'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

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'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by trevordutton » Mon Sep 07, 2009 7:32 pm

Hey All,
I just wanted to see if anyone has suggestions for recording digital synths. Despite the fact that I love the pristine glassy nature of the digital sound, I'm always craving to hear it with a little more punch, thickness, fullness, etc. I've got a variety of mid to high end analog and digital gear that I'm quite happy with, and like to exploit the strengths of each technology by mix-and-matching them together . . . say, an analog synth with a pristine digital signal chain to record it. Or running a digital synth through a tube compressor, preamp, or analog filter on it's way to the computer. I've found some success with the latter, but are there any specific signal processors that you guys have found that work well to give digital synths more . . . . life?

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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by balma » Mon Sep 07, 2009 8:07 pm

Well it also depends wich synths are on your setup, there are different methods to "thicken" a digital sounds, depending on the synthesis technology you are working with... romplers or VA or FM???

Tube valves like the Electribes, for sure they provide a warmer sound to the line in.

On romplers, layering several waves always work. If the rompler can specify the start point of the sample used as a wave, layering exactly the same wave but with different start points on each one, always can give interesting results. That's quite effective on proteus romplers.

Sometimes, I also go for resampling methods with rompler sounds. you have 4 waves inside a patch. If you have something like a Vsynth, or Motif or Roland Fantom, this is quite useful, since you can resample 4 waves, store the result, and then use it on the next patch as a single wave. So if keep this process, you can end with new patches that are built over a 16 waves basis. And keep going. This is kind of tedious btw....

chorusing always work, to expand stereos, spacy delays. If you have random parameters, you can create patches with the same wave inside, but with a little bit of random over a parameter, you can get crunchy sounds. Pink, white noises effects, added over the amp, or the filter. ...

On VAs, there's always an equilibrium point between the DEPTH and the WIDE of the oscillator, where the sound reach a point of "fatness, try sub octaves on them, add chorus, ring them.

sometimes you get thickness by no intention, just experimenting different methods.

but layering, is one of the best options. And experimentation takes an important role here
Last edited by balma on Mon Sep 07, 2009 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by HideawayStudio » Mon Sep 07, 2009 8:08 pm

trevordutton wrote:Hey All,
I just wanted to see if anyone has suggestions for recording digital synths. Despite the fact that I love the pristine glassy nature of the digital sound, I'm always craving to hear it with a little more punch, thickness, fullness, etc. I've got a variety of mid to high end analog and digital gear that I'm quite happy with, and like to exploit the strengths of each technology by mix-and-matching them together . . . say, an analog synth with a pristine digital signal chain to record it. Or running a digital synth through a tube compressor, preamp, or analog filter on it's way to the computer. I've found some success with the latter, but are there any specific signal processors that you guys have found that work well to give digital synths more . . . . life?

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I sometimes wash digital synths through a TL Audio EQ-2011 Stereo Valve EQ for warmth - I like it and it's also built like a tank!

I sometimes sample digital synths, bass or percussion into my Emulator II - this has a wonderfully punchy warm sound.

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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by tallowwaters » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:23 am

balma wrote:Well it also depends wich synths are on your setup, there are different methods to "thicken" a digital sounds, depending on the synthesis technology you are working with... romplers or VA or FM???

Tube valves like the Electribes, for sure they provide a warmer sound to the line in.
*coughing to mask me muttering "bullshit"*

most modern toob boxes (you know, the kind with LEDs to make you think the filament is actually glowing) aren't going to do anything but add noise, a few harmonics, and generally just fizz out your sound.

Generally I look to fatten things in the box. Unison? Tuning oscillators 35 cents apart? Wide open LPF? Onboard EQ? Onboard distortion or chorus?

That said, since you are apparently seeking specific units. Any of the Joemeek half rack channel strips add some gooey a*s flavor to whatever you put through there. I tend to use my WMD Geiger Counter for thickening up things since it can work subtly from time to time. I sometimes use a chorus/delay, but I find it can get far too washy (which is I why I tend to use chorus for shimmer). Analog filters are an extremely easy way to get where you want to be, I always used my Evolver for fattening up s**t. Camel Crusher is a fantastic VST effect if you don't mind that route.

Layering samples - good advice.

Basically try experimenting. I had a nice effect by slamming into a cheapo distortion then running into the high Z of a pre then into some heavy compression. That track dominated the rest of the song though...
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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by cartesia » Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:42 am

If you wanna do it on the cheap,

get a vcr, record the audio into it, then play it back off the vcr tape..
much higher quality than cassette, sounds nice.

