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Preserving the Tone

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Mysterious Squirrel, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. Mysterious Squirrel

    Mysterious Squirrel Active Member

    Being a bit of an analog dinosaur, it took me a number of years playing catchup to master (no pun intended) the new fangled digital recording technology. However, once mastered (still no pun intended), even I couldn't fail to see the advantages.

    Now here's the thing. Round at a friends house the other evening, we wheeled out an old Akai reel to reel and recorded a jam from a mic'd up Fender Frontman SR212 via an ART 4 ch Macro mixer and simultaneously onto Audacity. Played back through his front room audio, the analog recording knocked the spots off Audacity although, to do any further mixing/processing/mastering the analog recording would require lifting and thus becoming a second generation recording, not to mention not having a visual display of what has been recorded.

    Is this proof that digital is only ever user friendly and not at all 'better'.

  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Oh ya... I like this guy. You are going to enjoy our forum.
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    audiokid is an old school analog guy at heart. I don't doubt your observation at all, but you don't mention the equipment you used for the digital recording. I think you'll find that it is relatively inexpensive (compared to truly "pro" equipment) to beat the overall sound quality of a consumer Akai deck. And it really doesn't take much tweaking to give a digital recording a "vintage vibe" if that's the sound you are going for. Now once you have spent more serious money - say $50,000 - things like analog summing and mixing down to tape become real contenders again. Tape has inherent sonic disadvantages (S/N ratio, tape speed irregularities) as well as advantages (finer "grain," smoother reaction to saturation). Unless your budget is bigger than you let on, digital is what I'd bet on..
  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Maybe you were getting crappy sound out of the Frontman that the tape couldn't reproduce accurately.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Nicely put ... but not tape. However, they must have heard something they liked. I'm thinking ( without knowing everything you are using) I'm assuming you may be recording too hot in your DAW which causes all sorts of ugly stuff. Recording to tape is very straight forward compared to a DAW with tracks and a mastering section. Being an old school analog guy, this is the first mistake we all make.
    I'm with Bob and boulder.
  6. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Attempting to generalize "analog sound" in any way based on one example of an unknown model of Akai open reel deck in unknown condition using unknown tape recording an unknown instrument played by an unknown person through an amp in unknown condition using an unknown mic in an unknown position is futile.
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Welcome to a little thing called the internet.

    Thanks, Al.
  8. Mo Facta

    Mo Facta Active Member

    Bob Katz always says that (and I'm paraphrasing a bit here) if you think digital recording is cold, sterile, or unmusical, it's probably because you've never heard a really good [and expensive] digital system. I am inclined to agree with him given the current selection of high end converters, etc. I know that the sound coming out of my studio improved drastically when I upgraded to upper echelon specimens and can attest to the fact that digital recording can sound warm and musical with the right gear.But yeah, analog just made it a lot easier to achieve.Cheers :)
  9. Mysterious Squirrel

    Mysterious Squirrel Active Member

    Bouldersound: How on earth could anything coming out of the front end of a Fender be 'crappy'. It is actually illegal to say such stuff about Fender.

    The old Akai actually did a good job of preserving the recording quite faithfully albeit, a bit of tape noise. The recording was made with a SM58 set central to the Fender's two drivers and the digital software didn't like that at all.

    I suppose it would be fair to say too, the settings on Audacity were all left at flat level so maybe a better experiment would have been to see how closely we could have got software and reel to reel sounding. I'm sure with a bit more fiddling we could have got the software to sound just like a real guitar being played through a real amp but why do that when all you need to do is lug a real amp cabinet round your mates house and knock his guitar over trying to hoist it over the coffee table if you want to prove a point.
  10. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    " How on earth could anything coming out of the front end of a Fender be 'crappy'. It is actually illegal to say such stuff about Fender."

    Ah, the truth hurts...:)
    The Frontman Series of Fender amps is their bottom-of-the-line, cheapest-built, solid-state digitally-processed junk. Even Jeff Beck would have a tough time making that dog sing.....

