The Iconic Sounds Of Synthesis – Vangelis’ Blade Runner Brass Sound

When it comes to iconic sounds of synthesis, few are as memorable as VangelisMain Titles for the classic science fiction film Blade Runner.

When Blade Runner was released, in 1982, many were confused by the movie’s narrative. Others were put off by the story’s dark tone, or by Harrison Ford’s deadpan voice-overs.

Few recognized the movie as a future classic.

The completeness of Ridley Scott’s fully realized, all-enveloping world, though, was immediately recognized. And even after more than 25 years, Scott’s visuals, combined with Vangelis’ stunning score, set the standard by which other science fiction films are measured.

Vangelis entire score to Blade Runner is a classic, but the “brass” theme from his Main Titles is iconic.

Embedded above, the opening scenes of Blade Runner, which kick in at about 2:30, immediately thrust you into a stunning futuristic world. The amazing visuals are accompanied by depth-shaking electronic drones and percussion, and a soaring Yamaha CS-80 lead that concisely sets the tone for the film.

While Vangelis used the rare CS-80 extensively throughout Blade Runner, synthesists have been using all sorts of synths to approximate the iconic sound of his Main Titles since.

Here’s a demonstration using the Yamaha CS-70, a younger sibling to the CS-80, to recreate the iconic sound:


But do you have to have a rare vintage Yamaha synth to get that awesome sound?

This video demonstrates using a cheap Korg MicroKorg to recreate the Blade Runner brass sound:

Check out this take on the Main Titles performed on an Access TI Polar:

It’s not an exact match for Vangelis’ original, but the Access synth sounds fantastic and very musical.

Next up, a version using the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12:

Think a Moog Minimoog Voyager can nail the Blade Runner Brass sound? Check this out:

Cool – but not that close to the original.

Here’s a take on the Main Titles, done on the Roland Juno-60:

This video offers a visual guide to programming a Vangelis Blade Runner style brass sound on the Roland June-60:

Again, it’s not a match to the sound of the classic synths that Vangelis used, but it sounds great, nonetheless.

The Oberheim OBXa is a monster synth that can make gorgeous brass sounds, and it’s perfect for taking on the challenge of Vangelis’ iconic theme:

The Korg Radias was used in creating this cover of the Main Titles:

Here’s a visual guide to programming the Vangelis’ Blade Runner brass sound on the Korg Radias:

Finally, this cover of the Blade Runner Main Titles does an incredible job of capturing the sound and feel of Vangelis’ original:

An Ensoniq ESQ 1 is used here for the CS80 brass leads, a Juno 6 for electronic beeps, and a Korg x5 and Juno G for various bells and percussion.

What about a Casio? Here’s Mike Martin’s take, using a Casio XW-P1:

Think software is the way to go?

Here’s an attempt at the iconic Blade Runner brass sound using using the MiniMogue VST software synthesizer:

For this live cover,  used the ME80 VSTi for the CS80 parts:

Here’s another soft synth take on the sound, using UVI CS-M:

Here’s a surprisingly close version of the Blade Runner brass sound, created on a Moog Little Phatty:

Here’s another take using the Slim Phatty, by Bob ‘T’:

A Yamaha SY-77 is used for the metallic harp sound. Roland MKS-7 (raw noise) plug into the Moog Slim Phatty does the rocket noise sound and Hollow Sun VP330 does the string sound.

This demo, via Julien Lecoq, uses aTEISCO S-60-F:

This take uses only a Modal Skulpt:

Here’s an official guide from Korg to creating a Vangelis Blade Runner-inspired patch on the minilogue xd:


Ultimately, it’s tough for any synth to match up to the sound of the classic Yamaha CS-80. Trying, though, is a great way to explore and understand the capabilities and limitations of a synthesizer.

The CS-80 was way ahead of its time when it was released in 1977 and is still considered one of the most playable synths of all time. Vangelis owned seven CS-80’s at one time,. You can hear the CS-80 all over his Blade Runner soundtrack and much of his finest work.

Check out the examples, and then leave a comment with your thoughts on Vangelis’ iconic Blade Runner Main Titles theme…..and the synths that you think come closest to matching the Yamaha CS-80.

Note: If you’re interested in reading more about Vangelis and his keyboards, don’t miss this SOS article on Recording Vangelis.

Video credits: meastempo, StrangeQuarkStar, EnvelopeGenerator, antichicmusic, module19, magevers, notjarre, mik300zFailedMusoDan HaighTobor Experiment

37 thoughts on “The Iconic Sounds Of Synthesis – Vangelis’ Blade Runner Brass Sound

  1. It would be interesting to see how close people could get using various software synths – not just the Arturia version. I wonder how things like Zebra2, ACE or SynthSquad would be at trying to get close to the classic CS-80 depth.

    If I were better at programming I would give it a shot, but this is a bit out of my pay scale 😉

  2. That Blade Runner theme is very reminiscent of "Five Circles" on Vangelis's "Chariots of Fire" soundtrack. It never gets old, though.

  3. That Blade Runner theme is very reminiscent of "Five Circles" on Vangelis's "Chariots of Fire" soundtrack. It never gets old, though.

  4. Sure it's ICONIC, but i think, you can reproduce that brass sound on a decent VA synth too. The trick is, that you have to imitate the instabity of the analogue circiuts with modulation, plus you have to use modulation trough aftertouch combined with modulation trough expression pedal, as Vangelis did. I've made my best attempt on a Korg Z1, sadly there is too much aliasing in that machine, but it's a monster…

    Anyway the JUNO-60 is pretty impressive…

  5. Holy Hankey! That was awesome!

    In my opinion Blade Runner has one of the most memorable motion picture scores in film history and that synthetic brass melody just might be the key factor to that. The sound has always fascinated me and is one of the main reasons why I've gotten interested in emulating real life instruments like strings and brasses with synthesis.

    I've managed to get some nice results myself but it's always a pleasure to see how other people do the same things. And to see someone tap into the classic that partially started it all for me is simply fantastic. Sounds great!

    The other videos were also really cool. Yet another saliva inducing Synthtopia post!

    Thank you for sharing these.

  6. Have to agree.

    Blade Runner is a great movie and the music is a big part of it.

    That opening scene gave me goosebumps the first time I saw it.

    I was watching Terminator the other day and both the movie and the music are incredibly dated. It's amazing that Blade Runner, which is a couple of years older, holds up so well.

  7. Hi all, stumbled upon this page and felt compelled to respond!

    I too was blown away by the Bladerunner opening scenes and the virtually the entire music score. It is my No. 1 film of all time.
    The synth sounds make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and contributes to half of this films enjoyment.

    Great stabs at the classic sound – the CS70 is closest for me.

    I started out with the Korg Poly 800, but advanced to the M1, then the 01W/FD for many years since. today I hopefully get my hands on a roland JP8080 }:o) fingers crossed..

  8. Lots of people forget that Vangelis used a pedal or possibly mod wheel to open the sound. Apart from mik003z Michael Daniels who nails it imho on the esq 1 and uses the wheel or pedal, the rest seems to forget this and the sound just misses a lot of dynamics.

  9. The guy using the MiniMogue VST would have been beter off putting his AN1x into split mode and using it for the lead also, does great CS-80 style sounds..

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