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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by HideawayStudio » Tue Sep 08, 2009 7:21 am

tallowwaters wrote:
balma wrote:Well it also depends wich synths are on your setup, there are different methods to "thicken" a digital sounds, depending on the synthesis technology you are working with... romplers or VA or FM???

Tube valves like the Electribes, for sure they provide a warmer sound to the line in.
most modern toob boxes (you know, the kind with LEDs to make you think the filament is actually glowing) aren't going to do anything but add noise, a few harmonics, and generally just fizz out your sound.
Surely the EQ-2011 doesn't fall into that category - you can't even see the tubes??

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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by pflosi » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:49 am

analog filters work very well, i also like my space echo (the spring verb is great and the input can be overdriven. i like it a lot to go through the space echo and then through an analog filter).

for software check out the PSP audioware stuff. it's great

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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by tallowwaters » Tue Sep 08, 2009 2:15 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:
tallowwaters wrote:
balma wrote:Well it also depends wich synths are on your setup, there are different methods to "thicken" a digital sounds, depending on the synthesis technology you are working with... romplers or VA or FM???

Tube valves like the Electribes, for sure they provide a warmer sound to the line in.
most modern toob boxes (you know, the kind with LEDs to make you think the filament is actually glowing) aren't going to do anything but add noise, a few harmonics, and generally just fizz out your sound.
Surely the EQ-2011 doesn't fall into that category - you can't even see the tubes??
No, I certainly wouldn't lump anything from TL audio into that boat, my response was more the the tewb gain in the Korg units.
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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by trevordutton » Tue Sep 08, 2009 7:10 pm

Hey again All,
Thanks for the good suggestions. I'll be looking into each of them. Keep 'em coming!
Examples of the specific synth sources I'm wanting to improve are the really extreme hard/clinical digital sounds. Like the Roland V Synth when you mangle a preset with the touchpad and you're just hearing raw bit goulash. Or many of the awesome NI Reaktor 5 sounds that are just for want of a tad of . . . . 'organic-izing'? Am I allowed to use that word here?
Some things I've used already with pleasing results are: analog filters (each brand/model has it's own widely diverse character but they all seem to do wonders for VAs, FM, softsynths). Tubes - I have some glorious Universal Audio LA610 tube pres, but for the purpose of warming up digital synth signals I keep coming back to a cheap tube compressor - the Bellari 282a. For some reason it's personality just cooperates with harshly brittle sound sources. It seems to darken them in just the right range, and soften as it squashes. And probably add back in some new friendly harmonic content when it's driven hard.
I've been zeroing in on the Vintech 1272 preamp lately. Many of it's users say it leans heavily on the 'colored' end of the preamp spectrum, which is what I'm looking for since I've already got some nice 'transparent' ones (the LA610, Joe Meek Twin Q, Mackie Onyx). Anyone have experience with this, or other preamps/compressors that might act similarly? The TL Audio EQ was mentioned - where does it sit in the coloration scale? I've also had my eye on the Sebatron tube pre for the same reason. Any users of their gear on this forum?
Thanks again greatly in advance!

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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by tallowwaters » Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:37 pm

Overdriving the sample input of an Akai S612.
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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:09 am

trevordutton wrote:I've also had my eye on the Sebatron tube pre for the same reason. Any users of their gear on this forum?
I have a Thorax. It's absolutely amazing, they should cost about twice as much as they do. Way better than the Avalon 737 which I've used a fair bit. Apparently they're updating the Thorax so you can't get it at the moment, which is a pity as there are more tonal options with it than the VMPs. The VMPs are nice to add a bit of colour and the tone switches are useful, but you can't go as crazy with them as you can with the Thorax. That could be a good thing though, I've gone a bit overboard a few times...

One thing about using the Sebatron stuff with synths is that the DI input is after the input transformer, so you get a bit more colour through the mic in than through the DI. It's worth having a good DI like a Radial or something on hand so you can go in through the mic input if you want to, it's a good way of getting another colour out of it.

On the subject of generally thickening digital synth tracks up, I think you should look at them like you'd look at a guitar. If you go straight in it doesn't sound that awesome, but put some good sounding stuff in the path and it'll sound better. I've used pretty much everything I own to process digital or softsynths at one time or another, and everything sounded good on something, you just have to find the right match. I particularly like running through a BBD delay on 100% wet and 0% feedback and then pulling it back into place in the DAW, it's a great vintagiser. Going through a chain of guitar pedals is great too, whas in particular if you don't sweep them can do some magic things.

