6 of the best classic tape emulation plugins

universal audio
(Image credit: Universal Audio)

1. Softube Tape


(Image credit: Softube)

Platforms: Mac/PC | Price: £85/$105 | Buy

Tape has a simple interface and controls you can master in seconds. It features three modelled and unspecified tape machines (likely Ampex, Studer and EMI) each giving different frequency boosts. It’s great for warming a mix and gluing tracks together. And lovely on instruments and vocals.

2. u-he Satin

u-he satin

(Image credit: u-he)

Platforms: Mac/PC | Price: £110/$137 | Buy

Unbelievably, Satin is a decade old. However it still delivers a beautiful tape emulation sound, as well as throwing in a couple of awesome effects with its Delay and Flange modes. You can also shape the sound by selecting EQ curves from various classic tape record and playback circuits, and adjust the Headroom knob to fine-tune distortion. Still ‘reely’ brilliant and a classic in its own right.

3. Waves J37


(Image credit: Waves)

Platforms: Mac/PC | Price: £28/$35 | Buy

The Studer J37 first found fame at Abbey Road in the ’60s when the studio bought four of them, each a mighty four tracks of recording power. Two machines were ‘sync’d for the Fab Four’s recordings. Waves’ J37 does a fine job of
emulating the warmth and joined up nature of the original. With wow, flutter, hiss, delays and three tape models.

4. Universal Audio Studer A800  

universal audio

(Image credit: Universal Audio)

Platforms: Mac/PC | Price: £174/$215 | Buy

Introduced in 1978, the Studer A800 quickly found fame and homes in huge studios including Ocean Way and Paisley Park. As usual, UA has modelled everything in the original, so you get the warmth and character that found its way onto recordings by everyone from Metallica to Stevie Wonder. You can use it for complete mix saturation or it excels delivering presence to your mid-range.

5. Baby Audio TAIP

baby audio taip

(Image credit: Baby Audio)

Platforms: Mac/PC | Price: £69/$85 | Buy

Baby Audio used machine learning to analyse multiple tape machines while developing TAIP. Typically with BA, you don’t get standard tape controls but Glue (compression), Wear (wow and flutter) and Noise. These, combined with an EQ and Presence control, make TAIP a great-sounding and flexible plugin that offers everything from subtle enhancement to full-on sonic destruction.

6. AudioThing Reels

audiothing reels

(Image credit: AudioThing)

Platforms: Mac/PC | Price: £49/$61 | Buy

Reels is no average tape sim with analogue warmth for a digital world; instead it’s about grungy distortion, emulating as it does an old Japanese reel-to-reel recorder “found in a distressed state at a local flea market”. You get nasty echoes, machine noise and crunchy lo-fi distortion. Not one for tape purists, but it’s lovely all the same. 

Andy Jones

Andy has been writing about music production and technology for 30 years having started out on Music Technology magazine back in 1992. He has edited the magazines Future Music, Keyboard Review, MusicTech and Computer Music, which he helped launch back in 1998. He owns way too many synthesizers.

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