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Tips on Shaping Your Harmonics with Cobalt Saphira

Aug 11, 2015

Get useful tips on how to add depth and detail to your mixes by adding odd and even harmonics and sculpting their sound with the Cobalt Saphira plugin.

Adding harmonic distortion to signals can produce very musical results and create a sense of richness and depth. But it could also add unwanted artifacts. With most harmonic enhancement tools, you either like what the tool does or you don’t, and you can apply more or less of it. Cobalt Saphira is different. With this plugin, you can separately shape and control the many different aspects of the harmonics you are adding.

Adding Even and Odd Harmonics

There are two types of harmonics, even and odd. Most harmonic enhancement tools won’t let you pick and choose which you are adding—it’s all or nothing. You will have to take the whole package or skip it entirely.

Sometimes, however, adding only odd or only even harmonics will be more complimentary to your sound. For example, adding only odd harmonics to a piano will make it sound richer and emphasize the notes being played. Adding only (and lots of) even harmonics to a snare drum will give it more bite and help it cut through the mix.

With Cobalt Saphira, you can easily add only one type of harmonics, or the exact blend of even and odd harmonics that you want.

Adding even harmonics: Using the Edge controls to add even harmonics will make your signal sound compressed in a very unique way. Bring the Edge Send control all the way up, and you will hear the sound being compressed in a very natural way. Now use the Edge Return control to decide how much of the effect you want.

Adding odd harmonics: Adding odd harmonics tends to also increase the fundamental frequency. This is why manipulating the odd harmonics (using Cobalt Saphira’s Warmth controls) will change your sound more noticeably than manipulating the even harmonics.

EQing Your Harmonics

Sometimes you want to emphasize only a certain range of a complex signal. Cobalt Saphira features a 4-band EQ section that lets you separately manipulate only particular frequencies of the added harmonics, without touching the source and without affecting the other frequencies of the harmonics you are adding.

Use the low-pass and high-pass filters together to create a band pass around the area you want to emphasize. Playing with the harmonic levels will now be much easier and will not change the character of the signal outside of the chosen frequency range.

Treating low-frequency harmonics: Sub frequencies are usually less happy when they are distorted—they tend to lose their roundness and silkiness. Tweaking Cobalt Saphira’s EQ section and applying the high-pass filter will keep your sub frequencies round and silky, and will also add bite and character to the upper part of the signal.

Shaping low-mid harmonics: Shaping your low-mid harmonics is an art in and of itself. Doing it right will ensure that you add to your mix the warmth, depth and detail it needs. With Cobalt Saphira you can carve out the low-mids to do exactly that.

Adding high-frequency harmonics: When you add a lot of harmonic distortion to a complex signal, the high frequencies tend to become very “hairy” and unpleasant. A common practice it to apply a low-pass filter and eliminate them. With Cobalt Saphira you have full control over the cutoff/ filter type and the precise amount of high frequencies that you remove.

Choosing a Harmonics Mode

Harmonics Modes A, B and D are more natural-sounding, Mode C is great for punch, while Modes E, F and G are dirtier and can get you very creative sounds.

If you feel that the harmonics you’re adding are smearing your signal (which tends to happens on drum hits or on instruments playing brief staccato notes), use harmonics modes with just first-order harmonics (Mode C) or just first- and second-order harmonics (Mode A).

Choosing a Tape Speed

Use the Tape feature to get some movement and depth. The higher the Tape Speed, the less audible the effect. Slow speeds are good for low-frequency content. 15 ips and 22.25 ips are great for entire mixes. If you’d like to add some very mild movement to the song, bring Depth all the way up, pick the least audible speed setting, and back off until you don’t quite hear the modulations.