I have a question(s) within questions...?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by DrGonz, Feb 10, 2010.

  1. DrGonz

    DrGonz Active Member

    Ok here's the deal. As an experiment I am contemplating on buying a two track reel-to-reel system, to enhance the mastering of a 2 track mix. I keep seeing most of these units on craigzlist that are typically Tascam or some other decent brand (2-4) track reels, ranging in price from $500-800. Now can any of these models help mastering for a lo-fi home production? I don't need the greatest reel to reel , but I want to know if a semi-cheap model is gonna help any? I mean to ask as well if this is a common step in mastering digital recordings these days?

    Will I benefit at all by transferring digital mixed recordings to analog tape and then back again digital? So if this idea is really bad then let me know.

    I mean to say that I understand that my DA/AD converters are really important, and the hiss of a tape machine can be deadly.
    Will I need to get Dolby noise reduction devices as well? Or can I use digital software NR to achieve a similar effect after bouncing from tape to digital? Assuming that DolbyNR is necessary, how much is a good unit used price?

    This might just be a big pain in the butt really, or it might be the start of something great. I've heard ppl say they like bouncing a 2-track digital mix track to analog. Or at least have it around to record things.
    Any advice that anyone has would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    It will depend on what condition the machine is in. are you looking at 1/4" or 1/2" machines? If you align the machine properly and print decently, tape hiss should be minimal. Mixing to tape isn't a magic bullet to making a mix good, but it can add flavor to the sound.
  3. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    I do layback (that's what it's called) maybe once or twice per year. And usually only at the insistence of the client. I'd go with the "no, it's not common" crowd. I wouldn't necessarily call it a bad idea - But I'd bet I could find a better place for $1,000 (it's going to cost you that much at a minimum if you have a best friend who happens to be a machine tech).
  4. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Laback and mixing into tape are two different things. Layback has downsides. mixing into tape is most definitely the way to go. being able to adjust a mix to some of the downsides of printing to tape has many many benefits and is well worth $1k.
  5. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    You can certainly do that and with a well setup tape machine it will give you a little different "color" to the sound...I wouldn't say it's better just different!
    I have a Tascam 32 and a Tascam 38 along with a FF800 and ZEDR16 and I spent a lot of time aligning those machines, fixing different problems, calibrating them with test tapes, the whole nine yards and the thing is I don't use them any more. It's faster, easier and sounds better using my newer stuff...maybe consider other "analog" equipment instead..newer stuff.
    It's an interesting approach and if you really have the time and patience and have the money or experience than do it and see if you like the sound....that's about all I can honestly say....I really doubt it's going to improve your sound substantially....
    There are many Tascam's, Studers, Revox machines out there on Craglist and Ebait but you will end up refurbishing them no matter what you pay for them....unless you buy one from the many tape shops out there that sell completely refurbished machines, there will be something you will need to do them....
    just my 2 cents.....hope that helps!
  6. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    What happened to the little Rupert Neve box that sent 2 channels through a tape and straight back out again? Did anybody end up using one? Maybe it died by the wayside and was a poor idea. Maybe its under $1000 and just what you are looking for. Doubt it on cost with his name on the box tho......
  7. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    The Portico series - It's still around. Rather decent tape emulator. No doubt, an easier, less-rope-to-hang-yourself-with solution to making something sound like it's "hitting tape" than many other emulations.
  8. DrGonz

    DrGonz Active Member

    Well thank you to all who commented on this topic, it was worth picking your brains. I will research more about the portico series "rupert neve box". Some interesting viewpoints and from much more experienced engineers than myself. Hopefully, one day I will stumble across something that makes digital have a less harsh sound. It seems to me that the coloration that comes from analog tape just feels better on my ears. Although, I love both digital and analog in totally different ways. But this thread helps get some warnings on the difficulty that tape presents. Thanks again guys.
  9. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Maybe you could try running your digital stuff through a nice analog mixing board and then some analog outboard gear, (EQ, compressors, limiters etc.) and get that sound "warmed" up a bit.
    I'm using this A&H ZEDR16 mixer and the sound coming out of my DAW through it makes a difference in the sound.....seems "fatter" and not as thin. The EQ can help color things nicely and it's a lot less hassle than my tape decks were!
    And you keep you're dynamic range!
    Just my 2 cents....
    Good luck
  10. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    90% of the time, whenever I hear that, I find that the engineer is recording waaaaayyyy too hot. "As hot as possible but without clipping" in most cases. Don't do that = No problem (assuming some decent converters).

