Add Instant Character to Any Home Recording

Hey friend, thank you for watching another Sage Audio video.  In this video I’ll be showing you how to get the analog distortion you need to create recordings with character.  Often times recordings sound good, but lack a certain defining characteristic that make them memorable or distinguishable from other recordings.  But today I’ll show you how this can be accomplished in just a couple of steps, and with using just one plugin.

But before I do, if you’ve found this video or any of the other Sage Audio videos to be helpful, please subscribe to the channel and click the link for notifications.  Also if your an artist or an engineer, and have a mix you’ve been meaning to have mastered – send it to us at, and we’ll send you a free mastered sample of that mix.

So, what I have here is an acoustic guitar track, that sounds good, but lacks anything special to give it character. Typically home recordings are recorded very simply and cleanly, making for a good recording, but one that can be a little boring. Luckily I have this plugin here, which is a Waves tape emulator created with the help of Eddie Kramer – I’m sure a lot of you all have seen this plugin and probably thrown this plugin on a track from time to time.  Which is fine, just adding this plugin onto a track will instantly add a fair amount of character. What I’m going to show you however, is something you want to do if you want to add a lot of character to a track quickly.

This flux knob here, although it seems pretty simple at first is actually pretty complex.  It adds multiple types of distortion including harmonic distortion, and intermodulation distortion.  Also this plugin uses tube emulation for its preamp emulation, so you can also get tube distortion, which is harmonic distortion, but with an emphasis on the frequency just one octave above your fundamental.  So there’s a lot going on with just this one knob.

Aside from the flux knob, you can add distortion and compression to your signal using the record level and playback level knobs.  Essentially this knob is your input and this one is your output. Currently they’re linked to keep the incoming signal at unity with the output. We can either keep that setting or delink them, and then increase the input while decreasing the output. What this does is create an overdrive effect, in which we get both clipping distortion and harmonic distortion.  

Harmonic distortion is important since its a large part of what gave classic recordings their warmth and distinguishable characteristic – since we’re using less recording steps in modern recording, and especially in home recording, we’re missing out on a lot of this distortion.  

Furthermore, increasing the input while decreasing the output limits the dynamic range of the signal, similarly to how a soft knee compressor would work.  So we have a lot going on in just one plugin – we’ve got compression, overdrive distortion, tube distortion, 2nd 3rd and 4th octave harmonic distortion, and some more aspects I didn’t mention here – lots of things are occurring just within this one plugin.  

So, let’s take a quick listen with the plugin enabled and then disabled to get an AB comparison.

Now, when using this plugin, you don’t need to add too much more after or before it, otherwise you’ll run the risk of over-processing your signal, and you’ll create something that’s too distorted, too compressed, and ultimately unpleasant to listen to.  

Understanding tape emulation will help you to use this plugin and others like it more efficiently, by taking out a lot of the guesswork when choosing settings. This way you can get the effect you want quickly.

So I hope this has been helpful for you, or that you’ve learned a bit more about some of the software you’re using.  If it has please subscribe to the channel, and click the link for notifications. And if you have a mix you’ve been meaning to get mastered, send it to us at, and we’ll send you a free mastered sample of that mix.

Sage Audio Mastering

Nashville, TN