Is Waves Kramer Tape plug-in worth the money for what you get?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by engineer971, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. engineer971

    engineer971 Active Member

    I'm considering a harmonics based plug-in called Kramer Tape from Waves for $99. Has anyone tried it? Is it doing what you want to do? I'd like to smooth out the digital signal on the master. In comparison, Reel Tape Saturation from Avid Digidesign runs about three times as much. Is there that much difference?
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Anything is worth the money if you deem it necessary. Different equipment will provide different results. Too many condenser thingies (microphones) for digital recording can really sound quite harsh. That's where we use dynamic microphones and ribbon microphones. We might also utilize preamps that are transformer coupled in and out? Don't forget, there is a sucker born every minute. So when you get the cleanest and brightest recording in digital it can sound like crap. And then you need to scrounge around to take the edge off. So use more dynamic microphones instead of condenser microphones and you will have already solved most of your problems.

    They are still trying to come up with software algorithms to mimic the nonlinear transfer characteristics of analog tape. Some folks utilize tube style saturation plug-ins. Others think they need analog tape style saturation. Some people want the cleanest, brightest, most neutral sounding equipment only to find out it's not what they really wanted. For $99, you could probably buy a for real analog tape recorder! And then you can have the real deal instead of a genuine imitation. That's kind of like a VW beetle tricked up to look like a Rolls-Royce. All that saturation software stuff is designed to mush up your recordings. There are plenty of other ways to accomplish that. Folks with $20,000 Pro tools systems might want to spend three times as much for something because they think if they spend that much money, it has to be good. Problem is, nothing else was good that they did before they got the mushy plug in. Learning how to record and mix better negates the need for any kind of mushy plug in. So spend what you want if it's worth it to you. If you want some second harmonic distortion, take your audio file, high Pass filter it at 500 Hz and then double the pitch without doubling the speed. Mix a little of that back in to your other master file and you will have produced second harmonic distortion. See? Wasn't that simple?

    I'm a simple engineer
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. mindprint

    mindprint Active Member

    Both work great. They are pretty different. you may want to start with less expensive alternative and if after few years you're still not getting what you want get the other one
  4. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Take a look at the Slate Digital VTM.

    I have it and it sounds great, though I've never worked with real tape.
    But there are some good reviews that claim that it's very close to the real thing.
  5. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    I'm a big fan of Variety of Sound's Ferric TDS. It's not a tape saturation plugin. It does incorporate some very nice harmonic distortion that sounds very tape like. It's not harsh distortion either. It's very subtle even on extreme settings. You hardly know it's there until you turn it off. The best thing though is that it's free. Unfortunately, it's VST only. No RTAS version.
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I've been using the old IK Multimedia, T-Racks which actually has a nice little " distortion " adjustment. What it actually does is make the waveform go with what appears to be greater forward modulation i.e., even order distortion components when you find greater globules of your waveforms above the center baseline then below it. Kind of reeks from the days of AM radio specifications allowing for 125% forward modulation but being constrained to 100% negative modulation. And before that was enacted some stations were actually going nearly 200% forward modulation. Put that in your limiter and smoke it. Of course this comes from class C amplifiers, LOL. And that sounds like it already has been smoked? Don't want to be plugging those into any speakers. I mean ya could? But you also might need to be clicking your heels together and say... I want to go home... I want to go home?

    I think I'm an 18 wheeler? I have two trucks, a van and a motorcycle and that equals 18 wheels. No?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. BushmasterM4

    BushmasterM4 Active Member

    I have the Slate VTM and the VCC plugins and cant imagine working without them. Im an analog guy with a digital budget. Love vinyl and R2R and have taken digital mixes and ran them across consumer R2R and rescently bought an Otari R2R in search of a cheap way to get that smoother saturated sound. Once I installed Slates VTM I quit experimenting with tape. Read the reviews on all the tape sims. Slates is coming out on top.
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    While the OTARI's were decent machines, the best flavored saturation came from the Ampex 351's, Scully 280 Bridgeport germanium's, 3M's, MCI and Studer's. And not just with the hot tapes but even with the old 3M Scotch 111 running at 185 nano webers per meter on a Scully 280 Bridgeport, with the linearizer, on at 15 IPS. I think it's funny that you don't see any Scully saturation emulators? I mean that was the ticket back in the day. Nothing like that 288-16 not even a Studer. Go figure? Who made the best record cutting lathes before we got those German ones? Scully. Who had more head room than an Ampex or a Studer? Scully. And who sounded bigger and fatter? Scully. (The Bridgeport germanium ones). Dictaphone versions not so shabby either. The sound of silicon and not germanium. And I think this doesn't exist because no one creating these emulators is old enough to remember? Just like everybody thinks the Universal Audio UAD 2, can actually sound like a plate reverb. It doesn't. Believe me it doesn't. A VW is not a Porsche even though a Porsche is a VW. Or so to speak. Bottom line, if it feels good, do it.