    (Dead Link Removed)

    Not that I have anything against tape for that matter - But overdriving the input chain is the quickest, easiest and most effective way to get "harsh" (and "small" and "unfocused" and "unclear" and "pinched" etc.) -- which is quickly blamed on "digital" in many cases.
  11. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    ^^^^^^^^^^What he said!!!!!!!

    There are some really nicely done digital recordings out but the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they are not peaked out and have lots of digital headroom and a wide dynamic range and were done by people who were listening to what they were doing and did not crunch everything in sight with compression and limiting and did not use 32 plug ins on every instrument. Most of the material recorded by Telarc falls into this description as does most of the stuff coming out of small high quality record companies like Opus 3. Digital does not have to sound harsh but it can, if pushed, sound very harsh very quickly.
  12. DrGonz

    DrGonz Active Member

    I find that worst culprits are the snare and all the drums for that matter. I am not really recording live drums and have taken a 6 month break from the band scene. With that said, I did make most of my huge mistakes on my first bands project. I was one of those guys that thought it would work to have the peaks of the snare hit -1 or -2db once or twice in a song, as long as it didn't clip. Those were for the loudest songs only or the really loud passages. And I had little control since the pad was at -10 and the volume was all the way down. I guess I need attenuators to get there... As my research progressed in regard to headroom, I started to think differently of my original approach. So on the next project I shot for the snare to hit -5 or -6 db once in a while and this did make a huge difference. The overheads were a nightmare for me and maybe it's cuz my drummer's favorite was Keith moon. Which is not a bad thing at all, except he might have been hitting his cymbals a lil two hard and frequently for my tastes. Anyhow, I was shooting to have a reasonably balanced recording between overheads and close mic snare/kick. By that time I was realizing how mastering would effect the mix and bring out all sorts of transients. If I would have had a sound room to isolate between and some better equipment then there would have been more progress.

    With that said, all the guitars were peaking around -12 to -9db on the input stage, the bass guitar was similar in peak values. I did mixes where the overall headroom would be -3db and then I did mixes where there was -6db of head room. Lets say the RMS avg for the mix would be anywhere from -30 to -24db. I then would master those mixes and try to preserve as much dynamic range as possible. By the time the final mastering was done, I had a song that was anywhere from -13 to -16 avg. RMS. I hate the loudness wars, but yet still I think my own music did not represent my true ability to master sound.

    Just recently I mastered a mix from a great "experienced" jazz virtuoso band and impressed the person who let me do it. I was true to the dynamics of the recording and it was a much more professional sounding recording than my other projects. Better musicians, better studio, better engineer yada yada yadi... Still I listened to this recording and found that the drums were really too hot especially the close mic toms. Hotter than what my drums sounded like. Although I got the overall mix of the song to balance better than it was, there was still tiny lil parts in there that needed better mixing. Or they were recorded or mixed too hot. I think after mastering, the tiny imperfections of the mix and/or recording began to surface.

    When I say harshness in digital, I think I meant to say that it sounds flat or artificial. It's like the difference between Joshua Tree and any U2 album after POP. I like CD sound but I like the cd's that have enormous amounts of headroom best. Like the led zeppelin disc's I have or paul simon graceland. But even then I think they might have too much head room. Lets also just say that there is this overproduced sound in modern music that just does not grab me per se. Cuz some of my favorite music is over produced. But lately that has become more of a curse in the digital realms.

    I also really appreciate the mixes I mastered from my old Tascam MKII 8 track. They are warmer but less quality. I think the suggestions to use analog boards and other analog gear is where I am headed next.

    So again thank you to all who have given their two cents here. And as Arnold said "I'll be Back"

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