Distortion is a great way to add colour and character to sound. There are many types of distortion ranging from subtle saturation right through to in your face gritty overdrive. I can not think of many mix situations where I don't use some kind distortion to help shape a tone or define an instrument. There are countless applications for distortion in music production with the following distortion plug-ins being used very regularly in my workflows.
VTM Virtual Tape Machine By Slate Digital
The VTM by Slate Digital is a plug-in I like to use on a mix buss as it helps me to combine elements within my mix together in a tasteful way. To my ears the distortion effect is subtle and if I hear it I tend to back the input off slightly. The distortion effect is apparent in the high and low end giving that glue effect I love in VTM. VTM is a great plug-in as it reminds me that distortion works really quite well if used subtly.
The SansAmp PSA-1 is an oldie but still one of my favourite distortion plug-ins as it offers several controls that help me to achieve some pretty outrageous distortion tones. I like to use one of the main Buzz, Punch, Crunch or Drive controls in combination with the Low & High controls. If you learn the sound of each of the controls then this becomes a very quick and intuitive distortion plug-in that will never fail you. This is also a free plug-in bundled with Pro Tools available in AAX native & AAX DSP.
Saturation Knob By Softube
Simplicity is sometimes best and the best one-knob style distortion plug-in is The Saturation Knob By Softube. The Saturation knob can help lift a track forward in a crowded mix when volume, EQ or compression just aren't cutting it. The Saturation Knob is a firm favourite on my drum buss, electric guitar tracks and synths. Softube offer The Saturation knob as a free plug-in.
Destructor By Blue Cat Audio
The Blue Cat Destructor is my latest and greatest distortion plug-in that offers in-depth control that enables me to get some really amazing distortion results. It can generate realistic guitar amp sounds while also being a very cool distortion mix tools for everything else. I used Destructor recently on a very busy mix that had pedal steel, lap steel, dobro, electric guitars, bass and drums. The Destructor helped me stamp each of those instruments with an identity which in turn helped me place each instrument quickly in the mix. Seriously download the demo of The Destructor if you have not done so yet.
Kramer Master Tape By Waves
Where the Slate VTM is my subtle mix buss tape glue the Kramer Master Tape by Waves is my creative instrument tape distortion. The distortion/saturation effect is much more apparent in this plug-in which is great for crunchy tones on individual tracks. To my ears the effect is too much on a mix buss but helps to add character on piano and other keyboard instruments. The Wow & Flutter effect is also a tad over the top, which is great for viby creative effects.
Let's Hear Some Of Yours
What are the distortion plug-ins you like to use and why?