Learn more about the potential of AI-powered tape emulation plugins in our BABY Audio TAIP review. Scroll down to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of TAIP!
Not too long ago, we covered the release of the TAIP plugin, and I liked what I saw. In all fairness, I expected to like it because I like BABY Audio, and any plugin in the tape emulation or Lo-Fi effect realm typically piques my interest. We all know first impressions count, but they don’t always last, and now that some time has passed, I wanted to take another look at TAIP to discuss if/how my opinion has changed.
TAIP is currently available at an intro price of $39 (usually $69). If you aren’t too familiar with Baby Audio, you should also check out the I Heart NY parallel compression plugin.
AI Versus DSP
Artificial Intelligence may not be a new term, but it feels like we are at the forefront of its use in the audio plugin world. Recently, we’ve had The Stage Package from Master Tones and RipX DeepAudio, to name a few. You should also check out our AI-based EQ comparison.
If we think about what makes a tape machine difficult to emulate authentically, there are many reasons. Like emulating any hardware, you have to mimic the various settings available. But, with tape machines, you are dealing with unstable hardware that produces effects like Wow, Flutter, and Noise based on machine wear, environment conditions (temperature, and so on), or randomly.
In Baby Audio’s words, DSP emulation is ‘guesstimating’ the effect of analog components and how they interact, which is a funny, but fair description. Rather than predict how one component will react to the behavior of another, the AI approach starts at the finish line and works backward.
Feeding the AI-based algorithm enough training data of dry vs processed audio lets it accurately identify/learn the specific characteristics that differentiate between the two. In theory, that’s a far more accurate way to get from point A to point B, and I think it will get more impressive as time goes on.
I’m not ready to banish DSP emulation yet, and I dare say the traditional approach will sometimes sound better (for now, at least). AI may be the future, but success depends on the work done in the machine learning process. If the training data isn’t correct or not vast enough, the results will be poor. There’s also randomness that some AI plugins may struggle with before it’s perfect.
I think Baby Audio has put AI to good use with TAIP; the interaction between components feels believable, and the randomness doesn’t feel forced.
As you can see, I’ve taken the slightest opportunity to reference Baby Driver, a film with an excellent soundtrack for those who haven’t seen it.
Drive, which ranges from -40 to 40dB, is the heart of the TAIP plugin. As you’ll read from any promotional text, TAIP can do subtle tape saturation to heavy distortion. I don’t think that description does it justice; it’s when you use it you understand the range of color at your disposal.
I’ve found that I’m more heavy-handed with TAIP’s Drive than I am with other tape emulations. It’s partly due to the Auto Gain compensation, which all similar plugins should have but don’t. It’s also because I love how TAIP sounds when pushed beyond subtle and towards breaking up. With some tape emulations, I find they don’t sit as convincingly in that space. Some feel like they are playing every stereotype of a tape machine on a loop to show they haven’t missed a trick, but TAIP manages to portray a more organic unpredictability than most.
If you’re like me and like to push the Drive, changing the Input from Normal to Hot can add some extra grit.
Please, Don’t kill my Vibe
My reference is, of course, a PG-13 nod to a Kendrick Lamar banger. The point is that TAIP doesn’t kill my vibe; it brings it to life in many cases.
Moving on from the Drive, the remaining controls make TAIP surprisingly flexible. Wear is one of the most common controls, which emulates the Wow and Flutter of a beat-up tape machine. When you adjust the Mix (dry/wet) slider, the Wow, and Flutter running in parallel with the dry signal will produce a tape flanging effect. With these effects, I’d mention the authenticity of randomness again. There’s nothing nostalgic or heartfelt about Wow, Flutter, or tape flanging when it sounds contrived. But, when it hits more naturally, that alone can be enough to re-invent a track.
Like many musicians, I don’t always get enough time to work on my own music. I grab time now and then, often with no particular direction, and end up with a bunch of misfit, half-baked ideas scattered around my hard drive.
TAIP has completely, but quickly and easily, changed the vibe of many of these ideas. I’ve had tracks I thought were too elevator; TAIP gave them a cool vintage vibe. I’ve had others I felt were too soft; TAIP gave them more edge and controlled aggression.
Even without touching the Drive again, messing around with Noise, Wear, Glue, Presence, and Hi/Lo-Shape offer endless variation. I can skim some of those controls as self-explanatory; Noise adds/removes tape noise as desired, and Glue mimics basic tape machine cohesion or acts as a compressor.
Presence, Hi-Shape, and Lo-Shape are a bit different and can have a considerable impact. Presence lets you compensate for the inherent high-frequency loss of a tape machine by bringing some brightness back.
The Hi/Lo-Shape sliders allow you to aim the saturation with some more precision, targetting the high/low end more/less. As with most controls, these can be subtle, but they can also be utterly maniacal, and I like it. With enough Drive thrown at the low end, the rumble is right on boiling point, but it’s always musical.
There’s one more option, which is to switch the Model from Single to Dual. Doing so will split the Drive between two tape machines in series, giving the sound more depth and harmonic richness.
The interface looks like an old tape cassette, which reminds me that it was once cool to rock a Sony Walkman and LA Gear kicks; admittedly, LA Gear was only cool for a very short time, but for a few months, I was one hip kid. The GUI is resizable and has three color options; black, white, and grey.
There’s not much to say; looks good, works well, no issues. Oh, and the Bypass button is the Baby Audio Header; I’ve seen some confusion about that.
I liked TAIP when I first saw it, and I still like it now. After some more use, the thing that surprises me is that I don’t use it like I do most tape emulations. Typically, when I use a tape emulation, I have a specific sound in mind, and it’s usually more subtle than in your face. There are exceptions, of course, but that’s the norm for me.
With TAIP, I go in with more of a blank canvas and use it more creatively, more aggressively, in search of a sound than I do with some others. If we take TAIP at its regular price of $69, is it value for money?
Yes, it is; I honestly think if you can’t get $69 worth of use from it, you’re crazy (no offense). However, we all prefer a bargain, so check it out while on sale if interested.
Would I ditch all other tape emulations for TAIP? Absolutely not! Amongst others, we recently covered IK Multimedia’s TASCAM Tape Collection, and they are awesome. But, it offers me something I don’t get from the others, and in turn, that will help me get the best from them, too. TAIP won’t be the only one I use, but it’s taken a firm place as one of my go-to choices.
Cheers, BABY Audio; it’s fantastic.
More info: TAIP (44% OFF intro sale)
BABY Audio offers a FREE copy of the TAIP plugin to one lucky BPB reader (thanks, BABY Audio! ❤️).
To enter the giveaway, answer this question in the comments section: What is your favorite BABY Audio plugin? The winner will be chosen using a random comment picker on December 20th, 2021.
The winner is: Zaid (l************@*****.com)
Congratulations! Please check your email later today to claim the prize.
Everyone else, better luck next time and thanks for reading BPB!
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BABY Audio TAIP Review
TAIP is an AI-powered tape plugin that can be used more creatively and more aggressively than the competition, in search of a sound that can't be achieved with other tape emulations.