    "The recording was made with a SM58 set central to the Fender's two drivers and the digital software didn't like that at all. "
    Neither would my ears; placing the 58 between those 2 lovely drivers can be a crap-shoot because they're both hitting the mic's element at different times. Ever hear of "phase issues" ?.
    Tip: the software isn't affecting the sound, the A/D and D/A converters do that. What were you using with that cool ART mixer?
    I was a dedicated analog tape guy for many many years (since the mid-70's). But technology has come a long long way, and digital has improved to alarming proportions, easily surpassing the consumer grade stuff you're using as a model.
    To say the least, your test sounds a bit squirrelly to me......
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm with you on that moon. I'll take it one step more and take my lumps over this statement. I hate the sound of every Fender amp I have ever tried. I'm sure there are many I missed in my 30 year career ( still going strong touch wood), and I'm sure there are thousands of guitarist and engineers who love em, but not me. They are so glassy sounding it hurts my ears. Maybe newer ones are better and maybe I am just too shell shocked to overcome my dislike. dunno...

    back to the OP...
  12. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    No problems there, BT. I haven't liked the overdriven sound of a lot of my Fenders over the years, and "clean" can be great, but a Strat through a Twin can potentially be an icepick in the ear. It depends on the guitar, the amp, and the player' like everything else.
  13. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Napalm in hand, and covered in gasoline soaked asbestos underwear, I'll jump in on this lil' exercise...

    With the same level of quality gear, I'm willing to bet that at least 90% of listeners couldn't tell the difference between analog and digital, in the hands of equally qualified engineers... including most other "engineers" in this business.

    I'm NOT bragging, but as a statement of fact, I have had more than one "engineer" and several clients ask if some of my recordings were either tracked to tape, or mixed on tape. The obvious answer is no... especially to my ears. And a couple of general listeners have commented on the very few "live to 2 track analog" recordings just sounded "digital".

    But it's quite obvious to me that many listeners cannot fully distinguish well recorded sources and well mixed songs from either domain... but can generally only tell you when a better job could have been done on either tracking or mixing.

    Once you learn that saturation is essential for a lot of analog, and less signal is better in the digital domain... you're 90% there as an engineer.

    Otherwise, it's pretty pointless to even argue... discuss, maybe... but argue??? nawwww
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    You couldn't have said that better. I think we should put that up in lights!
  15. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Very true. I think that in the entire time I've been doing digital recording I've made about a half dozen tracks that could be improved a lot by increasing the signal level. On the other hand, for the first couple of years probably 90% were recorded too hot. It's just a huge lesson that most people take time to learn.
  16. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    A mastering engineer just asked if one of my mixes was mixed to analog tape. It wasn't, and I wish I knew what made him ask that so I could repeat it at will.
  17. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I liken it to analog vs digital photography...

    Over exposing Kodachrome 64 1/2 stop, rated at ISO32 (and pushed a 1/2 stop in developing) vs a 1/2 stop underexposed digital CCD and well manipulated in Photoshop can yield very similar results that could be easily mistaken for each other.

    HOWEVER, it takes a great deal of understanding of both worlds to yield good results.

    In the analog world, you had to be sure you used good glass, a solid body, fresh film, and your developer knew your intentions so that they used the correct chemistry, developed the slide emulsion in the correct temperature chemistry and for the correct amount of time.

    In the digital realm, you still need good glass, a solid body and a good CCD with high enough resolution and the image manipulator needs to have a color accurate monitor and a solid understanding of colorspace and Photoshop to yield a high quality image.

    In both cases, the gear is important, but more important is the knowledge of the processes involved to consistently achieve superior results...
  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Its certainly been a process for me. Being an elderly analog dogg I always liked what happened when the lights went red and the needles bounced hard to the right. Not STAYING there mind you but the great little flicker of the overload light and those meters taking that beating. Thats where things got all creamy and thick. Thats the recording **** us old people remember all too well.

    Now, when I'm working in PT, even though I'm still bringing in the sounds with the same kind of outboard, the signal CANNOT get above a certain level without it starting to collapse into itself.

    The good part is my ears still function and will always tell my brain the truth. Whether the brain will listen is another story alltogether.
  19. Mysterious Squirrel

    Mysterious Squirrel Active Member

    Tsk... No squirrel jokes please.

    I've heard them all
  20. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    This is a highly flawed inconsistent test you did. Sure, there are still plenty of good things about analog tape that people are still trying to emulate in digital land. There are even those of us that will still utilize analog tape within digital productions. Of course you can give your girlfriend a synthetic diamond ring or a real diamond ring and even the jewelers have trouble telling them apart. But if you give her a plastic imitation diamond ring don't come crying to me when it melts on her hand in the hot tub. Personally I enjoy the edible variety better known as Rock Candy since it goes well with rock 'n roll.

    Actually I'd rather just have a Scotch
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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