    Where's my batteries?? OMG where's my batteries?! No fun tonight.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    my analog recorders sell ro like 50, or 250. it's the real thing better or worse. and wasn't mci reguraded as the 'best sounding', just absurdley high maintentence? it was by phil but who cares. he opted for the closest sounding thing that didn't need constant care. ampex i think. again who cares. but he did say something that rattled the cobwebs of my brain about, at a certain time the tape machines used to start to take care of themselves via rudimentary cpu's. so you could actually have an electronically controlled tape deck, that ya didn't need tiny screw drivers for constantly. hence 50k per 24ch. i think they actually started working towards electronic alignment type stuff. could be mistaken. could challenge a big money company to make a new tape machine, could not even like the sound of tape for all things. i use dirty cheapo machines that work as such when i need to. so i get to not be picky about any of the finer details and enjoy. as long as modern tape has minimal dropouts, good deal. i love 90's music, and that was such a wish-wash in production tech, but they did ok. by the time they perfected tape, they had to compete w/ digital tape, and so an evolution just makes sense.

    People who want to use tape as an effect, as opposed to the only available medium, should just use it. plug-insrule. but the choice of current modeling, is on 'high end' or recordist specific tools. it's still just digital distortion, great or not. i could care less about purity, unless purity means a good sounding bands' performace. digital is not a cuss word. people were trying very hard to have 'clean tape sounds'. i dunno. i guess it can all be related to high level electtical stuff, but i'll just use some tape and re-convert. algoriythims are numeric relationships based on a much more condensed physical space, than an old reel to reel. i think the digital version will perform more consitently, but consistency is not what i really expect when i fire up a deck, close, but never the same. even if the equipment was the same, the band won't be. i haven't cooked food w/ a micro chip yet, although it'd help me get more sleep. if you want tape sound use tape, ya want a nice digital version, use good converters. Get the best darn emulation you can, on the most relavent computer and that'll be fine, but it'll be more about inherit eq and modulation than anything else. just get the most pleasant digi and reap the rewards. or use your choice of analog w/the most usable dig conversion.

    i'm not gonna go make a charcol mic tonight, soo. just get what you want
  10. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member


    Like I said, I've never worked with real tape, but the Slate VTM gives me that fat punchiness with smooth highs. Combined with VCC it's sounds really good. They seem to eliminate that "digital harshness" (in lack of better words).
    Maybe not as good as the real deal, but it takes my mixes where I always wanted them to be.
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Ouzo77, what are you doing? First a link for a piece of equipment and then pages of nothing.

    I want to smoke what you're smoking
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    ?!? Sorry, I don't get it...
  13. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    I've been using the freeware TeslaSE VST plugin. When you tweak it right it adds that "transformer" sag/saturation to your signal. Very nice when done right, and it's free!

    Here's the link:
  14. BushmasterM4

    BushmasterM4 Active Member

    Spoken like a true gentleman. It reduces that "digital harshenss", you hit the nail on the head.
  15. BushmasterM4

    BushmasterM4 Active Member

    I have batteries !!!!
  16. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    you can eliminate digital harshness by not making a harsh recording/mix. there's just too many variables in the vintage analog stuff to even consider consistency between units. some companies model better units than others, simple as that. my boss prefers the 2-bus compressor on the liquid mix as opposed to the waves ssl model. get what you like the best. but if, and only if, you are going to compare something to the old sound, you have to know what that sounded like. so when companies like UA tout van halen used it so did frank sinatra, thats when it becomes releavent to the buyer, if your looking for that sound. otherwise, it's all new stuff, it's gonna not sound like the old stuff, and the old stuff ain't gonna sound like it did in it's youth. just to keep most of it operating parts and such would need to be replaced. better? worse? it's up to anyone's ears.

