Saturation

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Michael Willis
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Saturation

Postby Michael Willis » Thu Feb 14, 2019 1:38 pm

I'm wondering if anybody here has opinions about the use of a saturation effects plugin. From what I've been reading, it seems like it might not really do much for my virtual orchestration projects, but might sound nice on my acoustic recordings. I know the final answer is that I need to experiment and determine what works for me, but I would like to read about other people's experience. What open source saturation plugins do you like? In what circumstances do you find them useful?

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Re: Saturation

Postby empowerg » Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:06 pm

Michael Willis wrote:What open source saturation plugins do you like? In what circumstances do you find them useful?


Calf Saturator. It's a fixed part of my master bus as well as on quite a lot of tracks (as you can see in my videos [1]). It makes drums punchier, warms certain instruments (piano, strings, synths), can be used to tame extreme transients, enriches the harmonics and reduces "digital cold". I also use it on vocals (sometimes mixed in as parallel distortion with extremer settings) and sometimes on harsh distorted guitars to get them a bit mellower again (sounds counterintuitive but it works).
So I use it also on orchestral stuff to simulate a tape recording (that's what they were developed for).

But you are right, try them out and see for yourself.

lg,
MIchael

[1]:
on libremusic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5S1xGRXiGc&list=PLp2qifo30hMsYT4AXcNeepsXkk1PmCJR4&index=5
on the crocell kit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F94g4p0IzdU&t=1439s
or here as a special effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YdyaagjyTY&t=1119s

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sysrqer
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Re: Saturation

Postby sysrqer » Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:59 pm

I haven't really found one that I'm happy with. I mainly use vsts so can't really use calf's although it does seem pretty good and has a nice level of control. The tap one is not bad at all (think it's that one, has a slider for tube or tape) but it seems to introduce a quite a lot of gain so it's impossible to do an A/B and always sounds 'better' because it is louder. There's one in the gxplugins pack which is useful, depending on what you need this is great although it's fairly simple.

I haven't been all that convinced by any of the algorithms that I've tried in linux to be honest.

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Re: Saturation

Postby Death » Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:18 pm

empowerg wrote:Calf Saturator. It's a fixed part of my master bus as well as on quite a lot of tracks (as you can see in my videos [1]). It makes drums punchier, warms certain instruments (piano, strings, synths), can be used to tame extreme transients, enriches the harmonics and reduces "digital cold". I also use it on vocals (sometimes mixed in as parallel distortion with extremer settings) and sometimes on harsh distorted guitars to get them a bit mellower again (sounds counterintuitive but it works).
So I use it also on orchestral stuff to simulate a tape recording (that's what they were developed for).


That's strange. I've never had a saturation plugin make drums punchier. It's normally the opposite. But then you say it's also good to tame transients, which is the opposite of making drums punchy. I've never tried the Calf one though so maybe it can do both things?

Saturation is also good on harsh guitars, I agree. It's probably not something you would naturally guess works, but it can do very nicely.

I often use old tape style emulators because it works well with the music I make. They generally mellow out the sound and make the top end lose some detail, but making it smoother on the ears. 'Warm' is definitely the word. They can distort the low end too so you have to play with the over bias control (if it has one) to get a balance between top and low end clarity. It's not great for a more modern, punchy and detailed sound though. You have to be quite sparing in those situations, if you even use it all. Then again, saturation can make things sound really harsh too - it is just distortion at the end of the day. Different saturation plugins enhance difference harmonics for a different feel. And keep in mind, I've mainly referenced classic tape style ones here as that's what I normally use.

You might also want to look into a simple soft clipper (tape emulation plugins also do soft clipping). They 'softly' clip off the top of the waveform running through them in a way that's more like what analogue gear does rather than the brutally harsh 'hard clipped' digital way. If done sparingly, it gives a nice, slightly distorted and 'fatter' or 'rounder' sound, at the cost of punchy transients of course (and that might be just what you want so it's not necessarily a bad thing!). But you can do stuff about that if you want the punch back.

Anyway, like most things, it really is a case of experimenting and finding your own preference. Get some different saturation, tape emulators and soft clipper plugins and go fucking crazy with them :mrgreen: Just work them really hard so you can clearly hear what each setting does, then back off until you reach a more reasonable level. Have fun because these are some of the most pleasing plugins to use in my opinion :wink:

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Re: Saturation

Postby ufug » Thu Feb 14, 2019 9:22 pm

Death wrote:You might also want to look into a simple soft clipper (tape emulation plugins also do soft clipping). They 'softly' clip off the top of the waveform running through them in a way that's more like what analogue gear does rather than the brutally harsh 'hard clipped' digital way. If done sparingly, it gives a nice, slightly distorted and 'fatter' or 'rounder' sound, at the cost of punchy transients of course (and that might be just what you want so it's not necessarily a bad thing!). But you can do stuff about that if you want the punch back.


This--I was going to recommend the Calf Tape Simulator in addition to their saturation plugin.

