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Author Topic: The Future Without Tape  (Read 12805 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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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.

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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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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2005, 12:42:14 pm »

wwittman wrote on Mon, 07 February 2005 23:37


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


Me either.

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2005, 03:15:49 pm »

I've done the same ABC with the same results.

I just think the tape often takes more of a hit when it gets digitized than the console output does, assuming really good converters. (I've never used GMLs) I'm not so sure that tape adds something as much as I think it simply retains more "effortlessness," for the lack of any better term. I also think it's a really good idea to mix to both so you always have a choice in the future.

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2005, 03:24:34 pm »

Depends totally on the genre, quality of converters and accuracy of tape deck allignment - many variables.   Around here, the ratio is very close to 50/50 but then we do a lot of jazz and folk and use Lavry ad/da's.  And never under estimate the power of the head bump Wink  
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wwittman

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2005, 09:35:43 pm »

I'm also saying that in that A-B-C the analogue always sounds MORE like direct desk out than the digital... not that the analogue IMPROVES the desk out,,, it just loses less.

Doesn;t matter to me what the genre of music is, i still don't want part of the sound going missing if I have a choice.
Unless you're saying some genres are better off if they go missing! In which case, i;m with you. <g>
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William Wittman
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2005, 09:58:18 pm »

I posted this over on George's forum and thought it was relevant to this thread. Sorry for the double post to those who read both.

Someone on another post was speculating about an analog recorder device that could be used as an effect. Sort of like a permanent version of Terry's multi track analog tape effect. In the old days (and Terry I'm sure this will strike a bell) there was an english analog delay device called a Binson delay that was made of a metal pot with a record and playback system spinning around inside. The record medium was the inside of the pot itself. Before that, there were wire recorders. Now wire or metal plate, is a medium that in the right environment would NEVER WEAR OUT like tape must. In a modern wire or Binson type recorder, you could spin the record/play heads so fast that the bandwidth could outperform even the best digital recorders. You could also make it a 24 track system with 24 record/play heads mounted on a single spindle. If fast enough, you could design a system that could impart an analog record/play characteristic in less than 180 degrees of phase at 40khz. Therefore there would not really be any need for time compensation. If there was, you could certainly accomplish it with a couple of samples of track delay either in the digital console or DAW. This device would need to be a precision machine, but certainly not out of the realm of current technology.

Damn, I think I just had an idea.

Best Regards,

Bill
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2005, 10:47:31 pm »

wwittman wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 03:35

I'm also saying that in that A-B-C the analogue always sounds MORE like direct desk out than the digital... not that the analogue IMPROVES the desk out,,, it just loses less.

Doesn;t matter to me what the genre of music is, i still don't want part of the sound going missing if I have a choice.
Unless you're saying some genres are better off if they go missing! In which case, i;m with you. <g>


I second the observation.

the end result on analog retains more musical information, distortion aside.
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compasspnt

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2005, 11:16:37 pm »

OK, points taken.

Then if analogue indeed does retain more information than digital, is there any advantage to mixing (or any recording) first to analogue tape, then transferring through high-Q converters into digital, or will the information/quality gained by the analogue just "go away" on transfer, just as if it had never been?  In other words, is analogue a desirable, non-losable "effect" that can be utilised?

I maintain that it is.

TM
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2005, 11:36:00 pm »

It is an effect for multitracking or mixing, but for multitracking especially, and assuming the multitrack machine is a real tone monster, enough of the magic is lost to make it undesirable if you have a choice to stay analog.  (It helps if you have a near perfect converter like 3 x Prism 8 ch units.  PT HD ... not good enough.)

There's just something about the MM1200 class A signal FROM tape that is SOOOooooo sweet if carried thru eqs, compression, mixing and mastering.  It's the MOST real (as in emotionally real) thing I've ever heard.

I use 16 tracks (15 and SMPTE) and do vocal comps through the Pacific HDCD converter that I use for mastering.  It's as good as Lavry or Prism ... and coming back from that to tape, or just going out and staying digital for keys or percussion only, is the best sound IMO.  15 tracks of analog and a few digi tracks that hit the 2" then were converted at a very high standard ... sound good.

