Music,  Plugins

What is Audio Saturation?

Have you ever wondered what Saturation was? You might have seen it in a plugin somewhere and didn’t quite understand what you were looking at.

Digital saturation gives audio signals the analog sound it needs. This means it distorts sound signals to make them sound as if they’ve been recorded through tapes, amps, tubes, and other different audio equipment.

Types of Saturation

Tape Saturation

So what is Tape Saturation? Tape Saturation is when audio sounds as if it was recorded through a tape machine. It introduces harmonics, subtle compression, and shifts in frequency. Tape saturation also creates a small boost in the lows, rolling off some high-end frequencies and. It also rounds off transient peaks, creating a form of compression that smooths out the signal.

Tube Saturation

Tube saturation emulates the sound of audio driven through tube amps. They introduce even order harmonics. Tube saturation as sounding a warm punchy distortion. It can increase loudness, dimension, and fatness. This type of harmonic distortion also adds a subtle form of compression. However, tube saturation can have an aggressive edge when pushed hard.

Transistor Saturation

Transistor saturation is when audio signals driven through transistor‑based circuits. This saturation introduces odd order harmonics and a form of “hard clipping” compression. Depending on the device, this type of harmonic distortion can have a subtle or aggressive sound.

Transistor saturation sounds fuzzy, gritty, and textured. Also, its effect on transients and higher harmonics make sounds sound less punchy and musical when pushed hard.


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