76: Q&A: What Is Saturation And How Do You Use It?

76: Q&A: What Is Saturation And How Do You Use It?

It's Q&A time again!

This question came up in our Facebook community:

"Saturation. What is it? I have an idea of what it is from my king gizzard addiction, but i have no idea what it really is or how to use it."

Well,  let's discuss!

(We also answer a couple of follow-up questions around the topic, covering mastering/mix bus saturation, parallel saturation and a couple more.)


This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 76

[00:00:00] Malcom: [00:00:00] Saturation is not a default. It's a, it's a conscious decision at all 

Benedikt: [00:00:03] steps. Oh, that's so important to add. Thank you for that. I have several situation plugins on the mix bus, always turn it off and AB if I wanted on them, that this is the self recording band podcast, the show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are.

DIY let's go.

Hello and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I am your host then at a time, and I'm here with my friends and cohost Malcolm Owen flat. How are you, Malcolm? Hello? I'm great, man. How are you? I'm great. Thank you. Some respect here. We had horrible weather the last couple of days and like, but it's coming back today.

It's a little more sunny and that's great. Yeah. Isn't time outside today already, which is. Oh, 

Malcom: [00:00:50] awesome. Awesome. I have exciting news. I almost got to play music with a band. It was a music video shoot. So we were kind of pretending to play, but it still felt amazing. [00:01:00] It was the first time I'd been with like a band setting, even just in ages.

I can't even like over a year for sure. Um, now, and it was so cool. I was the guitarist for the music video and I had so much fun even though my amp wasn't yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:01:18] Oh, wow. Yeah. Yeah, totally. I, yeah, I can totally relate. Like I haven't had that opportunity yet, but I had a similar experience at least, like I joined a new band project.

I can't really talk about it yet. And it's like, yeah. And it's like, nothing like it's in the very first phase of like doing it, but a friend of mine basically wrote, um, yeah, whole record worth of songs and he just needed. To play with him. And I we've been together in bands before, and like, I really enjoyed the songs and then myself and a couple of other people joined him and we haven't really started other than making plans, but I already met with our drummer and helped him set up his room and like [00:02:00] the recording setup.

And he listened to the podcast by the way and loves it and has improved his skills already a lot, but it we're through it. So at least had this one meeting and the feeling of like, at least being close to making music again. 

Malcom: [00:02:13] Yeah. Yeah. I can. I, uh, I didn't expect it to have that effect on me, but I've been like, thinking about setting up a jam with friends of mine now, and it's like dangerous.

I might make get back into this thing.

Benedikt: [00:02:28] As we said before we started this, I'm, I'm a little careful as of now, because it feels like we get clipped slowly getting back to normal, but I don't know yet, so I don't want to be too excited yet because in two or three months it could be all over against. 

Malcom: [00:02:44] Yeah. Let's hope not. It's exactly, 

Benedikt: [00:02:47] exactly.

Hope not all right. But other than that, it's, it's great. And it's like, I booked the vacation, um, for September, which is also good. Fantastic. 

Malcom: [00:02:56] Are you planning to go anywhere? Are you taking that risk? Yeah, we 

[00:03:00] Benedikt: [00:02:59] can. Um, like we can cancel up until like pretty close to the trip. So we booked something that gives us the, this opportunity because we don't know, but, and we, right.

If everything goes well, we go to Italy. 

Malcom: [00:03:11] Amazing. That's no, Beth and I were just looking at tickets to Italy yesterday. Yeah, that's fine. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:03:18] So we'll see. Anyway, um, do they enough with the banter? Because today we have, um, uh, sort of a special episode because we asked people in our community, um, yeah. To basically ask us questions that we can now answer on this episode, and it's a topic that you've requested in the community in the first place, because, um, yeah, I think what's that I have to look at it.

Sorry for that. Sorry. His name is Shea J okay. Shea. Um, thank you for requesting that episode share because she requested an episode on saturation and, uh, we think that this is a great idea because we haven't done one and saturation is something we both love a lot and use a lot, both in recording and [00:04:00] especially in mixing.

And as we said, we want to dive more into mixing topics anyway. So, um, this is a good start, I think, um, Last week's episode, which was already on that a little bit, and now situations are very broad subject and it can be very complicated depending on how you approach it. What, yeah, what we talk about, like, if this could, this is something we could go on for hours probably.

So I decided to ask questions in the community or to ask for questions from the community that we can answer specifically and we'll go through those of course, but we also want to give you a bit of an overview of what saturation actually is the different forms. It has like the different types of situation and also some use cases and examples of how we like to use saturations situation, why we use it, the different tools we use.

Um, yeah. And yeah, I think we should just start by giving people maybe a little of a, um, a little bit of a definition of some, what it actually is or how. [00:05:00] Think what we think it is because it's, I can not guarantee that everything we say will be completely correct when it comes to the technical details, because it's a pretty difficult subject, but it doesn't really matter what matters is like the, the practical use, the use cases like how you can apply it.

And I think we know enough to, to talk about that. So what is saturation? 

Malcom: [00:05:19] Okay. First before I go into that, just for people that don't know what community we're talking about. There is a Facebook community called the self recording band, um, community that you should go join. So that's where the question was asked if you want to be a part of future questions and get to ask questions for other episodes and stuff like that, or even get links to sit in on episodes like this live while we do it and contribute to the conversation there.

Um, in real time, go to Facebook and join the self recording band community. Um, what was the URL 

Benedikt: [00:05:51] again? It's the self recording band.com/community easy. There we go. Um, I give you one more chance next time. Like [00:06:00] you got it right last time though. Right? You forced you to say it and you get it right. So 

Malcom: [00:06:06] yeah, my brain just defaults to not remember things in the morning coffee in Canada.

Yeah. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:06:12] So, yeah, that it's easy. And like the self-regarding band.com/. It takes to do the Facebook community. And this is the place to go by the way, we are doing something new today that I think I have to mention it because you said it now that people can join us in real time. And you can only do that if you are in this community as at least for now, it's the only way we are experimenting with streaming, our, um, recording of these episodes live to Facebook.

So if you want to hear an unedited version of us, like doing it live as we go, you can do that on Facebook for now. I don't know for how long we're going to do that. We just experimented with that. And, um, yeah, that's how you, yeah. What'd you can do right now. Um, if you go to that community, you can see us do this live and you can hear a more, um, I don't know, longer unstructured version of what you hear and the 

[00:07:00] Malcom: [00:06:59] podcast, after all the messier version of us, you can see us being doing this messy version Selby, pull on the call right now, out of curiosity.

Benedikt: [00:07:12] I think so. I think Richie already commented Richie, Evan. Um, he commented and it says there are two people watching right now, so right on, I mean, yeah. We'll, we'll see how that goes. Cool. Do we, that's it, we won't pay a lot of attention to that stream. We'll just do our thing and get the, the episode recorded for you.

And we'll see what we do in the future for now. It's more experimenting and giving you the opportunity to watch us, but we'll focus on doing the actual episode. All right. What is saturation? 

Malcom: [00:07:42] Right. Okay. So as bold as technical as I can get with it is that saturation is what occurs when the input no longer equals the output.

So if what is being open after something is input into any device, uh, for as long, as long as audio is [00:08:00] concerned, um, that difference. Could be considered saturation. So the classic example would be going into an amplifier and turning it up so much that it starts to distort. And then now obviously the sound of your guitar is distorted coming out the other side, um, or, or maybe not guitar that's, uh, there's a lot of stuff going on in a guitar, but a vocal preamp or something.

If you turn up the preempt too much, the vocal coming out, the other side is clipped and distorted and saturated. So that is kind of the, the layman term of the layman technical examples is that you have saturated the input signal by hitting stuff too harder than it can manage harder than it can, uh, I guess reproduce.

Benedikt: [00:08:48] Exactly. Yeah. Right. Um, so the thing is technically everything, every change to the original audio signal would be called distortion. So even a volume change is distortion. Like even if it's not clipping [00:09:00] or saturating it's distortion. That is a change that just is a change in volume is called a linear, um, distortion.

So that can be a simple volume change. It can also be an acute that doesn't do anything other than like amplify a certain frequency range without the causing distortion. Um, and when, whenever we are adding things that haven't been there previously, if you're not just amplifying things, but we're taking away, if we're actually adding things like frequencies that have not been part of the original signal, it's called a non-linear distortion.

And that's what we talk about when we talk about saturation. So we're adding frequencies that have not been there before. And those frequencies, if we do, if we talk about, um, saturation and not like the storefront, the way we use those terms, like we talk about, um, usually a harmonically, like a pleasing sounding sort of saturation, and we add second or third order harmonics harmonics.

