FabFilter Saturn 2 Presets Manual

These presets come with helpful explanations and instructions. They can be used as starting points for your own mix, or as a way of learning more about the FabFilter Saturn 2. As always, feel free to experiment, the instructions are based on my own workflow and “ear.” I hope you enjoy and they help you make even better music!

Important tip: Penny Cool presets are calibrated for an input signal level of -18dbfs RMS. Keep it reasonably close to that for the presets to give you the optimum (and expected) performance. Although this isn’t as important with Saturn as it may be with analog emulations, it provides a consistent workflow and approach.
The input and output gain knobs have been adjusted with this in mind.

Important tip: Some of these, by the very nature of distortion, increase the output level of your signal significantly. Although I have tried to build in attenuations where this might happen when you adjust settings with the sliders, it was not always possible.

*Important tip: Experiment! There are lots of fun and interesting variations and Saturn 2 is a very powerful and creative tool.

Special Note: These presets are for the FabFilter Saturn 2 plugin. They will not work with the original Saturn. I have included a set of presets for this “legacy” plugin. They are much less functional and have fewer options, but are still useful if you have not upgraded to Saturn 2.


FabFilter Saturn 2!

Thanks for buying my presets! There is so much to experiment with in the FabFilter Saturn 2 and I hope this helps you a little to unlock ways to make your music even better.

I try to walk you through what I am doing with the presets, and in the process hopefully share a few things I have learned about how Saturn 2 works. I tend towards the subtle in how I approach sound design, and you will see this reflected in the presets. But remember, they are just a starting point for your own work—so go crazy if you want!

Something you are going to notice on many of the presets, is that I add a small amount of randomness to the Drive. I think this tiny amount of modulation creates more non-linearities and more accurately mimics how “real-world” amps (and electrical devices) work.

Also, don’t be “constrained” by the settings of the sliders. I have them set for the way I like to work, and the ranges that work well for me. You can go in and mess about all you want!

There are some people who seem to think Saturn has a “harsh” or “digital” sound. I find it quite the opposite. I wonder if it was wrapped in an analog-looking UI if it would “sound” different to those people. (My instincts say yes, because obviously they aren’t listening very carefully.) No one enjoys the fun of a cool-looking plugin more than me, mimicking both the sound and look of what it is emulating. But I find the UI on Saturn both functional and remarkable, and it is still fun! Just always wanted to point this out, and now I have!


Category:  Amps

First off, these presets are never going to sound like a real guitar amp. Saturn 2 lacks the fine tuning you would need to tweak “everything” you can on your trusty head. You can fiddle around and get real close, adjusting input, drive, etc—but it’s a bit awkward. Plus, there are no speaker cabinets – so you are on your own recreating what you want in that regard! Still…


Preset: Acoustic Bass

The is my own design, recreating a DI through a preamp and EQ that sounds good on my fretless acoustic. The amount of Drive is going to increase with the signal. Louder equals (slightly) higher amounts of Drive.

Along with this, the Drive slider adjusts the distortion, which is subdued at the low end no matter how much you push it. The higher frequencies are going to start to distort a bit, but this is exactly the sound I want with an acoustic bass—the highs are going to stand out a little without being louder.

You can adjust the amount of low end with (of all things) the Bass slider. You can raise or lower the level of everything below around 800Hz.

Tip: Try changing the distortion type on the low band to “American Tweed”. It will carve out the low end and add a little to the mids.


Preset: Clean Tweed

This will give you a good approximation of the harmonics and frequency response of a classic “Tweed” amp with all the knobs set to 5. (Yes, even more so than with Saturn’s own Tweed setting, in my opinion.) A basic clean sound.

If your input is loud, this will push the drive but compress the signal. (Kind of like a real amp—!) People like to call this ‘saturation’—which is just another name for distortion when you get right down to it.

You should be able to hear what the Tone and Drive sliders do. The Tone is a bit of a tilt EQ. The Drive slider will also effect the amount of compression, the more drive, the less compression. In other words, it makes it slightly louder as well (if the input signal is loud enough.)


Preset: Gen. Growl

A bit of my own take on amp distortion. Use the Growl slider to make it more fizzy.

Tip: Just lower the distortion knob settings by half if this is too ragged for you.


Category: Analog It

These are all about adding an analog vibe to things that aren’t analog, and they are particularly geared toward synth sounds. There are lots of strange things going on with the modulation on these, so it might be worth exploring some of the “behind the scenes” connections.


Preset: ANA 1

Random modulating of the EQs (ie filters) on each band and also giving you the ability to modulate the panning in the mids. This makes things “walk” around a little. Any kind of an atmospheric or pad style sound is going to get a lot of movement.

The Smudge distortion setting is fascinating to me, it creates a lot of very cool vibe, when used at low levels. BUT—Beware the smudge! Seriously. If you feel overcome with the temptation to push the drive on any of these bands, look out. The sound is going to go crazy.


