Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

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Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by dyates »

I've read many breakdowns of classic 80s recordings, but I can't find details of which FX units used on one of the decade's biggest albums - Madonna's True Blue. Percussion, synths and vocals are drenched in that bigger-than-life reverb so typical of the mid 80s, not least on the tracks Open Your Heart and Live to Tell. I read in an SOS article that Ursa Major Space Station and Yamaha SPX reverbs were used for the production of Like a Virgin, but the following album upped things further for space and sheen. Can anyone shed light on the units used here? Thanks.
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by muzines »

I'm willing to bet it's almost certainly the main 80s "expensive" reverbs in varying degrees - Lexicon 480L, Lexicon 224, and AMS RMX16...
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by dyates »

muzines wrote: Sun Aug 07, 2022 7:32 pm I'm willing to bet it's almost certainly the main 80s "expensive" reverbs in varying degrees - Lexicon 480L, Lexicon 224, and AMS RMX16...

The big, soundscapey Lexicon reverbs did come to mind but they seem a little more 'tizzy' than what I hear on the album. If you listen to the gorgeous synth pads behind her vocal in each verse of Open Your Heart it's that wide open sound I want to capture, though it no doubt comes in part from a digital synth of the period. The splashy snare could definitely be the AMS in action.
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by Eddy Deegan »

When trying to determine gear used on classic tracks it's worth bearing in mind that the mixing & mastering process can significantly chage/enhance the result as heard on the final product.

Anything from FX to synths can be transformed and maniplulated such that analysing the sound from a final master can be misleading as you'll never get quite 'that sound' even from the same preset or rackmount in question in the event you can identify it.
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by James Perrett »

dyates wrote: Sun Aug 07, 2022 9:35 pm The big, soundscapey Lexicon reverbs did come to mind but they seem a little more 'tizzy' than what I hear on the album.

It is very common to eq reverb returns.

My approach when trying to emulate an 80's mix is to find which studio it was mixed in and then try to find out all I can about the studio and its gear.
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by dyates »


It is very common to eq reverb returns.

My approach when trying to emulate an 80's mix is to find which studio it was mixed in and then try to find out all I can about the studio and its gear.

I'm very new to mixing as you may have guessed :-/ I looked into where it was recorded (Channel Studios, LA) and couldn't find much about their setup. As yourself and Eddy have intimated, the other elements of the mix are so crucial to the final result. My question was as much one of simple curiosity - I have the Relab LX480 plugin and love it, but this album is so typically 80s it's kind of a touchstone.
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by muzines »

Open Your Heart in particular is a favourite track of mine from the album (as well as Live to Tell - I'm a huge fan of Patrick Leonard) and really like the drums and that enormous arpeggiated part.

It's very interesting listening to the raw multitracks so you can hear the parts in isolation (both real and programmed drums, and the bassline and synth parts...)

dyates wrote: Sun Aug 07, 2022 9:35 pmIf you listen to the gorgeous synth pads behind her vocal in each verse of Open Your Heart it's that wide open sound I want to capture, though it no doubt comes in part from a digital synth of the period.

There weren't that many digital synths in that period apart from the DX7 etc, especially ones with FX - the D50 was the first digital synth with a proper reverb - and the reverb in that is pretty dreadful...

If you haven't already, have a read of Sound On Sound's 1991 interview with him, it's a great article:
http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/patrick-leonard/7473
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by James Perrett »

Having just had a listen to Open Your Heart I would say that those synths aren't actually drenched in reverb. They could even just be using patches with long release times. I've done an 80's mix re-creation which used a JP8 as the main synth. I always thought that the original had a really big sound but, when it came down to it, the sound was actually just a well made JP8 patch with a bit of Dimension D on it.

I don't think that there is anything critical about the reverb used on the synths.
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by muzines »

James Perrett wrote: Mon Aug 08, 2022 1:07 amHaving just had a listen to Open Your Heart I would say that those synths aren't actually drenched in reverb. They could even just be using patches with long release times.

It's a PWM pad sound, it sounds like an Oberheim on the raw tracks, and yes, longish release time. It's one part, but in stereo with slight chorus/flange on it for width and movement. In the mix, those verse pads are mixed pretty low, and pushed back with reverb, but they are certainly not drenched, just thickened up a bit.

In the second half of the verse, there's an 80s style chimey slow-attack guitar sound, and that has a lot of reverb (like 6+ seconds) that is printed to tape - it sounds like a heavily modulated digital reverb that was part of the guitarists rig. If this is Dann Huff again - who often seems to be at the centre of tracks with guitar parts I love, I wouldn't be surprised... (huge Dann Huff fan too, if you hadn't guessed! :) )
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by dyates »

Thank you both for your replies - yeah, I imagined the whole mix to be very reverb-y because it gels so well and powers along with that throbbing bass part. What I'm really hearing is movement in those pads. I never even noticed the guitar in the verse :headbang: The depth of layering, particularly on the standout album track 'White Heat' is so different from today's bedroom productions but then it would be. BTW muzines are you using a software to break the individual parts down or do you have access to instrument tracks?
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by James Perrett »

dyates wrote: Mon Aug 08, 2022 1:01 pm BTW muzines are you using a software to break the individual parts down or do you have access to instrument tracks?

I found that the multitracks for Open Your Heart seem to be available online.
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Re: Reverbs, delays used on True Blue album?

Post by muzines »

Yes, the multitracks are "out there", but we can't link to them from here for obvious reasons.
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