If you missed the earlier parts of this new series then to reiterate.
In this series I'm going to share the plug-ins I JUST LOVE. Some of them are going to be popular, some not so. Some plug-ins do amazingly complex things whilst other very simple things. These are the plug-ins that you will almost always found sat on my mix somewhere because when I'm mixing I think 'I know what is going to help that' or in some cases rescue it!
I'm going to choose a different type of plug-in for each post and I hope you will also suggest a similar plug-in that you use for the same job. What I hope we achieve with this series is sharing of our favourite plug-ins.
I'm not expecting you to agree with my choices, or to go out and buy every plug-in I talk about. You may want to try them, but like me you may already have a plug-in that's a faithful friend to you, if that's the case then keep on using it.
As I say what I hope the articles and the comments do is point all of us to some real gems that we may never have tried. Enjoy!
The UAD Ampex ATR-102
Introduced in 1976, the Ampex ATR-102 2-Track Tape Recorder was a near-instant hit, thanks to its revolutionary servo-controlled reel motors and capstan, which provided smooth, continuous tape tension and handling. The large capstan, and absence of pinch rollers, provided nearly non-existent speed drift and ultra-low flutter. The clever ATR-102 design allowed users to change out heads and guides in mere minutes, with a 1" head being a very popular "hot-rod" modification in more recent years — especially when running at 15 IPS (inches per second). The ATR's role in modern recording history is so prevalent, that it would be easier to list classic albums that weren't mixed down on this machine, rather than to try to list all those that were.
Like the ATR-102 hardware, the plug-in allows you to choose between various Signal Paths (Input, Sync, Repro), different Tape Speeds / Emphasis EQs (NAB, CCIR, AES) and Tape Formula combinations, even including home/consumer tape. The Input (Record) Gain knob and the Cal button are the primary controls for regulating levels, and even saturating the tape, and can be used to deliver a heavily colored sound if desired. Other ATR-102 features include: 1/4," 1/2," or 1" Head Select, Biasing/Calibration controls (auto and manual), crosstalk, adjustable wow and flutter, and adjustable tape delay, which can be used for Automatic Double Tracking effects on vocals, guitars, and more.
The primary use for Ampex ATR-102, and the recommended method for “demoing” this plug-in, is as the last stereo insert on your master fader (or possibly the second-to-last insert before a brick-wall processor such as the UAD Precision Limiter). Set up the plug-in by first adjusting Tape Speed, Tape Formula, Cal Level, and Emphasis EQ, or simply select a preset. Note that as you lower the tape speed (i.e. 15 IPS, 7.5 IPS), the tape “sound” becomes more audible. Once this basic setup is made, adjust the L/R Record (input gain) levels for more or less tape/circuit coloration and saturation.
Other common uses for the Ampex ATR-102 are as individual mono or stereo insert effects, or as an auxiliary group effect where the user wishes to apply it only to specified sources or groups (e.g., drums, guitars, etc). Check out the ATR-102 Tips and Tricks blog article below to learn more.
Why I Love The UAD Ampex ATR-102 Plug-in
Tape emulation plug-ins are hugely popular these days with offerings from several big names but there's one tape emulation plug-in that I often have across my master buss, the UAD Ampex ATR-102.
The UAD Ampex ATR-102 plug-in features a lot of great presets to get me started but then a lot of tweaakbility if the preset isn't quite cutting the mustard. This offers a huge variety from something very subtle right through to a grungy tape running at low speed.
This plug-in has the ability to glue tracks together that without it in the mix seem to just slip around together - cohesion is what I'm looking for and the ATR-102 is the magic to make that happen.
Agree or is there something else you use?