What’s The Best Tape Saturation Plugin? Your Top 5 VST Choices

Most professional music production and recording is now done digitally, but a lot of producers still enjoy using older analog devices because of how warm the sound from a magnetic tape is.

For that reason, many innovative plugins have stepped fourth to provide you with quality plugins that effortlessly recreate that nice vintage tape saturation while allowing you to have perfect control over it.

Here are our best picks of tape saturation plugins:


Virtual Tape Machines

Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines

The best thing about an analog tape machine is the sound that it produces – warm and deep, it has its own texture.

Slate Digital is on this list today because it has brilliantly attempted to digitally recreate that depth and warmth.

The result is the Virtual Tape Machines (VTM), a live, honest-to-God replication of tape recording.

There is no static modeling, and it is the purest, most advanced emulation of analog tape that has ever been achieved.

It comprises of two machine types: 2 inch 16 track from NRG Recording, and a ½ inch 2 track machine from Howie Weinberg Mastering.

All the VTM’s key controls are on the main plugin window. Users can also choose between two tape speeds (15 or 30 ips), two tape types (Ampex 456 or Quantegy GP9) and a pair of input and output gain controls.

Some more of its exciting features include noise reduction control and auto mute, with the brilliant Wow & Flutter, and Bass alignment controls.

It offers the ability to calibrate levels and has three Bias settings (Normal, Low and High, whichever is preferred). It also allows the user VU ballistics with DAW transport and grouping controls.

The best part is that it sounds truly like tape, and the sound produced has a lot of richness and character, but unlike actual tape, it does not deteriorate over time.


J37 Tape

Waves J37 Tape

The J37 Tape by Waves and Abbey Roads Studio is genius in the way that is a precise, true model of the original Swiss version that came out in the 1960s. The original was hailed as a state-of-the-art machine, and was a technological innovation in the music recording industry.

The J37 Tape has a variety of user-friendly controls that make it reliable and versatile. The technology behind it helps create sounds with bite and depth to them, and possess a rich timbre and tone.

Additionally, rather than just the machine itself, another great feature has been modeled – or rather, three great features, to be exact.

These are the three exclusive tape formulas produced by the EMI (EMI TAPE 888, EMI TAPE 811, and EMI TAPE 815) back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Each tape possesses its own harmonic distortion behavior and distinctive frequency response.

Its features include Controls for Bias, Wow, Flutter, and Tape Speed, and have a user-friendly interface. Producers and engineers used to the warm sound of tape feel right at home with its versatile controls and reliable features.

In order to complement the warm tones and opulent sounds, a comprehensive Tape Delay unit has been added. This Tape Delay comprises of three different delay types, Sync, LP and HP filter controls, in addition to various other exciting features.

The result is the production of warm analog sound that you’ll love applying to all sorts of instruments and sounds.


Kramer Master Tape

Waves Kramer Master Tape

It is impossible to deny the rich quality of analog sound produced by the Kramer Master Tape by Waves, thanks to the beautiful machine it has been modeled on.

The Kramer Master Tape plugin is modeled on a vintage 1/4″, rare reel-to-reel machine.

The Kramer Master Tape comprises of many reliable and easy-to-use controls, and comes with a variety of features capable of making any true lover of the heft of analog recording drool.

The Kramer Master Tape comes full with adjustable controls and features such as switchable and variable tape speed, flux, bias, noise parameters, and wow & flutter.

These aforementioned features of the Kramer Master Tape provide you with the ability to contour and layer your sound as you see fit, however you prefer.

In addition to this, it comes with a flexible slap and feedback delay, which is perfect for many different kinds of sounds and genres of music including, dub, rock, dance, disco, and many, many others.

In order to bring warmth, opulence and profundity to your DAW, Kramer Master Tape is your choice of plugin, for it allows you to mix, record, and master your own signature sound.

Use the Kramer Master Tape plugin to bring the purity of real analog tape saturation to your DAW.


u-he Satin

u-he Satin Tape Machine

‘u-he’ has attempted to recreate all types of tape machines digitally, and as software, in order to bring back the analog quality of sound, and the retro ‘crunch’ that it possessed.

Therefore, as the music industry progresses and digital becomes the norm, u-he is one of the companies that realises the significance of the pure tape sound, and the depth it owns.

The Satin Tape Machine by u-he, true to its name, is a very smooth plugin, which enhances the sonic quality of the rustic analog tape in a way that purists would applaud.

It produces high-quality sound and has an internal sample rate of up to 384 kHz with continuous tape speed control.

Following is a break-down of all the controls and features that the Satin Tape Machine plugin provides the user with:

  • Presets: The Satin comes with exciting presets, including emulations of classic professional tape machines, tape delays, tape flanging/chorus, etc.
  • Metering: The Satin plugin guarantees accurate visual signal level monitoring via a combination VU and peak meter, with changeable RMS mode and variable reference level.
  • Gains: There are two large knobs on the plugin which aid in adjusting input and output levels.
  • Delay: The plugin contains a two or four-tap delay with variable routing, feedback filtering, limiter and cyclic modulation.
  • Flanger: All you have to do to activate tape flanging on the Satin is to press the trigger.

Grouping, TapeControls, and Companders: Satin’s possesses continuous variable control of tape speed ranging from 7.5 up to 30ips, and create multi-track groups with each instance.

There are total eight groups, and the tracks can be controlled remotely. Furthermore, the noise-reduction systems come with various encoder and decoder circuits.

Lastly, the Satin Tape Machine plugin brings you the service panel, which is a gem due to its extremely user-friendly interface. Controls like biasing are made easy to use.


Hope I helped you find the best tape saturation plugin!

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The best part of all the aforementioned plugins is that they stay true to the idea of producing analog, true-tape sounds in a digital format.

Digital software may be precise and more fine-cut, but the grit and crunch of old retro tape recording will always have a warmer effect, which each of these plugins are aware of, and have each tried to incorporate in ways unique to them. We hope this list helps you in your choice.

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