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Thread: Tape Saturation?

  1. Default Tape Saturation?

    What does tape saturation really do in the plugin form? I see so many of them out there with various levels of reviews, but I still wonder, if all your paying for is a EQ + compressor?

    If it's just an EQ/compressor, can't these same effects be emulated within SS alone without having to purchase additional plugins?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    Quote Originally Posted by andysharifi View Post
    What does tape saturation really do in the plugin form? I see so many of them out there with various levels of reviews, but I still wonder, if all your paying for is a EQ + compressor?

    If it's just an EQ/compressor, can't these same effects be emulated within SS alone without having to purchase additional plugins?
    Good question.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    Maybe it could be emulated, though for those that have used tape decks in production, a familiar interface and the ease of getting results quickly that sound like tape is of value. I am pretty taken with the UAD Ampex emulation.
    Michael McInnis Productions

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    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    Quote Originally Posted by MMP View Post
    Maybe it could be emulated, though for those that have used tape decks in production, a familiar interface and the ease of getting results quickly that sound like tape is of value. I am pretty taken with the UAD Ampex emulation.
    Agreed. Not only does the UAD Ampex (and many other tape saturation plugins) inherently emulate the tone and compression of tape and the machine, they actually offer many other functions that would be hard to copy using EQ and a compressor such as delay, wow and flutter, noise (if you're into that), etc. All that said, while I do use this and other analog emulators from Slate et al., I must admit I think the whole concept is a bit over-hyped.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    I use the Waves Kramer tape on a few things and the Slate Virtual Tape Machine on most everything. Makes a subtle but impressive difference.

    Never having worked with actual tape machines I can't comment on the accuracy of the Plugin reproduction....but they do something wonderful to the sound. My Kicks sound better...Cymbals fit better and the Snare takes on a great vibe.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    First of all, tape saturation is not compression. It is nonlinearity, distortion that gradually gets worse as level goes up. That one aspect of what tape does might be properly termed "soft clipping", which can be a useful way of taming very brief transient peaks, like the attack of most any drum. Most of the "fat" in a drum sound is the tone in the decay, which has a lower peak level than the attack of the sound. The attack hits the recording chain hard, but doesn't last long enough to sound loud. Hitting tape hard when recording drums squashes the attacks and lets the body of the sound through.

    What analog tape does to sound is complex, a combination of several processes, each of which makes its contribution to the "flavor" of the sound. No emulator will perfectly replicate everything that analog tape does, but a good one can get more or less in the ballpark.

    The processing built into SAW does not cover all the bases for this. Compression is not saturation, and will not replace it. EQ is only a small part of what can happen with analog tape. If you absolutely MUST have the sound of analog tape, spend the money and accept the hassle of the real thing.

    I spent years working with the real thing before I went for SAW and started my journey into the DAW world. I don't miss what analog tape did. I did not like having to fight the tape to get or keep the sound I was after.

    When analog tape came around, there wasn't a huge cry of "I want the sound of good old record grooves" (although I have heard of at least one producer who still likes to push his mixes through vinyl). The more transparent sound of tape was considered a miracle. Now we have something more transparent than that. Why would we want to go backwards, except as a kind of special effect, meaning something used only once in a while?
    Cary B. Cornett
    aka "Puzzler"
    www.chinesepuzzlerecording.com

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    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cary B. Cornett View Post

    When analog tape came around, there wasn't a huge cry of "I want the sound of good old record grooves" (although I have heard of at least one producer who still likes to push his mixes through vinyl). The more transparent sound of tape was considered a miracle. Now we have something more transparent than that. Why would we want to go backwards, except as a kind of special effect, meaning something used only once in a while?
    I agree completely Just can't get myself to add any distortion to mixes except as a special effect

    Butch

  8. #8

    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Butch Bos View Post
    I agree completely Just can't get myself to add any distortion to mixes except as a special effect

    Butch
    Like the cooks say: "Season to taste."
    Cary B. Cornett
    aka "Puzzler"
    www.chinesepuzzlerecording.com

  9. #9

    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cary B. Cornett View Post
    I spent years working with the real thing before I went for SAW and started my journey into the DAW world. I don't miss what analog tape did. I did not like having to fight the tape to get or keep the sound I was after.

