Top 11 Distortion Plugins 2023 (And 4 Top Free Plugins)

Top 11 Distortion Plugins 2021 (And 4 Top Free Plugins) VST, AAX..

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the 11 best distortion plugins for 2023. Additionally, we’ll show you four free alternatives and one bonus plugin.

Distortion has been a trend in music production over the past few years. It seems like people have gotten tired of high-fidelity recordings, but who’s complaining? The more lo-fi it sounds, the better it is for home producers to make art out of noisy recordings.

If you’re here because you’re looking for that warm, distorted texture, search no further. In a nutshell, here are the best distortion plugins in 2023:

1. Arturia Dist COLDFIRE

2. PROCESS AUDIO Spicerack

3. Output THERMAL

4. Cableguys DriveShaper

5. Arturia Dist TUBE-CULTURE

6. iZotope Trash 2

7. FabFilter Saturn 2

8. Audio Damage Kombinat Tri

9. AudioThing Wave Box

10. Eventide CrushStation

11. D16 Group Devastor 2

11 Best Distortion Plugins 2023

1. Arturia Dist COLDFIRE

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

The Arturia Dist Coldfire is a revolutionary dual distortion plugin featuring a powerful modulation engine and a wide variety of distortion types that you can swap in and out.

There are two independent distortion engines in Dist Coldfire, and you can use them in whatever combination you like. A variety of pre-and post-distortion filters are available for each distortion type. Analog-modeled and purely digital distortion types are both available.

With assignable parameter modulation and dynamics processing, Dist Coldfire can dish out virtually any dirt you want.

Key Features:

  • Distortion Types
    There are 150 factory settings to help you get started, some of which are meant to transform ordinary drum loops into snarling, ripping monsters. A total of eleven distinct kinds of distortion are available in the various distortion menus, with more options available in some categories.
    For example, bit inverters and bit crushers are just two of the eleven primary flavors. Other examples include wave folders, wave shapers, rectifiers, tape and analog saturation, driven transformers, and so on. In addition, there is a delay section in the processing, with feedback, filtering, and tempo sync as options.
  • User Interface
    The distortion engines sit opposite sides of the interface, while the master, band split, and dynamics controls sit in the middle. Tooltips explain what each control does and show the current setting. The input and output level controls can be linked to keeping the volume under control when cranking up the distortion.
    You can independently adjust the overall output level and wet/dry ratio. A horizontal fader controls the volume of each distortion engine independently.
  • Modulators
    The pre-and post-distortion filters, multiband/feedback, and extensive modulation section are all accessible via the advanced panel’s tabs, wherein you can choose LFO, Function, Follower, or Sequencer options. Because of its modulation capabilities, Coldfire is a potent tool for improvising with drum loops, and its modulators can be assigned to virtually any control in Dist Coldfire, including other modulators.
    However, the sequencers and function generators can also transform rhythmic elements from sustained instrument parts. The output filters can be set to a high pass or low pass, while the pre-filters can be set to a bandpass, notch, or one of two combs.
  • Oversampling
    Studio and Render oversampling modes are offered. The latter uses higher resolution but at the expense of increased CPU overhead. Whichever is selected, it will apply to both online and offline renderings despite the different titles.
  • Dynamics And Feedback
    Arturia includes a dynamics and feedback component to round out the signal chain. Compressors, multiband compressors, and a limiter that can be placed before or after the distortion make up the dynamics section. Instruments that assist you in reining in and smoothing out your distorted audio.
    Whether you find these instruments too simplistic or the entire dual distortion doesn’t have enough bang; feedback is always there to help. Dist Coldfire incorporates a feedback processor, which you may access through the panel’s advanced settings. It uses a filter to delay the feedback, and you can change the beat rate.
Tutorials | Dist COLDFIRE - Overview


The OS requirements for this plugin are Windows 7 or higher for PC and macOS 10.9 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/RTAS/AU/AAX formats and supports 32 and 64 bit systems.


Arturia’s Dist Coldfire is yet another innovative plugin that aims to expand traditional sound design. That goal was met, too. One of the best features they provide is a dual distortion plugin that sets them apart. From traditional saturations and distortions to techniques like wave folding/waveshaping and bit-flipping, you’ll find it all here.

2. PROCESS AUDIO Spicerack

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

PureMix’s software company, Process Audio, has released an audio plugin called “Spicerack.”

