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ARSCLIST  October 2013

ARSCLIST October 2013

Subject:

Re: Incorporating analog tape in modern day recording

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 1 Oct 2013 06:42:57 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (169 lines)

Hi Corey:

Please fix the reply-to parameter in your e-mail so that when one hits REPLY one replies to the ARSC 
List and not to you.

Onto the subject at hand ...

If a person wants to return to what now are really OLDEN days, and record his basic tracks to tape, 
edit on tape and mix to a master from tape, then your suggestion about a 16-track 2" deck in 
excellent working condition is spot-on. I also agree with some of Robin Hendrickson's comments about 
the discipline and educational value of doing it "old-style," all-analog up to the final mix (or 
beyond), if one has the time and budget. To be honest, though, I'm not sure that you end up a better 
DAW user (and, believe me, if your music takes off, you WILL end up being all-digital eventually 
because you will need to be, for time and budget reasons if nothing else) coming from an analog 
background. I see really fast, efficient, good work from "born digital" kids. What they're missing 
mostly is basic mic technique and acoustics knowledge, plus a decent space to record in (ie the old 
studio training system). They're not missing tracking chops and many of them aren't missing mixing 
chops any worse than anyone else back in the day (there were ALWAYS only a few engineers who were 
really top-notch mixers, that's why guys like Bob Clearmountain made a career doing it freelance for 
$$$).

In a modern setting, most people just aren't going to have the budget, time and willingness to learn 
technical skills required to keep a tape-based operation in working condition. So, they are going to 
use tape as a sound effect, to "warm up" what they consider "digital cold" material. I argued, and I 
stand by that argument, that they should address other parts of the signal chain and workflow first, 
but I also said that tape has ALWAYS been a sound effect of sorts because even the best tape 
machines were not pure output=input (whereas, even a lower-cost but well-chosen digital rig today 
gets a whole lot closer, now whether the user LIKES the sound of output=input is a whole other 
matter).

So in that context, using tape as a sound effect just like a compressor or equalizer is a known and 
valid MO these days (hell, there's a digital loop of LP ticks and pops that gets used all the time 
in rap and pop music, not to mention the digital video effect of "film scratches" that you see used 
all over TV). I would argue that a well-working Tascam 16-track 1" machine is BETTER for this 
application than a high-quality 16-track 2" deck. The reason is that one can get the tape effects 
easier, quicker and cheaper using the Tascam. Hiss, harmonics, thickening via tape saturation, etc 
can be easily obtained from a Tascam. What is harder with that deck is getting closer to 
output=input. But, that's not what a person wanting to "thicken" or "warm up" a track is seeking.

By the way, I used to deride using tape as a sound effect but I've changed my view over time. 
Certain music is highly produced and processed. It is a collage, not a photograph. Whatever tools 
are need to shape the sound are fine as long as the final sound works. I do hear a lot of over-use 
of many tools, but I've heard that dating back to the earliest rock and pop tunes. The first 
over-used tool was the echo chamber. Then tape-delay. Then compression. Equalization was over-used 
by some from the first day Bell Labs started inserting filter circuits into recording chains. And 
then there are the myriad over-used electronic instrument effects and "flavors." It's always been 
hard to be tasteful and focused with shaping a sound. That's why there are many misses, few hits and 
fewer songs that stay fresh forever. The B-side to that statement is that no amount of tricks or 
technology will make a good song out of a bad idea.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Corey Bailey" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 2:36 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Incorporating analog tape in modern day recording


