Memorecks has released MXR90, a free cassette tape emulation ensemble for Native Instruments Reaktor (full version required).
What’s old always comes back around to being new again, but nowhere is this more true than in the audio world. OK, fashion, too.
For example, this could mean bitcrushing your drums to 12-bit to emulate an old drum machine. It could also mean layering vinyl crackles over your tracks to imitate chopped vinyl samples in the 90s boom bap hip hop a la Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Biggie, and Nas. Even just the simple act of using older synth sounds to evoke the vapory, rich sounds of classic synths falls into this category.
Flaws lend a sort of credibility to art. Limitations bring forth creativity. The imperfect invokes a certain mystique and allure. And to use a third french phrase, the imperfection brings that “je ne sais quoi” to sounds.
And at the end of the day, lo-fi processing just a perfect way to immediately contextualize a piece outside of its own merits.
Whole genres are springing up constantly that make use of these aesthetics. You’ve certainly listened to some lofi hip hop, vaporwave, synthwave, or even coldwave. One can only assume that more “waves” will pop up eventually.
As far as the audio production world goes, however, the fashionable thing is cassette tape emulation, and with good reason. Unlike bitcrushing and vinyl, tape emulation feels like less like a gimmick and much more like an intentional creative decision.
As opposed to the perfect, seemingly timeless replicability of digital media, tape emulation adds the type of warmth and character that producers usually pay top dollar for.
One of the best things you can do to really capture that sound is to recreate the hardware recording techniques in the comfort of your DAW. This can be done by using emulations of an analog preamp, tracking board, tape machine, mixing board, summing channel, and master tape. In that order.
Or, you can go the lo-fi route and emulate the sound of a cassette tape recorder. You know, that old thing that people used to create mixtapes.
And if you own the Reaktor, you can try using the new MRX90 ensemble created by hip hop/electronica producer Memorecks (both being a play on the classic cassette manufacturer Memorex).
MRX90 comes with only two knobs – Noise and Age. These are great if you want to get a broken cassette sound, which is the MRX90’s intended purpose. Throw it on a loop, and you’re immediately transported to the room of a studying anime girl.
However, dialing both of these back creates a lovely, creamy, slightly phased but beautiful older cassette sound that you can quickly put in your FX chain or even on your master.
A little bit of nostalgia can be a good thing.
Please note that you will need the full version of NI Reaktor to use MRX90 without any limitations. It will only work for fifteen minutes in the free Kontakt Player. Another similar effect to try is the VHS Audio Degradation Suite by James Peck.
More info: MRX90 (12.7 MB download size, free to use, requires the full version of NI Reaktor)