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How to make it sound old?!

Member for

18 years
I'm interested in ways of making things sound old, and wondered if there was any particular piece/pieces of gear that have a knack for this. By old, I mean anything that has a characteristic that can be related to music recorded and mastered between the 30's up through the 70s. Not that the 70's sound old but... you know. And I also know that this kind of goes against the grain of mastering practices, but humor me...

thanks for your time.



Member for

19 years

Michael Fossenkemper Wed, 08/27/2003 - 04:19
I'm not exactly sure what your going for but I'll take a guess. If your looking for the sound of the 70's then you have to look at what they were using and how they used it. Class A analog gear, tubes, transformers, tape, great microphones. Then knowing what each of these does to the sound is just as important. It's a craft that is learned by doing. It takes a bunch of experimentation and experience. Then one day you'll patch the right combination and go "oh shit, that's the vocal sound on sargent pepper". then after you learn how to combine things you'll be able to craft at will to achieve what you want.

Member for

18 years 1 month

mjones4th Thu, 08/28/2003 - 11:50

I'm a big fan of30's and 40's blues and jazz, 50's and 60's soul and rock, and 70's funk.

If you want really authentic, it starts at the recording stage, if you can go back that far in the process. Record to tape, in a loosely controlled room, mono and hot. Mic the drums sparsely, and eq in some high bass (@400-800) and low pass them around 3-4k. In the 50's, and early 60's they would pan the vocals and bass guitar center, put the drums on the left and put the rest of the instruments all the way on the right.

If not, try removing all compressors in the mix, they didn't have anyuntil the 60's. Intentionally botch the eq. Put that tube pre to work, especially to saturate the vocals (and fight the temptation to fix it, listen to Otis Redding for example). Use a thick and creamy reverb at about 12-15% mix (heavier on certain instruments, experiment). Put the vocals waaayyy out in front of the band. And leave the dynamics. I find that a lot of the 30's and 40's stuff had an over-emphasized midrange around 800-2000Hz.

My girlfriend's dad let me hear some old cuban music from the late 40's, his childhood. It sounded good, especially the acoustic bass and the percussion. Sounded like they went really hot to tape. And it sounded like they were playing thru a 6 db/octave lpf at about 3-4kHz through one shared mic in a loose room.

Then again I'm only 26, so what do I know? BTW, this is all guesswork based on my (abused) ears. ;)

[ August 28, 2003, 02:08 PM: Message edited by: mitzelplik ]
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18 years

ajazzie Thu, 08/28/2003 - 23:45
For my 2 cents worth, I love the MCDSP Analog channel AC 1 and AC 2 plugs accross all tracks for a reasonable analog feel, vinyl can add crackle as well if you like that kinda thing, record a 10 - 20 second section of hiss and crackle, loop it and mix it in behind your tracks, you can automate to bring its volume up and down for quiet bits or effect.

Old tube compressors are great too, or even the Focusrite Penta sounds OK with the tube setting thats adjustable, I bought one as one of my hardware compressors and love its bang for buck.

Hope this helps.


Member for

20 years 6 months

AudioGaff Fri, 08/29/2003 - 00:46
Off the top of my head...

Put your finished mix through a cheap and/or old speaker like from an old radio, drive it just a little into breaking up distrotion, then record that through an old mic or through something like a Shure bullet or crappy Radio Shack mic

Use something from a flee market or garage sale like an old 8-track cartridge recorder or mabe even an older reel-to-reel with worn/used tape. Mabe even recording through a tube mic or cheap mic with a tube mic pre or compressor.

Erase a cheap worn factory cassette and record your mix onto that. Mabe even recording through a tube mic or cheap mic with a tube mic pre or compressor.

Record some static from the radio from inbetween stations loop it and mix/blend that underneath your music. Or use some other crap electronics to capture it's noise. Mabe even using a pink or white noise generator.

Record the silence at the end of a beat-up, scratched record, loop it and mix/blend that underneath your music.

Combine any or all of the above. Lot's of ways to do this...

