Academy Dashboard Forum Production Production Techniques Saturation - When/Why/How? Reply To: Saturation - When/Why/How?

Ruud Degelin

    I think the initial purpose of saturation was to make things sound more analogue, in an analogue mixingboard for example there are numerous components (transformers for example) that introduce a small amount of saturation that you can not really hear but that you can feel, just like you can 'feel' the difference between analogue and digital. Analogue is more rounded (due to the saturation rounding of peaks, peaks of volume and frequency) while digital is giving you exactly what you recorded.
    So analogue is better? It is not as simple as that, digital is technically much better that analogue (that is a fact, look it up) but analogue, with all its imperfections or maybe thanks to them, sounds more pleasing to the human ear. That is why records (you know those black things they used to call LPs) are still popular (I mean not obsolete) and I think nobody will argue that those LPs sounds technically better than a cd.

    I have been using saturation religiously for half a year or so and the point is that you dont want to hear saturation (as some people pointed out) but more that you can feel it and an invaluable thing achieve that is, for me, a mix knob on your saturation plugin. You put the mix knob at 100 procent and you adjust your saturation until it is just a little bit too prominent and then you back off with the mix knob, I usually end up with the mix knob at 15% or 20%.
    I used to start with destroying things using saturation and then backing of with the mix knob but it was always still a bit too distorted (saturated) so I adjusted my method and ended up with the method I described earlier. But keep in mind: what works for me may not work for you, as it is with all those tricks and techniques floating around.

    Also keep in mind different saturations do different things, even order harmonics, uneven if are looking for grit, for presence or something else dont forget to compare different kinds of saturation, tape for example is also a saturation device (thats not tis purpose but due to the technical limitations of the time saturation was inevitable) but reacts different to a signal than transformers or tubes.

    I saw an interview with Dave Pensado (Pensados Place) with a guest (dont remember who it was) and they were joking around about using only saturation as an eq and you know what? I thought that was a splendid idea (I like weird ideas) so that is exactly what I did and off course I had to tinker and tailor (soldier, spy for the movie fans) till I had it right and you know what? It works! Little tip: wait with the subtractive EQ until you have applied saturation, with exception of the low end rumble maybe.

    My favourites are the Kush plugins (Pusher, UBK 1) but dont expect a run of the mill plugin, no metering or numbers, just knobs you have to turn, let them takes some time before you get it so dont get disappointed as it doesnt work for you right away.
    Remember: the key is not to saturate or distort but to enhance.

    Now I use a lot less EQ and compression and that is a good thing right? I will be burned at the stake for saying this but I really dont care.

    But remember: take the things that work for you and discard the rest.

    @ James: I found all this while working on a bluegrass/country musical recording with acoustic guitars, violins, fiddles, yeah, it is possible with acoustic instruments, just dont over do it, just like with pepper or salt. Dial the plugin until you dont hear any distortion and than disable the plugin, it probably will put a smile on your face. Have Fun!