12 tips for achiev­ing that vin­tage sound

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -


We’ve dis­cussed many clas­sic dig­i­tal ef­fects pro­ces­sors in this fea­ture, many of which are prized for the char­ac­ter im­parted by their low bit-depth con­vert­ers. It’s easy to mimic th­ese qual­i­ties in soft­ware, as there are plenty of bit re­duc­tion plug­ins avail­able – many are free, while your DAW prob­a­bly has one. Used ju­di­ciously, th­ese can recre­ate some of the grit of those early ef­fects.


Bit depth wasn’t the only thing that suf­fered in ef­fects pro­ces­sors past. Lower sam­ple rate con­vert­ers were of­ten em­ployed to keep costs down. Many a bud­get re­verb was re­leased with sub-32kHz con­vert­ers (we’re look­ing at you, Ale­sis), and this only added to their charm. Your pre­ferred au­dio ed­i­tor might be able to per­form sam­ple rate con­ver­sion via its re­sam­pling func­tion – this can be a quick route to vin­tage dig­i­tal bliss.


Tape sim­u­la­tors are great to have, and when used cor­rectly, they can give your pro­duc­tions a bit of that retro mojo. Keep in mind, though, that a bit of tape hiss is easy to achieve – just throw in a sam­ple of the real thing! If you have an old tape player, grab a worn-out cas­sette and record a bit of the noise dur­ing a quiet sec­tion. Loop it and lay it into your mix.


Cheap vin­tage boxes of­ten lacked the full fre­quency range of mod­ern equip­ment. You can sim­u­late this lim­i­ta­tion by di­alling back some of the high fre­quen­cies that our mod­ern con­vert­ers and preamps cap­ture so well.


One ob­vi­ous way to get a more lively, retro sound is to re-amp your ef­fected tracks through out­board equip­ment. It can be as sim­ple as pump­ing it back through some crusty old home stereo equip­ment, or as elab­o­rate as send­ing it through a costly clas­sic com­pres­sor. If you don’t have one, why not bor­row or rent one?


Some of the char­ac­ter of old stu­dio record­ings came not from the ef­fects, but from the air it­self. A snare drum might have been routed through mul­ti­ple ef­fects, but it all starts with a record­ing of the snare in open air. Route sig­nals out through a speaker and re-record them with ac­tual mi­cro­phones, then process them fur­ther.


An­other ‘out­side-the-box’ tip: if you use loops – whether pre­fab or those of your own cre­ation – you can add some vin­tage vibe to them by tap­ing them onto a cheap cas­sette recorder, then re-record­ing the tape into your DAW or sam­pler. You’ll prob­a­bly have to trim and align them again, but it’ll be worth it!


Don’t be afraid to ex­per­i­ment with the fea­tures of plug­ins not meant for the task at hand. For ex­am­ple, Able­ton Live 10’s Echo ef­fect of­fers plenty of retro-style op­tions for muck­ing up sounds, and you can use th­ese with­out the de­lay. The Char­ac­ter tab hides Noise and Wob­ble func­tions that can be used to ar­ti­fi­cially age a sig­nal – just ditch the echoes and go for the grit.


Re­cent years have seen a hand­ful of con­sole em­u­la­tors ar­rive, de­signed to add the su­per­sub­tle colour and crosstalk of vin­tage con­soles to your mixes – Slate Dig­i­tal’s VCC be­ing one such ex­am­ple. The ‘child’ chan­nel ef­fects are meant to be used on ev­ery chan­nel, aux and bus in your mix, which all feed into a ‘par­ent’ mix-bus plugin placed on the mas­ter out.


It might seem ob­vi­ous for us to rec­om­mend run­ning a sig­nal through iZo­tope’s free Vinyl plugin… but that’s be­cause it does the trick! We’re not nec­es­sar­ily sug­gest­ing you do so in or­der to feign a dusty old record; in­stead, dial up some of the other arte­facts that this now- clas­sic plugin has to of­fer: add elec­tri­cal noise, me­chan­i­cal noise and more.


Con­vo­lu­tion ef­fects such as Logic’s Space De­signer and Acus­tica’s Ne­bula4 let you load in your own im­pulse re­sponses, many of which can be found for free on­line. Though of­ten as­so­ci­ated with ‘sam­pled’ re­verb spa­ces, IR-based ef­fects are also ex­cel­lent im­i­ta­tors of vin­tage ef­fects boxes.


XLN Au­dio’s RC-20 Retro Color is one ex­am­ple of a ded­i­cated tool­kit de­signed to add com­pro­mis­ing colour to your sound. This one of­fers the un­usual Flux Engine, which im­i­tates the sub­tle sonic in­sta­bil­i­ties and fluc­tu­a­tions of old hard­ware pro­ces­sors.

Slate’s Vir­tual Con­sole Col­lec­tion can give au­then­tic con­sole char­ac­ter to ev­ery chan­nel in your mix It’s meant to be a tape echo, but Able­ton Live’s Echo ef­fect can be used to add all man­ner of an­tique arte­facts It’s not just a source of crispy crack­les – iZo­tope’s free Vinyl plugin can take your sounds back in time XLN Au­dio’s RC-20 Retro Color in­tro­duces old-school in­sta­bil­ity to your mixes – vinyl, wow/flut­ter and more

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