AudioThing Reels Review

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AudioThing Reels is a promising tape emulation plugin with additional features like tape delay and tape stop simulation. Learn more about the software in our AudioThing Reels review.

If you ask my friends why they don’t answer my calls anymore, they’d tell you that I never shut up about tape emulation plugins.

I love tape emulation plugins.

I use them on every track on every project, often more than one. It’s by far what made the most significant impact on how I mix outside of learning how to EQ and compress.

Proper tape emulation can not only color your music in a very subtle yet musical way but goes a long way towards gluing your individual tracks together and tightening up the whole thing. It’s the closest thing to a magic bullet that I know of, outside of drowning everything in reverb while singing about being sad.

AudioThing’s Reels, conversely, is an entirely different beast altogether. It seamlessly bridges the gap between tape emulation and lo-fi creative effects.

Visually, I consider AudioThing to have some of the best interfaces in the business. Their ability to combine skeuomorphism with minimalism makes their products easy to understand and instantly usable. It’s truly something else.

Reels is no exception, but this plugin doesn’t just look good. It sounds downright threatening. Let’s look at the different sections individually.

The Tape

The star of the show is the tape section. AudioThing say they modeled the plugin on an old Japanese reel to reel that wasn’t in the best condition, which gives Reels its unique sound. The developers also modeled three different reels from various countries of origin, namely Japan, Italy, and France.

Simply put, the different tapes’ frequency response goes from decent to worse as you flick the switch to the right. None of them sound pristinely clean, and that’s the point. Selecting between the two available speeds also affects the overall frequency response.

Moving on, you have a bevy of options to affect your tracks further. Harshness controls the amount of saturation, almost to the point of sounding bitcrushed at its highest settings.

Wow/Flutter controls the sound’s pitch imperfections, leading to some pretty lush results akin to those of a cranked-up chorus effect. Ducking and Crosstalk manage the loss of volume and the leak between the left and right channels, respectively. Ducking can be slightly subtle, but Crosstalk creates a lovely and a bit messy stereo effect. I can’t say I’ve heard much like it. The Crosstalk parameter in Reels is a potent sound design tool, particularly on things like pads.

Changing the tape type also affects how all of the other tape parameters behave. The effect of using a different tape is even more apparent and unpredictable with the Italian and French reel models.

The Noise

The noise section is pretty self-explanatory. Authentic reel hiss was present due to the magnetic particles’ size on the tape itself being too big.

In Reels, turning up the Hiss knob allows you to replicate that effect, while the Motor knob mixes in the sound of the tape machine itself. Pressing the ENV button enables an envelope that lets the noise pass through only while music is playing.

The Echo

I said that the Tape section is the main focus, but Reels’ echo delay is just as impressive. In a word, it sounds gorgeous. Classic tape echoes have always had a very dark sound, but Reels truly takes this “analog tape delay” concept a step further.

The inclusion of tempo-sync and a low-pass filter are excellent additions as well, although I do wish Reels also came with a high-pass one.

Automating the Time knob creates that classic repitching delay sound, but it sounds particularly great here. I can honestly say that this is one of the better echo delays I’ve heard in a while. In fact, Reels works so well as a tape echo that I wish there were a way to turn the other sections on or off to use the echo separately. There’s also a Doppler-like effect that can be toggled in the settings.

At the Bottom

If that wasn’t enough, there’s even more functionality packed in. There’s a soft clip limiter to reign in a bit of the madness and a mono summing button that gives the overall sound a bit more of that old school authenticity.

Located right next to them is one of my favorite features of this entire plugin. It is the Pre-Emphasis knob, which boosts the high frequencies going into the tape section. This is where you’ll notice the most prominent hit when using Reels. It’s a very novel and smart solution that adds further control without sacrificing the plugin’s signature sound.

Lastly, there’s a tape stop section, which is hands down the best I’ve ever heard, and a mix knob, which you’re going to need if you want to bring any semblance of sense into the effected signal. Though, why would you?

The Verdict

One of the best parts about Reels is that it’s truly in a league of its own. It sounds like no other tape plugin I’ve used. AudioThing packed so much analog goodness in a single plugin that it’s kind of staggering.

Provided that you’re making lo-fi music, I’d consider Reels a must-own.

More info: AudioThing Reels (€59, available as a 64-bit plugin for both Windows and macOS)

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AudioThing Reels Review

93%
93%
Awesome

Beautiful, intuitive, lush, unique. AudioThing's Reels offers plenty of analog flavor while sacrificing very little outside of your music's high fidelity.

  • Features
    8
  • Workflow
    10
  • Performance
    10
  • Design
    10
  • Sound
    9
  • Pricing
    9
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About Author

Emanuil is a writer and Bedroom Producers Blog contributor with a keen interest in music production.

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