Top 20 Tape Emulation Plugins 2022 (Real Hardware Emulations)

Top 20 Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) | integraudio.com

In this post, we will go through the best tape emulations plugins you can get in 2022 and include a couple of freebies at the end.

Tape saturation is a phenomenon from the analog era that describes the effect of the distortion caused when a voltage level has exceeded the tape’s ability to record it.

To be more specific, this phenomenon occurs when an input voltage exceeds the system’s limit or saturation threshold of the tape, and the iron oxide molecules of the tape have reached the maximum magnetic potential. This means that they can’t be polarized further and thus can’t hold any more amplitude.

The result is that the signal gets compressed and distorted in a non-linear fashion. Therefore, when part of the signal passes the saturation point, that part of the signal no longer represents the frequencies or amplitude of the original signal but a distorted and compressed version instead.

In a nutshell, here is the list of best tape emulation plugins in 2022:

1. T-RackS TEAC A-3340S By IK Multimedia

2.  UAD Ampex ATR-102

3. Nomad Factory Magnetic II

4. Waves J37 Tape

5. T-Racks Tape Machine 80

6. UAD Studer® A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder

7. Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines

8. T-RackS TASCAM 388 By IK Multimedia

9. Baby Audio TAIP

10. Tone Empire Reelight Pro

11. SoundToys Decapitator

12. Softube Tape

13. Waves Kramer Master Tape

14. AudioThing Wires

15. u-he Satin Tape Machine

16. Caelum Audio Tape Pro

17. Wavesfactory Cassette

18. UAD Oxide Tape Recorder 

19. Arturia MELLO FI

20. T-Racks Tape Machine 99 By IK Multimedia

How do you use tape plugins?

You can use tape saturation plugins in several different ways. For example, you can use tape emulators on your mix bus before you do your gain staging, on a drum bus to add some glue, or even on individual tracks to control transients.

Tape saturation plugins are most efficient with drums, vocals, bass, and any transient-based sound source with lots of dynamics, including a full mix. The tape will add harmonic information each time a peak reaches its saturation point. This effect can make your mixes sound alive and punchy, and its analog component will deliver a more “vintage” sound to your signal.

What Is Analog Tape?

Analog tape is a roll of plastic film that is covered in a thin coat of chemicals that contain iron oxide, as well as tiny magnetic particles.

How Does Analog Tape Work?

When recording a signal into a tape recorder, the voltage is sent to an electromagnet of the recording head. The recording head of the recorder magnetizes each of the iron oxide particles on the tape by varying amounts over time.

A tape can conduct electricity, and – with the proper process – an electrical signal can be printed onto its surface. The tape naturally has a capacity for the amount of data it can store. Overloading the magnetic tape strip with a signal produces saturation.

What Does A Tape Emulator Do?

Tape emulators mimic audio responses created by analog tape recorders and tape effect units. A tape emulator creates a digital mapping of the effect that tape devices produce and then applies it to an audio signal.

Depending on the device being emulated, a few fundamental characteristics define tape saturation. These include but are not limited to:

  • Wow
    An oscillation or change in pitch is caused by warped information on a piece of tape. A variety of slight faults could cause this warping during the recording or printing process.
  • Flutter
    Tape can sometimes become stretched or strained while passing through a tape head. The instability in the tape’s structure causes it to pass inconsistent information back to the tape player. These cause vibrations on the signal’s frequency spectrum referred to as flutter.
  • Noise
    Tape noise or hiss refers to the background noise, or ambiance picked up by tape recorders during a recording process. Because recordings are done in silence, the additional room noise can add a warm texture and depth to recordings.
  • Hysteresis
    A flux causes this effect in the magnetic structures of the recorded tape information. The result is a series of pops or crackles during playback, and this is part of what gives tape saturation that signature retro tone.

How Do You Use A Tape Machine?

To record audio on a tape machine, you begin by sending an audio signal into an electro conductor. Next, the conductor receives your electronic signal and converts it into an ionized blueprint.

A tape head receives this information and then prints it onto the magnetic tape strip. The magnetic particles on the tape strip arrange and store the electronic signals being sent to them so that they can be repeated later on. You can then replay this information on a tape player.

To do any sort of editing or overdubbing, engineers would literally cut and paste pieces of analog tape together to completely arrange their tracks. This was the original analog cut and paste function that we use today as part of our computer commands.

Top 20 Tape Emulation Plugins 2022 For Mixing & Mastering

1. T-RackS TEAC A-3340S By IK Multimedia

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The TEAC A-3340S models Tascam’s first 4-track recorder that permitted overdubbing in sync.

This one, along with another three plugins that we’ll also review later in this list, is part of IK Multimedia’s collection of classic TASCAM models developed in conjunction with the original manufacturer. The TEAC A-3340S is the most straightforward of the four plugins included in this collection, with an interactive, self-explaining graphic interface.

This plugin is a great one to use in individual tracks as it used the earlier analog piece. In addition, the model includes an auto-calibration feature, which is great if you’re new to this analog world and looking to start adding these textures and colors to make your tracks sound more interesting.

T-RackS TEAC A-3340S By IK Multimedia - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Time saver:
    Since TEAC A-3340S is so easy to use, it only takes a moment to achieve great results and keep moving forward. In addition, this plugin’s interface is convenient because it doesn’t have much to tweak at first sight and sounds great on its own.
  • Intuitive controls:
    This plugin is straightforward to learn because you only get a few controls to play around with. Furthermore, each one of these controls makes an audible difference in the output, so you can hear what they do and get to a setting that works in no time.
  • The improvement formula:
    You can quickly improve the sound according to the source only by selecting one of the four tape formulations. Minimize or maximize distortion and input levels, or achieve an excellent balance and warmth, depending on your selection. 
  • Auto-calibration:
    Unlike many other plugins, you don’t need to be an expert engineer or spend hours making sense of complicated calibration settings. Instead, focus only on what matters with this plugin, regardless of your level of experience with these tools. 

Compatibility:

IK Multimedia’s TEAC A-3340S is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

IK Multimedia’s TEAC A-3340S model is a great addition to your toolkit if you want to start adding some analog flavor to your mixes and don’t care as much about the technicalities of how it works. If you’re already familiar with this type of software is even better because you probably know what you’re looking for, and this plugin can get you there real quick. This is an efficient and good-sounding model overall.

