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Old 3rd June 2014
Lives for gear
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The RND tape simulator does "saturate", and in doing so adds a subtle degree of effective "compression / limiting". It does add perceived "thickness", rounds transients a bit and thus brings lower level content closer to the surface, adds a pleasant smoothness, etc.

Does the 542 sound exactly like authentic "magnetic tape saturation"? Maybe not, but it surely sounds like very pleasing, musical, authentic analog signal saturation one way or another. To some it may sound more like a signal passing through an old-school console full of tasty transformers as opposed to sounding like overdriven magnetic tape.

To me... it just sounds good. It's an excellent tool for those who wish to add obvious analog color and saturation. Gives you lots of control / adjustability. It's probably the single most ideal tool for those recording / mixing ITB and looking for a way to add "analog warmth" to their "cold, digital" tracks. The RND tape simulator will surely deliver in this case.

The 542 is definitely not just an overrated toy. I have to admit, I was skeptical too before I got mine. I'm not one for tricks and gimmicks and I usually reject anything that says "simulator" on it. But I gave the 542s a shot and am sure glad I did. The saturation of the 542s reminds me a lot of the saturation of actual classic, vintage modules. It's certainly "real" analog saturation, even though it may not be specific to magnetic tape.

Bottom line.... If you're a fan of old analog music and analog tape etc in general, the 542 is going to put a smile on your face and you will want to track and mix with it.

I already have other authentic, vintage modules that saturate very nicely... but I'm keeping the 542s as well anyway, because not only do they yield real-deal saturation, they also allow some control over it. This is a VERY nice thing. Vintage modules will give you a certain color / saturation, take it or leave it. Might be good on a certain track, might not be. The 542 let's you dial in the color just right for the situation. A very cool tool.