What exactly is the secret sauce in this saturation?

VST, AU, etc. plug-in Virtual Effects discussion
KVRer
21 posts since 1 Jun, 2016

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:24 pm

Hiya,

I've posted before about this, but I'm obsessed with Variety of Sound's ThrillseekerVBL, and I need help to understand what it is about it.

It's not just compression + (tube) saturation - there's a vintage-y "stickiness" to the sound, and I want to know what exactly the thing is I'm chasing. I suspect it's something to do with phase voodoo too, but I don't exactly know what that would entail.

It's a decade-old, Win32 plugin that will never get ported to other architectures, that unfortunately produces exactly the sound I want to hear - most of all, its Tape 2 preset (+/- a bit of tweaking). It makes everything sound professional and good, particularly dry synthesised sounds like an 808 kit, and nobody's been able to help me recreate it fully.

Here's an audio example: 4 bars each of dry, wet but factory settings, preset "bootsy's choice", preset "tape 2" https://clyp.it/updy5yca?token=5de9cf5d ... 515ad92238

To put this into some context: Over the years I've found the following plugins help move the sound in the direction I want, in ascending order of how close they get:

SonEQ Free - Some drive + a mid scoop

Definitely not that close, but the saturation on this is definitely in that sweet spot of fattening the sound without calling attention to itself, in the same way ThrillseekerVBL does.

SDRR2 - adding Odd harmonics via DIGI mode

Somebody pointed this out to me, and I've tried it with some other harmonics plugins too (Airwindows Pafnuty, some $29 plugin that adds harmonics that's neat too) - adding those harmonics definitely is a key element, but purely doing that (or using a Tube distortion like Voxengo's, which I love) doesn't seem to cover all the bases.

TDR SlickEQ GE - bass phase rotation button

Just switching that button on (usually at the 85 Hz default bass freq) gets me a long, long way to the sound I want to hear. I don't understand exactly how this works, and I don't understand the description in the manual. I'd really appreciate an explanation of what happens here, and how you'd do this with other plugins or DSP-wise in general.

The saturation stages on this are very nice, but don't recreate the ThrillseekerVBL magic for me.

Klevgrand REAMP - the "always-on" processing that's audible even with the plugin-internal bypass switch on

REAMP's manual points out that due to the design, the bypass button in the VST gui leaves some basic processing on. This is that sticky sound I keep chasing. Switching on the plugin and using the tape, tube, EQ + drive bands together helps make this even more useful and does a lot of what I'm looking for. Unfortunately I think there's some compression missing to totally recreate ThrillseekerVBL, and to my ears REAMP's stickiness is just a tiny bit much compared to what I'm looking for (which isn't that subtle either). Still, it's now my go-to to liven up dull sounds/pads/etc. But it's just not quite as fun to slap on a track or a bus and get beautiful magic sounds immediately - which is something you can do with ThrillseekerVBL.

So yeah, if anyone knows what I'm looking for, has their own solution, or can possibly even explain the thing I'm totally failing to accurately describe - really appreciate your help!

Thanks!

KVRian
881 posts since 8 Mar, 2009

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:58 pm

Sounds like you are looking for an allpass filter
I

KVRer

Topic Starter

21 posts since 1 Jun, 2016

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 1:28 pm

TIMT wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:58 pm
Sounds like you are looking for an allpass filter
Yup, I am. ReaEQ works fantastic for it. Ugh, this has been bugging me for years. Thanks a lot!

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KVRAF
2037 posts since 8 Dec, 2008 from Global Cowboy

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 1:33 pm

TIMT wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:58 pm
Sounds like you are looking for an allpass filter
Or that BBQ sauce from Jack's Barbeque in Nashville...

When you saturate his hickory smoked delights in that special sauce,it's like nothing else on the planet...

It's an analog experience...

Messy too :wink:
Sorry - I don't use auto-tune....

