Happy Holidays, readers of the Omega Blog! In the spirit of the season, Grammy winning Omega Engineer Peter Novak has gift wrapped a couple of free plug-ins, courtesy of Native Instruments and Softube. Follow these links to place them in your stocking (or downloads folder, as it were):
Replika by Native Instruments
Saturation Knob by Softube
So how can these plug-ins make a difference in your mix? Here’s some quotes from the manufacturers’ websites
“REPLIKA packs two professional quality delays and a powerful diffusion algorithm into a sleek, streamlined interface. Simple to use with a resonant filter and classic phaser built in, REPLIKA is a versatile delay for anything from subtle slapback to warped sheets of noise.”
“The free plug-in Saturation Knob is a modeled output distortion that can be used anywhere you need some grit. Use it to fatten up bass lines, add some harmonics and shimmer to vocals, or simply destroy your drum loop.”
We’ve discussed how useful delay effects can be in previous posts. Saturation or distortion processors add harmonics to the signal that weren’t part of the original sound. The use of distortion as an intentional effect in modern music production is a tad bit ironic, given that the first couple of decades of electronic audio recording technological development was spent trying to get rid of unwanted distortion. But this has happened before – we improve our technology to the point where undesired artifacts have been eliminated, then we turn around and get nostalgic for them. Sampled turntable noise is a good example, so are bit crunchers.
The more subtle form of distortion is referred to a saturation, and is associated with analog tape based recording from back in the day. Saturation is the point where there are no more unmagnetized particles available on the tape, so additional magnetism from the record head does not result in additional signal amplitude on tape. Instead, the signal “flattens out” in a way that strongly resembles limiting. (For more on compression and limiting, check out the article “Attack of the Compressor!”) Any old tape op will tell you that if you push level to tape too hard, all you’ll get is a noisy unpleasant result. But if you get the level of tape saturation just right, it’s like a steak from the grill – just a little bit of extra flavor. Harsh transients melt away, and you’re left with smooth analog warmth.
Sold on saturation? Great! Now just go find a vintage analog tape machine and a couple of reels of Ampex tape . . . Well, those things are so easy to find or so cheap in the digital age. But a saturation plug-in like Saturation Knob might be the next best thing.
Make sure to grab these plug-ins while you can, no word on how long they’ll remain available for free!