Grind Distortion review – Audio Damage brings some distortion to your iOS reality

Download from iTunes App StoreI reviewed Audio Damage’s Rough Rider 2 a week or so ago here on the Music App Blog. However, as I mentioned just a couple of days ago, they have soon followed up Rough Rider 2 with Grind Distortion. There are, of course, no prizes for guessing the main purpose of this particular plugin effect app :-)

Audio Damage have built quite a reputation as creators of desktop plugins over the last few years but Rough Rider 2 and Grind Distortion marked their first toe into iOS waters….  These first two ports and, hopefully, just the start… and here’s hoping that other items in the Audio Damage desktop plugin soon follow.

For Grind Distortion, the port is based upon the AD035 Grind desktop plugin (as demoed in the video clip below) and seems to offer pretty much an identical feature set. Yes, it does distortion but this processor is perhaps not your typical ‘stomp box in an app’ overdrive effect. There are some pretty sophisticated options on offer which mean you can go from just adding some light overtones to full-on audio destruction. For those that like to mangle audio to within an inch of its life, if it delivers the same way that the desktop plugin does, this is going to be well worth exploring.

Grind Distortion – Audio Damage port their desktop AD-35 Grind plugin to iOS….

Having pulled you in to the brand with Rough Rider 2, Grind Distortion is priced at a modest UK£4.99/US$4.99. Again, it runs stand-alone but is really designed for use in an AU host. It is a universal app, requires iOS9.3 or later and, at just 7MB, will fit on even the most stuffed of iOS hardware.

Quick tour

While the top-strip of the UI contains a few drop-down selection menus for some settings, the rest of Grind Distortion’s control set is contained within the single AU-friendly screen. While the control set is therefore fairly compact, it is pretty obvious that we are not dealing with something that’s more typical of the Gain/Tone/Level knobs found, for example, on a typical guitar-style overdrive pedal (or emulation of such a pedal). Grind offers considerably more options than that.

Once your audio has exceeded the level set by the noise Gate on input (you can bypass this if you wish but it does mean you can choose to only process the louder parts of your audio if you wish), there are two different signal paths that can add an element of distortion to your audio; the Wavetable Shaper and the Algorithmic Shaper. These can be toggled on/off independently(the Wave On and Algo On buttons)  so they can, if you want things to get particularly crunchy, both be used at the same time.

The app works standalone but is really intended to be used within a suitable AU host… as shown here with Cubasis.

Wave to me

The Wavetable Shaper offers you a choice of 15 different waveforms that can be used to shape your audio and you can blend between consecutive waveforms as the Wavetable knob is continuous rather than stepped in behaviour. The Window knob controls how much of the selected Wavetable is used and the Phase knob adjusts the starting point used along the wavetable. As you adjust all of these knobs, the waveform graphic in the centre of the display adjusts itself to give you some visual clue as to the form of the ‘shaping’ going on.

Grind Distortion joins Rough Rider 2 in the Audio Damage iOS catalogue :-)

Whether you understand exactly what all these controls are doing (no, I don’t) is kind of beside the point because, in practice, you just loop through your processed audio and tweak. You can very quickly dial in the level/style of distortion you might be looking for and, by tweaking the Mix knob, it’s easy to go from a very light touch through to decimation; the choice is yours :-)

I got Al Gore’s rhythm

The Algorithmic Shaper is perhaps a little more obvious on the surface in that you pick an algorithm – overdrive, soft sat, distort, fuzzplus, etc. – from a number that are available. You can then set the Algo Amount to control this contribution of distortion to the signal.

A number of different distortion algorithms are included…..

These different algorithms will, in the main, give you a good clue as to what to expect sonically (which is comforting) but exactly what’s going on under the hood (in the maths of the algorithm) is, of course, something we are (thankfully!) spared from worrying about. Just be reassured that this section of Grind Distortion can cough up a huge range of different distortion styles. Soft Sat is one I particularly liked and, if you also tweak the Mix control, can be used for all sorts of subtle ‘just about overdriven’ options.

