Sunday, March 11, 2012


Hello and welcome our weekly post! This time we're going to talk about Tape Saturation and Tube Saturation.
What are they? We're talking about plugins that tries to emulate the response of the hardware devices that were once used to record which added a distinctive tonality to the sound, that has gone lost with the arrival of digital recording.

- Tape Saturation: is a low-level distortion introduced when recording to tape, which used to add a particular Equalization cut to a recording. In the past, sound engineers used to achieve this effect raising the level of the tape recorder, so that when tape is driven in this way and the level meets 0db (or a little bit beyond) the level clips, but in the analog realm this is known as ‘soft clipping’. When digital recording became available, sound engineers tried to reduce the analog coloring and distortion as much as possible in order to achieve the highest fidelity sound available, but then they eventually realized that something was missing, and that part of the beauty of classic recordings was given also by the "lower fidelity" of analog devices. Tape saturation plugins emulates the sound of an audio recorded to tape, and can give you a punchier sound, since they basically add a very slight Compression and distortion, pushing the sound also a bit towards the mid-frequencies area, and works well on single instruments that requires to be brought forward in the mix, but today its main use is in the Mastering Phase, since to add warmth to single instruments we suggest to use the Tube Saturation we'll discuss further in this same article.

A great free plugin that simulates analog saturation/compression and can help you bringing your mix to life, and that can be used instead of a buss Compressor in the Mastering Phase, is FERRIC TDS, which has three main controls: DYNAMICS, that works as a gentle Compressor, SATURATION, that adds extra harmonics, and LIMITING, that controls peak performances. Another nice free and very simple Vst to try is 1-TIME.

- Tube Saturation: Tube saturation plugins instead, emulates the sound of an audio being processed by a tube preamplifier, and are great for adding analogue "fatness" and warmth to recordings, adding harmonics to the sound. Increasing the amount of drive you can obtain some nice distortion too, but this is not their first aim, so in order to add real distortion is probably better to use other dedidcated plugins. Tube saturation plugins are quite easy to use: the DRIVE control increases the digital input gain. Play with the balance between the drive and output gain to control the amount of saturation required, and you'll be able to add a pleasant, slightly mid-focused colour and harmonics to your GUITAR, VOCALS, SYNTH, KICK, SNARE and other instruments. Since these plugins tends to be a bit more invasive than Tape Saturators, I'd suggest to use them on single instruments, and then use a tape saturator for Mastering, but this is not a rule, just follow your ears.

Today many DAWs features an in-bundle tube saturation plugin, but here's a couple of good free Vst to try: RUBY TUBE, Nick Crow TUBE DRIVER, Voxengo TubeAmp and Hotto Vintage Tube Warmer/Maximizer.

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  1. Love you TO THE POINT explanations! Very useful information! I've been mixing for quite some time, and am familiar with the concepts you explain, but even so, these explanations are priceless! Thanks for taking the time and making it easy and understanding for the rest of us hehe

  2. Thanks for sharing great and very useful knowledge! it covered everything that I was wondering about Tape and Tube distortion.

  3. Thanks to you mate for passing by! make sure to become a fan on our facebook page to get all the updates and share this blog!



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