A new wave of Saturation Plugins, Marketing hype? or a cure for ITB Mixing?
View Poll Results: DO believe saturation plugins makes mixing itb sound better?
NO, (haven't tried a saturation plugin yet)
2 Votes - 2.38%
YES, (haven't tried a saturation plugin yet)
1 Votes - 1.19%
Undecided
11 Votes - 13.10%
NO, (and used a saturation plugin)
11 Votes - 13.10%
YES, (and used a saturation plugin)
59 Votes - 70.24%
Voters: 84. You may not vote on this poll

AcoosticZoo
Thread Starter
#1
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #1
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A new wave of Saturation Plugins, Marketing hype? or a cure for ITB Mixing?

I once demo'd A saturator plugin called, URS Saturation and could hear the difference in the sound.
Unique Recording Software
But I wasn't really loving what I heard and held off getting it.

background: I've used the CraneSong HEDD 192 for tracking and tape saturation for over 4 years, but the way the HEDD emparts saturation is really beautiful. It's hardware, but I'm guessing it's software/digitally based anyway.

Back 3 years ago I was looking for a substitute for my cranesong HEDD and was really dissapointed with what was on offer in the plugin market. However, in 2010, there appears to be a huge move towards ITB Channel saturators summing bus plugins. EG. Protools heat, etc.

I'm interested in MacOSX Audio Units, not protools plugins, cos it's got to run on Logic. would be great if Cranesong's phoenix was available on Audio units though.

I know artificial saturation "kinda" works on my Cranesong HeDD, by "kinda" i mean sounds pleasant, but I'm wondering how many plugins that offer "saturation" actually enhances/Improves the original recorded sound.

From experience, I suspect this may be just marketing/a fad maybe? Surely a little saturation can't be the holy grail of audio processing candy.

I'm not about to have the time to rush out and try every demo cos a mix session takes ages to complete, and if you mix with one saturation plugin, it's not so simple to just sub in another one cos each saturation will react differently. I know if you mix with it at the start and then bypass it, you'll hear a noticeable change. However, scientifically, you would have mixed it differently without the "Saturation" plugin in there in the first place for correct comparision.

So, I'm just really curious as to the effect of these saturation plugins. There's so many coming out, and much more out already. It's like a sea of saturation plugins have come all at once (ie. relative to a 60+years of recording audio industry).

Judging by the way things are going, I suspect waves might be coming up with one soon too.

Regards
Josef Horhay
Mixing Engineer
www.acoosticzoo.com
#2
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #2
Banned
 

I heard the dirt in the URS plugs, along with the dirt in the Waves Ren series. Both decent/good imo. A decent cheap free one is the Antress Modern Analoger. But nothing beats supplying the digital processing chain with an initial analog foundation - a warm, fat, dirty old preamp signal... or as many here do, reamping. Best of both worlds.
AcoosticZoo
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#3
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #3
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Thread Starter
well, the urs saturation didn't sound horrible, but it just wasn't what I was expecting when compared to what the cranesong HEDD does (nor was it intended too.)

Antress doesn't run on Audio units.

ReAmping is great. Beats simulations most day. I've been getting really great results with a Neumann M149 infront of a Cabinet. Better than the traditional SM57 in the recording studio.


Regards
Josef Horhay
Mixing Engineer
www.acoosticzoo.com
#4
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #4
Lives for gear
I used the URS on a snare just an hour ago. Honestly with the plugs I just listen to see if it sounds better. I don't really say to myself, does this sound like tape or have a analog saturation sound to it? I just think in terms of does it make it sound better for what I'm doing. If it does it has served it's purpose. Are there better things out there probably. I really like how the URS brought out my snare drum and made it sound more 3d than 2d and it did the job great with a lot more punch! Decapitator is one of my favorite plugins right now.

For me in Logic the only 2 I use are the Decapitator and URS. Any other ones out there in AU that are as good or better?
#5
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #5
Gear nut
 

The best way to check a saturation plug is to put it across all drum tracks with a mid - heavy saturation setting, mix as normal, and then take them all off. The difference is huge. Particularly with the URS!
#6
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #6
Gear Head
 
Rooster21's Avatar
 

Tritone's colortone pro was my cure for an ITB mix. They discontinued they're first release of the plugin for an updated version that never came out (been waiting awhile now...), it really worked wonders in the right combination. It's too bad, I've pretty much given up hope at this point.

I have now been using Decapitator, which I strongly suggest as a very flexible and easy to use saturation plugin.
#7
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Josef,

I agree with some aspects regarding the thread title. I disagree with the way you've framed the questions in your poll. The results of the poll lose their meaning by the way you've framed the questions.

