Mixing with Tape Emulation and Saturation (Live Demo)

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In this video, I’m going to walk you through the process of applying tape plug-ins and tape simulations to your mix.

This is a great way to add a subtle low 5 vintage vibe to your music, and I find myself applying some kind of tape emulation or saturation to the majority of mixes.

In this particular video, I’m using the Waves J37, but what I’m about to show you can be applied to any tape plug-in.

Now this is actually an extract from a recent live mixing session, so if you want to get access to the whole thing just head to the link in the bio.

So let’s dive right in.

I use tape emulation on most mixes, and this kind of track that’s got a more natural feel to it is definitely going to work. So again, I had it put – I really should have copied across my presets, I am an absolute idiot for not doing that. But alas I don’t have them, so let’s go from scratch.

[Music Being Played 00:00:52]

So already what we’re seeing here is – and this comes back to gain staging, so we want to be in the zero spot to start to really use this properly, and right now we are nowhere near.

So I’m going to actually just mute this and play around with the levels because I don’t want to blow your ears off. [inaudible 00:01:10] not going to – making it too quiet wouldn’t be an issue, but I don’t want to blow your ears off.

So I’m going to play around with the levels a bit. So the level going in is pushing this up to around zero. But then I’m going to add another gain plug-in afterwards because we’ve already balanced our references, another game plug-in afterwards that does the complete opposite of this one, so that the end result is that we’ve got it to the kind of sweet spot for this plug-in and then brought it back down to the level that we’re already working with in terms of references.

And this is kind of a backwards way to go about it. I just find, since I started using a plug-in for references, this hasn’t really been an issue, but what you could do instead is just try it. Treat every mix the same, get to that kind of minus 18 sweet spot on the mix bus before you import all your references and balance them. That would have made more sense, but hey this is where we are so we do it this way instead.

So we want to push this up, so we’re kind of sitting around zero but every now and then pushing up like that, but not too much. Cool. So we added 15, so let’s take away 15. Now it should sound about the same.

[Music Being Played 00:02:23]

Cool. So now we can play around with the settings in this…

[Music Being Played 00:02:35]

And again, it’s going to add like warmth on a more analog sound, but it’s also going to affect the tone quite a lot. So we already know what the problems are, the lower mid-range is a bit muddy. We could have more energy in the upper mids. So whichever setting in this – and the main things you want to focus on when you using any type of emulator that later are the type of tape, the light manufacturer or the size, those different things.

Here it’s just, we’ve got these different formulas, that’s the main thing different tone and different speed different tones. You just want to play around with those things until you find this and you’re happy with it. I normally leave saturation [inaudible 00:03:09] all of that stuff just off. Sometimes it works but generally I find it doesn’t, so everything else off, off, off and let’s try these.

[Music Being Played 00:03:28]

Yeah, so that first one almost sounds like it’s cutting lower mids. And then these two sound like – it gets warmer as I flick to the – as I go to the right with these.

[Music Being Played 00:03:41]

That one got more engine like wo-wo-wo, that area, here.

[Music Being Played 00:03:48]

And I lose that, which is what we want. So let’s try the speed generally, just yeah.

[Music Being Played 00:03:53]

So anything lower 15 always sounds good.

[Music Being Played 00:03:56]

But in some other plug-ins you have more options there, and then modeled tracks.

[Music Being Played 00:04:16]

Sounds the most balanced to me. And then we can play around with this drive. So if we bring this down, we’ll have less saturation…

[Music Being Played]

Up will have more…

[Music Being Played]

Yeah, pretty heavy right?

[Music Being Played]

We don’t want that. So we can just play around this a bit. So this was before…

[Music Being Played]

This is after…

[Music Being Played]

It’s already adding quite a lot of saturation, so we can back that off a bit.

[Music Being Played 00:05:08]

Yeah, so it opens up the mix. It does all the things we were trying to do as well as add in like vibe and character and all these buzzwords associated with like analog modeling.

It’s also nudging the mix in the direction we want it to go in terms of opening up that bottom end and the top end.

So that’s how you use a tape plug-in to add more vintage character to your mix. To help you actually go and apply this and improve your mixes with this technique, I’ve put together a free cheat sheet that walks you through this process step-by-step.

So it’s a free PDF you can load up next time you’re mixing. Get my recommended go-to settings and just recollect all the information from this video.

So it’s completely free. Just head to the link on screen now or in the bio and enter your details to get access.

So that’s all for today. If you’re new around here, don’t forget to subscribe, and remember, Create Regardless.

UPDATE: We released a new video that shows how you can use saturation to improve your mixes:

[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbtAgRu4-y8″]

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