The problem with multitrack digital artifacts is that they add up.  Especially in mastering I hear them vs. analog mixes.

So yes we can MASK then with tape, but some artifacts are still in there unless we're using the best available today.

Hopefully in 5-10 years every converter will sound that good, but I'm not so sure.
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #23 on: February 09, 2005, 12:13:49 am »

Certainly there is an obvious advantage if higher quality converters become available later on.

The biggest improvement I hear from analog is with the multi track but there is also a very non-subtitle improvement from wrapping ultra high-end converters around a digital multi track. (A very expensive proposition that I've only gotten to play around with once.) At that time the improvement of each individual track seemed smaller than I was hoping for but taken in sum it was more than what I find typical between mid and high-end converters used for a mix.

The other thing that still haunts me is the 3-track safety master playbacks at the LA AES a few years back. They had a restored Ampex 300-3, Bill Putnam's tube remote board and 3 Mac 30s along with 3 604s in the gray boxes. Left me and a bunch of others wondering if we've made any progress at all since the early '60s. Al Schmitt had tears rolling down his face as he listened to a Henry Mancini recording he had made back then. The 604s especially surprised me. They REALLY don't seem to like solid state power amps.

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2005, 06:59:30 am »

compasspnt wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 05:16

OK, points taken.

Then if analogue indeed does retain more information than digital, is there any advantage to mixing (or any recording) first to analogue tape, then transferring through high-Q converters into digital, or will the information/quality gained by the analogue just "go away" on transfer, just as if it had never been?  In other words, is analogue a desirable, non-losable "effect" that can be utilised?

I maintain that it is.

TM



when a signal is recorded in digital, it can come out sounding 'dryer' than it came in.

a sound which is very close to the source is like a fine line drawn on paper, so to speak, digital can't seem to reproduce the fine line, similar to what happens on an lcd screen.
good analog tape will, by nature of it's distortion, reproduce transients and complex waveforms, in a similar way that some high quality film will add grain to an image and create an effect of depth etc.
the distortion and added harmonics created by tape tend to mask the defective reproduction of digital of the 'fine' information that is present in waveforms which have a lot of irregular high frequency information.

Tape also creates a distortion which is harmonically related to the input signal which I believe in a way tends to increase intelligibility.

this is also true of old un-maintained tube equipment: the old tubes and caps will smooth over detail to a point that the resolution and slew rate are reduced etc.

When the fine detail passes through digital the sound can actually be off  in a way that it sounds dull, no matter how much high freq. eq, and if you do eq a digitized waveform the sound of the high end is never going to be as smooth or detailed on those frequencies as it was before it went in.

Apparent brightness or liveliness is a result of the quality of the high frequency content as well as quantity.

the cleaner a signal goes in the easier it is to hear the limitations of the reproducer.

then there is the issue of using tape as a saturator by pushing it, or by over/under biasing etc. to create distortion to a point where it becomes a primary part of the sound and adds significant character, but that is a different story I guess..

digital really pushed the standards of the industry toward lower noise and 'broadband' sound, also due to the bottom end capability of CD, but analog is a simpler method and simplicity is important with music.

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #25 on: February 09, 2005, 08:30:08 am »

Interesting thread.  Many comments support the often stated opinion that analog tape recording adds something appealing to the original signal.  Maxdimario seems to take this a step further, seeming to say that tape brings out the music in the music:

"...good analog tape will, by nature of it's distortion, reproduce transients and complex waveforms, in a similar way that some high quality film will add grain to an image...Tape also creates a distortion which is harmonically related to the input signal which I believe in a way tends to increase intelligibility."

Question: imagine great musicians in a studio expertly set up for tracking, with the control room mixing straight to 2-track tape.  The musicians play a superb take, which we listen to in the control room as it's recorded.  Now we play back the tape, and it sounds better?  I am sorry but with sincere respect to the great minds here, the engineer in me (electronics and ex-mastering) just can't accept it.  By definition, whatever happened, much as you may love it, was a kind of distortion that wasn't there in the live performance.

