Real Tape harmonics vs their emulations

Discussion in 'Tape Recorders' started by achase4u, Apr 4, 2015.

  1. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Kurt - no offence taken (the forum sent me the first version, by the way)

    I guess I do have a very unusual take on how things progressed from when I started, and I can only assume the planet I'm on is isolated from the one others occupy - that's fine.

    Lots of gain without hiss was a big problem for me when I first started out because much of what I did was fairly distant miking - theatre stuff has always been something I've been involved with, and despite having what was considered nice equipment back then, it really wasn't quiet. Some was even American - taking an output from a Shure vocal master mixer, that cost a lot back then, with the talent around 3 feet away was unpleasant. I can't remember the number, but I had a 4 channel Shure mic mixer with rotary controls, and back then this was pretty nice stuff, but again, although it sounded good, it wasn't quiet. In the 80s, it got a bit better, but the BBC kit was much better than I had myself. The first quiet mixer I had was a four channel Lamb Lab mixer that I used with a Ferrograph Series 7. I had a soft spot for these, but they were easy to align with the test tape and the test set I had back then. I never had an STC 4038, but I had a pair of 4033s, and they were really low output, and I had nothing that was quiet enough to get good recordings from them. The Ferrograph was then replaced with a Super 7 and then with a really bizarre looking Technics, which over here had a very short, but impressive track record with it's specification. My multitracks were Teacs, after a brief spell with Brennell which was the most unreliable beast I ever used.

    Getting decent level into these was essential or the noise built up fast - bouncing down tracks was NOT transparent after the second generation, so planning was critical - crosstalk was not brilliant either.

    I have to assume the American equipment was superior to our at the same time period, because many of us over here even modified our R-Rs to allow Dolby noise reduction at 15IPS, which by the terms of the Dolby agreement was banned. In the studio at work, we spent far too long aligning the damn things with the noise reduction systems to get rid of hiss that really annoyed everyone.

    I'm truly surprised to find you never had noise issues, in the seventies we certainly did, and hitting the levels above the manual's recommendations was essential. I personally never liked the tape compression that resulted, although I happily concur vast numbers did. I always had the problem of less noise vs too much compression, and I disliked both!

    Kurt - did you spend lots of your time trying different tape types and tweaking the alignment? I certainly did, and once I found the least annoying alignment, I used it pretty much to the exclusion of everything else.

    Once digital recorders arrived (and my first proper one was the add on to the portable Sony Betmax recorder - the F1) I loved it - noise way down, and that great open sound with no compression. I was very pleased. So Betamax to DAT, CDs and then solid state recording with Soundscape on computer, with multitrack via ADAT on the way.

    I like that sound so much, this is why I can't settle myself with processing to recreate the very issues I hated back then.

    We probably do live on different planets, Kurt, and that's fine with me. So I understand why you think I'm ignorant, I really do. It's simply that we like different things. I like digital, I love the cleanliness the expanded dynamics and lack of noise, not just hiss. I can't imagine wanting to bring back the squashed slightly warmer sound that I had to have in days of old, just to get rid of tape hiss.

    Treat me like one of those weird people who don't go with trends, and like what they like. You like one thing, I like another. Like the 4 track and stereo cassette stuff. I simply hate that sound - so much so that the Tascam 112 cassette machine I have in the rack isn't even connected to the patchbay, as every time I have uncovered an old cassette, the sound was just horrible. I certainly don't think computers are perfect, for the same reasons as you mentioned in V1, but my memory of old expensive analog kit is that it was just as much trouble. Drive belts, head pads, magnetised heads, dropouts, failed splices.

    Were Revox recorders popular in the US? They were very popular here, but I only had one for a short time - I just preferred Ferrograph because they were properly British. My dad had series 5 machines, so I kind of followed on.

    I'm happy to be unusual, but I just like clean and unprocessed as a first choice. Dirtying it up and processing is something I do if it's necessary, and appropriate. Luckily for me, in my work, it's rare!
     
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    @paulears ... yeah sorry about that. when i read it i realized it was off the hook ....
     
