While we all know and love vinyl drum samples, any experienced crate digger knows how rare it is to find an isolated synth on a record. If you’re lucky enough to find a sub bass or a chord stab, it can be one of the most powerful and unique samples in your collection for precisely the same reasons we love vinyl drums. The dust and dirt imparted by the vinyl medium, as well as years of play and wear, give synth sounds a warmth and grit unachievable through other means.
But like all vinyl samples, this comes at the unfortunate cost of having to navigate the legal complexities of sampling somebody else's music. And since we've become more experienced cutting and sampling our own records, our love for the format has grown even more... so much so that we had to find out what sampling 30 of our favorite synthesizers would sound like. So, we set out to create the world’s first sample pack comprised solely of original vinyl synth instruments.
To truly capture the magic of synths sampled off of a record, we chose to stick with mostly one shot samples. While this might sound limiting, it enabled us to get much more creative and expansive with the synths we recorded, allowing us to capture 30 synthesizers, 14 of which are not in our current library!
The one-shot format also let us track much more complex patches, by creating movements of all kinds - modulations, knob twists, arpeggiators, pitch bends, etc., that we would never be able to do in our traditional multi-sampling context. Much like our Tape Fragments pack, pitching the resulting modulation (on both the vinyl itself and in DAW samplers) can yield exciting and highly musical results, since the samples speed up harmonically (an octave, for instance, will double the speed).
All samples were captured through various DIs, tube and solid state, into our API console, and finally through pristine Apogee Symphony MKII conversion.
This project was a chance for us to capture a lot of new synths at once, via sampling and combing through various music projects from the past few years. You can check out the about doc for a list of every synth we sampled - but we got everything from vintage, analog mono and polysynths, to modern analog, FM synths, wavetable racks, and more. Of course, we had to add a few SFM classics, like some Soviet Synths, Arp 2600, and a few more. You can read the full list here.
We asked ourselves: what kind of patches would shine once cut to vinyl? And reached for big subs, punchy bass stabs, juicy keys, analog strings, vocoders, modulating leads, house chords, rave stabs, and a boatload of synth percussion (read: analog vinyl drum hits).... making this pack complete enough to create a song entirely on its own:
For our traditional multi-sampled synth packs, adding hardware FX to a synth can make the patch feel disconnected from the synth itself. Vinyl, however, can glue the FX to the synth, bringing them together to create an entirely new instrument, rather than two disjointed parts. The strength and pure power of a vintage analog synth is un-matched, but the sound itself can be quite straightforward. So, we'd reach for crazy digital FX like the Eventide Orville, H3000, Lexicon Model 200, or guitar pedals, to add stereo width, space, dimension, re-pitching, harmonizing, chorusing...you get the picture. And the vinyl allowed it to glue with the original patch.
Once we had our samples ready to go, we sent it off to legendary mastering engineer, Carl Rowatti of True Tone Mastering (Bob Dylan, The Killers, Johnny Cash .. to name a few credits 😱), who cut to a 12” 45RPM acetate (AKA “dub-plate”).
Acetates are used for test pressings so an artist can hear how their record sounds. Because they're made from the more fragile material Nitrocellulose, rather than pressed to Poly Vinyl Chloride like consumer vinyl, the disc is more fragile and wears down with each play (much to our advantage).
We sampled the results immediately after the acetate was cut, in the mastering studio, and used this as our highest quality, reference sampling, which we chose for many of the final samples.
But once the record was back at our studio, we played it about 30 times before we achieved the sound we were really looking for in a vinyl synth sample pack. Using a myriad of different cartridges, turntables, and phono pre-amps, we also manipulated the record by hand, to create warble, pitch dives, reversed FX, and general mayhem.
We also capture multiple pitches, playing the record at half speed, and using a turntable with +- 50%. This allowed us to create multi-sampled patches, in which the speed of the movements of a patch are harmonically relative to the notes sampled (an octave down would slow down an LFO speed by 100%, for instance). This allowed us to really hear the effects of vinyl pitching on the synths.
The end result was ultimately narrowed down to 250 vinyl synth samples, painstakingly edited, and mapped to various DAWs and samplers as 215 instrument patches, playable by keyboard. You’ll get tailor made presets, ranging from Hi Fi, to Lo Fi, for dusty subs, gritty chords, warbly pads, ethereal leads, percussive synth one hits, classic house organs, Italo basses, warm strings, vocoder patches, and cosmic effects.
These synth samples will also shine as one shot WAV files, to be pulled into your favorite old samplers, MPCs, etc.
This vinyl synth pack contains unfathomable amounts of Vibe, straight from our favorite recording medium, and waiting to be let loose on your compositions, without the worry of a lawsuit!
What initially began as a goal of creating our own vinyl drums has opened up an entirely new processing technique for us. In fact, this is our favorite yet, and really does beat out tape, tube, and vintage samplers combined.
Vinyl Synths gave us an opportunity not only to investigate how the medium can transform melodic sounds, but enabled us to add a HUGE amount of new synths to the Samples From Mars collection in a fresh and exciting way (and let's face it, it's been a minute since we've made a synth pack).
This pack can be used entirely on its own to create music, due to the inclusion of various percussive synth hits, or better yet - pair it with our best-selling Vinyl Drums!
So, what vinyl pack should we do next? 🤠