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Anyone still using analog?


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ATR-102 1/2" still sees a decent amount of use for mixdowns. Actually, mainly just a couple of engineers who do a fair amount of work at our place that keep it busy. The Studers see occasional use, but it really varies. There are a number of indie acts that keep it all analog, and a few folks will buy or rent some used reels to track basics, but it's all too rare. Seems like 2006 saw way more 2" sessions than 2007 (but who knows about 08, it all depends on who comes in). A while back, we moved the A820 out of our mix room to one of the tracking rooms (which had been using an A80) for those sessions looking for a more modern machine, and there has yet to be a complaint that there's no longer a Studer available in the mix room (and of course, if a session came in that needed it, we'd move it right back in). Nothing makes it to the mix room still on analog, at least with the type of business we get.

 

I will say, however, that 95% percent of the mixes that happen here are still out-of-the-box. Too many fun outboard boxes to plug into!

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Are there any good tape emulator VSTs/plugins? It would be nice to have a tape deck in my little studio when I get it all up and running, but it just doesn't seem a practical option at this stage
:)



I have a few tape emulation plug-ins, but IIRC, none of them are in VST format (Cranesong Phoenix (TDM), Yamaha's Add-On Effects for their digital boards - one of which is a tape sim, etc.). IMHO, none of them are completely identical to using actual tape.

If you Google "tape emulation plugin" (without the "quotes") you should be able to find a variety of tape emulation plugins.

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Unfortunately this is sitting in the corner of the studio I'm working out of right now...I'm using an HD24 for tracking at the moment...a lot of great analog outboard gear, a cool old Trident console, but not recording to tape...

Partly because other than me, the rest of the project will be tracked in NYC, Chicago, Denver (already done there) and perhaps California, haven't asked anyone to play bass yet...I've got a few favors owed to me, but I don't want to call them in until the next part is one, which isn't until April, unfortunately.

l_4bb0e819521fbc515473a64dfaa3f10e.jpg

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Are there any good tape emulator VSTs/plugins? It would be nice to have a tape deck in my little studio when I get it all up and running, but it just doesn't seem a practical option at this stage

 

 

Some widely used ones that I happen to remember off the top of my head:

 

Ferox

PSP Vintage Warmer

ColorTone

Voxengo TapeBus

 

- Not sure about these as VST format, but nice

McDSP AC-1/AC-2

DUY Valve/Tape

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Are there any good tape emulator VSTs/plugins?



Well there are some "tape emulator" plugins that sound good in their own way; however they don't really sound like tape. :lol: Recordings done on tape have an entirely different quality that can't really be emulated digitally, to this point.

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I dunno. So many people think that they can pick out this or that exact piece of equipment, but they really cannot when push comes to blind testing. I bet someone using a high quality emulator like DUY Tape and who knew what sound they trying to emulate was, they could fool anyone. Most people aren't trying to do that, and have never heard a tape machine in person anyway, and just want to warm up their tracks. The end listener could obviously care less, as long as it sounds good to them.

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I don't want to hijack this thread, but I want to say one thing here real quick, and then I'm going to start another thread...

 

I think it's possible for an emulation of tape to be pretty good, from the stand point of what the programmer can determine about characteristic feel of tape versus the feel of digital, and what they can do to digitally close that ground...

 

I own two amps, neither vintage, both based on classic circuits...

 

Do I think that I could tell the difference between those amps and a POD or ToneLab trying to emulate them in my living room, with me playing my one and only electric (meaning I know it pretty well)? I suspect I could...

 

Now, do I think that I could tell the difference between my amps and a POD or ToneLab trying to emulate them, with two different people playing, using two different guitars that I don't have experience with, recorded in different studios, with different engineers, different mics, different pre-amps, different consoles or lack of console...different mixes? I doubt that I could...further more if they aren't my songs, and I'm trying to pick them out of a song with a lot of things going on.

 

That said, I've toyed with digital interpretations of the mastering process, and those have always let me down a lot...

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I dunno. So many people think that they can pick out this or that exact piece of equipment, but they really cannot when push comes to blind testing. I bet someone using a high quality emulator like DUY Tape and who knew what sound they trying to emulate was, they could fool anyone. Most people aren't trying to do that, and have never heard a tape machine in person anyway, and just want to warm up their tracks.

 

The very fact that you're using the phrase "warm up their tracks" means you're right, you don't actually know (and neither do many people anymore) what tape sounds like vs. digital or what you're trying to emulate.

 

When digital first emerged it was (rightly) blasted for sounding cold and harsh, but between improved converters over the years, and learning the right techniques, plus the proliferation of plugins meant to do the job, that hasn't been a problem for years. There's no reason for a digital recording to sound "cold" anymore unless you want it to. That "problem" is easy to get around (and with good converters you won't even have the problem to begin with).

