Harrison Mixbus Saturation: The secret sauce for mix goodness


What is saturation?

Harrison Mixbus saturation is indeed the life blood of the Mixbus DAW system

Saturation is a type of distortion that occurs when the level of an audio signal exceeds the capacity of a device or system. This can cause the signal’s waveform to become distorted, producing a distinctive “rounded” or “slightly overdriven” sound. Saturation can be used to add harmonics and color to audio signals, and it is frequently used to give tracks a “vintage” or “analog” feel.

I’ve been producing and mixing music for nearly two decades. During this time, I’ve noticed that the proper use of saturation can often tell the difference between professional and amateur-sounding mixes. It gives the track the sheen it needs to excel in the world of professional music.

One DAW that has successfully integrated saturation natively into its buses and master channels is Harrison Mixbus.

We’ll look at how it performs in this article.

What exactly is Harrison Mixbus Saturation?

Harrison Mixbus is a DAW (digital audio workstation) software that is designed to emulate the sound and functionality of a Harrison console, a brand of professional mixing consoles used in recording studios. Mixbus includes a saturation effect that can be used to add warmth and character to audio signals. Check out the article What Is a DAW? for more information.

The DAW software is available in two versions.

  • Harrison Mixbus core version with basic features and limited bus options
  • Harrison Mixbus 32C emulates the sound of the 32C console.

The drive (saturation) knob is built into the bus channels and master output on both versions.

Note that Harrison Mixbus also produces a separate saturation plugin, which can be purchased separately from the Mixbus DAW. The built-in native analog saturation in both the Harrison mixbus and 32C versions is the focus of this article.

Harrison mixbus saturation
Harrison mixbus saturation

How Harrison Mixbus integrates saturation

Every bus channel has a drive knob that simulates analog tape saturation. There is also an analogue-styled VU meter with a needle indicating the level of saturation being applied to the signal entering the bus.

The values range between -30dB and 10dB. Turning the knob clockwise increases saturation while turning it anti-clockwise decreases saturation.

Mixbus saturation vs. Mixbus 32C saturation

Mixbus’ basic edition has a nice but generic analog saturation texture.

Mixbus 32C, on the other hand, replicates the analog saturation found in the legendary 32C mixing console.

See more comparisons here.

How to use Harrison mixbus for saturation?

  • It can be used to bring life to sterile tracks or samples. Saturation could be the extra grit required for that lead vocal or guitar track to sit properly in your mix.
  • Saturation can be used to smooth out sharp transients on tracks. One major issue with digital productions is the excessive sharpness of transients, which makes listening more unpleasant. I use mixnus saturation on my drums to soften and improve the transients.
  • Mixbus saturation can be used to add oomph to drums.
  • You can use mibus saturation to add power to a weak mix. Turning the master’s drive knob clockwise adds body and thickness to your mixes.

What are the benefits of using Harrison mixbus?

From the preceding section, you can easily deduce the significance and immense value of using Mixbus saturation. They are as follows:

  • It adds warmth and character to your tracks, making them more lively.
  • It increases the perceived loudness of your tracks or the entire mix without sacrificing too much extra headroom.

Tips for using saturation in Mixbus

As a Mixbus user, there are a few tricks I use to achieve better mixes with the native saturation built into the buses in Mixbus. Here they are:

  • I aim for an input level of -18dbFS, which corresponds to the operating range of analogue devices. You can do this with either the built-in VU meters or a third-party plugin.
  • Avoid overdriving the saturation knob. As nice as it my be, too muc of anything is bad. As you adjust the saturation, make sure to use your ears and eyes.
  • Always mix ith the saturation knob engaged. In practice, the drive knob is already engaged when you launch the DAW, so this isn’t an issue.
  • You can route a single track to a free bus (whereby you are not engaging all the available buses) if you need more saturation on it. I do that a lot with bass.
  • The default level is usually sufficient for the desired color.

Wrapping up

Saturation is important in mixing, and you can’t go wrong with the native analogue tape saturation in Harrison Mixbus and Mixus 32C.

It could simply be the extra step in your mixing chain that gives your tracks the warmth and analogue character of pro mixes. Mastering the proper use of the saturation drive is essential if you mix in Harrison mixbus or Mixbus 32C. I use it on every single mix. I usually just leave the knobs in their default positions.

It’s worth noting that you can remove the saturation by turning the knob all the way counter-clockwise.

I encourage everyone to give it a shot, experimenting with it to see how it works best for you in your mixes. If you are new to Harrison Mixbus and want to get a head start, please read Harrison Mixbus: The Ultimate Review.


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