The kick drum is one of electronic music’s most vital components (of any genre). Honestly, the dance floor won’t be bouncing if it can’t get through the mix. There are numerous tools and alternatives for processing the kick drum but subtle saturation works wonders when used properly. In this article, we’ll show you how to add subtle saturation in order to make your kick drum fit perfectly in the mix.

As usual, we have prepared a short sequence in our SoundBridge: DAW containing all essential elements of the full mix. Let’s listen to it.

This screenshot was taken before adding the saturation effect to the kick drum.
~Full Mix – Unprocessed Kick Drum

As you can hear in this audio track, the kick drum doesn’t cut thorough the mix as it should. In order to fix that, we will use the saturation effect. Saturation will definitely provide more harmonic content so that it may respond well to subsequent processing. The idea is to put it before any additive EQ but potentially after any subtractive EQ correction. This is because we don’t want to add more harmonics to the frequencies we don’t like. We can also add the saturation directly on the kick drum`s effect rack but it sounds much better when added over send/return channel.

Let’s do that by clicking on the plus sign in the top left corner of the SoundBridge: DAW’s interface. In the offered track types, we will select “Return” and name it “Saturation”

This is a picture of my mix and the highlighted "Add Track" menu.

We could add a single band saturation plugin to the return channel’s effect rack. But, we believe the multi-band provides much more possibilities. So, our choice of effect will be Izotope’s Ozone 8 Exciter. On the Ozone 8 Exciter, we can observe four different bands, each one with its own saturation modes (Analog, Retro, Triode, etc…). These modes add a unique character to the processed sound. Since we don’t want our kick drum to sound overly saturated, we’ll use the Retro and Tape modes (which sound the most subtle of all). Our return track fader will control the overall level of saturation, so we will set the amount and mix of each band to its maximum, as shown in the image below.

This picture was taken after adding iZotope's Ozone 8 Exciter effect to the newly created return track.

Since we want a subtle effect, we have just increased the send value by 25%. Let’s now compare our kick drum before and after processing it with multi-band saturation.

~Kick Drum Solo – Unprocessed
~Kick Drum Solo – Processed With Multi-Band Saturation

By doing this, we’ve already improved the sound of our kick drum. Now, we are free to add additional EQ and compression to the channel’s effect rack directly. Finally, let’s create another compartment to differentiate the full mix with the unprocessed kick drum from the processed one.

~Full Mix – Unprocessed Kick Drum
~Full Mix – Kick Drum Processed With Saturation

If you liked this article on saturation, here are some more on the same subject: