In the ‘90s Berlin techno scene, Gerhard Behles and Robert Henke of Monolake experimented with homemade software to bring their music to live audiences. By playing around with Max code to create Ableton Live, the two unleashed a revolution in electronic music music production that has transformed numerous genres, from pop to experimental.
Despite the amazing capabilities of modern DAW based production, the timeless beauty of its analog predecessors remains – analog gear captivates listeners with its nostalgia and a distinct way of breathing life into sound. To balance the old with the new, we’ve compiled a guide to bring analog elements into your digital home studio. Let's get started!
In search of a synthesizer, a popular option is the KORG minilogue. The 37 key, fully programmable analog synthesizer features two oscillators, a sixteen-step polyphonic sequencer and onboard tape-delay emulation. The Minilogue’s circuit design nods to the legendary ARP Odyssey, and the wooden side panels capture the vintage aesthetic. Next up, is the Moog Sub Phatty, a synthesizer which includes a new engine paired with classic elements, like the hands-on control of Moog instruments. The Sub Phatty boasts twenty-five keys, a thirty-one knob panel, and two oscillators that feed into a mixer. The end result is rich bass and distinct warmth. Another highly rated model is the Novation Bass Station, known for its wide sonic capabilities which can easily drift between gritty distortion and hushed softness. The Novation Bass Station has sixty-four patches, a step sequencer, a pattern-based arpeggiator, and USB for interfacing with your DAW.
First up for drum machines is the Arturia DrumBrute, a cost-effective option for a fully analog drum machine with diverse percussion instruments. The DrumBrute is hailed for its intuitive sequencer and two-mode Steiner-Parker filter. An added plus is its amazing performance control, with everything laid out clearly on the front panel. The combination of user-friendly design with its affordable price makes it a go-to beat production tool. On the higher end, the Tempest Analog Drum Machine comes forth from the minds of legends, Dave Smith and Roger Linn. The Tempest has sixteen backlit pads, six analog synthesis voices with two oscillators each, and a powerful operating system. The resulting sound is a beautiful warmth which brings life to any creation. Roger Linn’s brilliance shines through with the swing capabilities of the sequencer, and the old school aesthetic is complete with its mahogany end panels. Last up, is the iconic Roland 808, famous for its deep kicks and crisp claps which dominated the late ‘90s charts. The 808 transcends genres and time, as first heard on Marvin Gaye’s ‘82 hit “Sexual Healing”, and more recently Kanye West’s album 808s & Heartbreak. The 808 is known for its classic step sequencer, and it has one hundred and twenty-eight patterns loaded, and one hundred and twenty-eight memories available.
For mixing and mastering, we go back to the late ‘60s, with the introduction of API recording equipment. API consoles have long been compared to SSL and Neve for their high quality, but offered a unique modular design which allowed users to switch out the preamps, EQs and compressors. With API’s release of the Lunchbox, named for its portable design, the 500 series format followed with various EQs and compressors. To kickstart your analog EQ options, the API Audio 550A is popular for its proportional-Q design, and has three bands of EQ with fifteen frequency points. Another great option is the Chandler Limited Little Devil Equalizer, known for its high quality and four bands featuring hi-mid/low-mid bands, plus two bandwidth settings. For affordability and uniqueness, the Lindel Audio PEX-500 is beloved for its “push-pull” feature. For compressors, the FMR Audio RNC500 is unique for its Normal and SuperNice mode – the Normal mode works as a hard compressor, while the SuperNice mode has three band compression. While the RNC500 is budget-friendly, the Rupert Neve Designs 500 swings into the higher end but is well worth its price. The compressors are derived from the popular Portico 5043 and boast high control over processing. For fans of Neve, the 500 is guaranteed to have you in love with its smooth sound. Lastly, the Serpent SB4001 500 Series Stereo Bus Compressor is famous for adding a strong punch to mixes, while simultaneously allowing for balance with its versatility.
Today, acclaimed artists such as Tame Impala and Devonte Hynes (aka Blood Orange) find inspiration in the nostalgia of analog, and pay homage to the artists who came before them. In Blood Orange’s own projects, as well as in collaborations with Solange and FKA twigs, Hynes creates his sound from the inspiration of groups like Yellow Magic Orchestra – the pioneering Japanese synth-pop group of the 1980s. The works of these artists point to the enduring novelty and appeal of analog gear. Today's top producers and artists are intent on keeping the spirit of analog alive in our digital world.
For your next adventure in exploring your new studio set up, check out the cases we have available for analog synthesizers: the UNISON Case For The Korg Minilogue, UNISON Case For The Novation Bass Station II, and our SUSTAIN Cases for larger synthesizers - all perfect options for protecting your gear!