Ah the magic of tape! Much discussed in producer circles, the warm sound of tape is especially desirable in our tape of perfect sounding synths and samples. Today we are looking at the best tape plugins, because a proper tape machine is not cheap and needs maintenance. A cheaper option is copping a four track recorder on eBay if you want to work with actual tape. But in the plugin world you have some excellent choices, that let’s you stay completely in the box and get that vintag tape sound.
Virtual Tape Machines. $149.
Slate Digital has earned much reputation for his obsessively accurate recreations of legendary gear and the VTM virtual tape machine is one of their best! This digital emulation recreates both a 16 track 2 inch machine and half inch stereo mastering machine down to the very last detail. VTM Character has endeared it to pro engineers. Get it here!
u-he Satin. $140.
How much control can you expect from a tape simulator? If you’re asking u-he, the answer would be all of it! This is reflected in Satin, which allows you to choose tape speed, wow, flutter, head bump, noise – even the type of emulsion used on the virtual tape itself. And as bonus, Satin even provides tape echoes and flanging! Get it here!
Reels is a boutique tape emulation plugin with built-in echo section and tape-stop effect. It is based on an old Japanese portable tape recorder with a very distinct Lo-Fi analog sound. I think Reels really emulates all the imperfections of consumer reel-to-reel recorders. It can add a very rough retro analog sound to your mixes. If you are looking for a Hi-Fi mastering tape emulation, this is not the plugin for you! Think of it as a portable Tape Recorder, one of my go-to recommendations for lo-fi beatmakers. Grab it from Pluginboutiue!
PSP Audioware Vintage Warmer. $149.
This tape plugin is a classic. It has been around for so long, it is becoming genuinely vintage in its own right. Keep this in mind – this is not a detailed accurate tape model which people expect from more modern plugins. But if you need a tasty tape-flavoured saturation and compression that just sounds really good – this plugin is a great option!
FabFilter Saturn. $149.
Saturn’s three tape styles model the saturation and frequency response of tape, but don’t offer other features like noise or wow/flutter. This keeps CPU usage low, even with oversampling enabled. A more optimal approach than more detailed models. A multiband approach to saturation, where each band can feature its own Saturation type (including three forms of tape), alongside independent Drive and EQ settings.
AudioThing Outer Space. $79.
Sometimes it is good to look off the beaten track. So let’s look at a legendary famous, green-coloured tape loop delay unit, with spring reverb thrown in! AudioThing modelled the grunginess and character of tape is authentically and it makes for a much more organic sounding echo effect than clean, digital repeats.
iZotope Ozone 8 Vintage Tape. $289.
iZotope’s Ozone mastering suite includes a Vintage Tape module, which can also be run as a separate plugin, presented with the usual modern iZotope interface. While it’s intended for mastering, there’s no reason why you can’t use it for general mixing purposes.
UAD Studer A800. $299.
Authenticated by Studer, UA’s emulation of this classic A800 provides the low end character, warmth, depth and ‘mix glue’you’d expect of tape by the bucketload.