Best Saturation Plug-Ins To Add Warmth To Your Tracks
Post date:Thu, 11/19/2020 - 08:42
In previous articles, we have looked at ways to give soft synths a more analog sound and one of the most effective ways is through saturation. With the right plug-ins, it is possible to recreate the sound of tracks that were mixed using analog mixing desks. There are plenty of options to choose from if money is not an issue, but even if you are on a tight budget you don't have to miss out. Here are some of the best saturation plug-ins available on the market if you desire a softer, richer sound for your mixes.
Sound Toys Decapitator
It's impossible to talk about saturation plug-ins without mentioning Decapitator by Sound Toys. With a price of $199 this analog saturation modeler is not the cheapest option on the market, but nobody can deny its effectiveness. Decapitator offers five different analog saturation models along with a modeled tone control for shaping the saturated sound. Thanks to its mix control there's no need for routing and sub-mixes if you want to blend in some dry signal either. While it can some wonderfully subtle sounds to your mixes Decapitator has a dedicated "Punish" button if you want to kick things into high gear.
Softube Saturation Knob
Another saturation plug-in that should require no introduction is the Softube Saturation Knob. Not only is it free to use, but it also keeps things simple with three modes, offering three kinds of distortion character. Your options are Keep High, Neutral, and Keep Low, so you can fine-tune what sounds you want to keep clean and which ones need a touch of distortion. Softube Saturation Knob is particularly useful if you have drums and bass in your tracks that you would like to fatten up, but it also does a great job adding harmonics to vocals and your synth lead sounds. Saturation Knob works as a native plug-in and as a module for Softube's Eurorack platform, Modular.
FabFilter Saturn 2
A lot of users swear by FabFilter Saturn and recently the Amsterdam-based company brought out version 2 of their highly acclaimed plug-in. It is a multiband distortion, saturation, and amp modeling plug-in that provides users with a ton of modulation options. Saturation fans will appreciate the four tube settings that provide mixes with some classic analog coloration which range from subtle right up to the aptly titled "Broken" setting. The drive control for each frequency band puts you in total control of the coloration and additional behavior can be tweaked with the controls for frequency, dynamics, and feedback. It is available in AU, AAX, and VST/VST3 formats and more than capable of adding some warmth to your mixes. Don't just take our word for it either, but check out the 30-day trial to hear for yourself (https://www.fabfilter.com/download/#download-saturn-2-multiband-distortion-saturation-plug-in).
Waves Abbey Road Saturator
What makes the Abbey Road Saturator by Waves so special is that it was modeled directly from saturation chains at the actual Abbey Road Studios. This means it models the original EMI TG12321 unit, which feeds directly into the REDD or TG desks for its saturation effect. The EMI TG12321 is not just ultra-rare but was considered by many to be a secret weapon of Abbey Road engineers. You can use the presets by Grammy-winning producers and engineers such as Dave Pensado, Joe Baressi, and others or take control yourself to tweak everything to your liking. Check out the behind the scenes video from Waves Audio below to find out more about the Abbey Road Saturator.
Klanghelm SDRR has been around for a while, but still packs plenty of punch when it comes to saturation. It has four different main modes, namely TUBE, DIGI, FUZZ, and desk, with each reacting dynamically to the input signal. Unique crosstalk behavior for each mode is also available and can be exaggerated or switched off. Level matching is also made easier thanks to RMS level difference metering. SDRR is available for Windows and macOS as VST, VST3, AU, and AAX. While it is reasonably priced for what it has to offer, Klanghelm also offers the little brother of SDRR, called IVGI, for free on their website. IVGI offers everything from soft and subtle saturation to dense and dirty distortion effects. Trying out IVGI is also useful if you want to see how SDRR will perform on your system as it is based on the DESK mode in SDRR.
These are just a small selection of some of the best known and widely used saturation plug-ins that are available. Let us know in the comments below or on the forum what your favorite saturation plug-ins are and why.