TL;DW: The highest quality Airwindows analog tape emulation.
ToTape5 is the best Airwindows analog tape emulation. It builds upon the previous four versions (which have been some of my best sellers) and incorporates everything learned from the Purest series of plugins, to produce a tape emulation that does what analog does. (Analog tape does really good things for mixes, and it’s very difficult to get it right without sinking into a morass of overprocessing and digital blandness)
It’s better than Iron Oxide, always was. Iron Oxide is for ‘slamming tape for effect’, for putting on individual tracks, not realism. ToTape is for realism and quality: for ‘mixing to tape’, in the box. I don’t think there is anything else that can stand as much scrutiny as ToTape will: it’s developed on mastering-grade gear and when used in its most optimized state, it’s not a toy. It should be more transparent and musical than most plugins (never mind ‘tape emulation’ plugins, which are generally not even as transparent and musical as a good digital EQ plugin).
It has six controls: four if you don’t count Output and Dry/Wet, which are pretty obvious.
Louder defaults to 0.25 because the tape emulation soaks up some level. You can set it to 0 for added purity (it removes a gain trim stage if you do) and if you do that, you can plainly hear that the emulated tape ‘soaks up’ some of the audio, noticeably dropping the level while not seeming to alter the tone at all. There are no gain adjustments making that happen, it’s entirely tape saturation which is very transparent. (There is no compression, either.)
Softer is the treble softening. Defaults to 0, which is still on but very hi-fi and subtle. You can turn it up to get a more ‘old’ tape machine tone, and like the other controls if you need to finetune the effect by ear, your adjustments will probably be around 0.1 to 0.2 if you mean to retain the full fidelity of the mix.
Fatter is the head bump. Defaults to 0, which is still on, but subtle. It can be cranked up to silly/stupid levels if you like. Again, if you want to emphasize the extra roundness and fullness of tape, you might be tweaking this to 0.1 or 0.2. If you don’t have fantastic subwoofers or monitoring that can handle deep bass, leave this at 0! Boosting it will introduce deep lows very cleanly and you might not hear them unless your monitoring is up to scratch. You will also have to turn down Output if you boost this a lot.
Flutter is the tape flutter. Defaults to 0 which is OFF, see comment on ‘dry/wet’. The most amazingly awesome tape recorders did NOT have loads of flutter, but if you want a little ‘spaciness’ or ‘atmosphere’ you can put in small amounts of this, like 0.1 or so. Go by feel, if you can hear it fluttering it’s kind of too much. If you’re using this, please don’t use Dry/Wet to combine the result with dry: you’ll create a flangey effect and it’ll be more obvious than it should be. By design, Flutter is made so you can increase it until it’s too much, so please remember that realistic levels are more like 0.1: too subtle to immediately hear. Go by feel, or pretend you have a really terrific tape machine and leave it off entirely, set Flutter to 0. (For instance, anyone who’s mastering and intentionally adds flutter ought to think hard about whether that’s really helping.)
It’s yours, now, because the Patreon I started last year has been working. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have got to this stage. There’s more to come, and the more people who get involved with the Patreon, the more I can do. ToTape5 is free AU and Mac/PC VST because of the people who’ve got involved and given as little as $1 a month ($12 a year, obviously), and because of the people who gave a lot more (we wouldn’t be at this stage without both kinds).
Let ToTape5 be one of many thank-yous I sincerely offer, for staying with me on this journey. As you can see in the video, there’s a lot more in store for us all! Also, a side note because it seems necessary: public opinion is awesome, and talking about Airwindows usually helps me (which in turn helps you, because I do more). But if you have to crow in post after post about how something I did that’s free TOTALLY wipes the floor with some other company’s product that’s very expensive… even or especially if it’s true… PLEASE take it to my own threads and stick to just mentioning that I also have a product that can be auditioned, if you have to mention it in other people’s threads at all.
I understand people get excited, and yeah I’ve devoted decades of my life to being able to do just that: make the best sounding stuff, openly and for free. I realize that’s good news. You just have to be cool about it, especially when I manage to hit one out of the park and it’s free and will end up being open source. We are doing something awesome, and knocking other people’s work is not part of what I want to do with my time. I’d rather celebrate the other folks out there whom I think are doing wonderful things :)
(This plugin has been updated to fix an excessive-CPU bug. If you need the original version as it was first released, you can download it at ToTape5Original. Don’t try to use both at the same time, apart from the CPU fix they are identical and will retain all settings etc. without any change in sound or behavior.)