Distortion is a processing of signal affecting amplitude, which overdrives a signal then clips it. This causes a sustain and adds both harmonic and dissonant overtones (Moylan, 2007)
In session 2 and 3, we studied the concept of distortion, what ist, how to create it, and why would you want to use it. Distortion and in this case artificial distortion, are a useful creative tool created by overdriving the signal and creating new harmonics affecting the sound of the signal.
Firstly a 450 hz sine wave signal was used as a controlled example to clearly identify each of the effects’ results on an audio signal, then the same plugin with the same manipulation of its parameters was applied to an audio recording of a vocal and a guitar, to gauge a practical application of that processing. A spectrum analyser was used for a visual understanding of the different plugins’ effects on the sine wave signal. Prior to any signal processing the sine wave shows to have no other harmonics besides its peak at 450 hz, as would be expected
The first plugin tested was the AIR Distortion plugin. This is a generic distortion plug in capable of various types and amounts of distortion across a wide dynamic range. Adjustable parameters include a drive encoder (controls the input amplitude), an output amplitude encoder, and a mix encoder controlling the dry/wet mix of the effect. There is also an option for the effect to be applied in stereo, with the left and right channels being processed separately. This plugin provides 3 modes for distortion selection, a preset of sorts; these include ‘hard’ (sharp, immediate distortion), ‘soft’ (softer more gradual distortion), and ‘warp’ (wapping the waveform on itself causing a quick change between harsh and soft, resulting in a more complex distortion
Another plugin that was tested is the precision maximizer by UAD, this plugin can be useful in increasing perceived loudness and overall clarity, along with adding warmth and increasing presence. Like the other plugins tested, the Precision maximizer has input and output amplitude control, along with a ‘mix’ parameter to mandate the amounts of affected and unaffected signal that is passed through the plugin.
Distortion can be applied on an instrument or vocal and it brings a whole new experiment. I hope to apply it on the next project we are working on.
Moylan, M. (2007.Understand and Crafting the Mix: The Art of Recording(Second Edition). Focal Press: Oxford.