Acustica Audio have applied their unique sampling technology to the world of magnetic recording media — with impressive results.
Acustica Audio's Acqua series of plug-ins recreate classic items of analogue studio hardware, but here's no modelling or emulation involved. Instead, Acustica use a proprietary form of convolution to, in effect, 'sample' the response of the original units. Unlike conventional static convolution, their Diamond Volterra Kernels can capture both linear and non-linear behaviour, allowing them to mimic not only reverbs and EQs, but also compressors, preamps, and — in the latest addition to the range — tape machines.
There are now so many plug-ins in the Acqua collection that Acustica seem to be running out of colours to name them after. According to Wikipedia, "even people who use colour professionally often disagree about what 'taupe' means," which perhaps makes this a doubly apt name: audio engineers generally agree that tape has 'a sound', but will argue endlessly as to what the character of that sound is, which aspects of the tape‑recording process are responsible for it, and which machines sounded best.
Taupe allows users to make up their own minds on the first and last of these points, but takes a firm position on the second. Unlike most modelling-based 'tape' plug-ins, it does not reprodce wow and flutter, and its 'samples' have been scrupulously de-noised, so it introduces no discernible hiss. Nor, thankfully, does it recreate print-through, dropouts, timecode bleed, dodgy alignment, lengthy rewind times or any of the other undesirable features of tape recording. In their place, Acustica have added genuinely worthwhile features in the shape of a four-band equaliser and a compressor, all likewise 'sampled' from classic studio hardware.
Taupe is thus a suite of plug-ins rather than a single processor. As well as a full-fat channel‑strip plug-in that includes all three modules, the tape, EQ and compressor are split out to separare plug-ins, and there are also zero-latency versions for tracking. The full channel-strip version of Taupe places its three modules in a fixed order whereby tape precedes EQ, which in turn feeds the compressor. It's perhaps a shame that this can't be changed around, as is possible...
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