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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by trevordutton » Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:19 pm

Hey again All,
Cool Stab, cool. I'll have to take a peek at that Thorax.
A couple other ideas too - run a synth track through a guitar/bass amp emulation program. Also, the Empirical Labs Fatso tape saturation (which Universal Audio recently released as a UAD plugin). To my ears it's not a machine that's entirely convincing from a 'if you close your eyes you swear you're listening to two inch tape' sort of way, however, that said, it's a very valuable tool for a wide range of tonal variation. Not to mention compression too.
Keep the ideas coming people. We're just getting "warmed up" (either that, or I just killed the thread with an inexcusable pun!)

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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by 3rdConstruction » Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:49 pm

though i'm not set up to try this yet, i'm interested in re-amping recorded synths tracks through guitar/bass amps or even any old speaker. what with amp, speaker, mike, & room, there should be good potential for adding colour to a synth track... can anyone provide feedback on recording synths via amps or re-amping synth tracks?
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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by balma » Wed Sep 09, 2009 9:34 pm

tallowwaters wrote:
balma wrote:Well it also depends wich synths are on your setup, there are different methods to "thicken" a digital sounds, depending on the synthesis technology you are working with... romplers or VA or FM???

Tube valves like the Electribes, for sure they provide a warmer sound to the line in.
*coughing to mask me muttering "bullshit"*
that cough is contagious. Said warmer, not thickening


anyway...

I use to spend a few hours sampling my synths in different ways. Is nice to spend sometime, instead composing tracks or practicing tweaks and keyboards, making some experiments obtaining new original sounds

Synths that have line in are addictive for me. That's a feature that I aprecciate a lot, because sometimes is useful in order to deal with sound limitations


since I don't have ultra fat synths but mostly digital synths with lines in and samples, I try to get advantage of them, ,sampling several synths at the same time, resampling, and then, mergin the resamples into a single sample.

After a few years doing this, sometimes my samplers sound bigger than my synths, since the samples they use are very elaborated and thick.

there is so, so much to experiment on the sampling world. That's the reason that the only samples Cd that I have bought, was a compilation of bird sounds from Central America.
All my samples are homemade and mostly of them, a result of random experimentation with layering, line in ringing and resampling

An example of random stupid experimentation:
I got a $10 mic, and one of this instruments, in spanish is "matraca" I don't know it's english name.
Image

I connected the Juno 106 to a mono speaker. Put the mic next to it, and sampled one of those cool pads that it can produce. 5 seconds of pad.

Then, I sampled another 5 seconds of an AKAI AX 60, analog pad. Another 5 seconds. But in this time, I didn't use the mic, but used direct sampling with 1/4 monstercables.

And sampled the "matraca" sound with the mic. 5 seconds. It's one of those sounds that you can never repeat exactly in the same time twice. Depends a lot of the speed that you use to move your wrist, and the angle that you use to spin the matraca....

After having those sounds edited and normalized on samples. I sent them throught the line in of the V synth, and ringed the matraca with juno pad into a single sample.
Converted it into a sample of the Vsynth, and ringed it with a supersaw.

Now, I add some freshness to this sound, and ringed it again with the AX 80 pad, but this time, I sent it throught OPTICAL cable into the Roland SP 808 sampler.



Loaded the sample of the AX 80 pad, and played it together with the sampled obtained with the matraca, the JUNO 106 and the V synth supersaw.

Resampled on stereo, and added effects.

it's almost like cooking. You must dedicate your time to each one of the ingredients, you can use the best ingredients, but if you don't know how to combinate them it will taste like s**t.

Sometimes with this experiments, you go nowhere, and I end pissed off, and erase the sample. But after wasting some time with this stupid processes, I end with great patches.

In this case, the resulting sound was amazing. A fat sound that came from very different devices, recorded in several ways. The key was ringing the matraca with a pad, wich added a natural grainy dusty element to the final product.
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Re: 'Thickening Up' Digital Synth Tracks?

Post by 3rdConstruction » Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:40 am

balma wrote:All my samples are homemade and mostly of them, a result of random experimentation with layering, line in ringing and resampling...
... it's almost like cooking.
great experimentation, nice analogy, very creative. i love it.
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