The 40 greatest synth sounds of all time, No 33: Faithless - Insomnia

First released in 1995, Insomnia became an anthem for a generation of late night clubbers who, as with the song’s lyrics, just could get no sleep. 

Roland JP-8000

(Image credit: Roland)

Year: 1995
Original Synth: Possibly Roland JP-8000
CM Plugin: Thorn CM

The track, produced by Rollo and Sister Bliss with vocals from rapper Maxi Jazz, hit No 3 in UK charts in 1996.

As with many dance tracks in this style, Insomnia made heavy use of the contemporary synths of the time. 

Exact details of which synth was used to make the iconic plucked riff aren’t available, but it’s likely that the Roland JP-8000 was used – indeed, many subsequent digital synths featured an Insomnia preset. For our spin on this plucked riff, we’ll call on ThornCM, which is included with every issue of Computer Music.

Now, let’s make our own version of this sound by layering an edited DuneCM patch with a sampled string from our City Nights sample pack.

Insomnia synth sound

(Image credit: Audiothing)

Step 1: Turn on Osc 2, then set both oscs to a sawtooth. We’ll set Osc 2’s Detuning to 40 to add thickness to the sound, then turn up Osc 1’s Sub Osc to 50% to add extra depth. Next, turn on the Noise Generator, and reduce Volume to around 40% to mix some crunchy noise into our sound.

Insomnia synth sound

(Image credit: Audiothing)

Step 2: Using an env to modulate the filter will give our sound the shape it needs. Set the filter to Dirty LP, with the Cutoff and Res at their lowest. Push the Env 1 dial to 100%, so that the env controls the Filter Cutoff. We’ll reduce the Env 1 Attack, Sustain and Release to 0, with the Decay at 40%.

Insomnia synth sound

(Image credit: AudioThing)

Step 3: Increasing the Amp Env Decay to 65%, with Sustain down to 20% and Release at 0%, gives our sound a staccato feel, while 4dB of Drive to the filter increases the volume, while beefing the tone. Turn on ThornCM’s delay and reverb effects, setting the Mix levels to 10%.

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