5 Easy Ways To Add An Analogue Vibe To Your Productions
Modern music producers have access to tools and capabilities that would have been unimaginable in the early days of recording; unlimited track counts, advanced editing tools and perhaps best of all pristine audio quality. The downside of this is that digitally recorded audio is so pristine that it can often be described as “clinical” or even “stale”. In this post I am going to be sharing with you a few easy to implement techniques that you can use to warm up your productions by imparting them with an analog feel. Best of all you should be able to employ these strategies regardless of your DAW of choice and without buying any new plugins. So, what are you waiting for, let’s get started!
1. TAPE DELAY
One of my favorite ways of warming up a lifeless audio signal is by exploiting the tape emulation features in a tape delay plugin. To take advantage of this, simply load up your tape delay plugin of choice and dial down the delay settings to zero ms and feedback to 0%. From that point, manipulate whatever tape emulation parameters are available “character, wobble, bias, etc” and dial in the the wet/dry ratio to taste for subtle to more obvious coloration of the sound.
2. AMP SIMULATORS
Another great way of imparting elements with analog magic is with an amp simulator. The great thing about this method is nearly every DAW has some form of guitar or bass amp and cabinet simulation built in, so no matter what program you use you ought to be able to take advantage of this method. Start with a nice clean setting using your amp simulator of choice. Passing audio through an amp simulator will change the frequency output of the signal no matter what, but I still like to begin with the EQ section in a neutral position.
Some amps distort much easier than others so it may take some careful manipulation of the master, gain and or volume knobs to get to keep the sound from distorting. Because amp simulators are modeled after a wide variety of amplifiers from tube to solid state, each amp model will have a distinct effect on your source audio, so feel free to experiment with multiple plugins and models until you get the sound you are looking for.
The approach to using a distortion plugin to warm up a sound is similar to that of a guitar amp simulator. You will simply want to very carefully dial in the various gain stages of the plugin to a point where you achieve saturation without a perceivable distorted effect. Every plugin may have completely different parameters so you will have to experiment with various settings to discover what settings drive the source toward distortion. In the example below I am using Reaper’s built in JS distortion to add subtle saturation to a synth loop, by using very conservative gain and hardness settings and backing off the volume slightly.
4. BIT CRUSH
Bit Crush can be a very overwhelming and is an easily recognizable effect if not treated with care so you will want to use a delicate touch. Start by slowly reducing the number of bits until you hear a slight change in the tone that will usually be somewhere around 11 or 12. Keep the downsampling at a conservative setting and experiment with drive settings to taste, if your plugin has a mix control you can use it to further refine the sound.
While most of us tend to associate convolution with reverb, the truth is that impulse responses aren’t only used to recreate the acoustic characteristics of spaces. There are impulse responses available of things like guitar cabinets analog fx processors and even analog consoles! Many DAWs have some form of convolution reverb included, even if yours doesn’t include an impulse response of a console, there are many sites full of free impulse responses worth checking out.