6 ways to use analogue-style effects in your DAW

From stereo manipulation to tape saturation and beyond, our half dozen analogue-style plugin processing tips will warm up your mixes a treat.

For more analogue emulation action, get hold of the February edition of Computer Music.

1. Mostly mono

Part of the sound of vintage analogue recordings comes from the limitations of old gear. A finite number of tape tracks meant that many tracks were recorded in mono. In fact, some ancient consoles offered only left, right, and middle pan positions. We can use plugins like Brainworx bx_solo to mono-ise a track. 

2. Taped up

Old-school engineers weren’t afraid to commit effects to tape. We can give our tracks a slathering of tape saturation using a tape simulation plugin. There are plenty of high-end models to choose from, but this convolution-based effect from CDSoundmaster does the job nicely - and does it for free. 

3. Stop the stereo

Flangers, phasers and chorus effects are all popular ways to add excitement to a track, but most modern plugin variants take advantage of stereo panning to beef up the sound. Most vintage effects - particularly those aimed at guitarists - were mono. Keep this in mind when attempting to create that vintage analogue tone. 

4. Flanging fun

Speaking of flanging, it’s worth noting that the very name of the process is derived from the effect of physically applying pressure to the tape on a reel as it spins through the recorder. Some flanging may occur naturally when using tape, so you might try adding a subtle flanging effect to your tracks to instantly age your ‘tape’. 

5. Super stereo

Hard panning has fallen out of favour over the years, often seen as a gimmick used to recall stereo-ised versions of early mono records made by the fab four - yet you can achieve some nice vintage sounds by hard-panning a wet delay or reverb signal opposite its dry counterpart. 

6. Fuzzy edges

Back in the days of 8- and 12-bit drum machines, engineers would often run their (inevitably mono) signals through analog fuzz boxes to give them a bit of life. It’s easy to do the same thing with a good distortion plugin. Restraint is key, though - you don’t want to notice the distortion… just add the tiniest colour for thickness.  

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