The sound of a dictaphone is known as one of the most lo-fi sounds of them all: filled with lovely hiss, flutter, saturation, wow and arbitrary pitch glitches. Me love.
The sound of a dictaphone can be used as an aestetic choice, listen for example to Hannu or this old Atlastop improvisation:
I own a dictaphone and now and then use it to re-amp and produce lo-fi effects. But I wondered if I could create a plugin preset that simulates the effect. So that is what I did today!
Here’s the result (yes you can download the plugin preset at the end of this post!!):
First of all I recorded a small guitar phrase on the dictaphone for us as a reference. So here is the real dictaphone deal:
Of course I also recorded the same phrase with my Zoom H2 for a sample to be processed. Heres the guitar as it “really” sounds:
I then began prototyping my plugin preset using ableton plugins. Firstly I added an EQ and with the reference track I adjusted the EQ to peak around 1.74 KHz and cut everywhere else. Then an autofilter to simulate slightly eq change over time. For saturation I of course used abletons saturator and Dynamic Tubes. There was no real way of simulating the wow and flutter effect with native ableton effects, so I used the freeware AirWindows Flutter and Vibrato (Unfortunately mac only). The last and important part was to simulate tape hiss so I recorded a loop of hiss from the dictaphone and plugged it into ableton looper. There you go – a Dictaphone simulation! Here’s the H2 sample processed with the dictaphone plugin:
No bad, huh?!
The above Live set has some requirements:
- A Mac
- Ableton Live 8 Suite
- The Flutter and Vibrato effect from Airwindows
Unfortunately the plugin preset has som downsides:
- Mac only (If you’re using a Windows PC you might want to check out the Wow and Flutter plugin)
- The Flutter and vibrato effect has a delay, so you cannot really use it as a live effect
- To get the hiss you have to press play on the looper – and unfortunately it’s not possible to save the plugin as a instrument rack because looper does not save the hiss sample
If anyone have ideas to fix the above please bring’em on!