Who is Dan Carr? AKA Reverb Machine

Dan Carr, AKA Reverb Machine is known for his spot-on recreations of famous synth sounds found in popular music. As a sound designer myself, I know how difficult it is to recreate a sound, especially when you don’t have access to the exact gear that was used, or lack intel on what made it in the first place. Even when you know all the tools in the toolbox, you must train your ears to hear the shapes of waveforms and the type of modulation and effects they are processed with, to even begin. Learning that skill takes a very long time to master, and not everyone can.

Dan is someone who I feel has mastered the ability to recreate the sounds he hears in popular music. He’s also a pretty bang-on music producer in his own right. In fact, Dan has taught me a little something about the art of minimalism, where that old adage of “less is more” holds true. In most cases, Dan’s programming does not consist of intricately patching the modulation matrix or stacking loads of DSP waveforms on top of each other, but rather in respecting what a hitmaker made in the first place, and making that sound fit into the correct frequency space.

When I first started down the road with Dan about creating patches for Omnisphere 2, he didn’t have the instrument. So, when he broke down and got if for himself, he literally only had a few months to master it enough to do his magic. That journey paid off, and now Reverb Machine has three diverse and unique patch collections for Omnisphere 2 that span three specific genres: Classics like Queen, Pink Floyd, The Cars, Depeche Mode, and Gary Numan are covered in The Fame - Classic Sounds. Then there is The Fame - Modern Pop which pays homage to artists like Billy Eilish, Kanye West, Lady GaGa, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd. And finally, The Fame - Indie Pop where flavors from artists like Kavinsky, MGMT, Tame Impala, Com Truise, Radiohead, and LCD Soundsystem can be found.

Reverb Machine

I sent Dan a few questions to allow him to give us a glimpse into his process of sound creation, and to find out how he got along with Omnisphere 2:

What got you interested in recreating the sounds used in popular music?

When I bought my first synthesizer, an Arturia Microbrute, I had no idea how to make the sounds I wanted and there weren't nearly as many online learning resources as there are now. When I learnt guitar, it was natural to learn new techniques by learning other people's songs, so I did the same with the Microbrute and tried to emulate the sounds I wanted by ear. I also wanted to share what I was learning so I started a simple blog (www.reverbmachine.com) and the site grew from there.

What was the most challenging sound you've ever tried to recreate and why?

It took me a fair bit of experimenting to figure out the synth in "Dawn Chorus" by Thom Yorke. I love that synth sound, it's so warm, fuzzy and wide. If you listen closely on headphones you can hear that each note of the chord pattern is panned differently, and the lowest note has more saturation than the other. After trying a few different techniques I realized they must have multi-tracked the part one note at a time. 

How do you go about identifying or singling out a prominent sound found in a hit song and begin the process of recreating it?

I listen to the track closely on a good pair of headphones and try to pick any recognizable elements out, such as the waveform, long attack or release times, or LFO modulation applied to pitch or the filter. At first, you have to experiment with your synth and see if your sound matches the sound you're trying to achieve. With practice, you get better at hearing all the individual elements that make up a sound. You'll also notice some sounds that get used a lot, such as detuned sawtooth waves with a filter pluck.

How does your musical taste influence your patch creating?

A lot of the styles of music I like, such as psychedelic music, ambient and chillwave use synth patches with several layers of modulation to create lots of movement within the patch. I like sounds with slow modulation, where sounds slowly rise and fall in or out of time with the music. Even used in small amounts, modulation can keep things from sounding too robotic or static. Some synths only have one LFO, but you can be creative to find other sources of modulation, such as turning an oscillator into an extra LFO, looping envelopes, or cross-modulation.

What are some of the highlights of recreating sounds with Omnisphere?

Omnisphere feels like a sandbox synth; the sound design options feel limitless. As well as the abundance of oscillator shapes, filter models, LFOs, aux envelopes and modulation options, I like working with the FX section to create sounds that are "production-ready" and sound polished straight out of Omnisphere's outputs. Being able to recreate layered sounds in one patch is a lot of fun.

How has Omnisphere affected your tastes and workflow? Or better yet, will it affect future sound design explorations?

Making over 200 sounds in Omnisphere made me grow a lot as a sound designer. The variations in classic synth oscillator models made me consider how waveform sounds can vary synth-by-synth. There's still a lot of features and sample-sets in Omnisphere that I haven't looked at too deeply yet, so there's still more to explore!

Make sure to check out Reverb Machine's patch collections for Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 in The Fame Series Bundle, now available at ILIO.

Learn more about Reverb Machine at https://reverbmachine.com