It’s the sound plenty of us grew up loathing – only to love it later. VHS tapes can shift pitch, add grain and grime, and immerse your sounds in lo-fi chorus and spread. Our friends Bedroom Producers Blog and Toybox Audio have modeled all of it in a new free plug-in for macOS and Windows.

VHS tapes are arguably better at being creative tools for sound mangling than they were for, uh, recording video. That’s because the cassette format and the consumer machines that played it suffer from many sonically complex inconsistencies. The motor and tape condition, sound signal, noise and dirt accumulation on the tape, stereo drift, and the tendency of the particles to be gradually ripped off the tape as the transport moves all contribute to layers of fidelity loss.

Ironically, while these things are hard to prevent on the original hardware, they’ve been devilishly tricky to model in sound. So this is a perfect, what-I’d-wish-for collaboration. Toybox Audio is doing fantastic modeling work – all quality, zero hype. (I can be the hype man; whatever.) And Bedroom Producers Blog, apart from having a great name (yeah, screw you, studios, I’m making music in my pajamas), has been steadily churning out freebies to match.

Look, they’ve nailed this. It’s terrific. Call it “Boards of Serbia” (after Tomislav’s hometown, natch). And you get a stupid number of options once they get rolling, especially for a free plug-in. It’s a tape chorus, it’s a distortion, it’s a pitch shifter, it’s a damned dirty VHS tape:

  • Eight VR models
  • Pitch modulation (motor/tape condition)
  • Tone shaping (“carefully modeled after actual VCR hardware” is a phrase I enjoy)
  • Noise
  • Dirt
  • Tape chorus (as you’d get ganging two VHS machines together) with stereo width
  • 20 presets

And then the models:

  • 90s good-condition VHS deck
  • Old poor-condition deck with dirty heads – plus grainy, smooth, and “whammy” mode for pitch shift
  • 80s deck with worn-out VHS
  • Generation (simulating generation loss of overlaying the same signal repeatedly on the same tape)
  • Broken (ha)
  • Long play (emulating the lower quality extended play mode)
  • Circuit bent (mods like running the audio output into the servo)
  • Console (a video game console recorded onto a VHS tape)

All they left out was “VHS tape recorded four times over with Fraggle Rock until the tape from Kroger was moaning for mercy.”

Enjoy! macOS, Windows, VST3, AU (sorry, Pro Tools users, you’ll have to buy a VHS recorder…)

BPB Dirty VHS Is A FREE VHS Tape Plugin For Windows And Mac [BPB]

BPB Dirty VHS [download/product page]

So, normally, the idea behind freebies is to upsell you to a paid whatever / mailing list signup / blah blah… yeah, I kind of want to now find a Flohmarkt VHS deck and circuit bend it, so you may have triggered the wrong consumer impulse in me. I’ll see you if I ever re-emerge. Tell my family and friends I love them.

It is kind of wild what VHS can do. Now someone needs to convincingly model the visual part, too, as what I’ve seen has been mostly unconvincing. This may be metaphorically what our entire society is going through, but I digress:

Photo at top – source.