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TB ReelBus v4 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By sramsay [read all by] on 10th October 2018
Version reviewed: 4.04 on Mac.
Last edited by sramsay on 10th October 2018.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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Here are the tape emulators currently in my plugins folder:

CRTIV Tape Bus (Voxengo)
ReelBus 4 (Toneboosters)
Tape (Softube)
ReeLight (Beatskillz)
TCS-68 (Fuse Audio Labs)
Tapedesk (Overloud)
Satin (U-he)
Oxide (UAD)
Ampex ATR-102 (UAD)
Studer A800 (UAD)
J37 Tape (Waves)
Kramer Master Tape (Waves).

Dopamine (Overloud)
TypeA (AudioThing).

And that's not including stuff like RC-20 Retro Color (XLN) that can do some tape stuff, and the tape plugin that comes with Ozone. (Noticeably absent, here, is Slate Digital's Virtual Tape Machines. I've tried it; it's great. Just haven't pulled the trigger on it).

So, yes. I am a man obsessed.

These all have different sounds and different levels of tweakability. Some are more-or-less "set it and forget it" (Softube Tape), some are painstaking recreations of particular tape machines (the Studer and Ampex from UAD are the pinnacle of that category), and some are more like "tape toolkits" for getting tape effects more generally (Satin is the probably the deepest tool if you want to go that way).

Reelbus 4 is solidly in that "toolkit" category, and so probably bears the closest relationship to Satin.

But honestly, as awesome as Satin is (and it really is), Reelbus is damn close. And it's noticeably easier to use. There's very little skeuomorphism in the interface; it's basically a set of sliders that let you play around with various elements of the "tape sound" (including such arcana as hysteresis and asperity). And it sounds great. The presets, while not extensive, are really good at hitting the fundamental tape sound categories, so you can just use it straight.

If you already own something more in the "set-it-and-forget-it" category (whether it's a straight emulation or not), and would like to go deeper into the weeds of what tape machines can do, this is absolutely your best bet. It's super cheap, but incredibly deep and sophisticated. And it might be the best way to learn how to tweak the tape sound, because the interface is so clear. You can really go bonkers with it. and that's a good thing to do when you're trying to learn how to play around with tape. Once you get your head around this, you'll have a much easier time popping the lid on, say, the Ampex from UAD or the service panel in Satin.

And even though I own tape plugins that cost nearly six times as much (man, those UAD plugs hurt), Reelbus 4 is perilously close in sound quality to some of those fancier plugs. If you're into tape -- or thing you might like to be -- this is really a must buy.

Blue Cat's MB-7 Mixer [read all reviews]
Reviewed By sramsay [read all by] on 11th February 2018
Version reviewed: 3.0 on Mac.
Last edited by sramsay on 11th February 2018.
1 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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All right, here's the deal. You can buy FabFilter Saturn or Audio Damage Kombinat Tri, and have a multiband distortion unit with their okay distortion algorithms. Or you can buy this bit of magic and put any kind of distortion you want on the various bands. Or, for that matter, anything else. But combining this with Thermionic Culture Vulture, Omega 458a, VSM-3, Klanghelm SDRR 2, or any tape sim is pretty much heavenly.

DC8C [read all reviews]
Reviewed By sramsay [read all by] on 22nd January 2018
Version reviewed: 2.3.0 on Mac.
Last edited by sramsay on 22nd January 2018.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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I own lots of compressor plugins. Vintage emulations, modern "transparent" compressors, you name it. Some of them are extremely expensive. This is my favorite.

It's my favorite because I can almost always get it to do exactly what I want (where "what I want" is everything from smooth, invisible bus compression to transient shaping). You can tweak it to death. You can set the big four and forget it. You can run it clean. You can give it some analog vibe. You can abuse your CPU with it. You can run it efficiently. If you are insisting on the sound of some particular piece of gear, it's probably not the right thing, but on the other hand, if you know what you're doing, you can probably get it to sound like anything. In terms of parameters, expert mode is up in the same stratosphere as other "build your own compressor" plugs like U-he's Presswerk and (almost) DMG Compassion, but for way less money.

