Tascam MS-16 & Otari MX70

Discussion in 'Tape Recorders' started by ChrisH, Apr 24, 2017.

  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    @bouldersound

    Good post.
    There's no doubt that DAW's have "changed" the way we mix... in both good ways - and not so good ways.
    You're absolutely right, it is far more visually oriented these days than it used to be.
    I remember experiencing that a little bit even before DAWs, when working on consoles with flying faders. I was working on a mix once with my instructor, using an automated desk, and trying to get a fade on a track "just right"; I'd program the fade, then watch the fader move on its own after, and no matter what I did, it didn't "sound" right to me. My instructor finally said to me, "try something for me... program a fade you think should work, and on the automated playback, don't look at the fader.."
    It worked. The fade sounded perfect to me, because I was listening with my ears and not my eyes.
    Our senses are all interconnected, and it's not always easy to disconnect them.
    I remember seeing a band at a club once, they were absolutely dreadful, but a friend who was with me commented that he thought that they were a great band.
    I questioned him about that, told him I thought they were awful, and he said (paraphrasing here) "you're crazy! They have an awesome lighting rig!!"
    He was equating the way they looked with the way they sounded, and because they had a light rig that would rival a Genesis concert, in his mind, he thought that equated to them sounding great.
    If you think about it, there are a lot of distractions in a typical control room setting; lights, meters, computer screens, scroll bars moving across the timeline, virtual fader automation...
    Back when I had my commercial studio, I used to listen to rush/rough mixes in my car on my way home at the end of the day. I'd pop a cassette or CD of that day's work into the deck, (over time, I had grown accustomed to the sound of the car's audio system) and I would drive the 25 minutes home through the dark countryside, and listen - without all those visual distractions. I was able to focus on just listening. I got a lot of productive work done that way, making a mental list of what needed changing.

    FWIW
     
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  2. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

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    I agree, Donny.
    haha, I do this all of the time.

    So what are my options to warm up my signal on the way in then?
    If it's not going to happen due to what I'm recording to (tape)?
    I already have great mics, pre's, converters but upon playback going straight in, it just sounds cold and sterile.
    I get a much warmer and pleasing sound using the same mic and pre combo going into my old Tascam 424 portastudio which is a hard thing to swallow when a cheap old cassette based portastudio is getting you closer to the sound you want then your Api Pre > Apogee Converter > DAW is getting you.

    Example:
    I can get a warm fat crunchy drum sound with one single mic when recording to the 424 portastudio (obviously it lacks resolution/definition, and sounds like a lo-fi cassette recorder) & then I take that same mic and placement and record it into my high end gear and it sounds DRASTICALLY different (cold, sterile, small, malnourished), like night and day, but the later is not the better.

    So I wanna to achieve that same warm, fat, crunchy sound but obviously with higher resolution.
     
  3. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    What you're hearing is the difference between inaccurate and accurate. You've gotten used to inaccurate. Now you have the option of relatively accurate capture of your sources, which is a good thing. If you want the degradation of cassette based recording you can get that after the fact with plugins, or you can alter your input chain to get some of that on the way in. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The most simple treatment is to roll off some HF. Beyond that try saturation and tape emulation plugins. I know someone who swears by the PSP Vintage Warmer.

    https://www.attackmagazine.com/reviews/the-best/ten-of-the-best-compressor-plugins/7/
     
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  4. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

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    That's one way to put it but another way to put it is clinical vs character.
    If you're making rock records (which is what I do) then character is what you want a lot of the time.
    If you're making the next Shakira record then a clinical signal is probably what you want.

    I've yet to hear a plugin that is convincing in that regards, plus no offense but you're missing the point of tracking with it (having it there to influence the performace).
     
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    When all else fails and you simply can't achieve a warm and natural sound (no matter what style of music), or you have clients giving you mixes that sound like glass... Buy A Manley VariMu and stick it on your two bus. That's what a lot of the old school pro audio guys swore by that didn't understand wtf was happening to their mixes as they left the tape era.... as they navigated out of large format consoles and tape to Pro Tools. A VariMu can help overcome the sound of poor converters and overly hot tracked mixes. Its somewhat like using tape.
     
  6. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

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    What about overdriving signals on the way in? In a way that sounds natural/musical of course.
     
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    Can you tell us exactly what your current gain chain is? Mic(s), Pre(s) converters, and any other other front-load analog processing you are using on the way into your DAW...
     