  3. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    It's not a problem, Kurt - I do understand my viewpoint is not aligned with contemporary opinion (I heard that on an election programme on TV this week!)
    I'm just not good at change, or going with the flow. Although Donny did manage to change my mind on one thing, a few weeks ago!
     
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    ok i'll respond. again sorry for the insulting tone i took.

    i began recording on open reel prosumer stuff when i was a kid. mostly live stuff. a buddy bought a Sony machine that did sound on sound. two bounces at most ... and mono. and yes it was noisy. i checked on your Ferrograph and it appears to be the equivalent of the Sony we used. cassettes came next and yes the Dolby B did help .. still noisy.

    i still have one of those Shure mixer pre amps .... and yes they are noisy too. and they really don't sound that good. a friend had a Vocal Master and while it was ok for the day i would have never thought of it as good front end to record with.

    and while i was rude in my response my take was pretty close. all of that gear you are slamming is prosumer stuff. Even the Shure mic mixer. that stuff was ok for PA but it was never intended for serious recording. they did use those things on the pa at Woodstock and so i suppose it can be argued they have been used in pro settings. but still they are not very quiet. yes we had Revox machines here too. mostly 1/4 track jobs that ran at 7.5 ... 60dB S/N at best and unbalanced inznouts.

    all of this gear is specd out at 55 to 60 S/N at best. add to that the unbalanced mics, connecting cable and and recorders, it's no wonder you had problems with noise and maintenance. but the issue i have and why i responded so inappropriately is i am so tired of people painting analog as noisy and troublesome when all they have experienced in analog was cheap prosumer equipment. there's a huge difference between an Ampex, 3M, MCI, Studer / AEG on your side and a prosumer Sony, Ferrograph or Revox. even the TASCAM stuff is pretty noisy when used without DBX.

    something like an API, Neve, MCI or other console built for studio use would be much quieter than anything available to consumers then. while a Teac 2A or M1 might have a S/N of 65dB at best, a good console will show a S/N of 90dB or better ...

    PRO recorders have at least 5 dB better signal to noise (without N/R). consider, 3 dB is equivalent to a perceived doubling of level and that's a lot ... it means the pro decks are perceived as almost twice as quiet ... add to that +4 to +10 levels, quiter consoles, balanced cable runs, as well as gear designed to stand up to the rigours of studio use. there's no comparing the two ... please take this into account when you slam analog. i just don't think you have ever experienced the good stuff first hand.
     
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Oh my...
    Holy cow! I'm with Paul on a lot of stuff. I say this with love as well, so please don't take this as an attack but ...

    I happen to think this tape emulation thing is nonsense but I do know I can get a tapeish compression using good compressors. An API 2500 is a great piece of hardware for tracking or hybrid mixing drums. That's my tape emulator. :cool:

    IMHO, it is operator error if you can't get a DAW to do everything tape does, smoother, faster, cheaper including the smearing effect of tape compression.

    If we are talking about DAW vs Tape... No disrespect but from all your comments on digital audio over the years, the one area that stands out to be obvious, you've never had a DAW system that works .:love:

    It appears you've made your mind up before you even spend a dime on a good computer, let alone a good interface and DAW platform built to pro audio standards.

    If you don't have that, you can't even begin to record acoustic music with a smile. I'm guessing you are stumbling and running into endless latency, buffering and sonically terrible results. If you actually build a hybrid system that cost in same neighborhood as your past tracking system today, it would kick the $*^t right out of that.

    But, if its a personal love and memory you miss most... , I agree , it was a good time in history.

    :)
     
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    i agree that tape emulation and saturation is pure marketing. i would never use them . actually, yes i have had a DAW that worked, and it's a door stop now. i have a new one now, i just haven't had the energy to get going on it. sorry getting old and been not too well. as far as converters i agree some great ones would be good but i know it's not the conversion that is the issue because if it were, why do all the mixes i did with ADATS and my JH600 sound good? same cheap Alesis / Cirrus converters .... no that's not it. it's lousy mixing facility. and you still don't address the things i mentioned in my previous post ... on setting up monitor mixes being able to mix while tracking with effects and compression without latency? the only way to do that is to have a console and use the DAW as a glorified recorder and editing system. in that light, digital is good. but again, my main point was a lot of people who slam analog never really lived with the pro stuff.
     
