It’s not an exaggeration to say iZotope defined the modern distortion plug-in with Trash. Grabbing the deep, expansive Trash 2 plug-in for free is a no-brainer.

iZotope really made Trash 2 as a modular multi-effects studio as much as it is a single effect. So at its heart is a dual distortion module, which you can then apply to up to four separate frequency bands, with 60 (!) different distortion algorithms. But then it’s also got a powerful pre- and post-processing EQ, which you can then also control with an LFO. And there’s a convolution module for accurately modeling amps, cabinets, speakers, and other objects/environments. (That convolve module also supports custom IRs.) And there’s a multiband compressor. And a delay with multiple delay types. And an output limiter.

Having that many tools in one means not only do you have access to their presets, but you can build a bespoke signal-mangling chain of your own, or go in with surgical precision to destroy exactly the bits of sound you want.

That’s something special, because it’s typical to have a sort of sound mayhem in your head but then discover that just applying a simple amp model or waveshaper yields results that are overly one-dimensional.

So you want a waveshaper? You can produce that graphically.

You just want to crush and limit drums? Doable.

You want guitar-style modeling with distortion and some realistic simulation of amp-to-space? Yes.

iZotope has a load of videos on how to use this, but I like some of the written tutorials, like this really nice starting point for industrial producers:

Creating Textures with Trash 2 for Industrial Music

808 dirt? Yup:

But it is also a convolution tool “for free”:

If you don’t know convolution, it’s a technique that can be a source of everything from realistic reverbs to eerie otherworldly creative sound design:

The Basics of Convolution in Audio Production [iZotope]

The promotion runs through January 4 as part of the Native Instruments /iZotope holiday gift promotion. You just sign up for an account and you can grab a license. There’s also a discount on their other stuff, if you’ve been waiting to grab other tools like Ozone or RX. (I actually prefer not to master with Ozone like everyone else seems to, but wow, is RX sure indispensable when you’ve got stuff to fix.)

Trash 2 [iZotope product page]

Direct download for free Trash 2

(Note – as a reader notes, iZotope reports “no plans” to update Trash for native Apple Silicon / M1. I’m testing this version on M1 right now and had no issue installing or running in Rosetta 2 but – worth observing.)

Trash 2 is hardly the only game in town for this kind of tool these days. My two favorite distortion plug-ins lately have been these:

Minimal Audio Rift, which I think excels in its modulation options and is also on sale now

Output Thermal, with some really beautiful engines, a clean interface (certainly easier on the eyes than iZotope’s here), and wonderful frequency-split controls. (Huh, and I see the product page quotes me, but yes, I still agree with “me from the past.”)

I also have been known to run things through Reason (and some Rack Extensions that are sadly discontinued) plus d16’s Devastator – the latter notable for its hardware-style controls, which give you a different workflow than the visual approach of the others here. (See also FL Studio’s Distructor.)

But it’s impossible to look at Rift or Thermal without seeing some of the influence of Trash. So it’s well worth grabbing Trash even as a reference. Plus … I’m imagining right now what to do with that convolution module.

The world is a dark place so let’s all make black metal with plug-ins, huh?