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Author Topic: The Future Without Tape  (Read 13894 times)

compasspnt

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The Future Without Tape
« on: February 06, 2005, 03:23:15 pm »

When I start running out of the stock of 2" and 1/2" tape which I happened to have here in my vault on "the day the music died," I know I will have to come up with a new recording plan.

Now I do use Protools; in fact I have recorded digitally for over 20 years (first with the 3M digital [ugh!], then the Mitsubishi X-series 32 tracks, which were good machines, I thought [esp. using the aftermarket Apogee A>D conversion], then some with the Sony's [not my favourite of the machines either], and for the past 12 years with various incarnations of Protools), so I think I know how to get a good sound onto digital.  But some of those sessions were initially tracked on 2" tape, then dumped into the box for further overdubs, comps, etc.  And I've ALWAYS mixed onto analogue tape.

I really like the sound of a good analogue tape recording, made on a well maintained machine.  (Once while mastering a ZZ Top record at Masterdisk, in the old Bob Ludwig days there on W61st, the Steely Dan guys, who were also there,  made a bit of "fun" of me for "still" recording onto "compressors" [meaning analogue tape!])

BUT...what to do in future?

I have decided to keep as many reels of tape as possible, as long as they can possibly be used, and to maintain my Studers & Otari's as long as I can.  I will mix THROUGH a 1/2" analogue machine, into a high quality converter, and  back into a digital medium for final capture.  I'll just use the reel of mix tape over and over.  I have never chosen a digital mix over an analogue mix, when I have mixed to both; at least not upon hearing the mixes the next day (often the dig ones seem at the moment of mixing to be more exactly what I was hearing out of the console, yet later the analogue ones always sound more pleasing to me).

In the multitrack world, I will run the tracks that I deem need the "treatment" into, and back out of, an analogue machine, recorded back into Protools through the HQ converter.  Then they will have to be time-shifted back into sync.  This is basically just relegating tape to the world of outboard gear, I guess.

These methods, I believe, will at least give me a good bit of the analogue quality that I want.

So, what does everyone think?  Any better plans out there?  Any late word about new tape?  Will tape just fade away?

Best to all,

Terry
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ted nightshade

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2005, 04:00:33 pm »

I don't really do multitrack stuff, so YMMV.

I do love an exceptionally nice tape machine, and I have a small stash of tape for mine. 60 or so 10" reels, yes I'll be running things at 15 ips! That's not a lot of tape.

I have however tested tape to the best digital I've been able to get ahold of. Live to 2 track stuff, split after the mic pre to an ATR 1" 2 track with trick tube electronics, and to the SLAM! ADC. Overall I much prefer the way it sounds to the SLAM! I couldn't say that about any of the other digital converters I've used. (including HEDD, Genex, Pacific Microsonics).

So, I'm fine with tracking to digital from here on out.

I'm saving the tape stash for some project that may come up where tape is definitely preferred.
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WhyKooper

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2005, 06:20:50 pm »

This is the most recent thing I've read.  It's about two weeks old.  Makes it appear tape production should be okay.  But who knows, what with everything changing so fast in this biz......

------------------------------------------------------
SPARS Talks with Quantegy President and Chief Executive Dick Lindemuth:

What is the status of the company?

Quantegy is officially in Chapter 11. However, the company has been able to bring 10 skilled employees back to work and has started production on a modest amount of tape that should be sufficient to meet demand for approximately two months. There is no need for people to be price gouging.

What about the rumors regarding the unavailability of the necessary components for making tape?

Rumors that the necessary ingredients for making tape have become unavailable are false. Over 1 1/2 years ago, when one chemical became unavailable, small changes were made in the oxide formulation. The tape made with that change has been being sold since then and the company has received no complaints. Although certain longtime customers noticed at the time that there was a slight difference in the sound, some have commented that it was an improvement. In addition, conversations have been held with Quantegy suppliers to confirm that manufacturing ingredients will continue to be available in the coming months.

What is the possibility of Quantegy’s creditors forcing liquidation, vs. a work out plan?

While that is always a possibility, liquidation brings less money, and is not in creditors’ best interests. In addition, several parties have expressed interest in investing new money in the company.

What is to stop another manufacturer from starting up, making, and selling tape in small runs now that demand has increased prices?

Making tape is a craft, like making Martin guitars. A new manufacturer wouldn’t have the experience to do it right. Quantegy is very proud of its quality, and has made a huge investment in manufacturing, something not easily duplicated. A new manufacturer would have to compete with Quantegy, who expects to stay in business. Quantegy has remained in business as long as it has, outlasting other competitors, because it made the best tape.

