Logic Pro users have had some tools in the past to create this kind of thickening effect. Many, myself included, often use the Distortion plug-in. Driving the signal, and then reducing the output by the same amount, results in a noticeably pleasing thickening effect. The Tape Delay has been used for years to create a subtle tape saturation effect. Running an audio signal through the plug-in, with no delay or feedback time, emulates the tape saturation effect nicely.
Logic Pro X At first glance, this is a spectacular sounding multi-effects plug-in, loaded with nice modulation facilities and several FX modules. A three-stage distortion unit with a variety of algorithms ranging from subtle to aggressive. My new favorite mixing tool is to turn off all the modules in Phat FX and then enable only the Distortion module.
The Soft Saturation and Vari-Drive algorithms in particular sound to me like the perfect saturation tools to thicken up almost any signal running through it. Add to that the tuneable Bass Enhancer module, and this moves Phat FX into the realm of master bus mix tool extraordinaire! I also love that you can modify Phat FX's signal flow, so the three components can be placed in any order.
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Or perhaps you want the bass enhancer after both of them? Each combination results in subtle variations. The mix control in the Output section allows you to further control the effect, by blending the amount you want into the summed signal at the output stage. Maybe you want to drive some heavy saturation into the signal but only use a little bit of it.
Or perhaps some subtle amounts, but higher up in the blend with the dry signal. Again, all the permutations and variations yield exciting results, depending on how aggressive you want the effect to be. The first two have Phat FX on the mix bus. First, you will hear the mix unprocessed by Phat FX. That is followed by the same musical segment with a subtle amount of soft saturation and vari drive, combined with a bit of bass enhancer.
The bass enhancer is placed between the two saturation stages, and the output section is set to subtly fatten up the signal with minimal volume changes. All stages are used conservatively. The result is a delicate yet noticeable cohesiveness dare I use the word glue! Listen either with headphones or good monitors to get the full effect. These same modules can be used as a volume enhancer as well.
7 Free VST Plugins That Will Warm Up Your Sound
In this next example, the same values are used in each of the three stages. The bass enhancer is placed after the two saturation modules though instead of in between them as in the previous example. Here the output and mix levels are full up. There is a noticeable increase in volume. The soft limiting algorithm is still used at the Output stage. This is a great way to add some fullness not only to a mix but individual tracks or busses as well.
The first example is with Phat FX disabled. The second has it enabled on the master bus with the settings shown in the image below:. There is definitely a difference but it's hard to put your finger on it. Even audiophiles have a difficulty nailing down just what that subtle feeling is that separates the new from old.
There's a lot of myth and mistake to be found online when you start searching for the answer to this mystery. People attribute it to transfers being made from needles and records to digital. They'll say it has to do with "analog warmth" from using tube electronics and outboard studio equipment.
The truth of the matter all boils down to one thing: The race to emulate recording to tape began soon after recording and mixing engineers began to move further and further into the digital domain. Quality climbed higher and higher, yet something was missing. A sense of life that we were used to hearing was gone.
This is when plugin companies began creating all types of simulation plugins to fill this void in the listener's hearts. But even among professionals there's still tons of confusion about what saturation plugins do, which are the best, and how to use them effectively. We're going to clear up all the murky waters right now There's an entire crowd of amateur recording engineers and mix artists out there paying obscene prices for outdated technology, modding their current microphones, EQ's, and compressors, and all kinds of other shenanigans.
Don't fear. Most of them just need reasons to justify tinkering and spending money on their passions and hobbies. You don't have to spend a single dollar to achieve this affect, although you might get better results if you spring for a nicer option. All you need to do is know what it is you're dealing with and how to properly use it. Let's do this That "warmth" everyone is hunting for entirely comes from tape saturation.
Sure, all of the other analogue gear and tubes and other stuff might contribute some, but here's the real deal. Back when we would record on reel-to-reel tape and could afford the tape! When you'd mix, you'd play all of those pieces of tape back, run them through the various pieces of outboard equipment, and then record them again back to tape to save your work.
