Drift is a plug‑in that reintroduces us to all those things that old‑school engineers used to hate about analogue tape! What was once viewed as an obstacle to recording perfection is now seen as an artistic effect, and to that end the user can select from the characteristics of two different cassette machines, two VHS tapes, an open‑reel deck, two dictaphones or a boombox. The program supports AU or VST3 plug‑in hosts running on macOS and Windows.
The GUI shows a couple of rotating tape reels with adjustable in and out levels on either side. Clicking on the reels alternately slows the tape to a grinding halt or speeds it up, and it does this in an extremely convincing manner. Once the tape is stopped no audio is output until it is restarted, even if the mix control is set to less than 100 percent. The slider below the tape sets the rate at which the speed change happens. All the other magic is controlled by the knobs below and (unlike with real tape!) you can decide exactly how much of each artefact to dial in.
Saturate adds the kind of warmth and grit you’d expect from pushing tape ‘into the red’, while Wow adds the familiar low‑speed modulation associated with worn pinch rollers and the like. Fail goes further by introducing the dropouts and glitches that were often heard on tapes that had been reused too many times: the higher the setting, the more frequent the errors. Flutter also adds pitch variations, typically much faster than Wow, that in the real world were caused by wear in other transport components.
Tape is where you select the type of tape machine being modelled, and this section is apparently based on the analysis of the EQ profiles of actual machines. There’s a very noticeable difference in timbre between the types, which can be very useful in helping sounds sit in a mix. Width adjusts the stereo width from mono to normal while Noise adds simulated tape hiss. Finally a Dry/Wet mix control allows you to blend the tape effect with your original signal.
In offering full control over these individual tape flaws, Drift is an ideal companion for those creating lo‑fi music. Yes, there are already many plug‑ins that recreate tape speed fluctuations, but the adjustable dropouts and tape stop features are less usual in a plug‑in at this price. I have to admit that tape dropouts were a particular nightmare back in the day and hearing them again brought on a sense of panic, but as long as you keep to low percentages, I’ll accept, albeit grudgingly, that there can be a certain charm in using them as an effect. Max out this control, however, and you get the sound of a cassette that has been left baking on your car’s parcel shelf for the summer before being savaged by the dog!
Drift serves up the full menu of tape nasties in a very controllable form and it does so in a very authentic‑sounding way.
To sum up then, Drift serves up the full menu of tape nasties in a very controllable form and it does so in a very authentic‑sounding way. Using automation to bring in the tape stop and start effect is great fun. Given the very affordable price, I’d recommend Drift to anyone with an interest in lo‑fi music techniques or, say, pop producers wanting a new source of inspiration for spot effects.