I absolutely hate the GUI and the Preset browser. The sound is okay, but I find that Izotopes Trash 2 is easy to navigate and understand. It's nice that Rob Papen made a distortion unit and I think if they reimagined the GUI it could be was easier to work with. My $.02.
I acquired Distort free of charge with a time-limited offer for registered users. And I have to say it was not really on my radar of things to get. Not least because the name 'Distort' kind of sub-consciously led me to believe that this was mainly a distortion unit, and not the Multi-Fx monster that it really is. Ok let's break down what this FX unit is capable of:
4: Stereo Widener.
6: Tempo-synced Lfo.
It has a beautiful modern interface. And in common with Camel Audio's Camelphat - one can dial back in the amount of the whole shebang via a master control knob. I find this often used. Many a time one needs to just hold back a fraction for the desired effect. This may seem a trivial item, but it is surprising how many fx units lack this capability in such an obvious and accessible place. Distort also comes with a wealth of excellent and varied presets. Well what else would you expect of 'Mr.Preset', himself? The first thing I do when I realise I am dealing with a bit of kit that is going to get a lot of use, is to do a few presets myself. This is as much to find out the underlying logic of how to save and where to save to, as it is actually making the presets. I'm happy to report that the saving is logical and straightforward, as is the loading and organisation. Again, this is an area where an otherwise excellent piece of kit can disappoint. Distort does not.
Ok, now a quick run down of my first impressions of the FX modules, one by one. I have been using Distort for some months now and still feel as if I am just scratching the surface, besides, impressions are subjective.
Can range from full-on mangling to warm fuzz-tones beloved of guitarists. With 22 distortion points to dive off from, this is to be expected, but needless to say, the distortion module does not let this FX unit down. Very often, the distortion is just too much and over the top, but that is distortion for you I guess. Once a general 'tone' that you like has been found, there is usually enough control over the parameters available to reach that end point of being totally happy with your sound. As for the sound of the distortion itself, it does a pretty good job of emulating that warm type of distortion found on old valve amps. I would be lying if I said I found it to be exactly the same, but the fact that it does a 'not bad' impression, is a pleasant surprise.
This actually comes in two parts - one a standard type EQ and the other a standard type Filter. Basic, easy to use for either sonic sculpting or as a tool for getting rid of large bandwidths on the sonic horizon. These are just very powerful and beautifully integrated overall. With a sound effect such as distortion, I suppose they could be seen as necessary, but their inclusion sets the stage for what is shaping up to be a rather quite nifty Multi-FX unit. They are on rotary knobs that you use more by listening than looking.
This is a basic module, but very effective in its simplicity. The fact that it is included, shows what a class act this is turning out to be. If you aren't getting the picture yet that you need not use the distortion portion of this device, then you should certainly start getting your head around it now. As any heavy metal guitarist will tell you, when you really overdrive and distort a real life amp, a kind of compression happens as an inherent artifact of the sound. So, in a way, having a compression section on top of distortion might be seen as superfluous, but in the big picture (that is using this effect for everything but distortion) it is very handy indeed to have. It can be used as a tool to tidy up or control, or as an effect for that good ol' pumping on the drum buss.
The stereo widener:
This imparts a subtle to not so subtle stereo widening of the sound field. I find it works best in subtle amounts. I have tried it on drums to guitars, and it always has a spot where it just does something 'magical' to the sound being worked on. And of course, you want to set it to full-on if you are going to use it in conjunction with the time synced Lfos on offer. More on that later.
What a superb addition. This has really saved the day on more than one occasion when a little tidying up was needed. With four parameters to choose from, this is a fully fledged module in its own right. I use this a lot. Gating can be tricky to get right, but this one offers the perfect combination of usability and effectiveness.
You can route all kinds of things to all kinds of parameters here, all synced to your host via tempo. Say you wanted to do a cliched dub-step wobble bass, why not set the Lfo to trigger the distortion just on the up-rising or down-falling part of the bass line? Or if you have a boring pad, set it to widen the stereo field at every whole note, deciding how long you want it to hold for before reverting back? And you have four of them to play with. You can even set it free-running should you wish. Again, the amount of effect you want can be varied here to taste and the section can be bypassed altogether, should you want to listen to the other FX without the modulation. It is the sort of thing people would ask for if it wasn't included. There is a MIDI learn (MIDI latch) feature that will be familiar to RP owners. This is very handy if you want to control the modulation of the effects with something other than the inbuilt Lfos.
As for the price, if I had not got it for free then I would happily have paid double the amount it now goes for. Camelphat is the nearest competitor to this and all though they seem to do very similar things on the page, in practice they go about them in very differing ways. Seeing as I already am a Camelphat owner, I would not be able to choose between them. Camelphat is recognised as one of the worlds top go-to plugins for fattening drums. I don't see why Distort could not stand shoulder to shoulder with this other classic. I use this on everything. I use it as a tool. I use it as a creative effect. I use it as a mixture of both at the same time. Very efficient CPU wise, with a decent sized GUI and FIVE effects units rolled into one perfect whole. If you haven't tried it yet, then now would be a good time to give it a go! I rank it up there alongside Camelphat, and that is some mighty praise.........