Multiples of the, the [00:10:00] frequency you put in. So if you have the a hundred Hertz, the second order harmonics would be, um, 200, for example, um, the third order would be 300 and, um, or like four 50, it would be a hundred would be the second order, 150 would be third order. So all of these are musically related to the input signal.

So they sound somewhat pleasant, but they have different characteristics. The second order ones are usually the more, most subtle and pleasant sounding ones because they are just octaves. And the third order ones can be perceived as a little more harsh. They are related, but they are not as we perceive them as less musical, if they are getting very loud and different types of equipment or plugins gives us these different distortion or saturation characteristics.

And we usually call it saturation, if it's subtle and quiet, and if it's getting really loud or if the harmonics even get louder than the, than the, the fundamental or the first harmonic, which is the actual frequency we put in, then we talk about this torsion or hard clipping, like [00:11:00] everything below that is soft, clipping and hard clipping is when we turn the sine wave into a square wave, basically.

And we have a lot of those third-order harmonics attends. It gets harsh. It's like really noticeable audible clipping. That's what we call heart clipping. And then the, the third order harmonics are dominant. And then there's like this mix of both when we input a chord or like anything with more different frequencies, which is usually the case, you get both and they get mixed up.

And it's like the stents thing that comes out the other end, which is partly related musically and partly not. So. This is about as technical as we should get in this episode. What we, I think what we can say is as a, as a practical thing right away, is that typically tubes give us the, if used in a subtle way, um, give us the second order harmonics and things like tape has more of the third order harmonics, which Ken's on pleasing as well, but it's also a little more aggressive and upfront in the mid range.

Whereas [00:12:00] tubes are a little more subtle and smooth and musical sounding. So tube 10 tends to create the second order and tape these third order harmonics. There's also different types of tubes that have different characteristics. But again, this is too too much for now. Yeah. Um, there's, it's worth noting that not everything that has tubes in it is automatically saturating or doing so in an audible way because good tube circuits actually are very transparent.

So a tube if operated correctly, Is a PR like applies a pretty linear change. Like no non-linear distortion, like good clean tube circuits are really clean. And only if you leave, if you go past the range there, they're like linear, um, clean range, so to speak. Cause they start saturating more and they do that usually in a pleasing way.

But only if you go past that thing, because people assume often that things with tubes and it automatically have this mojo in this saturation and vibe, but that's not really the case. Some of the most expensive tube [00:13:00] gear is actually very, very, very clean and transparent. That's why Hi-Fi people have these expensive tube, power amps in there.

And they're like Hi-Fi stereo systems because there are super clean and only if you drive them, they start to saturate. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:13:14] Yeah. There's letters, lots of mastering grade tube compressors and tube  and stuff like that to headphone amps, even that are just very. Clean, like you said, 

Benedikt: [00:13:25] not all of them. Yeah.

Yeah. On the other end, if you have like solid state, um, gear and like transistors, basically, uh, also then if you drive those, they are, the, their range is more like limited. They start to saturate at a certain point, but they quickly go into heart clipping and give you this more harsh, obvious clipping.

Whereas with tubes, it's a gradual thing and they don't break up immediately. They break up more slowly. And when you drive for solid state, like a transistor, this can have a sound as well. That that can be awesome, but it's like usually a more suddenly like [00:14:00] is a players. Yeah. More suddenly. And it's, it's just all of a sudden it's there and it's obvious and it sounds like clipping, right?

So the main difference, and then there's transformers and other things that you can drive and all of those give you different characteristics and there's combinations like a guitar amp that's supposed to draw. Your, your input signal to overdrive. It it's a combination of the tubes and the big output transformer, for instance, right?

Malcom: [00:14:23] Yeah. I told him, and if you picture like a console and your audio running through this whole chain of all of these different volume pots and IQ pots and stuff like that, there's potential for micro-changes at each little point of that signal chain. Right. Um, where it all adds up to a different non-linear result, 

Benedikt: [00:14:42] like Benny said.

Yeah, totally. So I think at this point we should say that most people probably don't use the hardware stuff that we mentioned, but they use plugins and those plugs. Are designed to emulate just that. So if you use a tape plugin, it creates, or it's supposed to create the type of harmonics the tape would, [00:15:00] would give you.

And if you're using some sort of tube simulation, then it should do what tubes do. And if you use something like Saturn, like the fab filter set on plugin or something like very flexible, like that, you can adjust it to behave. Like any of these things, like you can make it sound like a, like a transformer or like tape or like tube.

And now the question of course that comes up is when do you use each of those things? Like, where do you start? When do you apply saturation at all? Um, you like, because there's so many like Vera, like yeah, so many things, so many parameters that you can tweak. And so, so many use cases in different sounds.

So w where would you suggest, how would you. People should start, um, exploring saturation. 

Malcom: [00:15:43] Yeah. So I want to reiterate that while we just tried to kind of explain what it is. It's really not important as long as you know, what your goal is. Um, so you don't need to know that it's non-linear or anything like that.

That's not important to the workflow. Um, really [00:16:00] saturation comes down to either, I want to add some tonal mojo to something, right. So kind of shift how it sounds, or I want to control dynamics and, um, or both they can do it can definitely help with both of those. Um, so when I think about wanting to.

Saturate something for tone reasons. Really my mind just says distortion, I want to distort it. Um, and that could be very subtle or very extreme. Um, but essentially that's, my goal is to make something fuzzier and less clean and, and chop off the transients and, and round things out a little bit. Right. Um, and then alternatively, sometimes I want to just make things less dynamic and less pokey and saturation is a great way to do that as well.

And that can help with just make a more like less dynamic range in a source signal, um, or it can help with getting the, the loudness of the [00:17:00] mix-up quite a bit, you know, when you've got these little micro saturations all throughout a mixed on all these different instruments, you're going to gain quite a bit of volume potential, um, through doing that.

And that that's something I, I do a lot of is just little things that add up to a lot. Without the whole mix sounding like it's a distorted thing, right? Absolutely. For a use case situation, I'm wanting to do it for a tone reason or for a diner. 

Benedikt: [00:17:27] So that brings up another question and that also got asked and then the community, and that is saturation versus compression.

Um, what you just described is basically saturation, as we said, adds things that haven't been there before. They are usually if done in a musical subtle way related to the music that you put in. So it's pleasing and not necessarily, you don't hear it as something weird or strange, it just adds to the music.

And it sort of fills in the gaps between frequencies that are [00:18:00] already there, which makes the whole thing more dense and therefore more loud, basically. So if you are, if you want to use compression to make something more dense in loud situation can be an alternative because what it does is. Sort of it does it in a different way, like compression, amplifies, quiet things that are already there.

And if you drive a compressor and it has components in it that saturate, it's a mix of both because many compressors, saturate and compress. But if it's a clean compressor, you amplify quiet things that are already there and present in the signal. If you use saturation, you do that as well, because there's a limit.

Like you chop off the peaks, as you said, and you like saturate them. And if you then raise the volume, if you make up that the game for the game change, then you increase what's quieter. So it's the same thing as compression, just with a very gentle curve, I would say. But you also introduce things that haven't been there before.

So it's a more dense sort of compression. So you could say it's a form of compression, definitely. [00:19:00] Um, but it's, maybe it sounds more dense and more energetic. And there is the danger in it as well, because it immediately gets louder denser, and we often think it's better, but it also, um, takes away from the clarity often.

As everything gets denser. If you do that to every single signal in your whole arrangement, things will overlap and it will, um, maybe you have less separation, less clarity. Um, and I don't, I think not everything can be very dense in a mix or should be very dense. You have to decide as always like with the being intentional, you should decide what's, what's supposed to be upfront and full of energy and dance.

And what is like very clear defined and like whatever hand to one side or in the background or wherever. So you can't make everything super loud and dance, I think, or you shouldn't, in most cases, that's the danger. And also. Um, shaving off the peaks and transients that saturation does, even if it's just subtle, it's sort of smears the trans incent the [00:20:00] attack.

So while there can be a pleasing and good thing to make things sound less pokey, like harsh and things, Trump don't jump out as much. It also takes away from the clarity because now you don't have that impression anymore of that. Like all the little hits and transients and mouth noises and clicks and all that stuff, that's in the music is jumping at you.

