Updated: January 25, 2020 by Richard Cole
Ever since modern DAWs appeared, everyone who was even somewhat knowledgeable about music theory started producing their own music at home.
This led to a huge spike in home produced bands who would use this method to attract the attention of bigger labels. Overall, DAWs gave us great amounts of potential and ability to create and mix music. If you know how, you can create a crystal clear mix, no matter what genre of music we are talking about.
Funny enough, this sonic clarity became a problem. People quickly realized that music created and mixed on a computer simply sounds way too clinical. Compared to old recordings on tapes and vinyls, home produced stuff is just cold.
In order to combat this, someone took the matter into their own hands, and created a type of plug in that will artificially add this missing component to any digitally mastered music.
The type of plug in we are talking about is called a tape saturation plug in. Today we are going to talk about what exactly this software does, and where to find free tape saturation plugin online.
Where to find it
Back when music recording was still completely analog, each instrument and vocals were recorded on a tape of their own. Those tapes had a signature, residual noise that was natural for this media. When everything was layered together during mastering, all those unique signatures compounded to produce what is called tape saturation.
While it may seem that this phenomenon took away quality from the recording, people simply got used to it, and it actually gave the music a certain sense of warmth. Since everything we record today, at least in home studios is purely digital, that saturation is missing.
If you think that the need for this unique sound color is over rated, you should take a listen for yourself. To a musician, if all the notes are right and if everything’s on time, there is not much to worry about, however an experienced audiophile will notice the difference right away. Tape saturation is a real thing, and in most cases it turns a fake sounding mix into something that has that ‘big name studio vibe’ to it.
Thankfully there are plug ins that will emulate this phenomenon to a certain extent. When you are finished with recording your music, whether you are using VSTi or plugging your instruments directly into the computer via audio interface, you can add the tape saturation effect during final mastering. There’s a bunch of good plugins out there that will give you this ability.
One of the best free plug ins of this type are made by the Variety of Sound. They have TeslaPRO, NastyVCS and FerricTDS, all of which will add tape saturation to your mix in a different way. FerricTDS is probably the most neutral of the bunch. It allows you to control and shape dynamics, saturation and limiting of the signal.
These three sonic effects are the core of tape saturation. TeslaPRO is more of a preset based plug in, which comes with five ready to go presets that give you different color of tape saturation. You can create your own, and shape the tone pretty much any way you want.
If you want to emulate a specific set of analog gear, Nebula3 by Acustica-Audio is a great free plug in that will allow you to do just that. It’s a watered down version of the Nebula3 PRO which is known for its versatility and algorithms that successfully emulate some of the most sought after analog recording equipment. The free version isn’t as complex and extensive as the PRO version, but it gives you the core experience that makes the paid variant so awesome.
By and large
Tape saturation is one of those things that you didn’t even notice existed until it was gone. It’s funny how we advanced technologically to incredible levels, yet we are using that new technology to emulate equipment that is decades old.
These free tape saturation plugin resources we gave should be more than enough to get the job done. If you feel that you don’t have enough control with these, you might need to invest some money into a professional plug in that ill give you all those things.