For many producers, the sound of analogue gear is the holy grail. But how can we recreate some of those distinctive sounds in software?

Warmth, harmonics, inaccuracy. However you refer to the characteristics of analogue sounds, the fact is that across the production landscape, the flavours are enjoying a widespread resurgence.

We recently looked at creative distortion techniques, and this is perhaps the best place to start when it comes to analogue warmth, which more often than not stems from the distortions that occur in an analogue signal chain.

For example, we could take a bassline…

…and distort it using a plugin such as Tone Projects’ Sonitex STX-1260.

Pic 1a

But if we keep the original signal and mix in only a small amount of the distorted version, we get a warmer sound due to the increased harmonics while the clarity of the original signal is also retained.

Distortion alone creates additional frequencies related to the original content, but this is a relatively unsophisticated example. In reality the process of harmonic interactions and creation is far more complex in analogue gear – like tape players.

Magnetic Personality

Tape emulation is the perfect example of this complexity. Let’s take our original bassline and a new drum loop as starting points:

By running them through a tape emulation plugin notice how they change sonically.

Pic 3a

In a similar manner to the real thing, plugins such as this provide ample tweaking possibilities. Tape speed and input level are the most obvious.

Here we can hear the change as we move from higher to lower tape speeds, first with the bass then with the drums:

Increasing the input level increases the level of saturation, which leads to greater harmonic richness and dynamic compression:

Author Bruce Aisher
2nd August, 2013


  • Good knowledge in here. Would love to see some sort of side by side analysis with the real deal vs what you can achieve in vst

  • Brilliant, as always

  • Good article. We’re pretty spoiled for options these days. The quality of these plugins are getting pretty damn good. Got to say that Struder emu stood out a lot to me, VERY nice.


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