Because it was conceived, built, and fine-tuned by Grammy-winning engineers, Spicerack radically rethinks how often audio saturation and distortion are accomplished. There are five distinct types of harmonic distortion available in Spicerack, each of which can be used to saturate further, distort, shape, or texturize your audio.

Five algorithms have been designed and fine-tuned to provide a wide range of colors that are valuable to any producer and mixing engineer.

Key Features:

  • Parallel Processing
    After adjusting the volume of the processed signal with the Wet Gain knob, users can blend it in with the unprocessed sound using the Mix knob, which provides parallel processing. Finally, a Console Remote function enables simultaneous interaction with several instances of Spicerack within a single session.
  • Distortion Types
    Drive, Tube, Amp, Lo-Fi, and Fuzz are just a few distortion types available in the plugin, which can be selected using the buttons at the top of the user interface. The Gate section, which comes after the input level knob, lets users target only the loudest parts of the source signal for processing.
    The Drive control and its associated automatic gain settings can be found in the following section, along with a Drive Boost button that provides an additional 18dB of gain. Finally, by using a selector switch, the user can decide whether to process the entire signal, the center channel only or the left and right channels independently.
  • User Interface
    The Auto Gain Compensation and Calibration features in Spicerack make it possible to smoothly adjust the main Drive control between its minimum and maximum settings, allowing users to quickly and easily apply the desired saturation.
    In addition, the effect uses the true linear-phase technology pioneered by Process Audio’s Sugar plugin, which, according to the developer, is a first for a parallel saturation plugin and produces previously unheard results when blending wet and dry signals.
  • EQ Section
    We then move on to the EQ, where linear filters cancel out unwanted noise when mixing wet and dry signals. Peak and tilt controls are available in addition to low-pass and high-pass filters. The equalizer’s graph is displayed vertically rather than horizontally, and it sits next to a sizable Tone slider that you can use to darken or brighten the overall sound.
    The EQ knob can come either before or after the Drive control. You can activate the linear-phase mode via a button at the bottom of the user interface; however, doing so will increase both latency and CPU usage.
Spicerack Creative Distortion - Trailer
Review: Spicerack from Process Audio - Full Distortion Flavour?


This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST/RTAS/AU/AAX formats and supports 32 and 64 bit systems.


It’s a greater plugin with well-designed distortion algorithms, auto gain adjustment for gain staging, and low CPU usage. But if you haven’t decided about SpiceRack yet, try out a trial version in the link above, which comes with the full version regardless of whether you decide to keep it.

3. Output THERMAL

More Info & Price

Output THERMAL Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Output’s Thermal is a minimalistic distortion plugin with a robust set of controls under the hood.

With various built-in effects, Thermal goes way beyond simple distortion. The plugin has loads of presets that it automatically offers you based on the input material. All sounds are controllable through the circular XY graph that balances whatever effects are assigned to the two knobs on the right-hand side of the GUI.

Key Features:

  • Three Stages
    Each stage lets you add modulations, effects, distortions, width, tone, and EQ, independently, as well as define in which frequency range it will operate.
  • Modulations & Effects
    The plugin offers nine effects, including chorus, bit reducer, flanger, reverb, delay, and a few more. Additionally, you can add up to two modulations, including fully customizable LFOs. You can assign the modulations to any parameters in the effects.
  • Humanize
    This excellent feature ensures that every new cycle will be slightly different so that the modulations feel a bit more natural.
  • Master Compressor
    At the end of the signal chain, you can add a bypassable compressor if you feel like taming the entire processing.

Character & Sound:

Thermal creates sounds a lot crazier than its minimal interface could ever show. With over 25o presets and over fifteen custom distortion types, it would be easy to get lost. Thankfully, Output has made Thermal so intuitive that it’s easy to create mind-bending distortion effects on your own.

THERMAL by Output | Interactive Distortion FX Plugin
Thermal by Output | New Distortion & Saturation VST Plugin | Tutorial & Review of Key Features


This plugin is available for Windows 7 or later and macOS 10.13 or newer in VST, AAX, and AU formats.


Thermal is a must-have plugin that will easily attend to your direst distortion needs. Don’t get fooled by its simple interface. By accessing the parameters panel, you’ll find a golden land of modulations that no other plugin on our list has shown. This is definitely a worthy purchase for your collection.

Related Reading:

6 Best OUTPUT VST Plugins For Music Production 2023

4. Cableguys DriveShaper

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Cableguys DriveShaper Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Cableguys’ DriveShaper gives you complete control over the distortion and its modulations.

