Future Music

The ‘Hoover’ – we talk to AudioReali­sm


Hav­ing ap­peared on sem­i­nal records such as Se­cond Phase’s

Men­tasm and The Prodigy’s Charly amongst oth­ers, the ag­gres­sive, whirling roar of the hoover stab – orig­i­nally the WhatThe fac­tory pre­set on the Roland Al­pha Juno 1 and 2 hard­ware synths – is one of the most iconic sounds to emerge from the ’90s Rave scene.

We sat down for a chat with Mike Jan­ney of AudioReali­sm, the minds be­hind ReDom­i­na­tor – the most au­then­tic soft­ware replica of the Al­pha Juno.

What has been your re­la­tion­ship with the iconic ‘hoover’ sound over the years?

“The first time I recog­nised the hoover was back in 1991. I was ac­tive in the demo scene, which con­sisted of par­ties where we would com­pete by cre­at­ing mu­sic and real-time graph­ics gen­er­ated on 8 and 16-bit ma­chines. The first time I heard the hoover sound was on a bus trip to one of th­ese par­ties; some­one was play­ing Dom­i­na­tor by Hu­man Re­source and I was in­stantly hooked on the hoover sound. Th­ese days it’s more used as a gim­mick or as a nod to the retro Rave scene, but I still light up when­ever I hear one in a track!”

How ex­actly is the hoover sound syn­the­sized within the Roland Al­pha Juno?

“That sound is very de­pen­dent on the ar­chi­tec­ture of the Al­pha Juno. It uses all three wave­forms of the Al­pha Juno at the same time, with the Pulse and Saw us­ing pulse width mod­u­la­tion, plus the sub os­cil­la­tor is also switched on with full vol­ume. The PWM rate and mod­u­la­tion is very fast and deep. The hoover sound doesn’t re­ally use the fil­ter much; in­stead, the rather unique en­ve­lope of the Al­pha Juno is used to mod­u­late the pitch and VCA. Since the en­ve­lope fea­tures an ex­tra de­cay stage, the par­tic­u­lar shape of that pitch mod­u­la­tion creates a very dis­tinct sound which I think only the Al­pha Juno (and clones) can pro­duce. Fi­nally, the dis­tinc­tive Roland cho­rus is turned on, with a fast mod­u­la­tion rate ap­plied.”

Can the hoover be ac­cu­rately recre­ated us­ing com­mon soft­ware/ hard­ware synths and ef­fects?

“There are a lot of synths that can pro­duce hoover type of sounds: for in­stance, I found a few faith­ful hoover pre­sets in Xfer’s Serum. Our ReDom­i­na­tor synth at­tempts to em­u­late the Al­pha Juno as closely as pos­si­ble, so it can do a rather au­then­tic hoover – but many of those record­ings used a sam­pled ver­sion of the hoover rather than a real Al­pha Juno, so in or­der to get that old-skool sound from the early ’90s I would rec­om­mend us­ing a bitcrusher, sam­ple rate re­duc­tion or some other kind of dis­tor­tion and run the hoover through this.”

Can you tell us how to work with the hoover found in ReDom­i­na­tor?

“The patch set-up in ReDom­i­na­tor is in fact the ex­act same as on a real Al­pha Juno since they have ex­actly the same pa­ram­e­ters. In fact, it’s pos­si­ble to ex­port a Sysex dump of an Al­pha Juno and im­port that into ReDom­i­na­tor. How­ever, the real fun comes from mod­u­lat­ing dif­fer­ent pa­ram­e­ters that con­trol the sound in real time – for in­stance, in­stead of just us­ing a one-shot hoover, try chang­ing the en­ve­lope set­tings while hold­ing a note, then add out­board FX to re­ally crunch it up a bit.”

Back in the ’90s, how did pro­duc­ers process and ma­nip­u­late the hoover? How did this im­pact the sound that we’re used to hear­ing, and how can we em­u­late those pro­cesses with mod­ern gear/soft­ware?

“They sam­pled the Al­pha Juno and pro­cessed that sound in var­i­ous ways. The Akai S900 was pretty pop­u­lar with its 12-bit sam­pling – per­haps we should bring an em­u­la­tion of the S900 A/D con­verter into the next ver­sion of ReDom­i­na­tor! Other than that, any bit/sam­ple rate re­duc­tion and tape com­pres­sion plug-in will help recre­ate that early ’90s sound.”

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