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chain flow question

Discussion in 'Recording' started by birdyyellow, Jan 31, 2007.

  1. birdyyellow

    birdyyellow Guest

    ive been recording for a while now, but ive never really gotten into more complicated chains by adding inserts and other modules along the way. my setup has always been more just mics and mic pres. so i was wondering. lately, ive had this urge to buy one of those semi-cheap 4 or 8 track tascam tape recorders, and mess around with analog. i have a pro tools setup with a digi 002r. so how would i go for that analog to the 002r? would i just record for instance vocals normally into the tascam and then take the outputs of the tascam and put them into one of the analog inputs on the back of the 002r?

    so i have a few questions. can this be done in real time? or do i have to record on the tascam then play it back to record into protools?

    and do those tascam recorders sound decent enough to fit into an ok sounding digital recording? or do the reel-to-reels have better quality sound than those cassette recorders? or is it all in the tape/casette you choose?

    sorry for all the questions, but im only 17 and havent really been exposed to analog stufffffff.
  2. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't go spending money here

    if you can borrow a unit it might be fun to bounce tracks to and from the analog tape gear

    you can experiment with saturation and get an idea of what all the old farts have been talking about

    generally it it might be best if you can find a unit with both a record head and play head
    this will allow you to output from PT and input back into PT on the fly
    this will help to minimise wow but flutter could still be there
    it will also allow you to adjust the tape haed level while listening to the OFF Tape sound

    here is where you may get a crash course in tape level and saturation

    PT can then allow you to cut the tape hiss out of the silent sections

    cassette will probably have more noise than the larger ... and faster formats
    ALL dependant on quality and condition of the machine

    GO For IT
    could be worthwhile if you don't spend too much on the experiment

    A very ... very good ... two track machine does still have some use for mastering
    tape stock is an issue for availability and price
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If you are serious about recorded sound quality, stay well away from any cassette-based recorders. Multitrack reel-to-reel recorders, on the other hand, have their place in professional recording, and continue to please their loyal band of followers who want that analog sound.

    I'm not sure I understand your questions about real-time and what you are trying to achieve. Recording is a real-time activity. In terms of how to connect the recorder, you don't have lot of options with the 002r. Either you record on to the analog multitrack and then playback into the line ins of the 002r, or you record into the computer via the 002r and replay into the multitrack via the 002r outputs. Either way you end up with copies on the multitrack and as a file on the computer. The first method will result in a lower-quality computer file. The multitrack tape recordings will be indistinguishable between the two methods. But what do you want to do then?
  4. birdyyellow

    birdyyellow Guest

    i see. so it needs two seperate heads to record on protools through the analog source in real time? the problem is, i dont know anybody else who is serious about recording, so i dont know anyone who has an analog source to borrow.

    so whats a good quality 2 track machine? thats all i really want/need.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Any reel-to-reel that's worth using for this sort of thing will have separate record and replay heads. There are always several machines on Ebay at any one time. Look for a Revox or Fostex or Teac/Tascam. You may need attenuators on the recorder inputs to avoid overload when you feed the 002r outputs directly into it.
  6. natural

    natural Active Member

    To parameters needed to get the kind of results that qualify going the analog route is track width and speed. This reduces the negative aspect of analog (hiss and noise) and increases it's appeal (warm overload)

    In the case of a 2tk machine- it must be a Halftrack (or even full track if you can find one, but it will only be good for one track not two) A quartertrack machine (where the tape needs to be 'turned over' to record on the other side) does not have the quality needed.

    The faster the better. 30ips is prefered, although 15ips could be used on lesser important instruments.

    Without a syncronizer there is no way to lock the tape to the computer. Tape speeds change slightly with the weather, as well as when the oxide from the tape builds up on the heads.
    So even if you slip and slide the beginning of the track back into time, the track itself may drift out of time by the end of the song. You might find yourself making several edits and doing a good deal of sliding tracks.

    The best 2tk machine for this is one that is a Halftrack machine going at 30ips. With this setup, you can record 2 tracks to analog, and then fly them back into the computer.
    You can also do it in a single pass as mentioned by KEV using the record and play heads, but this will create a delay (there's a gap between the 2 heads) with other material already recorded. It's not too big of a deal, you just need to slide the tracks back in time as I mentioned earlier.

