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Saturation Strategies | Audio Examples

These audio files accompany my Saturation Strategies article in SOS May 2021, in which I describe various techniques for using saturation when mixing.

Audio Files

Listen to the SoundCloud MP3 files below or download the ZIP file containing high-res 24-bit Wavs and audition them yourself in your own DAW.

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A drum submix without any saturation processing applied at the mix stage.


This is how the same drums sound with the parallel processing technique described in the main article. On the parallel track, I used Pro Tools’ Sansamp PSA-1 plug-in with the Buzz control up, followed by an EQ with 75Hz high-pass and 3kHz low-pass filters. I also had to remove some low-mid at around 350Hz. The key part of the processing, however, is playing with the polarity of the parallel track. In this case, flipping the polarity made the drums’ low end much more prominent.

03_Bass Guitar_Flat

An example of how saturation can be used instead of EQ to shape a track to fit a mix. In this case, the bass guitar’s low end needed to make way for the drums a little, and the instrument also needed more energy in the 1-2 kHz region. This is how the bass sounded without saturation.

04_Bass Guitar_Processed

Using FabFilter’s Saturn 2 plug-in I split the signal into three bands, with crossovers at 350 and 800 Hz. I applied no saturation to the lower frequencies. On the mid-band, I used some tape-style saturation and I employed a more aggressive guitar amp-style effect on the high band.   

05_Full Mix_Normal

An example of a mix I’ve worked on in which I employed several saturation techniques. The most significant contributions are from: the Brainworx SSL channel strip at the beginning of every channel with the Tolerance modelling feature engaged; the Softube Tape plug-in on the master bus; and both a Tube EQ emulation and some light clipping before the final limiting with Acustica Audio's Gainstation.

06_Full Mix_Less Sat

As an experiment, this is the same mix but with the SSL channel strips, Tape, clipper and tube EQ by-passed. I like how this version of the mix sounds a bit more ‘open’ but feel that it also lacks a bit of energy.

07_Full Mix_More Sat

I also thought it would be useful to demonstrate how the same mix sounds with much more saturation. All the original processing is the same as in example 05 but I also added an instance of SoundToys Radiator on every bus, with the processing maxed out. I also added an additional tape-style plug-in on the master bus courtesy of the GoodHertz WOW Control plug-in. I’ve tried to level-match the three mix examples by ear — can you hear much difference between them?