Wave Arts Tube Saturator 2 Review (WINNER ANNOUNCED)


The rise of modern technology and digital audio has allowed for some amazing advancements in audio engineering in terms of workflow and fidelity. Getting the necessary essentials is now cheaper than ever and it’s so much easier to a get decent sound out of your studio. However, the devices we now use are so clean that many feel we’ve lost something. Digital audio has been accused of being boring, flat, cold and sterile.

This is partly because the analog hardware has imperfections that subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) distort the audio, adding harmonics that we find pleasing to listen to and sometimes softly limiting peaks. This is especially true of valve/tube gear. The added harmonics you get from using vacuum tubes has the ability to make sounds stand out in the mix, to sound larger than life. It’s not cheap getting good tube gear however, and even if you could afford a nice stereo unit, once you have audio in your DAW, sending it out to hardware requires an extra D/A to A/D stage that a lot of people would rather avoid. Using a hybrid hardware setup also slows down workflow drastically, as you have to re-print the audio. If you need to make further adjustments to the rendered audio track, you’ll have to pass it through the hardware effect again.

Ideally, we’d be able to start with a clean sound and then, using plugins, add in all the lovely flavors available in the high end hardware world. There are many plugins on the market that try to do this. One such example that caught my attention back in 2009 was the first Tube Saturator plugin by Wave Arts.

Rather than choosing to work with approximations, Wave Arts developed something similar to SPICE, which allowed them to create a software model of an idealized tube pre-amp circuit in real time. It sounded fantastic, but was also very CPU intensive. With this highly detailed method of emulation, modeling anything more complicated would have been out of the question, as you simply couldn’t run such a plugin even with today’s more powerful computers.

As noted in the original plugin’s manual, they could have used look-up tables based on pre-calculated measurements, but this method proved to be too simplistic and the end result was not satisfactory. However, they’ve now employed a more intricate multi-dimensional look-up table system, referencing not just the input voltages, but also the voltage on the capacitors. They then tweaked this system until the results closely matched those of the real time circuit method. As a result, CPU usage has been drastically reduced without compromising the sound.

This is quite a significant change, as Wave Arts could model more complicated circuits in the future by utilizing this new and optimized emulation method. For now though, they’ve released a new version of their original Tube Saturator plugin, Tube Saturator 2.

Tube Saturator 2 features a tube pre-amp with perfectly matched left and right tubes and two different tubes to choose from, the 12AX7 and 12AU7. According to the manual, the 12AX7 features prominent even harmonics while the 12AU7 has both odd and even. In addition, it has a new GUI and the 3-band Baxandall EQ can now be switched pre or post saturation. The new plugin is an improvement in every way over the original and can now finally be used by anyone with a moderately powerful computer, with multiple instances being a non-issue for most. We’ve put Tube Saturator 2 through its paces in a demo video that you can watch at the top of this page.

Tube Saturator 2 is available on Mac & Windows VST, AU & AAX, 32 & 64 bit. It’s licensed via ilok2 but you can install the license onto the computer and use the software without the ilok dongle, which is something I wish more companies allowed.

More info: Tube Saturator 2 (official website)

The Giveaway

We are giving away one free Tube Saturator 2 license, kindly provided by Wave Arts! To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below. Only one entry per person is allowed. The winner will be picked by a random number draw and announced on this page on September 15th.

The lucky winner is our reader Seiji (ta****[email protected].**)! Congrats to the winner and thanks to everyone who joined in, as well as to Wave Arts for providing the prize. We have more freebies and giveaways coming soon, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading BPB! :)

Wave Arts Tube Saturator 2 REVIEW


Tube Saturator 2 is an improvement in every way over the original and can now finally be used by anyone with a moderately powerful computer, with multiple instances being a non-issue for most.

  • Features
  • Sound
  • Workflow
  • Performance
  • Design
  • Pricing
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This article was written by two or more BPB staff members.


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