Yes .. SOME saturation plug-ins can be USEFUL for mixing ITB ... I'll say that categorically.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AcoosticZoo View Post
ReAmping is great. Beats simulations most day
My experiences lead me down the same path. I agree. thumbsup

Your Title .. A new wave of Saturation Plugins, Marketing hype? I say Yes .. Absolutely .. Just more of the same within the same paradigm .. SOME are useful for reinforcing low-mid, SOME do stack well, SOME are a workaround for properties that seem to be inherent in digital summing and DAW's. So, I'm in agreement with a lot of the above posts ..

Or a cure for ITB Mixing? A bit sensationalised maybe .. I'm envisaging the next wave of marketing banners already .. I hear AVID are hiring ..

Cheers RAy
#8
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rooster21 View Post
Tritone's colortone pro was my cure for an ITB mix. They discontinued they're first release of the plugin for an updated version that never came out (been waiting awhile now...), it really worked wonders in the right combination. It's too bad, I've pretty much given up hope at this point.

I have now been using Decapitator, which I strongly suggest as a very flexible and easy to use saturation plugin.
They've re-done two of them, and it looks like ColorTone is the next one. It shows as the upcoming one. Not sure how long it's been showing it as the upcoming one though.
#9
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
They've re-done two of them, and it looks like ColorTone is the next one.
Good News.
#10
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #10
Gear Guru
 

There is a trade-off vs. clarity using these plug-ins, IMO, and I always feel like I have to weigh it. Track by track. I do like them, I do use them, but ITB mixing is the same nitpicky beast it has always been, no 'revolution' has occurred, and now we have added all this bypassing and soul-searching to the task as well.

Whereas there doesn't seem to be the same trade-off when I am spanking some hardware on the Front End. Or even as an insert with the dreaded Extra Conversion.
AcoosticZoo
Thread Starter
#11
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #11
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattg082 View Post
I used the URS on a snare just an hour ago. Honestly with the plugs I just listen to see if it sounds better. I don't really say to myself, does this sound like tape or have a analog saturation sound to it? I just think in terms of does it make it sound better for what I'm doing. If it does it has served it's purpose. Are there better things out there probably. I really like how the URS brought out my snare drum and made it sound more 3d than 2d and it did the job great with a lot more punch! Decapitator is one of my favorite plugins right now.

For me in Logic the only 2 I use are the Decapitator and URS. Any other ones out there in AU that are as good or better?
Actually makes good sense what you did. As long as it makes it sound "better" then use it. I'll give Decapitator a trial later.
#12
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Thickener

This kind of musical distortion was once considered a problem in the analog world and the solution to this was digital. It's ironic. I do understand what these kind of plug-ins do but there are other ways to saturate / thicken a sound that doesn't involve signal distortion. To me these plug-ins are useful but definitely not the cure.
AcoosticZoo
Thread Starter
#13
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #13
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic View Post
Josef,

I agree with some aspects regarding the thread title. I disagree with the way you've framed the questions in your poll. The results of the poll lose their meaning by the way you've framed the questions.

Yes .. SOME saturation plug-ins can be USEFUL for mixing ITB ... I'll say that categorically.

My experiences lead me down the same path. I agree. thumbsup

Your Title .. A new wave of Saturation Plugins, Marketing hype? I say Yes .. Absolutely .. Just more of the same within the same paradigm .. SOME are useful for reinforcing low-mid, SOME do stack well, SOME are a workaround for properties that seem to be inherent in digital summing and DAW's. So, I'm in agreement with a lot of the above posts ..

Or a cure for ITB Mixing? A bit sensationalised maybe .. I'm envisaging the next wave of marketing banners already .. I hear AVID are hiring ..

Cheers RAy
Yes, in hindsight, I think you're right about the poll, it splits the Positives/Negative making you commit to a sweeping statement that all saturation plugins do make itb mixing sounds better or not, and yes, not all plugins are created equal, it must be judged on a case by case basis.
Just becos Saturation Plugin "A" works well, doesn't mean Saturation Plugin "B" will too.

I'm curious to see how many people believe or not believe in Saturation plugins, or have personally proved it works/not work.

Personally, I don't really like the effect of saturation plugins cause I've heard "smearing" in the imaging - but some engineers would call that fattening/smoothing.

Then, when you use the cranesong HEDD Tape dial, it actually sounds beautiful and "fuller". So, from experience, I don't really know what Dave hill did - but it's something very special and I'm yet to find an equivalent in Audio units.

In the mean time, I'm happy just taking the time to bounce digital out into my cranesong and do it that way. A little time consuming, but it's a unavoidable evil i guess.

Just thinking atm, that maybe the inflator might be pretty cool in terms of dialing in "harmonic" distortion. It's quite affordable too, any thoughts on this? I've read somewhere (forget where exactly) that Charles Dye from "mix it like a record" likes the inflator for that reason.

