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The Best Tape Emulation Plugins To Add Warmth To Your Mixes

audiosorcerer
|
December 19, 2023 
|
Last Updated on December 19, 2023

Analog tape machines have a signature sound that sterile digital recordings seem to lack. It’s massive, warm, lush, and exciting—qualities that all of the best-sounding records have. It’s no surprise that most sound engineers and audio professionals can’t live without a reliable tape emulation plugin to warm up their mixes and glue tracks together. If you feel the same way, you’re in the right place. Welcome to our list of the best tape emulation plugins on the market!

Included in this guide:

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Best Overall
Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines Plug-in

Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines Plug-in

  • Two tape speeds: 15 IPS and 30 IPS
  • Low, Normal, and High bias settings
  • Level calibration
5
Check Price
Runner-up
Universal Audio UAD Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder Plug-In

Universal Audio UAD Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder Plug-In

  • Four distinct tape formulas: 250, 456, 900, GP9
  • Studer A800 Input, Repro, Sync electronic signal paths
  • Three tape speed choices: 7.5, 15, and 30 IPS
5
Check Price
Top Pick
Baby Audio TAIP Tape Emulation Plug-In

Baby Audio TAIP Tape Emulation Plug-In

  • AI-powered analog tape emulation
  • Drive, Mix, and Model sound parameters
  • 135 presets instantly add warmth to your recordings
4.9
Check Price
Top Pick
Softube Tape Plug-in

Softube Tape Plug-in

  • Three realistic tape machine emulations
  • Adjustable tape speeds from 1 ⅞ to 30 IPS
  • Celebrity presets included
4.8
Check Price
Runner-up
Waves Abbey Road J37 Tape

Waves Abbey Road J37 Tape

  • Three distinctive EMI tape formulas
  • Bias, Wow, Flutter, Tape Speed control (and more)
  • Sync feature and LP/HP filter controls for customization
4.5
Check Price

Related Article: Top 5 Best Channel Strip Plugins For Pro-Level Audio Mixing


The Top 5 Best Tape Emulation Plugins

Breathe much-needed warmth, richness, and life into your cold and lackluster digital recordings with Slate Digital’s Virtual Tape Machines, modeled after some of the best-sounding analog tape machines in the audio industry. Enjoy the best of analog with tape reels that start and stop in sync with your DAW’s transport. There are two top-notch tape formulations, with wow, flutter, and bass alignment control, that instantly infuse your mixes and individual tracks with the vitality and punch that analog is known for—with no chopping of tape using razor blades necessary!

Tip: Use this plugin as the first insert on all your tracks and the last insert on your master bus. Use the 2" 16 track setting for your tracks and 1/2" 2 track on your master bus.

Pros
  • Plugin sounds great on its default settings
  • Not CPU intensive
  • Adds analog character matched by no other tape plugin
Cons
  • None

When it comes to capturing the magic of magnetic tape, Universal Audio’s Studer A800 Plug-in won’t ever let you down. It’s modeled after the legendary Studer A800 tape recorder, which captured the hits of musical greats like Stevie Wonder, Jonny Cash, Metallica, and Nirvana. With this plug-in, you can now experience authentic tape sound, palpable presence, satisfying cohesion, and a solid low-end punch with all the tape formulas, speed options, calibration levels, and groundbreaking functionalities that you could ever want and need!

Pros
  • Secondary set of controls, such as Noise, EQ, and Bias
  • Includes Luna Recording System Extension
  • Clean and streamlined plug-in workflow
Cons
  • None

Baby Audio’s TAIP gives you the best of both worlds: the classic sound and lifelike behavior of analog tape, plus a set of modern, intuitive, and versatile sound-design parameters that let you take tape to the next level! What sets TAIP apart from traditional DSP-fueled plug-ins is its revolutionary AI-powered algorithm that learns and delivers the true sonic qualities of a tape machine straight to your DAW. If your instruments and vocals are sounding a little sterile, TAIP is here to inject organic saturation, harmonic richness, and analog mojo into your mixes.