Preset: ANA 2

By modulating the crossover frequencies on this, I created a lot of crazy harmonics. Did the same thing by panning the Drive. Just lots of random modulation moving things around and creating interesting texture within the sound.

The Drive slider adjusts both the Drive knob and the Dynamics knob. More distortion clamps down the signal a little.


Preset: ANA 3

Want that “analog warmth” all the kids are talking about? Here ya go! And you can adjust it with the Warmth slider!!

And at the risk of breaking someone’s heart, and shattering a stupid marketing myth—warmth means there is more low end, and less high end. It’s an EQ thing. And the reason so much analog gear has “warmth” is… wait for it… it has less high end. I seriously think sometimes people put their hand on the gear, feel the temperature, and say, “this sounds warm.”

Anyway, enough of my ranting. I have tried to set this up so it actually does low pass at a place pretty typical to (older) analog gear.


Preset: ANA 4 & ANA 5

Slap these on your synth, and you will enter a new world! Well… uh…, but you can enter a new realm of experimentation. I create a lot of movement here by simply shifting the Drive (and therefore harmonics) around randomly. In fact it starts sounding almost reverb-like.

Tip: These are great presets for you to play around with and see how you can do some wild things with modulation. You can also just try them as they are. They work for me!


Category: Consoles

All of these are subtle. And that’s the way a console should be—perfectly out of the way. They aren’t, of course. No one designs a console to have noise or added harmonics or crosstalk or whatever. These are artifacts of the limitations of their electronics. But that wasn’t all bad. Not because we have some innate aural need to sense non-linearities or something esoteric like that. It has more to do with playing against the limitations of the other gear that was used, and how sound is reproduced.

If a certain piece of gear adds high end, and another one lowers that high end—then they would sound pretty accurate when used together. Take one out, and the sound is no longer right. In a lot of ways, this was how recording engineering did things early on. Something might have sounded dull, but after experimenting with different preamps or other pieces of gear, they found one that got rid of the dullness. (The engineers at EMI actually invented boxes for adding certain high frequencies, to bring back the sound that was lost through a mic or whatever.) Much of that equipment became “iconic,” because it sounded good and balanced out the limitations of other equipment.

Another benefit was that certain equipment reduced the high and low end, and allowed the recording to sound better on speakers. (Or ear buds! Or on vinyl!) We get fatigued with too much high end, and too much low end will distort. This is where I went with these Console presets. They all have high and low pass filtering of varying amounts and curves. In theory, they take out the mud, take out the harshness, and let your sound sit in a more comfortable place. A little compression is in there as well.


Preset: Console 1

Straightforward high and low pass with a very slight attenuation below 1000kHz as well. The Drive slider limits the range to keep this usable on every channel (if you like.) Pretty typical harmonics (for an tube-based console) with a lot of variance at the high and low end.


Preset: Console 2

A steep filter at about 100Hz and the high end is left untouched. A little dip around 200-300Hz. The overall drive and harmonics are more pronounced than the Console 1 preset. This works on acoustic mixes where you need to clean up boominess, and still want it to sound a bit raw.


Preset: Console 3

Steep drop offs at both end, and a slight attenuation in the upper mids. Cleaner harmonics than the other two consoles. I have the minimum set to as low as I think it should go, and you can push it up from there. Streaming in mind when I use this. Or vinyl. Kind of ironic.


Preset: MIX BUSS

Just a sweet little insert on your mix buss. Gentle on the harmonics, and gentle filtering at both ends to clean up the sound.


Category: EFXS

And now for a wild time. (Within moral reason.) All of these “effects” presets are pushing the boundaries and probably doing a few things Saturn2 was never intended to do. All the better. Have fun with these and let them be your starting point for more madness.


Preset: EFX 1

I’m just going to “kinda” explain the sliders and let you go at this one. FREQ and LEVEL sliders control the 2 small bands you see at each end. You move them around with FREQ and make them louder or softer with LEVEL.

These two bands also modulate back and forth, which you control with the AMOUNT and SPEED sliders.

Tip: Raise the SPEED slider and your sound will go pretty wacko.


Preset: EFX 2

Using the drive setting as I have configured it on the Breakdown style basically adds a lower octave to the band. (As well as a bunch of distortion.) Use the FREQ to adjust where you want to the “octavizer” to hit, and the LEVEL slider for the amount. This isn’t an Eventide, but a dirty, nasty way to fatten your sound.


Preset: EFX 3

A compressor. Yes, it kind of acts like one! It pulls out the low end as you compress, and pulls out the high end when you push up the DRIVE slider to keep it from getting harsh up there.


Preset: EFX 4

One of the sliders is called WOBBLE, because it makes the sound wobble. The other is called AMOUNT, because it adjusts how much wobble you get. Try it out.


