Today on DJ Rap's MTC blog we’ll be focusing on one of Ableton’s built-in effect devices Saturator.
If you're like me you’re always on the prowl for plugins and effects that accentuate character and warmth to enhance your sounds.
One of the most underrated effects for adding colour and punch to a mix seems to be Distortion.
When any type of drive is applied to a signal in most cases it can dramatically improve the overall tone.
With precise manipulation, most saturation devices you reach for will give off a different warming effect.
Distortion and tube saturation can bring loads of character and redefine the integrity of the tonal balance of a sound.
Think of it as harmonic excitement, most developers try to emulate the effect you’d get from overdriving analog circuitry, like a Tube Preamp or a Vintage Mixing Desk.
This process is great because in a sense your slightly compressing the signal and exciting certain frequencies at the same time. Allowing you to retain more of the dynamics in the signal in comparison to just using compression on its own. In some cases, you could even reach for a distortion plugin instead of a compressor achieving better if not more dynamic results.
The first step is to load up a sound or sample into Ableton
Pull up Saturator.
Now that we’re in the Saturator’s device view, let's start tweaking some of these parameters.
We’ll start by expanding Saturators interface by pressing the arrow next to the devices on/off switch.
Next, we’ll select the ‘Waveshaper’ mode.
Waveshaper Mode allows us to adjust the advanced waveshaping parameters on the bottom right.
Here we now have access to Drive, Curve, Depth, Lin, Damp and Period.
By default, you’ll hear that the overall volume of the signal has dropped a few dbs,
but that's ok considering that the parameters we’re about to adjust will bring us back up to a decent level.
According to Live’s reference manual
Drive determines how much the input signal will be influenced by the Waveshaper parameters. Setting Drive to zero will negate the effect entirely.
Lin works together with the Curve and Depth parameters to alter the linear portion of the shaping curve.
Curve adds mostly third-order harmonics to the input signal.
Damp flattens any signal near the grid’s origin. It behaves like an ultra-fast noise gate.
Depth controls the amplitude of a sine wave that is superimposed onto the distortion curve.
Period determines the density of ripples in the superimposed sine wave.
The first setting I’ll adjust here is the ‘Depth’ as you slightly pull that up you’ll hear its effects.
It adds sweet warmth to the tone without over exciting it.
The following parameter we’ll be adjusting is the ‘Lin’ setting, as we pull this up to about 59%,
we can already hear how its essentially widening the dynamic properties of the tone.
Original Waveform without Saturator
Waveform after processing through Saturator
I use this trick regularly for warming up my bass tones, especially subtones that need some midrange character and need to be a bit more upfront in a mix.
You can virtually use this on anything that you think needs more body and sonic character. Don’t shy away from taking this approach on Drums, Leads or Vocals to enhance the dynamics.
If I really want to add a ton of excitement, I’ll slightly add some of the curve setting's harmonics and crush it to get some nice crisp top end. It definitely will help sounds cut through a little extra, but careful as too much of this will end up crushing the signal to undesired results.
This process can easily be recreated using any other Distortion or Tube Saturation and Waveshaping type effects.
Some plugins that I highly recommend this process with are Fab Filter’s Saturn, Fxspansion’s Maul, Inear Display’s Gorgon as well as D16 Group’s Devastator to name a few.
That’s it for today’s post tune in next week for some more in-depth Ableton and Music Production techniques.