This plugin lets you split the audio into three bands and add different LFOs for each band. You can draw the oscillations with unlimited points in the graph and add to each LFO a different distortion style. All this makes DriveShaper the utility belt of distortion plugins.

Key Features:

  • Distortion Styles
    The ten available styles are separated into three groups: Classic, Rectify, and Wavefolding. The result is a comprehensive offering of proper modes plus a few off-the-curve additions that make this plugin stand out.
  • LFO Smoothing
    If your shape is adding a few clicks and pops to your audio, the plugin makes it simple to get rid of them with the LFO Smoothing slider.
  • Accent & Tone
    These two parameters work with the distorted parts, and while Accent controls the level, Tone shapes the EQ, cutting highs or lows.
  • Grip
    This is almost like a gate for your distortion, preventing unwanted sounds between the critical notes to be distorted.
  • Push
    This is how you can make this plugin turn into an asymmetric distortion engine, by applying DC offset. It works with the Rectify and Wavefolding styles.

Character & Sound:

From the get-go, the plugin offers nine LFO waveform presets. They sound amazing already and can be an excellent inspiration for your own shapes. The sound is full and well made, and the three-band approach lets you stack drive on top of drive, which, even in different frequency regions, can create a unique sound.

How To Use Cableguys DriveShaper In 5 Minutes | Distortion VST/AU/AAX Plugin Tutorial


This plugin is available for macOS 10.8 and up and Windows 7 and higher in VST and AU formats.


DriveShaper is an excellent plugin that deserves to be your toolkit. Its wide array of parameters make it one of the most versatile on our list and a reliable plugin for several musical genres.

5. Arturia Dist TUBE-CULTURE

More Info & Price (Trial Available)
One of the best harmonic distortion recreations to come by recently.

Dist TUBE-CULTURE is a rendition of the classic Thermionic Culture’s Ultra Vulture unit that provided rich harmonic saturation in the audio signal. Some extra and modern features were also included by Arturia, making it a versatile and trustworthy software that highly resembles its precursor.

Key Features:

    • Adjustable BIAS
      The original Ultra Vulture unit was built in a tube-powered circuit, as the most common choice regarding great-sounding audio gear. Tubes provide a very specific warmth and character to your equipment, and this is greatly transcribed inside Dist TUBE-CULTURE. The “BIAS” knob adjusts the total amount of current running in the tube –  a 6AS6 in this case – which can dictate whether the tube sounds more aggressive or more subtle in the mix.
    • Distortion modes
      Distortion is a subjective effect that can vary significantly. You can saturate any signal from a slight way all the way up to aggressive behavior, and this can be even more simplified with the distortion modes available in Dist TUBE-CULTURE. You can choose between “Triode,” “Pentode 1,” “Pentode 2,” and “Pentode 3,” each reflecting a specific sound character ranging from subtle to gritty.
    • Presets
      Everything’s much easier with presets. Arturia included 51 factory presets that extend through a wide range of dynamics, from smooth and harmonic textures to more edgy, hard distortion. They offer easy access to iconic sound profiles, even tailored for specific instruments.
    • Presence switch
      This useful switch works just like in the original hardware: you can switch between mid and high boosts. In essence, the “Air” position boosts high frequencies only, whereas the “Presence” option boosts both mid and high frequencies. You can also deactivate this option at any time.
    • Ammeter
      The main panel contains another ode to the original hardware. The ammeter displayed in the user interface is a handy way to monitor the exact bias value running in the plugin, measured in milliamps. When in “Advanced Mode,” clicking in the meter will alternate between input, output, and bias graphic displays, aside from a frequency analyzer that extends the entire spectrum. 
Tutorials | Dist TUBE-CULTURE - Overview


This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 8.1 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in standalone mode and VST, NKS, AAX, and AU plugin formats.


Digital renditions of famous audio hardware are mostly tricky because they can promise more than they can offer. That’s not the case with Dist TUBE-CULTURE, mainly due to the harmonic response in every subtle parameter variation.

Distorting a signal does not depend solely on adding gain but also on adding character simultaneously. This is why great records we know and love sound the way they do, and Arturia once again nailed this rendition in the best way possible.

The presets are a good way to start exploring, but tweaking the parameters around them can be just as inspiring to do.

Related Reading:

Top 14 Arturia Plugins For Musicians 2023

6. iZotope Trash 2

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

iZotope Trash 2 Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

iZotope’s Trash 2 goes above and beyond by offering over 60 distortion algorithms and a built-in convolution engine.

