How to get an Analog Sound in Your Mix
If you do any sort of recording, you’re probably familiar with all the reasons why producers love “that analog feel”.
Analog gear can inject warmth, overtones, and saturation in ways that digital has always struggled to replicate. Until recently that is!
In this article we’ll outline ways that you can easily get some nice organic, analog feel to your tracks both with and without actual outboard gear.
First up, let’s look at some cool plugins that will help you get some analog magic right inside your DAW!
Summing, Console, & Preamp Plugins
Ahhhhhh. An analog console! It’s like the comfort food of the production world!
Not only is it fun to put your fingers on ACTUAL KNOBS to dial in your mixes (a visceral experience that digital just can’t duplicate 😩) but those consoles can really glow up your tracks with a classic analog feel.
Luckily, even if you can’t afford a professional console in your home studio, the plugins below will let you get a really nice emulation of those classic sounds right inside the box.
These plugins emulate legendary consoles and outboard preamps from the past, imparting characteristics and color from the big guys like Neve and API into your tracks, giving them that extra bit of warmth.
Use these for a more subtle analog effect that can help enhance vocals, guitar, drums, or just about anything you put through them!
Tape. It just hits different.
🤷🏼♀️ IDK what special pixy dust the analog Gods sprinkled when they brought this tech to life but it’s irreplaceable for getting that final glue to your mix.
If you are like most of us who can’t afford to keep a massive real to real machine parked in your home studio, you’re probably looking for alternate ways to get this feel in your mix.
For a more budget (and space) friendly alternative to a huge reel-to-reel machine, opt for one of these great tape emulations instead.
Audio saturation is an effect that generates harmonics and applies soft-clipping compression. Saturation is really at the heart of what makes analog hardware sound musical, organic, and pleasing.
Ever wondered why tape, tubes, transistors, and other analog components always sound so lit? Well… it’s because they all add some element of saturation to the sound.
So what do you do if you don’t have a collection of analog hardware sitting around? Throw a saturation plug-in like the industry standard Decapitator on your track.
These plugins are sure to make a statement with your sound. Feel free to get heavy handed!
Get Some OG analog Gear
Like we said in the opener, using analog gear is more than just the tonal influence it leaves on your track - It’s the total experience you get from using a real piece of analog gear.
There is no replacement for touching knobs, tweaking sound in real time, and feeling the warmth coming from a set of real vacuum tubes.
If you want to check out some really cool analog gear right in your home for a fraction of the purchase price, consider renting some from our collection here at BuyOrBorrow Music.
A great place to start with analog pieces is to get a nice analog preamp or compressor to put in your signal chain.
Compressors are a personal favorite of ours because they are basically universal across anything you will want to process and you can run them outboard, after the fact, by using the I/O settings in your DAW and recording interface.
But what else might you try out to have some fun?
Got an old Tascam 4 track tape recorder lying around? Try recording your track onto a cassette and then routing it back into your DAW! You’ll be amazed at how much texture this can add to a track. This is a top hack for LoFi producers to get that gritty punch to their tracks.
For more information on routing audio from your DAW, check out our article on running alternate sources through guitar pedals - the concepts are the same and pulling audio into the “real world” opens up an entire world of sonic possibilities for your music!
We hope you learned a few hacks to get your tracks to the next level. And remember, when you want that extra to set your sound apart, sometimes there is no substitute for the real thing!
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