2.  UAD Ampex ATR-102

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The ATR-102 is a classic tape machine initially built in the mid-1970s.

This analog piece was characterized by its revolutionary servo-controlled mechanism on its cap and rear motors, which served truly well to open up and stabilize the sound, one of the more significant problems in recording with tape machines back in these times.

UAD’s model portends to be a faithful digital recreation of the original master tape machine. You can mix into this unit or load it after you’re done to achieve a rich balance and analog color, whether subtle or more aggressive.

UAD Ampex ATR-102 - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Make better recordings:
    This plugin is fully integrated into UAD’s Luna Recording System software, where you can use it on every input from the mixer, similar to how you’d use the actual gear. You can adjust every single aspect of the sound as in the plugin but without the need to open any extra windows.
  • Tweakable to the core:
    You can control every detail of the sound with the calibration settings. So if you know your way around these things or like to play around with knobs and whatnot, this model will deliver fantastic results
  • Calibration presets:
    Of course, you don’t always have as much time as to spend a long while trying to figure out the best settings for your tracks so you have a choice between one of four different calibrations presets
  • Button-switch-based interface:
    One thing that sticks out in this plugin is that it has button-switch selectors, which is extremely practical when looking for good sounding settings for your tracks on the go. You can try several combinations between four tape types, four calibration styles, and three recording heads until you find a good fit.

Compatibility:

The UAD Ampex ATR-102 is available exclusively for UAD and Luna Recording System.

Summary:

The UAD Ampex ATR-102 has many exciting features and delivers impressive results. Its interface visually recreates the appearance of this console, and it allows you to uncover and cover the hood in case you don’t want to see the calibration settings. As far as the sound, it does bring a lot of the warmth and analog glue from the original unit and does a pretty good job imitating its usual response.

3. Nomad Factory Magnetic II

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Magnetic II is the ultimate combination of tape machine emulations, tape and tube saturation, and tape coloration effects.

Nomad Factory modeled nine famous top-notch studio tape machines and mixed them with different types of saturation and artifacts to develop their Magnetic II plugin. They’ve sampled the most relevant studio and commercial tape machines from Ampex, Otari, Studer, and MCI, and included two classic analog distortion types and a passive two-bands EQ.

You have multiple algorithms for the reaction of each, the high and low boosts/cuts, the reel speed, saturation, and color so that you keep control of each aspect of your sound. With Magnetic II, you don’t have the problem of excessive coloration; instead, you can dial in the right amounts and get incredible and attractive sounding results.

Nomad Factory Magnetic II - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Dynamic processing:
    Magnetic II offers you more than just the typical tape compression. It offers you a brick-wall limiter with look-ahead capabilities that you can activate to elevate your mix to broadcast levels.
  • Master boost:
    Speaking of dynamic processing, Magnetic II incorporates multiple limiting and brick-wall limiting stages. Moreover, the master boost is a terrific addition because it is an easy way to send mixes for client revisions if you already have it on your two-bus.
  • Uneven tape tone:
    Regardless of which of the nine tape machine emulations you’ve selected, you can still make it unique by turning the reel speed knob around. Lower speeds will give you a cassette-type of sound, higher values will give you more fidelity and “analog polish,” and if you go all the way up to “DASH,” you’ll get a magnetic tape sound, which resembles the tone of records made during the ’80s and ’90s.

Compatibility:

Magnetic II is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

You can’t go wrong with the Magnetic II plugin by Nomad Factory. It has the most straightforward UI, is easy to look at, has a lot to offer, and has endless possible combinations to add to your palette. In addition, it’s a good return for your money because it only goes slightly above the 100-dollars line but gives you way more than many other manufacturers.

As for the emulations, they’re pretty precise and sound great, but you should be aware of your low-mids because sometimes they can get all over the place and add mud to your mix.

4. Waves J37 Tape

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This plugin was modeled after the actual J37 tape machine from the legendary Abbey Road Studios.

Although this plugin might look complicated, this is more of a creative tool rather than a very technical one, so bear in mind that there’s no wrong way to use it. Additionally, as you navigate through the buttons and knobs, you can quickly understand what it does and come up with the best settings for your signal.

You can change the tape formula on this plugin, which gives you three tape options with different characteristics and sounds, and change the speed and the bias. You can also add engaging effects with the delay control.

Waves J37 Tape - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • More than just another tape plugin:
    The J37 plugin does a great job as a tape saturator, but it can also become a great sound design tool with its delay section. With the feedback mode, you can create very cool sound effects and what’s even better is that the sound that comes out of it varies according to the source, which leaves a lot of room for experimentation.
  • Authentic tape delay:
    Following up with the delay section, something is exciting about its response. Unlike other analog and digital delay units, this delay depends on the time it takes for the signal to go from one recording head to the other. As a result, you can use this delay for special effects or even stereo image enhancement.
  • Simple and effective:
    Waves audio optimized this plugin’s design as much as they did to the audio quality bringing us an easy-going interface. It’s very intuitive and good-looking, keeps everything within reach of a hand, and it only takes about a minute to go through and know what things do.

Compatibility:

J37 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

This plugin is great for adding depth and width to your drums. If you use this plugin as an insert, you can add it to your bus to improve the tone of your signal, making a good balance between input and output. Using it as parallel processing, you can even get experimental with the wow and flutter controls, saturation, or even its in-built tape delay.

What’s good about the J37 plugin is its versatility as a tool because you can use it for mixing, mastering, and sound design, in any context, and you’ll quickly find a way to fit it into your workflow. In addition, it has very flexible controls that give you lots of possibilities to use it on any sound source, going from incredibly subtle to broken down.

5. T-Racks Tape Machine 80

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Tape machine 80 recreates the transparency and harmonic enhancement from the classic A80 tape machine.

This release by IK Multimedia simulates a well-known tape machine that was produced from 1970 until the late 80s and became the sound staple from the time. The analog unit provided an enjoyable tone unique to its circuitry and transformer and was used as master tape, which is a tape recorder onto which engineers used to print down their mixes.