The plugin offers multi-band distortion with a two-stage approach so that you can add two different distortions per band. You can use the waveshaper to fine-tune the distortion or create entirely new sounds. Additionally, the plugin offers two effects, two filters, and two modulation options.

Key Features:

  • Trash Module
    This is the primary distortion engine. It lets you process up to four independent bands, add logarithmic distortion and a DC offset filter for extra refinement.
  • Convolve Module
    The plugin offers over 100 impulse responses so you can turn your instruments into other, perhaps more exciting sounds.
  • Multiband Dynamics Module
    The built-in compressor and gate give you complete control over each band individually, with the most critical parameters for each processor.
  • Delay Module
    This module offers six different kinds of delays with the possibility of adding distortion to the delay.

Character & Sound:

The plugin sounds especially good on drums since you can use the convolution module to make individual pieces sound a lot different. That’s, of course, in case you want to use the plugin lightly. You can create insanely gritty textures for growling bass, razor-like synths, and screaming guitars. The plugin makes it super easy to reach any of those sounds with the over 300 presets available.

The Power Of Trash 2


This plugin is available for macOS 10.8 through 10.15 and Windows XP and newer in AAX, AU, RTAS, VST, and VST3 formats.


iZotope has been developing great plugins for years, and this is no different. Trash is a highly versatile distortion with precisely the right amount of extra features. It’s undoubtedly a must-have for your collection.

Related Reading:

Top 12 Plugins For Logic Pro X 2023 (Instruments & Effects)

7. FabFilter Saturn 2

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

FabFilter Saturn 2 Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Saturn 2, by FabFilter, is a highly versatile multi-band distortion plugin with a transparent sound.

Like most FabFilter plugins, this one is a parameter powerhouse. As you look at it for the first time, you’ll probably think, “Is that all?”. But as you start adding modulations, linking parameters, and adding bands, you’ll understand how creative you can get with the sound. The plugin’s intelligent algorithm adapts easily to anything you add to it, and the results will be different whenever you need them to be.

Key Features:

  • 6-band processing
    You can click the waveform graph wherever you feel like adding a band crossover. The plugin lets you add up to six that can be individually tweaked.
  • Multi-band compression
    If you select all bands and raise the Dynamics knob, t
    he intelligent algorithm will add program-dependent multi-band compression to your track.
  • Transient Mode
    The envelope followers can become transient designers with the click of a button. Simply link the EF to any band’s level knob and select Transient Mode.
  • Width Controls
    You can add distortion to the subbass and make only the lower frequencies mono with the width control positioned around the Level knob.

Character & Sound:

The plugin offers several distortion modes which can be used softly or taken to extremes. For example, the Subtle modes all sound amazingly transparent and can even be added to a mastering chain for coloration. The more overdriven textures will sound astonishing on any instrument. Overall, the plugin sounds clean and precise, without the addition of the common unwanted distortion artifacts.

Introduction to FabFilter Saturn 2


This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher and Windows XP or newer in VST2, VST3, AXX, and AU formats.


FabFilter’s Saturn 2 is ahead of its time. It’s flabbergasting how adaptable the plugin is and all the things you can do with it. It is a distortion plugin, but it’s also a multi-band swiss-army knife. This is undoubtedly a must-have for your toolset.

Related Reading:

Top 10 FabFilter Plugins For Mixing & Mastering 2023

8. Audio Damage Kombinat Tri

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Audio Damage Kombinat Tri Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Audio Damage’s Kombinat Tri has three distortion engines with thirteen different algorithm options for each.

Each algorithm offers a different tone-shaping characteristic which improves this plugin’s versatility. Since you can apply them individually into each band, you can use the same or different ones for various sound combinations.

Key Features:

  • Multiband Distortion Plugin
    Offers 12 different filter topologies to allow you extreme sound-bending.
  • Kompressor
    The plugin’s built-in compressor is a one-knob wonder that can add clean distortion or smash everything.
  • Feedback
    The plugin lets you control an envelope follower through the feedback section, which expands its modulation abilities.
  • Presets
    Including designer presets and user favorites from other versions
    , the presets on this plugin give you great starting points for your timbres.

Character & Sound:

However you want your distortion, Kombinat Tri can help you achieve it. Underneath the simple interface, the plugin offers a vast sonic landscape. All you have to do is mix and match the algorithms and tackle the parameters. Additionally, the crossover points are precise to the point of fully isolating bands.

