Tape emulation is one of the cooler mastering tricks in an engineer’s arsenal. With the right tools, good monitors, and an ear for detail, producers can really sweeten a final mix by adding judicious amounts of saturation and, if they’re feeling bold, a touch of hiss. The caveat here is that tape emulation software can be on the expensive side. A producer buddy of mine tipped me off to Master Record a while back, and after tinkering with it for a couple of months, I have to say I’m pretty darn impressed with it.
PROS: Legit sounding tape emulation. Detailed control over saturation, flutter and noise. Realtime recording and processing of audio. Offline processing of files makes it useful for adding warmth and vintage character to mixed material.
CONS: Full Audiobus performance requires an iPad 2 or newer.
Bottom Line:Seriously cool tape effects for ten bucks.
Master Record is a nifty little app that delivers customizable tape effects with a no-nonsense interface that makes it incredibly easy to use. There are several ways to approach the app, both realtime and offline, which makes it quite a bargain for a mere ten bucks.
For starters, you can use Master Record to simply record audio, either via the iPad’s standard inputs or via an iOS compatible interface, so at the very least it’s an awesome field recorder with a bunch of handy bells and whistles. Because of its tape-centric approach, editing recorded audio is a wee bit fiddly, with tape transport style functions like fade in/out tools, though it does sport a nice view of the overall recorded waveform.
If you’re using Master Record in an Audiobus environment, it can be used as in either “effect’ or “output” configuration for processing audio on the fly, though you’ll need a newer iPad (generation 2 or later) for that functionality. Even so, it works quite nicely as a recorder or offline processor, even on the original iPad.
In my experiments, I found Master Record to be a super-sweet companion to my normal studio workflow by using it for offline processing of pre-recorded audio. It handily offers compatibility with WAV, AIFF, MP3, .M4A, and even CAF or FLAC audio file formats, making it a real team player for a variety of applications.
Customizing the processing is a breeze, although the terminology of tape may be a tad arcane for the digital generation. Simply put, you’ve got control over the type and amount of saturation/drive, two-band shelving EQ, frequency response options for emulating several types of tape speed and bias, and even flutter controls if you want to mess up your signal a bit. Speaking of messing with your recordings, Master Record allows you to add a touch of hiss to your output with five options that include cassette, reel, tube, vinyl crackles, and even the subtle drone of an old-school recording console. Finally, there’s a brick wall limiter at the end of the chain, which can be used either subtly or dramatically
My approach to integrating Master Record into my tracks was simply to select an audio file in WAV format and sync it up to my iPad. From there, I applied the tape effects (it’s great for nasty, old-school hip-hop overdrive, incidentally) and then hit the “dubbing’ button. This bounces the audio, keeping the original file and creating a newly processed file with a different name. From there, I re-imported the audio into my DAW and kept going. I have to admit, this app sounds so good that I’m sorely tempted to take a finished master and apply a touch of emulated tape warmth to the final files before releasing it on my label or shopping it. We’ll see. . . .
As for moving files around, in addition to iTunes syncing and Audiobus, there are in-app upload tools for Dropbox, SoundCloud, audio clipboard, and some more exotic WiFi options, so those bases are covered too.
All in all, Master Record is a terrific sounding app for a mere ten dollars, and can impart a lot of warmth and even crunchy dirt to audio of all types—whether live or as a post-production process. Even if you simply use it for field recording on your iPad, it’s worth the cash. This one is definitely staying on my iPad.