Keeping this in mind, this s a great acquisition if you want to take your mix a bit further harmonically, as it provides a subtle yet very rich harmonic enhancement that’s reasonably faithful to the original analog piece. Tape Machine 80 features four tape formulas with sonic characteristics exclusively designed to fit your best interest, bringing balance, slight and rough distortion, warmth, and different tonalities that you can try for your mix.

T-Racks Tape Machine 80 - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Two signal paths:
    Choose the intensity of the processing by switching between input and repro. When set to input, you’ll only go through the mechanics of the unit; thus, the sound will be colored but not saturated, and the output will be more natural. Set it to repro to get more harmonic excitation and punchier dynamics with the tape effect.
  • Analog stereo:
    Stereo processing works differently in analog units than it does with digital ones. In analog processors, there’s always a slight difference in time, levels, and distortion between one channel and the other because of the physical capacities of analog hardware. This trait helps your mixes sound broader and more profound.
  • Transport modeling:
    IK Multimedia went the extra mile here, modeling the behavior of the mechanics, including the slight irregularities in the movement of the tape, which creates several sonic variations during playback

Compatibility:

Tape Machine 80 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Tape Machine 80 does what it says it does and no more. It can help bring your mix to life by enhancing the overall tonal balance with its harmonic characteristics and other features. It’s undoubtedly a great plugin to try, also because it’s super simple and gets the job done fast, without much complication.

6. UAD Studer® A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder

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The Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder is a tape emulation powered by Universal Audio that portends to be a faithful recreation of the original A800 piece of hardware.

This plugin lets you choose between four different types of tape, each with distinct frequency variations, distortions, and compression characters. It has a straightforward user interface with several options to accommodate your tape distortion to the finest detail.

With this plugin, you’re able to manipulate your tape distortion and compression without affecting the output level, which allows a safer and more accurate perception of the processing that you’re applying. Speaking about the unity level of this piece, you need to know that it operates at an internal level of -12DBFS, so be aware that higher levels on your VU meter will typically indicate that more harmonic saturation and distortion are being added to your signal.

UAD Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Path-select buttons:
    Choose between four possible active signal paths for the signal coming through the plugin. Emulate only the sound of the A800’s circuitry with the “input” option, or get the sound of the recording and playback via the recording head plus the unit’s electronics with the “sync” button. Use the “Repro” mode to represent the analog piece accurately or “thru” to bypass the effect.
  • Auto-calibrate:
    This plugin spares you from getting lost and crazy with the settings with its automatic calibration function, which automatically adjusts all parameters to calibrated values each time you modify the tape type, tape speed, and EQ curves.
  • Gang controls:
    The Studer is meant to be used in as many tracks on your mix as you need. To make this intention a reality during usage, they’ve implemented this option that enables you to control all instances of the Studer globally whenever this option is activated.
  • Pre- and post-processing EQ:
    Studer offers you pre-and post-tape equalization controls to affect the frequency response before and after the tape emulation processing occurs. For example, you can control the bias and high-frequency distortion before it runs through the tape, adjust the high and low-frequency content of the sync/repro paths, and shape the tone of your noise.

Compatibility:

Studer® A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder is available exclusively for UAD and Luna Recording System.

Summary:

As you would expect from Universal Audio, their Studer® A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder plugin is impeccably modeled after its original peer. It brings you many different rare features that let you shape the tone and color of the tape saturation and distortion. This plugin gives you a lot of freedom, in terms of tonal shaping, making it very cool to use on your mix bus and adding a unique character to your final bounce.

7. Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines

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Use Virtual Tape Machine by Slate Digital across your entire session or directly on your mix bus.

This plugin has a very straightforward UI, similar to other plugins we’ve already analyzed in this list. It’s got a settings menu where you can calibrate the sound of your tape machine. You’ve got something similar to a group mixer which can come in handy when working with it like a preamp or a console emulation.

This plugin has an incredible sound, and it can make a noticeable difference on an entire mix only by interacting with it in its initial settings. You can easily switch in and out the few settings, varying between tape types, machine emulations, speed, and bias to rapidly achieve your desired results. Let’s see what these settings do that make this plugin so cool.

Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Multichannel and stereo tape machines:
    Depending on how or where you want to use this plugin, it brings you optimized settings for each stereo and multichannel processing, including a tape machine type specific to each purpose.
  • Efficient UI:
    With its super simple graphic interface, you can’t waste any time with the Virtual Tape Machine. Moreover, since it’s limited to a few options, it allows you to experiment with several combinations of these settings, opening a bigger window for creativity to show up.

Compatibility:

Slate Digital’s Virtual Tape Machine is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Slate Digital’s Virtual Tape Machine is everything you can expect from the developing company: it’s efficient, it’s practical, it’s adaptable, and it sounds great. It doesn’t go too far away when it comes to tape effects or anything as such, but it does perfectly what you’d expect from an emulation of this kind.

8. T-RackS TASCAM 388 By IK Multimedia

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The 388 has the most comprehensive scope for the creative use and tweaks of all the plugins from the Tascam collection.

This one is a different plugin from IK Multimedia’s TASCAM collection, in this case modeling the namesake hardware by TASCAM, an 8-track tape recorder from the mid-’80s. The physical peer of this unit was known for combining a mixer with a tape recorder, which is one of the significant characteristics of this particular piece.

This plugin counts with its four-set of tape formulas, auto-calibration, true stereo, and transport modeling characteristics shared with the rest of the bundle. Besides that, it offers a three-band semi-parametric EQ and a record knob, which adds some of the noise and mechanics of the recording head.

T-RackS TASCAM 388 By IK Multimedia - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Shared controls:
    Most of the controls in these plugins don’t vary much from the other IK Tascam emulations, making the entire suite even more straightforward to use as you become familiar with the plugins.
  • Clean GUI:
    The Tascam 388 plugin looks super smooth. Everything is perfectly distributed and makes it easier to focus solely on the sound. Besides being aesthetic, it’s very well thought out. After all, it keeps you aware of everything because it’s all in front of you.
  • 3-Band EQ:
    The three-band semi-parametric EQ is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding features of this unit because it allows more tonal control and coloration capabilities. Additionally, you can add a pleasant and controlled tape saturation and warmth and EQ without opening a different plugin.