Audio Damage Kombinat Tri Review 2021 | (Better Than You Think!)


This plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.12 and is newer in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.


At first glance, the Kombinat Tri doesn’t look special. Even so, once you get a feel for its sound and start tweaking its parameters, it’ll convert you. There’s no doubt it’s a great addition to your toolkit.

Related Reading:

Top 10 Best Audio Damage VST Plugins 2023

9. AudioThing Wave Box

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

AudioThing Wave Box Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Wave Box, by Audio Thing, is a straightforward distortion plugin centered around two waveshapers.

This plugin’s parameters are genuinely minimal. You get two LFO’s, an envelope follower, and a filter. All these modulations work upon two waveshapers with adjustable curves, which can generate even or odd harmonics.

Key Features:

  • Waveshaper Functions
    Each shaper offers six pre-defined functions. You can choose one for each and combine them to create the distortion shape.
  • Asymmetrical Mode
    By clicking the ± button, the Bias slider will control the difference between the positive and negative parts of the signal, creating even harmonics.
  • Symmetrical Mode
    Here, with the ± button disengaged, the Bias will control the mix between the two functions, generating odd harmonics.
  • Oversampling
    The plugin lets you preserve the audio quality by offering up to 16x oversampling.

Character & Sound:

The plugin can create light tube overdrive or the utmost digital aggressiveness, all through the blend of the two waveshapers. With the modulations, the plugin lets you add enough movement to give life back even to the most distorted sounds. At the end of the chain, the Master section enables you to add a hard clipper to tame any wandering transients.

Wave Box v1.5 - Dynamic Dual Waveshaper (Overview) - AudioThing


This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or newer and Windows 7 or later in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.


Wave Box is a highly user-friendly plugin that delivers impressive results. It comes with 30 presets to help you out, but you can easily find your way through the plugin’s sound just by tweaking the knobs. It’s a worthy addition to your toolbox.

10. Eventide CrushStation

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Eventide CrushStation Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

CrushStation, by Eventide, is a versatile distortion plugin with a built-in gate and EQ.

You can add subtle or in-your-face distortion with this plugin. That makes it great for adding just a little bit of color and presence to a snare track or bring punch and heaviness to a guitar solo. The plugin lets you control several parameters at once using the Ribbon control. Additionally, the three-band EQ with sweepable mids gives you precise sonic shaping for your distortion.

Key Features:

  • SAG
    This fun knob adds the sound of malfunctioning analog equipment, which extends the distortion experience.
  • Octaves
    You can use this button to add upper or lower octaves to the sound, which the plugin will smash together to create unique textures.
  • Hotswitch
    This button is great if you want two different settings for different parts of the same song, like in a lead guitar, for example.
  • Ribbon
    You can use this to control multiple parameters at once and modulate the sound. One great example is having it modulate the Mids and Frequency knobs to create a comb-filter effect.

Character & Sound:

The various parameters let you thoroughly crush your input signal and turn simple, clean-sounding instruments into growly noises. Alternatively, you can add warm glue to the sound by applying just the necessary amount of drive to make instruments come alive. The Gate also adds nicely to the effect chain by giving you the ability to cut out the unwanted noises caused in between notes by excessive distortion.

Eventide CrushStation Plug-in for Desktop & iOS


This plugin is available for Windows 8 and higher and macOS 10.9 and later in AAX, VST2, VST3, and AU formats.


Eventide’s CrushStation is an exciting distortion plugin that offers an extensive range of applications. It feels a little overpriced, though, but it’s a great addition to your collection, especially if you’re into the Eventide ecosystem.

Related Reading:

Top 12 Eventide Plugins 2023 With Best Value

11. D16 Group Devastor 2

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

D16 Group Devastor 2 Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

D16 Group’s Devastor 2 is a three-band distortion plugin with individual signal flows for each channel.

The plugin lets you add distortion in nine different ways and extensively filter the signal. The Dynamics Flattener works as a user-friendly compressor, while the Diode Clipper gives this plugin its status as one of the best distortion plugins.

Key Features:

  • Three Filters
    The three independent filters help you enhance the distortion experience, and you can place them before or after the clipper circuit.
  • Nine Topographies
    Each topography gives you a different placement for the Diode Clipper and the filters, which puts the sonic possibilities in your hands.
  • Output Limiter
    This plugin has the clever addition of an output limiter which prevents the mix of the wet and dry signals from clipping.
  • Parameter Settings
    If you right-click (control-click on a Mac) any parameter, you’ll open their menu. There, you can assign them to MIDI Learn and check some more information.

