With all the great plug-ins available these days, is there really any advantage to using analog outboard processing?
In this post we’ll take a listen to some sound samples that have been processed by analog filtering so you can hear for yourself. For our purposes we’ll use the Korg Volca Mix, a very affordable portable analog mixer that’s designed to let you mix several of Korg’s Volca synthesizers and drum machines for live performance.
While filtering audio is easily done in any digital audio workstation, analog filters often just sound more musical and pleasant, even at extreme settings. As an added benefit, it can be refreshing to get your digital audio outside the computer and into the real world, with analog circuitry and physical knobs to adjust. Outboard effects processing makes you focus on sculpting individual sounds, which can translate into interesting, ear-catching mixes.
The Korg Volca Mix is a great choice for this, because its filters have the bite and character that Korg is known for — an edgy, resonant sound that is not subtle, but is often very ear-pleasing.
For this first sample, we’ll listen to an acoustic guitar recording. The first track is the raw audio, the second is the same audio sent through the Volca Mix. You can hear the filtering change as I sweep the “Lo/Hi-Cut” knob down and up. Even at very low and very high settings I found the results to be very musical. I could see running an acoustic guitar track through the Volca Mix in the future if I wanted to cut out some low end.
For sample two I used the Volca Mix to add some treble to a synth keyboard recording. The Volca Mix adds enough bite, without too much harshness, which is great for making a synth part stick out in a busy mix.
For sample three I ran a synth bass part through the Volca Mix and added a bit of low end with the Lo/Hi Cut knob. The difference isn’t huge, but if you are listening with headphones (or subs) you should be able to hear the thicker bass on the Volca-processed version.
This next sample is a drum part with the filter control knob sweeping up and down slowly. Notice how thick the low end gets when the filter is swept downward.
So if you’re in the market for a Volca Mix, or a synth that can filter external audio like the Mother-32 or Arturia Minibrute, or even a DJ/performance mixer like a Rane Seventy-Two or the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2, it might be worth considering it as an audio-processing tool for mixes as well.
This last sample is a full mix of bass, drums, and keys, run through one of the stereo inputs of the Volca Mix, while sweeping the filter up and down, so you can hear what the analog filter is doing to different frequency ranges. In this sample you can also hear a bit of analog compression, which is added on the Volca Mix by engaging the “Dynamics” knob.