It's really a kind of DSP masterpiece, and it's insanely cheap. But don't be fooled. It is not good "for the money." It is an outstanding piece of software, full stop.

HY-SEQ16x3v2 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By sramsay [read all by] on 4th January 2018
Version reviewed: on Mac
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
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I've hesitated to write a review of this, because I just can't decide if my unbounded enthusiasm for it is is just too wrapped up in my own way of making music. But here goes. . .

It's a step sequencer. It is heavily inspired by old-school step sequencers of the sort you'd use with a modular rig (in particular, the Doepfer MAQ16/3, but the basic design is found everywhere on old hardware). As with those old units, you turn knobs to set pitch and then it will repeat a sequence for you.

But what this really is, is that old-school workflow re-imagined with lots of modern amenities. So there's actually three sequencers on this unit. And LFOs. And built in scales. And randomization functions. And ways to set gate ratios, and swing, and probabilities, and velocities, and. .. you get the picture. It's not the kind of full-blown music creation environment that you get with Numerology, but as a mono-note step sequencer it might actually be more feature-rich. It's something like Sugar Bytes Thesys, perhaps, but it's easier to get way out into bonkers territory with it, and I think the UI is actually a lot nicer. And certainly, it's cheaper than either of those two. It is not an arpeggiator. It knows nothing of chords. It would be painful to program drums with it. But honestly, if you want to control a synthesizer in the "classical" manner, this is -- I think -- the best piece of software out there. Very niche, but absolutely dead on.

The developer has a real thing for step sequencers, and has coded several. It's very well put together, and rock solid.

Outer Space [read all reviews]
Reviewed By sramsay [read all by] on 30th December 2017
Version reviewed: 1.1.0 on Mac
1 of 3 people found this review helpful.
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AudioThing makes some nice stuff, but this is really in a whole different league. It's a breathtakingly accurate emulation of a piece of classic gear, for which they could easily charge much more.

DUNE 2 [read all reviews]
Reviewed By sramsay [read all by] on 19th February 2015
Version reviewed: 10.10.2 on Mac.
Last edited by sramsay on 19th February 2015.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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Yes to everything that Yorrrrrr says below.

I wanted to say, though, that this synth is nearly ideal for beginners trying to learn to program synthesizers.

Often, beginners are directed toward free synthesizers. Certainly, that's not bad advice, since there are some stupendous ones out there (Synth1, Tyrell N6, TAL Noisemaker, etc.). As good as they can be, however, they very often come with no documentation -- or documentation that's really just a quick overview for people who already know their way around. What's more, some of these synths can have pretty obscure interfaces (sometimes because, in their devotion to vintage hardware emulation, they make UI decisions that favor looking retro over usability).

I want to be careful, here; Dune 2 is, in every way, a pro-grade instrument. But one of the things that makes it a great beginner synth is that it has one of the clearest workflows you'll ever see, and really, really solid docs. I can't speak for the devs, but I think their goal was to create a modern, state-of-the-art subtractive synth designed for right now. They're not trying to slavishly emulate the UI (or the sound) of past instruments, but they also aren't trying to do something forward-looking (read, weird) with the UI. In practice, this means that the controls and the signal flow are extremely clear. If you're still at the stage of trying to figure out how to make a basic sound that uses a sawtooth wave, a low-pass filter, and an amp envelope, then this thing just won't get in your way. And it's rare to see an instrument this powerful that doesn't.

I can imagine this synth being the perfect complement to Syntorial (the way to get started with synthesizers, as far as I'm concerned). Syntorial has "on your own" sections where he asks you to go program your own patch using the things you've learned in the previous tutorials. If "your own synth" is Tyrell N6, you might be totally lost. If your synth is Dune 2, you'll know exactly what to do.

Once again: This is a very powerful tool. It'll be a very long time before you exhaust its immense feature set, and it sounds magnificent. Any pro tweaker will have a field day. But honestly, this is one of the most approachable synths I've ever used. If you're starting out, this one can really grow with with you -- and on you.