 

However, I CAN consistently (and blindly) tell the difference between an analog and digital recording, and also an analog console mix vs. a mix done in a computer or a digital console. I've spent a lot of time working in both formats side by side, often even within the same room, so I know and can hear the difference quite well. And the problem is not that analog is "warmer" but that there are actually certain qualities missing from digital which therefore can't be "restored" or added in with a plugin (and people do try, I can hear them trying on the finished record :D). You can't do it any more than you can reasonably boost 10K on a tuba. :D

 

I've spent a lot of time arguing with people on forums about how I'm imagining things (even though I can readily identify the difference and have proved it numerous times) or how I must just not know what I'm doing with digital (even though I hear the same qualities in everyone else's work and, again, have proved it), etc. It's kind of bizarre how desperate people get to prove me wrong. :lol: So, I'm pretty much done arguing about it. I know what I hear and have also demonstrated it many times to other people if I can get them into a studio with me. If someone has never heard tape, their eyes just light up. That's something you can't buy in a plugin.

 

Most of the naysayers end up saying something like "If you think tape is that great, then just use tape" so that's exactly what I've done. :D And I'm sure digital technology will keep improving to the point where someday it might address its remaining shortcomings. Of course, tape has its shortcomings too, and there are some applications (like classical recordings) where digital is preferable. But for what I do, analog is it. Just like for some people, modelling guitar amps are all right whereas others just haveta have their tube amps (and I'm in the latter camp, natch :D).

 

The end listener could obviously care less, as long as it sounds good to them.

 

That's why it's our job, as engineers, to care. You're right, the listener won't know the difference - if they aren't moved they'll just stop listening. Or if we're lucky, they'll keep listening because the song is good and the performance is good, and any sonic shortcomings can be overlooked. Again it's not as if anything about a digital recording necessarily sounds "wrong" so no, the listener isn't going to be able to point to anything like that assuming a competent engineer. But there's a difference between "there's nothing wrong with that and it sounds good" and "that sounds incredible and magic", and the listener isn't going to realize that unless they hear a direct comparison.

 

Bottom line though, musicians and engineers need to use what sounds good to them, and inspires them to turn in their best performance. That is ultimately what is going to move the listener (or not). If someone goes into a recording with the attitude of "oh, the listener won't know the difference" they are already selling themselves short.

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The very fact that you're using the phrase "warm up their tracks" means you're right, you don't actually know (and neither do many people anymore) what tape sounds like vs. digital or what you're trying to emulate.


When digital first emerged it was (rightly) blasted for sounding cold and harsh, but between improved converters over the years, and learning the right techniques, plus the proliferation of plugins meant to do the job, that hasn't been a problem for years. There's no reason for a digital recording to sound "cold" anymore unless you want it to. That "problem" is easy to get around (and with good converters you won't even have the problem to begin with).


However, I CAN consistently (and blindly) tell the difference between an analog and digital recording, and also an analog console mix vs. a mix done in a computer or a digital console. I've spent a lot of time working in both formats side by side, often even within the same room, so I know and can hear the difference quite well. And the problem is not that analog is "warmer" but that there are actually certain qualities
missing
from digital which therefore can't be "restored" or added in with a plugin (and people do try, I can hear them trying on the finished record
:D
). You can't do it any more than you can reasonably boost 10K on a tuba.
:D

I've spent a lot of time arguing with people on forums about how I'm imagining things (even though I can readily identify the difference and have proved it numerous times) or how I must just not know what I'm doing with digital (even though I hear the same qualities in everyone else's work and, again, have proved it), etc. It's kind of bizarre how desperate people get to prove me wrong.
:lol:
So, I'm pretty much done arguing about it. I know what I hear and have also demonstrated it many times to other people if I can get them into a studio with me. If someone has never heard tape, their eyes just light up. That's something you can't buy in a plugin.


Most of the naysayers end up saying something like "If you think tape is that great, then just use tape" so that's exactly what I've done.
:D
And I'm sure digital technology will keep improving to the point where someday it might address its remaining shortcomings. Of course, tape has its shortcomings too, and there are some applications (like classical recordings) where digital is preferable. But for what I do, analog is it. Just like for some people, modelling guitar amps are all right whereas others just haveta have their tube amps (and I'm in the latter camp, natch
:D
).




That's why it's
our
job, as engineers, to care. You're right, the listener won't know the difference - if they aren't moved they'll just stop listening. Or if we're lucky, they'll keep listening because the song is good and the performance is good, and any sonic shortcomings can be overlooked. Again it's not as if anything about a digital recording necessarily sounds "wrong" so no, the listener isn't going to be able to point to anything like that assuming a competent engineer. But there's a difference between "there's nothing wrong with that and it sounds good" and "that sounds incredible and magic", and the listener isn't going to realize that unless they hear a direct comparison.


Bottom line though, musicians and engineers need to use what sounds good
to them
, and inspires them to turn in their best performance. That is ultimately what is going to move the listener (or not). If someone goes into a recording with the attitude of "oh, the listener won't know the difference" they are already selling themselves short.

 

 

 

i agree with this, especially the idea that it is our job to care....

i am excited about getting radar converters and working with 2" 16 track

and 2" 8 track locked with pro tools that is all radar - everything being

tracked to tape first - the most important things staying on tape for the mix

 

 

be well

 

 

- jack

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It is an Otari, but not Han's place... it's a room here in Atlanta where we've been working of late.