You have less of that. And sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes it's just less clear if you do that. And if you overdo it, the mix can sound very flat. I've heard that a lot with, um, where people oversaturated things in the mixes in the, you, you immediately think it gets more exciting, but actually you creating a very flat mix because nothing's really moving to the front anymore.

Everything is like super controlled. 

Malcom: [00:20:41] Nothing's pushing the speaker. 

Benedikt: [00:20:42] Yeah, exactly. That's the danger of it. 

Malcom: [00:20:45] Now, something that's kind of fascinating about it is. It can be, depending on how it's done. It seems to do different things, especially to different frequency ranges, like, like clipping or saturating high [00:21:00] end sounds so different to me, Len saturating low Subi based content.

Um, like, like if I distort the low end of a drum kit, things get like more flubby and, and very fat sounding. And it's pretty cool. Um, where if I do it to the top end of a vocal, it gets harsher. You know, it's, it's almost like the low end gets softer, but the, the high end can get harsher. And now I'm sure there's ways to do it the opposite.

But, um, you, you do have to be aware that different frequencies saturate differently to our ear. And I guess it's also the, the, the material that you're putting it on as well. Right. Um, like if you're doing it to a more static instrument, like a guitar rare versus like a transient instrument, like a drum kit, it's going to be very different 

Benedikt: [00:21:51] sounding.

Yeah. And also the TA absolutely agreed. And also the type of saturation you use or the device you use, for example, um, if you've ever [00:22:00] used a Pultec IQ or an emulation of a Pultec IQ, there is two versions of a Pultec. There is the tube Pultec and there's a solid state. Pultec both of those saturated, like not talking about the Q curve, that's a different conversation, but just their components that the tone of the box itself, it has a tone.

And especially if you drive it, it applies more of that. And the two versions sound differently and what I, and it's, you can, it's pretty, pretty obvious to me. It actually, if you do, if you make that comparison, if you use a tube politic, then the low end gets very resonant. And that is the, I think it's the makeup amplifier in the end.

Like it's a passive cue. And in the end, there is an amp too, to amplify the signal because everything before it is passive, so you need something at the end to bring the level up. And that amplifier, if that is a tube stage, in the case of a Pultec, this is pretty resonant sounding. And this is a very big and yeah, ringy sort of Boomi's sort of low end.

That sounds huge, but not very controlled. If you've ever used a [00:23:00] solid state Pultec or some of the plugins have a similar behavior to the solid state politics, actually it has a much more tight low-end. So you get the same curve and the control and the features of a Pultec. But if in the end, um, the amplifier in the end does it in a more controlled linear way, and it results in a more tight, low end, and it doesn't make bass drums, Wolfie, or Boomi, and this is just, it also saturates and it sounds different and it sounds cool, but different it's a different type of saturation.

And, um, and that is, yeah, that same thing is true with what you said with the mid-range and vocals, for example, some devices or the way you set the saturation plugins such as setter in order to capita or any of the obvious plugins, you can set it in a way that something sounds more edgy and aggressive and the midbrain.

And you can set it in a way that it takes, takes away the edge a little bit, depending on what you do. And I agree that most of the time, the upper mid range or the mids in general, tend to sound more aggressive. It's hard to really make that smoother with [00:24:00] situation. But if you go up higher at the top end, it's a different story.

This is typically what gets smoother to me. Like sometimes I don't even need a dresser if I saturate a vocal a lot, because like, I don't know. It sort of, it's less, I dunno. Yeah. Less Peaky, less annoying. It's it fills the gaps and it feels more smooth. And then sometimes I just need to bring, turn down maybe the whole top end a little bit.

And it sits right there right after I saturated it. And you're right. It's a different behaviors. Sometimes the low end at the top and get better. But the mid range gets a little too aggressive, for example, can be the case. Yeah, I, yeah, I agree. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:24:34] This brings up an interesting thought and it's like the sound of vintage recordings, um, which generally sound very like soft to compare it to modern things where like this wall of sound is hitting you.

Right. Um, and there's just all sorts of saturation going on throughout those recordings because of kind of like we mentioned, there's, there's just there's tape machines at every step of the process, you know, so many tape machines and the tape is getting [00:25:00] older, which is saturation as well. Right. Um, and then all the consoles, it's all hardware to bore transistor gear and stuff like that.

Um, so you ended up with these extremely saturated mixes essentially. Right? Um, even the mastering was, was adding a ton of saturation, um, which I guess still happens. That's a stupid thing to say, but anyways, very saturated. Um, so you can kind of use that as like a, okay. Let's look at some vintage stuff to figure out what Sacha, what saturation can sound like.

Now there's modern uses of saturation that don't sound out. Warm and smooth as that. Um, I personally find a lot of old recordings to be too, too smooth. Um, but, uh, and then another thought I had while you were talking there, Benny is that, cause we're saying that saturation can make things, sound very warm and smooth and non pokey like that.

But think about guitars where we're, the more we distort them, the more aggressive they sound. Uh, and that is again like an extreme form of saturation [00:26:00] happening. Um, but obviously it's adding aggressiveness rather than taking it away. Um, like a DEI isn't going to sound heavy into us. Right. But once we've saturated a ton, all of a sudden that, and it is again that, that, that mid range that really jumps out and becomes this aggressive guitar sound.

So it's interesting how it's just different. 

Benedikt: [00:26:21] Totally. But I think with guitars is also interesting that this, what you just said is the only thing. Until then up until a certain point. And if you go past that, like if you already have very distorted guitars and you turn up the saturation or the distortion even more, I think it gets less aggressive all of a sudden, because then the attacks and everything is like, they are so smeared and like everything starts to sound flat.

Again, nothing jumps out, the attacks are gone and then it's very distorted, but it's not really sound aggressive anymore. It's more like a pad sound almost. It's like so saturated and so dense that it is probably loud and noisy, but not necessarily aggressive to me. [00:27:00] And like, if you just, if you get it right, you have that aggression from the distortion, but you still have the pick attack and like the speaker's moving.

And that is also part of the aggression. And I think some semi like, um, distorted or like crunch sounds or like, um, cleaner tones can sound pretty aggressive. Okay. Like if you have all the attack and everything there, a D I won't, you totally. Right. But slightly distorted can be very aggressive, whereas like they totally, um, yeah.

Too much distortion overused distortion is not sounding aggressive anymore. That's also interesting because many people think the more they, they turn up the gain knob on their amps, the more aggressive it will sound and many metal bands make that mistake. Um, the nutso experienced ones, especially, and I've done that as well.

When I started playing in bands, I thought like the more I crank the amp, the more aggressive it's going to be. And all that was creating was this muddy mess that wasn't actually aggressive anymore. So, yeah. 

Malcom: [00:27:51] Yeah. Yeah. I guess, uh, once you go past allowing it to have that dynamic of a transient at all, right, it then loses all [00:28:00] punch, which is uptake.

So it's tone. Isn't the only contributing factor to a punchy sound. It's also the dynamics of the signal as well. And I, you have to be careful cause saturation effects. 

Benedikt: [00:28:12] Oh, yeah, absolutely. So I want to talk about a thing that you put in our notes here, and you've already touched on it a little bit, and that is, um, you use it sometimes to make a tonal change.

And we've talked about that a lot. Now that will, you can make things smoother, more aggressive. You can bring in frequencies that haven't been there before. If you use multiple tools, for example, you can just saturate a certain frequency range instead of using a cue. For example, if you think it lacks a permit range and aggression and stuff, instead of like boosting the permit range, you can use saturation in the upper mid range and create the vibe that way.

So it's an alternative to IQ, and we've talked about that. Now you can control the low end, make it more resonant, tight, uh, stuff like that. But there's another aspect of it. And that is to use a transparently as a way to, or not [00:29:00] necessarily very transparent, but, um, it can be, it can can account, but do you use it in a way like to control.

Dynamics and transience and doing that instead of a limiter, for example. And if we do that, we don't do it because of tone or that's just part of it. And if you drive it hard enough, you will get a tone change, but it can be very transparent actually, and actually more transparent than eliminator. So you would think a limiter is a clean way of doing that, but it's not necessarily true with a good clipper or if you set it.

Clipping can be super transparent and it can, and I actually, yeah. And I want to, I want to hear your thoughts on it because you put it in the notes to, to, to, to yeah. To deal with those transients. That's 

Malcom: [00:29:41] exactly what I'm doing is, is often using a clipper and you can really dial in the knee of a clipper to be a hard or soft clipper and find that sweet spot where you're getting some more dynamic or less dynamic range actually out of your mix.

