Favorite ways to warm up your digital tracks?

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LeFreq
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Favorite ways to warm up your digital tracks?

Post by LeFreq » Sun May 26, 2013 3:47 am

Hey all... So I'm always obsessed with adding analog warmth to digital tracks and samples and overall mixes... My main issue is latency, but I work through it when it's worth it.

I have a tape machine, but it needs some work, so I can't use it now. I have an ART MPA Gold and an ART PRO VLA II, both of which I plan to put some good tubes in and use for saturation (as well as their intended uses, for now they're too meh to deal with). I like to run stuff through filters obviously, but the problem I run into here is the lack of stereo. I almost bought a Rodec Restyler yesterday, but ended up snagging a Cwejman DMF-2 in a moment of excitement instead. I think either one is good, because they both do saturation and filtering and I can do more with the Cwejman because my modular is a decent processing machine, but I can't help but think the Sherman may have been better for saturation. If anyone has any info here, please share. I can still grab the Rodec in a few days, but I feel like buying two filters in a week (for someone who does loop/sample work and constantly has gear coming in/out) is kind of a waste of capital.

I also like to use analog FX or even digital FX with analog circuitry. Moogerfoogers are good for this, but there's the mono-only issue again.

I use a Summing Mixer and a TK Audio BC-2ME (SSL buss compressor clone w/ Neve type Class A circuit and a saturation circuit as well)... these help for the overall mix and the buss compressor is obviously great on busses, but I'm not too impressed w/ it's "warmth".

So, mainly I'm looking for ways to add some *stereo* analog warmth. I have an Electrix Filter Factory, but it just comes off too sterile (or screechy) for me, although it's better than nothing. The Jomox T-Resonator is cool, but it's too wacky and the controls don't link, so it's not too useful (anyone used the Moonwind?). The Biscuit can be nice sometimes, if I just run through it's filter and don't destroy my signal by even turning it on, lol. So, I have some options, but always looking for more!

Share your tips and tricks!

EDIT: Forgot one more trick... Re-amping a signal out of the DAW and into a guitar/keyboard amp or a speaker and recording it with a mic (and a room mic too) and then mixing it in with the original signal can bring great results, but sometimes a pain and not always friendly for an electronic track.
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Post by Rogue Ai » Mon May 27, 2013 1:07 am

Mix using analog mixers and not the computer. Though I work OTB using analog and digital instruments (synths, drum machines, sampler). Analog compression is great too.

Here is an album WIP that is all OTB.

https://soundcloud.com/rogue-ai/sets/re ... t-obsolete

It's going to be a collectiong of techno, drum & bass, and other electronic genres.

Anyway, it's amazing how much using analog mixers warms up a track.

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Post by rockthomas » Mon May 27, 2013 8:13 am

I like the Thermionic Culture Vulture, it has 2 channels so you can do stereo. From what you described, you would be happy with it.

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Post by acidbob » Mon May 27, 2013 12:02 pm

I have always liked vintage warmer v.1
The newer version doesn't sound as good to my ears, but that might just be me.

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Re: Favorite ways to warm up your digital tracks?

Post by Demi Jon » Mon May 27, 2013 3:16 pm

LeFreq wrote:Forgot one more trick... Re-amping a signal out of the DAW and into a guitar/keyboard amp or a speaker and recording it with a mic (and a room mic too) and then mixing it in with the original signal can bring great results, but sometimes a pain and not always friendly for an electronic track.
Yep, that's what I've done! First time I recorded an entirely digital track, it felt soooo cold and dry. But then felt kinda guilty about giving it a fake analog lo-fi vibe.

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Post by shreddoggie » Mon May 27, 2013 10:55 pm

2 thoughts:

1. I had a restyler and sold it - it seemed to me to work in a very limited dynamic range as if it was designer to process fully mastered complete tracks i.e. a DJ tool which is not surprising since this is EXACTLY what it was designed to do. Th result was (in my workflow) that signal level / gain staging was way too touchy to make it usable since a filter with resonance is gonna create pretty wide dynamic range output. I felt like I needed a compressor before AND after it which would have been a ridiculous setup especially with impedance matching etc. I also found the distortion unpleasant - think and crckling like digital clip rather than analog saturation. I am absolutely not trying to dis on the restyler - its a pretty rad device, it just is pretty specific in its application IMO. Keep the signal in and out really under control and it is very sweet.

