Tom's Audio Processing plugins
for audio engineering on the Linux platform
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TAP TubeWarmth

[TAP TubeWarmth GUI as shown in Ardour]

TAP TubeWarmth adds the character of vacuum tube amplification to your audio tracks by emulating the sonically desirable nonlinear characteristics of triodes. In addition, this plugin also supports emulating analog tape saturation.

General information

Unique ID2158
I/O ports1 input / 1 output
CPU usage (44.1 kHz)0.4%
CPU usage (96 kHz)0.9%
Hard RT CapableYes
In-place operationSupported
run_adding() functionProvided

Usage tips

Tube preamps and reel-to-reel tape recorders have been around for a long time. Until the end of the seventies, the sound of almost every great recording bears the watermarks of these intrinsically nonlinear devices. In the eighties everything went digital, and the "harmful", "non-perfect" nonlinearities were greatly eliminated from the recording and mix-down process. However, it became clearly obvious shortly afterwards, that without these nonlinear artifacts recordings often sound dull, boring, colourless and thin, just like a piece of plastic. As a result, efforts have been made to bring the sound of analog equipment back to the studio -- with the power of DSP. This plugin offers the sound of these analog devices, but without the high-frequency roll-off of tube amps and the hiss of reel-to-reel tape machines. With this plugin applied and properly adjusted, many types of source materials will sound subtly richer, warmer, fatter, and closer.

The Drive slider adjusts the amount of the effect. Values between 2 and 5 are a good starting point for a variety of source materials. Since audio tracks can vary quite a bit in average and peak levels, experiment with this setting and use your ears to get the sound you want. (It's quite easy if you know how real tube amps sound like...) If the drive level is set too high, the signal will most likely sound distorted. If it's too low, you may not hear the effect working.

The Tape--Tube Blend slider controls the colour of the TubeWarmth sound. When set all the way to the right (+10 or default position), the plugin emulates the sound of triode tube distortion. The result is asymmetrical, producing mostly second harmonics and some third. When set all the way to the left (-10), the plugin emulates the sound of analog tape. The result is symmetrical and produces mostly third harmonics and some second. With high drive settings, moving the blend control to the left increases the apparent loudness of low-level signals dramatically. This is because the zero-attack, zero-release compression effect is increased under these conditions. Use the blend control to set the sound of the plugin anywhere between Tape and Tube sound.

In multitrack production work, using TAP TubeWarmth on selected individual tracks before the mixdown is generally a smart idea. Applying the plugin to electric guitars and bass is essential. A smaller amount applied to cymbals can make their sound substantially richer. Also, don't miss a try on your keyboards and vocals. Start with Tape--Tube Blend set to +10 for tube emulation, which is the default. This generally has a more musical effect than tape emulation, but of course this will depend on the source material, taste, and the dictates of your project.

To warm up a stereo mix during mastering, a Drive setting of 2 or 1 or even lower may be most appropriate, but this depends on the overall level. Look for an increase in the apparent loudness or fattening of the low end, and that warm tube sound. Too much effect and you'll hear the low end get too loose and/or the top end get too sizzly.

TAP TubeWarmth does not limit high frequency response. Some tube circuits, especially preamps with high gain, will start to roll off before 20 kHz. This is due to the plate-to-grid Miller capacitance. The plugin purposefully does not do this. If you want to limit highs (which can, in itself, make things sound a little warmer) use an equalizer plugin. You could do this before but will probably want to do it after processing with TubeWarmth.

Summary of user controls

namemin. valuedefault valuemax. value
Drive 0.1 2.575 10
Tape--Tube Blend -10 10 10


The Drive setting and the signal level are independent but related. Essentially the same results can be obtained by processing a low-level signal with a high drive setting as by processing a high-level signal with a low drive setting. The net effect on the signal will be the same in either case, with the only difference being the level of the resultant signal.