Review of Reels tape emulation plugin with echo and tape stop effect (64bit VST/AU/AAX) from AudioThing

Introduction

AudioThing have introduced Reels, a tape emulation plugin with built-in echo section and tape-stop effect.

Reels is available from AudioThing in VST, AU and AAX versions – 64bit only – typically priced at 59 Euros.

Background

Reels is based on an old Japanese portable tape recorder with a very distinctive lo-fi analog sound. It emulates all the imperfections of consumer reel to reel recorders.

During recording or playback, analog tape units suffer from motor noise bleed in along with the usual tape hiss that limits available bandwidth on the tape.

Conclusions

This is an excellent and unusual effect. Delays and tape emulations are often used to provide high quality audio. This is not that sort of effect – it’s lo-fi, dirty, noisy and absolutely brilliant.

It’s ironic that most of the reasons we stopped using tape are replicated by this effect and they are very useful in modern music production. It adds qualities that are really hard to define, it’s not just noise / hiss or a lo-fi effect, it’s like the combination of all these imperfections are much greater than the sum of the individual parts.

I’ve used it extensively on the album embedded above. It’s an ambient / experimental sound and uses a number of field recordings, found sounds and extensive use of Reels. I’ve also used some Spitfire Audio libraries and some effects from Eventide and Glitchmachines.

In-Depth Review

The interface has modern functionality with a retro vibe. It’s laid out with the presets / settings at the top with handy randomise function; tape and noise controls; echo; master section; tape stop; global settings and animated reel to reel at the bottom.

Reels has 3 tape emulations named after the country of origin:

  • JP – Japan – used tape but with better overall frequency response
  • IT – Italy – new old stock but with limited frequency response
  • FR – France – overused and badly stored, very bad frequency response

There are also 2 tape speeds. Between them these give a number of tonal combinations.

There are also controls for harshness (distortion / loss of clarity); wow/flutter (pitch imperfections); ducking (volume loss) and crosstalk (leak between left and right channel).

The Noise section has hiss and motor noise controls along with a handy envelope function that activates the noise only when an input signal is present.

The Echo controls include bypass, sync, delay time, feedback, lowpass filter, level and wet only (disable dry signal) controls.

The master section has input and output controls.

The bottom section has a soft clip limiter, mono button that sums the left and right channels of a stereo signal, pre-emphasis control to boost high frequencies before the tape emulation section and mix control.

The tape stop is an excellent feature, replicating the slowing down effect with the option to change the tape stop speed.

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