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General comment/question

Discussion in 'Recording' started by therecordingart, Oct 28, 2004.

  1. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    I feel as though I'll never be a "real" audio engineer for the fact that everything I know/do (not much) is in the digital domain. Sit me down at a DAW and I can create something that is at least decent. Through me in a room full of analog and I'm junk because I've never used it. I really want to start building a hybrid of analog/digital, but I'm not sure where/how to start. Any ideas on where I should begin?

    I've been starting to feel like a cheap imitation. I know there are plenty of DAW guys just like myself so please don't feel that I'm speaking for you because I'm not. There are lots of great places that rely solely on their DAW and that is fine, but I feel as though I'm missing out on something very special...maybe even elite. There are those certain things that digital can't do that analog will always be used for, and I need it.

    The first thing that comes to mind is to start looking for tape machines, nice tube pres...etc. What do you guys think?
    Sorry this post was just me spitting out what I'm thinking to see if it sparks anything. All DAW users don't think I'm bashing us because I'm not...I'm speaking from my own feelings.
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    I'd be looking at preamps and outboard - Tape is great, but tape machines are high-maintenance. And TAPE is big-bucks.

    I hate to say that really "colorful" stuff can be fairly expensive - Amek 9098's, Langevin/Manley Vocal Combo - Amazing, warm, colorful stuff. If you can buy used, you can likely sell for around the same $$$ you paid, which is a good thing.

    Less money/nice character - The Art Pro VLA. Color-for-the-buck ratio of around 9.6 or so. Almost anything that says "Meek" on it normally has a certain signature to it (good for some, lousy for others, but what isn't, right?).

    The point is, I think digital is a fine and decent working medium. The problem is that it's definitely NOT tape - It needs to be massaged into having that "something" that tape has.

    And with the expense of going tape-based, you can easily get a modest arsenal of colorful analog outboard to keep you busy for a similar investment.
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Analog recorders=maintainence....dont let this kind of talk scare you...if you have a bit of techie in you and are willing to learn,you can do a large amount of it yourself...be prepared for initial frustration as every machine thats 20 years old or more will have its own set of issues and quirks....the end result will be a huge satisfying bump in sonic quality...digital is clear and clean but lacks a depth that only tape can provide...provided that the tape medium is well oiled and working to capacity...a shitty tape machine will sound just like that...shitty...start small...an Otari 5050 8track 1/2"...Tascam 38....these are virtually bullet-proof and would allow you to build a digital/analog system from the start....outboard gear analog pres/comps/Eqs...especially converters...this is where the big boys really have their head on straight...theres nothing quite like getting a drum and bass track down on tape with very few passes across the heads and then dumping it into protools/cubase/rme etc for manipulation and mixing...nice and fresh with no losses...even with these semi-pro decks the sonic differences between digitally captured tracks and the taped tracks will be evident.
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Wow, your first sentence is pretty harsh on yourself. It's pretty negative to not think of yourself as a "real engineer" just because you use digital. There are a lot of people out there who simply use digital and get really good results. True, it's a very good idea to know your way around a large format console. It's great to know how to tweak a mix with a good outboard compressor. But don't feel that if you don't have the $$ to afford this kind of stuff, that you are inferior. In fact, if you can produce good results doing what you're doing, you should feel quite confident in your ability and realize that not everyone can do that. You've now entered a niche market.

    There are several good albums out there that were done using DAWs and never touched a tape. What you should be looking towards is a good front-end sound (good mics, good pre's, and good compression, good conversion) that you feel confident in and will allow you to produce good sounds "inside-the-box." Master these things and you will find that you are creating damned good music! Then, if you really want that tape sound, take it to a good mastering engineer and they can put it on tape for you while passing it through some damn good gear on its way (the right eq, the right compression, etc.) It may not be as expansive, warm and rich as tracks laid down on a Studer deck to begin with, but it will still sound good!

    A parable - my wife is a professional photographer, and until recently she has been a "film snob." She wouldn't consider a digital camera because it's not as true and lifelike as film. So, I was mean and I went and bought her a beautiful SLR digi-cam that works with her existing lenses. Though hesitant, she began using it. She didn't abandon everything that she knew about film cameras simply because the camera now does it for her - instead, she applied all of her film knowledge to the new digital beast and she was simply blown away with the quality of the final product. Now, I can't get her to stop shooting digital and we may wind up selling a couple of her film bodies.