Also another plugin that comes to mind is OZONE 4 with it's multiband harmonic enhancer. Demo'd it a long time ago, but too wasn't very keen on the results - not dismissing it, not saying it's horrible, but not what I'm after.

If you're after a clean natural sound, then in my experience, I found that getting it right in the recording stage with correct mic placement and right mic is the best option. I remember years ago trying all sorts of saturation plugins to create what people would refer to "tube" saturation but didn't like it. I mean, hi-end tube mic preamps are actually designed to give very low harmonic distortion.

Regards

Josef Horhay
Mixing Engineer
www.acoosticzoo.com
AcoosticZoo
Thread Starter
#14
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #14
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Or even as an insert with the dreaded Extra Conversion.
The extra conversion doesn't audibly harm the sound when using good AD/DA convertors.
#15
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #15
Banned
 

A 4-5db boost of frequencies 60hz-2khz, and a gradually sloping downward cut of frequencies from 8khz-20khz and beyond as you all know also enhances the simulated analog sound. Errr, somethin' like dat.
#16
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #16
Gear addict
 

Hello
Here is a list of sat plug-ins I have found useful.

Massey : TapeHead Medium (Audio Units) - free plug in, simple to use. smassey.com

URS : Saturation
A gearslutz member put me on to this setting - "Tape Head 30ips" setting, Mix on 100%, Saturation Knob At 13%. I saved it as a preset "Transparent Soft Limit"

Logic : Tape delay trick
Skitch.com > mattrixx > Logic Pro

Air Windows : Channel - Look in the free section for Channel.

I also like putting a a dist plug in followed by a eq on a Aux Channel in logic. I then send different amounts of a track/vocal to gives a nice "channel breaking up" sound. I named the preset after a post I read by Tchad Blake. Here is the preset.

Good Luck!
Attached Files
File Type: zip Tchad Blake.cst.zip (970 Bytes, 48 views)
#17
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #17
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattg082 View Post
I used the URS on a snare just an hour ago. Honestly with the plugs I just listen to see if it sounds better. I don't really say to myself, does this sound like tape or have a analog saturation sound to it? I

thumbsup like this!

just wanted to add that the vote is missing .. yes but it depends on what I am processing. I haven't tried decapitator yet but Ohmforce Predatohm, URS, D16 and camelphat all have their uses.
#18
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #18
Gear Head
 

AcoosticZoo
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#19
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #19
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel. K View Post
The best way to check a saturation plug is to put it across all drum tracks with a mid - heavy saturation setting, mix as normal, and then take them all off. The difference is huge. Particularly with the URS!
Definately Hear the difference. Cos you've mixed with it from the start.

The analogy is let's start mixing with a low compression ratio of 1.05 on all the tracks and compensate for relative volume, then remove it after you've finished mixing. Yes you will hear the difference. Then, try mixing without compression and at the end, add compression of 1.05:1 on all the tracks again compensating for equal loudness and YES you will hear the difference again.

What you get from testing with bypassing a saturation plugin on all tracks I suspect will be quite random across the board. That's in line with many engineers saying... "oh that's horrible when I used in the mix on all the channel" and with the same plugin on another song "Oh that's just awesome and gave that 3d more fuller ANALOG warmth that was missing".

My illustration isn't to disregard people experiences, but that way of testing for a "positive"/"negative" result doesn't really cut the mustard scientifically.

The act of using Saturation plugin "A" directly affects how you mix it. And when you bypass it, you will no doubt hear something lesser/different. To judge if the saturation plugin is actually making the source better in relationship to the overall mix, one must also "remix" the bypassed audio according to it's new audio state/original form and judge the two mixes that way.

Therefore, saturation plugins do make things sound fuller - no doubt, but will it make sense when mixed with other parts? I think JOEQ is right about treating it on a case by case basis.

While on the topic of "coloring" sound:- I've experienced that a small/subtle tape delay fx can impart a sense of dimension / make it more alive/sound fuller to the ears. This can be imho be more pleasing then adding Saturation. My point being, maybe explore other ways of coloring sound rather then just grabbing your favourite saturation plugin to give colour. Just a thought...

Regards
Josef Horhay
Mixing Engineer
AcoosticZoo
Thread Starter
#20
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #20
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blacklightstudio View Post
A very interesting video with Dave Hill on this subject:
ProToolerBlog → Post » Dave Hill on HEAT

But PT related...
Yes thanks, I've seen this video already. Dave is an absolute Genius. I enjoyed the video v.much. I'm a big fan of his Cranesong HEDD 192.

Please release Phoenix on Audio Unit! please.

Regards
Josef Horhay
Mixing Engineer.
AcoosticZoo
Thread Starter
#21
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #21
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by down_town View Post
Hello


I also like putting a a dist plug in followed by a eq on a Aux Channel in logic. I then send different amounts of a track/vocal to gives a nice "channel breaking up" sound. I named the preset after a post I read by Tchad Blake. Here is the preset.

