Do your tracks lack character and warmth? One of the problems of using digital hardware and software to produce your work is that they lack the nice fuzz and distortion that you get with old school analog gear, which can make your tracks sound too clean and sterile. Thankfully you can recreate the awesome character of classic analog hardware with the help of saturation plugins. Read this guide to find out what saturation is and how to use it to bring more personality to your music.
We all know that when you push the signal too hard on your tracks you get digital distortion which has a sudden and aggressive clipping sound. Producers of glitch music love using these distorted sounds in their music but most of the time producers are desperate to avoid them. If you’ve ever recorded onto an analogue tape machine then you’ll know that if you push the signal level high enough the tape becomes saturated and no further signal can be recorded. Whereas the digital distortion produces a hard clipping sound, tape produces a fuzzy, warm type of distortion that most people quite appealing. This is why producers and mixing engineers started used it as a tool to help glue individual elements together and make their tracks sound bigger and louder.
The awesome thing these days is that you can get access to the world’s best analogue hardware on your laptop via emulation plugins without needing a large studio, racks full of equipment and a worrying high electricity bill.
There’s absolutely loads of awesome saturation plugins out there, but here are a few of my absolute favourites. PSP Audioware’s VintageWarmer2 has to be top of the list. Combining tape-style distortion with single- and multi-band compression or limiting, this versatile plug-in can be used for anything from gently warming up an individual instrument track to smashing an entire mix beyond all recognition. iZotope’s Trash 2 is the Swiss Army knife housing everything you need to seriously mangle up your tracks. If you’ve got the budget then the Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines ooze with quality. As the name suggests, the SoundToys Decapitator is a fearsome weapon. it even has a ‘Punish’ button to wreck havoc on your tracks.
For more tips on saturation check out Tuts Audio’s guide to how to use saturation effectively, to get tips on heating up synth lines, vocal treatment and mastering. Get That Pro Sound has a great strategy to approaching saturation in different musical styles.