Character & Sound:

The sound of the Diode Clipper is what drives the Devastor 2. You get four controls, Preamp, Threshold, Shape, and Clip, as well as six different clipping curves. In addition to the clipper, the nine topographies let you further experiment how different paths will sound like. The plugin enables you to go from soft to hard, wide-sounding clipping.


This plugin is available for Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.7 or newer in VST, AU, and AAX formats.


Devastor 2 is a very capable plugin with several sonic options. The plugin’s combination of clipping and filtering gives it its own flair that makes it stand out from the others. It’s a different-sounding distortion that can be a great addition to your collection.

Related Reading:

Top 7 D16 Group Plugins For Music Production

The 4 Best Free Distortion Plugins 2023

1. Camel Audio CamelCrusher

More Info & Download

Camel Audio CamelCrusher - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Camel Audio’s CamelCrusher is a very capable free distortion and compressor plugin.

The plugin offers two distortion sounds that you can blend to fine-tune the resulting sound. Additionally, you get a one-knob compressor to simulate the loss of dynamics as you push up a preamp’s input knob.

Key Features:

  • Distortion Types
    There are two types of distortion: Tube and Mech. The first sounds soft and harmonic, while the second is more aggressive and present.
  • Filter
    This section gives you a low-pass filter and a resonance knob that boosts the frequencies right before the cutoff point.
  • Compressor
    This plugin’s compressor also adds a bit of distortion, which is boosted along with the volume by the Phat Mode.

Character & Sound:

Overall, this plugin’s distortion sounds impressive and creamy. No one can deny they modeled the sound after analog equipment. Additionally, the presets sound amazing, and the plugin is straightforward to use. Also, the randomize function can give you interesting starting points to kickstart your creativity.

Camel Crusher Review - Easy to use, excellent results - EDM, Trap, - One of my most used VST plugins


This plugin is available for Mac and Windows as a VST, RTAS, and AU plugin.


CamelCrusher is one of those essential plugins. It’s so accessible, and it sounds so good that it should already be in your collection. In this case, take advantage of the fact it’s free and add it to your toolbox.

Related Reading:

30 Best Free Plugins For DnB, EDM, EBM, IDM & Experimental Music

2. Ourafilmes TNT

More Info & Download

Ourafilmes TNT - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

TNT, by Ourafilmes, is a free distortion plugin that comes in two different versions.

You can use the plugin in either single- or multi-band formats. The first version offers the exclusive Tone knob, with which you can focus your processing to a specific frequency area. The second format is the bigger MB version, in which you can select the exact crossover point between bands and balance the outputs of both bands.

Key Features:

  • Type
    Both versions offer this selector that lets you choose from 5 different distortion types. From left to right, the sound gets more distorted as you increase the type. The MB version has one Type selector for each band.
  • User-friendly
    This is probably the easiest-to-use plugin on this list. The knobs are intuitive and minimal, and the effect is very noticeable from the get-go.

Character & Sound:

TNT is very transparent and source-dependent. It sounds incredible on guitars and drums, but it also does a great job on bass. It’s not great for the master channel, but it works fine in parallel on an auxiliary track.


This plugin is available for 32-bit Windows as a VST.


TNT delivers a lot more than what’s expected from a free plugin. The single-band version already works and sounds great, so the multi-band version feels like an extra gift. If you’re on Windows, it’s a worthy download for your toolkit.

3. HY-Plugins HY-MBDrive

More Info & Download

HY-Plugins HY-MBDrive - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

HY-MBDrive, by HY-Plugins, is a three-band distortion with adjustable crossovers.

Each band offers five different distortion modes that range from soft drive to full lo-fi. You can adjust the band’s width, panorama, volume, and drive amount. Additionally, you can mute, solo, and bypass each band individually.

Key Features:

  • Distortion Modes
    The plugin gives you five options: Drive, Half, Full, Clip, and Lo-Fi. The first three get increasingly distorted, while the last two offer different takes on the overdrive scale.
  • Output Clip
    You can choose to engage the output clipper, which will square off the loudest transients and give extra punch to your track.

Character & Sound:

The HY-MBDrive can give life to dull-sounding instruments, but it also sounds great on the master track. It can add just enough drive to make everything a bit more interesting, as a tube equalizer or a magnetic tape would. Alternatively, if you have some clean guitars that need to go wild, this plugin can also do the job very well.

