My recording world began via the cassette tape format. I had saved money to buy a cheap home stereo cassette tape recorder, and I’d borrow my dad’s deck for recording my sound-on-sound experiments back in the late-‘70s and early-‘80s. In the mid-‘80s, my parents and friends conspired to buy me a used 4-track cassette recorder, as they knew I was always recording and was craving more flexibility. But cassette tapes, despite their nostalgic factor these days, were some of the worst examples of every problem that analog tape can exhibit. Wow and flutter, dropouts, hiss, lack of high-frequency reproduction, compression, distortion, and noise reduction artifacts all contributed to the cassette’s failings and charm.

Enter Aberrant DSP, who designed the SketchCassette II plug-in to deliver “cassette inspired degradation,” and it delivers! Yup, there’s plenty of Wow and Flutter (with Depth and Rate controls it can get seasick), classic tape Saturation, terrifyingly real Dropout control, Age (How worn out is the tape?), Hiss modeling, and Noise Reduction encoding compression artifacts to be had. There are even 12 tape profiles to pick from – Type II anyone? This plug-in is far more detailed than I ever expected, but the presets can get you going quick. I found it an interesting way to “lo-fi” a sound without the technique being too obvious, and the extra artifacts created always added some interest to the mix. Placing SketchCassette II across a whole mix felt extreme to me, with even minimal settings causing issues, but this would be cool when trying to make a song sound very old, or for use in a film’s soundtrack. 

For the very affordable price of $30, I see no reason not to recommend SketchCassette II to everyone. The tone shaping can go nuts, opening up creative doors and new textures. Do it.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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