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Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder Plug-In: How to Get the Warm Analog Sound of a Classic Tape Machine


Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder Plug-In: A Review




If you are looking for a way to add some warmth, presence, cohesion, and punch to your digital audio productions, you might want to consider using an analog tape emulation plug-in. One of the most popular and acclaimed options in this category is the Studer A800 multichannel tape recorder plug-in from Universal Audio. In this article, we will review this plug-in and see what it can do for your music and sound projects.




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Introduction




What is the Studer A800 multichannel tape recorder plug-in?




The Studer A800 multichannel tape recorder plug-in is a software emulation of the legendary Studer A800 analog tape machine, which was introduced in 1978 and used by countless artists and engineers for more than 30 years. The Studer A800 was known for its warm analog sound, solid low-end, and overall presence, as well as its reliability and flexibility. The plug-in faithfully models the entire circuit path and electronics of an original A800 unit from Ocean Way Studios, including the input, sync, repro, and bypass modes, as well as four different tape formulas and three tape speeds. The plug-in is fully authenticated by Studer and modeled by Universal Audio's world-renowned team of DSP engineers and magnetic recording expert Jay McKnight.


Why use analog tape emulation in digital audio production?




While digital audio technology has many advantages over analog, such as convenience, accuracy, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness, some people still prefer the sound of analog tape for its unique sonic qualities. Analog tape introduces harmonic and dynamic distortion, compression, saturation, noise, frequency loss, head bump, stereo cross-feeding, and other effects that can make the audio sound more musical, organic, lively, and cohesive. These effects are often subtle but can make a big difference in the overall feel and vibe of a mix. By using an analog tape emulation plug-in, you can achieve these effects without having to deal with the hassle and expense of a real tape machine.


How does the Studer A800 plug-in work?




The Studer A800 plug-in works by processing your audio signal through a virtual representation of the original hardware's electronic components. You can adjust various parameters to control how the plug-in affects your audio, such as the input level, output level, tape formula, tape speed, calibration level, equalization curve, mode selection, noise reduction, wow & flutter, crosstalk, bias, hiss level, asperity noise level (the sound of tiny imperfections on the magnetic surface), scrape flutter level (the sound of irregularities in the tape path), gap loss level (the loss of high frequencies due to gaps between the magnetic particles), and more. You can also use presets to quickly access different settings for different types of audio sources or genres.


Features and Benefits




Authentic modeling of the original hardware




The Studer A800 plug-in is not just a simple EQ or saturation effect; it is a complex simulation of the entire signal path of the original machine. It recreates the subtle nuances and interactions of the analog circuitry, such as the transformer, the tape heads, the bias oscillator, the servo motor, the VU meters, and more. It also captures the variations and imperfections of each individual channel, giving you a realistic and organic sound. The plug-in is based on extensive measurements and analysis of an actual Studer A800 machine from Ocean Way Studios, one of the most renowned recording facilities in the world. The plug-in also features a graphical user interface that mimics the look and feel of the original hardware, making it easy to navigate and adjust.


Four tape formulas and three tape speeds to choose from




The Studer A800 plug-in gives you the option to select from four different tape formulas, each with its own sonic characteristics and frequency response. You can choose from GP9 (a high-output tape with low noise and extended high frequencies), 456 (a standard tape with balanced performance and moderate saturation), 250 (a vintage tape with warm sound and smooth compression), or 900 (a modern tape with high resolution and low distortion). You can also choose from three different tape speeds: 7.5 ips (inches per second), 15 ips, or 30 ips. The lower the speed, the more low-end and saturation you get, but also more noise and frequency loss. The higher the speed, the more clarity and fidelity you get, but also less warmth and punch.


Flexible calibration and equalization options




The Studer A800 plug-in allows you to fine-tune the calibration and equalization settings of each channel to suit your preferences and needs. You can adjust the calibration level, which determines how much signal is sent to the tape and how much saturation is applied. You can also adjust the equalization curve, which affects the frequency response of the tape. You can choose from four different curves: NAB (the standard curve for North America), CCIR (the standard curve for Europe), AES (a flat curve with no equalization), or Custom (a user-defined curve that you can create using a graphic EQ). You can also bypass the equalization altogether if you want to use your own EQ plug-in.


Input, sync, repro, and bypass modes




The Studer A800 plug-in lets you switch between four different modes that emulate the original hardware's functionality. The input mode allows you to monitor the signal before it goes to the tape, giving you a clean and transparent sound. The sync mode allows you to monitor the signal after it goes to the tape, giving you a processed and colored sound. The repro mode allows you to monitor the signal after it goes through another set of electronics, giving you a slightly different sound than sync mode. The bypass mode allows you to bypass the plug-in entirely, giving you a dry and unaffected sound. You can use these modes to compare and contrast different sounds, or to create parallel processing effects.