Preset: EFX 5

Pan all over the place. I’m panning the drive and output of each band, and they go in opposite directions. Set the SPEED and MIX to how you want it to sound. Got it? Now push up the DRIVE. Have fun. And notice it can sound like reverb if set right.


Preset: EFX 6

The SPEED is how fast the crossovers move, the WIDTH is how far they go, and the DEPTH is the loudness of the band. All of these are being randomized a little as well. Push the whole thing up with the DRIVE slider.

Tip: This is processor intensive. Not kidding.


Category: EQs

I wanted to see if I could make a graphic (fixed band) EQ, or even a Pultec style. Saturn 2 is limited to six bands, and that brought to mind to a couple of classic, historical EQs. The Pultec didn’t work out, there just isn’t enough ability to precisely control the way the bands interact in Saturn2.


Preset: 9073EQ

Based on an Altec 9073. When I say “based” I mean the EQ bands match up, and the curves are similar. (I tried to match them by manipulating the band EQs in Saturn 2.) They don’t respond exactly the same, and the harmonic distortion is different. Still, by modulating the crossovers and drive you still get a retro feel and sound.

The frequency bands are built as sliders. They will effect one another in interesting ways!

If you have never used an EQ like this, you may actually find that it’s limitations free you. You don’t spend time trying to be a surgeon. You locate the general frequency and go for it.


Preset: DetroitEQ

If you are interested where this came from, you can google “Motown” and “EQ.” The original had seven bands, so I combined the two lower ones. I have never used a real one, and I can’t say how close this comes other than matching the set frequencies. Still, it’s a fun way to experiment and a great place for you to start creating your own “old” gear.


Preset: TiltEQ

A basic tilt EQ, with high and low passes. This is meant to sound a little rough, as I modulate the crossovers to gain some extra vibe. (Not because crossovers modulate in analog equipment. This is simply a technique to create more random and non-linear responses in Saturn 2.)

The TILT slider: up lifts the bass, down lifts the high end. Keep an “ear” on your overall levels. I tried to attenuate to compensate for the EQing, but it’s touchy.


Preset: PreVerb

This is my take on the “Abbey Road curve” and I use it all the time. You can look it up if you aren’t familiar, but basically you take out part of the high end and a significant part of the low end before you send a signal to a reverb. This was developed at Abbey Road Studio (or EMI, again, you can look it up) and used before sending the signal (especially vocals) to the chamber reverb.

It takes out the muddy low end that can build up with a reverb, as well as that tinny high end. I have added my own slight “improvement” which lets you attenuate the signal around 3000Hz. Especially with vocals, this keeps the reverb from being too loud in those frequencies we tend to hear as louder than others. It basically can help make the reverb a little more subtle.

Tip: Just go in and adjust the lowest crossover if it’s making your sound too thin.


Category: Leslie Cabs

The original Leslie cabinet/speakers had two settings, which are reflected here. Take some time to look up how it was invented. Put speakers on motors and rotate them—pretty cool.


Preset: Chorale

This is the slower, “swirling” sound. The speed matches the original specs (this varied on different models over the years), and it is interesting to note the bass “rotated” at a slower speed than the treble. I think I got a good approximation of the front to back “dopler”-style sound by varying some of the EQ levels in sync with the panning. Listen and see.

Use the DRIVE slider to add some grit. Using the Smudge style in the low end is my secret to getting this whole thing to work. The original cabinet was pretty gritty!


Preset: Tremolo

Now for the fast one. Use the TREM to make it faster or slower and the DRIVE slider to give it some bite. Then use the MIX slider to adjust how you want everything to fit together.

Tip: Change the styles (on either of the presets) and you can get some pretty radical effects, odd distortions and so forth.


Category: Tape

Preset: Reel 102

I built a frequency response that is pretty accurate to the real live machine. (“102,” you know which one.) Put this on a channel, and you are going to have a really good tape emulation, minus the wow and flutter. You can even control the amount of head bump.

You know how you hear people say things like, “they used to slam the tape and get that saturation…” Not sure I ever heard anyone who was actually recording to tape say they were going to slam anything (except maybe their fist through the wall trying to calibrate the thing), but here is a slider so you can slam all you want. (By the way, I set a minimum level so if you want to shut off the drive altogether, then you have to go in and do it. But why would you?)

The SLAM increases the Drive and Input volume, and keeps the frequencies pretty stable while doing it. The level of your input signal is also going to push up the compression/dynamics knob. Listen to that wonderful tape distortion! Err… I mean saturation.


Preset: Reel 82

This works really nicely on your mix buss. Put you final mix right into this as if you were printing it to tape. It has a slight high and low pass curve, a small head bump, gentle harmonics, and it mimics wow and flutter by moving some output levels and frequences through a sine wave modeling typical tape speed. It isn’t a real emulation, but it does sound like it.

You can adjust the Drive, and the Mix. The mix is configured at 50%, which gives a subtle touch to your sound. See how it works for you!


Developed by chief engineer Robert Conlon.