7 Saturation Plugins you MUST try out
We’ve all been at that stage during a recording session or in a mix where we want a little more drive, a bit of that aggression and forwardness, brightness to the sound you’re working with. Saturation comes in many forms today, as plugins as physical hardware units but in this blog post, I’ll list down a number of plugins I’ve used on a regular basis in my mixing and mastering sessions also teaching how to use saturators at Gray Spark sound engineering course in Pune.
Slate Digital Virtual Mix Bus
There is a reason why many top hits continue to be mixed on analog consoles – much like tape machines, the top large-format analog consoles have a sound and a vibe that has been impossible to achieve in the world of computer recording… until now. The Virtual Console Collection allows your DAW to take on the personality of a real analog mixing desk, improving the imaging and depth and making instruments sit better in the frequency spectrum. Mixing becomes easier and more musical, and you can even push the DAW faders up to find each mixer’s “sweet spot”.
Saturation—it’s the essence of what makes analog hardware sound so musical and pleasing to the ears. The sound of tubes, transistors, and circuitry being pushed to the limit has long been the key ingredient in great-sounding analog recordings. Engineers use saturation to beef things up, thin them out, give them edge, add warmth, pull elements out of the mix, and create signature sounds.
From the very subtle to the extreme, analog saturation is an integral part of great mixes.
IK Multimedia Saturator X
Analog character for your digital soul Welcome to perfect analog color and saturation Tube saturation. Tape saturation. Transformer coloration. If you’ve worked on audio projects in the analog domain, you’re familiar with these concepts. You know what they are, what they can do to a track or recording, and how to get them to work their magic. The effect of Saturation, or the introduction of harmonic distortion, on an audio track or mix can add that certain special “flavor” and “warmth” that only magnetic tape, tubes, transformers or transistors can deliver. The T-RackS Saturator X delivers that classic analog saturation and takes you on a trip back in time to the birth of “modern” recording before computers and opens your recordings to the mysterious, elusive and warm world of analog saturation.
If you want a touch of 60s warmth on your tracks, reach for Little Radiator. It’s great for fattening up bass, guitar, drums, or vocals. And it’s fantastic on electric piano.
This modeled tube pre-amp from Soundtoys is based on the Altec 1566A, a simple little preamp straight out of the Motown Era. Little Radiator drives and breaks up in very interesting ways, creating rich harmonic distortion, exactly like the 1566A.
A crush on music
Distortion and saturation play a very important role in music production. From subtle, clean and warm tube or tape saturation to the wildest multiband guitar amp effects: FabFilter Saturn 2 delivers.
Saturn 2 introduces a host of new features such as a redesigned interface with modulation visualization, new subtle saturation and linear phase processing for mastering, many new distortion styles, and more.
A unique and powerful plugin to increase loudness, without sacrificing sonic quality or dynamic range. Add power and presence to your mix without the pumping of compression, or use on individual channels to bring them forward and add weight. Perfect to help vocals cut through the mix.
When driven harder, Inflator delivers tube-like musical warmth and provides the ‘sonic glue’ you need to gel your mix together!
SPL Vitalizer MK2-T
By applying psychoacoustic and audiometric principles, the Vitalizer achieves a verifiable enhancement in sonic quality. The Vitalizer processes only the original signal and generates no artifacts.
Patented filtering techniques highlight the richness of the audio signal in all its detail, while the interactive parameters make it possible to alter the sound in a musical and effective way.
One of the Vitalizer’s main features is the un-masking of overlapping sounds. The way it works is, in principle, opposite to the way compression formats (MP3, etc.) do: instead of deleting allegedly unnecessary information, it enhances it. In order to do that, the Vitalizer takes into account the perception of a frequency in relation to its volume.
The hidden gem in this EQ is the Stereo Widening circuit, which sounds amazing on stereo guitars, drums, keys, and any other stem bus.
SPL hardware products can be found in the world’s most renowned facilities, and have become a staple for audio professionals ranging from home studio owners to top mastering engineers.
These are some of my favorite saturators to go for as a mix or mastering engineer and as an educator for audio engineering courses.