  7. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Gotcha - but we have a different take (or maybe that was had a different take). The BBC and other professional establishments here were quite happy with these, especially the Pro version of the Revox, and the BBC were Ferrograph for years and years, hence why I bought one. Studer multitracks popped up, as did MCIs in a few places I worked at. Neves, Tridents and the other really 'posh' kit was something us theatre bods rarely came across - our console of quality was the Cadac - which was at that time the only one sonically ahead.

    Those 4ch Shure mixers were sometimes even cascaded and used for large mic counts.

    The only pro recorders that I came across that had better noise figures were the half inch ones - but I never even pressed play on one. I don't think they'd invented the term prosumer back then - consumer kit of the day was very different, wasn't it. You are quite right on the noise performance of the half track machines. I looked them up and at 15IPS, the Studer has much better s/n, but the very similar transport mechanism means wow and flutter were very similar. The Studer 810 at 15IPS is 10dB better in it's noise figure. That is a surprise - I really didn't think it was that good. Pretty impressive for the era.

    Words - eat, but that's good to learn new info. P
     
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    yeah prosumer, didn't they used to call it semi pro? a pro Revox would = Studer. same manufacturer. i don't know for sure but i would bet the Ferrographs the BBC used weren't the same as the ones you had access to ... most likely bigger tape, bigger motors, bigger flywheels ... better wow and flutter. the CADECs are great consoles ... that's real stuff there.

    i think you missed something when you said, "The only pro recorders that I came across that had better noise figures were the half inch ones ..." i think those were 1/2 track not 1/2 inch. a 1/4" MCI JH 110B 1/2 track has a 64 db unweighted 70dB weighted s/n @ 15 ips and better @ 30.
     
  9. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Re: the ferrographs - no the Beeb used them from the very early series machines. Once they got to the 7 series, the revoxes and the pro conversion versions were very popular. Not sure if you ever got those your side - basically the A77, but with a new flat front panel where the reels sat, that made lacing up easier and quicker. This version was similar looking to the Studers. Half track, quarter inch was pretty much broadcast standard. Same in theatre. The UK designed and built Brennell machines did good work in the smaller studios, and you fixed them with a hammer - well, they felt that was the way to repair them. In the 60s and 70s, the notion of a German recorder still didn't sit comfortably. I've been digging back through old stuff and it reminded me that Otari were quite big here in the multi-tracks.

    I did miss something - memory told me one thing and then I found a spec sheet and discovered the significant difference in noise figure son the ½" machines.

    Ferrograph lost the plot when they brought out the Super 7 series - they were nice machines but a bit unreliable. The Series 7 had a better reputation but wasn't perfect. It did not have a rewind/wind position - but just one setting, wind - and then a knob that adjusted the wind speed from full reverse to full forward which was pretty handing for finding stuff, as the tape was gently lifted off the heads in that position so you got near wear free scrubbing. Most people took the head cover off because they had pressure pads. They could, like the other Ferrographs take 8" reels - not 10 ½" reels - they came in in the Super 7 series. They went through a few models after this series, but they soon vanished. The BBC rather liked the series 6 machines, which had a rather unsymmetrical layout and they were in many studios and cubicles. Sorry - I've drifted into a bit of nostalgia and run off topic.
     
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    were the Ferrographs balance in and outs? the difference between -20 / -10 unbalance and +4 /+10 balance can be significant.

    i found this -10 / not balanced. how did BBC deal with that?
     
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    i'm gussing they used the Ferrographs for remote stuff. i found this on BBC recorders at Wikipedia

    Tape recording at the BBC
    The BBC acquired some Magnetophone machines in 1946 on an experimental basis, and these were used in the early stages of the new Third Programme to record and play back performances of operas from Germany (live relays being problematic because of the unreliability of the landlines in the immediate post-war period).

    View attachment 12400
    EMI BTR2 machines in a BBC recording room, 12 November 1961.
    These machines were used until 1952, though most of the work continued to be done using the established media; but from 1948 a new British model became available from EMI: the BTR1. Though in many ways clumsy, its quality was good, and as it wasn't possible to obtain any more Magnetophones it was an obvious choice.

