How to Create an 80’s Electric Guitar Vibe

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How to Create an 80’s Electric Guitar Vibe

Hey guys, Ian Vargo here with The Pro Audio

I wanted to share a technique that I’ve been
using lately, specifically how to get a 1980’s

sounding electric guitar.

It seems like no matter where I listen, there
are productions that have that 1980’s vibe.

So the 80’s are in again, and fortunately,
we’ve got Universal Audio, who always does

a great job of emulating vintage gear with
their plugins.

So in the latest update, we’ve got the Korg
SDD 3000 digital delay, the AMS RMX 16 expanded,

which is a digital reverb, but also has some
other capabilities, and we’re going to talk

about a couple of other plugins.

So let’s check out this Pro Tools session.

So I’m going to play the chorus of this production
that I’m working on, and keep in mind, it’s

a work in progress.


Okay, so what I heard in my head was this
almost dense, repeated delay on top of this

picky guitar part, and then another more stabby,
staccato performance with a dotted note delay

added to that.

It’ll make more sense as I add these plugins.

I’m going to add in these guitars, and it’s
going to sound really weird, because part

of the process here is that I had the sound
in my head, and I knew that it would take

some tool to achieve that sound.

It was not something that was just kind of
going to come out of my guitar.


Let’s actually take a listen to these guitars
soloed, and mind you, these are recorded without

any effects, and they are direct going into
my Apollo, so they don’t have any processing

on them yet, and they are also — you know,
direct guitar is not my favorite sound.

They don’t have the character of an amplifier
or the space, so let’s take a listen.


Yeah, so not a great part, not really interesting,
and I was really relying on my ability to

achieve the tone that I wanted with plugins
for my overall vision here, so let’s add the

amp simulators first.

We’ve got this ENGL amplifier, which is new
to this update from Universal Audio.

We’ve got these Fuchs overdrive amplifiers,
which for each of these, I took a bit of time

to develop the sound.

I wanted a clean sound, I didn’t want distortion,
because I am going to be applying delay to

these, so let’s take a listen here and I also
added dbx 160 compressors, just to even out

the signal a little bit.

[guitars with plugins]
So now, let’s add in the Korg SDD 3000 digital


This is where it starts to get fun.

Thanks for being patient.

[guitars with delay]

Okay, great.

So some things to know about this plugin,
it will sync up to your DAW, which is excellent,

and I really suggest working with the delay
time here, right?

Because if I changed it to a quarter note,
it’s going to sound entirely different, and

actually going to add a much different feel
to the music than an 8th note dotted, which

is exactly what I was going for.

Let’s take a listen to what it would sound
like with something like this.

[guitars with 8th delay]

And in the context of the mix, definitely
wouldn’t work.


Let’s go back here.


There we go.

Right in the pocket.

This is sort of a Pro Tools situation here
where I go in and if my performance is a little

bit off, just a little bit, I am going to
edit it so those staccato guitar stabs are

exactly, exactly in unison together, and right
on the grid, because think about the 80’s.

You’ve got a lot of precision and very clean
era of recording, and so I really want to

emulate that.

Of course, I should probably just perform
it correctly, but here we are.

So we have a great amount of control over
the sound of the delay with this plugin.

In addition to having control of the delay
time, we also have this regeneration section,

which allows us to control the amount of feedback,
and apply filters to the repeats.

We also have this really unique and interesting
modulation section.

So one of my favorite things about the 80s
is that warbly, detuned, synthesizer sound,

and this really can help achieve that effect,
not only on synthesizers, but guitar, or whatever

source you apply it to.

Let’s have a listen.

[guitar with delay modulation]

So my goal with this sound was to keep it
pretty subtle.

We also have an attenuator section.

We can drive this plugin really hard and it
will distort the repeats, which is an interesting

thing to be able to do.

It’s great to be able to have that option
if we want.

We have a dry/wet blend, and we can change
the position left or right of the repeats.

So really, a lot of control in shaping the
tone of the delay.

Okay, so let’s check out the AMS RMX 16.

I am actually using this plugin as more of
a chorus effect.