This is Han's place.


WTStudio.jpg

beaufort_cr.jpg

Which of course, doesn't suck, either.
:D



That room looks killer. Nice drum stage. I built one in my small studio, because I love the sound of drums on hardwood, but had to port the snot out of it so it didn't resonate. It looks like his is completly floating which would address that. Anyway I wish I had a room that big.

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I didn't hear this first hand, but it was from a source I trust, for what that is worth.

 

I heard Steve Albini failed a blind test of his ability to pick out which two versions of the same recording were routed to tape, versus one going to digital with a tape emulator.

 

I'm not Steve's biggest fan, I don't think I would choose him to engineer my project over everyone else...I like a lot of the stuff he does, but my favorite albums that he's worked on all have a very dated feel to them, in my opinion. Maybe it's his signature more than the times, but I can't help but placing myself in a smokey college apartment in 1998 listening to The Breeders when I hear the guitar sounds I associate with him...

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Years ago, was looking for a studio to do an original project. At one studio, which was pretty darn nice, I was oogling a Studer 24 track. Problem: the extra cost. If I was recording perhaps, 6, instead of 11 tunes, I probably would have gone for it.

Anyway, my singer/songwriter partner mentioned to the engineer that I was oogling the Studer, that I had what she refers to as a "sensitive ear", and that I didn't really like the sound of a lot of both commercial, and project-studio digital recordings I'd heard. (The engineer was using Pro Tools with a lot of cool gear for most of his projects).

He quipped: "When you get done here, the only ones who will know that it's digital are you and your dog."

I thought: "I'm doing this, in part, for me ! I will probably be, in the end, one of those listening to this the most . . . And, by the way, my dog prefers analog too !"

Ultimately spent tons of money (at another studio), vocals and basic tracks into Pro Tools, great performance room, racks of NEVE 1073 mic pre's, 13 mics on the drums, pro drummer, pro bassist, all of the latest, most expensive plug-ins. And, yes, the engineer was good. End result - overall tone ? - - luke warm. Running the stereo mix through 1/2", two track tape machine at 30 IPS helped bring some things together, and smoothed out some edges. But . . . Also spent a considerable little sum trying to master at that studio with plug-ins. That was a total waste of money. Took it to a real mastering studio. Mastering engineer ran the mix through some nice analog mastering equipment (think he used a digital eq on a tune or two for surgical type stuff).
It definately helped. But still, kinda like kissing your grandma . . .

It's too bad that the few of us to whom the tone difference is appreciable are having a harder and harder time accessing great tape machines/tones in studios (absent being rich). However, I got me some little old reel-to-reels - - some 1", 1/2", and 1/4" TASCAM pro-sumer machines - - as wells as some digital stuff, and, will play at my house. ;)

Gutter Pup

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It's too bad that the few of us to whom the tone difference is appreciable are having a harder and harder time accessing great tape machines/tones in studios (absent being rich). However, I got me some little old reel-to-reels - - some 1", 1/2", and 1/4" TASCAM pro-sumer machines - - as wells as some digital stuff, and, will play at my house.
;)

Gutter Pup

There sure are a lot of used 2" 24 track machines on the market for cheap these days. Two track machines too. It's always tempting. Maybe if I had a bigger room...:o

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Digital has come a long ways, depending on how many years you're talking about, your experience may not be the same today.

 

I still like the idea of tape, and a lot of my favorite sounding albums of the last couple years were recorded with it, but there are certainly digital projects that I'm stunned by the sound of in a very good way. When I started my last project in December, a lot of the sounds I took in to the engineer as a reference point were recorded digitally.

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At the studio i work for we have been running PTHD3 since i have been their, BUT....we just bought and ssl 4000 and and studer 827 they are both being completely redone in NJ and they will be here on the 27th. I am 24 and have never recorded to tape, but i can tell you that i am Extremely excited to do it and hear it. and just for {censored}s and giggles everyone listen to metallicas load and see if you can tell which 1 song had the guitars tracked to tape. whats funny is it is my favorite song on the album and always thought that they sounded awesomer then the others.

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I'm in the same boat the studio I am in is all PTHD.

 

 

I would like to retract this statement. I didn't know this at the time but the studio actually has a struder that they get out about 4 times a year for tracking (I think that like a ratio of 1:80 projects for them).

 

According to one of the engineers they really don't use it alot at all.

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I've picked up a couple of older Akai 1/4" machines over the last year or two (actually bought them for the preamps) and have another Akai GX 4000D 1/4" machine as well. Bought them to incorporate/experiment as far as mixing in some guitar tracking :rawk: and sampled/MIDI drum sounds :badump: to give them a bit of analog sheen before portal to computer DAW. Have not yet messed with them yet.

Can anyone recommend a decent quality 1/4" tape that I should try as well as a possible source for it? I'm not too up on what to use :idk: as tape brands I've seen mentioned are usually for larger format tape.

Many thanks

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