LUNA extension for integrated multitrack tape recording




If you are using Universal Audio's LUNA recording system, you can take advantage of the Studer A800 LUNA extension, which integrates the plug-in directly into your workflow. The LUNA extension allows you to record your audio tracks directly to virtual tape, using the Studer A800 as your default recorder. You can also use the LUNA extension to control various parameters of the plug-in from your hardware controller or mixer, such as input level, output level, tape formula, tape speed, calibration level, equalization curve, mode selection, noise reduction, wow & flutter, crosstalk, bias, hiss level, asperity noise level, scrape flutter level, gap loss level, and more. The LUNA extension also provides visual feedback on your tracks' status and levels.


Pros and Cons




Pros




Rich analog sound and character




The Studer A800 plug-in delivers a realistic and authentic emulation of one of the most revered analog tape machines in history. It adds warmth, presence, cohesion, and punch to your digital audio productions, making them sound more musical, organic, lively, and cohesive. It simulates the subtle nuances and interactions of the analog circuitry, such as the harmonic and dynamic distortion, compression, saturation, noise, frequency loss, head bump, stereo cross-feeding, and more. It also gives you the option to choose from different tape formulas and speeds, each with its own sonic characteristics and frequency response.


Easy to use and versatile




The Studer A800 plug-in is designed to be easy to use and versatile for any type of audio source or genre. You can simply insert it on your individual tracks or buses, adjust the input and output levels, and select your preferred tape formula and speed. You can also fine-tune the calibration and equalization settings, as well as the various tape effects and controls. You can also use presets to quickly access different settings for different scenarios. The plug-in also features a graphical user interface that mimics the look and feel of the original hardware, making it intuitive and user-friendly.


Compatible with most DAWs and platforms




The Studer A800 plug-in is compatible with most DAWs and platforms, such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Cubase, Studio One, Reaper, FL Studio, GarageBand, Audacity, and more. It supports VST, AU, AAX, RTAS, and UAD formats. It also works with both Mac and Windows operating systems. You can use it on mono or stereo tracks, as well as multichannel tracks up to 24 channels. You can also use it in conjunction with other UAD plug-ins or third-party plug-ins.


Affordable and reliable




The Studer A800 plug-in is affordable and reliable compared to a real tape machine. You can purchase it for $349 from the Universal Audio website or other authorized dealers. You can also get it for free if you subscribe to the UAD Ultimate Bundle or the UAD Custom Bundle. The plug-in is also regularly updated and maintained by Universal Audio's team of experts. You don't have to worry about the maintenance costs or issues of a real tape machine, such as buying tapes, cleaning heads, aligning motors, replacing parts, etc.


Cons




CPU-intensive and latency-prone




The Studer A800 plug-in is CPU-intensive and latency-prone due to its complex modeling of the analog circuitry. It requires a UAD hardware device or a UAD subscription to run. The UAD hardware device is an external DSP accelerator that offloads the processing from your computer's CPU. The UAD subscription is a cloud-based service that streams the processing from Universal Audio's servers. Both options have their pros and cons, but they also add some latency to your audio signal. The latency depends on your buffer size, sample rate, internet speed, etc. The latency can be compensated by your DAW or by using the delay compensation feature of the plug-in. However, some users may still experience some issues or inconveniences with the latency.


Limited tape effects and controls




The Studer A800 plug-in is limited in terms of tape effects and controls compared to some other analog tape emulation plug-ins. It does not have some features that are commonly found in other plug-ins, such as tape stop/start effects, tape wow and flutter modulation, tape flanging, tape delay, tape echo, tape reverse, tape splice, tape erase, etc. It also does not have some controls that are commonly found in other plug-ins, such as tape bias, tape width, tape azimuth, tape head gap, tape head wear, etc. The plug-in focuses on emulating the sound and behavior of the original hardware, rather than adding extra features or functions that are not present in the hardware.


Requires UAD hardware or subscription




The Studer A800 plug-in requires a UAD hardware device or a UAD subscription to run. This means that you have to invest in an additional piece of equipment or a monthly fee to use the plug-in. The UAD hardware device ranges from $499 to $3,999 depending on the model and features. The UAD subscription ranges from $4.99 to $24.99 per month depending on the plan and options. Some users may find these costs prohibitive or unnecessary, especially if they already have other analog tape emulation plug-ins or devices that do not require UAD hardware or subscription.


Conclusion




Summary of the main points




The Studer A800 multichannel tape recorder plug-in is a software emulation of the legendary Studer A800 analog tape machine, which was used by countless artists and engineers for more than 30 years. The plug-in faithfully models the entire circuit path and electronics of an original A800 unit from Ocean Way Studios, including the input, sync, repro, and bypass modes, as well as four different tape formulas and three tape speeds. The plug-in adds warmth, presence, cohesion, and punch to your digital audio productions, making them sound more musical, organic, lively, and cohesive. The plug-in is easy to use and versatile for any type of audio source or genre. The plug-in is compatible with most DAWs and platforms. The plug-in is affordable and reliable compared to a real tape machine.


Recommendation and rating




We recommend the Studer A800 multichannel tape recorder plug-in to anyone who wants to add some analog tape flavor to their digital audio productions. The plug-in is suitable for beginners and professionals alike, as it offers a realistic and authentic emulation of one of the most revered analog tape machines in history. The plug-in is also suitable for any type of audio source or genre, as it offers a variety of settings and options to customize your sound. The plug-in is also compatible with most DAWs and platforms, making it easy to integrate into your workflow. The plug-in is also affordable and reliable compared to a real tape machine, saving you time and money in the long run.


