The 80s birthed a treasure trove of pop culture benchmarks whose hedonistic nostalgia still dominates trends across the cultural landscape. And while not everything aged well (see padded shoulders and parachute pants), some of it has aged quite gracefully. In particular, the unrelenting focus on the haunting promise of mysterious new technology, which resulted in primitively tech-heavy tones that reached their apex with the Blade Runner soundtrack – arguably the greatest score in cinematic sci-fi history and the undisputed highwater mark of dystopian retro-future synthesis (RIP, Vangelis).
So break out the bodysuits, crimped hair, acid wash jeans and fingerless gloves – because where we’re going, we don’t need roads (though you will need a full version of KONTAKT).
Heavy on nostalgia and light on the wallet, here are five of our favorite 80s instruments from the KONTAKT library.
SYNTH-1 Mini Collection
The SYNTH-1 Mini Collection from Karanyi Sounds packs an army of archetypal 80s tones carefully cribbed from 6 iconic analog synthesizers. There isn’t a dedicated user interface – meaning all tweaks and edits have to be made in the KONTAKT editor – but the price tag certainly beats the small fortune you’d have to spend hunting these vintage tones in the wild. Processed through equally iconic hardware, and with presets dedicated to each day of the week, this collection is the perfect pairing for sonic explorers who still wear their sunglasses at night.
Wavesynth EP Glow
With three wavetable-based electric pianos and 14 different types of wavetable algorithms, the Wavesynth EP Glow from Karanyi Sounds isn’t messing around. Sensuously sampled on a Sequential Prophet 6 and tastefully transformed into a rollicking Rhodes-like patch, this lushly sentimental instrument is perfectly primed for retro-future fun. You also get two LFOs (wavetable position and Prophet-type low pass filter) along with a Moog-type low-pass filter, hall reverb, tape delay, compressor, limiter, and EQ for maximum Knight Rider vibes.
Faithful, fully-functional, and fantastically free, Beaotic’s reproduction of the legendary 80s drum machine the LinnDrum LM-2 is a revelation in sentimental sonic expression: Control the start position of your samples via key velocity; add subtle pitch with the Oscillator Drift; or tweak individual edits in pitch, volume, and panning to sculpt unmistakably 80s sounds – the perfect percussive palette for building your very own “bow bow chick chicka chicka” bangers.
Commodore 64 Sessions Deluxe
Are you desperately seeking sentimental sounds? Then look no further than the Commodore 64 Sessions Deluxe from Rhythmic Robot Audio, which features 30 superbly sampled patches from three different iterations of the iconic home computer. With an authentic SID Chip sound and a stylish and authentic UI design, this instrument can crank out everything from chip-tune drum kits to fat bassline synths, making it a must-have VST for crafting vintage 8-bit hits (or just wistfully reliving those classic Frogger tones on a quiet night at home).
Wavetable Experiment Mini-Pack
Decent Samples is back with an experimental pack of seven authentically 80s-inspired wavetable synths. Unlike sample-based synths, which read a static waveform, wavetable synths allow stacked frames to morph from one wave shape to another as you play, resulting in harmonically rich asymmetrical sounds with a deeply textural and dynamically morphing quality – which makes them great for sculpting sci-fi patches, pads, and drones. Just add some sultry sax and watch the C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser gate.
Sound design: Konstantin Grismann