Compatibility:

Slate Digital’s Virtual Tape Machine is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

The TASCAM 388 plugin by IK Multimedia is another impeccable recreation of the Tascam tape bundle. The 388 is excellent to use on every track as the first plugin of the chain like you’d use a preamp to get things going your way from the beginning. The EQ feature is beneficial, as it’s not too colorful but not too subtle at the same time and creates this sort of harmonic enrichment that’s very musical and helps your tracks. 

This plugin, as it is, can be helpful with poorly recorded vocals because the tape distortion and saturation round up the sound in a super clean way, even when you break it with extreme values, and give your song an attractive, super original character.

9. Baby Audio TAIP

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This plugin is a tape emulator with an incorporated artificial intelligence.

TAIP by Baby Audio is a revolutionary tape emulator that you can use as onboard parallel processing and has a super cool and re-scalable user interface with three different skins for your comfortability. In addition, the plugin has a few controls that give us enough flexibility and different sounds but not too many to be confusing.

The two futuristic wheels are a drive input that conducts the signal into the tape to get more distortion and saturation and output control to compensate for the level increase caused by the distortion and saturation. You can link both of these controls with the drive auto-gain, and you have a mix slider, which is interesting for letting you blend with the dry signal for flanging effects when using the wear control.

This plugin does an incredible job when recreating the compression effect and non-linearities from tape machines and offers you some sliders that you can use to add some of these effects.

Baby Audio TAIP - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Tape flanger:
    Add a natural flanging effect by sliding the wear control, and set up the amount of flanger on your signal with the mix knob. This is not an aggressive flanger effect but rather a subtle one that’s very flexible and brings a captivating color to your sound.
  • Glue compression:
    The glue slide adds a smooth glue compression effect that can be very beneficial if you add this plugin to an aux bus, onboard or parallel. This compression-like effect it’s outstandingly good for drums because it accentuates the transients in a way that doesn’t go too far but still makes it snappier.
  • Hi-shape and Lo-shape:
    These two slides bring a solution to high and low-frequency distortion by giving you only two separate slides instead of the usual tape formula and bias controls. With these filters, you can control the distortion on each end of the spectrum, adding or cutting from left to right.
  • Dual model:
    Baby Audio introduces the original approach to tape saturation that they took for this plugin, emulating not one but two tape machines in cascade, applying half of the gain to each. It’s a fascinating trait, and it can be super helpful to enrich a guitar tone or bring a nice ring and tightness to a drum bus.

Compatibility:

Baby Audio’s TAIP is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Baby Audio’s TAIP plugin is a revolutionary and rare tape emulator that delivers a smooth sound, it’s extremely flexible, and introduces new and interesting sounds to your pallet. It’s an incredibly easy-to-use plugin, it only takes you a few minutes to navigate and understand it and every one of its functions is very tastefully distributed across the graphic interface.

10. Tone Empire Reelight Pro

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Reelight is another one of the ambitious and outstanding analog emulations by Tone Empire.

Reelight is Tone Empire’s take on analog tape recorders and features six different emulations of six classic tape machines from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, like the Ampex ATR-700, the REVOX B77 MKII, and the Studer 8A12, to name a few.

This plugin offers you these famous pieces of gear and applicable controls for essential aspects of the tape effect, such as the compression, the bias, and the crosstalk amounts, which you can set with the knobs.

Tone Empire Reelight Pro - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Tape machine selector:
    Quickly switch between 6 different tape machine emulations until you find the right fit. Add different tape textures to different sound sources to create new tape effects and tones.
  • Compressor:
    The independent control of the amount of tape compression is one highly relevant feature of this plugin. You can add glue to buses without adding too much distortion/saturation or clipping the input.
  • GUI:
    This is a very straightforward plugin. Everything is laid out in excellent order with a very smooth distribution. It’s easy to navigate, interactive, and most importantly, suitable for anyone who wishes to try it out.

Compatibility:

Tone Empires’s Reelight Pro is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Tone Empires’s Reelight Pro is a great deal for your money as you can get a top-notch-sounding analog tape emulation for less than 100 bucks and make your mixes sound more engaging. On the other hand, unlike many other plugins, it doesn’t have a mix control, which doesn’t allow the possibility of onboard parallel processing. Nevertheless, this plugin also has up to x8 oversampling capacities, which makes the plugin sound very close to its analog match.

11. SoundToys Decapitator

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

SoundToys Decapitator - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Decapitator is Soundtoys’ ultimate saturation plugin.

Decapitator by Soundtoys is one of the most famous saturators in the market and is commonly used by engineers to add analog warmth, parallel distortion, or even during recording. One thing that makes this plugin great is its changing responsive emulations of all of these components, such as tubes, wires, and transistors, because they produce the particular vintage sound that made it so famous.

Decapitator is great for beginners, as it can dramatically change the sound of their mixes for excellent and advanced users because its sound quality and ease of use make this plugin very attractive and achieve quick good sounding results. In addition, Decapitator doesn’t only emulate components but also actual gear and tape.

Key Features:

  • Full range of intensity:
    Decapitator is capable of providing subtle and grinding analog saturation that you can adapt to your sonic goal. Get to its highest distortion levels by turning on the “Punish” feature to add some aggression to your drums or make a vocal performance more exciting.
  • Tonal balance:
    You get a vintage style EQ and tone control to adjust the tonal response of the saturation. You can add more excitement or body by adjusting these controls and blending them with the dry signal. 
  • Five styles:
    The styles are different saturation algorithms that simulate different components and gear, allowing you to conveniently use the proper distortion for each occasion. For example, you can use the Neve 1057 to make a snare snap or the pentode tube to warm up a vocal performance.

Compatibility:

Decapitator is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Decapitator gives you top-notch emulations, a super simple GUI, and exceptional results. It’s’ a great plugin that you can incorporate at any stage of the recording process and achieve remarkable sounding saturation with the least effort. Its emulations are reasonably accurate, but the core of its greatness lies in how malleable it is, as you can twist it in several different ways to get subtle or extreme game-changing analog harmonic distortion to your tracks.