What else?

After the two stages of distortion comes the filter. This is also quite flexible and the drop-down menu offers a number of basic, and not so basic, filter types. There is also a ‘bypass’ option in this list if you don’t want the filter to be applied. Once you have picked a filter type, the Frequency and resonance knobs do pretty much what you would expect in any filter (virtual or otherwise). Again, this element of the processing helps take Grind Distortion way beyond that of your average overdrive/distortion stomp-box style effect.

The filter offers various filter types….

The final major element of the feature set is the LFO. You get a range of different LFO waveforms and you can adjust the rate and the skew (which tweaks the shape of the chosen waveform). The LFO can then target either the filter frequency setting or the wavetable index (number). The two sliders to the right of the waveform display can be used to adjust how much the LFO is applied to modulate these two parameters and both positive and negative amounts can be applied to both. Set both to zero (the middle position) and the LFO has no influence (it would be nice if a double-tap on the sliders reset them to zero though). Oh, and the LFO Sync button allows you to sync the LFO speed to your project tempo within your AU host. The waveform display adjusts in real-time to any modulation applied.

Variable dirt

Technically, I had no issues with using Grind Distortion. I did the bulk of my testing within Cubasis and AUM, using the app as an AU plugin, and it worked smoothly with multiple instances possible. Applied to a range of different audio sources, I was also very impressed with what the app could achieve. For example, used as an insert effect on a lead vocal, the app could be used to just add the most gently of saturation to the sound – distorted but only just – and gave the vocal a very nice edge. The same sorts of subtle processing worked pretty well on other instruments such as guitar, bass and drums.

The app ships with a range of presets many of which demonstrate how the LFO can be used to modulate the distortion effects created.

However, while Grind Distortion does subtle with some, well…. subtlety, I suspect lots of folk will also use it to smash the c**p out of a sound source or three in a Nine Inch Nails sort of a way. Yep, it’s pretty good at that too :-) If you want to obliterate a sound in an angry sort of a way, then that’s possible in all sorts of different styles.

So far, so grungy….  However, what’s perhaps even more interesting is when you start to add in the LFO and modulate the distortion processing. This works great on sustained sounds (synths in particular) and, while it is overdrive/distortion you are varying, it can certainly lift an otherwise static (or bland) sound, out of the mix and into your listener’s face. Used with a modicum of taste (or not as the case might be!), this is a really cool option. The app ships with a number of presets and a good few of these (try Highpass Paint Stripper!) make good (I think it’s good?!?) use of the LFO.

The app ran very smoothly as an AU plugin…. as shown here within AUM.

So who might buy Grind Distortion? Well, almost anyone I think. I’ve not used the desktop version but, after trying the iOS app, I’m now very tempted to stump up the UK£38/US$49; this is a very flexible and powerful processor that spans a whole range of distortion options. And, at UK£4.99/US$4.99, the iOS version is a bargain. Whether you need another overdrive/distortion option is another matter….  but this is most certainly one of the most powerful overdrive processors I used for iOS.

Perhaps it is most suited to the more experimental audio mangler (you might already own apps that can already do your required brand of subtle overdrive?) but, at this price, it is a tempting addition for almost anyone. It also bodes very well for whatever might come next from Audio Damage….

In summary

Having pulled you in to the brand with Rough Rider 2, Grind Distortion is priced at a modest UK£4.99/US$4.99. It runs stand-alone but is really designed for use in an AU host and, in that role, its a great addition to your DAW/sequencer/AU-host’s plug-in collection. Perhaps it’s going to appeal most to those that like to really trash their sounds but it does have something for almost everyone. Check out the desktop demo video below (the iOS app has the same feature set)….  and then hit the App Store download button to find out more.

Grind Distortion

Download from iTunes App Store

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    1. Maria caivano says:

      Nice review.

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