Database: Seth Drake On Harmonic Coloring

“Let’s say you have a bunch of hot AF signals that hit a limiter and now, suddenly, these waveforms have gone from being big and round and way over zero to being square and sitting right at zero. Anytime you have square wave forms on the sides of those squares–as the wave transitions from the peak moment to any of its preceding to the peak, or post-peak receding back to zero– you get what we call side band harmonics. And those side band harmonics are oftentimes things that we find as pleasurable.

When you saturate a bass and suddenly you take this pure tone and it turns into all these upper band harmonics–we like the sound of those things. That is distortion and it’s adding harmonic content that wasn’t present at the beginning of this path. So no matter what you do–whatever system you pick–if you’re squaring your waveforms in your master you’re ending up with artifacts. Doesn’t matter if you can say, ‘they’re bad’; by definition they are square and you now have side band harmonics. It is by definition distorted and you are by definition adding artifacts.

That piece for me matters because we have all this dogma around clipping and distortion […] You can get this saturation, this harmonic coloring out of the clipping, which gives you these side band harmonics, which gives you this richer, fuller sound that doesn’t have a tiny profile associated with it.

These processes…have been part of the mastering process, and it’s just been something that they’ve kept aside.”

Seth Drake


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