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Tape machine/new board or better pres???

Discussion in 'Recording' started by therecordingart, Jan 27, 2006.

  1. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    I'm in a little bit of a pickle....

    I have the opportunity to purchase a Tascam MSR24 1" machine for about $800. It is mint with zero troubles.

    I was thinking of picking up this machine and in a few months getting the Toft Audio Trident ATB 24 channel board. My plan was to record and start mixing analog and then dump to digital for all of my edits, automation, reverbs, and delays.

    Then I got to thinking.....what if I spend that money on really nice preamps and stay digital?!?

    I'm stuck here....any suggestions? What would you do? Any info on this tape machine? Would I benefit the same as just getting really high end pres?
  2. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    Mics and Mic-pres
    stick with the digital

    in ten years time you will still use those mics and pres

    as cool as the Tascam MSR24 1" might be
    it's not an OTARI or AMPEX ... STUDER ... just not classic

    owning classic tape is not cheap and requires much knowledge and much love and care
  3. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    yo art. i have definitely gone down this road several times. can't decide on pres or tape. tape is cool, but it is a bitch, even in the best condition. it sounds cool, but you need to ask yourself a couple questions.

    1. what studio are you recording at? if you are recording at your house, then you need to first consider what the state of your recording / control room is. if you don't have a very good sounding room to mix/record in, then it won't matter what tape machine and board you have. (i would first consider tuning your control room, your monitors, your d/a to your monitors, etc.) getting good signal to your monitors and having a good room to listen in.

    if you are recording at another local studio, i would consider what equipment you can buy that will augment what the local studio has. for instance, i record in a good sounding studio here for very inexpensively, but they dont have a lot of high quality mics, but between my stash and theirs, we have a lot of good pres. so now i am on a mission to get a few more quality mics to get the most out of my tracking sessions there. yay tax returns ($3k of toys :)))

    2. what kind of music are you recording. despite popular belief, you can get great sound out of digital. you need to have good ears and good monitors and a good room. good pres and mics will make the biggest difference aside from the room and converters, etc will make a difference after that. the studio that i track at now has 3 digital 96i/o interfaces and a yamaha 02r96k. It's not apogee, but it sounds good. a tape machine and board are going to make a difference for a lot of styles of music, but there will be some styles that you may prefer to record digital and stay in the digital realm.

    3. analog is dead. i know everyone loves analog tape machines and big mixing boards, but the trend in professional recording facilities is obvious. everyone has gone digital. the biggest studios keep their neve/api/etc boards and use it as the centerpiece of their studio, but any project studio and home recording is done digital now.

    4. how can i actually make money in this business? the real question you need to ask, is that. is this going to help me gain clients and make better recordings? those are the only things you should consider if you truely aspire to be a full time recording engineer.

    make good records with whatever equipment you have, and people will come to you and want to record. get over the gearsluttyness and how "cool" it would be to have this and that until you have some serious cred with the bands/artists that would want to record with you.

    my $.02 YMMV

    best of luck!!!!!!

  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    The only reason to go analog first, is if you are an experienced old analog guy, who knows how to " saturate" the tape (does not refer to sanitary pads like you find on your console) and with what to saturate it with. It's cool to saturate a snare drum and not a whole lot else. In my home studio in the 1980s, I picked up Curtis Mayfield's old MCI JH 10-16, what a dog that was! In 1990, for my remote truck, I had one of the best 24 track analog machines an Ampex MM 1200 2 inch all discrete transistor electronics but that too was a maintenance nightmare. In 1993 I opted to go digital with the TASCAM DA88s (considering I had been recording 2 track digital since 1983) and dumped the old Ampex, I've never looked back (okay I lied I have looked back). Besides you really have to know how you want to tweak the machine in record, for the tape you're using which is an art all by itself and varies with each different kind of tape. I'm not even going to go into playback and head alignment and don't forget the noise reduction. Can you say relap? It's very relaxing. Kind of like kniting.....oooops, time to buy a new head (not the guys who smoked pot and not what's on my shoulders.... But not a bad idea).

