There seem to be a lot of tape emulation plugins appearing these days - this one is actually Universal Audio's second machine (their previous one being a spot-on emulation of the Studer A800 multitrack machine) and is one of those rare plugins that literally nobody should be without. You hear the expression "game changer" an awful lot around the various forums but in this case it is thoroughly well deserved. I mean it too - even if you do not have a UAD2 DSP card, it is worth buiying one just to run this plugin - of course, the problem there is that you will end up hooked on what is essentially the audio plugin equivalent of crack cocaine, but that is a problem that I can live with.
Getting back to the ATR-102 though, what you get here is actually much,. much more than you might at first think. There are 3 different tape head sizes to choose from (1/4", 1/2" & 1") at 4 speeds (3.75IPS, 7.5IPS, 15IPS & 30IPS) and no fewer than 7 different tape compounds, although not all compounds are available at all sizes and speeds. If that were not enough, you also have the option for both european & US emphasis EQ and 4 different calibration levels for allowing accurate unity gain from inout to output dependent on the magnetic flux of each tape compound and the ability to tweak Hi & Low shelving EQ as well as reproduction head EQ (on a channel basis, so controls for both left & right) as well as the levels of tape hiss, hum, wow & flutter (plus the ability to turn them off altogether) and even crosstalk between channels and even a built-in equivalent of MRL alignment test tapes to set everything up with!
If all this control seems intimidating, don;t panic as there is an auto calibration feature that sets manufacturer recommended levels for each tape compound and a plethora of presets to get you started - plus a very interesting set of UltraLinear presets for each compound & speed created by Mastering Engineer Stephen Smith so you can get the flattest & widest response on each formulation.
This is a truly superb tool and even though I have had it for a couple of months now I am not only still learning how to get the best from it but the usual "glow" from a new toy has not yet worn off either - and that is a great sign as I often get the "wow" factor on initial use of a tool but usually it subsides after a couple of weeks and can be assessed honestly. This has not happened here, and I honestly cannot recommend this highly enough. Yes, it will mean buying a UAD2 card - but that will leave you open to all the rest of the UAD world, and you will also - on any new card - get their excellent 1176LN, LA2A and Pultec EQ right out of the box as well as their channel strip which although it is not an emulation of any beloved gear is still very usable.