Member for

18 years 4 months

RODNEY Fri, 08/29/2003 - 08:32
I like to use an old crystal mic to get that old country/blues sound it sounds very thin.I record to a Teac 3340s really hot.I have an old Bogner tube record player that I play a scatched up record on to get the pops and shit from.I should just loop it butt I usually just hold the niddle and put my hand on the record to play with the speed some. RODNEY

Member for

18 years 8 months

bopmachine Fri, 08/29/2003 - 13:17
Well, Most of that sound starts with the music itself. Part of it comes from the tape, and another from how it was mastered for vinyl. I've been thinking about this lately. I think I have to take exception to the post above recommending you remove all compressors from the mix. It the mastering stage for vinyl they usually compressed it and applied EQ (RIAA curves) to keep the needle from jumping. Might be a good exercise to lear about that stage and try to recreate it. Paul Gold might have some answers...

Member for

18 years 1 month

mjones4th Fri, 08/29/2003 - 20:35
Originally posted by bopmachine:
I think I have to take exception to the post above recommending you remove all compressors from the mix.
What I was referring to was that period in music history before there were compressors, or before they were widely used.

As a total guess, based on what I hear, Billie Holiday was never compressed in the mix, maybe at the mastering stage fifty years later. But I don't know the history, so I stand to be corrected.

I guess I was thinking along the lines of the 20's 30's and 40's. I think the music of that time period just sounded so good, so naturally raw. And that's the vibe I was suggesting. Did they do vinyl mastering back then? if so I wasn't aware of it.

Member for

20 years 6 months

Jon Best Mon, 09/01/2003 - 09:53
Originally posted by bopmachine:
Sorry I take exception - again :-)

Actually they HAD to compress at the original mastering stage (for mechanical masters for vynil). As I said, if they didnt the needles would jump out of the groove!
Not in the earlier stages. They had to mono the low end, though, because it was out-of-phase low end that made the needle jump out of the groove.

Gain riding to tape, possibly several generations of tape, some distance between the mic and source, several transformers in almost every signal path, and good control and mic technique on the part of the musicians pretty much made compression not very important.

Compression is either a textural/production thing, which doesn't apply as much to older stuff with it's fairly straightforward recording mentality, or it's a 'fix the inadequacies of the musicians' thing, which wasn't around all that much back then, either. Not when the same 20 people played everything on the radio from a given city!

Member for

19 years 5 months

Gold Mon, 09/01/2003 - 17:11
Originally posted by bopmachine:
It the mastering stage for vinyl they usually compressed it and applied EQ (RIAA curves) to keep the needle from jumping. Might be a good exercise to lear about that stage and try to recreate it. Paul Gold might have some answers...
In the mastering or transfer to lacquer stage the object was to do a flat or unalterd transfer. No compression or EQ. If you absolutely had to you did. Otherwise you made the transfer as cleanly as possible.

Too much vertical excursion caused by uncorrelated low frequencies can cause skips. Uncorrelated low frequencies means there are low frequencies that are on either the left or right side but not both. This can be solved by a variable depth system while cutting and won't alter the sound in any way. It can also be helped with an ellptical EQ that sums low frequencies.

The RIAA curve boosts high frequencies and cuts low frequencies. The purpose is to reduce noise in recording and playback records. It is a curve that is at 0dB at 1kHz, at +20 at 20kHz, and at -20dB at 20Hz when recording and exactly reversed on playback to give flat frequency response.

Member for

19 years 5 months

Gold Tue, 09/02/2003 - 04:49
Originally posted by bopmachine:
So my thought is that these curves contributed to the fginal sound - what we all heard on the LP. BTW the timeframes we are talking about here (20-40s) pretty much dictated mono anyway.
I don't think encoding and decoding through the RIAA curve will alter audio much. You should look elsewhere. The frequency response of these older recording and playback systems was not as good as what we have today. Systems were spec'ed to 15k not 20k. So records were generally much darker than CD's today. Most current CD's are WAY to bright these days. I'ts a giant pet peeve. At least as much as too smashed. The recording method in days of olde was using few microphones with little processing into a recording device. No muss no fuss. Just get it right from the start.