5 Of the Very Best Budget Tape Simulators/Effects

Some of the very best tape plugins that infuse this coveted quality into your own music - for very reasonable prices.

Featuring: Voxengo, AudioThing, Caelum Audio, denise and u-he.

By Eimear O SullivanMusicngear Editor
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Image credit - Adobe Spark

There is nothing quite like the dyed-in-the-wools character and warmth of tape; a quality that can be hard to fully capture when mixing in the box. A lot of the appeal of this particular sound is that it induces the warmth of memory; (and for a lot of people, it brings back the DIY joy of playing around with a cassette player)

We went and found some of the very best tape plugins out there, ones that can infuse this coveted quality into your own music, for very reasonable prices.

Reels - Audio Thing / € 59

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Based on a vintage Japanese reel to reel found in a flea market; this will make your synthesizers and pads sound like they are taken directly from a cerebral horror movie from the 70s (or from a mysterious tape you came across in the attic, where upon listening, nothing is ever quite the same again). 

There are three different tape models to choose from - Japanese, Italian and French (you can toggle between each one of these in the top left hand side labeled Tape Type). The other parameters are Noise, Echo, Master and Bottom. It also comes with a band of solid presets (Bad Tape being my favorite). 

This will ignite your imagination while you produce/mix; and will immediately make anything you use it on sound more mysterious and interesting. One of the most fun plugins I have ever used.


TapePro - Caelum Audio / £39.99

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If you find that every time you open up your DAW to work on a track, you feel a sense of foreboding and dread, and that the whole endeavor is just a chore - this plugin will infuse some much needed joy back into the whole process. 

Tape Pro is a multi-effect tape plugin from Caelum Audio; and there is so much you can do within this plugin. One of the most prominent characteristics of tape is the noise or hiss that comes with using this medium; and Tape Pro does not just generate a general tape noise and leave it at that; they go so far as to actually have sampled noise from different forms of tape machines. It also allows you to select the impulse responses from 12 different tape machines, and comes with saturation, wow, flutter and delay; so you can create the exact something fully unique. 

If you are relatively new to working with tape plugins, there is a huge bank of presets from which you can select and play around in order to familiarize yourself with the different controls/parameters, and how they impact the quality of the sound. 

TapePro will drench your music with lush textures and technicolor. 


Bad Tape - denise / €39

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Deliciously bad. In an age where every plugin promises to make your music sound more sleek, polished and clean; a plugin that promises to actively harm your sounds (there is an actual harm parameter in this plugin) is deeply refreshing.

Bad Tape has a straightforward and easy to use interface, with some great presets to get you started (you could do an entire song just with the preset ‘I found this old tape machine’, which is as magical as it sounds) Detune emulates what would happen to the sound if you put your finger on the reel to slow it down, the aforementioned Harm applies failing tape artifacts; these used in tandem with the other effects will result in a totally imperfect sound; which is one of the most appealing characteristics of tape. 

Tip: This sounds especially good on strings, pads, synths and electric piano sounds.


Voxengo CRTIV Tape Bus / $49.95

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We are huge fans of the plugins from Voxengo (their mastering plugin Elephant being one of the best mastering plugins I have ever used, see here).

CRTIV Tape Bus is a plugin that simulates the signature sound gotten from reel to reel tape, and allows you to select from 4 different tape impulse responses (which were taken from other tape machines for this plugin to make it as true to form as possible).

It also comes with a bank of great presets (the preset Medium Saturation sounds incredible on strings - it really brings out the mid frequencies, giving them a nice full warmth). This adds a rich flavor to the instruments you add it to - and will drench them in analog magic.


Satin: Tape Simulation - u-he / €129 

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On the higher end of things price wise (in the context of this article) but definitely worth it. Satin is a tape simulation plugin that sounds as lush as the name suggests. 

Interestingly, this plugin is not an emulation of a specific tape machine, but rather, a collection of different parts, allowing you to build your own custom and unique tape sound. I found this plugin especially useful for mixing tracks for clients who wanted the analog feel of the classics, without having an overly processed sound. Satin allows you exceptional control over the exact sound you had in mind; having a Service Panel section, which allows you to do what a service technician would do when they open up a tape machine and play around with the different parts.


What tape plugins do you use? Let us know in the comments!


About Eimear O Sullivan

Eimear Ann O Sullivan is a multi-genre music producer, audio engineer and vocalist. After receiving a Masters in Music Technology from the CIT Cork School of Music, she went on to operate as a producer under the name Blakkheart. Her releases have received critical acclaim from Ireland's biggest music publications, such as District Magazine and Nialler9, alongside receiving heavy commercial radio airplay. She currently works in Cork recording studio Flashpoint CC. Previous clients of hers include the likes of Comedy Central’s Dragony Aunt star Candy Warhol, rapper Darce and Outsider YP. (Photo credit @Fabian Boros)

Contact Eimear O Sullivan at eimear.o.sullivan@musicngear.com

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