Um, without it sounding like it. Right. So doing that just to [00:30:00] shave off things in the right way, will, we'll give you. More ability to push the mix louder. Um, if that's important to you, if it's something you want, uh, I do that with yeah. Clipper is definitely, I think, except for, it's kind of my go-to for like a transparent way, but all, you know, that's where these like tape machine plugs begins to come in handy.

Sometimes they're going to, like you said earlier, or introduce more harmonics, so it's more tonal, but it's still, that might not be the reason I'm grabbing it. I might be grabbing it because I want transients to pave differently. Um, and there's also like these virtual console kind of plugins as well, virtual preamp kind of things that could also work.

Um, I sound toys fanboy, so they have to radiate a plugin that we both love. And I even use that on the mixed bus. Sometimes it's like told the aggressive, but it really just. Pushes the transients differently. Um, so you can really, you can do it on the mixed bus, but I also am also doing it on like instrument buses or read on [00:31:00] individual instruments as well.

Um, just, you know, if only one thing is offending me, it doesn't have to be on 

Benedikt: [00:31:06] the mixed bag. Yeah, exactly. In fact, I think you have to be, and we'll get into that when we answer the questions, but I think you have to be very, very careful if you use it on the mixed vessel or even in mastering, especially in mastering.

Yeah. Um, but sometimes that can be called too. So what I want to say is that there's two ways I think about this. The one, one way is if I use tape or something like radiator, or like these subtle central console plugins or something like that, sometimes this does what you just said and he controls the transience.

Sometimes I even find that it even adds peaks and I have to do more limiting afterwards. It can happen. Like you think you'd think it would like team the transients, but sometimes with the frequencies that the things are adding or the low-end bump that you get from a tape machine sometimes. Um, I find too that I have to use me even more limiting after it.

So one example of this is the very popular slate tape plugin, the virtual [00:32:00] tape machines. If you ever put that on, even if you dial back the, it has an insanely noticeable low-end push if you're just using the default settings. So you have to use the built into queue to compensate for that, because it's just insane.

The amount of low-end that it adds. And even if you compensate for that, um, it still adds level and energy to the transients actually. So my limiter has to work harder if I use that plugin. Sometimes I still do it sometimes because I like the sound of it, but it doesn't what I thought it would do to control the transients, other things do, but you gotta be careful because I, so I view these things more.

I want to add a certain tone or I want to add density or energy and stuff. If I really want to just attack or address the attacks, the transients, I usually go for a simple clipper pro plugin, something that doesn't give me a lot of options, sometimes even just hard clipping. And what that does is it there's, I think there's a great, uh, it was free and if it's not free anymore, it's very cheap.

It's called little clipper by [00:33:00] boss digital laps. I think it's called BOC. Um, th a little clipper. It's a great plugin. It has one slider you can slap between like soft and hard clipping and everything in between, and then you have an input and output and that's it. And if you set that to heart clip, like the same thing as that would happen, if you just clip the output of your interface, for example, if you set the two hard clip and you just push it so that it takes off like a DB or two on a drum bus, for example, or on a snitch.

It doesn't really, you don't really hear that, but it controls the transience and it, it, um, it helps the limiter after it so that it doesn't have to work as hard. And the reason for that is if a limiter, um, deals with transients, it pushes down on the transient and everything else in the music at that moment in time gets pushed down as well.

So there's a little. So the limiter doesn't just push down the snare. It pushes down the whole signal, and then it goes back up again. So if the limiter has to work very hard, you hear a pump and you hear the artifacts and it affects the whole signal, a [00:34:00] clipper. It just chops off the top and everything else stays exactly as it was.

So only the things that are as loud as the snare, they get affected by this clipping thing. And that's where the harmonics are added. So only the snare will cause if at all will cause an audible distortion. And because it's just a super fast transient that distortion is not necessarily painful or harsh or, or annoying or even audible at all, it becomes part of the snare sound often.

It's even cool. It makes the snare sound fatter. Even it can give you a little more body, except for example, for the scenario can make it thicker and less pokey and thin. And also what happens on the, and that's interesting what happens on the playback side and that's why you gain a lot of level in a transparent way.

Yeah. You chop off the top of the wave form. So if assuming you have this flat plateau, and if now a digital to analog converter, like your phone, your stereo, your computer, whatever, um, sees the wave form, and it has this plateau there, it recreates that peaks that [00:35:00] was there before. And you'll hear this net room basically, as it was, if you like, if you've done the mastering correctly and you prevented the entire sample peaks and like you left enough headroom and all those technical things, um, if that's done correctly and if you have a good playback device, it will just recreate this peak.

And I dunno how to say it. Um, you just hear the snare as it was basically you have all the punch back, but the whole thing is louder and the limited have to work as hard. So that's what basically happens when you clip. That's why a lot of mastering engineers use clipping to, to get that extra bit of loudness because it's more transparent than mastering depending on the playback device, it can have negative side effects.

So a really crappy thing. Clip audibly if you overdo it, or if you go to point minus 0.1 or something, um, that can happen, but usually it's not audible and you gain an extra DB or two of level. It might even add a cool character to the snare and the rest of the signal is left untouched. So, and those are the two things.

Two ways I think about it. [00:36:00] Jumping off the transits. And the other thing is like slowly, gradually saturating everything and adding stuff in between was already there. 

Malcom: [00:36:08] Totally. Yeah. It's, it's a classic example of clipping, just being a bad word in the audio industry where people are like avoid it, but it's like, well, it's more clean than limiting, so we should do it.

Um, yeah. Now it's funny as we're talking about this, I'm like this, isn't very important to most of our audience who are just recording, um, right. Like it's not something you really have to worry about, but I feel like it's a fun thing to understand. Um, and actually, you know what, I use it all the time on the way.

And now that I just said that I totally take it back. Uh, I've got like a Neve style prenup in front of me. I push it hard and I've got like the UAE console version of the plugin version that I can record through as well. And you can push that hard and, and you can saturate on the way in with these preamps and it's totally a musical decision you can do on the way.

So I time it told, pick it back. Yep. Apps tracking. 

[00:37:00] Benedikt: [00:36:59] Absolutely. And I think, um, as like hardware, um, compressors and accused and stuff are also getting sort of popular again and even affordable because of all those clones, like the warm audio stuff or the club technique stuff and all this, like these boxes saturated.

And I think a lot of people even like why people buy those things, use those things because they're fun to use. They sound great. And why not? You know, so, so we were all constantly, if you use things like that, we are constantly saturating stuff because those things saturate by default basically, and you can do more of it or less of it, but we all do it.

And we need to, to know when, when and when not to do it. And I think everyone who makes rough mixes even probably experiments with the saturation plugin at some point, because it's a production tool, it just sounds cool. It can be a certain effect for a certain part. Oh, definitely. And then there's the thing where I got it.

Often when people get back to the master and I send it to them, And it clips or the red lights go on on their side, on the player, then they are immediately worried and like, they think something's wrong or someone [00:38:00] made a mistake. And I'm not saying that every master should always like make the red lights go on, but it can't happen.

And it's not necessarily a mistake. We totally on purpose. Um, so one example is my collegial, a mastering engineer that I work with a lot, his masters are super hot, but they are a super, like super loud, but they are super dynamic still. He does it in a way that. I can't even it's it's it's man, it's one of the best in the game, for sure.

It's one of the best in the game at making things incredibly loud and powerful, but still dynamic and not squashed at all. But part of his workflow obviously, or it seems to be is that he likes to clip and he doesn't really care about like, not at least in every master, some of the messages I get from him, he doesn't seem to care about like inter sample peaks or clipping as long as it sounds good.

So if I listened to his masters and I don't look at any meters, I don't notice a single problem. It just sounds awesome. If I look at the meters, I might think, Hmm, interesting eclipse by 0.5 DB or so, but it doesn't, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because it sounds great. And it does so in every single [00:39:00] device.

So don't get nervous if that is the case, it's probably done intentionally. That's a, that's a great 

Malcom: [00:39:04] point. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Uh, should we jump into some of these questions? Cause we have the great questions. 

Benedikt: [00:39:10] Exactly. And that gets us. I think that will get us to the use cases automatically. Um, and to more practical.

Definitely go ahead. 

Malcom: [00:39:20] All right, well, let's start it off just in order. I think first off we had Ryan flair who said, I know typically drums and vocals get parallel distortion, but what other instruments get parallel distortion? Are there any, and I guess we kind of answered some of this, but, uh, w well, I'll let you start it off.

Benny, what do you primarily do? Parallel distortion or parallel saturation. 

