Saturation is a process of creating a sort of soft distortion to your audio. Back when engineers would record to tape, they would record a track really loud (hot) because it would give them a type of compression and bring life to the track.
With today’s digital recording processes, going into the hot zone (above 0dB) can be dangerous, although it’s not as bad as it may seem.
So how does saturation play into your overall mix? Let’s see.
It’s Good For Spicing Up Your Mix
Mixing can be a pain for a lot of you, including myself at times, because I would much rather just make beats, but that’s why there’s tons of plugins that can help alleviate the pain. Saturation is one of those effects that is so good to have, yet it can also be used in a bad way, resulting in oversaturated audio.
For those that have trouble nailing a good mix, saturation is important. What happens often is that you can have all your tracks sounding good and then when you play them back together, the mix still sounds dull.
This is probably one of the main reasons why a lot of people have trouble with their mixes, and it’s because they’re not using the effects properly. Normally when this happens, everyone reaches for a big ol’ bottle of compression. But even though compression is good too, it’s only going to make your mix louder. With saturation, it brings a warm and fuzzy feel to your mix.
When I really got into using Maschine, I noticed they had included a tape saturation in one of their updates. This was awesome because now I had something really dope in my arsenal. Now when I was banging away at the pads for my drums, they sounded SO much better, all because of the tape saturation.
I’m not a big fan of using a lot of effects, but there are times when it’s really handy. Take the example of drums – drums are hard to really nail down because you have to have drums that are going to sound great with the rest of the tracks. So when you finally find some drums that sound nice, often they also sound boring. Saturation to the rescue!
The main overall reason that saturation is so good on your entire mix is that it just brings life to your mix. Most engineers will use the PSP Vintage Warmer on their final mix, and swear by it. Without it, it sounds super dull.
Here is a great example of how saturation will really benefit your mix:
Saturation On Separate Tracks
I always suggest using saturation on the master channel, but there might be times where you just want to use it on separate audio tracks.
As I’ve mentioned, drums are the backbone of any track so it’s only fitting that you use saturation on it.
This one is very important. Often times, producers will use saturation on the bassline to give the entire beat a big boost.
You can definitely use saturation elsewhere, like on a synth track, and even on vocals. With vocals, you want to be careful because they need to sound natural and not overly processed. Use saturation with caution.
Recommended Saturation Plug-Ins
You Don’t Have To Use It
Always remember that it’s best to use your ears when mixing. Saturation is a great tool just as compression is, but it needs to be used wisely. Compression is often overused, resulting in really bad sounding tracks, but saturation can definitely bring life to a mix that really needs it. Good luck!