Tips from the past: vinyl

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Among the different audio technologies coming back from the past vinyl pressing is probably the most resilient. With sales featuring a continuous growth over the past years vinyl records really seem to be here to stay!

Certainly this has to do in part with the analogue warmth we discussed in our entry on tape. Surely the aesthetic appeal of the physical medium (the gorgeous artworks in particular) adds to it.

Aside from having own music published on vinyl a film composer can leverage on this trend in a few different ways:

Vinyl emulation plug-ins

One of the more complete solutions for sparkling your music with vinyl magic is by using a vinyl emulation plug-in. There are quite a few choices around but I’ll concentrate on the ones I have either tried or been recommended by friends/colleagues.

These plug-ins have various degrees of customisation and realism. So depending on what you are looking to achieve one might be better than the others.

Klevgränd Produktion – DAW LP

I am going to say right away that DAW LP is my favourite of the bunch. I found in my testing that it produced the most convincing vinyl sound. The possibility to control amp noise and quality, needle noise and quality, scratches and hum along with cable quality and utility frequency give this little plugin a lot of customisation potential.

I also like the clean look a lot, with its relaxing colours and “flat” minimal design and animation.

The one missing feature is presets implementation. It would be nice to save your favourite settings or to recall pre-made combinations.

With a price point of around $40 I feel I can highly recommend DAW LP.

Find out more on Klevgränd Produktion dedicated page.

iZotope – Vinyl

If you are on a tighter budget but would still like to have flexibility, iZotope Vinyl is probably your best choice.

First of all you can’t beat its price, since it’s free! But that doesn’t make it any less powerful.

Furthermore, aside from similar noise/scratch controllers as the DAW LP’s ones, Vinyl offers a few interesting knobs making the whole experience a bit more intuitive in my opinion. The YEAR knob allows you to give your track the sound of a particular decade. RPM unlocks the possibility to select a specific vinyl format. These controls do compensate the lack of presets, shortcoming that Vinyl shares with DAW LP.

Unfortunately, though, I feel the end result is not as authentic as DAW LP. Vinyl, in fact, always sounds a bit too fake to my ears. I am also not crazy about the look of the GUI. Many years after it was first introduced Vinyl could benefit from a graphical overhaul.

A few others

I haven’t tried the following ones but many seem to like them so I thought I’d mention them and spend a few words based on the info I can find on their websites.

Waves – Abbey road vinyl

Promising “the vintage warmth of vinyl records played on classic turntables and needles” this plugin is sold on the Waves website for $50 (discounted, regularly at $250). The skeuomorphic user interface feels a bit more pleasant than what iZotope did with Vinyl. The plugin offers a few unique options along with the classic NOISE, CRACKLE and CLICKS knobs. Notably the possibility to switch between “the sound of a pure acetate (lacquer) cut or the print master vinyl pressing from the factory“. But also different turntable sounds and a choice of 3 cartridges. The very high level of customisation makes me want to give this plugin a run, especially at the current low price point.

Audiothing – Vinylstrip;

Vinylstrip is available on Audiothing’s website for €55, making it the most expensive of the bunch. Among the features featured on the product page the drag-and-drop modular nature seems to be the only thing that sets this plugin apart from the ones explored so far. The GUI looks very sleek with its clean but colourful looks. The ability to load (and save) presets is a welcomed feature for the casual analogue warmth seeker.

Sample-based plugins

The following plugins are focused on sampled sounds.

Rhythmic Robot – Loopscape Vinyl

If you are interested in instruments with some vinyls magic builtin search no more. Based on another plugin by the same company (Loopscape) the Vinyl variant keeps the same concept of never-ending loops but translating it to the world of vinyl records. A generous variety of instruments/presets make this €55 plugin one that I highly recommend.

Auditory Lab – Vinyl FX

I haven’t tried Auditory Lab’s Vinyl FX but judging from the info available on their website it seems to have the very casual user in mind. This plugin will allow you to trigger sampled vinyl sounds (crackle, noise and scratches) as a midi instrument. Considering one could obtain the exact same result with royalty-free audio without spending a dime I can’t stop wondering if Vinyl FX is worth the (admittedly low) price of $13…

Experimentation

Try experimenting with vinyl sounds and you might get unexpectedly great results. Like with this technique, proposed by iZotope, involving loading up a vinyl crackling sample in a convolution reverb:

Turn-table manipulation techniques

With the advent of touch devices, and tablets in particular, we saw over the past few years quite a few apps allowing the kind of sound manipulation—beloved by DJ’s—previously only available to the vinyl records realm. With these apps a composer can load a previously composed track (vocals work great i.e.) in the app and go crazy with a super realistic scratch performance.

I have only tried Traktor DJ, from software company Native Instruments, and had a lot of fun playing with it. If you are interested in turn-table simulation I’d advice to read this article before launching the app store!

In conclusion

There you have it, an extensive guide on how to summon the power of vinyl on your cutting edge gear. Stay tuned for more great Tips From The Past!

Giovanni Rotondo

Editor in Chief of Film Scoring Tips. Giovanni Rotondo is an experienced film and television composer based in London. He has scored many award winning feature films (Elijah and the Rock Creature, Orphans & Kingdoms), TV movies (Il Giudice Meschino, Il Confine), documentaries (Ilaria Alpi - L'Ultimo Viaggio) and video games (Thunderbird: The Legend Begins). More info here: giovannirotondo.com

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