My hunch is that we humans, being creatures of habit, find our comfort zone in what we know best and spend the most time with.  Those of us who grew up with tape spent more time listening to tape playbacks than live sound, and subconsciously it became our reference point, the standard that other sounds are compared to.  But repro sounds truer than input?  I don't think so.

I think there's a parallel here to the way some view vinyl.  No don't get me wrong, I keep my turntable in good working order, have held on to my collection of LP's (and 45's!), and greatly enjoy listening to them.  But I know that inner diameter distortion is unavoidable, and vinyl couldn't reproduce a square wave to save its life.  In other words vinyl is wonderful but not magical, and while tape may contribute its own wonderful effect I will repeat myself and say "repro cannot sound truer than input".
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #26 on: February 09, 2005, 10:00:32 am »

I'm still pessimistic about long term viability, but the new ATR-Magnetics site is up...

Man, I pray Mike is successful more than you'll ever know...
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #27 on: February 09, 2005, 10:28:14 am »

One interesting thing to me concerning all of this...

About 1986 I got one of the Mitsubishi X-800 32 track digital recorders.  I would often use it for multitrack recording, and also often use 16 or 24 track analogue.  In many cases, I would sync the Mitsu to a 24 tr analogue, giving me effectively 54 tracks.

What I find funny is when someone will tell me, as has happened a couple of times, how they loved a certain record I had done, and that it had that great vintage analogue sound, unlike today's digital.  But I knew that recording was tracked on the 32 digital!

Did digital tape sound better than digital hard disk?  Do people often just base audio opinions on musical content, or on the vintage of a recording?

TM
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #28 on: February 09, 2005, 10:48:34 am »

Took me a long time to find digital I like, but I really do prefer the sound of a live band in a room to a couple mics to digital (SLAM!), than to ATR 1" 2 track. This with no processing whatsoever. The digital just sounds a whole lot more like being there- far more dynamic, for one thing.

I'm thinking that all the processing and mixing and all that y'all do has something to do with why y'all prefer analog- that and all the sloppy digital that's out there, some of which is quite expensive and comes from the most lauded sources (i.e., Cranesong).
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #29 on: February 09, 2005, 11:12:26 am »

compasspnt wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 10:28


What I find funny is when someone will tell me, as has happened a couple of times, how they loved a certain record I had done, and that it had that great vintage analogue sound, unlike today's digital.  But I knew that recording was tracked on the 32 digital!

Did digital tape sound better than digital hard disk?


NO! LOL... Very Happy  Although I'm sure you mixed those records on an analog console... and I'm sure it was not an SSL. Very Happy

Quote:

Do people often just base audio opinions on musical content, or on the vintage of a recording?



Sometimes.  There are some who seem to feel that's ALL people base their opinion on, but I don't think that's entirely true either.  People often tell me that I'm getting a "great analog sound" out of my mostly cheap digital gear that I use at home, but I don't really agree with them... sure it sounds more "analog" than most of today's records because of the way I record and the type of music I normally record, but I'm positive that in a blind test I wouldn't mistake it for analog. Very Happy

The thing is... people are fond of saying things like "If the music is great, nobody cares how it was recorded." Or "People are just going to be listening to MP3's and they can't tell the difference anyway."  But that all misses the point.  Engineers always strove to make the best possible recordings even if they knew most kids would be hearing them on AM radio.  A great recording on AM radio or MP3 still sounds worlds better than a mediocre one.

We now have the capability to produce recordings quite cheaply that don't sound bad.  Given that the engineer knows what they're doing, the casual and even many not so casual listeners would be hard pressed to find anything "wrong" with the audio fidelity.  But there's a whole lot "right" that just isn't there... it's just "missing" as several here have pointed out... and that's harder to notice or identify.  Especially as the years go by and most of our ears have adjusted to digital.  We forget until we have experiences like some of you have described (and I've had several of those myself), hearing an old master tape spinning off a reel and going "Ohhhh shit... what have we been doing?"

