Top 5 Audio Destruction Tools

We all love to mangle and destroy our sounds, be it acoustic or electronic, synths or guitars, strings, vocals, drums, you name it. EVERYTHING benefits from a little bit of dirt and destruction. We have looked everywhere across the audio world to find some of the most interesting sound mangling units (software and hardware) that will make your sounds dirty. So here’s our top 5 in no particular order.

1. 3 Sigma Audio – Tactical Nuke

Admit it, you love bitcrushers, but this one is not just a bitcrusher, it’s also a wavetable distortion plugin with a plethora of different wavetables. Here is what the developers have to say about it:

“Inspired by hybrid analog/digital wavetable distortion devices, Tactical Nuke was created as a way to creatively explore what happens when you mangle audio. From more gentle analog style distortion, to absolute digital destruction, Tactical Nuke allows you to turn any signal into something new and unique. With 512 built-in wavetables, and the ability to import your own, the possibilities are limitless”.

Some people like to compare this plugin to WMD Audio’s Geiger Counter pedal which was made famous by Mick Gordon on his Doom Soundtrack. And no wonder because it was Mr Gordon himself who created 74 presets for this plugin for you to explore.

Aside from controls for preamp distortion, tone, sample reduction and oversampling, the centerpiece of this plugin is the wavetable distortion which uses two wavetables that you can blend into something totally new. AND you can import your own distortion wavetables in order to create your unique sounds. Tactical Nuke supports every plugin format out there and it can be yours for $35.

2. Gamechanger Audio – Plasma

If you are into something a bit more obscure and out of this world then you need to check out Gamechanger’s Plasma distortion! It comes in pedal version and rack version.

This is a completely new kind of analog distortion that turns your instrument’s signal into a rapid series of electric discharges in a Xenon-filled tube. These powerful discharges (up to 5500 Volts) then get picked up by a specially designed electromagnetic receiver and turned back into an audio-level signal. 

This process results in a large amount of punishingly heavy distortion and also saturates the sound with a wide range of harmonics and overtones. It sounds huge and ugly in a good way, plus the plasma electric discharges make it look absolutely out of this world!

This plasma distortion comes in three variations: plasma pedal, plasma rack and plasma eurorack module They all have slight variations in design, but they share the core sound generated by electric discharges Pedal will cost you $299, the eurorack module is $369, whilst the rack version is a whopping $1499.

3. Soundtoys – Decapitator

We can freely say that this plugin has become somewhat of a classic and almost everyone has it. It’s the Boss DS-1 of distortion plugins and we mean that in the nicest way possible.

Decapitator features five different analog saturation models to choose from and it is a great tool for adding character to every kind of track and instrument in your mix. There is also a modeled tone control that lets you shape the saturated sound and a mix control that lets you blend in some dry signal for parallel processing without the need for routing and sub-mixes.

Decapitator is capable of creating both subtle saturation and a punishing distortion, hence the punish button which kicks in an extra dosage of gain into your signal. It is a great distortion tool that every sound designer and engineer needs to have. If you don’t own one already, you can have it for $199.

4. Thermionic Culture – The Culture Vulture

The fact that the original design of this unit has only slightly changed since 1998 is a statement about the quality of this piece of hardware. If it works, don’t change it! The Culture Vulture is the only rack valve distortion unit out there and its only job is to produce pure valve harmonic distortion with no solid state components in its processing chain.

There are three types of distortion called T, P1 and P2.

T gives you a nice musical effect found in triode valves and is good for warming up your sound. P1 is the Pentode valve distortion to add odd harmonics to sound more aggressive, whilst P2 works similar to P1, but it adds an upper octave at higher bias settings. There is also a Low pass 12dB/octave filter which removes unwanted frequencies above 6kHz or 9kHz to give you a bit of a rounded sound. There are also controls for output level, bias and a bypass switch.

To own this very unique piece of hardware will set you back around $2000, and if that’s too much for you, there is always an option of buying a licensed plugin for the UAD platform at the fraction of the price.

5. iZotope – Trash 2

As with the Decapitator, Trash 2 has become a classic distortion plugin and a favorite of many producers and composers looking for something a little extra. The key word for Trash 2 is VERSATILITY.

It packs a ton of drive algorithms, pre & post filters, custom wave shaping, and on top of that, there is a drive/wet control for proper balancing between a dry signal and a distorted one. Place this plugin on any type of track and you will get instant mojo in your sound. Drums, guitars, synths, vocals, any type of sound source can benefit from trash, and the ranges of distortion this plugin features are simply extraordinary. It will take you from subtle saturation all the way to utter sonic destruction. If there was ever ONE distortion plugin to rule them all, this is it!

Written by Nikola Nikita Jeremic