2. Don't discount op-amps. I have an API 2500 compressor and it just oozes magic. It has two bypass switches - 1 gives complete bypass and the other allows the signal to pass through the unit but turns the compressor off. The reason is that the circuit has a lot of color and going through it is pretty sweet. I am continually amazed at the amount of analog goodness I get just by going through it. The bonus is that you get 2 for 1 since its a pretty badass compressor to boot. You can get the same niceness from all sorts of high quality gear that has other functions as well - so if you need an EQ or a compressor you might find that you can get a lot of what you are looking for in addition.
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Post by twincities » Mon May 27, 2013 11:10 pm

rockthomas wrote:I like the Thermionic Culture Vulture, it has 2 channels so you can do stereo. From what you described, you would be happy with it.
seriously. i've only had mine for a few weeks but it's become my go to for everything. it's cool for mangling things, sure, but adding subtle warmth and life to full mixes is where this thing really shines. also the best synth DI i've ever used.

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Post by NU » Mon May 27, 2013 11:20 pm

Re-amping

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Post by LeFreq » Tue May 28, 2013 3:11 am

Wow, I didn't get any notifications that people were replying!?

Thanks for the advice. I have definitely been eyeing a Culture Vulture for a while... and actually would have had the money this month... then all those Cwejman modules popped up in the BST the last week and... yeah no Culture Vulture or the MonoPoly on Craigslist for me. :ripbanana:

I will eventually get a CV, though, because it is pretty much the holy grail for saturation. :tu:

shreddoggie - Thanks for the info! That makes me feel better about the Restyler. And, yeah, an API or other quality compressor/EQ/etc will do it, but I usually indulge more on the musical side for my home studio. If I have a budget for a project I'm working on, I'll usually go work in a studio that has the good stuff, but maybe it is time to add more to the home studio. I have some good gear, but no Neve, API, etc. unfortunately. Maybe a clone will do it. I've been thinking about building the DIY 500 Series rack and some modules, that could be nice.

Demi Jon - haha, don't feel guilty, it's much better that way.

Rogue Ai - Definitely, I just relocated my studio and actually have space to set up my 2 Mackies to be used for more than just mixing synths/drum machines. I'm going to try overdriving them because I have heard people like 'em for that... these are both older ones from the early 90's. There's actually several really cheap "console" type boards on my local Craigslist right now and they all are known for decent warmth, but I'm afraid they'll just be money pits. I do have the space now though... hm.
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Post by slovo » Tue May 28, 2013 6:39 am

I hate to say this, I am never the person who has to say this -- but this has got to be the most popular question in this forum, along with, "what monitors should I get?"

Maybe we should combine the threads and sticky them. Then ppl who want to get the sum of our opinions can review the threads at their leisure (even more useful for the monitor questions because ultimately it comes down to of what you have used, which is your favorite)... maybe the what headphones questions too.

Back on topic - I like reamping the most by far, but also have been known to use some saturation plugins and reverb to do it. Never underestimate the value of effective panning and m/s tricks, these don't technically affect "warmth" but they do a LOT for creating the illusion of a believable sound coming from an interesting place!
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Post by Biff » Tue May 28, 2013 10:02 am

I too agree with the Culture Vulture, really awesome on adding presence. I regrettably sold mine for an H3000 & NS10s. Has anyone had similar luck with something cheaper that adds good subtle tube warmth?

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Post by RicardoG » Tue May 28, 2013 4:28 pm

i enjoy to use Sknote Roundtone

http://www.sknote.it/Roundtone.htm

it works for me...

other solutions may be the

- Novaltech Character

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Post by richard » Tue May 28, 2013 4:48 pm

I quite liked the old SPL Charisma for this task. Underrated unit I think.
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Post by bratley » Tue May 28, 2013 7:35 pm

Anyone have experience of the little bustard ,
I'm working ITB and thinking of getting one to add a bit of warmth

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Post by blungo2 » Tue May 28, 2013 8:59 pm

I don't usually "warm" digital tracks or mixes, but if i feel the need to, i send it out to tape and re-record it.

