Am I limiting myself by sticking to Ableton's stock distortion options?

This post is mainly in regards to brosteppy midrange sounds.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Zomboy, Must Die!, Kill The Noise, Pegboard Nerds, and a few other all in one show. Everytime I see artists like this live on a really nice system the same thing always impresses me, how nice their distortion sounds. Rather than scratchy or metallic it’s this nice crunchy, chunky and full distortion sound.

I generally stick to Ableton’s distortion options, like Saturator, Overdrive, Amp, MBD (if that counts?). I’ll throw on the occasional camel crusher or sausage fattener as well, but sometimes I find it hard to achieve a distortion that doesn’t sound scratchy/thin/metallic that I’m sometimes left with by using these.

I remember seeing a Zomboy remix contest a long time ago and the reward was Izotope Trash, is that what he uses? I know distortion is all preference, but is there something overall superior to Ableton’s stock options about things made specifically for hard distortion like Trash or Ohmicide?

But anyways, would love to discuss distortion options and techniques here.

Ableton plugins for distortion do lack imo. I use their saturator on just about everything but rarely the overdrive. Camel crusher is prob one of the best freebies out there…I use the British clean preset a lot.

My “fancy” distortion go to is trash 2. I like the multiband function along with the many distortion types and the convolve effect is crazy. It is a very versatile plugin. I tried Ohmacide but I hate the layout of it so I didn’t spend much time with it. Trash 2 seems more transparent and a heck of a lot easier to use.

I have noticed Zomboy’s crispy high end too and I am not quite sure how he gets it. I would guess that it is more so coming out of the patch rather than being added later with distortion. You can run white noise on top of bass sounds to brighten them up but again…I haven’t achieved anything like Zomboy crunch yet. Hmm…that would make a good cereal…


Yeah, thats a great word to describe it, it’s this crisp high end/mids that has this CRUNCH to it, its really satisfying and not irritating. Pegboard nerds have this sound too and skrillex to an extent.

Might give trash 2 a shot, hopefully the demo isnt super limited.

His music always appears to clip to me, which is why his high end sounds “crispy” – a bad thing.

Though I must admit I haven’t looked at the waveforms so it could be just fine.

Well he says he uses saturation (soft clipping) instead of compression a lot of the time, so maybe thasts a part of it.

and i dunno, I think its a good thing, zomboy tunes on a nice system sound better to me than any other “competitors” because of this crunchiness, its very distinct and satisfying.

don’t really have an answer been using ableton’s stock options plus camelcrusher and another bitcrusher and saturator

but does anyone know if there’s a correct order to use overdrive, amp emulation, saturation, bitcrushing, redux, compression etc if u wanna really fuck a sound up- are any of these just terrible to use together, been mainly putting stuff on returns and mixing about to save on clipping


btw op there are a lot of options with these to get interesting effects just using the ableton stuff, i’ve been playing with like flanging, echoing the top end, putting an eq before the desired effect on a return channel- try this with a few effects and see if u can get that high crunch, or duplicate the midrange bass sound sound, filter them into high and low and then put different effects on them as u want, group and compress em back together if u want

no, there is no correct order. you need to see what works best for you and by experimenting you will achieve results you might not have dreamed of.

i use mostly only abletons stock instruments and effects, my go to reverb is convolution reverb from max for live (also ableton though)
imo ableton delivers everything one can ask for, there might be better EQs but i dont use and need them. it all depends on what you do and what you need for doing that. ableton has probably another 32893 functions that i dont use, not even because i dont know about them but rather because they don’t help me with what i aim for


Everyone is using soft clipping these days. I don’t think you will find a track in the genre that isn’t clipped. Clipping is a destructive process and always adds some level of distortion…usually you want to use it lightly so the distortion isn’t noticeable. If you push a soft clipper really hard it doesn’t give you the Zomboy crunch, it makes things sound like they are running through a blown speaker…flabby, thin, and distorted.

Zomboy has an intentionally placed crunch…if you listen really close to the Immunity growl it has a really pleasant top end crunch to it. I was really obsessed with that for a while. My best guess to replicate it would be running noise in top of your patch or maybe even as a separate layer and then use something like trash 2 to distort it. Trash 2 has some interesting distortion presets…one is even called crunchy grunge…

I obsess over his high hat crispness. They have a really nice crispy sparkle to them and I think that character actually might be the crunch that you more consistently hear throughout a track to think that his tracks are crispy crunchity. I used to think it was Ozone’s exciter but I am starting to think he runs his hats through trash 2 or something similar.

1 BigUp

what causaa said

but Im sure the usage of amp could be argued would benefit from being in the ‘right’ spot in the chain. Ive never gotten into amp simulators though. I know though, that it can be the breaking point in like a listening setup or if you have to record or for some reason convert through a hardware setup in a studio. also relates to overall fidelity and ‘super knowledge stuff’ like that :hankey:

Im sure noways or fragments might know some cool stuff about this.

I basicly mix anything as an effect and usually everything ‘distorty’ can be done in a good way if the vst has a dry/ wet knob and then do it very gradually (but make a thing out of noticing when the effect is just an increase in volume -because that will confuse anyone once in a while)…

yeah, very good point … it is after all always about context and hihats are right at the cusp of what we percieve initially . .
to put it ‘incorrectly’ in a way that kind of makes sense… its like if for example the bass had to pass through the hihats in a sense because the hihats hit you over the head before the highend of the bass does . . .

Yes! The immunity growl is THE perfect example of what I’m talking about, it’s not scratchy or metallic or thin, it just has this incredibly satisfying crunch to it that makes it so good. And its that texture that IMO sets zomboy apart from everyone making that style, its such a nicer sound than BA’s stuff that to me sounds over the top and sloppy.

Its not that a lot of other artists similar sound bad, but zomboy’s “distortion” is so dictinct, Kill the Noise and Skrilex also have a similar crunch. But all your barely alives, protohypes, datsiks, excisions, etc. sound not necessarily bad, but its not the same, woah how the fuck do you get that texture.

I quite like vinyl distortion on Ableton.

Compression , if any, ill usually put at the end to keep the sound in check. If I use a bit crusher I use it first or last right before my compression. This can get the skrillexy high end screech. As for the others like Overdrive and an Amp or Saturator I would use them after I sample something out. Although VERY minimally.

All this varies for drum, leads, basses ext…