    Buy the new stuff, you'll be glad you did.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    Analog is very romantic, ain't it? Big lit meters, that smell of burning drive motors and magnetic brakes, mmmmmmmmm! I gave up my Ampex several years ago when the guy who serviced it....DIED!! (RIP, Dutch!).
    Art, Tascam never made a "pro" analog machine, they were all a compromise in the interest of budgetary constraints. and getting service parts...Put your hard-earned $$$ into the future-your future-digital.
  6. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    Jan 6, 2003
    Smithtown, NY
    Home Page:
    Actually, Tascam made the ATR-80 2" machine. I had two of them at Chung King in NYC.

    Here's a few pics

    That was about as pro as they got. They sounded pretty good when they were properly maintained/calibrated. Clients, however, wanted the Studer A-827 more than the ATR-80's :roll:

    Well said brother! (I now have a cranky Studer A-800 thats being recapped and still needs alot of TLC. Yay) The same goes for consoles as well. (..dreading having to recap the SSL in a couple of years).

    That Toft Trident looks interesting though. If there was a way to test drive it to see how it sounds against staying in the box is probably a good idea.......though I'd probably lean toward getting some better pre's.....

    I did love the smell of 456 in the morning however. Has a sweet smell.....smells like ..........tracking. :D
  7. Graham_Waller

    Graham_Waller Active Member

    Jan 26, 2006
    Kent, UK
    Home Page:
    Nice to know someone else gets as exited as I do over 456 in the morning lol.
    Ive just re-capped the 48 channel in the studio and it wasnt pleasant I can tell you but well worth it.
    If I had the option between a new desk or better pre's, I would go for pre's everytime.
    Either that or buy a desk with great pre's but again it all depends on the budget and personal taste.
  8. alimoniack

    alimoniack Guest

    Hey Art!

    Another view...

    I still use analog in conjuction with digital and I assure you, there is no way to digitally emulate the classic sound of rock'n'roll drums slammed onto tape. I can hear the difference almost instantly. If you record rock or retro music it has the right flavour, and clients love it! It's also great fun to use, but not cheap.

    As Remy points out, recording to tape is an art in itself, learning how to to drive the tape and which signals benefit most from it takes practice.

    It's still the most stable format that exists and no DAW can match the purity and solidity of a single continuous analog sound, & while the MRS-24 is no Studer it will have a more in-your-face sound at tracking than a 24-bit recording. The problem arises of how to maintain that purity - it involves mastering in the analog domain if possible and a good vinyl pressing. Transferring tape to digital still leaves you with a sweet sound and you'll need a lot less processing "in the box" to get a fat drum sound, for example. You can also use plug-ins to remove tape noise if necessary.

    I understand that in your situation where it's either that or some nice pre's it may seem like a luxury, but our studio (mainly geared towards rock/alternative/retro etc) attracts more clients as a direct result of our analog capability. I've tracked bands simultaneously to tape and 24-bit digital and played them the results, and they always go for tracking to tape even if we go digital at the end of the process. They don't care about anything except an exciting sound at the end of the day.

    It really depends what you're going to record. Good luck with your upgrade anyway, hope it pays off for ya.
  9. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Jan 10, 2005
    Near Clagary
    Home Page:
    didn't I read here that the last maker of high end tape closed it's doors in the last year?

    Yeah, tape is cool, but most folks don't have the ears to a)tell the diff b)give a $*^t c)decide to pay you more for it, and if you're not getting paid more for it the only reason to have it is to be able to walk in and drool every time you see it. Tho I'd heard drool is nasty on the machinery.

    At the risk of being burned at the stake by the purists here, I'd say that in 5-10 years the software will be good enough that it will be able to simulate tape and even the most discerning ears won't be able to tell. Laugh if you want, but technology doubles every 6 months.

    I'd buy other things that will make your digital system sound better if it were me.

  10. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    Jan 6, 2003
    Smithtown, NY
    Home Page:
    As far as I know they re-opened April 15th of last year after they restructured themselves following bankruptcy.
  11. Reggie

    Reggie Distinguished Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Nah, Quantegy was closed down for a few months, but it was bought by new owners and they are still cranking out tape.
    I don't know about software simulating tape in the next 5-10 years; I think we might need something bigger than better software coding...like a different format than PCM digital audio altogether. And that might take a while longer to settle on a new standard than 10 years.

    BTW: If you can afford to buy a case of 456 tape to play with ($77.76/reel x 5 reels = $388.80), the tape machine might be cool to have. Nothing you can't eventually learn, but be prepared for headaches and learning curves....

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