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Recreation of  1990’s new age music, ambient, cinematic, world, eastern inspired track :

Here is the completed track, titled “And then it dawned on me” :

 

I decided to make a new age, ambient, world music, cinematic kind of track as I was feeling in need to make something relaxing and soothing to work on. In mind I positioned this track with the sonic aesthetic of around 1991-1993, still firmly in new age territory. This follows my trend of making tracks of decades gone by.

 

New age music synth hardware
Rob Papen Vecto, Vector synthesis was very popular in the 90’s, probably widely used in new age music

 

 

New age music synthesis
The original vector synth, Korg Wavestation (VSTi) reknowned as a great pad synth workstation

 

Yet again, this track was a lot of fun to make and it gave me a good chance to use to some of the synths of the Rob Papen eXplorer that I recently upgraded to, amongst others that suit this time period. I was going for all the classic sounds that one might find in a new age style track of this time period. With the passing of time, reminiscing and sentimental feelings can spring up and as such re-kindling the past is a nice path to tread. It is a genre I respect and who does not need to wind down from time to time ? It also has connections with ambient and environmental music and also ambient dance acts such as The Orb and Banco de Gaia, employing a few analogue style synths.

 

New age music, environmental music, ambient music
Rob Papen Sub Boom bass II, great for bass, and let’s face it we all need a yellow synth.

 

And as I am in a flow of recreating the sounds of recent times gone by it was a great opportunity to carry on in the same vane. So kick back, light a joss stick (make sure it is fully extinguished after), roll out the Yoga mat, make a soothing cup of Chai and look out the nearest window with a sun catcher on.

 

Some technical considerations

This track would have been committed to 16 bit DAT tape from an analogue desk with most likely many hardware workstation keyboards for the target time period. Such as Kork M1, Kurzweils, Roland JD-800, KAWAI’s, Korg Wavestation and maybe some sounds from a late 80’s Roland D-50. As people were enjoying the glassy, clear, clean digital width these synths could produce I thought carefully about what synths would hit the spot in the virtual world. And of course their DAC outputs, opamp based audio output stages (5532 and TL072 likely) plus analogue mixer emulation.

New age synth music, ambient music synths
As odd in operation as it looks, the quirky Papyrus synth. The look and sound fits like a glove.

 

Such new age music would also have likely used samplers frequently AKAI S1000/S3000.
Copious amounts of smooth reverb mainly provided by the Lexicon PCM series of reverbs, typically hall. Lexicon was all over both home and professional studio mixes in the 90’s so it fits just right, all still amazing reverbs today.

 

New age music mastering
Effects returns would also have gone through channels or a dedicated effects return section. So these follow my Slate VCC Bus paths as well.

 

Synthesis and emulating digital hardware workstation type synths of the 90’s.

 

In addition I used TAL DAC which allows some emulation of a variety of classic and older sampler DAC’s. (it is free for those using the TAL Sampler)

 

Emulation of hardware synth DAC and analogue output stage
Emulation of hardware synth DAC and analogue output stage opamps is possible.

https://tal-software.com/products/tal-dac

 

I thought this would be useful to apply to some of the synths in order to emulate their DAC’s. And the opamps from Hornet analogue stage also adding that little extra hardware touch. These are possible contributing differences between hardware and soft synths. Though of course choosing sound textures that already have the glassy, wide workstation sound is the lions share of the task. In no particular order I used Rob Papen Blue (Pads), Vecto (various), Punch BD (subtle kick ), NI Battery, Xpand!2, Hybrid 3, Papyus, Predator III, Korg Wavestation (flutes), SubBoom Bass II (bass) and various samples for effects.

 

Analogue console emulation

 

In addition, I used my trusty combination of Slate VCC using the SSL 4000 G after trying the other consoles on the mix. Also Hornet analogue stage for a little op amp harmonics. In the main I tended to use the Slate VCC “Bus” plug in option as I know this has crosstalk whereas the channel option does not. It is not “full every adjacent channel and all busses” emulation but adds a touch between L and R pairs further giving the impression of a bunch of op amp circuit outputs and channels.

 

Recreation of analogue console workflow in DAW
Becoming my standard analogue desk combo Slate VCC and Hornet analogue stage. “Mixbuss” option in VCC has crosstalk emulation. Hornet does the opamp signal path emulation.

 

Whilst subtle, over 40 channels it definitely adds up. I tried the various consoles and there is quite a difference between them so it was worth checking them out. I have tried another well regarded console emulation in recent times but it was not working for me. I simply did not like what it was doing to the sound of a test mix, so I stick with Slate VCC as my favourite. There is a little bit of channel/bus drive about 1/3 of the way up but with the rather low gain structure I was using (mix peaking at about -18dBFS) I doubt it was doing very much.

Some of the key effects processes also went through Slate VCC as they would in a hardware studio.

 

New age glassy synths
Predator 3 with a classic sound and many useful presets

Gentle mastering for gentle music

 

I mixed into an empty master output bus. Mastering, again always quite subtle as I get things close to how I want them in the mix. A 1dB dip at 70Hz using the Sontec 432D9D, a little mid range push to bring everything into focus. I had a couple of EQ’s in mind and they were absolutely perfect. Acustica Ivory and Millenia NSEQ2 plug ins adding a little highs and mids they complement the required aesthetic perfectly. I added a nice compressor, one of my favourites just doing 0.5 dB gain reduction on the peaks. This track barely touched the 1 limiter on it as if the track had been mixed to DAT again it did not even trigger it was mainly used for gain and protection to -1dBFS. It is a very hairy looking waveform and transient rich, which is the best outcome for this music. Open, spacious, classy top end and wide. This, predominantly achieved in mixing and enhanced in mastering.

I had some annoying clicks coming from one of the synths playing a delayed sound effect, likely the envelope of the synth. Rather than risk how the sound sat, I de-clicked in mastering, a very common task.

 

New age mastering equalizers
These 2 EQ’s are what I was after for this track.

As a mastering engineer I probably use about 20 different EQ’s in my professional mastering work because of their sonic attributes. Sometimes using different EQ’s just for how they excel in a specific band. That is the beauty and subtlety of tools that can make a real difference when understood well enough. All about applying the right tool to the right music and mix.

The Sontec 432D9D adds a nice little extra width to the soundstage which was very welcome. (its own analogue circuit emulation switched on).

sontec 432 mastering eq

A very relaxing way to spend some hours.

I am a mastering engineer for a living, if you want my 23 years of sound engineering experience applied to your music please get in contact.

1 Track £30.00 | 4 Track EP £112.00 | Album £230.00

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