How to make Porter Robinson style 80’s tom-tom’s in Xfer Serum

September 26, 2019

Okay, this sound is really simple, but does sound really nice if you use it wisely. The original samples that Porter is using are (at least according to my own research) sampled from an old drum machine called “LinnDrum”, and you can download them by clicking here. They sound like the typical 80’s toms, just like in Porters music. But let’s go through the sound.‍

Download the preset here by clicking here.‍


  1. Start by opening Serum and choose an analog sine wave as a wavetable.
  2. Add some noise by activating the noise oscillator / generator. I really like the “bright white noise”, so let’s choose that one.
  3. To make the sound shorter, decrease the sustain and decay in envelope 1 to your liking.
  4. ‍Add envelope 1 to the level (volume) of the noise oscillator / generator and drag it to about the halfway point.
  5. To make the sound more plucky or “tom like”, let’s activate the filter. Choose one of the low pass filters and make sure to add noise to the filter by activating the “N” parameter.


  1. Now drag the same envelope 1 to the cutoff parameter on the filter and use whatever amount you feel like sounds good. For me it’s all the way from bottom to top.
  2. Now go to envelope 2 and make it even shorter than the first one. This envelope is for the pitch, which creates the typical “pitchy” sound in these kinds of tom toms.
  3. Drag envelope 2 to the “CRS pitch” (Coarse Pitch) and drag it up to about 9.


  1. Go to Serum’s effects rack and choose distortion. Let’s choose “Zero square”. It’s a really heavy distortion type that works great for these kinds of sounds.
  2. Keep the mix of the distortion somewhere between 50% – 80%. This will give it some grit, while still not totally crush the sound.
  3. Choose the filter module in the effects rack and choose a low pass filter (6db or 12db) and add envelope 1. The amount of shaping should be about the same as on the first filter.
  4. Now activate the hyper / dimension module. Make sure to drag it down so that it only affects the signal after both the distortion and the filter.
  5. Drag down the mix for hyper, and add about 25% mix for the dimension expander. This will give the sound some depth.
  6. Okay, now we’re done with the sound inside Serum. Let’s go on with some post processing.
  7. Let’s route the sound into a channel inside your DAW, and add OTT (Over The Top Compression). Make sure to drag the “time” parameter to 1000%, and drag the depth to about 30% – 60%. This will smoothen out the sound a bit.
  8. ‍Add your favorite EQ and cut some frequencies that sounds bad. In my case (and my ears) somewhere around 250 – 300 Hz and 2500 – 3000 KHz sounds bad, so I cut both.
  9. Now we’re done. Have fun with your 80’s Porter tom toms. If you’re lazy, you can download the preset by clicking here 🙂