Tape Emulation

Oct 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, The Mix Editors



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Remember when “tube” was all the rage? The underlying drive was to get digital to sound more analog by introducing a tube into the signal chain. Not to be outdone, software manufacturers over the years have done their part with versions of tape emulators like the Massey Tapehead, Ferric TDS or Digidesign’s Reel Tape. Avid moved it into the next generation with the Pro Tools HD-specific HEAT feature, which is not really a plug-in but gets to the same point. Console manufacturer Harrison even offers another DAW-specific tape emulator in their Mixbus DAW.

In the past couple of years, there have been releases making emulation choices a head-spinning experience, in ever widening market niches, from amplifiers to channel strips. For the Mix roundup this month, we dive into the deep end and make sense of the most recent tape emulation software.

UAD Studer

UAD Studer A800, ATR-102

For use within the UAD-2 platform only and slickly modeled after the Studer A800, this plug-in gives users all the tweaks you’d expect from the real thing. You can dial in four magnetic tape formulas, play with calibration levels, three tape speeds and more under the hood. Users can dig deeper to adjust EQ controls (NAB or CCIR), HF Bias calibration, Sync and Repro HF and LF calibration, and separate controls for Hiss, Hum and global noise bypass.

Also for UAD-2 users, the UAD Ampex ATR-102 plug-in allows you to choose between Input, Sync and Repro signal paths, different tape speeds, bias, emphasis EQs (NAB, CCIR, AES) and tape formulas, even including consumer/home brands. You can saturate “tape” with record gain knobs, switch in/out noise, crosstalk and wow and flutter and even use the plug-in as a fully adjustable tape delay.

Waves MPX

Waves MPX—Kramer Master Tape

Developed in collaboration with engineer Eddie Kramer, the Kramer Master Tape plug-in is modeled on a vintage ¼-inch reel-to-reel machine. Adjustments include tape speed, bias, flux, wow and flutter, and noise parameters. There’s also a flexible slap and feedback delay. The plug operates at up to 96kHz/24-bit and supports TDM, RTAS, AU, VST and Audiosuite, across Mac and PC platforms.

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