HY-MBDrive FREE Multi-Band Distortion VST Plugin DEMO


This plugin is available for Windows as a VST.


If you were looking for a go-to free distortion, this is it. The HY-MBDrive is a reliable plugin that offers great-sounding results. Add it to your collection and make your tracks growl at just the right amount.

4. D-Charged D-Stortion

More Info & Download

D-Charged D-Stortion - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

D-Charged’s D-Stortion adds even harmonics to your sounds and takes your instruments to absolute extremes.

The plugin is straightforward to use, and the GUI is very intuitive. Within minutes of tweaking, you’ll get the hang of what it does. The distortion never gets really soft due to the asymmetrical engine, but it creates an excellent fuzz sound in more extreme settings.

Key Features:

  • Post Switches
    You can change the order of the distortion and filter using the convenient post switches located on the right-hand side of the GUI.
  • High- and Low-Cut Sliders
    These two sliders let you adjust the slope for both filters, with higher values meaning a tighter cut and lower values indicating a more even result.

Character & Sound:

D-stortion sounds aggressive and cool at the same time. The curve slider lets you create a blend between a sine and a square wave, which always creates exciting results. Overall, the plugin makes the input signal sound like it’s going through a broken speaker, which can be desirable in some situations.


This plugin is available for Windows in VST format.


D-Charged’s D-Stortion is a very specific-sounding plugin. It’s not as versatile as any other of the free alternatives, but it delivers that powerful distortion sound very well. And for that reason, it is a worthy download if you’re on Windows.

Bonus Plugins

1. Creative Intent Tantrum

More Info & Price

Creative Intent Tantrum Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Creative Intent’s Tantrum has two different distortion stages, and over 40 artist presets.

The plugin uses Phase Distortion to achieve soft or hard overdriven sounds dynamically. Tantrum splits the signal into two bands, then it lets you choose which band you want to apply your processing to. The XY Pad enables you to drag the cursor around to find the perfect spot between the WaveShaper and the Phase Distortion.

Key Features:

  • Curve Shape
    This selector lets you change the wave distortion. Five options are ranging from soft Tape saturation to aggressive Foldback distortion.
  • XY Pad
    Drag the cursor on the X-axis to control the WaveShaper amount. You can also drag it on the Y-axis to have the Phase distortion amount changed too. The XY Pad works as a mixer for the two distortion stages.
  • Crossover & Type
    You can use these controls to split the signal into two bands and decide which you want to distort.
  • Spread
    You can choose to delay the left or right channel and by how much time.

Character & Sound:

Tantrum allows you to shape your distortion to taste with its precise set of controls. You can go from mild to powerful distortion using some excellent emulations like tube and tape curves. Overall the plugin sounds very artifact-free, and as you load it into the signal chain, it starts modulating your sound, even if just a little.

Creative Intent: Tantrum (808 Distortion)


This plugin is available for Windows 8.1 or newer and macOS 10.9 or higher in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.


Creative Intent’s Tantrum is an excellent plugin for people who want precise distortion options without the need to waste hours fine-tuning several parameters. However, it’s still a fun plugin with which to play as you try to find the perfect balance between distortion stages.

2. Soundspot Ravage

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Soundspot Ravage Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Ravage, by Soundspot, uses a custom-drawn LFO shape to add movement to the distortion.

The plugin has two menus, one for distortion and another for movement. You get to choose the algorithm you want to use at the distortion stage, the input, drive, and output levels, and the filtering. You can both high- and low-pass the sound to focus the distortion only on the mids or specific frequency regions.

Key Features:

  • Six Distortion Algorithms
    You can choose among Tube, Digital, Diode, Linear Fold, Rectify, and Zero Square to shape your distorted signal.
  • Destroy
    You can raise this slider control to increase further the amount of distortion you’re adding to the sound.
  • Intelligent Oversampling
    The plugin automatically detects the need for oversampling and applies it in the amount it feels is best for the overall context.
  • Modulation Matrix
    This is where you can draw your own LFO and assign its effect to one of eight destinations.

Character & Sound:

Each distortion algorithm has its sonic characteristic. For instance, while Tube is warm and soft, Zero Square is buzzy and loud. You can always use the Auto Output button to make the plugin compensate for the increase in volume added by the distortion. Additionally, you can use the LFO to control seven of the plugin’s parameters, as well as the pan.

