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aleatoric

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Posts: 259 Member Since: 01/02/2012

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Apr 8 15 9:55 PM

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Thought this may be an interesting topic to discuss...

Where do you guys stand on purposely added saturation/coloration in mastering?  It seems as of recent there have been a few newer pieces of analog gear that have popped up (and quickly bought by many) with the aim of adding a certain sonic footprint by either using intentionally colorizing transformers, driven tubes, or a combination of the two.  While there is no denying having tools like this in the toolbox can certainly be handy in some situations I'm interested to hear where others stand in regards to adding this type of signal processing to a mix/album when it has not been specifically requested by the artist/client.  

 
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viitalahde

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Posts: 597 Member Since:04/02/2011

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Apr 9 15 1:08 AM

We think alike, since I was going to start a topic about it.

My take on saturation: I used to do it more, but when I got my monitoring right, I do it way less than I used to. There certainly is a place for it, and how I do it depends quite a bit on what I want to achieve. Sometimes it's the NTP EQ's first in the chain, sometimes the Knif compressor pushed hard(er), sometimes just a touch of pentode or tape from the HEDD. Triode, even! I always draw a skull & bones logo in my memos when I do that.

What I find interesting is that a lot of times I *think* I need saturation, but it really comes down to the correct EQ. That's where the monitoring counts, making those decisions.

Both of my compressors have transformers in them, and do have a tone. Sometimes I wonder if I need a transformerless compressor such as the Maselec, but on the other hand, if I want to use a compressor, slight softening is usually desirable.

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sdbmastering

Tin Man

Posts: 19 Member Since:21/01/2015

#2 [url]

Apr 9 15 4:24 AM

viitalahde wrote:
My take on saturation: I used to do it more, but when I got my monitoring right, I do it way less than I used to. (...) What I find interesting is that a lot of times I *think* I need saturation, but it really comes down to the correct EQ. That's where the monitoring counts, making those decisions.

 


Same experience here. I rarely use saturation nowadays but when I started mastering I used to employ it often. Nowadays I really value clean sounding tools. As you pointed out, most of the times it all comes down to using the EQ and proper monitoring.

The few cases that saturation is required I tend to use plugins or, in some cases, the warm mode on my elysia. I prefer plugins because I have more control over the saturation that way, so I can fine-tune what I'm adding to the audio. Most of the times I'll use one of the different saturation algorithms in TDR's SlickEQ GE.

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viitalahde

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Posts: 597 Member Since:04/02/2011

#3 [url]

Apr 9 15 6:25 AM

One place where saturation can help is if a track in an album is just lacking something. On its own it might be fine, but among other tracks it just doesn't stand out and EQ won't help.

But yes, my taste is getting cleaner and cleaner. This year I've even done my first all-ITB masters. It was a jazz album which I just could not make sound better in analog.

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ArtSta

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Posts: 66 Member Since:30/04/2014

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Apr 9 15 7:43 AM

aleatoric wrote:
Thought this may be an interesting topic to discuss...

Where do you guys stand on purposely added saturation/coloration in mastering?  It seems as of recent there have been a few newer pieces of analog gear that have popped up (and quickly bought by many) with the aim of adding a certain sonic footprint by either using intentionally colorizing transformers, driven tubes, or a combination of the two.  While there is no denying having tools like this in the toolbox can certainly be handy in some situations I'm interested to hear where others stand in regards to adding this type of signal processing to a mix/album when it has not been specifically requested by the artist/client.  


 

Good topic.
I have never used coloration purposely on very good mixes (saturation on good mixes is an exception- maybe I used it twice or so), because it didn't worked to date (they're already somehow colored with taste).
But I sometimes use quite amount of it on poorer ones. The two most recent examples (all kind of electronic genre) are: very clinical mix where artist used lots of pure tones with low number of harmonic partials- saturation has made the mix sounding a little bit fuller, and a mix with low end stuff without higher harmonics too- low end distortion helped a little to better translate the mix to 'real world' (bookshelf and laptop speakers). This of course could/should be done before mastering, but... you all well know.

Art

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soapfoot

Ruby Baby

Posts: 7,310 Member Since:04/02/2011

#5 [url]

Apr 9 15 8:08 AM

The mastering engineer I work with a lot very often uses a massive passive and a vari-mu (usually just barely tapping, IF at all) in addition to your more typical Sontecs, etc. . He's not driving them to saturation or anything, but those units definitely do have "a sound". I don't hear it as "coloring" the mixes as such, but the engineer is a very good one and it almost always comes back sounding better to me.

brad allen williams

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JanP

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Posts: 56 Member Since:09/04/2015

#6 [url]

Apr 9 15 10:23 AM

Longtime reader, but my first post; so first I want to say 'hi to all'. :)
Interesting topic. In my experience there are so different ways of saturation that in most cases I think it can something positiv in a mastering situation if chosen carefully. Most of the time I drive my transformers or tubes with very low levels as I dont like the sound of 'overdrive' in mastering.
Maybe its more than simple saturation (mostly frequency depended) what transformers can achieve, but the right combination can work (but very subtile) on most mixes. Some are bigger in lows, some have a high freq resonance which adds a nice sheen, some even outs nervous freq in the vocal area and some makes everything a bit more tight. Most transformers also do some compression and I often prefer this over 'normal' compression when working on very sensible pure acoustic music for example. I see saturation more as an 'enhancement' that can give this small dip of 3D, a bit of smothness without being obvoiusly as an EQ, makes everything a bit more grippier in a very organic and 'natural' way. Driving the devices too hot can destroy all these positiv aspects.
ADT Audio has some very intersting new and versatile solutions for saturation purposes and I already have worked with some of them. On one song with a bit muddy, slack BD I was able to surgical tighten it without affecting the rest of the mix much. I dont think this would be possible with compression or equing at all.
I just has to do a master of a vocal/piano song where we have to do some revision cause of the very picky mixing engineer. Using the pure mix was a possible solution, too. But we ended with no limiting, EQ and compression at all, but with only two different transformers in the chain which has underlined the puristic and organic approach of the mix very well. They added glue without destroying 3D as normally compression do.
I nearly never use algorithimic based plugins for this purposes as they all lack this kind of organic 'grip' in my tests. For me its like MDF vs. real wood soundwise. Nebula based plugins can work quite well sometimes but they lack the interaction of a real analogue chain of course.
 

