In this plugin spotlight, we look at Slate Digital’s Virtual Tape Machines (VST / AU) plugin that aims to recreate the warmth and nuanced sound of authentic analog tape saturation in the digital realm.
Analog Tape Machines
Over the past 20 years, the audio industry has followed a steady path into the realm of digital production as computers are providing more power and capability per dollar than most analog gear on the market. This movement is empowering new musicians to create, but it’s also changing the sound of contemporary music. Many of today’s producers are creating music entirely “in the box,” a technique that can be efficient and powerful but sometimes leaves the end musical product with a distinct digital sound. To remedy this, many producers have recently turned to analog tape to achieve a warmer, thicker sound before publishing. However, the dilemma here is that tape is expensive, hard to come by, and the process of recording to tape can be time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be easier if someone could emulate the sound of analog tape in the digital realm as well?
To remedy this situation, Slate Digital, creators of high-end boutique audio plugins for mixing, mastering, and post-production have created an excellent plugin called Virtual Tape Machines that aims to replace the reel-to-reel tape deck and give classic analog warmth and compression to digital recordings. To create this new plugin, Steven Slate (an accomplished professional producer and engineer) tapped into his community of professional engineers to find the best possible reel-to-reel decks to emulate. He then worked with Slate Digital Chief Technology Officer Fabrice Gabriel to create a “comprehensive study of the physical processes that occur when recording to analog tape through a tape machine.” The result is a program that employs advanced algorithms to recreate the warmth, presence, and nuances of a 2 inch 16 track from NRG Recording, and a ½ inch 2 track machine from Howie Weinberg Mastering.
“When we created the Virtual Console Collection it was the first time that I could mix inside the box and really enjoy what I was hearing and feel that there was no sacrifice. Once we added the Virtual Tape Machines, that just took it to a whole new level. Printing a mix to the virtual half-inch alone just makes the music come out of the speakers in a way that I’ve never heard before in the digital domain.” – Steven Slate
In practice, VTM delivers a warm, rich, and smooth sound that gives analog tape a run for its money. This emulation of true magnetic tape delivers pro-quality sound at a price far under that of an actual reel-to-reel tape machine. The authentic analog sound of this plugin adds dimension, fatness, depth, and warmth to your mix. Use this plugin on individual tracks to bring presence to parts of your mix, or load it on your master during mixdown to give the entire mix a richer sound. VTM offers two tape machine types (2″ and 1/2″) and two speeds (15 ips and 30 ips), along with controls to adjust noise reduction, wow & flutter, bass alignment, bias settings, level calibrations, and more.
“We take modeling very seriously. It’s a no-frills approach; it’s a no-compromise approach. Either we recreate the exact sound of what these tape machines are doing, or we don’t release the plugin. These are famous tape machines that thousands of major pro engineers have heard, and I’m not gonna insult them by trying to add extra stuff. We want to recreate the sound of these machines and what they do. Because what they do is perfect.” – Steven Slate
- Two tape machine types
- 2″ 16 track
- 1/2″ mastering deck
- Two tape formulations
- Two speeds: 15 ips and 30 ips
- Noise reduction control and auto mute
- Wow & Flutter control
- Bass alignment control
- Normal, Low & High Bias settings
- Level Calibration
- VU ballistics
- Grouping control
- Settings global or per channel
- Tape reels start and stop in sync with DAW transport
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