Tips & Tricks — Studer A800 Mutichannel Tape Recorder Plug-In
In this Plug-In Power post, we will be focusing on some basic pointers for getting started with the Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder plug-in for UAD-2. As many A800 users are quickly finding out, this plug-in has the unique ability to "glue together" your mixes — providing a rare combination warmth, air and punch — just like recording to 2" analog tape. However, to really hear what the A800 plug-in can do for your mixes, we've gathered a few helpful tips:
How to "audition" the Studer A800 plug-in
The best way to "hear" the A800 is to disable/remove everything you've got on your tracks — EQs, compressors, reverbs, saturation plug-ins, etc. Or better still, just start a new mix from scratch. Place the A800 plug-in as the first insert on every channel. This is your new "starting point", so to speak. Then, you can slowly add back your other plug-ins, adjusting them to match the new baseline sound of the A800. You may find yourself using less EQ and compression, for example. It's important to note that the A800 plug-in is an authentic model of a Studer tape machine; so while it can be used on busses or master fader for that "mixed to tape" sound, it's arguably more powerful for its cumulative effect — stacking it as the first insert on many individual channels. The effect of creating full mix from scratch with the A800 plug-in can be stunning.
How to saturate / overdrive the A800 plug-in
The Studer A800 was one of the "cleanest," best-engineered tape machines ever built. A properly calibrated A800 machine would exhibit no discernable tape wow or flutter, for example. But as engineers in the 80s and 90s found out, by over-biasing, you can deliberately saturate the A800 — and get a smooth, pleasing overdriven tape sound. On the plug-in, click the Studer badge to expose the secondary controls. Turn the Bias control clockwise, then adjust Input and Output knobs to suit your taste and the program material. If things start to sound too dark, the HF Record EQ control can be used to bring back some high-end. But go gentle; this filter is potent. Keep in mind you are now running the machine "un-calibrated," but this can be the road to some seriously non-linear tones with lots of analog magic.
How to use the "Gang" control to tweak all instances at once
Once all desired instantiations of the A800 are in your session, click the Studer badge to open its secondary controls. From there, engage the "Gang Controls" feature. A red LED flashes, letting you know that you are about to do something global, to ALL instances. This is a handy time-saver when you want to make the same adjustments like tape type and speed across all your tracks.
How and Why to Use "Auto Cal"
In Auto Cal mode, the plug-in automatically calibrates the tape as you switch tape Speed, Formula and Emphasis EQ settings. This lets you try different Speeds, Formulas, Emphasis EQs and Cal Levels until you've got the sound you like. If you start tweaking the secondary "under the hood" controls — including Bias, HF, LF, Hum and Hiss — you'll no longer be running the plug-in as a calibrated processor. However, if things go too haywire while tweaking these secondary controls, just press the Auto Cal button to calibrate again.
How to disable the spinning tape reels on the plug-in
If the spinning reels become too distracting, you can click on the IPS text to disable them at any time.
We hope this helps you get off to a great start demoing and using the Studer A800 plug-in.
To learn more about the Studer A800 plug-in, check out the trailer and hands-on demo videos below:
Want to chat with other users? Please visit the Studer A800 thread at the unofficial UAD Forums here:
— Mason Hicks