Tape Saturation

distortion mixing tape Apr 13, 2016

Tape machines (or tape modeled plugins) are a great way to add that “analog warmth” to your digital mixes. They add a nice fat bottom end and a smooth top end. Sometimes analog warmth is just what you need to tame the occasional unpleasant digital highs. But that’s just the beginning! Tape machines can do so much more for your mixing.

Smoothing out harsh guitars
One of the most common ways to smooth out harsh guitars is by using tape saturation. It does something magical to the top end that isn’t achieved by a simple EQ move. It seems to bring down the gross, unnecessary high fizz without making it muffled. Using a low IPS helps to create a more “lo-fi” sound.

Taming transients
Oversaturating or overdriving a tape machine helps tame transients by crushing the top end of the transient. Think of it as a kind of compressor. Compression can glue together overly transient material. By overdriving a heavily transient source (like a snare drum) you can essentially clip off the top of the transients, as if you took scissors to the waveform. In doing so, you’re bringing up the overall level of the source and cutting down the overly sharp transient, giving you that “analog warmth”. Next time you go to compress a snare, try driving it hard through a tape saturator. See what kind of results you get.

A lot of people love to overdrive tape to get a “vintage distortion” sound. Obviously this needs to be done in moderation, and depending on the tape machine (or plugin), some may sound significantly better than others. With this, you’re going to want to experiment with different models & plugins to see what fits your material best.

I love tape machines and all the different things you can do with them. I also LOVE distortion and finding new ways to use it to improve my mixes. What are ways you guys have used tape saturation to help your mixes? Let me know! I’d love to geek out about it.


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