12. Softube Tape

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Tape by Softube brings you three different flavors in a simple and effective plugin to enhance your mixes.

Tape is an excellent option for people who don’t want to get too caught up in tweaking many controls to get what they want. It’ll take you right where you need it to be in just seconds.

With Tape, you can improve an entire mix with just a handful of controls. The UI explains itself, and as for the distribution of its different elements, everything feels accessible and relatively at hand.

Softube Tape - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Super simple:
    You can literally navigate through the entire plugin in 2 seconds. The graphic interface is optimized for efficiency and sounds good on its own. Great acquisition for beginners and pros, especially for fast results in fast-paced environments.
  • Not too much:
    Even when taking the amount wheel to the maximum level, the plugin doesn’t break, but rather it adds some very musical distortion and subtleties that enhance your audio. You can quickly adjust some knobs and go back to crystal-clean analog sound even when the input is too hot and distorts aggressively.
  • Slide menu:
    To the right, we can find more available controls to shape the tone of the distortion. The knobs and how they react are self-explaining, and they’ve included two buttons, “run” and “stop,” to produce a tape stop effect.
  • Different flavors:
    You can choose between three very different and interesting models with unique characters and tones. Each one of these models is based on separate machines and components. Choose between a swiss reel-to-reel tape machine for a clean balance, a transformer-based machine for richer low-end harmonics, and a British tape machine for better mid-range definition.           

Compatibility:

Decapitator is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Softube’s Tape plugin is undoubtedly one impressively user-friendly tape saturation plugin capable of producing remarkable tape effects to your signal. It’s not too aggressive as a saturator, but this plugin works better as a mix enhancer, which is likely what they’ve made it for in the first place.

It is comfortable to use, but frankly, it can be annoying not to have most controls in plain sight but kept in the displayable sleeve on the right. Nonetheless, this is an absolute killer plugin that can improve the sound of your mixes quite drastically, so make sure to try it out.

13. Waves Kramer Master Tape

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Kramer Master Tape plugin is based on a rare reel-to-reel machine and was developed in association with the recording producer and engineer Eddie Kramer (Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix, David Bowie).

Back in the analog days, engineers had to print down their mixes into the so-called “master tapes,” which is pretty much an older version of your typical .wav master file from this digital era. This plugin emulates the tape machine that you’d use for this purpose.

With the Kramer Master Tape, you can add tube and tape saturation to create interesting new distorted sounds and combine them with exciting delay effects. Additionally, add it to your mix bus to set up a smooth vintage vibe while increasing depth and bringing it to life with the harmonic distortion.

Waves Kramer Master Tape - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Two types of distortion:
    Besides being a tape saturation plugin, the Kramer Master Tape plugin includes a tube saturator in the input stage and offers you a separate control for your tape saturation. This feature lets you blend both the tube and tape distortion with absolute control and create original, exciting distortions for your tracks and mixes.
  • Great for sound design:
    In the delay section, you can not only make a delay but also create cool ambiance sounds and atmospheres that you can adapt to your music, score, or film just by playing with the feedback amount and delay time.
  • Flux control:
    This plugin allows you to control the level of simulated magnetic radiation emitted from the recording head, which works like a control specific to the amount of tape saturation you’re adding to your signal. This control comes in very handy when using this plugin on your mix bus, and you need to be wary of the amount of distortion you’re adding.

Compatibility:

Kramer Master Tape Machine is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Kramer Master Tape Machine by Waves Audio is an example of a versatile tool that you can combine with creativity and even choose as your particular sound. Use this plugin however you want, and it’ll work great on just about any audio source.

Besides using it on your mix bus or for sound design purposes to create crazy soundscapes, ambiance sounds, and thrilling effects, Kramer Master Tape Machine works great on music instruments and vocals, especially as a bus processor. On the downside, you need to know that this is a heavy plugin for your CPU, and it can be a real pain with low-end computers.

14. AudioThing Wires

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

AudioThing Wires - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

The response of this recorder produced an exceptional and infrequent delay effect that became a magic lo-fi-maker.

Wires feature a distinctive set of controls, effect modules, and a clipping limiter for the output. In addition, the plugin has a resizable window, includes start and stop effects, a preset randomizer, and more. This plugin is like a holy grail for lo-fi producers, so let’s check it out!

Key Features:

  • Sound design tool:
    Use Wires to create several textures, tones, and effects, adjusting each section and combining them. For example, you can not only add analog distortion and harmonic excitation but also tailor an analog effect or texture in very much detail. In addition, randomizable settings can make your life easier whenever you get stuck.
  • Ideal for lo-fi:
    The detailed yet straightforward knob-based interface makes it easy to achieve lo-fi sounds and textures. The plugin includes two unique knobs: drops and clicks, that facilitate the achievement of a nice-sounding lo-fi vibe. 
  • Dynamics:
    Wires include a soft clipping limiter with prefixed values at the end of the “Master” section, which acts as an output trimmer. The limiter allows you to hit the plugin with more confidence and even get extreme effects without clipping the output.
  • Effects:
    You have a lot of freedom to get creative and combine different things from every module. Play around combining distortion, delay, and flange with the typical noises of the tape machine’s mechanics and imperfections to create unique textures.

Compatibility:

Wires by Audio Thing is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

This is a particularly odd model of an analog piece. The non-linearities of this emulation are incredibly detailed and perfectly achieved, for example, the wow/flutter inconsistencies and the randomness of the drops and other noises. In addition, the tilt EQ, which can boost high frequencies (to the left) or low frequencies (to the right), is great to compensate for the high-frequency cuts that come with both types of devices.

Overall it produces significant lo-fi effects and can be used for sound design purposes to make cool effects and filters that you probably wouldn’t get if not with this specific plugin. It’s very original, sounds outstandingly good, and it’s a dream come true for lo-fi producers.

15. u-he Satin Tape Machine

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Satin is a tape saturation plugin that you can use as a delay, flanger, and studio tape effect.

The graphic interface is divided into three vertical sections that start with the meters at the top, a section where you can pick the different effect modes and modify them accordingly on the contextual menu right below the selector, and finally, the service drawer at the bottom, which gives you access to more fine-tuning controls over all the different imperfections on a real tape machine, like the tape head and the circuitry.