> Since no-one has addressed the fact that the original question involved a Tascam 1" 16 track 
> machine, I thought I'd jump in with my $0.02.
>
> Rod,
> For the most part, comparing Stephens tape decks and any given Tascam are apples and oranges. John 
> Stephens made some excellent sounding tape decks.(John did manufacture a couple of 2" 40 track 
> machines and I had the unfortunate experience of working with one).
>
> Tascams offering of a 1" 16 track was aimed at the home based project studio market. It was done 
> so ignoring the laws of physics. Or, at least, not making the trade-offs clear to the unsuspecting 
> buyers which included increased signal-to-noise, increased cross talk and decreased dynamic range. 
> About 3dB in each category. Usually these, and their 1/2" 8 track counterparts employed noise 
> reduction to help the situation.
>
> My advise to John Schroths client would be to try and find a good used 2" 16 track. Analog 
> multi-track fidelity reached its peak with 2" 16 track running at 30ips (some will argue the 
> 30ips). NO NOISE REDUCTION!
>
> If your client is stuck with the 1" 16Tr format, then consider it an 8 track and use every other 
> track to reduce cross talk and run the deck at its highest possible speed to reduce some of the 
> inherent hiss. I say "some" because the electronics are a bit noisy as well. Your client may be 
> stuck having to use noise reduction because of the format.
>
>
>
> Corey Bailey Audio Engineering
> http://www.baileyzone.net
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: Roderic G Stephens <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Friday, September 27, 2013 7:15 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Incorporating analog tape in modern day recording
>
>
> According to Brian Kehew, he has two Stephens multi-track analog machines still in use as are 
> others on the West Coast (no snide remarks, please). Many people seem to like their sound.
>
>
> ________________________________
>
> On Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 2:08 PM, John Schroth
> <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>
>> Hello Tom and others - I guess what you're saying is this...
>>
>> Using an analog tape deck as either the format you originally record to,
>> or, using it as a pass-through is not necessary in today's world and is
>> impractical as a means to "color" or add warmth to the recording. You can
>> still get pretty much the same results without as much headache and cost by
>> first configuring your studio properly, using high quality analog mics,
>> preamps and mixers to your taste, then going straight to computer using a
>> high quality ADC for ingest verses recording to tape. In essence, if you
>> want to use an analog tape recorder as part of your recording or "coloring"
>> chain it would be more for the love of incorporating this piece of
>> machinery and the craft in knowing how to use it properly - but it is not
>> necessary (like driving to Sunday mass in your classic Model T verses the
>> family car - you still get to exactly the same place, but it's fun driving
>> the Model T)
>>
>> I did recommend a high quality AD/DA conversion that is transparent as
>> possible as you didn't necessarily want your AD converter to further
>> influence or "color" your recording. I told him that Prism Sound and Lavery
>> were two of the best (I use Prism here for AD/DA). Does anyone have any
>> other manufacturers to consider along these same lines?
>>
>> Kind Regards,
>>
>> John Schroth
>>
>>
>>
>>
>
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "John Schroth" <
>>> [log in to unmask]>
>>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:14 PM
>>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Incorporating analog tape in modern day recording
>>>
>>>
>>> I have a client that is looking to incorporate analog tape into his
>>>> recording studio. I do not create new recordings or mix/master for music, I
>>>> just digitize old recordings, so I'm hoping to get some input from the ARSC
>>>> community on his questions below.
>>>>
>>>> Kind Regards,
>>>>
>>>> John Schroth
>>>> Media Transfer Service
>>>>
>>>> I have a Tascam ATR 60/16 - 1" - 16 track reel to reel deck that I think
>>>> I may want to put back to use in my recording studio.
>>>>
>>>> You mentioned that you had a friend that does alignment and calibration.
>>>> I think you said he was in Pennsylvania. Can you give me his email
>>>> address and phone.
>>>>
>>>> I want to use the deck to improve my audio sound by employing analog as
>>>> apposed to all digital that I am operating under right now. If you have
>>>> any advice on the best way to do this regarding a/d d/a converters and
>>>> signal path, I would appreciate it. I am running Digital Performer 8.0
>>>> with MOTU interfaces into my Mac tower.
>>>>
>>>> Maybe there is a better solution than this???? I realize tape decks can
>>>> require a lot of maintenance. Please advise.
>
> 

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