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How do I get that warm, analog sound?

Along the lines of my other thread regarding bouncing, I want to find a way to get that warm, analog sound to my recordings.

However, I only have a digital multitrack recorder.

If I run my submixes (or certain instruments) from my digital recorder to an old 4-track tape recorder, and then back to the digital recorder in stereo, will I get that raunchy, distorted, warm analog sound?

Will this work? Will it make the situation worse? What else should I try?

For certain songs, I really want to get that distinct sound quality from old Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Kinks albums.


Scoobie Tue, 01/30/2007 - 14:35
Like Davedog said........try it,you might like it.

If I was trying to get tape saturation(analog sound). I would just record to the tape frist. Then transfer to digital. I still have an 8-track, I used to record drums to tape all the time, then transfer into my DAW. But I don't do that anymore. It is just a conversation ornament now!


CoyoteTrax Wed, 01/31/2007 - 18:05
I'm always up for lining a signal through one of my old RTR's for effect, it's a great way to add old school character and color. Another trick I use and love is lining a signal through a simple tascam porta 01 or 02 for the uniquely discreet "sound" you get from those built-in limiters they used in those things. Sometimes it's just what the doctor ordered to get an ac guitar or background vocals to sit right in the mix.

Like the other's said: try it and see if you like what you hear.

Cucco Fri, 02/02/2007 - 12:47
Also, please bear in mind a few things about tape.

1 - it will not make your tracks automatically warm. In fact, if uncalibrated, it could make your tracks noisy, crappy and fluctuating in time (screw the click...)

2 - Tape saturation and tape limiting are two different things and are often confused. Tape saturation is pleasing and does not involve pegging the VU meters. Tape limiting can sound pretty friggin ugly.

A lot of the distortion you hear from "old" recordings comes from proper (or improper but intentional) gain staging. Take a tube pre (or even a transistor/transformer pre) and crank the input gain but lower the output gain and you can get some serious grunge. It won't matter if you're going into analog or digital, the sound will be full and grungy (or just full and euphoric if not pushed TOO hard.)

Bear in mind, this is not really possible with "starved plate" tube designs. You're going to need a true tube preamp with an input gain stage and an output gain stage (sometimes with tubes on both or one or the other, depends on the box.)

Also...just having a tube in the box (or the mic) does not make it necessarily "warm" either. I defy anyone to refer to a Neumann M50 as a warm mic...

Just some thoughts.


Cucco Sat, 02/03/2007 - 16:09
Hey Mockit -

If it's brand new, there's a fair bet that it's not too far off the calibration mark. Other than that...calibration is something best left to the pros. There are fewer and fewer tape machine repair guys nowadays. Truthfully, it would probably cost as much to calibrate that machine as it would to purchase a new one.

However, good demagnitizers and cleaners are a good start.

As for saturation and limiting on tape...I don't have any scientific or technical reason to state this, just my personal experience. Tape decks like the MT-400 and similar don't really have much to play with in saturation. I think this is more a factor of the tapes available rather than the capabilities of the machines' heads.

In any case, think of tape as sort of a soft-knee compressor. As you approach its limits, the particles begin to arrange closer and closer together in almost a logarithmic manner (this is tape saturation. It's subtle and it's pleasing). When pushed too hard, you get a bundle of particles - much like a square waveform in a DAW.

The only way I could tell you to catch it before it gets to that drastic of a point is to listen carefully (tape limiting sounds very hard, edgy and distorted). If you hear the effects, back off the gain.

Most of the heavy distortion you hear in older recordings (or even, a good example would be in the Pussycat Dolls 'Loosen up my button's' with the lead vocal) is again an effect of gain staging. (Though I suspect the PCD's is an effect from a processor but I may be wrong.).

Usually tape saturation is performed during the mastering or mixdown phase, not the tracking phase. Too much saturation makes a mix dirty and cluttered. However, when applied to the whole mix can act as a cohesive glue of sorts (much in the same way that gentle mix-bus compression can).

That's about all I know on the subject....if you need more info on who to contact regarding calibration, I'm sure a few of the folks here probably have a guy's number in their rolodex. John just picked up a new beauty...perhaps he has a guy.