I have quite bit to say on the topic. I took the tape machine geekery plunge some twelve years ago.
But the quick version is that what you get from the high end machines + new tape + perfect calibration... plugins have, by now, quite admirably emulated. Take my word for it. It's not all that worth investing in a Studer a810 anymore... though it's almost worth getting for the sheer pleasure of using something that was designed and built with as much care as the fucking Hubble telescope.
I have personally found it's the prosumer/hifi analog recording gear like cassette tape and lower ips r2r decks that provide the character and quirkyness that, I suspect, many look for.
Like... you like the 90 detroit techno sound? Old mackie consoles+quality cassette tape of the era are to techno what the Tube Screamer or Rat pedal is to 80's trash metal.
If a pluggie company made a devoted plug to nail that sound and wrapped it in the right marketing scheme/gui, they'd have a lil success on their hands.
Edit... Of all the r2r decks I have bought (most for bargain, ridiculous prices), the one that truly provided the warmest thickening/soft smearing/distorting is the Teac a2300 I got for fifteen bucks (and stupidly gave to a friend who doesnt really use it).
Plus, this one has a playback level control that prevents you from clipping the output amplification circuitry when you slam the tape, something the B77 on the vid does not have. I have a B77 as well and to use it the way it is NOT meant to be used IE: going above the prescribed headroom of the machine, you have to open the hood and tweak the innards of the thing.