Benedikt: [00:39:42] Yeah, I, I kind of answered it in the community. And what I said was basically that, first of all, I wouldn't say that there's anything typical about this. What I said was that there are famous mixers who use parallel stuff on everything.

And then there are other people who don't use parallel things at [00:40:00] all, and both do amazing work. Like I mentioned, two examples, Andrew reshapes is known for doing everything in parallel situation compression, even the queue, which is kind of difficult and weird, but, uh, he does everything in parallel. A lot of it.

And then there are. Like Andy Wallace, who says he basically use it, whatever's in his SSL and he doesn't really use parallel. He tried it. He didn't really didn't give him anything he thought he needed and he doesn't do it. And both, uh, I think there's, we all agree that both of those are just legends and they made yeah.

Insanely good sounding records. So there is no typical thing I think. Right. Um, depends on what you're going for and what you like and how you like to work. So that being said, yeah, drums and vocals parallel distortion is I think relatively common, I think. And I added to that, that I think bass is pretty cool, um, to do it for me.

I don't typically do it on drums in parallel. The reason is I usually, when it comes to drums, I use [00:41:00] situational clipping just to tame and control the snare transcends on the drum bus and on the snare channel itself or the snare bus. If I have one. Uh, just so that my bus compressor or the drum bus compressor gets a more even input signals.

So I use the clipper first and I just chop off the peaks. And then I, after that, I use my compressor because then the compressor pumps in a very musical way. And it, it doesn't do these, um, yeah, these, I don't know if you don't do that. I find that sometimes it takes away five to B and then it takes away one DB and it's like very inconsistent.

If I insert a clipper before the compressor, it's more even in controlled already. And I get this extra loudness push. And if I do that on every single bus, just a little bit, then my final, um, bus compressor or master limit or whatever, it doesn't have to work as hard. So on drums, I do it not imperative, but on the bus itself.

And that the same is true for anything transient heavy. I feel like with vocals, it's the same. I use it on the bus itself. I want [00:42:00] to control the transients. I want to saturate the vocal as a whole and just dial in the amount that I like. That's just how I, how I do it. And I feel like I want with things like transients and vocals, I don't want any phase, any method messing around with the phase adults.

So I don't want to even run into the risk of doing that. So I feel like I get the most true and upfront and clear and crisp sounding thing if I just do it on the bus, um, and let the transients as they are, and maybe control them just to the degree that, that I want with things that are more, um, like a pad or a more than like less transient heavies things like organs, for example, like or roads, or like Hammond organs, roads, or even base, um, for example, stuff that has long sustained notes that I want to saturate.

I do it in parallel more often because I don't care as much about the true representation of the transients. Right. So I'm not afraid to use parallel stuff. [00:43:00] Especially like saturation. I use parallel comps all the time, by the way. But saturation, depending on the tools you use, it has maybe filters, it ha it might have built stuff into it that can cause a phase issue.

And so that's why I'm very careful with, with, with doing it with transit material, like more of a smear. Exactly. So, but, but with bass, I like it with Oregon's L I love it with Rhodes. I really love it. Like that sort of stuff. I really love parallel, um, distortion. I really love to really just tort it in parallel, like go crazy and then just blend it in a little bit.

That can be super awesome. Definitely. Um, so yeah, there's that, that was basically my answer to that. And as always, there are no rules, like if you like distortion on something, try it on the channel and then try it in parallel and see what gives you better results. Maybe the phase change is actually cool, but like, there are no rules.

So I wouldn't say there's anything typical, but if you ask for the most common things, then I'd say, yeah, drums, vocals, and probably be. Yeah, 

Malcom: [00:43:59] totally. [00:44:00] Um, I just kind of, I think we're very similar in how we work with this, so I don't really have anything to add. It's like, uh, I try to use the buses whenever possible.

I'm always being conscious about phase, but, uh, yeah, the same as you. Um, so we'll just move on to the next question, I think. And you answered, uh, Ryan's next question, which was about phase and yeah, so that sounds, 

Benedikt: [00:44:24] um, just, just one more thing I want to add to that, but it's very short just to, to make clear what I mean.

Um, if you pull up something like the decapitated or probably any sophisticated saturation plugin that you have, there's going to be filters in it. And sometimes even if they are all the way to the left, they're still in there. They're not off sometimes even if they said two 20 Hertz or something. And if that's the case, this built in filter causes like a face shift and that in parallel can mess up things.

And that's why I'm very careful with that. So only if I know that there's no filter, nothing happens to the face basically then I'll use it, but I have [00:45:00] to try. So as they on the safe side. Okay. And that's 

Malcom: [00:45:03] only an issue with multi-source situations, right. So if you're doing it to just, uh, Like the snare and now your snares phase relationship is, has shifted against everything else.

Right? Where, um, if, if you do it on the, the drum bus itself, you're shifting the phase relationship of the whole image at once. So it doesn't matter. Everything's changed equally. 

Benedikt: [00:45:25] Yeah. Except for if you do it in parallel, that's why I'm saying that's the thing, because in parallel, you are, you have the parallel channel against your rhombus.

And if you introduce the face shift on one, but not the other, then it gets messy. So that, that's what I, right. Yeah. Cause the question was about parallel, but you're right. If you do it on the drum bus as a whole, it doesn't matter. And that's exactly the reason that what you just said. Yeah. Uh, how much situation is too much situation.

Malcom: [00:45:51] Yeah. Well, thank you Dominique, for the question. Uh, this is a question I tried to answer every mix almost. Um, [00:46:00] I, I pushed it so far sometimes, and then sometimes I have to come back. Sometimes it works. Uh, I, I recently did a mix. I'm going to give a shout out to long-time podcast listener, Chris Erickson. Um, and he is an artist name is scope, and we did a mix for a song called dark eyes.

If you want us to check that out on the Spotify, it's S K O V. I distorted everything. And honestly, I think it sounds amazing. It's like one of my favorite mixes I've ever done. Um, I've got,  literally maxed out on the base all the way, all the way. It could go as much as I could get. And, uh, so there's so much distortion going, but for that song, it just works.

I swear. It just, no matter what I did, I could do no wrong. Um, and I just don't it. Yeah, well, the drums, the bass, the guitar, the vocals, the since everything's distorted still sounds great. So as much as you can is the, is the answer to that question for me, 

Benedikt: [00:46:56] I literally answered with a, with a sticker, with a photo of a sticker that I have [00:47:00] on my desk that says to store everything.

And that's sort of what I live by. Like, I, I just like distortion, so I probably overdo it a lot. And then I have to go back and 

Malcom: [00:47:08] I've had to go back. I had a very polite, mixed note from a band once that said, Hey, uh, I don't know if something went wrong on the RET on the bounce over, but it's all very distorted.

And I was like, wait, yeah, yeah, that's meant to be. And then I like listened to it again. And I was like, oh yeah, this is pretty bad. Every once in a while, I think we had this conversation when that happened on the podcast where we'd like to listen, we'd like to wait one day so we can listen to it with fresh ears the next day before we, uh, sent it to the client.

And that is exactly why. Cause you get stoked as you're doing it. And you're like, ah, more, 

Benedikt: [00:47:39] more, yeah. Yeah, totally, totally. It was so hard to answer this question. So I think I answered it by saying I try to be as always, I try to be pretty intentional. Um, and I try to not go back and not sometimes you have to, but I try to only move forward and not undo what I've done before.

[00:48:00] So I try to think first why I want to do something and then I just do it. And then I move on. So I try to do not as much experimenting just because it takes a lot of time. And sometimes I end up somewhere where like where I have to go back anyway. So I, I don't know. I just like a plan and only move forward.

So what I do is I think about. I have a sound in my hand that I want to have. And then I choose the tools that I think will do the job and on saturate till I get there, I might have to try two or three tools, but I, I get there and if I turn it up more and it doesn't give me any more of what I wanted to do in the first place, if it doesn't get me closer to the sound that I had in my head, then I know that it's too much.

So Rodela at island in a turn it up until I feel like I get what I need. And then there's this point where I don't get any more of that. It just gets different. It just gets like, I dunno, harsh or there's unwanted side effects, or I get things that are maybe cool, but not what I wanted. And at that point I just stop.

And I think you have to train that and learn that, but it's really all about like, knowing why you do it in the [00:49:00] first place being intentional and just listening carefully. Uh, yeah. So, you know, you reach that point where you don't get any benefit from it anymore. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:49:09] And different genres and songs will demand different amounts.