    You might also learn the true meaning of the word PATIENCE

  7. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    You will need a THREE-headed deck. All decks have an erase head as well as either a record/play head (this is referred to as "2-heads") or you will have seperate record and play heads (this is called a 3-headed deck). Most cassette machines (consumer types) are 2-headed units. There is always a compromise in audio quality when you try to record and play off the same head. I won't dwell on the tecnological aspects such as biasing and alignments, but there are reasons for the sonic mediocrity. You want a 3-headed deck (R-to-R or cassette) for 2 reasons:
    A) You will be able to play right off the tape AS it's recording, as opposed to simply monitoring the input source (which is all a 2-headed machine can do). This lets you hear the actual tape saturation as it is occurring (OK, there is a slight latency- a few milliseconds-since the play head is placed after the record). This will allow you to make your adjustments in real time instead of waiting until the recording is finished and you rewind it to play it back.
    B) A 3-headed deck is, in general, a better quality machine than a 2-headed model. I know that's a wide-open statement, but I stay clear of the 2-headed monsters. The 3-headed one will often offer more features (tape type selection, multiple noise reduction modes, the ability to monitor either off-the-head or via the input, etc.) and generally overall better quality. Some will even do double-speed recording which yields better top end response.
    As far as reel-to-reels go, most are 3-headed. I've used Teac A2300SX, A2340SX, A3340SX, Dokorder, Sony, and Technics models to do the "tape sat thang". Reel tape isn't so easy to find these days, but the RtR's can be a barrel of fun. You can patch the playback head back to the record and do tape echo tricks, you can flip the tape over and play it backwards on some machines, etc. You can look around on e-bay for these when you're ready.
  8. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    real time ?

    the information I gave was not for real time recording

    it was for a post-edit as an external effect unit
    hence the write head and then the read head
    not a combined read/write head

    we want the sound to go onto tape and then be read OFF tape a split second later

    the Tape sound will arrive back in protools late ... it can be bumped back into the original position by visual comparison to the original track
    once you know the distance/time for the various tape speeds you will be able to dial this into the nudge selection

    does this make sense ?

    To record into a 2 inch multi track in real time with accurate sync to protools will require lots of infrastructure and skills ... this may be expensive

    To begin to learn what tape can or might sound like ... even a simple three head cassette deck could be used here to do post edit on one or two tracks at a time
    yes there will be hiss
    yes you will loose quality

    but there will be things to learn
    crawl before running
    inch by inch
    keep this experiment cheap to begin with

    I think you will move on to other methods of creating warmth in your recordings
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    No one here has actually said why and what we tend to like to saturate the tape with. It's generally not vocals, not pianos, not electronic keyboards, not backup vocals, rarely lead vocals. Sometimes guitars. Most of the time, we want to saturate the tape while recording drums. The whole reason for that was that the tape itself, acts like a bunch of mini limiters, in a way that prevents clipping, which sounds nasty. Instead, the transients were generally rounded off rather than clipped and that rounding off provided some additional second harmonic distortion, since analog tape is "nonlinear" in its characteristics, which can produce musical distortion as opposed to third harmonic distortion which the tape begins to produce the harder you hit it, that's not attractive sounding i.e. too much saturation. So the saturation thingy is really a fine difference between sweet saturation and honking awful overload saturation. There is a difference.

    Plus, most of the professional tape recorders, back in the day, like Ampex, Scully, MCI, 3M, Studer/Revox, had electronics that included headroom to +24dbm (except for the Revox). Which is way better than most consumer equipment can deliver. And so the electronics of the recorders, would rarely clip overload before the tape saturated. Unlike cassettes and most consumer oriented recorders, whose electronics generally overload before the tape.

    One of the things I did for a short while while I still had my 24 track Ampex MM1200, after I purchased my 3 TASCAM DA88's digital recorders, was to track the band, live, all at once in the studio, into the 24 track machine. While taking the output of the 24 track machine and feeding it into the 24 track DA88 system. But, you see, I knew how hard to hit the analog tape with. It was actually recording and playing back at the same time. The distance between the record and playback head caused between a 40 to 80 ms delay. That wasn't a problem, since the band was not listening to the output of either machines. They were listening at that stage to the output of the console. I WAS LISTENING TO THE PLAYBACK OF THE MACHINES IN THE CONTROL ROOM. A little tricky without a comprehensive, professional console. Later, when we wanted to do over dubs, I just did those on the digital machines. Had I wanted that saturation effect again, I would have played that track back out of the digital machine, to the input of the analog machine, in record mode, playback head monitor. Then that track would go back into the digital machine at the same time. As the other posters indicated, this track would now be out of sync since it would have a 40 to 80 ms delay. Thankfully, one could then take that track on the DA88's move it slightly forward in time, while moving all of the other tracks back in time, to the point of proper synchronization again. But that became a pain in the ass after a while and I sold the 2 inch 24 track analog machine and learn how to record drums again, without saturation. You can obtain different types of saturation effects through software now that to a pretty good job of emulating the nonlinearities of analog tape. Remember, digital recording is linear and that has nothing to do with the tape, which can be misinterpreted for "linear digital tape" such as the TASCAM DA88's. As opposed to the "nonlinear" style of disk based recording systems, which is still a linear digital process. As opposed to the definition of them mathematical physics thingies, which it will remain by linear digital recording.

