Instead of a clipper, try tape
Yesterday we talked about using a clipper before your master bus limiter, to shave off some of the transient information and let your limiter work less hard.
You know what else you can use to similar effect? A tape plugin!
Tape is the original clipper. Among the many nonlinearities tape imparts is a transient-munching artifact. This is like a cheat code for recording — every signal you record to tape has some amount of clipping imparted upon it.
(This is why it matters so much how hard you hit tape when you’re recording to it. If you want a signal to retain as much of its transient information as possible, you would record it less hot, so that it doesn’t clip as much; but if you want to reduce the transient impact relative to the body of the sound, like say for a big rock snare drum, you would slam it onto the tape so it clipped and saturated as much as possible.)
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So: try putting a tape-emulation plugin before your master bus limiter! There are some great ones out there, and a wide variety of them work well for this. Here are some ones I love and use frequently, listed in order from least sonically intrusive to most sonically intrusive1:
Fuse Audio Labs Flywheel
UAD Ampex ATR-102
Kiive Audio Tape Face (on sale for $40 as I’m writing this)
Black Rooster Audio Magnetite (on sale for $29 as I’m writing this)
Of all of these, the ATR-102 finds a place on my master bus most often; Flywheel is almost too clean sometimes.
That’s a wrap — jamie
“Sonically intrusive” is often exactly the sort of treatment a mix needs, so don’t infer negative connotations from this descriptor!