You know, we, we work in pretty rock orientated, distorted genres, um, primarily, but, uh, there's told the genres where they want clean. So you have to keep things 

Benedikt: [00:49:23] more transparent. Oh yeah. Oh yeah, for sure. Okay. And by the way, a Dominique is a great mixer producer himself. So his answer is also 

Malcom: [00:49:32] as much 

Benedikt: [00:49:32] as you can, probably a kiss.

He does pretty, he works at a pretty extreme metal genre. So his mixes sound like evil. Like as fuck and like, like really, um, heavy and load tuned stuff. And like, so he knows what he's doing and he's probably saturating a lot as well, but also, uh, I'd love to, to hear from you dummy, by the way, you can just comment in the community if you have ever listened to this or see this because in the, the types of mixes that you [00:50:00] do, sometimes if I do, if I work on music like that, I find that I have to be very careful actually with saturation, because things are so dense.

Like if you work with blast beats down, tune guitars, heavy distortion on the guitar is already probably a pretty gnarly based tone and all that. And everything in like doubles and layers and stuff. And it's a very dense, fast arrangement, um, in a, in a melt song like that there's little room for additional situation.

Often, sometimes you have to keep things really clean in the mix because it gets messy otherwise. But I I'd love to hear your opinion on that because you mix way more, very extreme music than I do. I think. 

Malcom: [00:50:34] Yeah, that'd be great. Um, okay. We'll let you answer this next one, because I should've gone to the washroom before we started recording this.

So I've got to run, but I'll read it out for you. How do you get, how do you go about saturating your master project to create distinctive analog compression effect caused by tape machines, such as the G 37, which is a, there's a famous waves plugin replicating 

Benedikt: [00:50:54] that. Totally. So, um, [00:51:00] so I'd say it's interesting questions.

So as I said, I would be very, very careful on the master bus. Uh, I know there's this thing where people mix and master in the same session and that's probably what you do. And I'm don't know, um, to me, sometimes I do it sometimes. I like to separate the mastering from the mix. Um, and even if I do it in the same project, I think of it as two different stages of the process.

So what I do is I try to create all of those. Character and vibe and, um, tone. Did I want through saturation? I tried to do that in the mix, even if that means practicing the mixed bus, but it's still the mixing phase where I think about these things and I try to do it on buses or individual channels rather than the mixed bus a lot.

Uh, so I can really focus on individual things and apply it only to the things that need it. Um, and then on the mixed bus in the master, I try to stay very transparent actually, especially in the mastering. So if the mix is done well, the [00:52:00] function of the mastering is basically to make it translate well to all the different formats and platforms and playback systems.

And also to apply a final Polish, um, maybe to correct some minor problems, maybe to make it a little more dense, um, make it louder, or maybe make it more dynamic sometimes whatever it is, but it's always, the goal is always to stay true to the mix. So I be, I'm very careful with saturation on the master, but.

That being said, if I want the mix to be denser, if I wanted to glue it together, then yes, I would use something like that. I would use something like a tape set, a plugin or a tube plugin or a hardware box. Um, whatever gives me the sound I want. And, um, so, but it's, if I do it, it's very, very, very subtle.

And if to do it in a drastic way, I go back to the mix and do it there. Or I ask the mixer to send me something that has actually the tone that they want, because if I do it on the master, I might affect things that don't benefit from the saturation. [00:53:00] Now, I also think that there's no such thing as a distinctive analog compression effect because.

It's all just different tools. Some plugins sound more quote, unquote analog to me than actual analog gear and some analog gear sounds very transparent. So I don't think that these days there is a distinctive analog sound. Um, it's I know that it sounds very appealing and people like to, to believe the whole mojo thing, but I also think that people blow it way out of proportion.

And I think that analog is not always better and it doesn't always have a vibe and a character it sometimes has, but not always. And it's just tools that sound differently. So, yeah, that's it. And basically, and if you ask about the chain 37 and tape machine plugins like that, what they do to me is they add density.

They change the low end. It can be more Boomi and full there's this low in pump, the tape machines have, but depending on how you set it and what you use, it can also [00:54:00] make the low end, a little tighter. Uh, it can add harmonics that make the low and more audible on small speakers, which is a whole function of saturation in and of itself.

Um, it can smooth out the top end a little bit, and it can make the upper mid range a little more edgy. So the thing we've been talking about before that you get a smoother top ends of symbols and SS may be, but you might get more aggression in the upper mid range, and then you change the low end to whatever the tape makes it sound.

And if I want any of that, I use a tape, but very subtly. Um, yeah, but, and then you ask the follow-up question, Julia, Julia, where you said, uh, would you use rather software or hardware saturation that. Either mixing or mastering. Totally depends. You can get by with only plugins these days. Absolutely. But if you have hardware, you have to do a shootout, probably if you don't know your gear already that well, because there's no other way because I have analog tools and I have digital tools and I don't prefer one or the other, I just shoot them out [00:55:00] or I have done it a lot in the past.

And I know what those sound like. So I know in a certain situation, what I want to use to solve the problem that I want to solve. So there's no better or worse here or no, no recommendation that I can give. But if you have a certain plugin or box that, you know what it sounds like, and it fits the situation and solve the problem you want to solve, then just use it.

And at the beginning, I think you have to do a lot of shootouts and experimentation and because tastes are different as well. Like three different people will give you three different opinions on a piece of analog ear or a plugin. That's, that's just how it is. And yeah. This is my long answer to it. The sh the shorter one can be found in the community.

Thank you, Julia. It's a great questions though. And I think, I think to sum it up, if you want to add glue to the mix or the master bus, then using a situation plugin in a subtle way can be a great way to do it. Just don't overdo it. And what I think you mean with distinctive analog compression is probably the gentle [00:56:00] saturation and compression curve and the blue and the density that you get from that, which is not necessarily an analog thing, but I know what you mean.

So if that's what you're going for, yeah. Tape can be the way to do it, but sometimes it's not. Alright. Um, Malcolm, take them next one. What do you listen for, with clipping Nick asks? Um, I don't know. Yeah, I, I don't even. Try to pronounce pronounce his last name. Sorry, I can't speak French. It's do you know how you pronounce that?

Malcom: [00:56:30] No, no. I'm on the wrong side of Canada for correctly, correctly saying anything? French? Uh, 

Benedikt: [00:56:36] probably probably Nick questioning. What do you listen for with clipping? Is it different for an individual channel? The mastering chain. Thank you for the question, Nick. 

Malcom: [00:56:47] Uh, so for clipping, and now it's funny, this might just be me about for terminology when I'm thinking clipping.

I am thinking strictly about chopping transience. I'm not really thinking about the [00:57:00] saturation side of things, uh, which, I mean, it is saturation, but when I'm, when my mind thinks saturation, I'm thinking tonal distortion stuff. Um, right. So clipping number, it's like, okay, we're cutting stuff out to make more or less dynamic range, I guess.

But it's interesting. I want to clarify that because I keep flip flopping on that. But what I mean is we are lessening the dynamic range of what we are clipping to create dynamic range, dynamic headroom for our limiter, right? Because now there's more space for us to push the limiter without it having to work as hard.

So that, that clears that up. But anyways, to your question, Nick, What am I listening for when clipping and again, thinking about it as chopping things, I'm really listening for bad distortion, um, especially on the mastering bus kind of thing. If I'm clipping, I want to essentially not hear it. Uh, usually, um, in, in a clip with a clipper, I'm trying to just chop, like Benny said, the snare is generally the thing that's [00:58:00] peaking louder.

So I'm trying to just hit those so that, uh, my limiter can have an easier job and be a little cleaner. Um, is it different for an individual channel versus the mastering chain? I don't really think so. I think it's about the same for me. I'm trying to, again, accomplish the same thing without it having a negative type of distortion.

So at the same for you, 

Benedikt: [00:58:21] Benny. Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah, totally. I don't think about it very differently. Um, I, if at all, I'd say like I'm, as I said, I'm more subtle on the mastering chain, usually. But 

Malcom: [00:58:34] I will add that on the mastering chain with a clipper. Definitely be careful that your kick isn't the one distorting.

Oh yeah. That seems to be an easy thing to go 

Benedikt: [00:58:45] wrong. Yeah. And that, I think we should add a little thing here, um, that we've, didn't talk about in the beginning, which is very, very important. And that is what you just said, clipping and low-end are two [00:59:00] things that can, or can't, um, be a good thing together.

Like it can be like, you know, the thing is if you saturate low end, it tends to sound smaller. So it takes away from the you lose, um, subs typically. Um, you, the low end has the most energy. It's the first thing to clip, unless you have a very loud snare, as you just said or something, but usually the low end is very sensitive to, to clipping the long wave.

