Using Saturation

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Using Saturation

Post by Scouser »

I just wondered how often you use saturation on your mixes.

Is it something you use on particular things or across the board ?

I am new to it and am trying to gauge how much is too much, I guess that is a difficult thing to say ?

Any general advice, would be much appreciated as usual
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by resistorman »

If I use it, it will likely be on bass, electric guitar and/ or drums. It really depends on the material and it's recorded sound. Anyhow, crank it up until you know it's too much and back off :D
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by Drew Stephenson »

I'll frequently use some along with some parallel compression on drums, and I'll generally have some tape saturation on the mix bus.
As with many things, I find a good starting point is to mix it in to the point you notice it, then back it off a bit so that you only notice it's missing if you mute it.
Then adjust to taste.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by RichardT »

I would say - don't use it unless you have a reason for using it, i.e. don't just put it on because you have the plugin. I've found myself using it less over time, partly as my monitoring has got better and I can hear the downsides, particularly a reduction in clarity.

Personally I don't use it on the mix bus. Many people do, though.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by Funkyflash5 »

My DAW of choice (Mixbus32c) has a saturation knob on each bus, so I tend to dial in some on a per mixbus level as I mix, and then dial in some on the masterbus at the end. I also do the "up until too much then back off" approach. Individual tracks usually don't get any unless I'm looking for it to be an obvious effect instead of a subtle tool, but that's mostly down to workflow. Also, that all assumes I'm working in my usual pop-rock-funk sorts of styles, for a jazz or classical recording I'd be unlikely to use any.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by Martin Walker »

It really depends what sound you're after, but saturation to me isn't as obvious as distortion, and I only tend to use it to add flavour to specific tracks of a project, such as drums, bass, or synths.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by The Elf »

A mix that needs a bit of drive and attitude will likely get some track-by-track saturation. Kick, snare and toms are good candidates. Subtlety is key - it's all about gaining headroom.

The saturation options in Cubase are extremely good for this aspect of a mix - I miss them in other DAWs.

Moving on from 'saturation' per se I will often clip the drum buss and/or the master buss - just enough to remove the extreme, troublesome transients.

I will often add a nip of distortion (valve especially) to electric bass for clarity.

All this depends on genre and the specific song, so take these as generalisations only.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by siderealxxx »

I tend to use it as an occasional alternative to compression. If you have a fairly transparent saturation, it can soften transients and add beef without the some of the compromises that compression can introduce. Horses for courses!
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by ef37a »

I don't know what "saturation" has come to mean to recording folk but to any electronics engineer a saturated transformer is one that has ceased to BE a transformer and presents a resistive load to the circuitry.

It is actually very, very hard to saturate a transformer. One instance for mains traffs is during a storm, if the line gets struck the transformer saturates and presents a very low resistance to the mains supply and breakers trip. Almost always, components downstream of the transformer are saved.

A saturated valve or solid state device is effectively reduced to a 'on' switch.

Perhaps someone could tell me how "saturation" differs from "distortion"? To me the former is an extreme, limiting condition of the latter.

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Re: Using Saturation

Post by Drew Stephenson »

Well, according to the good doctor:
Distortion
Some form of corruption — wanted or unwanted — of the source signal. All forms of distortion are formed by non-linearities in an electronic circuit or an audio transducer. Harmonic Distortion is typically caused by over-loading to some degree components in the signal path, resulting in the addition or strengthening of odd and/or even harmonics of fundamental frequencies present in the source signal. Anharmonic distortion involves the introduction of frequencies not musically related to the source signal, usually through some form of modulation process, such as aliasing in overloaded digital equipment, or scrape flutter in analogue tape machines. Some forms of distortion are often added intentionally to a musical source to alter it's character in a pleasing way — such as on an electric guitar, for example.

Saturation
Saturation is a mild form of dynamic and harmonic distortion typically associated with bringing 'warmth' and 'body' to a sound. The term relates to a process which can occur in transformers when the magnetic flux generated by the input signal fully magnetises the transformer core such that it cannot then accurately pass any larger audio signals, resulting in audio compression and harmonic distortion. A similar effect can occur with magnetic tape heads and tape itself. These saturation effects can now be emulated electronically and digitally, often with user controls to fine tune the effect characteristics.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by Wonks »

Tape emulation and associated saturation is meant here I think. Cubase certainly has it available on every channel as standard.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by ef37a »

Yes Drew, my point. In the recording world "saturation" has COME to mean a mild form of distortion when in fact, electronically it is the most extreme form of distortion you can get.

But, like "rms" bloody watts I suppose I shall just have to live with the term!

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Re: Using Saturation

Post by Drew Stephenson »

I'm with Wonks, I've always thought of it as 'tape saturation'. Probably because, until your post above, I've never understood what transformer saturation actually was.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by ef37a »

blinddrew wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 10:34 am I'm with Wonks, I've always thought of it as 'tape saturation'. Probably because, until your post above, I've never understood what transformer saturation actually was.

Few do. "They" don't even really mean "saturation" on tape, really somewhere around 4-6% THD I would guess. Most machines were lined up for ~3% THD at +4dBu but then we would have to delve into the history of tape flux levels!

Actually saturating a tape would sound 'king awful!

Ooo! Have a look at "saturable reactors".

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Re: Using Saturation

Post by merlyn »

If we think how this would be done in DSP ...

We need a non-linear function. Inverse tan would do it :
Image

The saturation is that at a certain point increasing the input doesn't increase the output.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by ef37a »

merlyn wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 12:08 pm If we think how this would be done in DSP ...

We need a non-linear function. Inverse tan would do it :
Image

The saturation is that at a certain point increasing the input doesn't increase the output.

That looks very like a flux v magnetizing force curve.

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Re: Using Saturation

Post by James Perrett »

Here's a typical B-H curve showing how a magnetic material behaves under different field strengths.

Image

If we are talking about tape then there are all kinds of other effects involved - notably bias levels. Under-biasing can produce some interesting distortion effects.

(Diagram taken from https://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/el ... resis.html)
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

ef37a wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 8:51 am ...to mean a mild form of distortion when in fact, electronically it is the most extreme form of distortion you can get.

That's clipping, surely?

Many engineering terms have become corrupted in popular usage.

To most, 'saturation' means a benign and moderate level of musical distortion, well below that introduced by more severe forms of distortion like clipping or A-D overload.
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Re: Using Saturation

Post by ef37a »

Hugh Robjohns wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 12:42 pm
ef37a wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 8:51 am ...to mean a mild form of distortion when in fact, electronically it is the most extreme form of distortion you can get.

That's clipping, surely?

Yes, same thing because the transformer/valve/transistor/tape cannot supply any more signal.

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Re: Using Saturation

Post by Martin Walker »

ef37a wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 8:51 am But, like "rms" bloody watts I suppose I shall just have to live with the term!

I still chuckle at a loudspeaker review I read many years ago in a 'hi-fi' magazine, that referred to its power rating in Watts WFT.

When asked to elaborate on this unfamiliar term, the reviewer replied that it stood for 'WishFul Thinking' :lol:
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