1. Dear Guest, if you haven't already... enter to WIN Samplitude Pro X4!
    Dismiss Notice

How to start recording on tape

Discussion in 'Tape Recorders' started by MrPhaSe, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Location:
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    More than just a few pro release albums were mixed off the record/sync head as opposed to the repro head. ;)

    Did that by accident a few times myself...

    But on those dual head machines, as I recall, azimuth was the key - and sometimes the culprit - in terms of noticeable scatter. I forget now what the tolerance was, I'd have to go back to my 30 year old notes as I haven't aligned an analog deck since Reagan was President - okay, Maybe Bush... but as I recall the tolerances were pretty unforgiving...the scatter occurred when the azimuth of the repro didn't align with the azimuth of the sync head... someone needs to correct or check me on this because it's been a LONG time since I've even thought about this...
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Location:
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    Here's my final word on your original post...

    While I applaud your sense of adventure into delving into a format that can return fantastic results, the truth is, and this all depends entirely on your expectations, you really need to use nice gear to do it right.

    Now... "right" is a relative term. For those of us who came up in the age of tape, we understood that there were certainly varying calibers of quality of tape machines and consoles, not to mention compressors, EQ's, etc.

    Like anything, there are both positives and negatives to the format.

    Yes... tape can be very warm. Well recorded tracks, tracked on a nice machine, mixed through a nice console, can provide a really nice warm sound... like a warm blanket.

    That being said, it's not as easy as just setting up a 4 track Teac 1/4" deck and running it through a Mackie or Behringer mixer.

    There's a lot involved to getting results that most would find "acceptable". As mentioned already, biasing, head alignment, electronic adjustments, are all very necessary to make sure that your machine is giving you its optimum performance.

    The mixer you bus the signal through matters a lot, too. Some budget models use cheap pre amps ( to keep the cost down) and have limited EQ capability... most cheap models implement either a fixed band (hi's, mids, lows gain only) while some will give you "quasi parametric" EQ - where you have the ability to select a particular frequency range and adjust its gain. Then, you get into full parametric, which allows you to not only adjust frequency ranges but also allows you to select the width or narrowness of that range (referred to as "Q"). As in all things, the more control options you have, the more you will have to pay to get that control.

    Yes. Reel to Reel tape machines have inputs and outputs just like any other tape deck. Cheap consumer grade models will usually have RCA ins and outs per track available. More expensive models will have XLR ins and outs.

    Tape width formats vary from 1/4" for two and four track decks, to 1/4 and 1/2" decks for 4track and eight racks, and 1" - 2" tape for 16tracks and 24 tracks. This is a generalization... there are professional grade decks which offer 1/2" for two track mix down, 1" for 8 track and 2" for 16 and 24 track.

    Tape speeds matter as well. Most consumer grade 2 and 4 track models will generally run at speeds of 3 3/4" to 7" ips ( inches per second) - although there are some that will also run at 15" ips.

    Generally, most decent decks, regardless of 2 track, 4 trk, 8, 16 or 24 will offer speeds of 15", at least, and some top end models will even offer 30" ips.

    The faster your tape speed, the better the quality - 9 times out of 10. (There are a few exceptions to that, but we're nowhere near getting into that right now).

    Tape costs can range from $20 for a reel of 1/4" to $150 and upwards for a reel of 2". At 15" ips, this equates to roughly 34 minutes of recording time. You need to consider that into your budget. You can easily blow through a reel of Ampex 456 with as little as 6 individual takes of just one song once you factor in space between takes...

    In order to get your tape recordings into a digital format, you will need to send either the individual tracks from your deck or console to an audio I/O interface that connects to your PC or Mac. Most affordable models do so through USB connection, and some cheap audio I/O models only have two inputs, so regardless of how many tracks you have recorded on your deck, you may need to sum those all down to a stereo feed (referred to as a "two mix").

    And again, like anything else, the price you pay for this unit will determine the quality of the pre amps and analog to digital converters. Ya get what you pay for, basically.

    This is a HUGE topic, endlessly wide in scope and depth... there are so many other things to consider, I was just trying my best to answer your questions as best I could without quitting my day job and teaching you full time. ;)

    Hit the internet. Read and research... a lot. You are basically asking a bunch of brain surgeons how to perform surgery having taken not one day of pre med. ;)

    We can help you with hints and suggestions along the way, but you gotta do your own research, your own thinkin'.

    It has taken the professionals here YEARS to develop their art and craft, some of them, the better part of their lives to get to the level at which they now reside.

    But, no better place to start than the present, if you are really convinced that tape is the way you want to go, there are certainly plenty of good deals on analog equipment all over Ebay.

    Good luck!

    -d.
     
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2009
    Location:
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    i dunno i've made nice recordings on cheap gear. this is a very old post, but watever. i think people's idea of tape is a raunchy distorted sound. it's not the pristene 1995 version of tape. where it's almost as clear as digital and smooth. a tascam 34 and mackie vlz, easy enough. pristine is not the word here, but gritty rock and roll. all day. distorted vocs, oh yeah on purpose. it's better than sound toys saturation, which is pretty good. i think people are being infatuated w/ tapes short comings and deficiencies. except dropouts, those suck analog and digital. i dropped out of college, but thats different.
     
