By Collin Makariak 

In the history of music, there are a handful of recording studios that have acquired an almost legendary status. One such studio is Abbey Road in London England. This location was used by the Beatles throughout the 1960’s at the peak of their prominence and was also host to other great bands such as Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and Oasis. In the Beatles’ time, sound was recorded on to magnetic tapes, which have become known for their warmth and slight harmonic distortion that leads to a vintage sound. In Abbey Road, the tape machine was especially notable. Waves Audio’s J37 tape plug-in was designed specifically to try and mimic the iconic sound of Abbey Road’s magnetic tape recorder. I was extremely excited to take a look at this product not only because I have enjoyed my time with Waves’ other products over the years, but because I was also curious to see how closely this plug-in captures the spirit of the recorder at Abbey Road.

When you open J37 you are greeted to a very well organized and simple to understand interface. There is a subsection to select between three different tape formulas. The 888 formula has a slightly grainier sound reminiscent of recordings from the early 60s. The 815 formula is more refined and sterile, similar to tape from the early 70s and the 811 formula is somewhere between the two with more distortion than the 815 but less in the 1k-8k Hz range from the 888. Beside the formulas lies controls for tape speed. The 7.5 inch per second option leads to a warmer low- and high-end frequency response while the fifteen offers you a more hi-fi saturation effect. Filling out the rest of the top row of the interface lies controls for input and output levels, bias to help shape ultra high, inaudible frequencies and delay times. You are already given a lot of flexibility with this plug-in to give your recording warmth and character that more modern saturation styles can’t.

The bottom row of the interface provides you with even more options through the offering of dials to control WOW, Flutter Noise Level, and Saturation, along with buttons for slap and ping pong delay types. Although there are plenty of areas to direct the sound, I found the J37 to be remarkably approachable and intuitive. Not only are the controls easy to use, but for those of us who are less versed in saturation there is a ton of pre-sets available. Whether you are a complete beginner to the art of mixing and mastering or an experienced veteran this plug-in has a nice blend of power and simplicity.

Typical of Waves plug-ins the sound quality of J37 is excellent. It accomplishes what it sets out to do, giving an instrument or vocal a vintage, warm tone reminiscent of rock recordings from the 60s and 70s. The saturation is subtle yet adds a lot of character to the instruments it is applied to. The emulation of the legendary machine in Abbey Road studios is also quite good. The only thing to watch out for with this tape plug-in is its CPU usage. If you are running a home set-up with a less powerful computer, you will definitely want to limit the instances of J37 you are running. Like all things in mixing and mastering, you want to be selective and trust your ears when using effects, and saturation is no different. When overused, saturation can harm definition in your recording. J37 is perfect for your worship teams’ recording needs as it does a great job making desired instruments and vocals more present in the mix. In the hands of a skilled engineer, this tape plug-in should be able to take your recordings to the next level.  

Collin Makariak is a freelance composer and music educator based in Oakville Canada. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Acadia University in Music Performance and Composition. He has scored multiple short films, performed as a pianist in Nova Scotia and even played in a rock band on keyboards and vocals.  


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