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tape mastering techniques

Discussion in 'Vintage Analog Gear' started by kmetal, Apr 30, 2011.

  1. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Not sure if this is the right forum, but i'll start here.
    My friends' 2 man band wanted to take a decidedly minimal approach to the recording of their 7 new songs, which had to be on tape. Think early black keys (his main source of inspiration for this project). So we went to a 28x30x10 room and set up--> tascam 424mk2, normal bias cassette (re-recorded over), noise reduction switch on, beta 52 on kick, sm57 snare, 414xls wide cardiod (thru art pro mpa mk2/dbx 166xl) overhead, 57 (thru art/dbx) on marshall 900 2x12 cab. we used akg 240s for our judgement calls. We purposely did not use tom mics. We covered the kick w/ some extra t-shirts. Other than that there was no sound treatment/serparation between instruments. Drum tuning proved to be the way to get things sitting right, off the bat.
    Okay, so i know this isn't like 'really' vintage, but my recently aquired tascam 34b, just isn't ready, by far. Niether peice is 'high end', and i have no reference to an ampex or studer type character.
    I was super happy to once again light up the red on my 12yr. old 4 track. Man was it fun to be able to live in the red, eq on the way in, and hear hiss!!! (done gushing)
    After about four hours we found our favorite mic positions,eq's,balances. 10 hours later we got the final takes down. We then cut the vocals at our studio thru a 414uls, eureka (comp bypass), summit tla-100, thru a mackie d8b, into digital performer. No more than 8 tracks.
    We perhaps in hindsight should have kept the vocals in the analog domain, For tonality.
    Anyway, my buddy was asking me if i was aware how how mastering took place in the 60's, 70's v.s today.
    i had little to answer other than they had to watch the overall compression, as to balance the noise v.s overall level, used tube eq's/limiters, and watched the bass levels/cut-offs when going to vinyl.
    So this leads me to the question of- Any standard techniques for analog (60's/70's) mixing mastering that could help?
    This is a pet project so, we don't need to worry about anything but personal gratification.
    Professionally, i feel i should be proficient enough to, at the very least, sketch 'that sound', cuz, someone else will ask me over the next couple decades, and i need to deliver. Thanks.
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    One thing you may want to consider is summing anything below 120-200hz to mono. This was done with vinyl to keep the bass from making the needle move too far from one side to another. (No one panned bass completely to one side or another in those days...far too risky.)

    Watch out for over-sibilant vocals; top end was always carefully monitored/limited to avoid smearing and a harsh top end. (Remember; vinyl would simply bottom-out when pushed too hard. There is distortion, but not like digital clipping of today.)

    Overall, a good multiband limiter (with "Look-ahead" capability) used sparingly will help too (with the bands UN-linked, so they operate independently.)

    If you're going through a DAW for your final mix (before pressing into vinyl), you may want to carefully trim/tame any rogue transient peaks. They didn't have this luxury "back in the day", but they handled it well with the excellent limiters of the era, including optical circuitry. (Real-time Look-ahead limiting was used, too, with a special playback head put in the tape path ahead of the actual playback head. This gave the limiting circuitry a bit of lead-time to anticipate the incoming peaks.)

    Also - and this is rarely mentioned - but the best songs were put at the start of the LP for more than the obvious reason (best foot forward). It also sounds the best here....vs. the inside of groove, near the label. Due to the speed of the rotation at the outside of the LP (much faster) than the inside (much slower), and other factors, the frequency response & SN ratio was the best on the outer grooves. (Actually, the really "Sweet" spot is further in, but that's another issue for another discussion). Most importantly, the difference in EQ between the beginning of an LP's side is 5db down at 15k by the time it's at the inside grooves. Since it's gradual, no one notices this over the 20 minutes or so of an average LP. But it's there, and easily detectable if you were to pick up the tone arm from the beginning and move it to the end of the side. Of course, you don't get to compare the same track in an A/B situation, so again, it's rarely noticed by all but the most golden-eared.

    Izotope used to make a plug in (probably still available?) that will do all kinds of terrible & fun things to your sound to emulate the ravages of mistreated vinyl, including ticks, pops & surface noise. That might be a good final touch for you.

    I could go on about the, ahem, "merits" of vinyl, but I wouldn't want to incurr the wrath of all the newly-born vinyl enthusiasts out there. ;-)

    Personally, I'd get the most out of your analog adventure, and just make a nice CD or 256bKps MP3 out of it.
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    thanks joe, i was not clear, this isn't going to be into vinyl, it will be to cd. (although it'd be pretty rad to make a record) Thanks for reinforcing some of those concepts for me tho!!! I use that izotope pluggin, if it's the freeware one 'vinylizer'. Love it for some things. I guess i was asking if there are any particular mix/mastering techniques that are 'of the time', that maybe aren't used today. The more i thought about it, the more meaningless this post seemed, but perhaps there's a couple thing out there. Thanks!!!

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