Noise, electrical hum, LP scratches and warping.

Izotope Vinyl - screenshot

A few months ago I performed at a club called Rumours in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. This required us to get picked up from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and be driven about two hours north. In the car I was shocked to see there was no CD player or MP3 jack. Staring me in the face was a cassette deck. Looking around some more I TDK D90 Tapenoticed about 50 cassettes stuffed in various places. About an hour into the drive I realized how good these cassettes sounded. There was some very nice high end going on that I had not heard in years. The bass sounded warm and sincere.

There is hardware software that will emulate tape saturation. On the hardware side check out Robert Neve’s 5042 True Tape FX unit.. Software wise there are lots of options including Digidesigns Reel Tape Suite and PSP’s Vintage Warmer.

But what if you want to bring back some good old fashion tape noise? Adding a few seconds of noise before your song starts will trigger your listeners mind into believing your song was recorded in the 1980s or earlier. My favorite plug-in for the task is Izotope’s free plug-in called Vinyl. Here’s a list of some of the “sounds” you can add into your song using Vinyl:Scratched Record

  • Mechanical Noise
  • Wear
  • Electrical Noise
  • Dust
  • Scratch
  • Warp Depth

You can also adjust “Warp Models”, year and RPM of the Vinyl emulation. Lastly, there is a mono/stereo switch. Using the Dust and Scratch settings you can get a nice Portishead sound. I have to say I really love this plug-in and if it cost money I would buy it. Big thanks to Izotope!

Sonic Charge - uToniq

There are many other ways to get some noise into your tracks. Sometimes I turn off a synthesizer’s Oscilators and turn up only the Noise Generator. Adding a filter modulated by the LFO to the Noise makes some nice wave or storm sounds. Sonic Charge has a superb software drum machine called uToniq. I use it as a noise generator by clicking the oh so ever awesome random button. Or why not record some real noise with a microphone? Even aiming a mic at your computer’s fan while it edits a large Photoshop document will do the trick!

photo credits: Lee Jordan and Breakfast for Dinner

Cassette tape nostalgia. Rewind.

Cassette History - photo

Living in New York in the 80’s I spent a good amount of time recording the local radio onto cassette tapes. Classic rap shows like DJ Red Alert’s Rap Attack on Kiss FM and DJ Marley Marl on 103.5 WBLS. I also grabbed freestyle hits like When I Hear Music by Debbie Deb and Silent Morning by Noel. As my music taste broadened I discovered I could pick up a faint signal from a alternative Long Island Radio Station WLIR and recorded Depeche Mode, New Order and other new wave masterpieces.Ghettoblaster

I had a giant Conion boombox I bought at the Spring Valley flea market. It was the size of a car door! It had a double cassette deck, turntable inputs, an alarm and the above said FM tuner. If you want to see how big these boomboxes really were check out this YouTube video.

One of my favorite pastimes was making mix tapes for my friends and the car. Heading over to Tower or Sam Goody to pick up a 10 pack of blank Maxxell XLS-II 90s was a weekly journey. I miss opening the plastic wrapping and cracking open a clean new Continue reading →