KVRAF
20705 posts since 12 Jul, 2003 from West Caprazumia

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 1:54 pm

While I must admit that it has been ages since I last used it, ThrillseekerVBL seeks to emulate vari-mu compression and that "vintage-y stickiness" you mentioned seems to me like a adequate description for that type of compressor - so did you yet try other vari-mu comps?

Klanghelm's MJUC is great and offers three different ones (there's even a cut-down free version)
there are of course the Fairchild emus (e.g. the T-racks one is nice), FuseAudioLabs has three different ones, there's also the T-racks Dyna-Mu, the Arturia Tube-STA, the Sknote STA-limit (which is an emulation of the same device) and probably countless others...

KVRer

Topic Starter

21 posts since 1 Jun, 2016

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 2:47 pm

jens wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 1:54 pm
While I must admit that it has been ages since I last used it, ThrillseekerVBL seeks to emulate vari-mu compression and that "vintage-y stickiness" you mentioned seems to me like a adequate description for that type of compressor - so did you yet try other vari-mu comps?
I have tried MJUC quite a bit - I bought it! Mk 3 with all the extra buttons pushed has some of what I'm looking for, but it's not quite there. Airwindows Vari-Mu also has some of the character, but again, not quite there, though I really appreciate the mu slider. I haven't tried any of the others tbh, I was disappointed after MJUC and other vari-mus not living up to what I was hoping for.

What I was looking for really is just an allpass filter + a mid scoop + saturation + some compression. MJUC is great as part of that, but the link I was missing was messing with the phase with allpass filter bands.

KVRAF
20705 posts since 12 Jul, 2003 from West Caprazumia

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 3:39 pm

I see - great that you found your recipe at last (with the help of TIMT)! :tu:

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KVRAF
5929 posts since 13 Nov, 2015 from Norway

Post Sat Apr 17, 2021 6:51 am

Nothing sounds like ThrillseekerVBL ;)
EnergyXT3 - Reaper | Roland SH201 - Waldorf Rocket ||
Audiomack - SoundCloud - hearthis

KVRian
881 posts since 8 Mar, 2009

Post Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:41 am

ritesofspring wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 1:28 pm
TIMT wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:58 pm
Sounds like you are looking for an allpass filter
Yup, I am. ReaEQ works fantastic for it. Ugh, this has been bugging me for years. Thanks a lot!
No worries
I

KVRist
132 posts since 16 Mar, 2020

Post Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:28 pm

So what was your final emulation chain??

KVRer
18 posts since 30 Oct, 2018

Post Sun Apr 18, 2021 5:10 am

I wholeheartedly agree that Thrillseeker VBL has something really special. It is probably the oldest plugin I use, and I cannot see anything replacing it yet. As for what really goes on, I don't know, but in Bootsies own description, he has written something about "Stateful Saturation", and he also says that the emulation of the transformer circuit is of great importance: https://varietyofsound.wordpress.com/20 ... t-limiter/
But why not just ask him? Because the good news is that Bootsie is active again, he has posted on his blog several times this year. So who knows, maybe we will see new 64 bit versions of the VoS plugins after all? THAT would be good news...

KVRer

Topic Starter

21 posts since 1 Jun, 2016

Post Sun Apr 18, 2021 7:29 am

ElevateAudio wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:28 pm
So what was your final emulation chain??
Well, I had a go at trying to recreate Tape 2 on an 808, and I didn't get there 100%, but it has the overall aesthetic I've been looking for. Here's my attempt: https://www.dropbox.com/s/pok2nolm5ybdi ... s.wav?dl=1

The clips are:
1. The dry drum loop
2. Only ReaEQ + MFreeformPhase for the allpass voodoo
3. ThrillseekerVBL's tape 2 preset, but with the emphasis knob turned up to avoid saturating the bass
4. My attempt recreating it (see FX chain below)
5. The same FX chain but without ReaEQ and MFreePhase - you can tell the allpass magic is missing and it sounds shitty in comparison

So the chain looks like this:
chain.jpg
I'd go with a free saturation plugin, but Trash 2 has a response curve and I didn't know of a free one that had. It's really only to give the mid range saturation of Tape 2, and I kind of gave up dialling in 100% matching settings.