    my point is that i don't think there is the technology to create the unpredictable nature of a machine w/ moving parts. i'm not even talking 'good or bad' sounding, it's the nature of it. if the pluggin is what ya want great, if a tape machine that may or may not sound the same as it did yesterday is what you want great. don't be afraid of the element of chance. anybody can buy the same pluggin, or tape machine. i'd be curious to even test the pluggin. does a higher sample rate make a diff, does a state of the art cpu vs a clunker. either way it's the final product, but i personally like to have a little experience w/ the tape, and what i like/don't, so i can judge emulations better. it's whatever works for your taste, but i just like to experience a few options before commiting. maybe you could get the same smoothing factor w/ a smoother pre-amp? ya know move around a bit so you know what you want when you buy. if it's a pluggin shootout only, try them all. you may just end up loving the first thing you tried the best, maybe not.
  17. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    I've used 2" tape. There are things about it that I can do without. Calibration for one thing. Too much hassle just for the sake of consistency, what there is of it. Wow and flutter, misaligned heads, dead rollers, slow rollers, otherwise warn rollers, reams of wasted tape. SPLICING! I can do without the splicing. I'll take a good plugin over that any day. Not to mention less hissssssssssssssssssssss.
  18. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I'm not quite in hueseph's camp on this. Alignment a hassle? No it's not. Not when you know how to do it, quickly. And if something you always did with analog tape decks. Especially when working at larger studios when every 24 track machine would be aligned prior to every session. The hiss? Not so bad. Not really any worse than the ambient noise or the noise from preamps that are gained high. If you wanted your noise to be a little less white and more to the pink side of noise, you'd roll at 30 IPS. Reams of wasted tape? No. This is a clean roll of tape that can be used over again, numerous times. The splicing is all done within the computer. The machine and the tape is simply used in lieu of the plug-in. You don't have to uninstall your plug-ins just because you used them on one project. And the same goes for the roll over to analog tape and back into the computer. Wow and flutter are usually more indicative of a worn-out rubber pinch roller or a rusted capstan shaft. And with any studio equipment that is well kept up, this should not be an issue. It's only an issue for those that have no practical maintenance experience. Those who have not actually learned much about recording, wouldn't necessarily want to go this route. I've actually got tracks that are up to eight generations down without any objectionable hiss, from masters running at 30 IPS. It's all pink at that speed. It's actually rather crystal clear with that lovely transient soft limiting one gets from tape saturation. 15 IPS is a little fatter sounding with a little more white noise. Still quite controllable in today's digital world. This is where some light, properly threshold adjusted downward expansion really works out well. I'm not talking about gaining. The downward expansion can be set to -10 to -20, still allowing signal to pass. And then you get the equivalent amount of noise reduction from the downward expansion. Providing for a more open sound than any Dolby A/SR, can provide for.

    Come on hueseph, splicing together a composite of good portions of your mix, is something I personally have done since the early 1970s. So what's the big deal about splicing? Whether it's with a razor blade or a mouse? The only issue with editing multitrack analog tape, it is when you were sync locking 2 machines with SMPTE timecode running. So those edits are not done off the 2 inch masters but after the mix gets to the two track mix down machine. Or, into the computer where you have the ability to undo as opposed to pulling off your splicing tape and sticking in an extra 1/8 inch piece and more splicing tape. And I've had to do that on numerous occasions. That part is not fun. But it's what you're being paid to do. So you just do it. No big whoop. And if they're paying by the hour? It makes ya more money. So how can ya complain about that? It's a gift from God that we can edit so well. I accomplish edits that people just cannot believe. They've all said they can't hear my edits which is the way it's supposed to be. And that was in the days of analog tape where I actually edited within a 32nd note run in a Paganini violin Concerto. The violinist and accompanist (they were highly esteemed performers) could not believe the accuracy of my editing. And that was without a computer at 15 IPS. Even more difficult than at 30 IPS. And this is where I revel in my capabilities and experience. It's what I live for. It's what I do. It's fun. It's a great challenge. And ya feel so good about yourself when you can accomplish something of that magnitude. And that's real audio engineering baby! That's what it means to be an audio engineer. It's not a school production and your career is on the line. You have no choice but to be... perfect.