  8. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    I record and mix rock, especially stuff in the classic rock style. I get what you're saying, even the part about tracking with tone that inspires. But, according to your post above, you have one preamp, one tonal option going in. Besides, you're not monitoring off the tape while tracking, are you? So you aren't getting that tone live anyway. Plus, I doubt a pro tape machine is going to give you what you're getting from cassette.

    Maybe the API is the source of your dissatisfaction. If you want a more saturated sound up front you need more hardware options, different preamps and perhaps some analog compression, especially hardware with good tube design (not cheap tube gear) and/or different/interesting transformers. Check out the Shadow Hills GAMA preamps with switchable transformers. I found them to be useful for getting different sounds.

    On top of that you might want to expand your mic collection. I find that mic selection is the single most important hardware decision when tracking. I don't know what you've got, but dynamic and ribbon mics may get you closer to your goal than condensers. Often a Sennheiser MD421 will succeed where an AT 4050 fails, especially when I'm going for a rock sound. I use them on guitar amps, vocals, toms, horns etc. A partner of mine has a collection of vintage dynamic mics that all sound different. We'll swap out mics until one gives us the sound we want.
     
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  9. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    Mic's:
    Audix:
    D6
    Shure:
    2 X KSM32's, 2 X KSM137's, SM7B, Beta 52, Beta 91, 4 X SM57, SM58
    Sennhieser: E935, E835, E609
    Beyerdynamic: TGX61
    Rode NT1a
    Akg D112

    Pre's:
    Api 3124 +
    Daking Mic Pre IV

    Conversion:
    Apogee Symphony System 16X16 analog i/o

    No other front end analog processors.

    I record and mix rock, especially stuff in the classic rock style. I get what you're saying, even the part about tracking with tone that inspires. But, according to your post above, you have one preamp, one tonal option going in. Besides, you're not monitoring off the tape while tracking, are you? So you aren't getting that tone live anyway. Plus, I doubt a pro tape machine is going to give you what you're getting from cassette.

    Maybe the API is the source of your dissatisfaction. If you want a more saturated sound up front you need more hardware options, different preamps and perhaps some analog compression, especially hardware with good tube design (not cheap tube gear) and/or different/interesting transformers. Check out the Shadow Hills GAMA preamps with switchable transformers. I found them to be useful for getting different sounds.

    On top of that you might want to expand your mic collection. I find that mic selection is the single most important hardware decision when tracking. I don't know what you've got, but dynamic and ribbon mics may get you closer to your goal than condensers. Often a Sennheiser MD421 will succeed where an AT 4050 fails, especially when I'm going for a rock sound. I use them on guitar amps, vocals, toms, horns etc. A partner of mine has a collection of vintage dynamic mics that all sound different. We'll swap out mics until one gives us the sound we want.

    @bouldersound Great advice.
    You're probably onto something with getting some Ribbon mics, especially.
    I don't own a single ribbon mic and never have. Also, outboard compression but probably second in priority?
     
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Well-Known Member

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    recording to analog tape vs. a DAW yields far different results because they are two completely different processes. digital is more or less "pure" while recording to analog tape is more akin to processing the signal while you record. all analog tape will limit dynamic range and bandwidth in varying amounts dependent on levels, tape speed and track width.

    you might try adding compression on the way in to the DAW. a porta studio is going to severely limit the dynamic range right out of the gate especially if you are using the dbx N/R. real world dynamics can go well over 160 dB while a cassette recorder at best is going to capture a fraction of that.

    adding to that, as you hit a cassette with signal, the current used to bias the tape self erases highs as you are recording. this is one reason why professional machines run at higher speeds. two contributing factors to what makes your cassette recorder sound the way it does.

    from Wikipedia

    Bias and self-erasure
    "A conventional tape recorder uses two heads. The main head is used for both playback and recording. A second head, placed before the main head in terms of the direction of tape movement, is used during recording to erase any previous signal. Additionally, the record head is used to introduce a tape bias signal that improves frequency response.

    Generally, lower frequencies are recorded lower in the oxide layer on the tape. In order to get the bias signal into these layers, the signal has to be fairly strong, stronger than what would be needed to write higher frequencies alone. This means there is some stray signal, both from the bias and new high frequency signals being recorded, that "leaks out" of the immediate area of the recording and into the nearby tape. For low frequencies this has no effect because the layer they are recorded in is far from the record head, but for high frequencies it is possible to self-erase a signal just laid down.