    In 1963 The Beatles were allowed to enhance their recordings at the BBC by overdubbing. The BBC didn't have any multi track tapes. They would copy them onto another tape.

    In the early 1950s the EMI BTR 2 became available (right); a much improved machine and generally liked. It became the standard in recording channels (rooms) for many years, and was in use until the end of the 1960s.

    View attachment 12401
    Early model Studer professional tape recorder, 1969
    The machines were responsive, could run up to speed quite quickly, had light-touch operating buttons, forward-facing heads (The BTR 1s had rear-facing heads which made editing difficult), and were quick and easy to do the finest editing on.

    The tape speed was eventually standardized at 15 ips for almost all work at Broadcasting House, and at 15 ips for music and 7½ ips for speech at Bush House. Broadcasting House also used the EMI TR90 and a Philips machine which was lightweight but very easy and quick to use: Bush House used several Leevers-Rich models.

    The Studer range of machines had become pretty well the studio recording industry standard by the 1970s, and gradually these replaced the ageing BTR2s in recording rooms and studios. By the mid-2000s tape was pretty well out of use and had been replaced by digital playout[14] systems.[15]
     
  12. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Yes - 600Ohm balanced on the 7, can't remember the impedance of the Super 7, but balanced - on ¼" jacks.
     
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I never experience dismay like you talk about. Digital audio is nothing but awesome to me. But, it didn't get up to par until 2006 / and when I dropped FW and went to a serious PCIe interface. The game changed then. Also, I use a hybrid monitoring system which is essential. Until you use the essentials, you really are only half way there.

    But, you could simply use a console, and just save to the DAW. Whats the big deal there.? Thats super easy and you should never have an issue.
    I would stay clear of a laptop as well. Thats pretty restricting for acoustic tracking once you start demanding more. .Its all in the interface.
    If I was you, I'd get a StudioLive AI, use capture and you are golden. That alone will sound better than anything from the 70's.
    Capture software is exactly what you need. Its like HD direct to tape tracking.

    If you need some valve or tranny vibe, use your little passive box in the loop. Done.
     
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    the day will never come that i will invest more than a couple grand in recording gear. ther's just no chance of recoup. i seriously doubt that the PreSonus converters are any better than the ones i have now. FWIW the Cirrus converters in the Alesis stuff get pretty good reviews. at least as good as PreSonus. that's why i choose them an imo laptops are where it's headed. PCI is done soon ... Thunderbolt is the next protocol .... MADI in the big rooms .... actually iPads and iPods are what they want to move into. smaller, not larger.

    did you see what Fab was recording to in that video you posted? a laptop. in the studio
     
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I wouldn't know, but I do know, capture is like Radar on cruise control. From the sounds of it, it sounds like you've had poor experience with whatever you used or are using. If you wouldn't spend more than a few hundred bucks for a recording system, you can get a used SL/ capture system for pretty cheap, that works great on PC laptops!
    The laptop I have now, ran 24 tracks for 6 hours during the test of Studiolive. After they were done, I bought that same laptop :)

    As demands increase (especially acoustic tracking), there will always be room for better tracking rigs that required the interface closer to the port bus (is that what you call it?), running as independently possible from your other ports. The problem with laptops is its all crammed together and the PSU aren't that great either.
    MADI is excellent for small or large session with laptops. But I am always sweating on a laptop apposed to a desktop.

    I've tried them all (FW, USB, Madi, AES, ADAT), and have an arsenal of converters, PCIe is superior. Once you use that, I bet your opinions would change a lot on digital audio.

    Thunderbolt looks promising.
     
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    typos above, now worded better.
     
  17. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    I think tape machines are fun and have their place, just like any other effect. If you want that sound that's how t get it. I like cheap tascam 4 tracks. They are fun once in a while, or for the right vibe.

    The tape emulations I've used vary from suck to nice 'exciter' style enhancement. I don't belive that they perform or sound like tape but one is linear one is not, very different approaches to storing energy. I think you guys @Kurt Foster @audiokid , should give some of these things a chance if you haven't, not as tape plug-insat all, just as kinda one button maybe maybe not type plugins. The tape part is mostly hype, but I have found some of them useful particularly the Steven slate tape stuff, on some things. But we all like what we like.
     