    The moral of the above is: you can get excellent results out of anything as long as you have the knowledge and confidence to do so. A little bit of good equipment and a lot of knowledge will take you a long way. A lot of good equipment and very little knowledge will not get you anywhere (except on e-bay.)

  5. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the comments guys. A guy here in Chicago has a Teac 8 channel 1/2" tape machine that he'll sell to me for $100! He said that it needs work, but this guys seems legit (he works at Guitar Center and sells me gear). He was saying something along the lines of one of the reels not spinning. He said that it probably just needs to be re-calibrated. I know nothing about tape machines....do you think I'll be screwed by buying it?

    He said he got this machine from the guy that wrote "Material Girl."

    Anyway...let me know what you think.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I am coming from the other side of the issue, having cut my teeth on the big tape and consoles. I agree that the maintenance on analog tape and large format consoles is a deal breaker. I am now struggling to get caught up with the DAW revolution and I have much to learn about doing audio on a computer.

    Don't bother with a cheap small format tape machine ... narrow gauge tape won't give you the big bass, oomph and bump that the larger tape machines offer and that TEAC machine that doesn't work correctly may not be fixable if new parts aren't available, not to mention that these small machines usually run at the prosumer -10 levels.

    In the past, when everyone had to deal with these maintenance issues with the bigger tape formats, the playing field was level with everyone having to pay the costs and therefore charging more so they could pay the bills. Small studios that employed narrow gauge formats were not considered to be in the same league as the ones with large format tape.

    Now days there is no way the small or mid sized studio owner can afford big tape and still compete with a DAW based room that essentially has no maintenance or media (tape) costs. Only big, deep pocket operations can afford analog any longer and even quite a few of them are not using their large tape machines much.

    On the other hand, great front end gear is the way to get some of that sonic signature into your mixes. In the past, because tape did add color, a lot of engineers wanted to use the most transparent pre amps and accurate mics possible. The absence of tape coloration and head bump now dictates that in order to get closer to the "classic" sound of yesteryear, we add the color with mics, pre-amps and compressors on the front end and then take advantage of all that digital can offer in the box.

    So don't beat yourself up ... a lot of the cats from the past dreamed of being in the position that we all enjoy now ... I suspect they all may feel they should have been a little more careful about what they wished for but the fact remains that it's a new day and we all have new tricks to learn. Rock on!
  7. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Thanks Kurt....I think you just saved me a headache. I almost bought something that I don't know anything about. I think the next step for me is going to be nicer pres and more mics.

    As far as mics go...I've been looking at the Audix D6 and D2's.

    For pres...I'm still lost.
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I may or may not be the right person to ask about this as I have very high standards when it comes to this.

    My POV is that quality mics and other front end gear holds its value and never becomes obsolete, so I always opt for the high end. The high end is where you will hear the most "sonic signature" as well. There's a reason that all the "affordable" mic pres all claim to be "transparent", they are easier to build to a price point, with automated production lines and design objectives can be realized, with fewer and less expensive parts.

    I will usually go for Class A, transformer balanced, all discreet, point to point wired, mic pres and compressors. With the exception of a few, the devices that use LSI chips, op amps and surface mounted components are not desirable to me. There are a few exceptions like the Focusrite Red range, API's, Neve Amek 9098 series and the JLM TMP8, all which use chips or op amps ... The 9098 does not have transformers either and relies heavily on chip technology as well but the EQ in it so good I overlook that. .
  9. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Me being lost in preamp selection is because I can't afford nice ones. I tend to buy gear that is the highest quality I can afford. I've been sticking to my onboard preamps until I find I can afford a high quality product.

    There are tons of posts that throw around the names of great pres, but I can't afford $2000-$3000. My range is more in the $500-$750 range and I want more than one channel.