This plugin offers you the possibility of alternating the distortion algorithm between modern and vintage and includes a built-in clipping limiter. You also get an RMS on/off switch that gives you a smoother average level for a better sense of the perceived volume, even letting you adjust the reference point for what zero means.

u-he Satin Tape Machine - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Studio tape mode:
    You can assign different groups and layer your inputs to add glue, make your mix tighter, control the tape’s inches per second rate or speed, and add pre-emphasis to control the gap of the repro head, which affects the high frequencies.
  • Delay Mode: 
    You choose between two or four heads, which determines the number of repeats of your signal. Use this mode as a substitute for your regular delay effect to create different flavors that you can add to your palette. In this mode, you can control every aspect of your delay, and it lets you easily customize them to your taste.
  • Flanger mode:
    This particular approach to flanger recreates the actual “swoosh” that resulted from the engineer’s intervention on the tape machine instead of the typical LFO-controlled flangers that include digital artifacts inherent to the envelope. This more natural-sounding flanging mode also protects you from phase issues by automatically compensating the offset.

Compatibility:

Satin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

U-he offers you an innovative approach to tape machine emulations that bring us many benefits for any mixing situation. Satin’s revolutionary approach makes it very flexible and easily adaptable to different sound sources and situations, such as sound design or creative effects.

On the other hand, so much control can be harmful because it depends on you having the time to tweak it and familiarize yourself with it enough to understand how to craft the effect you’re looking for. In addition, it’s easy to get confused when navigating the plugin, especially if you’re not familiar with tape recording and even more if you’re at a beginner’s level.

16. Caelum Audio Tape Pro

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

And last but not least, here’s Tape Pro by Caelum Audio.

Tape Pro has six saturation algorithms with hysteresis asymmetry, twenty-one impulse responses from different tape machines, twelve noise algorithms, versatile wow and flutter modules, and a realistic-sounding tape delay.

Caelum Audio Tape Pro - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • GUI:
    Tape Pro’s user interface offers you a detailed UI with everything that you can tweak. Since it’s a knob-based interface, it’s easier to manipulate because every knob does its own thing, and it’s only a matter of trying them out.
  • Noise samples:
    Noise is one crucial aspect of these plugins because it’s very determinizing for the character and color of the emulation. You have 12 sampled noises to choose from, which gives you a lot of room for experimentation.
  • Impulse responses:
    Besides choosing between not less than twenty-one impulse responses, you can filter them with high and low-pass filters before they go through the processing. You can control the frequency response of the impulse response by opening and closing these filters.

Compatibility:

Tape Pro is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Tape Pro by Caelum audio provides you with infinite possibilities for creative use and control over all individual aspects of the tape sound, besides being a powerful weapon for sound design. You can try all sorts of combinations and come up with new types of tape noises, saturations, and sounds, which can give your tracks unique characteristics.

This is a paid plugin, but for 55 bucks, this is a ridiculously great deal, especially because of its controls and features, which will come in handy if you regularly work with diverse types of projects.

17. Wavesfactory Cassette

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Cassette by Wavesfactory is a modular tape plugin that models all four of the available cassette types.

Cassette lets you tweak all aspects of your sound, including the amount of artifact and the chemical composition of the tape, providing you with a fully customizable sound to make your mixes more engaging and unique.

As far as the UI, it brings a re-scalable interface with a very smooth design that offers you some knobs for each controllable aspect of the sound characteristics of this type of tape. It also brings you three buttons with different characters labeled as a pro, home, and micro that emulate these types of cassette players.

Wavesfactory Cassette - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Four different cassettes:
    You get each of the four cassette types available to offer a much broader sound pallet that you can adapt to any element of your mix. Each type has a unique character and tone and belongs to its specific time, and you can use these to craft unique textures exclusive to your taste.
  • Total tone control:
    If you are like me and you like to take the time to tweak plugins until reaching the perfect settings, then this is a significant trait of this plugin that not many others have. As a result, you can achieve new textures and tones with maximum precision with the possibility of blending your effect with the original signal.
  • Player types:
    This plugin gives you three player options: pro, home, which refers to the good old home sound systems with cassette players, and micro, which probably emulates a portable player. Each of these models offers an unusual reaction to the signal with its particular coloration and tone so that you can either make a signal feel fuller or get an instant Lo-Fi effect.

Compatibility:

Cassette is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

With Cassette by Wavesfactory, you can achieve unique tones for your music. Use this plugin on each element of your mix, as a bus processor, or as a final touch to add a distinctive sound for your mixed tracks that differentiates you from the rest.

You need to know about this plugin because it can be a bit excessive sometimes, as its distortion could drastically change the tone and color of an entire track. So be careful and be aware of the mix slider within the settings menu to blend it in a way that properly aligns with your sonic goals.

18. UAD Oxide Tape Recorder 

More Info & Price

Oxide Tape Recorder provides UAD’s best-selling tape plugin technology in a simple package with all of the essential features.

If you were wondering which piece of hardware is it that Oxide sounds like it’s emulating, the answer is none. Instead, this plugin takes what UAD considered to be the best of their previous tape machine emulation plugins and created their own tape machine combining them all.

Oxide Tape Recorder imparts essential sounds like a record clarity, punch, and warmth to each track of your mix. The user interface provides all of the typical controls you’d expect to see in this type of software and includes two prefixed EQ curves with a switch from European to American.

UAD Oxide Tape Recorder  - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Easy-to-use presets:
    Oxide includes several presets made specifically for each instrument to get you on the right track nice and easy. All presets are labeled with the ideal level reflected on the VU as a guideline for you to optimize your results, which you can really appreciate regardless of your experience level.
  • Fool-proof UI:
    Everything is perfectly laid out in this plugin’s user interface, it hasn’t but a few controls to optimize productivity and interactions. Switches allow you to rapidly check what’s best for your track and do accurate A/B comparisons. You can make anything sound better with this plugin and it only takes a few seconds.

Compatibility:

Oxide is available exclusively for UAD and Luna Recording System.

