Top 10 Best Tape Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW 2021


We’re currently living in the age of digital audio, and in-the-box mixing within a digital audio workstation is commonplace. Plugins are, therefore, invaluable assets for the modern audio engineer. The sound of digital audio is often called “sterile” or “clinical.” An excellent tape delay plugin can combat this cleanliness and give our productions that warm, gritty analog character. With so many tape delay plugins on the market, 10 stand out as being top performers.

What is the tape delay audio effect? Tape delay is a delay effect achieved by routing the audio signal to a second tape recorder. The audio would be fed to the secondary tape’s record head and be played back just milliseconds later on the playback head. This delayed playback signal would be sent back to the main recording.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top 10 best tape delay emulation plugins.

The top 10 best tape delay plugins for digital audio workstations are:

  1. FabFilter Timeless 2
  2. Soundtoys EchoBoy
  3. Waves H-Delay
  4. D16 Group Repeater Delay
  5. Valhalla Delay
  6. Line 6 Echo Farm 3
  7. UAD EP-34 Tape Echo
  8. AudioThing Outer Space
  9. Waves J37
  10. UAD Galaxy Tape Echo

It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person’s top 10 to be different than mine but hope that there would be plenty of overlap.

That being said, I believe these plugins to be the best tape delay plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:

  • Sonic performance: how does the tape delay plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
  • Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the tape delay plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
  • Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the tape delay plugin?
  • Functionality: how many different functions does it serve and/or how many parameters are available for the tape delay effect?
  • Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the tape delay plugin, and what are the system requirements?

Let’s discuss each of the top 10 best tape delay plugins in greater detail to learn why they made this list.


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FabFilter Timeless 2

The FabFilter Timeless 2 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a highly versatile vintage-sounding tape delay plugin.

FabFilter Timeless 2

The FabFilter Timeless 2 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX Native, AAX AudioSuite, AU and VST formats.

FabFilter’s Timeless 2 takes “tape delay” to a whole new level. The stereo delay signal is effectively routed through five effects (Drive, Lo-Fi, Diffuse, Dynamics and Pitch) and up to six analog-sounding filters before being fed back to the input. Feedback, cross-feedback, and a freeze option make the sonic possibilities virtually endless with the Timeless 2.

Analog tape delay or smooth time-stretching behaviour can easily be achieved by changing the delay time. With mid-side processing, ping-pong modes, rhythmic patterns with up to 16 delay taps and internal saturation, there’s nothing this delay can’t do.

So whether we stick to tape-style delay or opt for something truly novel, this FabFilter plugin has us covered, earning it a top spot on this list.

In typical FabFilter fashion, the Pro-Q 3 comes with interactive MIDI Learn, undo/redo and A/B switches, Smart Parameter Interpolation, “Help” documentation with interactive hints, sample-accurate automation, double-click text entry of parameter values and more.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the FabFilter Timeless 2 user manual.

FabFilter is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.


Soundtoys EchoBoy

The Soundtoys EchoBoy (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) packs decades of delay/echo devices into a single plugin with expertly-modelled precision.

Soundtoys EchoBoy

The Soundtoys EchoBoy is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX Native, AAX AudioSuite, AU and VST formats.

The Soundtoys EchoBoy is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW.

With such modes as EchoPlex, Space Echo and Binsonette (based on Binson EchoRec), we can see how serious Soundtoys is about packing the best-of-the-best tape delays into this plugin. Other tape delay options are modelled after the Ampex ATR102.

Whatever vintage delay style you’re after, the Soundtoys EchoBoy will happily oblige. With a sleek yet powerful user interface, users can quickly get into the details of whatever tape echo style they choose, fine-tuning it to their specific needs.

We can choose to keep the delay simple in Single Echo mode or add complexity with the Dual Echo or Ping-Pong modes. Taking things a step further, the powerful Rhythm mode and Echo Style editor give us ultimate control over otherwise limited tape delay hardware units.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Soundtoys EchoBoy user manual.

Soundtoys is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.


Waves H-Delay

The Waves H-Delay (link to check the price at Waves Audio) is a powerful and versatile “hybrid delay” plugin (hence the name), combining the sound of analog and tape delay into a single plugin.

Waves H-Delay

The Waves H-Delay is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The Waves H-Delay is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW.

Waves’ H-Delay does not emulate any specific tape echo hardware, nor is it a dedicated tape delay plugin (though it does have several authentic tape-style presets). Rather, this plugin offers a full range of controls that allow the user to dial in the appropriate style of delay.

This powerful plugin offers all the standard tap tempo, tempo sync and manual delay time control along with a virtual knob for feedback. The Lo-Fi mode emulates the vintage character of old hardware units (both tape and analog), while the Analog mode can be set to one of five positions (including off).

