Developer Robotic Bean presents an interesting take on the venerable 4-track. The Portatron turns it into a Mellotron-like tape device capable of spinning loops into lo-fi sounds with tape saturation and artifacts like noise and wobble. Here’s more about Portatron’s tape machinations…
Robotic Bean Portatron
Portatron plays tape loops that either follow your DAW’s transport controls or trigger from your keyboard like a monophonic Mellotron. Mixing the 4 audio tracks with the built-in EQ, delay, and reverb effects lets you build a layered soundscape. If you’re into this sort of gear at all, you’ve probably seen Alessandro Cortini’s 4-track exploits (and looked up used machines on eBay immediately after). Well, Portatron is kind of the same thing.
As part of the instrument, Robotic Bean carefully modeled and recreated the characteristic sound. This results in deep control options such as Tape Speed, Noise, Dropouts, Wobble, and Start / Stop Lag. You can also switch between Normal and Chrome tape to obtain noise type and frequency response changes. Likewise, pushing Drive on a track introduces the saturation and compression characteristic of overdriven tape.
The four tracks let you layer your own samples or use some from the hundreds included in the factory library. Robotic Bean curated it from recordings instruments like piano, vibraphone, vocals, synths, hydrophones, and shortwave radio. All the saturation, tape artifacts and effects make the four tracks come together like nothing else can.
The various playing options add another layer of rhythmic possibilities. You can have Portatron playing along with the DAW transport and conjure drone-like sounds. You can also let it restart on the first, second, or fourth bar to create semi-synced loops. The third option is to play it like a 4-track monophonic Mellotron from your MIDI keyboard. This may seem like familiar territory but isn’t quite as predictable.
Robotic Bean Portatron – Price and availability
Portatron is priced EUR 89 for a while, down from EUR 129. You can grab it from the developer or our affiliate partner Plugin Boutique. It works under recent Windows and macOS versions in 64-bit VST3, AU, and AAX plug-in formats. An unrestricted demo which drops out after 20 minutes can be downloaded free.
Robotic Bean Portatron – More information
Robotic Bean Portatron – Video
- Robotic Bean Portatron: Robotic Bean