Super VHS is a lo-fi audio effect plugin by Baby Audio. Check out our Super VHS review and enter the giveaway to win a free copy of the plugin. We have two free licenses available for two lucky BPB readers!
Growing up in an Eastern Bloc country in the early 90s meant that we didn’t get access to popular culture. As recently as a couple of years up to that point, this type of stuff was considered imperialist propaganda. By the time I knew what a remote was, we’d stopped painting everything red, but there was still no legal way to consume any sort of western media.
Enter the bootleg video rental shop. I watched everything from Power Rangers to Italian Giallo films, all in terrible quality. Ever since then, the particular visual and aural aesthetics of bad VHS tapes have been so burned into my brain that I can’t help but react to them positively.
Super VHS Review
Now, regarding its uses for the latter, Baby Audio has taken a smart approach. One can vinyl and cassette tape their music into oblivion. But really, what genres like Synthwave and Vaporwave are trying to emulate is the kind of music you would’ve heard while watching an old VHS tape.
Visually, the plugin evokes the look of a jazz cup with the car from Knight Rider and more triangles than an Illuminati geometry textbook, but the real question is, what does VHS even sound like?
Crackle, Hum, Drift
VHS was, as I’m sure you’re aware, not the most reliable format, and I don’t just mean catching someone’s more risque home video while trying to watch American Ninja 2: The Confrontation.
Being an analog format, the magnetic tape itself could go out of sync, out of tune, can pick up dust, and who knows what else. With that in mind, here’s what you can turn and press in Super VHS.
Static & Shape
The Static slider dictates the intensity of the noise generated by the internal synthesizer. It’s a charming musical noise that gets more rattly the more you crank it up. The Shape control connects to a bitcrusher based on an 8-bit sampler and goes from subtle to full tinny and digital. I found it more usable in its two lowest settings, but the option to go wild is there. A particularly creative use I saw for the two is that if you only stick to them, you can affect the noise synth’s pitch for recreating more realistic interference noise.
An analog-tape saturator based on consumer-grade tape machines. I am always on a quest for more tape saturators, and this one sounds excellent. It’s very subtle, as much as a good saturator should be, while starting to fizzle at its highest settings. It definitely goes on the list.
The Drift knob modulates the speed and pitch of the signal. It goes full nightmare funhouse when all the way to the right, but is incredibly pleasant on low to mid settings. It’s also very fun to modulate.
Based on the 1980s budget rack units, Baby Audio describes it as a “bad hall” reverb. If you told me this came from Valhalla DSP’s VintageVerb, I’d believe it. It’s a great way to round out the other effects and really bring them together.
Speaking of rounding out, the literal centerpiece of the plugin is the big Magic button. Turning it on applies a lush chorus effect to the whole thing that I’m willing to bet is based on a Juno chorus but with the depth turned up a bit.
Turning On The VHS
As a test, I used the theme for John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic Halloween and threw Super VHS on it. Immediately, without touching any of the knobs, the plugin has reigned in a bit of the high end and tightened the mids, making for an overall more workable sound.
Now, I’m assuming that this is what a brand new VHS tape would likely sound like, but I didn’t have original tapes back in the 90s. I had bootlegs of early 80s VHS tapes, which means cranking those bad boys up to their low mids.
I mixed in the original signal to about 50%, which gave it a more consistent feel. I then asked a few friends to listen to both the original and the processed recording and tell me what they think. All concluded that yes, this sounds like a VHS tape. That’s a win in my book.
Realistically, this plugin isn’t likely to be used as exclusively a VHS-’em-up, but rather as a creative effect plugin akin to the XLN Audio RC-20. Super VHS costs precisely half of RC-20’s asking price but comes with about a tenth of the features. Additionally, James Peck’s tried and tested VHS Audio Degradation Suite is free and works in NI Reaktor.
At the same time, I love how Super VHS sounds and can find a use case for each of its effects individually and as a set. Super VHS nails that 80s sound, and it instantly imprints a unique retro flavor on any piece of audio. The signal chain is very cleverly thought out, but I’m just aching for additional control, even just a little bit.
More info: Super VHS ($49, available as a 32- and 64-bit plugin for both Windows and macOS)
Baby Audio has kindly offered two free Super VHS licenses for two lucky BPB readers. We are giving away one of the licenses here and one on our Instagram page. So, there are two ways for you to enter the giveaway:
- Post a comment on this article (1 randomly picked winner)
- Comment on this Instagram post and tag a friend (1 randomly picked winner)
Only one comment per entrant is allowed. You can enter the giveaway both here and on Instagram to double your chances of winning. Our Instagram page is still quite new, so there won’t be a lot of competition. :)
We will announce the two winners on Wednesday, October 7th. Good luck, everyone, and thanks for reading BPB!
UPDATE: The winners are Luis Arango (l*************@g***.***) and @_jiriblazek_ (Instagram). Congratulations to our two winners and THANK YOU to all of you who participated. We have A TON more free content coming very soon, so stay tuned.
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Super VHS Review
Baby Audio has made a fantastic retro VHS plugin that sounds great. Immediately gratifying to use, Super VHS is a unique-sounding alternative to other free and paid audio degradation effects.