After a bit of work, you'd have each instrument on second or third generation tape. Then you'd make a drum stem that combined all of your drums together, for instance. By the time you combined all of the instruments and takes into one master recording, you've gone through tons of generations of tape. These mechanical reel-to-reel systems weren't perfect any more than your cassette player in your car or Walkman was.
The speed would vary a little bit. The tape heads would collect dust or degrade over time causing more friction. What this resulted in was every take having random, very small and almost imperceptible changes in different frequency ranges:.
Best Freeware Saturation VST/AU Plugins
But remember what I said about fourth, fifth, and tenth generational recordings? It starts to stack up when you have a copy of a copy of a copy What you end up with is a giant mixture of barely audible distortion, phase irregularities, micro pitch shifting, and harmonic transients popping out across the entire frequency spectrum. And it sounds great! Mixing engineers discovered that they could print to tape even hotter than normal, in the range of soft clipping, to further amplify these pleasurable sounds.
It creates a wall or haze that you can't hear through, unlike these new digital recordings where everything is superbly isolated. If you're having a hard time understanding what this "sound" is like, check out the quintessential example by the Moody Blues on their track "Go Now. You won't hear that here in their early stuff, but this is a perfect example of waaaay too much tape saturation and going into the realm of full-on distortion:.
You can think of it like putting an absolutely invisible sheet of glass in front of your television screen.
You can't see the glass itself, but the light coming through it and into your eyes has small differences that creates a sheen that otherwise wouldn't exist. And if someone to remove that piece of glass, you wouldn't know what was missing but you'd prefer the previous version because you were used to it. That's what this tape saturation craze is all about. That's a doozy of a sub-title there. The question becomes "How can we emulate those effects in our digital recordings without going through the process of using all analog gear and recording to tape?
These plugins give you a lot of the same parametric equalization options that most modern equipment gives you now, but the essentials remain the same. These plugins apply a controllable overdrive to produce a fuzzy distortion of extra harmonics and transients. You can slap saturation on any instrument. Grunge and rock bands might like some on their electric guitars or even heavily on the vocals as an effect here or there.
12 of the best analogue saturation plugins | MusicRadar
But it really shines on the lower frequency instruments like drums and bass. Synth leads really shine with it too though. Try everything!
Read these descriptions, please, and then explore the video we put together that displays each of these specific examples in audio form! When you apply these plugins to individual tracks, such as the bass line, you can add a lot of punch, warmth, and harmonics to help it stand out a bit more. You can't add any high-end sparkle to a sound that didn't have it in the first place, but with this type of distortion you can force these harmonics to pop out and then control with equalization.
Another example use would be to apply it across a drum bus where all of the individual tracks are routed through. By applying the tape saturation to this auxiliary track you can "glue" your drums together, especially after a slight bit of grouped compression. Slap on a slight reverb after the saturation and you're cooking with fire! If you can't find the right amount of saturation, you can always route your signal off to a bus and apply saturation there.
Then you can push it as heavily as you like and then recombine it with the original signal at any volume level you want.
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This way, you can create a very intense sense of saturation but mix it back in at lower volumes so it's not so obvious. Perhaps the most common use of a tape saturation plugin is to place it on the master out track to truly emulate mixing down to tape. This would apply the saturation across the entire mix as a whole, providing that "wall of pleasurable fuzziness" over the entire recording. If you're looking to take your modern record and give it the old flair of sounding as if it was recorded on tape, there's no better album to emulate than John Mayer's Battle Studies.
They used all of the benefits of modern digital computer technology but It's the perfect mixture of crystal clear digital recordings and tape saturation maybe a tad too heavy on the saturation for me. Stream some samples so you can hear it by clicking the album cover below and download a copy if you dig it. It's a great record.
Now that you know what this saturation sounds like, let's cover some of the core concepts and questions and then I'll show you a list of plugins that are currently considered the best for this. Whether or not tape saturation is a pleasing effect is entirely subjective. Young people aren't going to care and may even find it a negative effect. Us older folks or younger fans of the oldies may prefer it. Remember to focus on the desires of your listeners versus your own before you start applying saturation. Not everyone remembers or cares for the reel-to-reel sound.