If you are looking for tube saturation, also consider doing this non-digitally. I've been using an Art Tube MP mic pre for 20+ years. You can get the older ones (not the V3) for under $20 used, and you can use it on anything. Works well as a direct box too.

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Re: Saturation

Postby Death » Thu Feb 14, 2019 9:29 pm

ufug wrote:This--I was going to recommend the Calf Tape Simulator in addition to their saturation plugin.

If you are looking for tube saturation, also consider doing this non-digitally. I've been using an Art Tube MP mic pre for 20+ years. You can get the older ones (not the V3) for under $20 used, and you can use it on anything. Works well as a direct box too.


Nice. I love to hear that people mix analogue gear in with their setup :) I don't actually own any analogue gear, I just pretend I'm using it with my plugins :mrgreen:

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Re: Saturation

Postby ufug » Thu Feb 14, 2019 10:27 pm

Death wrote:
Nice. I love to hear that people mix analogue gear in with their setup :) I don't actually own any analogue gear, I just pretend I'm using it with my plugins :mrgreen:


Ha! If you have vocal cords, you have analogue gear. What's more FOSS than making the air vibrate? :wink:

It's easy to forget that there was music before computers. Sometimes I will spend forever trying to make something happen with plugins and then remember it might be easier to make the sound the old fashioned way...

Death
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Re: Saturation

Postby Death » Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:58 pm

ufug wrote:Ha! If you have vocal cords, you have analogue gear. What's more FOSS than making the air vibrate? :wink:

It's easy to forget that there was music before computers. Sometimes I will spend forever trying to make something happen with plugins and then remember it might be easier to make the sound the old fashioned way...


I made music for years before I even included computers in the process. I still remember :) I was just a musician then. Never even started to get into the engineering side of things until about 10 years ago, and by then digital was on it's feet already so that's how I learned it. I'd love to have an analogue studio someday though. As for vocals, yeh I hear ya haha. I don't try vocals often. Only done it on a few tracks :/

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Re: Saturation

Postby tavasti » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:19 am

Death wrote:I'd love to have an analogue studio someday though.

80-90 home studio was 4 track recorder with C-cassette. If you wan you can get them still from ebay :-)
Linux veteran & Novice musician

Hear my music at https://audiu.net/users/tawaste

Death
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Re: Saturation

Postby Death » Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:39 pm

tavasti wrote:80-90 home studio was 4 track recorder with C-cassette. If you wan you can get them still from ebay :-)


Yeh that'd be a bit too basic. I'm thinking more like lots of hardware EQ's, compressors, reverbs, mixing console, tape machines etc! I'ts a dream.. Anyway, I think we're derailing this thread a little so I'll stop with this stuff haha :P

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Re: Saturation

Postby jonetsu » Fri Feb 15, 2019 2:40 pm

Death wrote:Yeh that'd be a bit too basic. I'm thinking more like lots of hardware EQ's, compressors, reverbs, mixing console, tape machines etc! I'ts a dream.. Anyway, I think we're derailing this thread a little so I'll stop with this stuff haha :P


The MPA2 tube (stock 12AX7) preamp I use has a nice saturation when pushed. It also has a plate voltage booster (150V) option which adds smooth clipping.

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Re: Saturation

Postby empowerg » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:16 am

Death wrote:
That's strange. I've never had a saturation plugin make drums punchier. It's normally the opposite. But then you say it's also good to tame transients, which is the opposite of making drums punchy. I've never tried the Calf one though so maybe it can do both things?


I find high transients more "pokey" or "stingy" and not exactly punchy, for me punchy comes more from the body, not the transients (for example, see https://youtu.be/mqKM8p1nWxo?list=WL. In that example, for me, the punch comes from the 200Hz donk, not from the transients). But of course this is highly subjective.

I think my view also depends largely on the music genre. A punchy drum in hip hop is different to a punchy drum in metal. I think I developed my view through the Nail the Mix and Creative Live courses (which were mostly metal), where the producers also added "punch" to the kick by applying saturation (after gates, EQ and compression).

lg,
Michael

Death
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Re: Saturation

Postby Death » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:05 pm

empowerg wrote:
I find high transients more "pokey" or "stingy" and not exactly punchy, for me punchy comes more from the body, not the transients (for example, see https://youtu.be/mqKM8p1nWxo?list=WL. In that example, for me, the punch comes from the 200Hz donk, not from the transients). But of course this is highly subjective.

I think my view also depends largely on the music genre. A punchy drum in hip hop is different to a punchy drum in metal. I think I developed my view through the Nail the Mix and Creative Live courses (which were mostly metal), where the producers also added "punch" to the kick by applying saturation (after gates, EQ and compression).

lg,
Michael


Ah ok. It's just a different interpretation of the word. What you're describing, when you enhance the body rather than the transient/tame the transient is what most people would call making a sound 'fatter'. I've never heard anyone describe that as being punchy. With these things, I suppose there are no exact definitions for them other than what people say, but I'm still gonna say that I think you're getting the terminology wrong there, at least in comparison to what I've heard every single engineer use for all the years I've been doing this :P

However, different use of terminology aside, we can both agree now that the same affect happens from saturation!


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