    Analog tape is very consistent. Different brands of tapes provide for slightly different nonlinearities in each formulation of tape. All pretty much the same except for nuance differences. Which is why you have to properly align your machine to the tape that is being utilized. To be extremely exact with analog tape recorder adjustments, one normally needs a low distortion sine wave oscillator, AC voltmeter and a third harmonic distortion analyzer. And who do you know still has those? So you just rely upon the meters on the machine which will get you very close. And close is good enough. Provided the meters are working on the machine. Then all you need is the sine wave oscillator. Of course I'm assuming that the playback has been properly aligned beforehand with the reference calibration tape.

    When utilizing your 2 inch 24 track machine, some folks who have more money than brains utilize CLASP, which only costs an additional $5000 LOL. And your Studer 24 track machine LOL.

    When asked about the best sounding machines, it's always been known that Ampex was one of the best. The only reason why MCI might be placed in that same category is because MCI completely cloned the 440/1000/1100/1200 electronics from the Ampex. You could actually swap cards between the Ampex' & an MCI up until their later machines. So if you're recording on an MCI JH 114-24 it was the same as recording on MM 1200-24. MCI had very nice features that even the Ampex did not have. Such as full holdback and take up tension control. The Ampex only had holdback tension control. Ampex did not have a shuttle joystick (With a chip that went out of production soon after they designed that joystick control) LOL. And then they would no longer work with their touch sensitive shuttle controller. MCI also made some stupid manufacturing errors. Errors I scolded them about. They were using Molex connectors on all of their circuit boards. None of those Molex connectors were goldplated. This was the cause of huge intermittent problems with the transports of all MCI machines. Even the audio channel cards were like that. So yeah, you had to be a maintenance technician to keep in MCI going reliably. Ampex' were actually more rugged and stable. Unfortunately the MM 1200 did not have the same no overlap, no gap, movie style punch in/out that was necessary for dialogue replacement. The Ampex version did not work on the MM 1200 series but only on the 440 C, machines. This was a huge let down to us since I had ordered those specialty record cards for our MM 1200-16. Ampex actually sent out a pair of technicians from their Redwood City California division to our studio, to make these cards work. They couldn't make them work. So they gave us back the standard overlap/gap cards. Their specialty record cards were rife with pops and clicks. So I couldn't do those magical drop in and dropouts I wanted to do. The MCI deck plates were also not very rugged. They were just two pieces of sandwiched aluminum sheets. The MM 1200 Ampex was a heavy diecast top plate that would not bend or warp, just like a Studer. The best transport MCI ever made was there 3 inch, 32 track transport back in the late 1970s. It was a heavy diecast transport frame. I offered to purchase their prototype since they did not release the machine. It would have been the best 2 inch 24 track transport they could have ever released.

    Now if you want to talk about machines aligning themselves, look into the Ampex ATR 124. This was considered to be the best and most comprehensive 24 track machine ever built. And there were not that many built. I had the pleasure of being able to dissect one of those over 21 years ago. It was a daunting and extremely complicated machine. More so than the ATR 102 series. Heavy microprocessor controllers and specialty EEPROMs. One guy who I knew actually reverse engineered their EEPROMs and reprogrammed his own, since Ampex did not include their code to do so. But I think God got him for that since he died shortly thereafter LOL. But that was probably more his alcoholism? Especially since he fell off the wagon while doing business with me. And ripped me off for a few grand. So what goes around comes around as they say.

    Reels go around and around and around and around some more. Sometimes really fast. Sometimes really slow.

    I always wear shoes and sandals but love going barefoot on tape. Gets a little slippery though...
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    i'm gonna stay holy crapola. or woa. great stuff. gotta lot ta know. still crushing skulls can is just fun. tape in metal is rare, oddly.
  20. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    It used to be that you'd spend all your time trying to ensure that your chain is as quiet as possible. We wanted fidelity and a clean signal. Now that we have it, people want the dirt back. Tape sounds great. No doubt about it. Still, there are ways to warm up your signal without having to use tape.

    During the early days of sampling, I spent some time assembling drum loops from real drums to make what people would call "beats" these days. I'm talking frankenstein reels. Of course this was from 1/4" tape, not 2". It's an art. Not one that I'm particularly good at.

    Calibrating? It's a necessary evil. I did it but, I'm not gonna lie and say I liked it.

    Ok, so I was exaggerating. The point is that digital is getting a lot better. There is no reason why you can't get good tones from a well equipped DAW regardless of platform. There are so many "warming" tools out there now that blaming it on the gear is just a cop out.

    Sorry for the detour.

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