Tape emulation plugins are ten-a-penny these days: there's never been more choice for producers looking to recreate the warmth and warble of the humble cassette.
What aren't so common, though, are plugins that don't just emulate the sound of tape, but also the tape machine's workflow and functionality. That's exactly what the creators of 4trak, a new Max for Live device, were hoping to achieve with the development of their new software tool for Ableton Live.
"We love all things analog, both in the music creation process and for listening formats," the plugin's creators write. "As creators ourselves, we wanted the sound and workflow of playing with audio on a hardware tape unit but with the convenience and expanded functionality of working in the box."
4trak, released by Inner Ocean Records and developed by Peter Bark and Woulg, is an M4L device that essentially puts a Tascam Portastudio inside Ableton Live, and then some. The device is both a 4-track recorder and a looper, and delivers the kind of tape emulation effects you'll find in other tape-inspired plugins, with controls for wow, flutter and bias.
In addition to the recording, looping, and overdub functionality you'd expect, 4trak is equipped with controls for speed, pitch, and reversing, while each track is outfitted with its own compressor. The device can be synced with Ableton's tempo and transport controls or operated independently.
Parameters such as loop length, playhead position and playback rate for each track can be modulated independently, meaning that once Live's LFOs get involved, things can get pretty experimental. 4trak comes bundled with a custom-made sample pack designed to be used with the plugin.
Some might question the logic behind a plugin that reproduces technology from decades ago inside a DAW that's largely superseded that technology. But aside from its ability to recreate one of the most popular home-recording set-ups in history, 4trak is a pretty full-featured musical sketchpad that's great for quickly and easily laying down ideas in Live or jamming out loop-based improvisations.
4trak is available now for an introductory price of £17/$20.