Just this week I noticed this “Year One Sale” for Cherry Audio’s own Roland RE-201 tape echo clone. Space Echo must be one of the most cloned classic delay units ever, so there’s lots of competition with each manufacturer having their own twist on the subject. But as previously, one of Cherry Audios big selling points is the price, which is just $9 'til the end of this month.
I did a quick comparison with a bunch of other sub-$100 tape delays (whenever a free demo was available), and I also have some fond memories of playing around with the real thing and it’s chorused cousin RE-501, as well as the modern classic Boss RE-20. Some of the best software alternatives include GSi GS-201 (45€), Audio Thing Outer Space (69€) and Arturia Delay Tape-201 (99€). I personally think that IK Multimedia’s Space Delay is overpriced for what you get and since my emphasis is on plugins that you can run live, it’s not very well optimized CPU-wise compared to other offerings.
I think that Cherry Audio is covering the basics here very, very well when it comes to the tone of the delay. They have omitted some of the fake-vintage extras like tape hiss and hum (which you can conrol on GSi’s plugin) and overall there is not a ton of stuff you can do to the basic character of the delay, but what is available here is plenty enough and makes the plugin very quick and easy to use.
The wonderful thing Cherry Audio’s plugin does differently is dividing the panel in chorus, echo and reverb sections, which can each be activated and controlled separately. So for the price, you’re also getting a super simple but powerful stereo chorus (which sounds fantastic on a rhodes and synths!) and a pretty ugly spring-ish reverb. Turning the input volume control to the red zone results in some pretty nice overdrive effect which compliments the chorus especially well, and if you wish, you can actually turn off all other effects and use the plugin just for saturation, which is pretty cool.
More about the reverb: the original Space Echo is infamous for it’s ugly and at the same time wonderfully trippy reverb, heard on oh so many dub and reggae recordings. GSi for example have recreated the character of this almost unusably trashy reverb very faithfully, but Cherry Audio decided to tame the reverb down quite a bit. I’m not sure I like this change that much, because even though the Cherry’s reverb may be more usable and versatile now, I highly doubt it’s going to be anyones go-to reverb and at the same time it has lost that 201-charm.
But overall, especially for the current price the Stardust definitely belongs to the best tape delay plugins I’ve so far tried. Even at the normal price ($39) it’s a real bargain, but at $9 I think it’s a no-brainer and shall become one of my go to delays (and CHORUS!) along with my all time favorite Valhalla Delay.