Tape emulations are everywhere these days. And for good reason! Adding warm saturation to a sterile-sounding track, bringing some density to the whole mix, adding some warble, wow and flutter to an instrument: analogue tape plug-ins are a great tool to have in your sonic armoury. ELPHNT has come up with a Live Rack for Ableton’s popular DAW that, they claim, emulates a tape machine. And he’s decided to make it free, too…
As a Live Rack, the Analog Tape GUI is reduced to generic controls found in Live, so no photo-realistic, ultra-sexy tape machine graphics here. But we can do without all those psycho-acoustic shenanigans, can’t we? After all, it’s all about the sounds, right?
The Rack has eight controls to let you dial in your analogue tape sound: Input Gain, Colour, Drive, Compression, Wow, Flutter, Noise and Output Gain. This is the standard set of controls you would expect to find on a tape machine emulator, so no surprises here. But how does the Rack reproduce analogue tape without adding in any effects and algorithms of its own?
ELPHNT has come up with a combination of stock Ableton Live effects that are chained together in the following configuration to reproduce the sought-after sonic properties of magnetic tape: Two Utility’s, an EQ Eight, the Saturator, a Tape Hiss, the Glue Compressor and two instances of Frequency Shifter.
He says on his website (I assume it’s a he) that this Rack is not the best emulation out there. Can’t be, can it, given that he’s not emulating the individual components, circuits and properties of magnetic tape and tape equipment, but just using the onboard stock effects to create a tape-like feel. But given that it’s for free, we can’t really argue. He also has a few other Live Racks available for download, such as EARTH, SPRNG and SPLTTR, so you might want to browse through those to see if they tickle your fancy.
The Analog Tape Live Rack is available as a free download from the maker’s website. It’ll run on Mac OS and Windows with Ableton Live 9.7 or higher (Standard or Suite version). You do have do give them your email address for the download, though. Installation should be straightforward enough; launch the ADG file in Live or add it to your user library.