The all-important ReaEQ and MFreeformPhase have the following dialled in, which was 100% trial and error:
reaEQ.jpg
melda.jpg
And Sonimus' SonEQ is used for drive and very small EQ moves. Its saturation is very nice and the EQ bands and filters also affect phase in a very pleasant way - so I guess there's some stuff there going on too.
soneq.jpg
Airwindows VariMu and ButterComp2 are for some basic compression, I just dialled them in a little bit and didn't fine-tune it, any similar kind of compressors would probably do a good job here too.
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KVRAF
3638 posts since 17 Dec, 2009

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:04 am

have you thought about simply using a nonmodulating "phaser"?
it makes everything super sticky.

Also u-he presswerk has dynamic phase rotation that can make stuff "sticky"

KVRian
881 posts since 8 Mar, 2009

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 1:18 am

Ploki wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:04 am
have you thought about simply using a nonmodulating "phaser"?
it makes everything super sticky.

Also u-he presswerk has dynamic phase rotation that can make stuff "sticky"

How is that any different from an allpass filter??

DPR is just an allpass filter again and i'm not sure how dynamic it is. At least it doesn't sound all that dynamic to me and i've also never come across many compressors besides tube based ones that would tend to add a lot of group delay, phase distortion whatever you wish to call it to the input. Not even the Maselec and that's multiband. There is also the Arts Acoustic CL1 that had increased allpass filter poles the higher the ratio and gain reduction

Group delay in analog circuits mostly arises from cascading things probably cause of the RC filters on the inputs and outputs and the passive part of transformers, not through single pieces of gear itself. I mean, its generally not desirable and its only a plugin marketing thing to say that a lot of group delay has some correlation with sounding "analog". unless i run something through tape for a couple of passes, a guitar amp, or remic a sound through a speaker with an input through a mic with a large and slow diaphragm like an LDC or ribbon mic for instance its pretty difficult to get allpass filter abuse level group delay from an outboard signal path without passing that signal through that same circuit recursively. Another exception might be older gear with rubbish slew rates, but i don't have any of that on hand to confirm it other than the mu comps i have, which are based on older circuits but use newer better toleranced components
I

KVRAF
3638 posts since 17 Dec, 2009

Post Mon Apr 19, 2021 3:04 am

TIMT wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 1:18 am
Ploki wrote:
Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:04 am
have you thought about simply using a nonmodulating "phaser"?
it makes everything super sticky.

Also u-he presswerk has dynamic phase rotation that can make stuff "sticky"

How is that any different from an allpass filter??

DPR is just an allpass filter again and i'm not sure how dynamic it is. At least it doesn't sound all that dynamic to me and i've also never come across many compressors besides tube based ones that would tend to add a lot of group delay, phase distortion whatever you wish to call it to the input. Not even the Maselec and that's multiband. There is also the Arts Acoustic CL1 that had increased allpass filter poles the higher the ratio and gain reduction

Group delay in analog circuits mostly arises from cascading things probably cause of the RC filters on the inputs and outputs and the passive part of transformers, not through single pieces of gear itself. I mean, its generally not desirable and its only a plugin marketing thing to say that a lot of group delay has some correlation with sounding "analog". unless i run something through tape for a couple of passes, a guitar amp, or remic a sound through a speaker with an input through a mic with a large and slow diaphragm like an LDC or ribbon mic for instance its pretty difficult to get allpass filter abuse level group delay from an outboard signal path without passing that signal through that same circuit recursively. Another exception might be older gear with rubbish slew rates, but i don't have any of that on hand to confirm it other than the mu comps i have, which are based on older circuits but use newer better toleranced components
Phaser is more pronounced == stickier, and you have more control over the sound of "dispersion".
I just find it a fun sound design tool - esp on low end.

also re u-he: it's actually DUAL PHASE ROTATION and it's optional.
So i have no f**king clue how dynamic it is because that's something i apparently made up.

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