10 64 bit

Get this plugin.

3. Saturn

Saturn

This plugin from fabfilter has so many capabilities that can shape your tone in one place. It has received praise from grammy-nominated engineers as well as being a praised plugin by gearslutz.com. 

  • Who’s it for? Intermediate and Experienced Engineers
  • Tone: Rough and Gritty
  • Price: $154
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Ableton Live.

System Requirements: 

MacWindows
Memory8 GB RAM8 GB RAM
Operating SystemOS X 10.8 or HigherWindows 10, 8, 7, Vista, or XP

See on Splice.

4. Saturator X

Saturator X

The Saturator X from IK Multimedia is a heavy driver that really pushes each track it’s on to the limit. It has multiple styles for matching the perfect sound to your song. 

  • Who’s it for? Beginners
  • Tone: Crisp Distortion
  • Price: $79.99
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Reason.

System Requirements: 

MacWindows
Memory4 GB of Ram (8 GB suggested)4 GB of Ram (8 GB suggested)
Operating System10.9 or laterWindows 7, 8, or 10

Get this plugin.

5. Renaissance Bass

Renaissance Bass

Also known as the R Bass, this plugin is a fantastic plugin that you can find on many of my own tracks. This plugin really pushes the limits of your guitar, bass, or keyboards. 

  • Who’s it for? Beginners and above
  • Tone: Low and Rumbling
  • Price: $79
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Studio 1. 

System Requirements: 

MacWindows
Memory8 GB RAM8 GB free disk space on the system drive8 GB RAM8 GB free disk space on the system drive
Operating System10.12.6-10.15Windows 10 64 bit

Get this plugin.

6. OneKnob Driver

OneKnob Driver

If you are looking for a straight edge to bring into your vocals or guitars, but do not know much about creating your own tones? Look no further. This is a great first step when it comes to learning how to mix in your own distortions. 

  • Who’s it for? Beginners
  • Tone: Rough Vintage
  • Price: $49
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Garageband

System Requirements: 

MacWindows
Memory8 GB RAM8 GB free disk space on the system drive8 GB RAM8 GB free disk space on the system drive
Operating System10.12.6-10.15Windows 10 64 bit

Get this plugin.

7. SSL Native X-Saturator

SSL Native X-Saturator

Solid State Logic has been playing a key role in music for decades. Their boards and equipment are the thing of legend and now, you have the opportunity to work with their own equipment like never before. 

  • Who’s it for? Intermediate
  • Tone: Cleanly Distorted
  • Price: $119
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for (choose a random one)

System Requirements: 

MacWindows
Memory4 GB of Ram (8 GB suggested)4 GB of Ram (8 GB suggested)
Operating System10.10 or laterWindows 7 SP1 or later

Get this plugin.

Drive Your Experience

The next step in your mixes is pushing that distortion to its peak. Having your instruments stick out is your #1 priority. With that in mind, you need the ride drive to push you to taking your next jump in your mixing capabilities. With the information we brought here, you can find just what you need to give yourself that edge.

Compare Distortion Plugin Prices

PluginManufacturerPrice
MDMX Distortion ModulesWaves$99
Abbey Road SaturatorWaves$199
Saturnfabfilter$154
Saturator XIK Multimedia$79
Renaissance BassWaves$79
OneKnob DriverWaves$49
SSL Native X-SaturatorSolid State Logic$199

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