Recreating Vintage Analog Effects for EDM Production
By Francis Preve
Wed, 10 Jul 2013
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Having a note-perfect recreation of an analog effect gem in your arsenal is only the first step toward nailing the Indie and NuDisco genres of electronic dance music. If you really want accuracy in emulating the’ 70s and ’80s sounds that dominate the style, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the effects processing of that era.

Many virtual vintage synths include some top-notch analog-style processing, but for those that don’t—or if you want to simply add some retro spice to your other synths—there are some nifty tricks you can do with the effects devices that come standard with every DAW. You just have to familiarize yourself with the stock tools from those days, which by today’s standards are rather limited.

So this month, we’ll take a look at a few classic effects, along with some practical applications for using them in your retronica productions.


Effect Type 1: Chorus/Ensemble

The gold standard for vintage ensemble effects were those included in ARP’s legendary string synths. Unlike a standard chorus, the “ensemble” effect has a warmer, more watery sound that’s great for thickening pads as well as emulating analog strings. According to legend, the character of the ARP ensemble sound was created via three analog delays being modulated by two LFOs, each with different rates, amounts, and phase offsets. Knowing that, recreating the sound is quite simple. You run two or three chorus effects in series, and then make slight adjustments to the rate and depth for each, followed by a few tweaks to their wet/dry amounts. From there, you can run single-oscillator patches into the effect for classic sounds, reminiscent of the Korg Polysix and Roland Juno-60.


Effect Type 2: Phasers

While phasers sound great on string machines and sawtooth pads, they’re also the secret sauce for warming up Fender Rhodes electric piano emulations—especially if you’re going for that jazz-inflected Steely Dan sound. The secret here is to use slow rates and gentle depths. You want to add swirl and motion in a subtle way to get the full effect, too much and it starts to sound like a mutant Leslie.


Effect Type 3: Analog Delay

Many of the sixteenth-note riffs that dominated early electronic tracks from Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk—the fathers of modern dance music—were actually sequenced eighth-note riffs, followed by an old-school analog (or sometimes tape) delay giving the impression of faster note subdivisions. Two telltale aspects of an analog delay are a mushy, filtered character for the echo and a straight-up monophonic sound. Ableton Live’s Filter Delay does a great job of recreating that effect. All you have to do is turn off the stereo channels and band-limit the EQ of the center delay, focusing on the lower mids, then set the delay time according to your production needs.

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