Brian Eno’s Sound

Brian Eno is, to me, the undisputed king of ambient music. He coined the term, “ambient music” in his groundbreaking album “Music for Airports.”

Here I will revel in his sound-creating process and offer some captured bits of what I know of it – not as an attempt to deconstruct, per se, but more as an aspiration to his greatness.

As I learn more, I will post more, and update this one.

Last updated: 1-March-2019

The Equipment

Equipboard has a nice listing of Brian Eno’s equipment that he uses to make his music. I’ll draw some of it from there to start and add my own inputs as I go along.

Synthesizers

Yamaha DX7

The Yamaha DX7 is a known favorite and Brian Eno is a master at it. To get this DX7 keyboard sound, Image-Line’s Sytrus is probably the one I would use. It can make the DX7 sound that Brian Eno is known for.

The DX7 was used on his “An Ending (Ascent)” tune from his Apollo album.

Sonic Charge Synplant

Brian Eno is a known user of Sonic Charge plugins. He uses the Synplant synth. Synplant is a unique synthesizer in that you grow sounds from seeds and branches and can get some wonderful mutations from them. It sounds both vintage and edgy at the same time with a naturally organic nature about it. No wonder Brian Eno chooses this synth to use.

He has promoted Sonic Charge products on Twitter.

Izotope Iris

Izotope Iris is a wonderful synthesizer for layering sounds upon sounds (4 layers in Iris 2), and plucking out the bits of the sound that are needed. It sculpts sounds and you can carve out some really good ambient tones from it. Brian Eno uses Iris.

Native Instruments Absynth

He uses Native Instruments Absynth.

At 21:16 in this video, you can see Absynth on Brian Eno’s screen.

Effects

Expert Sleepers Augustus Loop

The tape loop effect that he used was an all-original idea of his and it worked fantastically. Now you can get this effect in several vst tape loop plugins, but none to the extent or length needed.

Expert Sleepers makes a plugin that he now uses and it is called Augustus Loop. It loops longer than any other plugin out there at a whopping maximum of one hour. Brian Eno uses this plugin.

Augustus Loop can be seen in the background on this video interview with Brian Eno.

Sonic Charge Permut8

Permut8 is a delay plugin from Sonic Charge that randomizes what goes into it by way of a 12-bit digital delay with a variable sample rate.

Brian Eno has used Sonic Charge’s plugin, Permut8.

It appears on the screen at 3:07 in the video.

In one video, he uses Permut8 on a drum track with the preset “b8” and “drum clunker” listed on it. He has two instances of it maybe not the same.

Here’s where Permut8 is used on a drum track.

Similar – but different…

Shimmer, Mikron Cascade, Mikron Reverb, Blackhole, and GrainSpace

While it is not known if Eno uses ValhallaDSP Shimmer reverb, it certainly seems he inspired it. It has that ability to take a guitar, for example, and turn it into a lush, evolving soundscape.

The same could be said for Mikron Reverb, and Mikron Cascade. They are similar to Shimmer.

Blackhole by Eventide is another similar reverb, but with a bit less shimmering effect and more clarity, which can be very useful in many circumstances.

GrainSpace is nice and maybe a bit similar to the others, but I like it a bit more.

None are better than the others, but they are simply all different for different situations.

Generative Music Synthesis Tools

Brian Eno used the term Generative Music to describe music that self-generates or makes itself.

SSEYO Koan

SSEYO made a generative music program called Koan and Brian Eno had used this for some music. It is now defunct, but Intermorphic is the new company making similar products.

ProTools

Within ProTools is a MIDI randomizer that Brian Eno was seen using in a video interview.