Pros
  • Auto Gain feature makes level matching easy
  • Customizable parameters for diverse tape flavors
  • Glue slider adds transparent tape compression
Cons
  • It’s not the best option for reference-level tape emulation

Why settle for just one tape machine emulation when you can have three with Softube Tape? The best part about this versatile plug-in is it’s highly tweakable yet extremely easy to use. Simply choose a tape machine emulation and twist the Amount knob until you get the right blend of warmth, richness, and analog goodness. You can also immerse yourself in the tape speed, dry/wet mix, high-frequency EQ, crosstalk, and machine stability for fully customized and cohesive results!

Pros
  • Delivers everything from subtle tape vibes to saturated warm tones
  • Tape multitrack functionality for PreSonus Studio One users
  • Low CPU usage
Cons
  • Lacks bias adjustment, noise reduction levels, and alternative tape formulas
5
Waves Abbey Road J37 Tape
Runner-up

Waves Abbey Road J37 Tape

  • Three distinctive EMI tape formulas
  • Bias, Wow, Flutter, Tape Speed control (and more)
  • Sync feature and LP/HP filter controls for customization

Capturing those vibes of analog tapes without the hassle of upkeeping an actual tape machine seemed far from reach. However, this changed with the release of the spectacular Waves Abbey Road J37 Tape plugin.

Our choice of runner-up plugin emulates the legendary J37 4-track tape machine used at Abbey Road Studios. It injects a rich analog tape saturation into the audio mix for the vintage feel of classic tape recordings.

Such a remarkable plugin offers controls for tape speed, saturation, and tape delay. So, whether you want to enhance an individual track or add glue to an entire mix, this plugin is what you need.

Pros
  • It adds character and captures the essence of classic hits.
  • It includes three different delay types for creative applications.
  • It’s affordable and relatively easy to use.
Cons
  • It can be CPU intensive

Related Article: VU Meter Plugins: Our Top 5 Picks To Maximize Your Metering


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are tape emulation plugins used for?

Tape emulation plugins are audio tools that are used to mirror or reproduce the warmth, harmonic richness, organic saturation, and distinct musical quality that analog tape recordings have. Their purpose is to inject classic analog sound and behavior into your digital recordings.

How do you use a tape emulation plugin?

Tape emulation plugins are simple to use. All you have to do is launch the plugin, choose your desired tape emulation or tape formula, and apply it to your individual tracks and mixes. Most plugins have a knob or dial that lets you control the effect, tape speed, and other features.

How to choose the best tape emulation plugin?

There are many factors to consider in choosing the best tape emulation plugin. Producing a realistic and accurate analog sound is a top priority. A user-friendly interface, price point, CPU usage, and additional features like tape speed, tape delay, and Wow, Flutter, and Bias controls are also important considerations.

Can tape emulation plugins replace real tape machines?

While tape emulation plugins do an impressive job of mimicking the sonic qualities of tape machines, they may not fully replace the unique characteristics of physical tape. However, they offer a convenient, cost-effective, and versatile alternative with more control over the effect.

How does tape saturation affect the sound of a mix?

Tape saturation adds harmonic distortion, which can make a mix sound fuller and warmer. It also slightly compresses the audio, smoothing out the dynamics and making the mix sound more cohesive.

Product Recap

Most audio professionals will agree that analog tape’s natural warmth, compression, and harmonic richness produce superb sound. This doesn’t mean that you have to go back to recording on tape, though—all you need is a tape emulation plugin that does its job well!

The Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines is our top recommendation and the gold standard for many sound engineers. The UAD Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder Plug-in also excels in delivering vitality and life to cold and sterile tracks, with a cutting-edge set of features included.

Meanwhile, if you’re a beginner audiophile or someone who just wants the best sound and value for their money, the Waves Abbey Road Studios J37 Tape Plug-in might be the one for you.

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"Some of the links within this article are affiliate links. These links are from various companies such as Amazon. This means if you click on any of these links and purchase the item or service, I will receive an affiliate commission. This is at no cost to you and the money gets invested back into Audio Sorcerer LLC."

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