Modulation and Filter control sections complete this plugin, affording full control over the style and sound of the delay. Sure, the H-Delay may not be an obvious tape delay plugin, though the tape sounds we can achieve with proper tweaking give it a dedicated spot on this list.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves H-Delay user manual.

Waves is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.


D16 Group Repeater Delay

The D16 Group Repeater Delay (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a vintage modelled delay offering a variety of classic delay options including, of course, vintage tape delay designs.

D16 Group Repeater Delay

The D16 Group Repeater Delay is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The D16 Group Repeater Delay is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 10 Best Digital Delay Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW

D16 Group has a wide range of excellent plugins. The Repeater Delay is one such plugin. This delay features 23 authentically modelled modes from real hardware, of which 7 are tape emulations:

  • Cassette Tape: model of an early 80’s Japanese cassette tape deck
  • Plexy Echo: model of an old 70s Maestro Echoplex EP-3 tape delay unit
  • Space Delay: based on the famous Roland RE-201 Space Echo magnetic tape delay with a warm and gritty tone
  • Tape Delay Ancient: old 1940’s style tape delay tone
  • Tape Delay Classic: early 60’s style tape delay
  • Tape Delay Modern: hi-fi tape delay with a warm and lush tone
  • Tape Delay Vintage: 70’s style tape with slightly a grainy but warm tone

More than just a stereo delay plugin, the Repeater offers independent re-panning and dry/wet mixing for each of its two stereo channels. This effectively doubles the plugin as a double delay and stereo delay all in one effect unit. Each channel has its own controls, including all the standard delay parameters, phase inversion, audio clipping module, dual (high-pass and low-pass) filter, wet/dry mix and re-panning.

To learn more about high-pass and low-pass filters, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
Audio EQ: What Is A High-Pass Filter & How Do HPFs Work?
• Audio EQ: What Is A Low-Pass Filter & How Do LPFs Work?

This plugin offers beautiful tape delay (among other delay styles). Its straightforward user interface and controls make it easy for users to dial in the perfect delay for any application.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the D16 Group Repeater Delay user manual.

Roland is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 11 Best MIDI Controller Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Synthesizer Brands In The World


Valhalla Delay

The Valhalla Delay (link to check the price at Valhalla DSP) is an incredibly versatile yet easy-to-use delay plugin. It offers 14 different delay modes, including, of course, tape delay.

Valhalla Delay

The Valhalla Delay is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The Valhalla Delay is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 10 Best Digital Delay Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW

Valhalla’s Delay brings everything from the classic echoes of the past to the futuristic delay designs of modern-day DSP. Set the mode control to Tape for a superb tape delay.

The Tape Delay of this Valhalla plugin offers a detailed tape delay emulation based on the legendary Roland RE-201 and RE-301 units. It’s made complete with variable motor speed, comprehensive wow/flutter control and equalization capabilities. Asperity noise and tape splice artifacts can be dialled in with the Age knob while the Era switches select various modelled tape echo units.

Adjust the Style control to dial in the relationship between the left and right delay channels and the number of voices in each channel. As the style is changed, only the relevant control parameters will be available, making this plugin easy to use regardless of the setting.

The immaculate sound of the Valhalla Delay can be fine-tuned even further with advanced controls such as beat sync, age and era controls, diffusion and ducking.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Valhalla Delay at ValhallaDSP.


Line 6 Echo Farm 3

Since 2001, Line 6’s Echo Farm delay plugins have been used in professional and amateur productions around the world. The Line 6 Echo Farm 3 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a compilation of 12 fantastic hardware delay units (including a few tape options) modelled with precision in an outstanding plugin.

Line 6 Echo Farm 3

The Line 6 Echo Farm 3 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The Line 6 Echo Farm 3 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 10 Best Digital Delay Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW

Line 6’s Echo Farm 3 is fully programmable and automatable and sounds incredibly authentic in any of its 12 models. Of the 12, 5 of the models are tape delay emulations:

  • Maestro EP-1: based on the Maestro Echoplex EP-1 tube-driven tape echo
  • Maestro EP-3: based on the Maestro Echoplex EP-3 solid-state tape echo
  • Sweep Echo: based on the Sweep Echo tape echo mode of the Line 6 DL4
  • Roland RE-201: based on the Roland RE-201 Space Echo tape echo
  • Auto-Volume Delay: based on the Auto-Volume Echo tape echo mode of the Line 6 DL4

With superior emulation, the Echo Farm 3 gets its users whatever tape delay style they need or want for their mixing applications. Between the 5 fantastic tape delay options, we’ll be sure to find the perfect match for our situation.

Fine-tuning each of these modes is made easy with straightforward controls in the user-friendly interface. Tempo syncing and automation bring the vintage character of these top-notch tape delays to the modern era of digital audio workstations.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Line 6 Echo Farm 3 user manual.

