Distortion effect

A simple distortion effect with 10 different types of distortion.

This is a “wave-shaping” effect. The waveform is shaped in various ways according to the settings.
Probably the best way to find what the settings do is simply to try it.
wsdistortion.ny (3.5 KB)

“Peak-Invert” , that’s a new one on me …
Steve's distortion ''Peak Invert'' @ 50.gif

Minor update. 2 more presets added. I think that’ll be the final version now.

I have no personal interest in “distortion” as an effect, but as a general comment, the choices offered here do seem somewhat user-unfriendly, and don’t bear much relation to the previously suggested choices.

Tube distortion
Harmonic distortion
Inharmonic distortion
Hard clipping
Soft clipping
Cross-over distortion
Tape saturation

Which action choice should I choose for (most of) the above?


“Killeringer” is an extremely popular plug-in for Audacity (see YouTube).
The name and control labels have little if any relation to what it does.
There is no documentation for Killeringer.
People, lots of people, are able to work out how to use it, and are so overjoyed that they make a YouTube video about it.

On my mixing desk there are 99 built in effects. I mostly use “25”, or sometimes “13” if I want a lighter reverb. Those two effects are called “25” and “13”.

I could have called the presets 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
I could have called them: Overdrive, Fuzz, Tube distortion, Walkie-Talkie…
To be useful, users would still need to try them to hear what they sound like.

Would you know the difference between “Tube” distortion and “Even Mellow” distortion? If not, then what’s in a name? Either the sound is appropriate for your needs or it’s not. Whether it is called Tube, Even Mellow, 4, or Henry, is irrelevant really. If you know that you like “Number 5” then you will use “Number 5”.

I was not attempting to model specific trademark effects, rather I have provided a wide selection of waveshaping distortions that can be used alone or in conjunction with other effects.

“Fuzz” is a marketing name for “Hard Clipping”.

Here’s a sample sound, very simply made:

Because they already saw tutorials on YouTube that told them they needed Killerringer for a Dalek/Cyberman effect?

What control do I use in your effect for Dalek voice?

“Tube Distortion” seems to be a common guitar pedal effect. So I would be looking for “Tube Distortion” in the controls of a distortion effect. “Even Mellow” says nothing to me about what it is typically used for.

Then why change your mind about the features and label names you voted for? Or has this been discussed again since that Forum topic?

Google finds 3.5 million results for “Fuzz pedal”, versus 19 for “Hard clipping pedal”.

Perhaps some users will want to compensate for lost “warmth” when transferring tapes and records to computer. Wouldn’t the two types of harmonic distortion and tape saturation have been useful for that?

Another example, where has “soft clipping” gone?

All I’m saying is that I’m surprised considering what you wrote before. To me, the effect sounded really “interesting” before.


That’d be my “variable ring modulator” effect (aka “Dalek Voice…”
variringmod.ny (692 Bytes)

It is, but I’d be a bit hesitant to use the term for a simple waveshaper effect. “Tube distortion” is a thing of mythology - it’s the holy grail of something or other.

“Fuzz” is an OK name I think - it’s just hard clipping, but for connoisseurs it’s probably not possible to get it quite right because digital does that aliasing thing whereas a simple diode just keeps going until it reaches its bandwidth limit - there is no “Nyquist frequency” to worry about.

Yes, “Fuzz” is the marketing name.

The “Even” presets could perhaps be named as “tube” because triode valve saturation distortion is typified by producing “even” harmonics.
The “Hard Limiting” preset could be called “fuzz”.
The “Smooth Drive” could be called “overdrive”.
The “Soft distortion” could be called “Blues warmth”.
“Peak Invert” and “Rectifier” are technical descriptions but you could call them “Rat” and “Hardcore” if you prefer.

A random selection of distortion “pedal” effects:
Silicon Fuzz Face® http://www.jimdunlop.com/product/FFM1-silicon
East River Drive® http://www.ehx.com/products/east-river-drive
Blackstar LTDS2® http://www.thelaboratory.com/p-42526-blackstar-ltds2-two-channel-distortion-pedal.aspx
Big Muff Pi® http://www.ehx.com/products/big-muff-pi
Worm Burner® http://dogsbodyvintageaudio.weebly.com/effects-pedals.html
Tube Screamer® http://www.ibanez.co.jp/products/u_effect_series14.php?series_id=153&year=2014&cat_id=6

Those names don’t really mean anything - they are just names.
If we had a marketing department I’d leave the names up to them - I’m just making the effects, but I think we really do need to replace the “Leveler” with a self confessed “distortion” effect, and preferably have a simple dynamics reduction effect as well.

My strong objection is tying one improvement to another. If we make each improvement dependent on other improvements then we won’t get anywhere. Goldwave certainly did not wait for perfection before releasing anything, they release the best that they have at the time, and if they can improve on it then it’s a reason for users to upgrade to the new version.