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morespaceecho

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Posts: 2,299 Member Since:29/01/2011

#7 [url]

Apr 9 15 1:17 PM

with the majority here. my taste is towards cleaner, and i'm doing less saturation than in the past. did a big acoustics upgrade and found a better spot for the monitors last summer, that really helped...honestly it made such a big difference i wondered how i'd managed to do any good work in here before....

anyway, on some things i really like the sound of pushing a lot of level into the output transformers on the FCS P3ME, it really works great on certain mixes. 

i have a FATSO, which i used to use a lot, nowadays it's bypassed most of the time, but on some dull, lifeless mixes it can be just the thing. the key to getting useable results from that box is not hitting the input very hard at all, and never ever even thinking about using the compressors. just running through it can be nice on occasion. in general though it's too much, it tends to thin out the low end and can make the high mids kind of raspy. considering it's marketed as a tape simulator it should really do the opposite, but hey ho....

i also like the output saturation on the Slick EQ, been using that more frequently of late. nice and subtle. that's also a fine eq in general, the german high shelf is particularly nice. can really add a lot without getting harsh/unnatural. 

viitalahde wrote:
 This year I've even done my first all-ITB masters.


i've done more masters all-ITB so far this year than i did in the last 4 years combined. most records still go analog, but i certainly think about it more than i used to. modern plugins are really pretty amazing IMO. i still like the analog workflow a lot better though.

www.oldcolonymastering.com

morespaceecho.bandcamp.com

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ShawnJHatfield

Silverado

Posts: 187 Member Since:19/05/2011

#8 [url]

Apr 9 15 6:00 PM

I've always leaned towards cleaner, transparent processing for most projects but I appreciate the various other options that are available. I get quite a few requests to not be clean at the mastering stage and so I've picked up a few things and developed a few workflows to achieve the desired results. At least once a week I get a client looking to hear a bit more saturation/harmonics/distortion in the end result. It's not what I'd default to, but I like to deliver. And honestly speaking, when it works, it really f@#$!in works. My philosophy is to have the tools needed for their desired result, not mine.

Shawn Hatfield www.audibleoddities.com

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JanP

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Posts: 56 Member Since:09/04/2015

#9 [url]

Apr 10 15 2:27 AM

viitalahde wrote:
But yes, my taste is getting cleaner and cleaner. This year I've even done my first all-ITB masters. It was a jazz album which I just could not make sound better in analog.


Had a similar situation with some chansons; but I nearly always prefer my clean analogue over digital in this cases as it sounds less obvious in my ears (Porter, ADT, RS f.e.). But a problem could be ADDA conversation. It might questionable to go DAAD for one band of eq, isnt it? But I have done so nevertheless.
I always found the term 'coloration' misleading. What sounds more coloured in the sense of 'changed'; a clean, fast digital EQ with a boost at 2k or a slower analogue design which sounds less obvious in this dedicated area due to its transient/decay behaviour? I always found that freq and dynamic interacts in moste cases, so I often prefer tools that acts a bit in both worlds.
Is there a digital EQ out there which manipulate the virtuell slew rate, f.e.?


I prefer clean with atttitude. But everyone is different. I know quite some (test) masters from colleagues which sound quite saturated or nearly overdriven with boutique analog gear and which are far away from what the mixes sounded like. That without any  instruction. The bands often liked it, but the mixers hated it (of course)... So, it seems that some folk quite enjoy it when 'mastering' is very obvious. May its what they think 'analogue processing' had to sound like...
Confusing world...
 

Last Edited By: JanP Apr 10 15 2:30 AM. Edited 2 times.

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waltzmastering

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Posts: 1,634 Member Since:02/02/2011

#10 [url]

Apr 10 15 8:40 AM

JanP wrote:

I always found the term 'coloration' misleading. 
 

Me too. Probably semantics, but I would substitute the words tone for color and drive for saturation/distortion. I don't think of running through tubes or transformers as adding color. 
Staying itb for all intents and purposes would likely yeild the most transparent results, but where's the fun in that?

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jmoran

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Posts: 748 Member Since:23/08/2011

#13 [url]

Apr 11 15 1:46 PM

If the Calbi interview thread is the yin, this thread is the yang. There are clients who are disappointed if it doesn't come back "enhanced".

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podgorny

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Posts: 2,328 Member Since:27/01/2011

#15 [url]

Apr 11 15 7:54 PM

dcollins wrote:
That’s where a good selection of cables comes in handy.

 I have lots of broken cables. I like to swap them in occasionally, to make me feel better about the working ones.

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drknob

Gold Finger

Posts: 788 Member Since:02/02/2011

#20 [url]

Apr 13 15 8:45 AM

JanP wrote:

compasspnt wrote:
I would also stay away from the terms "slow" and "fast."

why?

OPINION ALERT! In my personal opinion, most descriptions of sound quality are BS, highly subjective, communicating very little. There..... I said it. On the other hand, we do need to find ways to discuss sound quality.......

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." - variously attributed to Gore Vidal, Martin Mull, Frank Zappa......

Harold Kilianski

Music Industry Arts
Fanshawe College

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