Line 6 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


UAD EP-34 Tape Echo

The UAD EP-34 Tape Echo (link to check the price at Universal Audio) is a hybrid emulation of the legendary EchoPlex EP-3 and EP-4 tape echo units from the 1970s.

UAD EP-34 Tape Echo

The UAD EP-34 Tape Echo, like all UAD plugins, requires UAD hardware to function with your DAW. UAD hardware is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS, and the plugins are available in AAX, AU and VST formats.

First off, the GUI of this plugin is beautifully retro and looks as alive as the tape simulation sounds. Like the originals, the controls of the EP-34 emulation are pretty straightforward.

Starting with the coolest control, the echo time slider of the EP-34 alters the delay times between short and long values. With this plugin, users can easily sync the delay times to the tempo or, alternatively, adjusted manually like the originals.

The echo repeats and volume can be dialled into our preferred levels. The Recording Volume virtual knob is wholly reminiscent of old tape delays and acts to control the dry signal in the mix. Furthermore, the tone of the echo can be altered via treble and bass controls and can be easily panned across the stereo spectrum.

Simple and highly musical, the EP-34 plugin from Universal Audio Digital is undoubtedly a top pick for this list.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the UAD Plugins manual.

Universal Audio is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World
Top 13 Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World
Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World


AudioThing Outer Space

The AudioThing Outer Space (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a faithful plugin emulation of the famous Roland RE-201 Space Echo hardware.

AudioThing Outer Space

The AudioThing Outer Space is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Like the original, AudioThing’s Outer Space features a tape echo section with three playback heads and two spring reverb tanks. The modelling has taken into account every imperfection and quirk of the original tape delay unit.

The AudioThing Outer Space does everything the RE-201 could and more from dub-style repeats to eerie Doppler-style pitch-shifting. The additional controls we’ll find on this plugin version include:

  • Volume/Pan for each Head
  • Low/Hi Cut for Feedback Section
  • Ducking control
  • Pre-Emphasis Filter
  • Rate Ballistic control
  • Variable Speed (± 50 ms)
  • Preamp switch

This excellent emulation is just as good as the real deal, sonically speaking, and comes without the hefty price tag and maintenance issues. Being able to insert the plugin on multi instances within a DAW is, of course, another big plus of plugins over hardware units.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the AudioThing Outer Space user manual.


Waves J37

The Waves J37 (link to check the price at Waves Audio) is a tape saturation plugin modelled after the EMI-modified Studer J37 4-track tape machine from Abbey Road Studio. It offers superb tape delay.

Waves J37

The Waves J37 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The Waves J37 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Saturation Plugins For Your DAW.

Developed in association with Abbey Road Studio, the Waves J37 offers 3 exclusive EMI-developed oxide tape formulas and a comprehensive tape delay unit with sync control.

Dial-in the perfect tape emulation with controls such as tape speed, bias, noise, saturation, wow and flutter, high-pass filter and low-pass filter. Toggle between Slapback, Ping Pong and “Feedback” modes for the ideal tape delay style. Make further adjustments to the delay level and time (sync or manual) and filter the delayed signal independently of the main signal.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves J37 user manual.


UAD Galaxy Tape Echo

Last but not least, we have the UAD Galaxy Tape Echo (link to check the price at Universal Audio), which is yet another emulation of the world-renowned Roland RE-201 Space Echo.

UAD Galaxy Tape Echo

The UAD Galaxy Tape Echo, like all UAD plugins, requires UAD hardware to function with your DAW. UAD hardware is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS, and the plugins are available in AAX, AU and VST formats.

From subtle tape textures to mind-bending chaos, the UAD Galaxy Tape Echo does it just as well as the original Roland unit.

If you’re familiar with UAD, you’ll know just how accurate their emulation plugins are. Expert modelling and careful attention to detail have brought forth this superb tape delay plugin that sounds precisely like the RE-201.

From the distortion, musical wow and flutter, sci-fi pitch shifting, and real-time adjustability, this plugin affords users some legendary tape delay. Whether we’re trying to magically fit an element into the mix with seemingly minimal effort or attempting something completely experimental, the Galaxy Tape Echo is the tool to do it.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the UAD Plugins manual.


Other Top Audio Plugin Articles

Here are additional My New Microphone articles regarding the best audio plugins by type:
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Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW
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Top 10 Best Linear Phase EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Parametric EQ Emulation Plugins For DAWs
Top 8 Best Passive EQ Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
Top 11 Best Digital Compressor Plugins For Your DAW
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Top 10 Best Optical Compressor Emulation Plugins
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Top 11 Best VCA Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
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Top 9 Best Flanger Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
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Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
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Top 12 Best Reverb Plugins (Spring, Plate, Algorithmic, Convolution)
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Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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