Digital is just fine with me. When i need to fit a digitally recorded track into an analog mix, the uad studer plug does pretty well.

Not sure if this is relevant to the discussion, just my two cents...

Having said that, i'd love to try the thermionic culture stuff. Someone else suggested re amping. Re amping through an old tube amp can generate tons of warmth for cheap.

EDIT: upon re reading this thread i realize that everything i've said has been covered. If it's too much trouble to reamp, and you're looking for something super easy, maybe try a distortion plug in?

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Post by ignatius » Tue May 28, 2013 9:11 pm

i just try to get the sound right at the source... :despair:

but when mixing if i think something needs a little saturation there are some good plug ins for this.

soundtoys decapitator or little radiator

izotope trash2 can do subtle things too

kammerl saturator is awesome and free.

http://www.kammerl.de/audio/

i used to record through a nice 1980s AMS calrec minimixer that sounded INCREDIBLE and i miss it a lot...i also had a nice handful of outboard which i also had to part with.. i would track through it all and then mix ITB. the hardware is just faster to get where i needed to go. nothing to add later.. just mix and move on.. but you can get there ITB if you practice and find your niche and what works etc. it's just a matter of figuring shit out.

often people confuse what 'analog warmth' is or what they think they're hearing. often it's just clarity and some saturation.

whatever you do.. don't do the same thing to every part of your song.. you'll just create more work for yourself because everything will be painted w/the same brush or be full of the same characteristic treatment and it'll be so hard to mix.

the art pro vla is fine the way it is btw.. i know people put better tubes in them but they are designed to work w/the spec'd tubes they came w/right? anyway.. try re-recording a drum mix through it..

if you layer lot's of stuff in your DAW you can get really thick sounding tracks. just treat the layers all a little differently and adjust the levels to make it sound 'right' to you.

so much of electronic music is just about texture and finding a complementary blend of textures. you don't have to spend a bunch of cash on outboard to get there.. it doesn't hurt.. and it's fun to do that but it can derail the creative process at times...

but i guess so can tweaking a synth patch forever until it's what i want :mrgreen:

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Post by LeFreq » Wed May 29, 2013 12:23 am

Well, I'm taking on more mixing projects at home... I actually have a few months worth of mixing for a live/electronic band that's kind of like rock vs trip hop. I'll be doing some production on some of the tracks as well, I'm sure. So, I'm partially looking for that actual warmth for any digital tracks or samples they used. They want the vintage/rock vibe in there, so it's important. I also really enjoy it for some of my own music and it will be helpful for some of my upcoming loop/sample pack work (signing a contract w/ Sounds To Sample!) and of course other projects come up all the time...

My modern dance music stuff never needs warmth, because it's all about clarity and air/width/size/all those silly adjectives we use, which I get with my SSL buss comp clone, UAD plugs, and the PM8 summing mixer... and of course, proper mixing and sound creation/selection/recording/layering...

So, I think I should restate the purpose of this thread. It wasn't for mixing advice or anything of the sort. I've got that covered. For what I'm talking about, plugins don't cut it, I love them and use them more than outboard, but I'm talking about that extra bit you get from a real hardware piece of gear, tape, a console, etc. Like a real RE-201 vs the RE-20, that difference is magical. I haven't really heard anything new and interesting in this thread, but there has been some great discussion and plenty of confirmation of good techniques and gear. I'd be interested to hear some less obvious things people do...

Anyways, just to add some perspective, I'm a decently experienced professional and I feel completely comfortable with my mixing and my own techniques... I'm not looking to improve anything here, just looking for a specific thing, which is adding analog warmth to digital tracks and samples! So, let's try n keep this on topic.

bratley About the Fat Bustard, I've never used one myself, but I eyed one for months. I ended up passing and going with the PM8 to save $. Crookers used one on most of their releases (before they split, at least). They did a Future Music video where you can see it in action.

ignatius, I agree the VLA is a decent piece of gear and it's made for it's tubes, but I'm wanting to overdrive and distort it for more extreme tube saturation... and the tubes in there aren't pleasing to me. For the basic job it does w/ compression, I'd rather use a UAD emulation or Cytomic's The Glue or my BC-2... Makes more sense and gives me a better result. I have been pleased with it for the most part, just don't need to fiddle with hardware in a mix that isn't adding something I can't get ITB. I have always been told to use it on the drum buss for some reason, so I have a few times and never really loved it more than my usual chain, but I'll try it again just to make sure!