Good Luck!
What kind of dist will you use? for those that don't have logic?

Regards
Josef Horhay
Mixing Engineer
#22
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Soup

Quote:
Originally Posted by AcoosticZoo View Post

While on the topic of "coloring" sound:- I've experienced that a small/subtle tape delay fx can impart a sense of dimension / make it more alive/sound fuller to the ears. This can be imho be more pleasing then adding Saturation. My point being, maybe explore other ways of coloring sound rather then just grabbing your favourite saturation plugin to give colour.
This is absolutely true. Using a delay in this way is a sound thickener, it is also rhythmic and very vibey. There are many ways to thicken up the soup - most of the time the taste comes from using many ingredients ...
#23
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #23
Gear addict
 

Redline Preamp is currently on a lot of my tracks. Adds a little of the console preamp mojo at the start of the plugin chain.

I've always got Massey Tapehead on at least the master buss, sometimes I'll put it on guitars and snare to add a subtle kick.

I'll always want to go OTB with some nice hardware and some REAL mojo, but until I can afford to make such a move, ITB with these plugins is still enjoyable to me and I feel like I can make good music with it.
AcoosticZoo
Thread Starter
#24
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreamsilent View Post
Redline Preamp is currently on a lot of my tracks. Adds a little of the console preamp mojo at the start of the plugin chain.
Cool. Thanks for sharing your experience about Redline Preamp. @ 149 USD is a little more than Mellowmuse SATV Vintage Saturator which is $99 atm.
#25
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #25
Gear addict
 

Quote:
What kind of dist will you use? for those that don't have logic?
I am just using the logic plug-in called distortion. Any basic distortion plugin will do. I used to use the San Amp plug that came with Pro tools. The IK amplitube(or similar) works well.
cheers
#26
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #26
Gear addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AcoosticZoo View Post
Cool. Thanks for sharing your experience about Redline Preamp. @ 149 USD is a little more than Mellowmuse SATV Vintage Saturator which is $99 atm.
Wow, just checked out the SATV...definitely looks nice and I'm liking the inclusion of a VU meter! Tempted to try out a demo, depends how annoying the random silence gets.

It'd be nice in addition to Redline Preamp...the Redline is more money but you do get a lot more control over the kind and level of saturation, as well as the frequency bands being saturated which is great for creating a whole palette of flavours for the mix.

That being said, I'm still on the 60 day demo for Redline Preamp!
#27
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #27
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Kenton's Avatar
 

Decapitator is the one to beat at the moment...


However,
There are a number of free AU sat plugs worthy of mention:

Voxengo TubeAmp (with SAT on)
MeldaProduction MLimiter

Both these will produce even harmonics as well as odd.


Massey Tapehead (again)
Fleischprodukt Waveshaper
Smartelectronics Cyanide 2

Odd harmonics only.
#28
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #28
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Slikjmuzik's Avatar
I still use Magneto as part of my Nuendo 3.2 setup. I love it. Used on every track, makes total difference. If I remove it, the digital sound is completely present, with it in place on every group, even as a send which is only seeing part of the signal, I notice a drastic difference in vibe. Not necessarily more punch or anything that can be nailed down by a description, but the feel of the song changes. I've even sent out mixes to clients where the only difference was the enabling of this one tape emulator instance and not a single client has chosen the one where the instance is not enabled.
#29
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #29
Gear Guru
 
theblue1's Avatar
 

In the late 90s and early part of the decade I was more concerned with trying to recapture what I thought I missed about tape and played around with various saturation effects from actual HW saturation imparted through running mixes through tube stages and such to various saturation and tape sim plugs... but after a while I developed approaches I liked better. (I do often use some mostly subtle compression from an ART Dual Levelar when I track. It gives me a certain quality I know well that I like. But I use considerably more plug in compression on different elements when I mix.)

I like fooling around and experimenting, so I'd be interested in checking out some new generation plugs.

With regard to a 'cure' for ITB mixing, for me and what I want, I don't necessarily need a 'cure.'

But I'll tell you, I'm often highly skeptical of the notion that any one new process/box/whatever is going to suddenly change one's whole recording life forever -- although you barely go through a day here where there aren't four or five such claims in this board.
#30
27th September 2010
Old 27th September 2010
  #30
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AcoosticZoo View Post
The extra conversion doesn't audibly harm the sound when using good AD/DA convertors.
sorry - I capitalized "Extra Conversion" to indicate my intention of irony, but guess I should have added this guy:

we are in total agreement

My earliest recording experiences included bouncing between analog decks to get a few more tracks. For me, hearing people fret about the dreaded Extra Conversions is like moving from Minneapolis to Richmond, VA and hearing locals complain about the winters.
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