    I don't know of any good products in that range, and I don't expect to find a great product in that price range.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I think the best deals are with the VMPs from Sebatron and the TMP8's from JLM ... these two Austrilian companies make the most affordable "real" mic pres around. They cost a bit more than what you say you have but they are still the most affordable quality pres, that fit the criteria I set out in my last post.

    A Sebatron VMP2000e would be near to your budget .. but if you can come up with $2250 you can get eight full featured JLM transformer loaded, Class A pres with direct and line ins, with the TMP8, which breaks down to $281.25 per channel! I can't think of a better price on pre amps of this quality.
  11. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Putting it that way...$281 per channel is an awesome price. Right now I'm a little bit of a confused/neurotic mess when it comes to my audio goals. On one side I feel that with better gear on the front end my overall quality will skyrocket. But on the other hand, I feel that I still haven't unlocked the full potential of what I currently have. In my mind, a good AE can make a nice product on low to medium quality gear as long as the performance is high quality and the AE knows their gear. I guess I'm using the idea of better gear as a quick fix to my weak points when I should just examine my weak points and work to make them stronger. There isn't a mic pre or tape machine in the world that will help me build my ears, and I seriously think that I'm using my lack of high quality gear as a cop out.

    Thank Kurt, I will definetly look into the JLM but my next purchase is going to be a good book on audio. A lot of people have advised on Mastering Audio by Bob Katz because they say it pretty much covers everything an AE and ME needs to know.
  12. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Honestly put! All who are reading this need to take notes.This is what it sounds like when someone tackles their soundrecording issues without ego.You MUST do this to ever improve.All gear is a means to an end.It is finite in its abilities to make better sound.The ONE thing that is a variable is the engineer/producer.Improving ones ears and techniques is the largest step you can take.And, its one that can be an ever-changing ever-growing process.The tendency today seems to be one of BUYING a sound without regards to ability to create it.This is a falacy that the gear pimps simply love...Granted, there is a level of gear that will improve even the most rookie and/or lame recordist, but the justification for buying at that level is one with a large price tag indeed.Get a BOOK.Theres lots of them.Some in banners here at RO.

  13. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the response Dave. I totally agree....I've heard a damn good recording done on TASCAM 4 track cassette recorder and lots of not so great recordings done on big Pro Tools units with virtually unlimited editing potential. It boils down to the person turning the knobs in most cases...my opinion of course. I'm a newbie in every sense of the word, and instead of letting my ego blow up anytime someone likes my work I take it as a step in the right direction.

    I take myself very seriously when it comes to working to become a good AE. I'd much rather focus on building up my many weaknesses than let my strengths go to my head.

    Right now I'm trying to record as many bands as I can because in June I have to move into a condo. That leaves me without bands to record and in a situation that is already starting to depress the hell out of me. I'm trying to put together the best studio demo I can to try getting my foot in the door at a nearby studio. I'll be the "studio bitch" for as long as I have to as long as I can later have the opportunity to try proving my worth. My experience with the local studio owners around here turns my idea into a pipe dream though. I haven't had great experiences, but I have to give it my best and make it happen.
  14. TO: therecordingart + recording.org members

    Recordingart, you are just as much a "real" audio engineer as the rest of us might claim to be.

    I agree 110% with Kurt's post on 29-Oct which says basically - go DAW and don't look back! Concentrate on the front end mics, mic pres decent outboard if you can afford, etc.

    Most of those studios that have 2" tape machines have them in mothballs (I know, I work at one). Tape sounds gorgeous I know but these days once all of the artifice is applied, 90% of "lay" listeners cannot tell what the source recording was PT or tape. I'd argue many of us couldn't tell unless it was material we had tracked/mixed!

    Tape compression IMHO is sweet sounding and quite 'musical' for some things -- nothing compared to the SMACK and Distressor and other similar gear in the chain.

    A similar argument could be made for guitar amps vs. SansAmp and AmpFarm and similar plug-ins. A friend of mine made a record using the latter (gtr thru Vintech pre and straight to Pro Tools) and I bet you'd be fooled.

    Analog 2" tape or PT should be the least of your worries to capture great recordings.
  15. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the comments Michael. I appreciate everybodys comments on this topic. Whenever my mind starts going on something I post it here....and everything then seems to make sense.

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