It's Not a Record Until it's Mastered on an Ampex® Tape Machine.
For more than three decades, the two-channel Ampex ATR-102 Mastering Tape Recorder has turned music recordings into records. With its cohesive sound, punch, and ability to provide subtle-to-deep tape saturation and color, the ATR-102 is a fixture in major recording and mastering studios — and is considered by many engineers to be the best-sounding tape machine for final mixdown. The perfect complement to the workhorse Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder, the ATR-102 Mastering Tape Recorder plug-in for UAD-2 can provide the final “analog polish” on your music, turning songs into albums.
Impeccably modeled in the renowned UAD engineering tradition — and incorporating presets from noted ATR-102 users Chuck Ainlay, Richard Dodd, Buddy Miller, Mike Poole, and more — the ATR-102 Mastering Tape Recorder plug-in emulation for UAD-2 faithfully replicates the unique dynamics, frequency response, and saturation characteristics of the original hardware. Scrutinized and fully authenticated by the Ampex Corporation, the sound of the ATR-102 plug-in for UAD-2 is virtually indistinguishable from its analog cousin.
Introduced in 1976, the Ampex ATR-102 2-Track Tape Recorder was a near-instant hit, thanks to its revolutionary servo-controlled reel motors and capstan, which provided smooth, continuous tape tension and handling. The large capstan, and absence of pinch rollers, provided nearly non-existent speed drift and ultra-low flutter. The clever ATR-102 design allowed users to change out heads and guides in mere minutes, with a 1" head being a very popular "hot-rod" modification in more recent years — especially when running at 15 IPS (inches per second). The ATR's role in modern recording history is so prevalent, that it would be easier to list classic albums that weren't mixed down on this machine, rather than to try to list all those that were.
Like the ATR-102 hardware, the plug-in allows you to choose between various Signal Paths (Input, Sync, Repro), different Tape Speeds / Emphasis EQs (NAB, CCIR, AES) and Tape Formula combinations, even including home/consumer tape. The Input (Record) Gain knob and the Cal button are the primary controls for regulating levels, and even saturating the tape, and can be used to deliver a heavily colored sound if desired. Other ATR-102 features include: 1/4," 1/2," or 1" Head Select, Biasing/Calibration controls (auto and manual), crosstalk, adjustable wow and flutter, and adjustable tape delay, which can be used for Automatic Double Tracking effects on vocals, guitars, and more.
The primary use for Ampex ATR-102, and the recommended method for “demoing” this plug-in, is as the last stereo insert on your master fader (or possibly the second-to-last insert before a brick-wall processor such as the UAD Precision Limiter). Set up the plug-in by first adjusting Tape Speed, Tape Formula, Cal Level, and Emphasis EQ, or simply select a preset. Note that as you lower the tape speed (i.e. 15 IPS, 7.5 IPS), the tape “sound” becomes more audible. Once this basic setup is made, adjust the L/R Record (input gain) levels for more or less tape/circuit coloration and saturation.
Other common uses for the Ampex ATR-102 are as individual mono or stereo insert effects, or as an auxiliary group effect where the user wishes to apply it only to specified sources or groups (e.g., drums, guitars, etc). Check out the ATR-102 Tips and Tricks blog article below to learn more.
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