James Peck has announced the release of VHS Audio Degradation Suite, a free lo-fi multi-effect for Native Instruments Reaktor.
A growing trend in music I’ve noticed in the past decade is degrading the fidelity of a sound in a way that is musical, nostalgic, and reminiscent of older playback devices. With all of the technically perfect synthesizers and pristine guitar tones available at the click of a preset, many producers (myself included) search for ways to inject character and grit into their tracks.
In the VHS Audio Degradation Suite (available for NI Reaktor free of charge – full version required), the user can dial in everything that made old VHS tapes and audio cassettes sound the way they did. Tape wow, flutter, speed, wear, hum, hiss, tone, EQ, compression, saturation, chorus, and delay are all included to create the depth of sound that, to my ear at least, is pretty convincing. There is even a simple “sum to mono” function which often makes modern stereo synth patches sound a bit older.
Here’s a clip of me trying out the plugin on one of my tracks:
The most important feature here for me, however, is the pitch modulation. Finding a plugin to create pitch modulation with random artifacts that convincingly mimicked tape is pretty difficult, but I think they may have nailed it. Using the wow and flutter controls along with the “warp” function seems to do the trick. This plugin also comes with some unexpected features such as mic emulation, preamp controls, and quirky preset names such as “Raindrops falling down the window of your 32nd floor Tokyo condo at 6:45 PM”. I was thinking about buying some expensive UAD tape emulators which have similar controls to the Audio Degradation Suite has, but considering this is free, it might end up substituting those expensive plugins nicely.
VHS Audio Degradation Suite is available for free download via Native Instruments (49.7 MB download size, ENS format for NI Reaktor).