Make Your Digital Synths Sound More Analog

The sound design/keyboard world has it's fair share of buzzwords just like any other group of folks. Guitarists have "transparent," fashionistas have "chic," hipsters have "fair trade, naturally sourced, green grown, gluten free, barrel aged, open source," and we have "analog."

That's what I hear tossed in front of a patch description more than any other term. But what does "analog" even mean anymore? Especially to us as folks who use MainStage for a lot of our synth sounds? 

Well here are a few things that seem to be characteristic of "analog" sounds.

1. Imperfections
This was an inherent part of old school analog synth circuits. Before digital control, before perfect wave synchronization was possible. If you want to your patches to feel more "analog" consider detuning your oscillators or adding some modulation. Tape delays, mod reverb, etc can all help to give it that bit of imperfect character.

2. Amp It Up
Warmth= More Analog. Old circuits were dripping with a full harmonic sound. Play around with using amp modelers, small amounts of overdrive, or harmonic saturation type FX to achieve that extra bit of warmth and tension that is perceived as "analog" in nature.

3. Know Your Waveforms
Just because you can do it in your digital workstation, doesn't mean you should. Become familiar with the limitations that real analog synths had/have and try to enforce those limits upon yourself as you do sound design. What waveforms did those synths have? What type of envelope control and how many oscillators? 

So... there you have three places to start when you're trying to achieve "analog" goodness.


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