And I really think this all affects people's overall experience of music.  The excitement and the impactfulness just isn't there, even if the music is really good... which makes it less compelling overall.  Whereas in the 1970's and earlier, even if you thought the music SUCKED it usually still SOUNDED great. Very Happy

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #30 on: February 09, 2005, 11:24:37 am »

ted nightshade wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 10:48

Took me a long time to find digital I like, but I really do prefer the sound of a live band in a room to a couple mics to digital (SLAM!), than to ATR 1" 2 track. This with no processing whatsoever. The digital just sounds a whole lot more like being there- far more dynamic, for one thing.



Yeah I agree... I think if you are not doing any multitracking or processing to speak of, digital can be as good or better.  And it's fine as a distribution medium.  But that's not the reality that most of us live in or necessarily want to live in.   I can certainly see why classical recordists and such prefer digital.

Sometimes I wonder if the main difference is in how, and how well, the two media handle "abuse."  That is to say, you can beat up good analog gear in a musical way - even if the designer didn't intend it.  Certainly that's true of tape!  But if you beat up digital gear it just sounds bad.  Seeing as artists (and I include recording engineers as "artists" here as well as the musicians) have a tendency to beat things up and use them in unintended ways... that isn't good.

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #31 on: February 09, 2005, 01:19:11 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 09:28

...
Did digital tape sound better than digital hard disk?  Do people often just base audio opinions on musical content, or on the vintage of a recording?...

I think people frequently compare class A analog gear to class B digital when a more appropriate comparison might be with a Teac 3340.

One would HOPE that a $30,000 analog tape machine sounds better than any $2,000 digital 24 track rig! You can't get around the fact that cheap solid state electronics never sounded very good.

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #32 on: February 09, 2005, 01:55:08 pm »

Well for one thing, one compares what one realistically has to choose from.

So i might compare the A800 in the corner to the ProTools rig in the room.. those are my choices. what it might have sounded like an a Mitsubishi 850 is somewhat moot. (although in that A800 to Mitsubishi head-to-head i HATED the digital in Montserrat)

Or I comapre the ATR 1/2" to PT  or the GML conversion, as stated.

But really at the mastering stage that's usually some fairly high-end A-D.
At least as high end as real world choices tend to get.

And it's there that it's STILL obvious that you can hit that little button and compare "there it is, there it isn't, there it is, there it isn't..." <g>

It's a bit like a newspaper photo... no matter whether the original is a 35mm photo or it's the Mona Lisa, the newspaper photo of it still only has so many dots.

Anyway, I'm much happier mixing to analogue and only doing the inevitable A-D at Sterling.
Much LESS happy walking in there with it already digital.
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #33 on: February 09, 2005, 03:07:23 pm »

wwittman wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 13:55


Anyway, I'm much happier mixing to analogue and only doing the inevitable A-D at Sterling.
Much LESS happy walking in there with it already digital.


Digital artifacts (sheen, lack of depth, etc) smash badly and add up quickly with 2 mix processing.  Thus a well done, all analog recording can survive a Sterling slam, or any mastering far better.  A dynamic analog mix is REALLY able to be manipulated in mastering with still musical results.

Mastering is inevitably about fighting the harmonic artifacts just as much as it is about eq and sweetening.  When I record here it's  2" 16 mixed to 1/2" and only after the analog mastering pass does it get converted with the Pacific, maybe a little Weiss eq, L2 level up, Hedd sparkle and presto!    To my ear nothing sounds better than that process.
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #34 on: February 09, 2005, 05:23:58 pm »

David Kulka wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 14:30

 "repro cannot sound truer than input".


I didn't say truer than input! I said that passing through analog can add intelligibility and smooth over a track in a way that the limits of digital are not so obvious.
increased intelligibility denotes that the master has been processed, and therefore is less natural.
digital can't reproduce the musical detail as well as big analog.
truer to performance and feel=analog
truer to overall sound balance and low noise =digital

but analog masters are like photos on a hasselblad-sized camera -- detail to spare if you care to look.

