Native Instruments CRUSH PACK Effect Series Review – True Distortion Sound Design Plugins?

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The CRUSH PACK consists of three plugins (BITE, DIRT, FREAK) that summarize the different distortion concepts in a very simple but creative and strong way.

Classic distortions are often used by guitarists to achieve a specific sound. So you will find them most in the Rock and Metal scene back were such distorted sounds are required. If you go in the Synthesizer or electronic music area, these effects are not the most important ones. Often delays and reverbs are preferred here by musicians.

With the new CRUSH PACK Effect Series, Native Instruments introduced a bundle in June that consists of three plugins, which also tries to inspire electronic music producers more of distortion effects, for example. Whether this is the case, you can read in the following review.

Native Instruments Crush Pack Review


CRUSH PACK consists of three different plugins that are compatible with PC & Mac (VST/AU/AAX) with the goal to give a different view on classic distortion effects.

  • BITE: a bit and sample rate reduction effect.
  • DIRT: a distortion effect.
  • FREAK: a ring modulation and frequency shifting effect.

All three plugins are based on the same straightforward designed interface: some parameters, a preset manager, an A-B sound comparison, a touch-screen mode as well as a GUI resizing feature. A big plus here is the interface in my opinion that is not overloaded with parameters. This significantly simplifies the workflow and reminds me of classic hardware pedals where you only have a certain choice of parameters. Above all, it’s the hands-on design that can score here a lot.

BITE – A Bit-Crusher That Can Sculpt Vintage & Chaotic Sounds 

BITE is described as a anti-aliased sample rate and bit reduction effect plugin that features a best-known interface layout: a section for the resampling frequency (kHZ) and one for the bit depth (Bits). A cool feature is here the Crunch control that adjusts the level going into the bit reduction algorithm that gives musicians a smooth way to control the resolution without stepping effects. On top, it features a stereo clock jittering, stereo dither noise as well as further filtering and saturation options.

The result that BITE delivers are interesting: you can mimic the sound character of old hardware samplers that give each sound a nice noisy warmth. It is also possible to filter audio signals. Here you should not think of classic filters but more of a filter meets noise combination. Especially with the Jitter and Crunch features, you can dive deep in the bit-crushing worlds.

Above all, I like BITE in combination with a drum machine which allows you to dive into the dirty industrial sound design worlds quickly. BITE can also produce classic Lo-Fi effects without problems.

DIRT – A Distortion Plugin That Doesn’t Destroy Your Audio

DIRT is a distortion effect plugin that is based on two distortion units that features two circuit-modeled diode clipping stages (A,B) as well as three different distortion modes (I,II,III) to choose from for each stage. A drive and amount control allow you to have full control over the distorted sound: from classic saturation to rich distorted sounds.

With the good labeled amount knob you can always watch how strong the distortion gets. If you increase the amount control beyond center position per example, DIRT will work no longer as saturation effect but goes in the extreme distortion worlds. Here the signal is folded back and generate strong harmonics overtones to the sounds.

Native Instruments Crush Pack Review

Additionally,  a tilt feature gives you control over the filtering and bias asymmetric behaviour to the circuit. An exciting feature appears if you use DIRT in the parallel mode. Here you get access to a feature that allows you blend between the two stages A and B. This gives you additional sound design possibilities.

The results of DIRT range from gentle to hardcore. DIRT can be used as a classic saturation plugin that gives any audio signal more richness, power and volume. But if you want more, you can also use it as a distortion effect. If you turn the amount beyond Sat, turn up the drive and play with the bias, you will quickly see interesting distortions. These arrange from classic overdrive-like distortions to very aggressive ones that adds enharmonic overtones to your sounds. If you want an untypical distortion sound you should definitely play with the blend function which ives you more freedom.

A big plus for me is that DIRT does not completely destroy the audio signal. The new harmonics created with this effect fit perfectly into the mix without making the signal useless. Native Instruments has created a distortion effect that works well with electronic instruments. This can be used to add character to instruments such as drum machines or Synthesizer bass or leads.

FREAK – Simple To Crazy

Probably the most versatile plugin form this bundle is FREAK, a ring modulator and frequency shifter with a set of creative features. FREAK combines “different amplitude modulation techniques and is based on a model of an analog diode ring circuit that can produce rich harmonic overtones and textures”. In order to quickly reach the desired goal, the developers have created a 3 FX system that features 3 different characteristics:

  • Radio mode: AM radio modulation
  • Oscillator mode: tremolo and distortion using a sine waveform.
  • Sidechain mode: gating effects

A powerful feature is the morphing function that allows you to morph smoothly between amplitude mod, ring mod (RING) and frequency shifting (FREQ). Additional parameters gives you control over the complete engine: harmonics, feedback and controls (left side) to specific modes.

Native Instruments Crush Pack Review

The sound tests clearly showed that FREAK is especially useful for versatile modulations less for classic distortions. The radio mode can distort sounds but unlike classic distortion effects. Here, AM is emulated from vintage radios that allows you to create very characteristic sounds. They do not really make the sound fuller (saturation…) but makes them more metallic and rougher in my opinion.  Where the other two plugins (BITE, DIRT) loom up the big distortion wall, FREAK deals more with the intricacies of distortion. A special attraction here is the morphing feature that allows you to drive through the individual modulation methods and with which you can discover many different sound colours.

Unlike in the radio mode, in the Oscillator mode, you can experience the pure sound of AM, RM and FM that is generated with a classic sine wave. If one mixes this with the input signal, new sounds are quickly created with many inharmanious elements, which are perceived as a distortion. The results differs in my opinion from classic hard distortion. FREAK makes the sound more metallic, smoker but also crazier. If you want it less shrill, you can also easily make classic modulation (tremolo, flanger or LFO) effects.

More crazy and experimental results you can achieve also with the Side-Chain mode where you can modulate the input signal with itself. It’s also possible to use any external signal as a modulation source by using the side-chain input. The sounds are reminiscent of a kind of blending where two signal put together. So you can make transitions in existing sounds, make them dirtier and more. I can clearly say that FREAK is the plugin in the CRUSH PACK that goes deepest in the sound and offers the most possibilities.

Video Demo & Sound Demos


In summary, Native Instruments’ CRUSH PACK Bundle has brought great plugins to market that show the wide range of distortion effects in a simple and easy-to-understand format. In BITE, DIRT and FREAK every music producer will find the right distortion and if not they will stimulate the sound design creation process. The CRUSH PACK plugins are simple, creative and powerful in one. They are small but are straightforward sound design tools for everyone that can enrich any sound with a certain extra.


  • great distortion sound design tools
  • wide range of sounds
  • high-quality effects
  • easy-to-use /hands-on design
  • low CPU consumption
  • fair price (69€ in the bundle)


  • no advanced modulation
  • not for Reaktor 6


  • only available in the bundle
  • no randomization feature

CRUSH PACK Effect Series by Native Instruments is available now for 69€/$ on the official NI web-store. Owners of the MOD PACK can upgrade for 49€/$.

Available here

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