Softube recently released their contribution to the tape emulation plugin market. And it’s a great contribution. Named simply, ‘Tape’, it looks set to become an in-the-box mixing favourite. Read our review to find out why.
The Tape of Things to Come
Digital emulation of analogue gear has become a very popular area of plugin development. With the increased processor power available to people mixing on just their laptops, it is now possible to run incredibly complex modelling algorithms without creating massive latency or melting your CPU. As the quality of these emulations gets better and better, some of the big guns are stepping in with some impressive software. Most recently, Softube have released Tape.
Tape is an emulation of… uhm… tape! Not sticky tape or measuring tape but good old fashioned, reel-to-reel, recording tape. Like they used in the old days. Ahem… The idea being that you can make your digital recordings sounds like they’ve been committed to magnetic tape as they would have been in a professional studio (and still are today in many). The reason you want to do this is because that tape adds all kinds of subtle but beautiful sounding artefacts like saturation, wow and flutter. Have a listen to our quick ‘first-play’ and read on…
Let’s see what Softube have brought to the tape-ble. (Okay that pun was bad even for us… sorry.)
So you usually see 30 or 15 or 7.5 IPS (inches per second) on standard tape sims, but this also goes to like 3 3/4 and 1 7/8th, so you can make it unbelievably noisy if you like. It’s also the only tape sim we know of with crosstalk (the interaction of tracks playing between one another because of the medium). This is controlled by a knob in the interface, and it adds width without adding panning. Note that if you run this in Studio One you can have the extra benefit of being able to control the cross-talk amount per track.
It’s incredible. Like voodoo.
Wow/flutter is controlled by a single knob called ‘Speed Stability’. This is easier to use, though less controllable, than other tape emulations. There is also a knob for correction of HF depending on the tape speed you use (since higher speed is more trebly and low speeds are bassy).
The colour switch has 3 positions; Swiss, Transformer and British. Each has it’s own unique flavour, which is subtle, but if you up the crosstalk it can become pretty colourful.
You can also do an actual tape-stop with it. Everyone wants a tape-stop so that’s sold it for us!
Despite all of this functionality, Tape isn’t a CPU hog like some similar emulations. With a decent spec machine you should be able to whack this on all your tracks, busses and master without it falling over. This is a massive bonus as that’s the way you want to use it for an authentic tape based studio sound. All in all this is an incredibly strong competitor in the tape emulation game. It comes at a fair price and is definitely worth considering if that’s something you are into.