Audacity does have issues that need to be addressed before we implement some other things. The lack of an effect manager is a big issue because we can’t have an ever growing list of effects all in one long list. We don’t even have a “chorus” effect, which is one of the basic effects in every musician and sound engineers toolkit, but we all agree that the effect list has reached its maximum practical size (and well over its maximum size for users that already have lots of effects installed).

Graphics acceleration and command line options are all very good, but I think we (Audacity) need to prioritise those things that inhibit progression. I’m not involved with transferring vinyl to CD, but I’d love to see a suite of vinyl restoration tools in Audacity. I am into making music and I’d love to see tools for music production. We all know that Audacity is by far the best open source audio editing program, but we need to keep the vitality for it is to survive. Unlike commercial products we can’t rely on paying people and we can’t sit back and just polish the rough edges. Stability IS important, but so is innovation and progression.

You seemed previously in favour of the word “tube” ( https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/distortion-effects/26958/6 ):

That comment was in comparison to fuzz/hard clipping.

I don’t have strong views on that, especially if the name is a precise description.

Also I don’t want to get involved in great detail about names. I would like you to consider if it may still be best to tie some labels to commonly used effect names.

If we go for a “Hard Clip” then it seems logical to me there should be a corresponding “soft clip”.

You’ve said elsewhere that two of the presets add “even harmonics”, but I don’t know how a naive user guesses that from the names. Does “even harmonics” mean “an integer of the fundamental”, or something else?

I thought the previously suggested names were excellent.

If we don’t “tie”, then your “improvement” involves removing a helpful, simple shipped tool that does something fundamental - compress dynamic range. That’s still true even if the simple shipped tool has a (mostly unwanted) by-product.

It’s even more true since the users it helps don’t seem to be worried about it.

If Leveler distorts, they undo, then choose a lower degree of leveling. The effect is “simple” enough that they can see how to do it. :wink:


Regarding even harmonics:
It is also a myth that even harmonics are good and odd ones bad. Both harmonics sound bad with higher order.
They are both a multiple of the fundamental. Inharmonic overtones are therefore rather called partials. And they can sound nice as well because the ear constructs sometimes a missing harmonic from those partials (e.g. like with church bells, where the fundamental does actually not sound).

Harmonic number one is the fundamental - odd.
The nice even harmonics are only those that are 2^x, e.g. 2 4 8 16 etc. since those are all octaves. Those are also the only ones that do not clash with equal tempered instruments.
The pitches evolve as follows (for A4=440 Hz):

  1. A4
  2. A5
  3. E6 +2 Cents
  4. A6
  5. C#7 -14 Cents
  6. E7 +2 Cents
  7. G7 -31 Cents
  8. A7
  9. B7 +4 Cents
  10. C#8 -14 Cents
  11. D#8 -49 Cents
  12. E8 +2 Cents
  13. F8 +40 Cents
  14. G8 -31 Cents
  15. G#8 -12 Cents
  16. A8

No. 5 and 7 give a bluesy touch, however, minor and major tonality gets fuzzy.
In general, harmonics over the 10th order should be avoided. Speaker cabinets tend to roll off at about 4 kHz, sure a good thing for our sample tone (10th= 4400 Hz).

Harmonics are integer multiples of the fundamental frequency.
Even harmonics: 2x, 4x, 6x, 8x, 10x,…
Odd harmonics: 3x, 5x, 7x, 9x,…

I still do. I’m sure that a good “Tube overdrive” simulation would be very popular. Unfortunately I only know how to make a crude semblance of an overdriven valve amplifier. Really good digital simulations are very hard to do. The basic algorithm is a distortion that creates even harmonics, but real tube amplifiers (and good simulations) are much more complex.

We can easily create even harmonics - the “Even Mellow” and “Even Bright” settings do that. I would have called them “Even Harmonics (mellow)” and “Even Harmonics (bright)”, but the Nyquist choice widget is not wide enough so I needed a shorter name. Calling these “Tube” or “Valve” distortions would imo be an overstatement sure to be criticised.

No problem at all. The names were off the top of my head to give descriptive labels. As long as the names are not misleading or implying more than they are, then I’m quite happy for them to be changed.

If the waveshaper were implemented as a built in effect, then there may be no need for names at all.

I don’t think that this is the best example, but here is someone else’s implementation of a waveshaper:

(Waveshaper with single slider control and graph display)

I think that if we have just one distortion effect shipped with Audacity, that a waveshaper is an excellent choice as it provides a broad palette of sounds in one relatively simple and easy to understand way. All it is doing is squashing and/or stretching the waveform vertically so as to distort the shape of the waveform, which changes the sound.

OK, I agree on not calling these “Tube” or “Valve”.

I’m sorry if I missed intervening posts but there was very little documentation or explanation in the topic that introduced the distortion effect.

I wasn’t reading “Even” as “even harmonics” but as an “even waveform” in some sense. If Robert feels that odd harmonics are not necessarily bad, would “Bright harmonics” and “Soft harmonics” be more descriptive? The Manual can say these are actually even harmonics.

Well, I think users do like effects presets. I know they should experiment with what sounds best, but novices may need reference points or places to start from. Even advanced users can find it helpful to save a shape that they like.