WAVES J37 TAPE
Got the ips? Why not use the same tape as The Beatles.
Review: Brad Watts
The recording world is acutely aware of the sonic disparities between magnetic tape and digital mediums. Tape sounds nice. If we believe Hollywood, every surveillance team in the USA still uses a reel-to-reel — maybe they’ve a surplus of tape operators. While digital recording captures a more accurate recording, tape imparts a degree of saturation, distortion, and when pushed, a modicum of gratifying compression — most notably with drums.
Most tape-emulator plug-ins offer a multitude of tape and tape-machine options. Waves, on the other hand, has chosen to emulate a particular tape-machine — the Studer J37. The J37 made history as the four-track machine used to record The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It used one-inch tape and ran at 7.5 and 15ips (inches per second) tape speeds. Contrary to the four-track myth, Sgt. Pepper’s used two J37s synced together. The plug-in is the result of a collaboration with Abbey Road Studios, and models its prime J37 machine.
Waves’ J37 plug-in doesn’t offer multi-tracking — it’s primary use is for flavouring your recordings with a hint, or a fistful, of tape emulation goodness (although there’s another use which I’ll get to in a bit). To that end, there are three tape types as used by EMI throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Then there’s control over tape speed, bias, noise, wow and flutter, and saturation — wow and flutter can be taken to ridiculous extremes for some off-the-wall effects and you can saturate the ‘level to tape’ for utterly bombastic distortion should you desire. But for straight tape emulation, the J37 plug-in sounds very nice. Drums seem to pick up a bit more ‘welly’ and guitars and vocals seem to ‘open up’ — it’s just a very pleasing effect. If your computer is up to it, it’s best to put one on each track but you can always put it over your two-bus outputs.
Perhaps the icing on this cake, however, is the additional tape-delay mode. This can be set from 1-2000ms, or can be synced to your DAW and set according to timing measures — unlike a real tape machine which relied on the distance between the record and repro head to set the delay time. This alone is worth the entry price as it sounds excellent. Overall, J37 is well worth adding to your sonic inventory.