Saturn 2 is a pro-grade distortion and saturation plugin with a fantastic interface and workflow for multi-band saturation, allowing you to apply broad strokes or get very detailed and clinical with equal ease when applying warmth and distortion to the parts and frequencies of your sounds that need it while avoiding the rest.
In between that feature and the simple mix knob, you have a whole bunch of options for how, and to what degree, you process your sounds. The latest update, Saturn 2, saw the interface get a welcome refresh and improved modulation visualisation, new subtle saturation and linear phase processing for mastering, and a range of additional distortion types in the processing Style menu. Recommended!
But what makes it so good for saturation duties is the degree of control you have to sculpt the processing to your preference. Even by simply dragging around in the waveshaper window in the Trash module, you can stumble on a vast range of characters very quickly. Couple this with the algorithm menu and the ability to treat any of 4 user-defined frequency bands independently, and you have everything you need to add warmth and punch in any sound design or mixing scenario.
Like Decapitator above, it also features five different distortion models to choose from, but unlike that plugin Harmonics covers a broader (and less model-specific) range of saturation source types: Solid State, Transformer, Master, Tube and Modern.
Another fantastic all-rounder for your saturation needs, SDRR centers around its four modes: Tube, Digi, Fuzz and Desk. Each mode changes the interface graphics as well as displaying some controls that are unique to that mode.
As with all the plugins from this highly-regarded independent developer, the sound quality is equal to any in the game and the value for money is exceptional. Plus, its the thoughtful details, and things like the clear controls and easy size, quality and calibration options that all add up to make SDRR a pleasure to use.
Also definitely check out two other D16 plugins for alternate flavours of distortion-type processing: Decimort 2 is my personal favourite for bit-crushing, and the multiband distortion unit Devastator 2 is particularly good for harder and industrial techno styles, amongst other uses.
Typically used on the overall mix buss, the HG-2 adds a magical mixture of loudness, parallel tube saturation and highly controllable harmonics, the latter controlled with dedicated Pentode and Triode dials.
One of the early professional favourites for in-the-box saturation, URS Saturation still deserves a mention on our list. The interface is streamlined, and the controls are extremely quick and intuitive to dial in. Choose from ten vintage analog algorithms (covering six tube preamps, two speeds of tape, and two transformer types), crank the Input for more drive, and set your Saturation and Dry-Wet balance in the middle for varying degrees of full or parallel processing.
A high-end hardware recreation that is equally popular with mastering engineers and adventurous producers when mixing. As with many plugins from Brainworx, this software model of the Vertigo Sound VSM-2 Mix Satellite is well-regarded in its own right for bringing the power and much of the sonic character of the hardware to the convenience of the plugin format.
The VSM-3 features two independent (virtual) saturation circuits, identified on the faceplate as 2nd Harmonic FET Crusher and 3rd Harmonic Zener Blender, referring to the different characters of distortion created by each circuit. The Crusher side can be considered more of a smooth, rich saturation, while the Blender side contributes more of a brighter, exciter-like vibe. You can blend any combination of the two with the central THD Mixer knob, as well as align them serially or in parallel, and each with its own stereo or M/S setting, for a huge range of spatially-enhancing saturation effects.
Reviver is a marvel of highly controllable saturation, that with minimal controls can cover a lot of distortion bases while also being pleasingly pro-quality and free of artefacts and aliasing, delivered via a disarmingly simple interface. And perhaps best of all, at a price that anyone could afford. Recommended.
Thank you very much for this and the preceding piece, describing the concept of saturation, and then this rundown of plugins. I can imagine how much work it was to put together! Much, much appreciated.
Tape plugins are another story, and give a very different effect, i have Yamaha Vintage Open Deck because it emulates an Ampex ATR100, i like the sound of that machine, there are others Digidesign Reel Tape, Avid Heat, UAD, but most emulate Studer, and i dont like Studer Tape machine sound, and yes, yamaha vintage open deck has 4 studer emulations, and 2 tapes formulas with 2 speeds, 30 & 15 ips, some times i wish it also had 7.5 & 3.75ips, just for fun.cakewalk fx2 tape machine emulation tis also nice..