I'd like to check out the slam! converter.

what is it that makes is special compared to the usual lot of converters?
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ted nightshade

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #35 on: February 09, 2005, 06:27:52 pm »

maxdimario wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 14:23

David Kulka wrote on Wed, 09 February 2005 14:30

 "repro cannot sound truer than input".


I didn't say truer than input! I said that passing through analog can add intelligibility and smooth over a track in a way that the limits of digital are not so obvious.
increased intelligibility denotes that the master has been processed, and therefore is less natural.
digital can't reproduce the musical detail as well as big analog.
truer to performance and feel=analog
truer to overall sound balance and low noise =digital

but analog masters are like photos on a hasselblad-sized camera -- detail to spare if you care to look.

I'd like to check out the slam! converter.

what is it that makes is special compared to the usual lot of converters?


Good question. Bob O tells me Weiss is better- I believe him. Costs a bit more though.

Part of it may be that it's faster than heck- I definitely hear timing stuff (which equals spacial stuff, more or less) rendered WAY better than with say HEDD or Genex. We do a lot of music with sloppy human grooves, and the best of it sounded great off analog tape, groovy and infectious, but died on the HEDD. This stuff sounds great on the SLAM!- better than tape for my tastes. All the eccentric human grooves work really well. With the HEDD, only the most normative-for-today metronomic hit-you-over-the-head-with-how-regular-it-is stuff was surviving the transfer from tape to digital. Makes me wonder if this property of needs-help digital has anything to do with our slide-to-grid obsessions.

And the SLAM! front end for the ADC can be as simple as a transformer and a couple other minor components. Very simple and to the point.

Anyhow, whatever it might be, the difference is enough, that in my SLAM! vs. ATR 1" 2 track comparisons (2 mics live to 2 tracks) I found that my conclusions were reversed from what you wrote above.

truer to performance and feel=SLAM!
truer to overall sound balance and low noise =well, the noise on that 1" 2 track is pretty negligible- both tape and SLAM! did very well here.

But, the SLAM! is the first converter I've found that I would say this about. Mostly, I find great tape to be much better with perfomance and feel than "pretty good" digital.

But I'm not talking about multitrack stuff. Haven't tried that with the SLAM! yet. I do find though, that multitrack is not very true to performance or feel- possibly one of it's greatest advantages!

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #36 on: February 09, 2005, 08:59:29 pm »

C'mon Nika. I know you are out there somewhere.

Bill
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #37 on: February 09, 2005, 09:33:45 pm »

That's what I was going to say.  Everybody better watch it or Nika will turn this thread into a math-a-thon.
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #38 on: February 10, 2005, 01:50:48 am »

We can get to 9 pages in one hell of a hurry. Nika, the turbocharger!

(In all due respect, I am not disrepecting him at all here)
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #39 on: February 10, 2005, 07:02:46 am »

ted nightshade wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 00:27


Anyhow, whatever it might be, the difference is enough, that in my SLAM! vs. ATR 1" 2 track comparisons (2 mics live to 2 tracks) I found that my conclusions were reversed from what you wrote above.

truer to performance and feel=SLAM!
truer to overall sound balance and low noise =well, the noise on that 1" 2 track is pretty negligible- both tape and SLAM! did very well here.

But, the SLAM! is the first converter I've found that I would say this about. Mostly, I find great tape to be much better with perfomance and feel than "pretty good" digital.

But I'm not talking about multitrack stuff. Haven't tried that with the SLAM! yet. I do find though, that multitrack is not very true to performance or feel- possibly one of it's greatest advantages!





what electronics were in the atr machine?
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #40 on: February 10, 2005, 11:23:34 am »

maxdimario wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 04:02

 


what electronics were in the atr machine?


That's a very relevant question. I've wondered if things might have come out differently with different tape machine electronics. These were the most expensive ones available, as far as I can tell- EAR/Tim Paravencini (sp?) custom tube electronics. I wonder what it would have been like with the Dave Hill electronics or the stock ones.
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #41 on: February 10, 2005, 12:08:56 pm »

ted nightshade wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 17:23

maxdimario wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 04:02

 


what electronics were in the atr machine?