And if you clip them, they are not sounding like low waves anymore because they are distorted. They are not these huge, beautiful sign waves that sound full and like low end. They are now divided into like little waves that you still hear that it's a low note, but it doesn't sound as big and full anymore.

Usually. So sometimes this can be good to control the low end to make it a little tighter. It can also be used. And it's a good thing if you use it that way to make low low-end audible on smaller [01:00:00] speakers. So sometimes it's, it's a very good thing. If you saturate the bass for example, and if, especially, if you do it in parallel, for example, you have one channel that has the full low end, and you have another one with the harmonics and those harmonics can be reproduced on a smaller playback system.

And now your brain hears those harmonics. And there's this thing called the missing fundamental effect where we hear only the harmonics, but our brain knows what the fundamental to those harmonics is. And we added in our brain. So we hear the low end, even though it's not there. So. Harmonics and saturating low end can be great way of making a low baseline audible on small speakers, for example.

So there's that, but if you don't want that, if you don't do that intentionally, it can cause a lot of problems because if the bass drum has to just set in Malcolm, if that's the thing that's clipping on your master bus, you'll probably lose. Um, absolutely just clarity. It will sound like it's just clipping in a, in a bad way.

Just like you overdrive the, the playback, um, device or something that just sounds like, like [01:01:00] crackling noise usually. And it also, like, it makes the low end smaller and, um, it, it causes pumping sometimes. So usually on the master, that's not the place where you want to saturate the low end a lot, unless you do it intentionally, I would say so.

Malcom: [01:01:14] Yeah. Yeah. Let's be especially conscious of this. If you're doing like any kind of hip hop rap or something like that was big, eight awaits tends to go poorly. Yup, 

Benedikt: [01:01:22] absolutely. You might be cool. Cool. Yeah, totally. You're totally right. Totally right. I don't mix a lot of that, but it's absolutely, it's the same, by the way, if you don't use, if you don't mix or record or produce electronic music, but you do metal or modern rock and you use things like bass drops or any of those effects, this can really happen there.

And you'd might not even notice you might not do much as listen to the master partially. And you might not maybe skip the part where the eight drops or the like the space drop sample comes in, but you absolutely have to check those because those might cause crazy things, um, with your saturation and limiting, and maybe you [01:02:00] need to send them around your mixed bus or something, or do some weird tricks to make it work.

So be careful with that. Definitely. Okay. The next question is Corey. Corey stopper. And, and he says, I hope I didn't put you that name as well, but he said, Corey says, is it better to you use different situations on different instruments or the same across tracks or just one on the master bus? Um, I'll give that to you as well now come because you you've been talking about console plug-ins right.

Um, and this is, I think an application of those, like, you could have the same console plugin on every channel, or you can have that plus a mixed bus plugin on the mixed purse, or you can just have them express plugging. So what do you think, is it good to do that? Or would you use a different console or a different situation plugins on each.


Malcom: [01:02:45] I remember when the slate virtual consult first came out, it used to have like a bunch of different settings for different iterations of different channels. So like each instance would be slightly different, which should try to replicate more. So a real console where [01:03:00] each channel would be different.

Um, I mean, that's cool. It seems like a lot of work. I strictly just, if I want something to sound different, I'm going to throw something on it and you learn, you just learn new gear. You know, I know what that slight one sounds like. I know that, uh, the shadow Hills by BrainWorks mastering compressor has these virtual different channels as well.

Um, and that you can actually change those as well. And very occasionally I'll click that button to just randomly choose different ones. It's just like, give me some magic. It's a luck thing, but, but I don't really try and set up my sessions to be like a console. It's just, I don't think it's really necessary.

Um, it's more so learning what each different type of saturation. Accomplishes. So like the capita is very different than a Saturn, um, two different distortion plugins. Right. And I think they sound extremely different. So I'm going to grab them for different reasons. Just like a clipper is going to sound different than a tape machine plugin.

[01:04:00] They're, they're just different tools for different jobs and you just have to experiment with them until you know, what they do. And then you'll just start intuitively reaching for the one you want slash need. 

Benedikt: [01:04:11] Agreed. Um, yeah. Anything else you wanna add to that? 

Malcom: [01:04:14] Uh, not really. Other than that. Yeah. So it's, it's normally different across tracks to answer that, ask the question more thoroughly.

Benedikt: [01:04:22] Um, okay. Um, so my thoughts, my quick thoughts on this, on these are, um, I'd say it can go both ways. It can be beneficial to use the same sort of subtle vibe on all the tracks, like with a console plugin, and then it adds. Um, this density or subtle glue and it adds up because every single challenge is very subtle, but if you, if you do it across like 50 channels to get that vibe from the console, maybe, and the same sort of situation, which may be, do lose things together.

So that can work. It can also go the other way, because if you apply the same type of situation to every single [01:05:00] instrument or channel, um, it, it can, sometimes things will sound a little to me at least sound a little more narrow even, or, um, I don't know. I feel like I lack I'm lacking clarity and separation and like things like the Brainworx plugins, the plugin lions consoles, where you can have different channels of the same console that is the work around for that, because that doesn't happen.

Then you have the same vibe, but not exactly the same thing, but if you use exactly the same thing, like something that doesn't give you different channels, but it's the same channel on every or the same. Plug-in on every track. Then you have the same distortion, which is not the case in a real console, and then you things can, I don't know.

I think it just lacks clarity and separation. Sometimes that can even happen if you use the same queue on every channel. I sometimes use different cues just for no real reason, other than I want to use different things to avoid applying the same curves and the same saturation at the same characteristics to every single thing.

[01:06:00] Because I feel like if I use different things, sometimes things get wider, more separated, more everything has its own character and there's not clarity to me. So, but if you use things like that, give you different channels or as you do Malcolm, just use different plugins, then you don't have that problem.

So I agree there. What I will do though, is I have different mixing templates for different sort of vibes that I'm aiming for. So I have my Neve template, my SSL E template, masses of G template, my J template. And I know what those sound like. And only part of it is the situation because it's very subtle.

Um, most of it is actually just the way. Cute curves work or in case of the Neve, it's a more drastic difference, but I just learned how those console emulations sound. And I know when I listen to demos that this template probably works better than the other one. So I just decide which console I want to mix things on.

And it's a sort of thing, but I don't know, it just works for me. Part of it is the saturation, but most the, I think it's just how the curves work or how the mid-range sounds. If I boost something, the [01:07:00] ease sounds much more aggressive to me than the chain, for example. So if I know I want to have something really edgy and aggressive, I go for that.

If I want to have something modern, polished, I go for the Che or whatever. Right. So I, I, but I, I totally agree with you to different channels. Oh, plugins are usually what I'm aiming for. And I have in my template on every track that I could probably saturate, I have a selection of different saturation plugins, ready to go?

That I can just quickly audition. I assume you do the same. So on my drum bus or in parallel buses that I use to crush things, there's 2, 3, 4 different favorites and I just quickly go through them and see which one I want. Yeah. 

Malcom: [01:07:36] Yeah. And, you know, usually I bet you get it right on the first one. It's like, cause we know what, they're what they sound like.

Right. You just get, you get good at it. Um, I, one thing I want to read between the lines on with Corey, and maybe you're not saying this Corey, but, um, I think there is an assumption that we're meant to have one of these virtual consoles. Every channel. And then at that, [01:08:00] like that's part of mixing and that, you know, so these little analog, fo analog things are like a part of a good mix.

And I absolutely disagree. I think it's, again, you have to just listen and if it sounds like it needs something like that, that's when you put it on it, doesn't have to be there as a default. Um, always remember that how things recorded might already be saturated enough. Uh, and you know, there's lots of music, like, uh, kind of more modern hip hop stuff where it sounds really cool where it's just like all digital and clear and stuff like that.

Um, even some metal sounds really cool like that as well. You know, so saturation is not a default. It's a, it's a consciousness. That all steps. 

Benedikt: [01:08:40] Oh, that's so important too. I thank you for that. I have a situation plugin on the several plugins on the mixed bus that I can addition. And one of them is my favorite that gets used almost always.

It's the black box plugin by, um, plugin lions. I just love how that sounds and that express, but I always turn it off and AB if I want it on or not, because it's pretty [01:09:00] drastic the way I use it. And as you said, sometimes, often I like it, but sometimes the mix does need it. And I, I wouldn't know if I didn't compare it because I'm so used to it.

