When you are having a hard time giving life to your mix, brightening it or getting a warmer sound, saturation plugins (or analog) might help a lot. You may want to apply saturation on individual channels, bus channels or even to a whole mix when there is lack of detail and character. And it is really hard to find quality products when it comes to distortion and saturation.
I will review and sound test 3 well known saturation plugins (PSP Vintage Warmer 2, Fabfilter Saturn and Sound Toys Decapitator), to give you an idea what these folks are up to. The test audio will be a percussion loop from Rast Sound‘s EthnoCinematic Vibe library (free sample). Of course it is not possible to apply the exact same test steps for different plugins (all have different properties) but you will have a general perspective on final sound these plugins may produce.
PSP VINTAGE WARMER 2
As other PSP plugins, Vintage Warmer 2 adds character to your sounds with the maximum realism. This plugin almost sounds like an analog/old school device with a color of its own. Vintage Warmer 2 is a bit cpu heavy so it is recommended for mix busses or mastering purposes. The lighter versions (PSP VintageWarmer (LE) & PSP MicroWarmer) are more applicable to individual tracks. This plugin is designed as a compressor/limiter but works beautifully as a saturation effect.
Here is what PSP tells about it,
“It combines rich, warm analog processing with a straightforward user interface, and comes with a comprehensive library of presets. The plug-in processor is highly flexible and can be used for both softknee compression and brick-wall limiting. This makes it an essential tool for mixing and mastering engineers. Careful attention has been paid to PSP Vintage Warmer’s overload characteristics with the processor being capable of generating saturation effects typical of analog tape recorders. PSP Vintage Warmer also incorporates professional VU and PPM metering together with accurate overload indicators thereby assuring professional quality results.”
Lets hear the sound of this plugin,
Sample through Vintage Warmer 2
If you are after a modern bright mix, this baby will be your go to saturation plugin. It has a lot more options and additional effects than other 2 competitors. With all this functionality, Saturn can be used creatively as well as a classic saturator. When compared with Vintage Warmer, it is definitely more detailed (especially hi mids) but probably with a little less warm/analog feeling.
Here is how Fabfilter delivers Saturn,
“FabFilter Saturn offers a range of different high quality distortion models, inspired by the vintage sound of tubes, tape and guitar amps. In addition, you also get three creative distortion styles, with which you can smudge, stretch, crush, rectify and clip your sounds in weird and unexpected ways.”
Now lets hear it,
Sample through Saturn,
SOUND TOYS DECAPITATOR
Decapitator is the midway between Vintage Warmer and Saturn where it emulates 5 types of analog models with different characters. The most thoughtful thing about it is when you drive the plugin it reduces the output instantly. The tone button is also great for a balance between brighter and darker tastes.
Sound Toys says,
” Analog saturation has long been the magic mojo that engineers have used as their swiss army knife of mixing. It’s used on drums, bass, vocals guitars, everything. It can be used to beef things up, thin things out, give them some edge, fry them up nice, add a bit of warmth, pull things out of the mix, or even create a signature sound. Used subtle to extreme, analog saturation is the golden child of great mixes. That’s why we took our time, bought and listened to all the great analog classics, and painstakingly created that magic for you in Decapitator.It is more than just an emulation of the analog sound. It has the analog feel. You can hear the subtle changes reacting to the track, following the dynamics of the instrument. That’s what analog is all about. Not a static snapshot (No convolution here) but a changing responsive model of all those tubes and wires. “
Now lets hear it,
Sample through Decapitator (oops overdrived a bit 🙂 )
Well now you have a little insight on saturation plugins discussed above. Of course there are other plugins in the market and some of them are pretty good. If you have some favorite ones write them to comments.
If you want a review for your products contact me.