1. Flextron by AXP
The moment I heard this plugin I was like ‘Are you serious? Is this really a free plugin?!’ This amp simulator sounds so much better than even paid ones I own, and it offers beautiful, deep distortion that will give great character to your tracks. You can choose between the ‘tube’ and the ‘drive’ modes for different flavors, and even tweak around all of the available options in order to find just the right sound. The only thing I have against it is that it eats too many CPU resources, specially if you turn on the 4x or 16x option. Either way, you can just get around that by printing the guitar tracks earlier on in order to save you some CPU power, or you can just try Greed Smasher instead which is not as rich sounding but in turn is a bit lighter.
2. Whamdrive by Auraplugs
Although I found that all other FXs available in the ‘Freetortion’ project can be significantly unreliable, I was overjoyed when I found out this otherwise stable beauty. Whamdrive offers distortion enriched by pitchers, that make up for a very full and colorful distortion.
3. CamelCrusher by Camel Audio
Sometimes what you need isn’t just to melt peoples’ faces with super gritty and hard distortion, but to add a je ne sais quois to your track. CamelCrusher brings you that sandier and grainier distortion flavor. I really like how musical the offered distortion can go without being overbearing, and all the tweakable parameters that help you to achieve either a very mild saturation, or a heavier and grainier distortion.
4. TNT Multi-band by Dr. Speaker Blower
Sometimes it’s not how much you add to it, but where you add to it, and TNT multi band distortion can really help you to get to just the right spot. Featuring different possibilities for the low end and the rest, as well as the possibility of choosing different kinds of distortion for one or the other the possibilites are endless. I love to use the balance knob to get the balance between lows and mids right again after I crank it all up! Unfortunately, you can only have it in 32 bits, but other wise… perfect plugin!
5. Lawnmower by Shuttleplugs
I tried to include different flavors of distortion on this top 5, and Lawnmower is definitely different from all the rest we’ve presented so far. Featuring two different drives, a clipper and a filter, you can get really hot and motory distortion which has a distinct sound which I fell in love with when I first heard it.