The word analogue get’s thrown around more and more but what does it actually mean? Do we need it or care?
In this article we’re going to explore how to create and mimic analogue sounds adding depth and saturation to your mixes. Whether this is ‘better’ or ‘warmer’ is somewhat subjective but hopefully these ideas will add another layer to your production options.
This is possibly the easiest way to add some vintage character to your tracks. Trying adding a channel of hiss or location recording noise to your session which can either be left raw or side chained, depending on your desired results.
Getting creative: Why not automate the volume of your noise channel. Increases in noise can operate as a great riser. By automating the rate of an auto-pan or tremolo can also do amazing things before a drop.
Tape Machine Plug-ins
The choice really is endless with these beauties but if you’re looking for a little low-end bump, saturation and hiss then there’s no better way of getting it. Historically tape machines always added a touch of bottom end EQ, smoothed out the tops, removing harshness, added harmonics as well as a touch of compression so are perfect for use on individual tracks, groups or even the master.
Note: Be careful not to overcook the saturation. Often a little goes a long way, especially when it all adds together at the end of a mix. Better to hold back than go too far and ruin things.
A few little synth selections can make a world of difference in obtaining that classic analogue sound. The joy of old synths were often there imperfections, a topic we’ll cover later in the article but for now here’s a list of our favorite analogue emulation synths and few tips for adding character:
Tal U-No-LX (Juno) – A great emulation of the classic Juno. With it’s rich waveform options and easy to use navigation we turn to this time and time again.
Arturia Prophet V – Amazing recreation of the classic Dave Smith Prophet. Super rich saw tooths, endless routing options and great envelopes.. this covers a lot of ground and sounds great.
Moog Mintaur – Ableton – This awesome little collection has sampled some of the great waveforms found within the Moog Minitaur. Great price and a beautifully rich sound that’s perfect for bass. Ableton friendly and a sure fire bottom end winner.
UHE Diva – CPU Heavy but wow that sound. San incredible beast that recreates so many great analogue synth tones from lush pads to distorted mono leads, driving arps and more. Always worth trying out if your computer can hack it 😉
Ableton FX Racks (Touch Loops) – We had to include these due to the VHS dial. This little beauty when used gently can add some classic vintage wobble that emulates the humble VHS player. It’s those little imperfections that we love so give it a whirl.
As well as all the sonic enhancements found within tape machines and analogue recording methods, one of the most important things was the restriction in workflow. Not being able continually edit and tweak meant the final record often had minor imperfections as well as slight timing movements. It’s this human swing that can really make the difference in getting your tracks to vibe and sway.
Try getting into the mindset of using your DAW like tape machine. Stop quantizing everything, embrace the swing settings in your DAW and play in your sections live where possible. Music is supposed to have that human element so enjoy it.
Grouping and mixing ideas – Virtual Summing,.
A great way to get that analogue mixing feel is to group your session into mix stems and having the same selection of plug-ins across those groups. We’re thinking classic analogy emulation plug-ins like an SSL compressor, Pultec EQ then some form of tape machine. Here’s how it could look:
Group1 – Drums – All your drum elements are either grouped together or sent to an new bus / channel.
Group 2 – Bass – Let’s keep this one separate due to the weight of the frequencies.
Group 3 – Synths – Both Pads & Leads
Group 4 – Live Instruments – Guitars, Keys etc
Group 5 – Vocals
Group 6 – FX
These will all then be routed to the master Fader which could have your choice of plugins i.e EQ’s, compressors, limiters etc.
Why? – It’s this grouping a small additions of saturation, harmonics and compression that can really make your mixes feel cohesive, tight and potentially analogue.
A Touch Loops favourite and an instant vintage go to. Explore the guitar amps in your DAW. Virtually all of them have some form of amp included and what’s even better is the spring reverb they include. Try having this on an aux send for instant dub vibes as well as adding some noise and abstract depth that feels thicker and more interesting than many reverbs.
Tip: The springs can be quite noisy so don’t be afraid to EQ your Aux for extra clarity if things get a little hectic.
Guitars Pedals & Cheap FX
Last but certainly not least the humble guitar pedal. The market for these things has gone crazy from both an options point of view and also a from a price point too. For not a huge amount of expenditure you can get some great sounding FX pedals that allow you to tweak live as the track plays embracing the concept of imperfection.
Note: Some pedals won’t enjoy the line level coming out of your Sound Card so you might need a re-amping box that converts the level from line to instrument. The guys at Sweetwater have put together this great article showing your how – Check it HERE
So if this has tweaked your fancy then what are you waiting for, get experimenting and see what comes out.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this then why not check out our Lo-Fi Blog Article which covers a few of these topics in more details as well as showing some great ideas of pushing things that bit further.
Thanks as always – The Touch Loops team.