    When analog tape came around, there wasn't a huge cry of "I want the sound of good old record grooves" (although I have heard of at least one producer who still likes to push his mixes through vinyl). The more transparent sound of tape was considered a miracle. Now we have something more transparent than that. Why would we want to go backwards, except as a kind of special effect, meaning something used only once in a while?
    I agree, having spent years with analog tape (2" 16 track). Every day I am thankful that I don't have to deal with all those artifacts now considered "desirable" by some engineer/producers. With SAW, what I print is what I get; today, and a month or a year from now it sounds the same. More power to those who love analog, but I can't be counted among them. Frankly, SAW's soft-clipping is as close as I need to get to analog saturation for huge drum sounds. Others' mileage may vary. Ultimately, use what you like. We now have options.
    Richard
    Green Valley Recording
    My cats have nine lives; my life has nine cats.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Tape Saturation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rupert View Post
    Frankly, SAW's soft-clipping is as close as I need to get to analog saturation for huge drum sounds.
    Thinking about my reaction to the use of the term "soft clipping" to describe a feature option in SAW has forced me to recognize that said phrase is more a term of art than a universally understood technical term.

    The way that SAW originally handled overloads was a thing I had seen described as "wraparound" which is an added artifact of clipping in some circuits and processes. If you zoom way in on a clipped positive wave peak, wraparound manifests as a sharp spike that instantly "wraps around" to the negative extreme and inmmediately back up again. The same will be found at a negative clipped peak, only flipped upside down. I first saw this a long time ago when I was doing a pre-mastering job on a set of mixes that had been recorded to DAT. Occasional peaks that overloaded the A/D converters in the recording DAT machine had that annoying "snap" sound that the wraparound spike makes.

    Something in the original coding of SAW caused this exact same thing at any clipped peak. At some point, Bob added a feature that let the user choose whether to allow wraparound at a peak. Leave it in, and you can't miss hearing an overload. Leave it out, and the occasional clipped peak will pass by without being noticed. This latter option is preferred by most people, I think, and certainly by me. I use a metering plugin to tell me when there are overloads (it also tells me how bad they are, so that I can adjust master gain accordingly).

    By my definition, the SAW "soft clip" option is actually hard clipping without wraparound. In most A/D/A conversion setups, the linearity of the conversion is essentially perfect, meaning almost no distortion at all, right up to 0 dBfs. Any peak that goes above 0 dBfs gets "flat topped", with sharp corners at the edges of the flat peak. This is "hard" clipping. All digital systems clip this way unless they are specifically designed otherwise.

    All analog recording systems, either disc or tape, have some distortion all the time. In the better systems this distortion is kept fairly low until you approach maximum recording levels. Every formulation of analog recording tape has a thing called Maximum Output Level, which is the maximum intensity to which it can be magnetized. Hit this level, and you are at saturation, where everything "flat tops". Somewhat below that is a recommended "Reference Level", usually the level at which you get about 1% Total Harmonic Distortion. The distortion is there, but it isn't much, and usually isn't noticed at that level. Go above that, and the non-linearity gets worse until you hit saturation. If you have a peak recorded that hits saturation, a look at the waveform will reveal a flat top, but the corners will be rounded. Clipping with "rounded" corners is "soft" clipping.

    There are distortion plugins that are designed to "soft clip", and these are sometimes useful for a certain sound, but they are NOT the same as the "soft clip" feature in SAW.

    Here endeth the lesson, which I hope some may find useful...
    Cary B. Cornett
    aka "Puzzler"
    www.chinesepuzzlerecording.com

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