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2005
    One thing I did not really mention, when the width of the recorded track becomes more narrowed, the sound will appear to be more squeezed and less open sounding. And in that respect, the finest sounding machines were not the 2 inch 24 track variety. They were the 16 track 2 inch variety. And that's a really big and heavy machine. Your next good alternative would be a one-inch 8-track made by the likes of Ampex, MCI, Scully, Studer that were the desirable ones to use, for a reason. And actually the Ampex, MCI and Scully were the best to record on where the Studer was the best to play back from.

    Everything else of a narrower track width is hardly worth the effort. Because it will be lacking that element from the wider track width machines. And in that respect, she might be better off with one of those emulators in software?

    It's certainly fun and interesting to hear the differences for yourself even on a narrow track width based machine. Though I would say that 8 should be your minimum.

    So with any machine, they will also have 3 heads (except for a Scully 100-16). This will provide for you an additional capability if it is combined with a 8 input computer audio interface. Though with this particular technique, headphone monitoring can become real dicey so I don't necessarily recommend it with headphone monitoring. But this works good during a rhythm tracking session. The output from your preamps/mixer direct outputs or eight channel bus outputs would feed the eight inputs to the analog recorder. The eight outputs of the analog recorder would in turn, feed the eight inputs to the computer audio interface. The analog machine would be put into record mode with playback tape head monitoring. It is during this process, you can slightly overload the recording of the analog machine while listening to each track individually on playback for the amount of tape saturation you want. Hint: a little goes a long way to overdo it.

    And in turn, you will be tracking right into the computer directly. This eliminates one half of the wow and flutter and completely eliminates any chance of pre-or post-echo print through. Cool on the Led Zeppelin album not cool for much else LOL. And you will get print through if you stop and rewind the tape to play it back. And you will get twice the wow and flutter which you really don't want.

    Of course if you are also recording guitars and keyboards along with a scratch vocal, no one can be fed the drum tracks as they will be delayed by 80-100 ms. This you will be able to correct for in software. And you will be able to repeat a similar process from other digitally recorded tracks if you should so desire. Though it really only works best on the drums. We don't usually saturate vocals or even heavy metal guitars on analog tape. So this negates the need to spend $5000 along with a servo controlled and tachometer equipped multi-track recorders such as a Studer A-800/827, MM 1200/1100, 3M M-79, OTARI MTR-90. Which is fine for the rich folks.

    So really the magic is there for drums and drums mostly. And it's only good sounding on a good machine that's properly tweaked. It's like EMT plate emulators. Some have the right kind of nonlinear mush. Others just add mush. One requires a good algorithm and the other one requires destruction of personal property LOL. The good ones cost a lot of money for real-time DSP chips. Whereas other good ones, will require rendering. All the rest will be available in real time and are probably not worth the salt on your food? And personally, I like saturation better at 30 IPS AES EQ than I do 15 IPS with NAB EQ. But it's all good on the right machine with the right track width even if it's a 24 track 2 inch something or other. Especially if you run that 2 inch 24 track at 30 IPS. 15 IPS on the 2 inch 16. So this is not just a jump into the ocean and swim to shore kind of scenario if you don't know which way to go since you have no bearings to see. You'll end up going around in circles just like the reels LOL.

    And what about those bias rocks on bass guitar? That's a loaded question as it can be misinterpreted. Bias rocks on bass guitar was something that was always a problem. So sometimes for those bass guitar tracks, I would bias the bass guitar track at 10 Hz with headphones. 2 or 3 db over bias at 10 kHz for everything else. And you can get rid of bias rocks on bass guitarist LOL. Thanks to the late John Stephens. (It usually came out the same as the two or three db over bias at 10 kHz, though not always) I learned that with my first crossing of a Stephens in the late 1970s. It's a bit tricky to get the hang of it. You are listening to modulation noise. And you can over bias until everything goes away LOL. So it's learning the interpretation of that modulation noise that is critical to the adjustment to prevent bias rocks. And to make a bass guitar the most solid you will ever hear it recorded as. Because all the rest have bias rocks LOL. I tried to convince the boss to include the procedure as an alternative in the Scully manual but no. And so it goes.

    Former Scully Quality Control Manager, Final Test technician and troubleshooter. Former factory trained an authorized service technician for Ampex, 3M, MCI recorders and consoles. And so, with what I have left, I might put together a 1/2 inch, 30 IPS Scully to stick in the rack, somewhere in the truck if I don't close down just yet? But I'm thinking about it? Closing down that is. You can do it with a TEAC/TA-SCAM 4 track but I don't think you will like it's ±3 db, 20-20,000 Hz? Because it really is ± 3 DB up and down and up and down throughout the entire frequency response run. Giving you equalization of +6 DB and -6 DB of things you don't want to equalize quite that way LOL. And that's the drawback of those machines precisely. The professional machines had a virtually razor blade flat response record to playback, when tweaked well. And that's what you want. Not a response plot that will make you seasick by looking at it LOL.