That's a very relevant question. I've wondered if things might have come out differently with different tape machine electronics. These were the most expensive ones available, as far as I can tell- EAR/Tim Paravencini (sp?) custom tube electronics. I wonder what it would have been like with the Dave Hill electronics or the stock ones.



I am not familiar of the design philosophy behind the tape head amps by EAR, but they should be of a high enough quality to address the imaging issue...

I am going to look into this further, it seems too good to be true, but maybe somebody got it right after all.


gotta check that out.
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #42 on: February 10, 2005, 02:14:17 pm »

maxdimario wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 12:08



I am not familiar of the design philosophy behind the tape head amps by EAR, but they should be of a high enough quality to address the imaging issue...

I am going to look into this further, it seems too good to be true, but maybe somebody got it right after all.


gotta check that out.



Believe me, if anyone ever got it right (in this modern day), it's Tim.  I've dealt with him since '85-86.  I have many of his pieces, the EQ's Limiter, and Mic pre.  He does good...

Terry


PS:  ask Fletcher
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #43 on: February 10, 2005, 04:17:48 pm »

The drama is killin' me,

Tape is not gone.

Are tubes gone?

I just checked again and the library is still stacked to the ceiling with rolls of the stuff.

Its not like tape is extinct - ie:  died off and disappeared, gone the way of the do-do bird, like a battery or something -- useless.

I have reels specifically reserved for re-use (as in track to 2" and dump to something less...ummm...bulky?).  They say reels can last a lifetime, so what are we worried about?

I think back to when there were no more Pultecs, or Fairchilds.  But then, I go into a recording studio and there they are!  No wonder I can't find 'em on *Bay!

ELAM 251s??  Remember when there were no more?  What brought 'em back?  Fools like us willing to pay ANYTHING for one (thanks John McBride, Alan Sides and Sony Music Corp, etc.).

Same with the 1176 & LA2a - it was "worth" it for Bill Jr. to bring them back.  It will be worth it for Quantegy to rise from the ashes or ATR to come up with something else.

All the debates about "how many times can I record over it?" crack me up.  You know how many times one occasionally has to punch-in on the same spot over and over (generally right before the guitar solo)?  I think the reels enjoy getting used over and over, kind of a masochistic pleasure that rivals young performers' enthusiam.  Beats the heck out of "undo" or "next virtual track".

Whomever it is that's interviewing engineers and they say "no one uses tape" must be in the outback somewhere - no offense, Linear.

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

You are certainly NOT stupid, and you are probably not thrifty either <wink>.

Saying that the delivery medium to the public (mp3 or worse) is reason enough to lower our sound quality standards and nobody cares/notices "these days" is a bunch of hogwash, too.  If you cannot tell the difference, sonically, perhaps you are in the wrong field of expertise.

Those that wish to record to analog will find a way to do it.  Just like those that hunt wild game or drive muscle cars or whatever.  The process is the pleasure.

Warm analog regards,

Thom "Fig" Fiegle




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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #44 on: February 10, 2005, 11:05:15 pm »

In other words, is analogue a desirable, non-losable "effect" that can be utilised?


I have to say yes. I have recently tracked straight to PT HD and all other times I have gone to 2" analog prior. Going to analog has always provided glue between all the recorded instruments which provided a much more musical sound. Listening to the tracks going straight to PT I can see where my energies will be spent during the mix.

Rick Slater

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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #45 on: February 10, 2005, 11:20:15 pm »

Not making a value judgment here - most of my favorite pop records have probably been tracked to analog tape, but the "glue" that is often spoken of is in reality is a euphonic side-effect of the loss that is incurred by the blurring of transients, "edges" that separate sounds if you will, caused by wow, flutter, and saturation.   A/B'ing an acoustic recording done to analog and high-quality digital, you'll hear that the analog has the "glue" but the digital has the imaging and detail.  The choice would have to be subjective.  Then there is that love it or leave it analog tape head-bump thing that plumps up the bottom.
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #46 on: February 11, 2005, 12:24:29 am »

slicraider wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 23:05

In other words, is analogue a desirable, non-losable "effect" that can be utilised?


