‘Tis the season to throw some wobbly retro tape qualities to your tracks on some holiday break time for all of us, hopefully. Arturia’s Tape MELLO-FI brings a full spectrum of distortion, lo-fi tape, and width and color options – for free through the end of the month.

There’s a lot of nice stuff happening in tape effects these days – at last, after a long time when such digital emulations tended to be relatively crude.

Tape MELLO-FI is nice both as it offers some modeled retro effects, and plenty of color and modulation options, too. I think the most satisfying approach with these tools is not to bury your channels under a bunch of gauze, but rather to get creative with them – especially since in-the-box software approaches afford you exactly that creative control.

In this case, Arturia worked on the behavior modeling from their Mellotron V and built it into a standalone effect. If you want retro personality, it does that, but it also offers precise controls for applying it as distortion and modulation.


  • Tape emulation and lo-fi effects processing
  • Noise, Flutter, Wow, Wear, and Mechanics controls
  • A tape wheel you can use to manipulate the actual tape mechanism – with Tape Stop (tempo-syced, no less) and the option of an Instant Tape catch-up
  • 12 dB low-pass and high-pass filter section
  • Stereo Width modulation offsets to Wow and Flutter to widen those effects

You also get 25 presets to get you started. (See image.)

This time, that skeuomorphic approach pays off, in that you get the effect of using this as a tape – and can even use tempo sync to make rhythmic patterns out of the results. So this can be glitchy and destructive, not only nostalgic. And with those stereo options and filters, there are a lot of opportunities for ambient effects, too.

It’s free for everybody; you just need an Arturia account and Arturia Software Center (and I’ve been busy loading ASC lately with all the updates that have been rolling through).


There are some nice walkthroughs to fully understand each parameter…
…and plenty of presets to audition the range of what the effect can do.

For me, at least, this fits a nice spot next to some other options that similarly lend themselves to creativity (and creative abuse). I’m quite fond of BABY Audio’s TAIP (a reel-to-reel model based on machine learning that I find works really well as distortion) and Super VHS models. There’s some great stuff for Reaktor, including the free MRX90 which I wrote about last year. (There’s also reTape, which I haven’t even gotten to use yet, which takes a multi-effects approach.) AudioThing has a bunch of emulation tools, but going a totally different direction from Arturia and Mellotron, there’s the extreme distortion of the WIRES collaboration with Hainbach.

Want more? Here’s a big round-up of stuff, a lot of it free – like a free Copicat IC400, cassette effect from Caelum (which is also a free AUv3 for iOS), and Wavefactory’s free tempo-synced transport:


Oh yeah, and there are just actual cassette tapes, but I’m in the plug-in mode while I’m traveling.

It’s fascinating to have this stuff in the box, with controls that both emulate the real world and defy those physical realities. It also frees you to try sequences of processing you might not with the real gear.

And on that note, I’m off to play wit this one a bit more.