Also, the point here isn't about recording and getting a good source recording... It's about warming up *samples* and *digital* tracks... things that I can't change at the source. I do a lot of different work and end up in a lot of different situations. Sometimes, analog coloration/warmth is the right tool for the job.
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Post by LeFreq » Wed May 29, 2013 12:29 am

richard Hm, I'll check it out. I've researched the Mixdream a lot, but I'm good with my current summing/master buss chain and never decided to throw all the dough at such a controversial piece. I do like SPL's stuff for the most part.

RicardoG - Thanks for this! I'm going to check it out... but, I use the Waves and UAD tape plugs, which I think are great. So, it will have to really stand up to the best! They don't seem to have a trial version, though. :confused:


Does anyone use casette decks? I was reading about some people who use them specifically for character/coloration, but I never really thought they would be that great for it.
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Post by Rogue Ai » Wed May 29, 2013 1:51 am

LeFreq wrote: Does anyone use casette decks? I was reading about some people who use them specifically for character/coloration, but I never really thought they would be that great for it.
I've used one, but it's really noisy. Perhaps best for recording single sounds and then sampling them. Perhaps it's because it's a vintage deck.

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Post by LeFreq » Wed May 29, 2013 2:39 am

Rogue Ai
Ah, yeah... makes sense. That's kind of what I was thinking, though... like throwing a short loop or sample in there and then working it into the track. It might not be worth it, but I'll still give it a shot on something.
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Post by stk » Wed May 29, 2013 6:17 am

ignatius wrote:i just try to get the sound right at the source...
I generally tend to think the same way (mix it properly), although on my recent album (and the one before that) I found myself strapping Variety Of Sound Density II over the drum buss (seriously aweseome free buss compressor), and rerecording VST synth parts through my Sherman 2x2 - with the levels basically neutral, just for the dusty noise it adds to things, which I find works a treat.

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Post by Tooths » Wed May 29, 2013 9:55 pm

Alex B's Nebula 3 consoles are great.
Neve VBC especially to warm up tracks.

You can find a few great cassette convolution sets too. A quick way to get that close to authentic cassette sound

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Post by LeFreq » Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:46 am

So, I just bought an FMR Audio RNLA (why not? It's so cheap!) and I'm getting a Tascam Portastudio tape recorder thing for super cheap this week. I had a Portastudio before, but it was an older model. This is actually the model that I read about Mt Kimbie using to warm up and add character to elements in their tracks. I'm interested to see how it turns out as I've only used cassettes for recording when I was very young.
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Post by Babaluma » Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:32 am

I spend most days, for want of a better term, "warming up" tracks I receive from people who have been making purely electronic music ITB, from start to finish. The whole reason I chose the pieces of equipment that I did, was because I knew this would be my bread & butter work. I chose some very versatile, analogue, class a, transformer balanced, and in some cases purely passive devices which would hopefully be ideal in giving a more analogue/warm/fuzzy/saturated/retro/70's/visceral feel to digital tracks.

Having spent years using these devices day in and day out, I'd now say that how you gain stage, set, and interface this gear, is just as important as the gear itself. The chain can go from pretty clean to all out dirt, depending on the settings, and how hard you hit the different analogue stages and transformers etc.

As an example, if someone asks for this "warm" type of sound in particular, then I might drive the transformer input to the comps harder, use the "dirty comp" setting for more 2nd and 3rd harmonic distortion, select a germanium diode transfer curve with more "vibe", and adjust the line output gain and feedback settings for a more "coloured" sound. I can also push the post passive EQ preamp harder, whilst attenuating the output level, for more grit and hair, and other ridiculously subjective marketing terms!

I've not found any plugins that sound even 10% as good at doing this "warming" thing, as my hardware, although I'd be happy to be proven wrong!

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Post by richard » Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:36 am

Well said Babaluma. My experience exactly.

Gain staging is one of the most underrated aspects of all analogue and digital audio in my opinion. The word "colour" just blurs all that subtlety under far too coarse a brush
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