    They say you get what you pay for. And in this respect, it's true. Don't go for the bargain buggy.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2009
    Location:
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    crap, for 100 bucks,they op should know what i'm talking about. REMY you know sooo much more. that dude phil too. you cohorts just blend actual physics, and circuitry, to just pushing faders, turning knobs. good stuff. i need to have a better understanding, i dunno. my only exp is on cheapo 4 trks. still, i'm interested in the hey day stuff, how circuitry relates to audio fidelity. it's still important. this is alot to chew on for me right now.

    as an opportunist, i was ok w/ buy (random) and press record. that's the fun mystic. just get a decent machine and try it. then very very soon, do the subtleties. it'd be like buying a guitar, and immediately "doing a setup". just play the thing. so i got a 4 outa 9. ballpark is ok and for baseball.

    i'm just suggesting a decent amateur approach, that is just 'fly by', verses a pro that needs reliable results, w/ expectations.

    the best machines are on the cheap, ooff i've seen some serious machines for sale around my region. you can get a legit tape machine for the price of a legit interface. ones as valuable as a 30yr old, one is fate of the art....
     
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2005
    I think part of the magic with the transistorized recorders of the day was that same simple discrete transistor scenario. It's the less is more factor that provided all of the color to those early transistor amplification circuit's. Just like a Neve or API, you had Ampex and Scully and 3M. Two of them actually made the tape and one of them actually made the record lathe's. They all have that one-of-a-kind sound. Later it was pretty much homogenized out with greater features, lower noise through IC chips and low noise beta match transistors.

    It was always widely known that the Ampex MM 1000/1100/1200/440 were some of the finest tracking machines ever produced. Same with Scully on projects 16 tracks or less. The 3M machines were quite accurate and less colorful. All simple topography discrete transistor circuitry, was used in those machines. So they sound like the finest vintage audio consoles you always read about. In fact even not so great consoles would actually sound halfway decent when fed into one of those machines. Along with that Neve and API style analogy.

    Now I'm not saying that all 4 track TE-AC/TA-SCAM Decks aren't flat. Their later units weren't as un-flat as those old 3340's were. And if you think about how narrow those tracks are, they aren't any more narrow than the 40 track, 2 inch analog Stephens were LOL. So it will sound more like a 24 track machine than a 16 track machine. It'll still be analog. You can still play with the saturation. Again though I suggest you do a real-time pass. The reason for this is that the machine is nothing really more than an effects device in a loop that will go back to the input of the computer audio interface to be printed onto the hard drive. If you don't record, rewind and play back, you'll always be able to get everything to synchronize in the timeline. Because you are not using a SMPTE track with a guard band and a synchronizer, one can never get an analog machine to synchronize to the computer tracks. By running it in real time, playback monitor in recording, it will always be a finite 80 ms, 100 ms, whatever the distance is between the record and play head at 15 IPS will always remain locked in time on the timeline. No drift.

    One can even take advantage of this from previously originally recorded digital tracks. You play the digital track out into the analog machine rolling in record/repro, streaming back into the computer audio interface back into the computer as additional new tracks that are guaranteed to synchronize. Once you synchronize them. And you can adjust for preferred amounts of saturation while adjusting the playback level control for good recording levels back into the computer.

    So there is any number of ways to glean the goodness of analog tape from the get go or even after the linear Digital fact. You just need to record that nonlinear transference of analog tape.

    So I say go for the cheapo machine as long as the pinch roller is not as hard as a hockey puck. And as long as the heads do not have much noticeable grooving across their face. Easy to figure out by running your fingernail up and down the front of the head. (DO NOT try that with your girlfriend!).

    Narrow track width machines just don't seem to let the sound bloom as beautifully open as their thicker counterparts. Nevertheless, you still get that definite analog feel. But that's not always as true for those machines if they are using Dolby or, DBX noise reduction. You won't screw your sound up as much without that that you will be emblazoned with plenty of extra noise. Most of which can be easily dealt with in our software today. And where the machine is running barefoot to squeeze every damned DB you can get out of the sucker. You want to keep this newfangled wire as straight as possible.

    I just read an article in my MIX magazine trade publication. I can't remember the columnist's name but he's an old timer like so many of us. And I was laughing loudly while reading this and trying to eat my Chinese dinner at the Chinese Trough a.k.a. Buffet LOL. He was talking about how we only had such limited rudimentary stuff not so many years ago. And his 3340. And as he indicated, it got the job done. People just find it hard to believe what fabulous pieces of music were created with a four track machine where you were mixing and bouncing tracks as you went. Not ever really knowing what it's supposed to sound like in the end until you got there. LOL wasn't that the truth. But that was really fun and really flying by the seat of your pants with a blindfold on, in the dark.

    Yeah, ya bounce things. You fill up tracks 1-3. You mix those down, through your console and back to track 4. Though you have to do that through the playback head and not the record/sync head. You cannot bounce successfully to an adjacent track in record next to playback tracks. And we were tracking a lot of folks, all playing, at the same time, while we were mixing simultaneously. You had to commit to everything until the end of the session until you are ready to be committed yet again.

    They're coming to take me away ha ha, he he, ho ho they're coming to take me away...
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice