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Best Harmonics Generating Tools Of Various Types For Mastering Saturation Plugins
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Best Harmonics Generating Tools Of Various Types For Mastering

Please give me your suggestions! I am mostly interested in VST Plugins, but if you swear by your hardware unit(s), I want that information as well.

I've been doing that with most of the harmonics generating things that I use for mastering (recently [to name a few]: sonnox oxford inflator, kazrog true iron, airwindows spiral2, unbox, totape, fromtape, tovinyl, softube saturation knob, and sometimes airwindows adclip7, nc-17, and onecornerclip). OneCornerClip is great for preserving character. Aside from OCC, ADC7 and NC-17, mostly everything on my list gets turned down on the wet % in REAPER (or on the dry/wet of the plugin itself).

There are loads of other ones that I've used over the years, but these ones have been my go-to's, as of late. I really loved the waves abbey roads tape emu, for a long time, and I've tested out various other tape emulators; but I have found that the airwindows ToTape is my favorite for mastering purposes (FromTape as well, used less often though and I'd say its more subtle). I really love how ToTape doesn't do any compression.

If anybody has suggestions, based on what I'm listing and what they feel would best compliment them or replace them, please reply to specifics!

I've basically been using the following plugins simultaneously and in parallel, on almost every track that I master (unless they don't sound good at any setting or I determine that they are doing more harm than good)

--[keep in mind that I *usually* find settings that sound good, then turn them down (or the % wet in REAPER down) until I can't hear the difference between active/bypassed, and then turn it down some more -- the goal here is to find where it sounds good, turn it down until I can't hear the difference, and then turn it down a bit more ..... sometimes, I'll keep them at settings of which I can audibly detect the difference, but feel that it is an improvement with it on ..... or set it to where I can BARELY detect a difference and am not sure if its my mind playing tricks on me or not] ...

listed in order of *most used* to *least used*:

*sonnox inflator (pretty much always) -- its usually my last exciter/enhancer, and *sometimes* its after my 1st limiters/clippers & sounds better there, I've tried it after my last limiter and it sounded OK but wasn't so accurate with how true peaks are staying below 0 dBTP while very often hitting just under 0 dBTPP) -- how I set it:
Activate clip button & I dial the input to as loud as I can get it, so that its just barely not causing the red sensors of clipping at the loudest peak.
If input is additive (usually it is), then make output knob a larger value (negative).
Deactivate clip button & dial effect to 100%. Bring it down to where I think it sounds good, then bring it down a bit more (sometimes, a down a lot more, sometimes just a tad... depending on how much wet % I am going to use in REAPER).
Leave curve alone, unless I want more dynamic range & in that case bring it down to in between -0 and -1.5 (usually not more than -0.75).
I dial the % Wet down to anywhere from 13 to 99%, in REAPER.

*softube saturation knob (set to 1, usually) -- it on almost every track, usually at 100% wet but I've been mixing in dry

*kazrog true iron -- usually the first one in the chain, unless I use ToTape before everything (after waves maxxbass usually) -- I dial in strength from 10 to down below 5, until I hear its making things weaker, then dial it back up to usually just under 5 or in between 5 and 6. Find where it sounds best, then I dial it down to 13% or less -- 5-8% if I am using more than inflator+sat-knob+true iron.

*airwindows unbox (not as often, use it to add warmth & tame the low-mids & mids, sometimes high-mids too) -- usually I dial it down to:
input in between 0.17 and 0.27.
unbox in between 0.11 and 0.37.
Output turned to 2, or left at 1.
Followed by BitShiftGain to bring the signal back up to hitting max peaks in between -3 and -6 dBTP.
I'll bring the wet % in REAPER down to any where from 17% to 99%, but usually in between 81 and 99% (careful here, with bitshiftgain following it, adding clean signal will increase gain dramatically, very quickly).

In addition to the above 4 that have been my go-to's, I will use airwindows ToTape if sounds great (and if I use it, then I usually get rid of Kazrog True Iron and/or UnBox). Spiral2 was being used, before UnBox came out (and I am going to try to give it more chances). I can't wait for Chris J to release something thats based on Spiral algorithm that is made specifically for mastering.

I am looking for alternatives to Inflator and I want your suggestions.

I've made a list of plugins that I plan to look into, test, and/or purchase (if I don't own it already):

soundtoys decapitator -- heard a lot about this, looking into it soon
soundtoys radiator
UAD brainworx VSM-3 (I have it, haven't played with it)
slate digital virtual machines
XLN audio RC-20 Retro Color
PSP MixSaturator2
PSP Vintage Warmer -- heard a lot about this, looking into it soon
UAD Culture Vulture
Klanghelm SDRR (used it a bit, very impressed)
Sonimus Britson
u-he Satin (I've used this a bit, and was impressed; but haven't gotten very familiar with it)
waves one knob series (driver, in particular)
waves vitamin (used to be a go-to of a friend of mine)

One's that I used a lot in the past and will try adding back to the chain or comparing:

waves abbey roads
Sausage Fattener (set to lowest settings usually -- waves one knob series might replace the reasons for this)
Camel Crusher (used to use it a lot)




I am also very interested in information that is in regards to WHEN/WHY/WHERE specific plugins are used.

For multiband processing, they must be doing something very specific.
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Lives for gear
We had a few topics recently worth a check;

Transparency vs. Colour in mastering
Which plugin does the best job of creating that magic 3D depth that hardware imparts?

Anyway my quick suggestions;
-Spectre; When an increase of any freq needed (presence, bass etc.) I first try this.
-Presswerk; The saturation is beautiful but comp. behavior may take time to adjust
-Soneq freeware; the drive knob for bass
-VOS freeware plug-ins; worth experimenting
-Noiseash heater; Tried the demo, the drive is very extreme but knobs around %25 was pleasing.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theMuzzl3 View Post
--[keep in mind that I *usually* find settings that sound good, then turn them down (or the % wet in REAPER down) until I can't hear the difference between active/bypassed, and then turn it down some more -- the goal here is to find where it sounds good, turn it down until I can't hear the difference, and then turn it down a bit more .....
What the point if you can't hear it???
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by cooker View Post
We had a few topics recently worth a check;

Transparency vs. Colour in mastering
Which plugin does the best job of creating that magic 3D depth that hardware imparts?

Anyway my quick suggestions;
-Spectre; When an increase of any freq needed (presence, bass etc.) I first try this.
-Presswerk; The saturation is beautiful but comp. behavior may take time to adjust
-Soneq freeware; the drive knob for bass
-VOS freeware plug-ins; worth experimenting
-Noiseash heater; Tried the demo, the drive is very extreme but knobs around %25 was pleasing.
TYVM, will review links. TY for your suggestions.

What do you think of the ones that are currently on my "go-to" and "ones to check out" lists?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartacus View Post
What the point if you can't hear it???
There are a few answers to this, and they're my opinions mostly.

1) My ears aren't perfect, and neither are my headphones/monitors. Other listeners may be able to tell the differences in cases where I am unable to.

2) If 1-3 of them are not audibly different, then all 3 of them together usually are (at the settings that I chose, any how... if I went even lower, then perhaps this is untrue).

3) In order to preserve the mix, as it is, transparency is a goal for many mastering engineers. Its nice to use flavoring (IMHO), but its VERY easy to go too far with it; and in many cases I (or you) won't be able to hear places or issues that end up resulting from crossing the line of "doing just the right amount," and crossing over into "doing too much, and causing more harm than good." Therefore, I find what I think sounds good, and dial it down so that I am pretty certain that I'm not causing more bad than I am good. The goal is to add a TINY bit of flavor which is complimentary or beneficial for fixing certain issues in the mix and improving the over-all sound (which of course, is based on opinion). Many mastering engineers would most likely argue that transparent wins over flavoring, and that it always depends on the material. Note: I always agree with the second part of the above sentence, but not always with the first part. Many mixing engineers get the mix "EXACTLY" how they want it, and so its always a fine line & if a mastering engineer adds some spunk that they think improves it without the mixing engineer being able to detect it... then that usually is a win-win.

Other details that are worth noting:

If I determine that 1 of them (sounding audibly different than clean signal) sounds better than 2 or 4 of them combined, then using just 1 is the best option; and using just 1 is less processing, which therefore changes/loses less BIT's (unwanted or unintended losses or changes, that is). Not sure if I explained that second part, very accurately. Chris J from AirWindows explains this, more accurately (basically, less math happening = more pure of resulting audio).

The reason that I like to use 3 to 5 of them (with lower wet percentages than if I would just use one of them), is because I like to do more than I need to... and I find that the end results sound better to my ears, in many cases. I know that more math = more BITs lost, but I find that combinations can easily outweigh that loss (to an extent, of course).

Its also worth noting that I go back and re-dial things in, if I do much more processing afterwards, or if I make tweaks to things that are earlier in the chain. I'll also dial them in from first in chain to 4th, and the do it again from 4th to 1st (after making changes to stuff prior or after). I also do my first dialing in, before I do any additive EQ (usually this is with kush clariphonic MKII and/or Maag EQ4, but sometimes with something more like a Neve or API emulation [and I like the ones from Waves but haven't tested many others as much as I'd like to have]). Also, after adding final dynamic subtractive EQ/harshness tamers/limiters/clippers, then going back and "re-dialing in" those "corolorizers" is a good idea.

Note that I use Ozone dynamic EQ in mid-side mode (with some fancy tricks as well), early on in my chain (after static, mostly subtractive EQ)... usually before my "colorizers." ToTape might go before these, but others usually best afterwards. Then, later in the chain I use two TDR Nova's (one in sum, and other in difference). I'll some times use TDR DeEdger, before the Nova's. I find Nova and Ozone dyn eq to have advantages over each other, but if I picked one as superior it would be Nova (my opinions). With Nova, I just let it read the song and then keep it at the settings it choses, on deresonate (dynamic) and precise*. It can play through the whole track, where as Ozone's MA only reads about 30 seconds of audio. I'll run Ozone MA in 2-3 of the most loud parts of the song, combine those settings, and dial them down. I also do a static boost with a sharp bell up around 20 kHz (or near there, in key of the track), with the "offset", and with subtractive dynamic EQ cuts hitting with 0ms attack, enough so that the most loud parts are cut to the point of the curve coming back down to the zero mark. Its an improvement of a trick that an engineer taught me a long time ago (which was with static EQ). I also keep Ozone Dyn EQ and EQ in digital mode. I used to use fabfilter pro-q 2 in linear (max) but needed to lower CPU consumption, and Ozone seems to do the trick well enough for me (I will probably switch my static EQ to DMG EQilibrium when I get a better CPU).

Other note worthy things are that I find Nova's HPF works better than other EQ's I've used (better than ozone's and fabfilter's, my older go-to for HPF was waves H-EQ)... so I use that for cutting the sides around 89 or 91 Hz, as steep as possible. I also cut there with Ozone's static EQ, earlier in the chain... and I reinforce this with a final Ozone Imager, cutting (usually by -100) below 91ish Hz (usually its set to 80ish or lower, and I use the "learn" function to determine where this cross-over point is). I also do a boost on the sides, at 110ish Hz and 137ish Hz, and a cut around 200 Hz (these moves help the kick/bass sound better on headphones and on low-quality portable stereo speaker boxes... and the Ozone Imager helps to smoothly cut from higher than 91 Hz as well... so this isn't too damaging), as well as a slight cut between band 1k-1.8kHz... and a slight boost around 2k and around 880 Hz. If my aim is a high-quality mp3 or high-quality streaming master, I'll sometimes high shelf boost the sides up above 12 or 14,16 kHz... to bring back what is lost in those scenarios (but I'll make sure artifacts aren't created, with Ozone's listening abilities and/or others).

Most colorations end up adding to harshness of highs, so I always slap an airwindows Accelerator towards the end of my chain.

I went into a lot of details that are off-topic, but I figured that its all helpful; and that others would have helpful responses, in regards to techniques I have listed.

Hope that clears up some things and is helpful for others!
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by theMuzzl3 View Post
TYVM, will review links. TY for your suggestions.

What do you think of the ones that are currently on my "go-to" and "ones to check out" lists?
Cool, there's nothing wrong with experimenting as a self-learner.

I'll only say don't get too obsessed with saturation as although its a popular topic its not really something to spend the most time on.

Its also the job of the mix engineer to apply them ideally, cause you can't get the fluidness on stereo compared to applying every track in a mix. And considering a ME gets all sort of mixes, a default (saturation) chain would hardly get its second use on a different album and you don't have the time to create one for each album.

So thats why its more of the mix engineers responsibility or the clients budget for quality.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by cooker View Post
Cool, there's nothing wrong with experimenting as a self-learner.

I'll only say don't get too obsessed with saturation as although its a popular topic its not really something to spend the most time on.

Its also the job of the mix engineer to apply them ideally, cause you can't get the fluidness on stereo compared to applying every track in a mix. And considering a ME gets all sort of mixes, a default (saturation) chain would hardly get its second use on a different album and you don't have the time to create one for each album.

So thats why its more of the mix engineers responsibility or the clients budget for quality.
True. I just prefer it over EQ or compression types of things... so many issues happen from those two things, but yeah... I guess its pretty hard to polish a turd.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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Hermetech Mastering's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Not found any plugins that do it realistically, unfortunately.

Transformers for a start, ten in my outboard chain, or build yourself a transformer colour box as outlined by Alan Farmelo in this article:

https://www.fullcompass.com/gearcast...-1489-file.pdf

Or buy or commission one from FCS or another DIY builder etc.

You can sometimes get just a hint of really nice harmonic distortion, especially in the low end, from driving the input trannies harder.

The Gyraf G21 has been on my wish list for a long time too, passive broad and multi band clipper:

Gyratec G21: Magneto-Dynamic Infundibulum - Gyraf Audio
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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teebaum's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
Not found any plugins that do it realistically, unfortunately.

Transformers for a start, ten in my outboard chain, or build yourself a transformer colour box as outlined by Alan Farmelo in this article:

https://www.fullcompass.com/gearcast...-1489-file.pdf

Or buy or commission one from FCS or another DIY builder etc.

You can sometimes get just a hint of really nice harmonic distortion, especially in the low end, from driving the input trannies harder.

The Gyraf G21 has been on my wish list for a long time too, passive broad and multi band clipper:

Gyratec G21: Magneto-Dynamic Infundibulum - Gyraf Audio
hardware beats software in this domain by far.
check

hendyamp michelangelo
anamod ats-1
bereich03audio density
gyraf gear
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Lives for gear
I wrote a reply on UHE forum and pasting it here;

Open Presswerk, increase saturation amount and it starts to compress. Or better, amount all the way up and adjust with dynamics...perfect for mastering!

I use this trick pre, then add compression if I want to compress more. This made things so much easier for me.


Then someone commented to use its limiter mode for quick coloration. I replied;

Yeah its very cool actually but didn't work for me (wanted more control), at-least with the mixes I tried.

-Starting with saturation adjustment dealt with snare-like peaks without affecting other things like vocals too much. The warmth knob is amazing.
-A little feed-back mode for further compression is musical. Similar attack/release settings to the limiter but not an insane ratio, also soft knee can be helpful
-Then the DPR for tone if needed and M/S button usually enough for musical widening. Channel link is usually at zero.
-finally driving the soft-clipper for more saturation and loudness.

An eq before and a finishing limiting after, everything between presswerk can handle with such step-by-step approach if the mix isn't too problematic.




The saturation has an option to happen dynamic and can be explored, but its a deep plug-in and takes a while to master compared to other stuff.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
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Justin P.'s Avatar
 

Vertigo Sound VMS-2 hardware, or the VSM-3 plugin by Brainworx/Plugin Alliance which is also available on UAD if you prefer.
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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I think the various Acustica Audio stuff does this the best. Especially their latest releases like Ruby which can add very nice, very clean harmonics (aliasing is down below -140dBFS so below 24bit audio if you don't push it hard which is pointless in mastering. The problem with their plugins is the same as for hardware.. you need a whole bunch of them and then carefully see what "chains" work the best together.

Another problem, again same as hardware, is that as soon as you patch in the "preamp" (as acustica audio calls the boxtone/mojo part) you don't have a completely flat frequency response any more. You do have to understand the underlying technology and the limitations (you can't push them over a certain limit). Only the absolute latest releases are clean enough in secondary negative effects that they can be selectively and carefully recommended for mastering. Caution is however still adviced.

Still, these are in my opinion the best tools for giving some subtle harmonic distortion to a master in the box.
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