    This problem is primarily seen at slower tape transport. If the tape is moving at high speed the previously recorded sounds will quickly move away from the record head and avoid self-erasure. At slower speeds there isn't enough time for this to happen."
     
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  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    Boulder got why I was asking about your rig.
    Options are good ... tube, tranny, even those without have their own vibe. But at this point I don't know that you can truly emulate the sound of tape ....without using tape.
    I've tried several different tape emulation plugs; Waves, Slate... and while I think they can add a cool sort of texture to some things, I've yet to hear one that truly emulates the sound of tape, at least not in the way I remember it.

    I think modeling technology has brought us some awfully cool textures to work with. And in some I've used, I think they've absolutely nailed the sound (waves SSL totally knocked me out, and I had some pretty substantial time on the real E Series desks back in the 80's so I'm not just"guessing"). I also have a friend in LA who has a real U47 and a real AKG C12, and he has told me that he can't tell the difference between them and the Slate Virtual Mic Models of the modeled design.
    But there are others that - while perhaps might have a "somewhat similar" sonic vibe to them, have not yet been able to get it totally true to the iron that they are trying to emulate. I have no idea if a UA modeled Fairchild 670 sounds like a real 670 or not, because I've never been in any position to do anything more than just look at one of the real ones.
    Slate modeled two well known pro machines, the first was a 2" Studer supplied by Jay Baumgardner, and the second was a 2 Track Studer A80 owned by Howie Weinberg, who then used the Slate Virtual Tape Machines modeled after these decks, and he said he couldn't tell the difference between his real Studer and the virtual model... but to my ears, there was "something" missing. I couldn't even really pinpoint what it was.. maybe saturation, maybe harmonics... I dunno, but I couldn't hear it sounding like any tape machine I had ever had experience with, no matter what I did to the adjustments on it.
    I suppose you could try one out - I know Waves offers a trial on theirs, I don't know about Slate. I have their "everything bundle" and their virtual tape machines are just part of that package.
    I'd be more than happy to run a track or a mix through it for you, if you want to hear what it sounds like.I won't add any EQ or GR, I'll just run it through the plug flat.
    Let me know if you want to do that, and we can set up a DropBox folder so that we can use .wav files instead of MP3s.
     
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  12. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Other than all the other advise, buy a VariMu
    Yes, the Fatso too.

    https://recording.org/tags/tape-emulation/
     
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  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    I've always been intrigued by the Vari-Mu. I've never used one though. I've heard guys describe it as a sort of "poor man's Fairchild" , although I think it's price is a bit higher than what "poor guys" could afford. LOL. Certainly not close to a 670, but still pretty pricey. Although, if it can give that true analog vibe to digital mixes, it seems like it would be an incredibly cool piece to have.
    Would you prefer this over your self admitted favorite gain chain (with the Millennia/LA2/1176 combo that you've spoken about using in the past? ) Or are you saying you'd use the VariMu on the back end to warm up the whole mix?
     
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    edited:

    I thought about buying one a long time ago, before I upgraded to what I have now. They are wooly in a nice way but more of a one trick pony, imho. Mastering guys like them on the 2-bus but only use them in extreme cases. At least thats what I'm told.
    Some guys like tracking with them and some like using them in a hybrid mix way.
    I'd use one for warming up glassy mixes.

    I think the Fatso would be better for, Chris.
    But it sounds like he has a few more issues that I think we can all help him out in, that won't cost him money.

    Like you, It would be helpful to listen to some of his tracks.
     
  15. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

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    This is the same finding i've had, the closest I've found is the Waves J37.
    To me tape has more significant of an effect than any of the emulation plugs, in a good way though and whether or not that is a correct way of explaining it, there's definately the "something missing" as @DonnyThompson put it.

    I'm happy to share my work, would love to hear everyone else's as well.
    What would be the best way to share it with everyone, Chris?
     
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I don't think plugins are the answer to tape emulation. I think there are certain hardware pieces that help though. You might want to start looking at the Folcrom. I bet those API pre's would sound pretty good with it.
    I'd just upload a few MP3 tracks you feel are best representing your problems here. (see upload a file)
     
  17. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    Late to this one. Otari is more vanilla than tascam. Basically pluggins would be more akin to tracking digital and mixing it analog, which is backwards for working with tape in a daw setting. What sucks about tape is editing and it wears out. That's what daws are best at.

