Distortion is too easily written off as simply a guitar effect beloved of long-haired rockers. As a production tool it can be employed for all kinds of uses from subtle colouration and warming all the way up to, well yes ok, screaming and crunch. But your choice of destination is virtually limitless - synths, beats, vocals and even basses can benefit from the overdrive treatment. Eventide’s new CrushStation brings more than just crunch to the party. Running on Mac, PC and as a standalone or plugin on iOS, it also has a bunch of other effect controls but manages to remain really straightforward to use.
You can dive in to the 35 presets which are grouped into three categories, ostensibly based on how heavily they change your sound: Crushed, Pitched, and Warm / Compressed. These behave broadly as expected, and are great fun to play around with. Naturally you will want to start customising the effect and the top row of controls starts with a global Mix knob, then Drive and Sustain dials. A Sag knob is next and this is kind of unique - Eventide has modelled the sound of dying analog gear, when power components start to fail, and it sounds pretty cool.
Octaves is next and you can mix in multiple higher or lower octaves for a thicker sound and of course these also interact with your originally-pitched version to create a layered effect. Then you get to Grit, which adds a dirty, low-end character the more you push the dial. Gating with manual Threshold control can be used to control unruly or overpowering signal or to create special effects where your signal aggressively drops out sometimes. A 3-band EQ lets you tweak the sound internally before it’s sent on to your DAW.
Towards the lower area are some more interesting nuggets. The black bar area is a ribbon controller which lets you play the effect like an instrument, and morph between two different settings. Similarly the Hotswitch button lets you zap between A and B settings, and a long press stores the current state as a quick preset in the button. Lastly, the Mixlock option at the top keeps mix level constant as you change presets, to avoid any nasty, speaker-blowing surprises.
I have long been a fan of creatively using distortion and overdrive when mixing, sometimes in large amounts on beats or synths and other times for subtle warming of snares or vocals. CrushStation is an excellent mixing plug-in for a variety of uses and unlike some crunch effects, has a more creative feature set including the Sag and Octave tools that make it much more interesting than if it were to simply add bite. That it does too of course, and it sounded great when applied to beats and also when used to add some edge to vocals and synths - plus you can always stick it across your guitars of course!
Price: Intro price $39. Regular price $99
Pros: Creative distortion and overdrive for your tracks. Innovative features like Sag and Octave make it more than a simple crunch box. Sale price is appealing. Suitable for a wide range of uses. Subtle warming through to extreme FX.
Cons: Uses iLok for authentication which may bother you or may not.