Will prices be raised to accommodate the reduced output?

Possibly, in the range of 9 to 10 per cent, to cover increased costs.

What is Quantegy’s biggest market sector for tape?

The studios: We do actually feel like it’s a kind of sacred trust. We’re the only guys doing it and we don’t want to walk away from that.

How is your relationship with your creditors?

Getting better! Most of them have been with us for years. One particular Japanese supplier has said that what they won’t get back financially due to our reorganization is a mere drop in the bucket to the amount of money they’ve made through our relationship over the years. They’re not going to throw that away and are looking forward to working with us when we emerge.

How is your relationship with your distributors?

We are disappointed that some of our distributors have gotten into gouging. However, many others, like RMS in Los Angeles, have been straight dealers and we don’t want to disenfranchise them. Although we want to set people up on our gopromedia.com website, or at our 800-752-0732 number, for order entry, in general that is for large buyers or for people in out of the way geographical locations. We don’t intend to get into our distributors’ business, and we especially want to support the ones who have not given in to price gouging.



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Linear

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2005, 06:25:21 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Mon, 07 February 2005 07:23


BUT...what to do in future?


Hi,

Maybe I'm stupid but I'm focussing all my attention on how to continue recording in the analog domain.

I think it's possible, the swell of support for analog tape since Quantegy's closure has even overwhealmed the biggest naysayers. Someone out there will make tape, there are far more obscure things manufactured these days by smaller operations - larger companies can't/won't service niche markets with no prospect of 'growth' because shareholders and banks just won't buy it. So people such as ATR service fill this gap nicely (as far as I'm aware, they're not far off commencing their tape-manufacturing business).

When I speak to other engineers/studio owners here, they all tell me that 'no-one records to tape' however when I speak to bands, they tell me how they 'prefer recording to tape' and, if the price is right, will choose tape everytime. So it leaves me wondering if it's actually the studios and engineers that prefer recording to digital? Who decides?

Anyway, my experience counts for none when compared with Terry's, so this is only my opinion. I think analog is far from dead, but will remain as a niche for those who want to continue to use it.

Cheers

Chris
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antti

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2005, 06:30:15 pm »

Linear wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 23:25

compasspnt wrote on Mon, 07 February 2005 07:23


BUT...what to do in future?


When I speak to other engineers/studio owners here, they all tell me that 'no-one records to tape' however when I speak to bands, they tell me how they 'prefer recording to tape' and, if the price is right, will choose tape everytime. So it leaves me wondering if it's actually the studios and engineers that prefer recording to digital? Who decides?



The budget
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RMoore

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2005, 08:17:50 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 21:23

 
In the multitrack world, I will run the tracks that I deem need the "treatment" into, and back out of, an analogue machine, recorded back into Protools through the HQ converter.  Then they will have to be time-shifted back into sync.  This is basically just relegating tape to the world of outboard gear, I guess.

Terry


Unless there is some miracle, I think tape will be an expensive piece of outboard as you've described above...
Lately I've been working in the computer & dumping stems onto tape to mix from.
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Arf! Mastering

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2005, 08:26:40 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 20:23



So, what does everyone think?  Any better plans out there?

Terry


I respect that printing to analog tape has long been a component of the art of making great records.  On the other hand, high-quality digital recording properly done has shown that as the 1/2" giveth, it also taketh away.   Your imaging, detail, low-end accuracy and transient response are degraded and your noise and distortion are increased.  Analog wow and flutter is like digital jitter on steroids.  Yet, the ear likes analog tape, especially for rock 'n roll.   I've been experimenting with a process of upsampling recordings that are all-digital to DSD using new software from a company called sigREAL.  Their upsampler (modulator) has analog like characteristics similar to tape - the harsh edges are rounded gracefully and peaks are slightly rounded when they approach the maximum DSD level. The digitaly recorded snare that sounds hard and brittle becomes an easier-to-listen-to "crack" that pushes air.  (To hear an example of this effect, check the DSD layers of The Kinks "Muswell Hillbillies" or "Misfits" that I remastered for SACD using sigREAL's "softDSD.") The same company's downsampler preserves this euphonic effect and translates it back to PCM domain.   It works far better, in my opinion, than the various boxes and plug-ins that use harmonic distortion and parallel compression techniques to simulate tape.  At the same time, low-level detail and stereo imaging remain intact and there is no significant noise penalty.
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bblackwood

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2005, 08:28:04 pm »

Alan, do they have software to 'treat' PCM?