That's just the way my console quote unquote, my digital console sounds if I put it through that and I'm used to that, but I have to turn it off to see if it really makes things better. And sometimes if I use all these console channels, for example, as I said, there's a dial on them where you can turn down the harmonic distortion on those all at once.

Um, so I'll do that. I'll disable the distortion on all those channels at once and see if it's better with, or without. Most often it's very subtle, but sometimes it's pretty audible as well. And sometimes I keep the consoles, but I turn off the distortion and just use them for the Hugh curves. And sometimes I like the distortion and even increase it.

So it's absolutely intention. And then they would not use anything just because you have it, or because somebody uses that console. I don't, that's the advantage we have these days. I mean, if you were mixing in the nineties on an essence and the real SSL, you have no choice, you have [01:10:00] that SSL. And if it didn't like the sound of it for a particular mix, you'd have to work around that.

That was part of the skill that people needed to have. They needed to know when the sound of the console is actually cool or the sound of the tape machine. And when they had to really fight the console or the tape machine, because they didn't want the saturation that's that happened often. And we have the luxury of not having to deal with that, because if we don't want it, we just don't use it.

And then it's absolutely crystal clear. It's pretty cool. Definitely. Yeah. And I think that, I think we both got a lot of mixes mixes of stuff to mix or stuff to master where we think like they shouldn't have used that on default. It's just oversaturated or, yeah. So, yeah. Cool. All right. Uh, last question, Jeremy Potthoff um, Jeremy, you said, how about saturation on acoustic guitar?

Oh, good one. What are some ways to do this and still have it sound like an acoustic? My first thoughts are doubling the track clean, left, distorted. Right? Interesting. And ACU. [01:11:00] I heard a local guy to life once with great results. I've never been able to replicate it live or recorded. Okay. I'll leave that one to you, Malcolm, you do more acoustic guitar than I do.

It's a, like a more Canadian thing, I think. But, uh, no, but I know that you do more of that than I do. So I know that saturation and I like it on acoustic guitar is cool and it can be cool better than compression. And these, I think so often, but yeah. That that's about it. So I wasn't particularly interested in the whole left right thing.

I don't know. I don't, I never done that, but I've never done that 

Malcom: [01:11:31] either. I, I wonder like, does he mean recording, uh, left and the right performance of separate performances and changing one side? Um, I honestly, I'm not sure about that method, Jeremy, it's something I've never, never tried. Um, And it seems odd when I think about it, but, uh, but maybe it's cool.

You never know. Uh, so with acoustic guitar, it's very dependent on, for me, it's very dependent on where it [01:12:00] lives in the mix. If there is drums and acoustic guitar usually becomes a percussive instrument where you are focused on the transient. Uh, pick attack being a rhythmic tool that sits with the drum kit, because really that's all you can hear.

I mean, you can, you can make up the rest of it, but like, it is not doing, uh, a great job at the low mid stuff or, or even, yeah, it's like bass guitar and drums. And normally there's electric guitar that gets in their tube that just do a better job at filling in those spaces usually. Um, and so my focus becomes that transient stuff.

So you can use saturation to, to soften that, um, to make it less zipper resounding, for example, it's a great way to fix dis if you're stuck with using the DEI acoustic, you can, you can kind of mess with that. Um, yeah, I don't reach for distortion tools. Um, again, this is been a tricky episode because it's saturated.

Is a form of distortion. Right. But, uh, [01:13:00] when for terminology distortion, we normally mean, you know, like something that costs, that's something that really causes distortion. Uh, so I'm going to reach for something cleaner, I guess, like going back to a tape machine, we're going back to, uh, little or sound toys, radiator, which actually, I wouldn't say as a clean thing, but it isn't really a distortion box either.

Um, it's just going to warm and things up. That's kind of, my goal often is to warm up the attack. So it's not so zipper sounding I'm against zipper 

Benedikt: [01:13:33] acoustics. I agree. I agree. And by the way, you don't have to boost an insane amount of top end on acoustics. I don't know why people do that so often. Like, um, so many acoustic guitars are so, so like way too bright and yeah, I agree with everything you said.

Okay, cool. Cool. Thank you for that. The left-right thing. I don't know. I assume you get, I assume you that you probably got something wrong there because I can't [01:14:00] imagine the live sound guy putting a clean one on the left side and the disordered one on the right side. Or like you said, that live, I think you mean not really doubling it, but like an artificial double, like, so I'm not really sure what you mean there, but even if you do an artificial doubling effects or did you copy and paste the track or whatever, it would be weird to me to listen to an acoustic guitar, especially in headphones and have totally different things left and right.

And also live. I'm not, I might, I might be wrong, but I'm not sure you got that right from that live sound guy or I dunno. Um, but maybe like, tell us more about it, like comment in the community and tell us what you mean by that. And maybe it's something cool that we need to explore, but it's definitely not something common and not my first.

Malcom: [01:14:42] Yeah. Yeah. Also live live is primarily motto and in a lot of setups. So it be odd to try and make a setup where you've got the stereo thing going on. And then you arrive at the club and they're anonymous system. You'd be kind of screwed. Um, I dunno. Yeah, [01:15:00] it could be cool though. 

Benedikt: [01:15:01] Yeah. Okay. That's about it.

I think, um, I hope this was helpful because yeah, there are so many things that we could talk about when it comes to situation. So I hope we covered the most important part. Being intentional. It's always, I think is important. Knowing the different types of situation exists, that there is hard clipping, soft clipping, maybe read up those things.

Like we'll put it in the show notes. If you go to the surf recording, band.com/ 76, um, you'll find the show notes and I put some explanations and I found a great like Wikipedia article on it that I'll put there. And I found some other, I think Sono works has a great article on their website about it. So I put those there, those resources for you to look up the technical things.

And it's important to know that different devices give you different characteristics after solution and saturation. And then I think it's a matter of learning what those different types of situations sound like. And then you get a feel for when they are appropriate or not. I think that's the way to do it.

You just, first of all, you need to learn what it sounds like, what the gear you [01:16:00] have sounds like. Right. And then just see if it fits a certain situation or not. And it's, it comes with experience, I guess it's, it's, it's one of those things that I think you just need to do over and over again in order to really understand.

So, but being intentional is the most important. And when in doubt I would leave it off. Honestly. So what I mean by that is if you insert a situation plugin, because you think it's what you do or what you've seen someone else do, and you can't really confidently say that it makes things better, but you just assume you've got to use it, then turn it off.

Yeah, I agree. That's I think a rule of thumb that you can really follow because often it's just not needed. And if you, if you can't say for sure that it improved the thing, turn it off, because it might have cost problems that you're not able to hear yet, or that your speakers can't reproduce. And if it didn't make things better, why, why do it.

And on the recording side of things, we didn't talk about that a lot, but I think the same thing is true. Just see what your gear does. If you push it to the limits, even if [01:17:00] it's just a cheap interface or preempt, just see what it does. If you crank it might be cool. Might not be, but just know what it does you learn when it starts to get problematic, you learn where the you learn, how to, how to dial it in.

So you don't get past that point. That causes problems. Yep. Um, you can try fun things with all sorts of pedals. We've talked about that, or just weird things that the storage we've recorded guitars through. What's the word in English for those little, um, the, the, those voice recorder things with the small tapes in it.

Malcom: [01:17:33] Oh yeah. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [01:17:36] You know, those things where they used an office back in the ages to dictate things. Yeah. Those, we had some, one of that laying around at a friend's place and we just plugged our guitar into that and cranked it and then recorded the output and checked what it sounds like. And it was a crazy sort of distortion that was actually pretty cool.

So at least we thought it at that at the time, but you can experiment with all sorts of gear and just see what it does. And most of it, especially cheap stuff will [01:18:00] distort in a way. And you'll learn so much by doing that. And maybe after this episode, you know, you can be more intentional and you actually know why things sound the way they sound at least.


Malcom: [01:18:12] Yeah, totally. Um, again, if you're not sure, leave it off. And a lot of those examples, actually, you have to really be sure, like if the cheap preamp thing exempt, for example, cheap preempts generally sound worse as you crank them. Like for, for modern preempts, you know, if it's an old thing, it might be like, it's going to be a very different effect.

Uh, but you're, don't get tricked by the loudness is all I'm getting at kind of thing. Cause you're turning it up. It's getting louder. You might perceive that as better. So be careful. Totally 

Benedikt: [01:18:42] cool. Awesome. Yeah, that's it for this episode and we'll see you next week. Thank you for listening. Thank you.

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