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Pound for pound, dollar to dollar, analog is far more expensive than digital is, at least to do it right. Consoles, Tape Decks, Racks of OB gear, not to mention the equipment maintenance, cabling, bays, and as you mentioned - the medium itself - adds up to quite a bit more money than digital does. In this day and age, I don't believe you could really ever recoup your investment, because the rate you would have to charge to do so to pay for that gear would be considered far too expensive by the majority of the available clientele.

    Sure, in 1977, you could charge $100 per hour, all day long - and get it, too - without argument. Because it was an expensive investment, there wasn't a "studio" on every block in every town like there is now - there were a limited number of studios, and if you wanted to record professionally, you really didn't have much choice but to pay the rate.

    I'm not defending digital, nor am I slamming analog. But it was never "cheap" to set up a quality analog recording rig- or to keep it running at its optimum - and considering that some of that gear is now considered "collectible", especially certain OB pieces, the prices aren't what would be considered "affordable" - by any means - to a home based studio, or, for that matter, even to a mid- level pro project studio.

    I'm not talking about Behringer or Tascam gear here... I'm talking about pro gear; Console w/ automation, Tape machines, LA2's, 1176's, EQ's, Gates, Preamps, Verbs/Delays, PB's ( and all the cable to connect it all) - in this age, it wouldn't be out of line to consider a figure of $40 - 60k minimum to set up a hi quality, pro spec, analog recording room.

    Even some of the big rooms - famous rooms - have shut the lights off and closed their doors in the last decade, because business has dwindled to such an extreme.

    Anyone who builds a pro analog studio these days should do so for one reason only, and that's for personal reasons. Call it an indulgence of sorts... because you're not going to make your investment back.
    Do it for yourself, because you like it, because it's what you want. But don't expect to compete as a business.

    Going into an investment like that with the goal of being successful as a business is, well, there's no need to be harsh about it. We can be polite and just say that as a goal, it's "naive". ;)
     
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    you won't hear me disagree Donny. i accept the writing on the wall. i switched from analog to digital in 2001. a lot of folks misunderstand me. i'm not saying we should all dump out DAWs and go get an AMPEX and an API! ... lol.

    BUT!!! let's tell it like it is .... let's not make the mistake of even thinking a Fostex /Tascam or the like mixer is going to hold a candle to a LF console for a myriad of reasons. so i do get going a bit when someone paints all analog with the same brush as semipro /prosumer/consumer equipment.

    typically a TASCAM deck is rated at something like + or - 3 dB and s/n of 60dB (weighted)while an AMPEX or MCI is rated at +1 -3 and a s/n of 70dB (weighted)! that's a huge difference. the mixers are worse some having more than 40dB more noise and hardly any headroom. ... no one ever gets it until they get a chance to put in some time on a large format console. at that point it's "ohhh .... i get it!"

    a lot of people are going for the hype hook line and sinker. YES digital can be more convenient. YES digital is easier to edit and copy. YES! digital allows manufacturers to shrink the form factor and double capability every year and bring an affordable product to the masses ... but it (DAW summing) doesn't sound as good. it may spec out better but the reality at least for me is what digital spits out is different than analog and simply falls short of the satisfying listening experiences i remember with analog mixing. again i don't advocate going back in time ... i'm not a Luddite. but let's say what's what.
     
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    I understand what you are saying. But before you make your final decision, I think you should check this out - http://recording.org/threads/a-very-interesting-read-on-mastering.58552/ and in particular, check out the second post, and the first YouTube vid for The Carpenters, Re-Mastered from the original tapes.
    The fidelity on this absolutely blew me away. All the original warmth of the analog release, but with the compression that was applied to it - when it was first released on CD - relieved and eased back, to the point of gaining back almost 10 db of dynamic range.

    In fact, here...I'll save you the step...

    Check this out:


    And I still think you should read the entire article, BTW. ;)

    http://recording.org/threads/a-very-interesting-read-on-mastering.58552/
     

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