    There's no way to sound like tape besides track with tape. There's different ways: track to tape then transfer to daw, track straight off the repro head to daw live, track to tape and daw at once via splitting, use the grossly expensive and remarkbly cool CLASP system, get yourself a set of Burl a-d which is basically the electronics of the tape machine combined w a converter (no tape). Soon enough I'll unveil something tape related I've been cooking up, but I've got to solidify the concept a bit more first. Here's a hint- it's not a 'guitar pedal' per sey.

    I own the slate nomad and ozone tape emulations, which are cool for what they do but it's not close to tape sonically or feel wise. The closest one to tape is nomad factory's which sounds similar to a portastudio. I like them so far on clean mixes that are just lacking some 'there-ness' or girth. It doesn't sound like tape but is appropriate where tape would be, and in some cases is just right.

    To me tape is all about instinct and capturing a moment, excitement. And guitar sound lol. Definitely un matched for distorted guitar sound, becuase it sounds on the speakers, like it sounds to the guitarist playing more so than any other method I know of. Not the room the amp. The cool sonics are part of tape lo or hi fi, but really it's to me more about getting in the room w the band and using mic placement and just getting a vibe.

    Professional level computing costs about $500 or so a year, and your working in the land of dual xeon workstations, and upgrading every 5 years. The key with this is using server grade parts means simple replacement, way longer useful life span, and 24/7 operation. So after five years if you upgrade to remain current, you simply re assign your older workstation to something else useful, or you keep it as is for running projects that run on that setup for future compatibility of old stuff. And save any upgrades for each new system. Or run the workstation for 8-10 years.

    Old computers don't stop doing what they did do, just becuase something new came out. As long as your not using software that isn't fit for your software your good for the lifespan of the computer. Major things like 32-64 bit upgrades which basically create true obsolescence only happen every ten years or so.

    Also Intel is slowing down their processer release from tick tock to 3-4 stage. So basically instead of a brand new chip series every three years it's gonna be more like every 5. So it'll be more like cars where they do little changes then a major release.

    The biggest mistake people make with computers is buying something unfit. I was absolutely shocked to experience the fact that a 6 core computer w 64gb of ram capacity was around 1600 to build, and a dual 8 core (16 cores 32 thread) xeon computer w 3 TB of capacity was 2500 to build. Prices reflect 64gb of ram in either machine. (You da man @pcrecord for aiming me back at workstation level stuff)

    Absolutely two different worlds of computing, and two nice computers for different purposes. I'm building that xeon myself. It's all about Diminishing returns. As soon as you add two more cores to the xeon the price goes from 450 to 1k. So it's about finding the sweet spots of price vs performance.

    when you buy an off the shelf of build an in appropriate computer you end up w things you don't need like say a built in sound card, or internet perhaps, or a cd drive, whatever, all those little things take up space and money, which could be put into better parts that will be enabled, or lower total cost.

    It's also a different depreciation schedule as far as tax concerns go, since computers and tape machines have significantly different life spans and maintenance needs.

    One thing my demos to 4 track have revealed is the strength or weakness of the song and arrangement itself.

    As an owner of two tascams and fan I think it's nice to have the option. I personally probably only use them 10% of the time, but have enjoyed them.
     
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  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    @audiokid @kmetal @Kurt Foster @dvdhawk @ChrisH @bouldersound@pcrecord

    For me, ( IMO) analog presents itself to be the most "pleasing" in the mids... it's not the only thing I like about it, but it's a biggie.
    Probably the hardest task I had to face, when switching from analog to digital, was to "re-learn" how to mix the mid-range; because when I was using analog gear, the mids - particularly the upper mids - always seemed to just kinda take care of itself.
    Whether this was the use of tube gear, or XFO's, tape - or any combo of all of those things, I can only guess - one of our analog purists ( like Kurt ;) ) would have to chime in on that.

    I don't recall sweating those frequencies nearly as much in the analog realm as I did when I started working in digital, and honestly, there are occasions where I still have difficulties with those frequencies from time to time.
    Or, maybe it's just me as I grow older. I had a hearing test last year, the results were quite good, and I'm in pretty good shape, no serious dips anywhere, but strangely enough, the test showed that I had a higher sensitivity to the frequencies from 800 to 2k than what was deemed "normal" for my age ( I'm 157 now), so maybe I've grown ultra sensitive to that particular range over the years. usually, those frequencies, and the higher ones, start to diminish. Mine went the other way. Go figure.