Summary:

There’s no going wrong with Oxide, its sound is excellent, and it’s a CPU-friendly release by UAD. The lower ips value can work wonders for bass guitar and kick, and the EQ switch adds a distinctive tone to the signal because the EQ curve smooths out the input. Overall great-sounding plugin, easy, effective, and affordable.

19. Arturia MELLO FI

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Tape MELLO FI by Arturia brings us a collection of artifacts, saturations, and various noises from the Mellotron.

This emulation includes a preamp section where you can add light/hard distortion and tone. Next, you’ve got the tape section with control knobs to manage the number of imperfections and non-linearities from a typical tape machine that you want to add to your signal. Finally, you get a tape stop that you can sync to your project DAW, filters that can be low-pass or high-pass, and an output knob.

This is a great plugin for trap and hip-hop mixes to add interesting sounds and distortion to each element or the entire mix. One pretty cool thing you can do with this piece is to load it on your drum bus and add flutter and wow so to make them bounce a little in time and make them more groovy, increase the sense of space, and make them more aggressive altogether.

Arturia MELLO FI - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • As simple as it gets:
    This plugin’s UI has no learning curve, hidden secrets, or magic tricks. All that you see is what you get. The graphic interface is self-explanatory and shows you everything that this plugin offers without becoming overcharging or confusing. 
  • Preamp and tape machine:
    Tape Mello Fi allows you to use it only as a preamp without any of the typical tape non-linearities or effects, which makes it very comfortable to use in mixing situations when you only need to add a bit of color without tainting the signal with a bunch of artifacts.
  • Syncronizable tape stop:
    Use Mello Fi on your tracks to create cool pitch and slow-down effects with the tape stop feature. This is a unique feature of this plugin, and if you’re a beatmaker or producer, you might want to keep an eye on this effect to add some personality and energy to your drops.

Compatibility:

Arturia’s Tape Mello Fi is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Arturia’s Tape Mello Fi is a great plugin and especially helpful if you’re a beatmaker, producer, or mix engineer working with trap, hip-hop, or EDM records. It’s enjoyable to play with, offers you a lot of flexibility, and can serve several different purposes within any of these contexts. I suggest checking it out and using it on your mixes and tracks.

20. T-Racks Tape Machine 99 By IK Multimedia

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

This unit models the RevoxPR99, an analog tape recorder that became popular for its fidelity and linear response.

The RevoxPR99 was a reel-to-reel tape recorder. The Revox PR99 was a popular choice for recording studios and live music performances in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Though it has since been discontinued, the PR99 still enjoys a cult following among audiophiles and collectors due to its exceptional sound quality.

The unique design of the PR99’s record head allowed it to capture a wider frequency range than other cassette tape recorders of its era, resulting in better sound reproduction. The Tape Machine 99 portends to mimic the exact behavior of its physical counterpart with a combination of convolution and physical modeling techniques used by IK Multimedia to model this legendary tape machine.

Tape Machine 99 By IK Multimedia - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Familiarity:
    Like many other products from IK Multimedia, the set of controls and layout is planned to be almost identical to other similar plugins from the manufacturer.  It’s easy to navigate and practical to pay more attention to its sound instead of its settings.
  • Subtlety is the brand:
    This plugin is perfect for an impressively subtle reaction and coloration. This plugin is perfect for mastering situations and mixing scenarios where you need to stick to the natural tone of an instrument, like mixing a jazz saxophone, for example. Sounds natural with a little touch of magic in the high-mids.

Compatibility:

Tape Machine 99 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Tape Machine 99 is another ambitious analog tape model by IK Multimedia. It does pretty much what you’d expect. The original unit was well known for its outstandingly linear response, and must I say, IKM nailed it with that, for sure.

It’s a plugin thought for advanced users who either have used the analog peer to record or advanced users who understand how the process works. It’s freakishly transparent to a point where you really have to try to listen.

Best Free Tape Emulation Plugins 

1. Caelum Audio Tape Cassette 2

More Info & Download

Cassette 2 is a free option for lo-fi music production.

Cassette 2 is an improved version of Tape Cassette, which is an emulation of the warmth, character, and noise of type 1 cassettes and players. Cassette can help you achieve lo-fi sounds fast and easy with nothing but a few clicks.

Caelum Audio’s Cassette 2 is the simplest you can have for an effect plugin. Its parameters are good to add a character and punch to your track that convincingly resembles a cassette player.

Caelum Audio Tape Cassette 2 - Best Free Tape Emulation Plugins | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Type 1 cassette IR:
    Tape Cassette 2 includes an impulse response of a type 1 cassette to achieve a more realistic lo-fi sound. In addition, Caelum audio sampled a real-life cassette to capture its behavior and noises to the tiniest details. 
  • Good-looking UI:
    Tape Cassette two has a very minimalistic graphic design with only a few controls across the board with all options available. This interface is also fully re-scalable, and you can change its size by dragging the lower-right corner to a size you feel convenient. 

Compatibility:

Tape Cassette 2 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Tape Cassette 2 offers you an impeccably good return for freeware. This plugin’s impulse response and oversampling capacities are pretty advanced even when compared with paid software. The sound is pretty smooth and with a nice balance; it delivers a warm lo-fi sound.

2. Sender Spike N03/SN03-G Tape Recorder

More Info & Download

You can customize your analog tape machine sound with this free plugin.

The N03/SN03-G tape recorder is a custom-made plugin by Sender Spike, who was looking to solve the CPU overload issue underlying most tape emulators, making it impossible to use the sought-after cumulative effect. He didn’t just solve this issue for himself but also shared it with everyone, even making an innovative approach to tape distortion and saturation plugins, which gives you the chance to create an adequately calibrated custom-tape machine.”

He does this by emulating the critical components of analog tape and laying them out in a way that doesn’t look like rocket science. As a result, you can do a detailed calibration, even changing the VU meter’s reference point without pain or confusion. Let’s see what else it’s got.