I just mastered a project from 1/4", 15 ips, Dolby SR AGFA (!!!) this week and it sounded unbelievable right off tape. If there is anything that can approximate what happened on this tape, I'll buy it without a moment's notice.

But as good as the tape sim in the HEDD-192 is, it juts isn't the same thing...
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2005, 08:34:46 pm »

bblackwood wrote on Mon, 07 February 2005 01:28

Alan, do they have software to 'treat' PCM?

I just mastered a project from 1/4", 15 ips, Dolby SR AGFA (!!!) this week and it sounded unbelievable right off tape. If there is anything that can approximate what happened on this tape, I'll buy it without a moment's notice.

But as good as the tape sim in the HEDD-192 is, it juts isn't the same thing...


Funny you should ask - after my feedback about this unintended side benefit they are working on software to do exactly that.  I wouldn't claim that it will sound exactly like tape, but it does do something similar quite well.

FWIW, I've always thought that 15 ips Dolby SR was a phenomenal sounding format.
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wwittman

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2005, 02:44:53 pm »

I don't know, Terry, although I grapple with the same issues myself, at least PART of me rejects the notion of analogue tape as an 'effect'

that is to say: my problems with the sound of digital recording lie not in the area of what analogue added that digital doesn't, but rather they lie in the area of what digital LOSES.
And that remains unchanged by recording, fiorst or through, to analogue tape.
As soon as I do that transfer, i hear what's gone missing; as I'm sure you do as well.

So I find myself more inclined to work within a given medium that i can find acceptable (such as ProTools at 96k) and make the best record I can within those limitations (obvious as they remain).

The last two records I made ended up being mixed entirely in ProTools (not 'in the box' certainly, but mixed BACK into PT out of the desk through the A-D) and I can't say they didn't turn out fine.
I would certainly have PREFERRED to mix to analogue tape but I'm not convinced that mixing through tape as an interim step would really improve things... only add another layer of complexity AND, i suspect, another place for the digital conversion to lose a bit more.

As I said, I'm still working it out in my own head as well.. but my feeling tends to be leaning to working in digital and trying to make that work for me.
Or working on analogue whenever possible.
The hybrids are increasingly feeling like a placebo to me.


best,
w2
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2005, 03:02:14 pm »

I'm pretty convinced most of the magic is in the multitrack. First class A to D converters beat tape in most mixes I get although tape generally beats the second rate converters.

Around 5 years ago a client of mine wanted to go back and do a 2" 16 track no Dolby session. Ten minutes into the session I was so pissed about how far backwards we've come since 1970.

drumsound

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2005, 07:20:05 pm »

I will not give up my tape decks!
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maxdimario

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2005, 07:20:47 pm »

I've mentioned this before in other posts, but don't have a clear idea if anyone else notices it as well:

Distortion aside, I hear that tape (and disc) capture the 'feel' of the performance better than digital.

even though it can become a close call depending on the tape machine or the converters in question, I believe that if a tape machine was made today (8track 2" with high-impedance heads, high-voltage electronics and minimal signal path for example) to compete with modern digital, it would beat it everytime for recording musicians.

of course you couldn't edit etc. but on artist based music it would be an improvement.

the kids who grow up listening to MP3's on a similar note, unfortunately have no idea whatsoever of how much magic and hypnotic power recorded music can have.

strangely enough the old consumer standard of the record player with the ceramic cartridge and the simple tube systems seemed to work better at this than the 'less distorted' modern home system.

am I alone regarding this observation?
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lucey

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2005, 07:53:36 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Sun, 06 February 2005 15:23


So, what does everyone think?  Any better plans out there?  Any late word about new tape?  Will tape just fade away?



As others will know Terry, I've said that ATR Service is working on a new tape and they should have Beta tests going by summer.  I'd guess they'll be making high quality tape by 2006 and for many years to come.  Mike Spitz is all about quality analog and he knows tone.

Even Quantegy may get it back together soon. I spoke (email) with a man looking to buy that place recently, and answered his survey last month about what was needed IMO.


Tape's not dead, it's just left the building for a while!

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wwittman

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2005, 11:37:26 pm »

I don't know, Bob..

I did an A-B not that long ago on a major mix out of the desk to an ATR 1/2" at 15ips and through some very good A-D (GML) and also (i suppose that makes it an A-B-C) back into ProTools thorugh the digi 192 I/O at 96k

EVERYONE in the room picked the analogue blind. Although the producer, after he found out what he picked, STILL wanted to mix back into PT as a matter of, i don't know, perhaps insecurity.. as though he thought SOMEWHERE down the road he'd be "sorry" if he didn't.

But I have yet to see anyone pick the digital in these comparisons, blind.
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