    The Manley Vari-mu that Chris mentioned ( @audiokid ) has really intrigued me over the last few days. I do know a guy who has one - he's not really a "friend" per se', more of an acquaintance really, and I haven't talked to him in a few years, but maybe I could take a digital 2-mix into him (sans any GR on my end), and for a couple bucks, have him run it through the Vari-mu. If I can make that happen, I'll post the Before/After files here.

    -d.
     
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  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    Hey ... I resemble that remark. ;)
    Although there's no doubt I was certainly one of "those" guys you mentioned. No doubt. From
    what I've come to know about you, Chris, I think you made the transition to digital much smoother than I did. ;)
    I went kicking and screaming into the digital age. I did not "go gently into that dark night". LOL
    So, just being honest here...You kinda hit the nail on the head with that one for me. And it's okay. I can admit it.
    I have a love-hate relationship with digital. I LOVE digital for editing. I do not miss cutting and splicing tape. And while I'm sure I could still do it well, I have absolutely no desire to ever pick up a grease pencil and a razor blade again. I love the noise floor of digital, and the "immediacy" of it as well; the ability to send files and collaborate in almost real time. I can work with a guitar player from Chicago, a bass player from Los Angeles, and a keyboard player from Canada or Australia, and be mixing their parts by that evening.
    But sometimes - it seems that it's more frequent these days - I get to missing the workflow of analog ... the desk, the tape decks, the outboard gear, all hold fond memories for me.
    In the past year - last spring when I was pretty sick and wasn't able to really do anything because the radiation left me totally exhausted, I started listening back to some of my analog mixes from the past, and while I wasn't always happy with what I heard, (of course there was some garbage in there, and more than just one or two really badly-written songs, LOL) at the same time, I was surprised at just how many mixes sounded very good to me.

    BUT ... while it was fun to listen to that stuff, I'm not gonna go back to tape; the medium and the mechanism are just too costly, and requires more maintenance (and money) than what I'm willing to commit to at this point in my life ... and there are so many more reasons to stay Digital ...but there are times I do miss both the workflow and sound of an LFC and 2" tape on a well-aligned machine with a rack of nice OB gear.
    I dunno, maybe I'm just equating the format and process with a certain time period in my life? ..When I was younger, thinner, had more energy, ( and more hair, LOL) ...and my session calendar was pretty much booked solid for over a decade.
    But ...I can't say that I've ever been quite as happy with my digital mixes as I was with those analog mixes of the past. I guess I've done some good work in digital... but it doesn't seem to come as naturally to me as analog did. And I'm not even saying that the medium of digital is to blame for that. I'm completely willing to recognize that it's pretty much all me. I was also fortunate enough to be working on some very nice gear at the time... SSL, MCI, Studer, Ampex, Eventide, Pultec, Teletronix, Urei, Lexicon, dbx, Neumann, AKG, Telefunken, RCA....I was very fortunate to have worked in studios that had that stuff. ;)
    But... obviously digital isn't going anywhere, and there are things that I really do like about it; and while I do occasionally find myself missing the "old school" ways, at the same time I find myself excited about the technology and what the future will bring.
    Yeah... I'm a puzzle. Lol. I'm guess I'm what you'd call a "complex simpleton"..., a curmudgeon with a computer screen and a mouse. Lolol.
    "Hey you kids! Get off my lawn! And stop makin' all that racket! I'm trying to watch Lawrence Welk here!!...". :confused:
    FWIW ;)
    -d
     
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  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    Me too. I honestly don't think I've mastered mids in either format. My personal un-educated theory is if the spaces between samples are somehow perceivable it's in the mids, or maybe mids are too harmonically complex and there's masking?? Whavever it is I think it's related that tape being continuous line of charge, that keeps those mids at bay or rather exciting. I can't explain why but the mid range vocals snare and guitars seem to gel more effortlessly for me with tape too.

    I still in general like the low end of digital better in general than tape, and top end kinda depends on the song, tapes probably just more forgiving in the top, but digital top can be magic too. I've been fooled several times by sounds in the surrounds thinking they were real for a sec. lol

    I've got no experience on anything considered a 'real' tape machine. I did get to see several amped and studers at Zeltec one time. Tubes in a tape machine is a different level I'm guessing? I wonder if it sounds more 'vintage' or more like what tubes do to a guitar amp.
     
  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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