Make Your DAW Sound Analog


In this article we're going to explore the techniques used in making your DAW sound analog.  In this example we'll be using Ableton Live but anyway DAW but will have the options to do something similar.   From the improved routing to mix efficiency, an improved mindset and a new sense of mix glue, each of these techniques can easily be implemented and will equip you with new skills for improving workflow.




Note: Try using the same plugins across all buses - This will help with mix glue, become second nature to use and ensure an efficient workflow. 



Session Overview

The image below shows the workflow and signal routing that I use within Ableton.  As you can see, by routing everything together we're able to create a much simpler picture of our mix.  By routing your session like this you'll find the following benefits:

  1. Workflow - Easily access the drums, bass, synths etc without becoming overwhelmed by all the other channels.
  2. Group Processing - Easily affect the entire aux bus of drums, bass, synths etc.
  3. Broad Strokes - You'll find less of a need to solo individual elements, keeping an eye on the big picture throughout.






Feeling mix ready?!  Check out our top 10 mix tips!




DAW Sound Analog_AbletonRouting



How To Assign MIDI Controllers In Ableton

Once we have our selection of AUX channels arranged, try assigning a MIDI controller (like the one below) to each channel of your groups.  In Ableton this is done by:

  1. Press Cmd+M
  2. Click on the area of Ableton you'd like to control
  3. Move the desired fader
  4. Press Cmd+M (Leaving MIDI Mode)



DAW Sound Analog_Assign MIDI Controller



Why not take this a step a further and check out more options on how to sound analog inside your DAW. 



Routing & Plugin Choices

As mentioned above, be sensible and think about your routing.  The more faders you create the more difficult it can become to maintain the speed and workflow efficiency.  I find 8 to be an OK number.

A key component of this working efficiently and sonically is the use of consistent plug-ins across each group.  In our example, Rich chose to use Slat Digital's VTM which nicely houses analog emulation plugins.

This system is all a out consistency so we used the following plugins:

  1. Virtual Channels - This imparts saturation, drive and can be set to emulate a certain desk.  We chose Brit 4KE (SSL Style)
  2. Compression - Perfect for group compression, this easy to use plugin is based on an SSL Bus Compressor, maintaining the tone and story.
  3. EQ - SSL Style, easy to use and consistent with tone.



DAW Sound Analog_PluginChoices



Note: Try using the same plugins across all buses - This will help with mix glue, become second nature to use and ensure an efficient workflow. 




An often overlooked element to writing and mixing, getting in the right mindset and staying in it is crucial to the success of a mix.  Getting lost in your session,  becoming overwhelmed with the options and getting stuck in the small details can often cause your mix to become unbalanced and lack focus.

By embracing these limited options we can stop over-processing and instead focus on getting a great balance between the elements.