    So really, I think you are spinning your tape reels? First you need to learn how to make good recordings. Then you can screw around with highly specialized things, like we all learned how to do first and then had to regress and relearn, how to record digitally without banging the meters too much, which made many a professional engineer sound real bad.

    Analog recording since 1962. Digitally recording since 1983.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  10. birdyyellow

    birdyyellow Guest

    "To record into a 2 inch multi track in real time with accurate sync to protools will require lots of infrastructure and skills ... this may be expensive "

    so its not as simple as buying a two track casette player, hooking a mic into it and connecting the outputs of the lets say tascam into the line ins of the 002r and record into protools as well?

    "but there will be things to learn
    crawl before running
    inch by inch
    keep this experiment cheap to begin with

    I think you will move on to other methods of creating warmth in your recordings"

    exactly. im just doing this to learn and experiment. :]
  11. natural

    natural Active Member

    Yeah, It's a little like this:
    You know that you can edit your photo's on a computer-All you need is a scanner, a computer, and a printer.
    So you search Ebay and find a K-mart brand scanner. But it only scans at 150dpi - Then you get an Atari computer with it's full 16 color graphics. - And of course you also get the Okidata 8bit dot matrix printer whose big claim to fame is a 6foot banner that say's "Happy Birthday" all made of little letter 'B's.

    But you've got to start somewhere. Just know what to expect.
  12. karbomusic

    karbomusic Active Member

    Its been quite awhile since I my last post but I found this thread quite interesting...

    I would take the output from the playback head "live" while recording and send that to your digi recorder. I would also if possible send a live non-tape signal straight to the digi recorder on an second track at the same time. You can now use the digital track as your benchmark for aligning the analog track (due to the delay between the record and playback heads). It also allows you to measure any drift etc by comparing the original digital track with the analog track. A must try experiment.

    You should be able to make sample accurate comparisons which would be a great learning experience. You can even use phase relationships between the two tracks to make decisions on the best alignment. IE: Nudging a few samples to the left is more out of phase than a few to the right... If it can be aligned this is the best way to find out IMHO. When your happy with the alignment ditch or mute the digital bencmark track.

    Another advantage is that you still have the option to go back and "fly" it back in from tape later as it is still on the tape. I still have my old TEAC 3300s hooked up right beside me. If I have time I'll confirm the above advice. I believe that is how I used to do it.

    For fun you could measure the physical distance between the play & record heads. Using that with the IPS of the tape and calculate the delay as a starting point for the offset.. For example a quick measurement of my 3300 heads show an approximate 1.13 inch distance. A few calculations and I see that at 15IPS I'll have a delay of about 75.33 milliseconds or 3322 samples assuming a 44.1k sample rate. Ears and math don't always correlate but good experience none the less.

    The higher quality reel to reel 2 tracks would be much better than cassette quality wise (unless the song calls for it!). As far as 2 heads, 3 heads etc. The main thing you need is the ability to monitor from tape at the same time you are recording to tape. Thats a non-issue if your recording then flying in later.. With the 2 head systems where the record and play heads are the same head, it can only do one or the other not both at the same time. The 3rd head is just an erase head that erases the previous take and so on. There is a quality advantage but the main reason you need the extra heads is to record and playback simultaneously.

    So my general advice :) is to take great ideas mentioned by everyone and try for yourself. The advice combined with personal experience is the best way to get where you want to be.

    Best regards-

  13. birdyyellow

    birdyyellow Guest

    i see. thanks a lot karbo. i think you nailed my question. ive been lurking on craigslist, and ive found some cool cheap tascams as well as i saw some reel to reels, but theyre a little out of my budget right now. but ill be sure to pick up one of those $70 tascams and mess around with them

    any preference on the casette brand/model/quality?
  14. birdyyellow

    birdyyellow Guest

    oh and what brank would you pick out of these: TEAC, tascam, akai, or pioneer for reel to reels?
  15. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Tascam was split off from Teac as the professional brand. Some of the older Teac machines were subsequently manufactured under the Tascam badge. As was said in an earlier post, look out for Teac/Tascam, Fostex and Revox.
  16. birdyyellow

    birdyyellow Guest

    hmm okay.
  17. karbomusic

    karbomusic Active Member

    Hi Birdyellow:

    I'm not a good source really for which cassette units perform better. I would "try" anything you can find just to be able to test it out.

    For professional quality the Reel to Reels are in a league of their own over cassettes.

    Good luck and let us know how it works out!

    Best regards-

  18. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    A cassette deck, no matter how good, no matter what the name might be, will not provide you with the type of analog tape saturation we used to obtain from Reel to Reel, professional studio recorders, that pulled the tape between 15 and 30 IPS, utilizing a nearly 1/8" track width, which is the entire width of cassette tape!

    You just will not realize the benefits that a professional machine had. It's a waste of your money and time.

    Analog woman in a digital world
    Ms. Remy Ann David

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