Mellotron is one of the most iconic synthesisers of all time. This synthesiser is the instrument that defined the sounds of 1960s and 1970s as well. What made Mellotron unique was its capability to sample sound and play it back upon press of the note. Almost, like the samplers we have nowadays. Almost, because of course, the sound varies to a greater degree than today’s modern sampling with such a bit rate and bit depth. In fact, for Mellotron, a magnetic tape reel was all there was to play the sound.
While this was kind of not so spot on and rather often went distune and showed other various forms of weird sound and behaviour, that itself made Melltron what it was capable of. When we are talking about sound synthesis and trying to emulate acoustic and other sounds via a synthesiser, we never meant to make it ditto, rather how synthesiser changes the texture and tonal quality of the sound, sometimes beyond our intention. This is one of the fun things of synthesisers.
If hardware is not what you are looking for, there are plenty of Mellotron emulators out there. You can use them as VSTi ( Virtual Studio Technology Instrument) or stand-alone versions. They are available for free or require a payment depending on the one you choose. Here, we will look at Tapetronic developed by Elektrostudio.
Elektrostudio have already made plenty of goody oldy synthesiser VSTis. Most of them are made with synthEdit, a C++ plugin module. If you know Programming and have some knowledge on sound synthesis, you can try this.
Tapetronic by Mellotron M400
So, Tapetronic is an emulator based on the legendary Mellotron M400 model. It comes in a as a .dll extension for Windows 32 only. Since its release, it has received quite good opinions of critics. Of course, there are the frowning, pissed off individuals as well, but let’s step aside from that zone and check out the Tapetronic.
How can you install Tapetronic?
You can download this .dll for free from ‘Plugins4free’ , ‘freevstplugins.net’ etc like websites. The size of the Tapetronic is something around 8.3 megabytes, small yet decent enough. Just download it and make your DAW know about its folder path and based on your DAW either manually scan or let the VSTi auto scan all the VSTi files and become aware of this new one. Simply load the VSTi and you are good to go!
The design of Tapetronic
The interface of the Tapetronic totally resembles the M400 with of course, some added features to bring back the original Mellotron as close as possible.
The whole tweakable interface is located on the left side including a volume knob to control the amplitude of the sound and a tone knob to control the tonal quality of the sound. The tonal quality either gets compressed if you turn the knob all the way up or opens up as you turn it down without applying a filter. Still, the behaviour is quite apparent via any oscilloscope and of course, to the ear.
The next knob is what controls the tune. Just like the original Mellotron, it has a pitch knob. Yet, this is more like somewhere between oscillator detuners and pitch shifters, something in between. All three of these features straight down came from the original Mellotron.
Crucial features of Tapetronic
Above these 3 knobs, we have a mix button with three built-in sound available. We are still able to choose the sound between, flute, strings and choir. Of course, you can still blend like the original Mellotron by tweaking the lever and finding the right spot for you. Sound wise, of course not close to the original one, but still sounding surprisingly good almost like Mellotron itself. They still sound so expressive, haunting and melancholic.
Tapetronic has 21 keys and comes in with some presets. You can explore the presets and get a taste of the Tapetronic right away without having to make your own sounds. You, of course, can make and save your sounds as well.
On the top, there is a cover that you can open, which will give you an illusion of the original tape frame and Capstan being played. They not only are for illusion but also do something. Tapetronic comes with a knob for Bias tape FX, right under its hood. You can really have fun playing around with it. You can come up with some hauntingly vintage sounds resembling the ones coming out from gramophones. Also, If you drag the running capstan up or down or hold, the pitch of sound changes. Tapetronic also comes with Midi learn and automation features.