Typically, you’re going to find this does
a great job on 80s sounding reverbs, you’ve

got some really great gated sounds, some ambiences,
but I really just toggled through the presets

here, and modify them a little bit, and in
fact, in this particular case, since this

is a work in progress, I’m just going to settle
on it, and when it comes down to final mix,

I will tweak it.

So that’s the great thing about a lot of these

You can work as you go, and get sounds that
are ballpark, and then when it’s time to finish,

you finish.

So I got this E guitar funky chorus sound,
and let’s have a listen to that.

[E Guitar, funky chorus]

And this is without.

[E Guitar, no chorus]

So a much wider sound.

Let’s hear it altogether.


So let’s talk for a minute about my routing.

I have one instance of the Fuchs amplifier
on each of the picky guitar parts, because

I believe I’m going to want to go in and dial
in a specific sound for each.

They might not be identical.

I’ve got a dbx 160 after to even out the level.

But for these staccato parts here, I simply
routed all of them together to a stereo guitar

aux, because I think of them almost as one

So they are each being processed through this
ENGL amplifier plugin, and again, a dbx afterwards.

I have — each of these picky guitars are
going to the reverb and delay, and the stereo

guitar is going to the reverb and delay as
well, and I actually am sending the delay

to the reverb aux.

As you can see, I initially intended it on
being a reverb, but I ended up using this

chorusy effect.

So let’s change that.

So generally, what I’ll do when I’m coming
up with a part like this is I will run an

instance of an amplifier as a Unison plugin
on the channel, and perhaps a reverb or a

delay or something like that as an insert,
and I’ll experiment and get the sound I want,

because part of the performance is dependent
on the sound.

So I’ll do that, and I will not print it or
commit it to Pro Tools, and then I will go

and record the direct part into Pro Tools.

That way, I can then experiment with changing
the tone and the delay type afterwards.

So I hope this has been helpful, guys.

Universal Audio doing a great job of making
fun tools to use while production is still

happening, and of course during mixing and

So if you have any questions, let me know.

Again, this has been Ian Vargo with The Pro
Audio Files.


How to Create an 80’s Electric Guitar Vibe // A video on getting an 80’s electric guitar vibe with UAD plugins like the AMS RMX16 digital reverb, KORG SDD 3000 digital delay and ENGL Savage 120.

** AMS RMX16 **

The AMS RMX16 was the world’s first microprocessor-controlled, full-bandwidth, digital reverberator. Heard on hundreds — if not thousands — of seminal recordings from the 1980s onward, the RMX16 is still found in nearly every major recording studio the world over.

The unique and lush reverb programs of the RMX16 are instantly recognizable, from U2 and Peter Gabriel to Radiohead and Rihanna. Exclusively for UAD hardware and Apollo interfaces, the new AMS RMX16 Expanded Digital Reverb plug-in not only captures the sonics of the original hardware, it adds nine rare, custom programs, giving you double the sonic possibilities of the original AMS RMX16 plug-in.

** KORG SDD 3000 **

Introduced in 1982, the KORG SDD-3000 Digital Delay was popularized by U2 guitarist, The Edge, to forge one of the most identifiable guitar sounds in the history of rock. Far from a one-instrument-pony, however, the SDD-3000 also found a home in early new wave and 80’s synth music. Fully endorsed by KORG, the KORG SDD-3000 Digital Delay plug-in for UAD and Apollo interfaces exactly captures the original unit’s colorful analog circuitry, and burnished-sounding 13-bit delays.

** ENGL Savage 120 **

The Savage 120 Amplifier embodies ENGL’s rich legacy of punishing metal machines. A favorite of Exodus’ Gary Holt, as well as Dimmu Borgir, Sodom, and Primal Fear, the ENGL Savage 120 has metal bonafides to spare.

Developed by Brainworx, and available exclusively for UAD hardware and Apollo interfaces, the ENGL Savage 120 Amplifier plug-in is an exacting emulation of this beastly, standard-bearing tone monster.

About The Pro Audio Files

Tutorials on mixing, mastering and producing music in Pro Tools with plugins from Waves, FabFilter, SoundToys, Softube, Sonnox, PSP, Slate Digital and more. Learn how to mix using EQ, compression and effects like reverb, delay, saturation and distortion on vocals, drums, guitar, bass and more.

How to Create an 80’s Electric Guitar Vibe

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