I have to say yes. I have recently tracked straight to PT HD and all other times I have gone to 2" analog prior. Going to analog has always provided glue between all the recorded instruments which provided a much more musical sound. Listening to the tracks going straight to PT I can see where my energies will be spent during the mix.

Rick Slater

New York


AlanS wrote on Thu, 10 February 2005 23:20

Not making a value judgment here - most of my favorite pop records have probably been tracked to analog tape, but the "glue" that is often spoken of is in reality is a euphonic side-effect of the loss that is incurred by the blurring of transients, "edges" that separate sounds if you will, caused by wow, flutter, and saturation.   A/B'ing an acoustic recording done to analog and high-quality digital, you'll hear that the analog has the "glue" but the digital has the imaging and detail.  The choice would have to be subjective.  Then there is that love it or leave it analog tape head-bump thing that plumps up the bottom.



Both perfect answers.  No deep physics, no euphemistic, nebulous terms (except for "glue," which is unavoidable and expositionary), but excellent real-world empirical observations.  I think the truth lies right here.
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #47 on: February 12, 2005, 05:41:15 pm »

Wow.  A lot of stuff here.  

Bob, I think you've hit something with the fact that digital often gets the bad rap because many people have heard A-List analog but few have heard A-List digital.  In the same way that the digital mix busses suck because so many people who don't know what hell they are doing are mixing through them.

In addition, people who DO know what they are doing ignore that the two are very different mediums and as a result don't change their recording techniques.  I recently was cleaning a closet and found a magazine with a very old report from the head engineer at, I think, Polar, who was talking about his first experiences with a 3324.  His summary was that he would have to relearn recording because it was so different.  This is the only time I've ever heard an older engineer say that.  20 years later, it is still true- most records are made with knee-jerk use of the methods learned early in careers, handed down from the past.

Third, while tape is the sound of rock, many great musicians- singers, guitar players, piano players alike- that I work with who have amazing tone and dynamic prefer digital.  They always feel that their efforts are lost with tape.  

Ultimately, all nostalgia aside, tape will continue to exist only on the margins of recording.  Even if you are able to often use tape, you will still have to understand digital for what it is, and find out how to use its strengths, as much as several generations of analog recording engineers worked to make tape all that it could be.  

Let's stop the bitching.  Hell, most people don't even use the 16 bits we're given let alone the 20 they really could use.  That's the challenge- to make a record no one's heard before.  The race is on, guys.  Go for it- use the new tool as a new tool instead of trying to make the same damn record everone's been making for the last 40 years.  From the arrangements to mics to the placements to the gain structures, there is a whole lot of stuff that can be done very differently if the brain just opens up.

Best,

r.


 
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Re: The Future Without Tape
« Reply #48 on: February 12, 2005, 06:18:56 pm »

This argument is similar to what I am experiencing now as I am testing different types of capacitors for sound quality.

The 'cleanest' caps that I have tested so far are the plastic film types, although that clean high end tends to be harsh and somewhat emphasised by a form of hysterisis which adds 'bad' harmonics in the upper midrange (we are talking slight but significant differences).
I have yet to try auricaps and the like, so I hope the hysterisis issue does not apply to them.
there are also polystirene which are very clean and don't add too many artifacts, but they are usually small values and expensive.
Paper caps don't have this annoying characteristic, but they do tend to lose a little top end detail and have a similar effect to tape as far as rounding the edges, depending on the condition and quality of the cap.

electrolytics are different beasts altogether and seem to have an 'aural exciter' kind of distortion, due to the fact that they are bypolar among other things.

there are plenty of ways to screw up sound by using components that were not selected by ear for music reproduction.

and glueing things together by distorting the sound can be obtained in other ways.

The main concern for tape vs. digital is if digital really can capture the live feel (imaging/resolution/speed/natural-ness) of music.

gotta try out that SLAM or the weiss.

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