Tape Emulation Plugins. Give me your experiences

doctoremmet

Senior Member
So. Tape plugins. I know people that are very passionate about them. They add colour. They glue the mix together. Stuff like that.

Now, I am by no means an experienced sound guy. I just play piano and compose mostly singer/songwriter and orchestral (non epic) stuff. As a hobby, nothing fancy.

I was skeptical about summing mixers and channel strip plugins. Then I tried Waves NLS and I must say, I LOVE that Emi / Abbey Road channel (TG12345). I put it on all my tracks and the 2-bus now.

So this brings me to tape emulation. Would adding this to either mix and/or master be beneficial for an even more glued-together (maybe slightly retro?) sound.

There’s Acustica Taupe, U-he Satin, Waves J37, Waves Kramer Master Tape, Slate and the latest and greatest IK Multimedia T-RackS Tape Machines. Probably a boatload more.

Which ones have y’all got? What are some of your experiences. Typical use cases? Put them in a mix as an insert? Or print your tracks with a tape simulation? Curious to hear from you.

(Or is it all just snake oil?)
 

storyteller

Senior Member
TG12345 is excellent. Agreed. NLS is fantastic too. As for tape plugins, I find Satin sounds the best... but I almost always end up using J37 or Kramer instead when sitting it in a mix. I know that feedback sounds conflicting, but it is what it is. J37 adds enough dirt that it blends better to my ears. I like using J37 on numerous tracks and then once again on a master in order to get the most realistic tape sound. Kramer sounds like it has a lot of compression going on, so that one is more of a special use case for me.
 

Living Fossil

Senior Member
I'm using tape plugins quite seldom. (One reason why they "glue" things together is the fact that degradation by definition glues things together, while i quite often prefer more detail...)
If i use it (which is rather on busses and tracks and almost never on the Masterbus), it's mostly u-He's Satin or sometimes the one that comes with izotope's Ozone.

However, MIA laboratories has released one that is highly acclaimed and which i will try out as soon as i'm back to work:


I have several plugins from MIA and they are all excellent because they usually offer a different perspective on existing stuff, so it's possible that i would/will love this one more than the other tape emus.
(Have to add that i never tried out the one from IK multimedia. But it gets a lot of praise from people who's expertise i respect a lot, so i guess you should try that one too...)
 
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doctoremmet

Senior Member
I have several plugins from MIA and they are all excellent because they usually offer a different perspective on existing stuff, so it's possible that i would/will love this one more than the other tape emus.
I haven’t heard of either (MIA and the tape plugin they have released), so will definitely check them out. Cheers!
 

Ryan

Senior Member
Yes, Plugins are very cool! I thought that they did some amazing stuff until I got the real (reel :D ) deal! I bought my self a Otari MTR-12, and "oh my goood". There are so much different betwen hardware and software! I mainly use it on my master (when I have time and working on my own stuff (albums etc))


For plugins I really like the Waves J37 and the Kramer :)
 

method1

Active Member
Most of the emulations out there these days are pretty good.
Go with the one that feels good to you.

IMO it's important to know what these things are actually doing to your audio.

In general what you get from a tape plugin is:

A low end bump & some high end roll-off (eq curve), distortion (aka saturation), noise and modulation of the stereo field.

Sometimes this is really cool, and sometimes it's not doing your audio any favours.

Satin is the one that gives you the most control over these variables, with most of the others you have to "mix into" them to compensate for the applied frequency response.
Personally I think these types of effects need to be used judiciously, and in some cases a similar effect can be achieved with EQ and saturation.

Here's an idea of what IK 24 at it's default setting is doing.
The different colour lines are the frequency response for the left and right channels.

tape3.gif

These are fun tools but easy to overdo!
I've tried or own most of the tape style plugs, they're all cool, different flavours of the same, the only one of the current bunch I didn't really like was taupe.
 
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doctoremmet

Senior Member
I have Waves J37
What about J37? Does it sound less good? Airwindows workflow easier? What do you use it for and how?

I’m trying to figure out you people’s workflow. Would very much appreciate to hear more. Thanks for the feedback so far! Love it.
 
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doctoremmet

Senior Member
I've tried or own most of the tape style plugs, they're all cool, different flavours of the same
So would you say there are large differences soundwise between brands, models or for instance >8 year old Waves stuff versus ultramodern IK stuff? Have the modeling techniques advanced? Is there one model to end all other models? Or is it pretty much a psycho-acoustic affair, where personal preferences play a large role.

As for the glue effect, yes possibly one really merely needs an EQ and a saturation plugin after all?
 

NDRU

Lovely Buddy
U-He Satin is pretty good. Lot's of room for tweaking :) the UAD tapes are good. The tapes on the mix buses tame some elements, give some shine, can add some nice tail. Kramer from Waves are fun to use with the intuitive feedback slaps.
 
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doctoremmet

Senior Member
I always prefered Kramer to J37. It just sounds nicer to my ears and more flat also.

Kramer is still my fav and I've tried a few.
Hi Joël. I was literally just now watching your Orchestral Mixing series! Quelle surprise!

I read that Kramer adds more of a compressed sound to a track than J37. Is that your experience as well? Do you use Kramer in an orchestral mixing context? As an insert for individual tracks? Or when printing stems? Please elaborate haha. Or better yet, record one of your great videos on this very topic <3
 

method1

Active Member
So would you say there are large differences soundwise between brands, models or for instance >8 year old Waves stuff versus ultramodern IK stuff? Have the modeling techniques advanced? Is there one model to end all other models? Or is it pretty much a psycho-acoustic affair, where personal preferences play a large role.

As for the glue effect, yes possibly one really merely needs an EQ and a saturation plugin after all?
I would say not "large" differences, waves coders are genius and their old stuff holds up incredibly well.
Most of these models are doing similar tricks.

Maybe the main differentiators to look at are ease of use vs extensive control, price, and that intangible quality of whether you "connect" with the UI/Sound/Feel of the plugin.

e.g U-HE and to some extent the UAD Ampex allows finer grain control, but slate/IK/waves are more set-and-forget.

The free airwindows stuff that JEPA linked to is also really good with minimalist controls. There are also some very cool console emulations in the airwindows collection, Chris J of airwindows is a talented developer who has chosen the patreon model to support his work.