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9. Emulating cassette tape in your DAW
1 Cassette tapes are back in a big way and, as you’d expect, they’re now loved for the very reasons they were despised the first time around! We needn’t make a run for the local thrift store to get that hip cassette flavour, though – we just need a few plugins and the right approach. Let’s fire up our DAW – in this case, Cubase. 2 Since cassette recorders are well loved for how they impact drum tracks, we’ll call our acoustic drum kit loop into play again. Our DAW of choice comes with a number of distortion effects, so we’ll begin there, with the plain ol’ Distortion plugin. You can use whatever flavour of saturation you like. 3 Our cassette Portastudios never had much respect for high frequencies, so we’re going to turn the Tone knob down a bit to get rid of all of that hi-fi top end. Let’s try to approximate the sound of the Portastudio being overdriven – we reduce the Output level and increase the Boost value to around 0.9. 4 It’s exaggerated, but that’s OK – we want to fly our freq flag high! Now for some tape noise. For this, we’re going to call up an analogue synthesiser on an Instrument Track. Any synth with a noise generator will do. 5 We turn off all of the synth’s oscillators and turn on its Noise generator. We’ll filter the noise a little bit for a darker effect, and reduce the synth’s volume level to the point of it being barely audible. We then record a long, sustained stream of noise under the drum loop. 6 Finally, if you want to simulate one of the worst qualities of cassette, you can fake the low-level pitch modulation that plagued old, battered machines. You can do this by manually adding pitch fluctuations using automation, or by throwing in a bit of vibrato, like we’re doing here.