5 Things to Watch Out for When Choosing a Tape Plug-in in 2023


When a mix sounds sterile and disjointed, more like a bunch of instruments playing at once than a unified song, a tape emulation plug-in can be just the thing to add polish, cohesion, and creative energy.

Tape emulations breathe life into a production by adding warmth and glue to a mix. There are many plug-ins on the market from which to choose. Some promise you the past, with the tape machines used to record the most acclaimed albums in history, faithfully recreated parameter by parameter (even parameters that don’t make much sense for modern workflow). And some promise you the future, with A.I. and the most current technologies, to achieve the sound with little effort.

With so many options in tape plug-ins, it can be hard to decide which to choose. Fear not. We’ve narrowed your software shopping specs down to the five most important things to remember when selecting a tape plug-in. Let this list be your guide to picking the perfect tape emulation for you and your workflow.

Tape Plug-in Features

1. Features that just make sense

Setting up an analog tape machine practically requires a PhD in tape operation. But a good emulation allows you to be the chief tape operator without figuring out the reference fluxivity level for a specific tape formula. Skip tape plug-ins with features fit for the engineers of the '60s and ‘70s (and better off left there). Prioritize your workflow with tape plug-ins that offer parameters that you readily understand.

2. Changes you can actually hear

The coloration from a tape machine is usually very subtle. That’s why a wide-ranging amount knob is key for tape plug-ins. It allows you to exaggerate the effect to the point that you can actually hear it before you dial it to your preferred amount. But, with range, you will also want high-quality sound. Even when you take a tape plug-in to the extreme, it should sound excellent. And while you are pushing it hard, test the standard settings. You should always get authentic tape sounds from the standard settings.


A well-crafted tape plug-in should be fun, creatively inspiring, and sound amazing.

Tape Plug-in Metering

3. Metering you can easily understand

There is more to metering than VU. A THD meter, for instance, can clarify how much distortion your plug-in is giving you, while modern Peak and RMS meters will show you how the peaks are being shaved off. Built-in mastering-class LUFS meters, on the other hand, let you ensure that your project is ready for all platforms when it's time to add that final polish to the master bus. A standard-issue VU meter is helpful in some circumstances, of course. But advanced meters can be instrumental in helping you fully appreciate how the tape machine is affecting your sound.

Tape Plug-in Speeds

4. Tape speeds with real range

Subtle is great. But when it comes to tape machine emulations, look for plug-ins that do more than that. With a broad set of tape speeds, you can do nuanced but also extreme—and everywhere in between. Lower tape speeds, for example, enable you to get a lot of flavor from the machine. Keep your eye out for tape plug-ins that offer a comprehensive range of speeds and sound quality that stays high no matter what.

Tape Plug-in Creativity

5. Creative effects (and side-effects)

Tape wobble, hiss, crosstalk, start and stop—the things traditional tape operators tried to avoid are what make tape emulation plug-ins so much fun to play with. Of course, it is vital to get a tape machine emulation that can add shine to the master bus, but you will be best served by a plug-in that can be a creative tool too. Look for tape plug-ins full of glitchy antics that can also be sophisticated when needed.


There you have it: our top five tips for choosing a tape plug-in. Now, you can go forth and shop—and mix—with confidence. Learn more about our range of tape emulations below. And try them free for up to 20 days.


Vintage warmth, cohesion and premium sound quality.
Try it free today





With its component-level and physical modeling of three different tape machines, Softube Tape gives you all the warm vintage cohesion you could want in a plug-in. Add in some premium-level features, like the mastering grade high shelf filter, stability control, and wet/dry mix knob, and Tape is your new secret sauce. Tasty!


Try Tape free for 20 days


You may also like

More Softube tape emulations to up the distortion quotient