Check the release dates of both Satin and KUSH Audio Pusher and the date of publication on the article. Also consider that it would be very difficult and time-consuming to test every single plugin on the market.
I tried many saturators but the best for my needs is undoubtedly the Fabfilter Saturn the thing that makes it special and unique is the possibility to intervene with multiband to saturate only the frequencies necessary to flesh out the sound or give different saturations to same sound depending on the frequency band selected. This really is a great plugin.
Starting with software for RTAS, AU and VST formats on Mac OSX (PC support and TDM coming soon), the new Unique Recording Software or URS Saturation plug-in is the most comprehensive collection of amplifier models ready to exhibit every conceivable mode and sound of being overdriven or saturated. Saturation 2.0 has nine vintage analog algorithms with 158 presets. The six vintage mic pre-amp algorithms cover the sound of "British", "German" and American tube in both Class-A and FET transistorized units. The presets have variations of transformer core saturation and mono analog 15/30-i.p.s. tape recorder overloading.
I installed URS Saturation 2.0 in my Pro Tools rig and it is head and shoulders better than any of my other "analog" or saturation plug-ins. It wins by virtual of its complete adjustability and vast collection of sonic treatments. Distortion is a newfound friend in my mixing suite. I like the Input Control to adjust the level into the drive amp; the ability to control the type (odd and even) and the amount of desired harmonics, saturation and soft clipping; and finally the blend control to mix the straight signal with the grunge.
Another freebie, but this thing is great. The Saturation Knob is an extremely powerful one-knob saturation tool and a great alternative to the Sausage Fattener, the Waves one Knob, or even the Decapitator for those on a budget.
But even among professionals there's still tons of confusion about what saturation plugins do, which are the best, and how to use them effectively. We're going to clear up all the murky waters right now...
And if someone to remove that piece of glass, you wouldn't know what was missing but you'd prefer the previous version because you were used to it. That's what this tape saturation craze is all about.
To simulate these micro-anomalies of tape rushing past a tape head and having a magnet do its magic, plugin creators invented algorithms to mimic the soft clipping of tape that can't happen in the digital realm.
These plugins give you a lot of the same parametric equalization options that most modern equipment gives you now, but the essentials remain the same. These plugins apply a controllable overdrive to produce a fuzzy distortion of extra harmonics and transients.
You can slap saturation on any instrument. Grunge and rock bands might like some on their electric guitars or even heavily on the vocals as an effect here or there. But it really shines on the lower frequency instruments like drums and bass. Synth leads really shine with it too though. Try everything!
By applying the tape saturation to this auxiliary track you can "glue" your drums together, especially after a slight bit of grouped compression. Slap on a slight reverb after the saturation and you're cooking with fire!
Then you can push it as heavily as you like and then recombine it with the original signal at any volume level you want. This way, you can create a very intense sense of saturation but mix it back in at lower volumes so it's not so obvious.
Perhaps the most common use of a tape saturation plugin is to place it on the master out track to truly emulate mixing down to tape. This would apply the saturation across the entire mix as a whole, providing that "wall of pleasurable fuzziness" over the entire recording.
They used all of the benefits of modern digital computer technology but... they actually recorded to tape! It's the perfect mixture of crystal clear digital recordings and tape saturation (maybe a tad too heavy on the saturation for me).
Whether or not tape saturation is a pleasing effect is entirely subjective. Young people aren't going to care and may even find it a negative effect. Us older folks or younger fans of the oldies may prefer it.
Agreed. Today we can record the audio that is so clear that we've reached the upper limits of perfection. In fact, it's so clear that it feels lifeless and empty at times. Old timers enjoyed the sound of saturation.
But if you're the type of producer that likes a humanized aspect of non-quantized drums that you played in with a MIDI controller and you like to maintain irregular velocities, then you very well may love the added character and moodiness of saturation.
Another method would be to apply it to each instrument as lightly as possible and then again on the master track. In this way, the combined light saturations will come together to simulate stems being bounced to different tapes and being mixed down one last time to a final tape. 2b1af7f3a8