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.”