We rate the Studer A800 multichannel tape recorder plug-in 4.5 out of 5 stars. We think it is one of the best analog tape emulation plug-ins on the market today. It has a few drawbacks, such as being CPU-intensive and latency-prone, having limited tape effects and controls, and requiring UAD hardware or subscription. However, these drawbacks are outweighed by its many benefits, such as its rich analog sound and character, its easy to use and versatile, its compatible with most DAWs and platforms, and its affordable and reliable. We think it is a great tool to enhance your digital audio productions and give them a vintage and professional touch.


Here are some FAQs that you might have about the Studer A800 multichannel tape recorder plug-in:


Q: How can I get the Studer A800 plug-in?




A: You can get the Studer A800 plug-in from the Universal Audio website or other authorized dealers. You can purchase it for $349 or get it for free if you subscribe to the UAD Ultimate Bundle or the UAD Custom Bundle. You can also try it for free for 14 days with the UAD Demo Program.


Q: What do I need to run the Studer A800 plug-in?




A: You need a UAD hardware device or a UAD subscription to run the Studer A800 plug-in. The UAD hardware device is an external DSP accelerator that offloads the processing from your computer's CPU. The UAD subscription is a cloud-based service that streams the processing from Universal Audio's servers. You also need a compatible DAW and platform, such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Cubase, Studio One, Reaper, FL Studio, GarageBand, Audacity, Mac OS, or Windows OS.


Q: How can I use the Studer A800 plug-in?




A: You can use the Studer A800 plug-in on any audio track or bus in your DAW. You can insert it as an insert effect or as a send/return effect. You can adjust the input and output levels, select the tape formula and speed, fine-tune the calibration and equalization settings, switch between different modes, and control various tape effects and controls. You can also use presets to quickly access different settings for different scenarios. If you are using LUNA, you can also use the Studer A800 LUNA extension to integrate the plug-in directly into your workflow.


Q: What are some tips and tricks for using the Studer A800 plug-in?




A: Here are some tips and tricks for using the Studer A800 plug-in:


  • Use different tape formulas and speeds for different types of audio sources or genres. For example, you can use GP9 at 30 ips for vocals or acoustic instruments, 456 at 15 ips for drums or bass, 250 at 7.5 ips for guitars or keyboards, or 900 at any speed for mastering or mixing.



  • Use different modes to compare and contrast different sounds, or to create parallel processing effects. For example, you can use input mode for a clean sound, sync mode for a processed sound, repro mode for a slightly different processed sound, or bypass mode for a dry sound. You can also blend them together using send/return effects.



  • Use the calibration level to control how much saturation is applied to your audio. For example, you can lower the calibration level to increase the saturation, or raise it to decrease the saturation. You can also use the input level to drive more signal into the tape, or the output level to attenuate the signal after the tape.



  • Use the equalization curve to shape the frequency response of your audio. For example, you can use NAB or CCIR curves to emulate the standard tape equalization for North America or Europe, AES curve to bypass the equalization, or Custom curve to create your own equalization using a graphic EQ.



  • Use the noise reduction feature to reduce the tape hiss and noise. For example, you can use the Dolby A or Dolby SR modes to apply noise reduction algorithms, or the Off mode to disable the noise reduction. You can also adjust the hiss level, asperity noise level, scrape flutter level, and gap loss level to control the amount and type of noise.



  • Use the wow & flutter feature to add some subtle pitch variations and modulation to your audio. For example, you can use the On mode to enable the wow & flutter effect, or the Off mode to disable it. You can also adjust the wow & flutter amount and rate to control the intensity and speed of the effect.



  • Use the crosstalk feature to add some stereo width and depth to your audio. For example, you can use the On mode to enable the crosstalk effect, or the Off mode to disable it. You can also adjust the crosstalk amount and pan to control the level and direction of the effect.



  • Use the bias feature to fine-tune the tape performance and sound. For example, you can use the Auto mode to let the plug-in automatically adjust the bias for optimal results, or the Manual mode to manually adjust the bias using a slider. You can also use the Calibrate button to calibrate the bias for each tape formula and speed.



Q: What are some alternatives to the Studer A800 plug-in?




A: There are many other analog tape emulation plug-ins available on the market today, each with its own features and benefits. Some of them are:


  • Waves J37 Tape: A plug-in that emulates the Abbey Road Studios' J37 tape machine, which was used by The Beatles and other artists. It offers three tape formulas, four tape speeds, variable bias, wow & flutter, noise reduction, tape delay, and more.



  • Softube Tape: A plug-in that emulates three different types of tape machines: a vintage reel-to-reel, a modern multitrack, and a cassette deck. It offers four tape speeds, adjustable tape wear, crosstalk, asperity noise, high frequency damping, dry/wet mix control, and more.



  • Slate Digital VTM: A plug-in that emulates two classic tape machines: a 16-track 2-inch machine and a 1/2 inch mastering machine. It offers two tape formulas, two tape speeds, bias control, wow & flutter control, noise reduction control, group control, and more.



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