Sender Spike N03/SN03-G Tape Recorder - Best Free Tape Emulation Plugins | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Control the Head Bump:
    The SN03-G lets you control the amount and the frequency of the head bump so that you can get a precise low-end boost right where you need it or turn it off if you don’t want it to engage.
  • Tone control for each stage:
    You get one vintage-style EQ for the recording and the playback head, which allow a refined tone control for each stage. This possibility provides more control over the signal and the opportunity of accomplishing a more controlled distribution of the harmonic excitation made by the plugin.
  • Different reactions per reel speed:
    Speaking of the EQ section, there’s a selector knob in the very center of the plugin that you can use to change the reaction mode of the EQ and tape speed. The first two modes respond to a 15ips reel-speed value and the last one responds to 30ips.

Compatibility:

Tape Cassette 2 is available for Windows 7 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST format.

Summary:

This plugin is an outstanding freeware solution to most of the high-CPU-consuming plugins of this kind. This is a true featherweight and it’s ideal to control the mid-range while adding some saturation mixed up with a nice smile EQ curve

Another cool thing about this plugin is when you boost the high knob in the repro stage, it adds a little harmonic saturation and acts as a high-frequency enhancer. Overall, it is a pretty awesome plugin and it’s free!

3. Chow Tape Model

More Info & Download

The Chow Tape Model was made as part of a school project by the developer.

The Chow Tape Model is a great-sounding and musical free tape emulation that takes the idea of physical modeling and applies it to a tape machine. This plugin can add heat and glue to your master bus, apply smoke vibes to your key loops, and do anything in between, making up for a versatile, helpful piece of freeware.

It gives you access to many different parameters and fine-tuning options to nail down the exact sound of tape you want. This plugin stands out because it’s not limited to emulating a specific tape machine; instead, it emulates the physical characteristics of tape and gives you access to dial in the tape sound you’re looking for.

Chow Tape Model - Best Free Tape Emulation Plugins | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Absolute control over sound:
    Use physics-based settings to adjust every aspect of the sound. You can do just about anything with this plugin, from the spacing and azimuth to unreal tape speeds.
  • Sound design tool:
    With so many parameters, the only limit with this plugin is your creativity in what you can do with this powerful freeware. You can play around with different setups with any sound source and be amazed by the results.
  • GUI:
    Despite having so many controls, this plugin’s graphic interface is perfectly organized and easy to follow. In addition, it has a helper which explains each function as you step over them to get you on the same page quickly. 

Compatibility:

Tape Cassette 2 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, and AU formats.

Summary:

Chow Tape Model is an impressively powerful free plugin by Chow DSP that you can use in audio engineering and music production situations. It has several tonal controls and qualities that make it, in some aspects, a lot better and more versatile than almost any other plugin in this list, either paid or free. Try out the Chow Tape Model plugin and be amazed by what it can do.

4. Ourafilmes Diabolique

More Info & Download

The final mention on our list is the Diabolique by Ourafilmes.

The Diabolique is a compact but effective unit and is one of the only free ones on offer through their online portal. It might not be the most powerful device on this list, but the fact that it comes in for free definitely reserves the right to a place on this list. 

Ourafilmes Diabolique - Best Free Tape Emulation Plugins | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Two Tape Machine Emulations: 
    Users have the option of choosing between 2 classic reel to reel emulations. The first is a Revox F36, and the alternative is a Tandberg Model 3. 
  • Analog Mode:
     Analog mode smooths out the high to mid-frequency responses that digital processing can sometimes overexert through saturation. The result is an overall warmer, which is a bit more pleasant on the ears.
  • Tube Saturation: 
    Separate tube saturation control lets users blend the processing of a valve state amplifier into their signal chain. This parameter brings out the presence of what some of the other commands can do when incorporated correctly.
  • Vintage Parameter: 
    Users can make use of this control to scoop out some of the frequencies. Boxing up the mid-range will result in the classic signal tones produced by old vinyl players.

Compatibility:

Diabolique is available to Windows or Mac users as a standalone device.

Summary:

 There are only two emulations available with this plugin, but both are highly sufficient at their processing power. The Revox module is geared more towards warming up your low to mid-range, while Tandberg’s primary purpose is to introduce higher rates of distortion and harmonic content into your signal.

Bonus

T-Racks TEAC A-6100 MKII By IK Multimedia

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

If you want to make your mixes sound more exciting with analog tape, this plugin is for you.

This is a two-channel master tape recorder from 1973, and it’s famous for being the so-called most reliable and best-sounding master deck. This unit is the predecessor of the famous 80-8 multi-track because of its back then revolutionary Simul-Sync technology.

IK Multimedia has once again focused on the smallest details to model this TASCAM unit to the nearest perfection and accurately replicate the response and behavior of its mechanics and circuitry.

T-Racks TEAC A-6100 MKII By IK Multimedia - 20 Best Tape Emulation Plugins (Inspired By Real Hardware) For Mixing & Mastering | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Familiarity:
    The controls and settings are slightly different from the other TEAC, which is the first plugin on this list. However, this one is much more transparent because this is a two-channel master recorder, different from the A-3340S, a quad-channel recorder.
  • Sound:
    The fundamental difference between these two TEAC models is their frequency response. The A-3340S is lighter and adds more snap, whereas the A-6100 offers a higher low-end definition. Also, the A-6100 adds way more harmonic information to the original signal than the A-3340S, making it even more tempting to use it on an entire mix.

Compatibility:

TEAC A6-100 MKII is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higherboth 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

The TEAC A6-100 MKII plugin is the two-channel version of the A-3340S. With this plugin, you can improve the overall sound of your mix by just loading it on your stereo bus. In terms of sounds, it is intriguing how they’ve modeled the reaction of these two pieces of gear to a point where you can hear the small subtleties and characteristics and separate them just by the sound.

Last Words

So here we are! These are the best tape emulation plugins available on the market, and before finally reaching the end of this article, it’s important to highlight just a few essential things.

First off, you might’ve noticed that most of these plugins have similar controls and characteristics. Although they all might look the same, I encourage you to listen to each plugin’s audio samples to make a better-informed decision about what would suit you better in terms of tonality, efficiency, and of course, simplicity.

And secondly, if you’re looking for a plugin that magically fixes your mixes, this is also not the case. Although they can dramatically change the tonality and some aspects of the overall sound of your mix, they’re still not magical, but they do help a lot.

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