Like its predecessor, the Chamberlin, the Mellotron simulates voices and instruments via tape recordings of real singers and players. To do so, the Mellotron uses a separate tape-loop mechanism for each of its 35 keys — a clumsy, Rube Goldberg–type design that’s just begging to break. Which it does with astonishing regularity.
But this aura of brokenness is central to the Mellotron’s charm. Sure, the Mellotron sounded hi-tech when it debuted on those Beatles and Moody Blues records, but nowadays Mellotron tones are cherished for their fragile pathos. Modern samplers may offer vastly more realistic impersonations of choirs and orchestral instruments, but when it comes to irrefutable analog vibe, nothing touches a ’tron.
The creators of the M-Tron totally understand this mystique. These tones nail the decrepit wobbles and wheezes of the original. With each note of each tape bank sampled in its entirety, the plug-in retains the innumerable variations of pitch and articulation that make Mellotrons sound so human.
While a stock Mellotron features only three sets of taped sounds, GForce has rounded up just about every Chamberlin and Mellotron tape ever made — that’s 2.5 GB of bowed and plucked strings, brass, woodwinds, choirs, and sound effects, plus custom banks originally created for Yes, Genesis, and Tangerine Dream. GForce has even created several banks of newly recorded sounds. You get an astonishing 103 virtual tape banks. Long after you’ve tired of playing the flute intro of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” you’ll be thinking up new uses for M-Tron’s lesser-known tones.
While the M-Tron is chiefly a straightforward sample-playback device, it includes a couple of useful updates, such as a global tone control and sliders to soften the original’s lurching attack and release envelopes.
Until recently M-Tron didn’t support RTAS — Pro Tools users needed to process the plug-in using FXpansion’s VST-to-RTAS Converter. But the latest version includes an RTAS plug-in plus all three sound libraries (formerly sold separately). There’s an excellent audio demo at www.m-audio.com.