IK Multimedia AmpliTube 3, €269
AmpliTube is IK's name for a technology applied to a wide range of products, from bundled freebies to iPhone apps. All these gadgets have one thing in common, though: they provide world-class amplifier simulation and distortion effects designed with the guitarist in mind. There's even an optional pedal board controller. Neat stuff.
Read IK Multimedia AmpliTube 3 review
Native Instruments Guitar Rig, From €179
Like AmpliTube, this is an entire suite of tools aimed at guitarists. Again, there is a lot more here than distortions and amp sims, but there are shedloads of both. And yeah, there's a hardware foot pedal controller. The emulations are top-notch, and we can't imagine that you'd be running out of distortion options any time soon.
Read Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4 Pro review
Meatscience Bitsmacker, Free
This Mac plug-in may look like a plain Jane, but it can dole up the most delightful digital distortion. You can dial in bit depths ranging from 0.01 to 32 bits, EQ is available on both the input and the output, and there's a drive function to pump up your signals. You can also crank the sample rate all the way down to 50Hz, making this your go-to plug-in for urban and chip-tune styles.
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Togu Audio Line TAL-Tube, Free
Togu Audio Line seem to make a habit of creating awesome analogue emulations and setting them loose at no charge, and you've gotta love 'em for that. TAL-Tube, as you will no doubt have guessed, is a tube saturation simulator, and with its controls boiled down to four self-explanatory knobs and a pair of buttons, it's about as user-friendly as you're going to get.
Download Togu Audio Line TAL-Tube