Ravage by Soundspot | Tutorial & Review of Main Parameters


This plugin is available for macOS 10.12 through 10.15 and Windows 7 through 10 as a VST, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin.


Ravage is a versatile distortion plugin, and its movement capabilities ensured by the LFO are the icings on the cake. The distortion algorithms can be adjusted to taste, although it’s a pity you can’t choose more than one at once. Even so, it’s a great plugin to have around.

3. Glitchmachines Subvert

More Info & Price

Glitchmachines Subvert Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins & 4 Free Plugins |

Subvert, by GlitchMachines, is a multi-effects plugin centered around multimode distortion.

The plugin lets you route and modulate any parameter of the fifteen effect processors. It gives you a multimode filter, a metalizer, a digitizer, an FM ring modulator, and a multimode distortion. Each effect has three adjustable channels, and thanks to the multimode filter, the plugin can be used as a multi-band effects processor.

Key Features:

  • Metalizer
    This versatile addition creates very short delays of the signal to generate metallic effects, but if you modulate the delay it can become a chorus/flanger.
  • Modulations
    The plugin’s four LFOs, two envelope followers, four mod mixers, and two mod inverters are significant if you want to add movement to the effects and create bizarre combinations.
  • Modulation Source
    This is the plugin’s heart and soul, as it lets you use any modulation to work any available parameter.
  • Mod Mixers
    This is a simple concept, but this plugin’s strength is having four of them, which allows you to blend several modulations and minimize the whole interface into four smaller commands.

Character & Sound:

Overall, Subvert sounds very electronic and inorganic, like most of GlitchMachines’ plugins, which draws people’s attention. The brand is known for its highly reroutable plugins, and Subvert is no different. This plugin’s most fantastic feature isn’t the sound it makes but the process of achieving it. You can spend hours here fine-tuning your sound, even if you started from a preset.

Glitchmachines - SUBVERT - 01 Overview


This plugin is available for macOS 10.11 and higher and Windows 8 and up in VST and AU formats.


GlitchMachine’s Subvert is a lot more than a distortion plugin. Although its main focus is distortion, the addition of four other effects gives this plugin the punch it needs to be one of the best on this list. Definitely, it’s a great addition to your collection.

Related Reading:

Top 6 Glitch Machines Plugins For Music Production 2023

4. W.A Production Screamo

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

W.A Production Screamo Review - 11 Best Distortion Plugins 2021 & 4 Free Plugins |

Screamo, by WA Productions, is a hybrid between a talk-box and a screamer with an automatic oscillation engine.

All you have to do is set the distortion to taste and sync the speed to whatever division you feel like. The result will be an even distorted sound with a lot of added movement. The Smear, Drive, Shape, and Speed parameters all have additional style buttons that allow you to change the effect’s character.

Key Features:

  • Smear
    This knob adds resonant shelving filters, which by themselves already add some phasing movement to the sound. They can be set to upwards, downwards, or two-way modulation.
  • Shape
    Here, you can control the LFOs shape and use the style button to define if it’s going to start at zero, 90, or 180 degrees.
  • Smooth
    This parameter will round out the edges of the LFO, making the result sound silkier.

Character & Sound:

With the Speed knob, you can sync the modulation to the host tempo to create tremolo-like effects or have the oscillation activate the distortion. The style button lets you pick straight, triplets, or dotted division for different effects. Furthermore, you can set the Drive’s style to soft, medium, or hard, which can be fine-tuned to taste with the knob.

SCREAMO - Tempo Synced Distortion / Screamer & Talk-Box Audio Plugin


This plugin is available for Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.7 or newer in VST, AU, and AAX formats.


WA Productions’ Screamo is a miniature version of some of the multi-effect distortions on this list. It doesn’t give you many options, but it delivers excellent sound at what it does. If you’re looking for a distortion plugin that can add movement to the sound, add this to your collection.


With this list, we assembled the best possible collection of distortion plugins available in 2023. There’s a wide range of options, and they all offer something different, so let’s review some of them.

It’s hard to say exactly which is the best distortion plugin, though we believe iZotope’s Trash 2, with FabFilter’s Saturn 2 would be great choices for advanced distortion techniques. On the other hand, the best free distortion plugin in 2023 is CamelAudio’s CamelCrusher. It’s a versatile tool that is the only free plugin on this list available for both of the most used operating systems.

Whatever your goals when looking for a distortion plugin, we believe our list’s got you covered!

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