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 Forum index » How-tos » Production - engineering/mixing
Mixing down to 1/4 inch tape.
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KarmanHardon



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 2:20 pm    Post subject: Mixing down to 1/4 inch tape.
Subject description: Your experiences... what's possible or not...
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So I just got this here...

An Akai GX-4000D. Mint.
Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.
In short:
30-24000 hz
Signal to noise ratio: Better than 60db (I don't care much about hiss, really... I want it!!)
Distortion: less than 1%


And I hunted some tape and found a boxful of unused Maxell reels like this:

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

Now... all my gear is currently in storage and I can't try anything for three more weeks... and I'm going nuts!!!

I have a few house tracks in the making that could use excessive compression... If you see what I mean... well, very much à la DaftPunk. Ultra loud.



So I'm just asking for people's experience with this medium for mixing down. How good is it, really?
I'm really, really impatient and wondering how high my hopes should be...


Tape recommendations? Useful advices? Should I just forget about it all?
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EdisonRex
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Oh man. Tape was always a good medium.

Nice thing about tape is those meters are more elastic. In the digital world, 0dB = dogfart territory. you have to keep your levels down. In the tape world, you can saturate and get extra harmonics. But I usually stayed between 0 and +6 max. Your peaks will tend to compress themselves out in the medium, as the tape and electronics can't handle peaks at those high levels. If you choose more reasonable levels, the sound is still different from digital. I've almost forgotten it, but not really Smile

Enjoy it and experiment with it. I know some people who master to analog and then take the finished bits and record them to DAT, just to pick up the analog harmonic shit. Maybe hardcore, but try it if you want.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A 1/4 inch deck won´t provide you with the much hyped tape compression... well.. it will.. but not in a really useable fashion.
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KarmanHardon



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yo man!

EdisonRex wrote:


Nice thing about tape is those meters are more elastic. In the digital world, 0dB = dogfart territory. you have to keep your levels down. In the tape world, you can saturate and get extra harmonics.


Yeah... I just can't wait to use all the outputs on my card and mix on the console... and crank the crap out of everything I want!!


I soooooo can't wait man!! Jeezz.... this waiting for moving-in-the-new-place is killing me for real.

Oh... here's what they say about the heads in it:
Quote:

The Glass and Crystal Ferrite heads are known for their reliability and extra high frequency response and focused field and replaced the Cross-Field head system. These heads were made out of hard glass and crystal ferrite and were virtually indestructable, and dust free. They were stated to last 150,000 hours which is equivalent to 17 years. This means the high frequencies don't go dull due to wear since this specific type of head is made out of hard glass and crystal ferrite.



Guess I was lucky to find that particular one.

elektro80 wrote:
A 1/4 inch deck won´t provide you with the much hyped tape compression... well.. it will.. but not in a really useable fashion.


*whines*
ok... Wink
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, that deck of yours is pretty good, and I´m sure you will have serious fun with it. Very Happy
When it comes to that hyped fatness you can get on tape, look for the serious huge multitracks with at least 1/2 inch tapes.. but the fun starts at 1 inch. However, you will be able to create pleasing tape sound artifacts using that Akai. Cool
And.. I still keep a few old decks around for just that....

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

*cheers up* Cool! Very Happy

Ok ... now I want that b*tch!!
click here

Gahh!!... where I got my akai (for 20$can,btw) I saw boxes full of used 1inch tape reels a few months ago... I didn't think very fast. -edit: seriously what a dumb moron I was no to grab these!!! I bet there was a recorder in a corner somewhere also.... shhhttffffckkkn'chrrrsssst
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

AFAICR, that particular model is a tad weird.. the S noise redux and some other stuff doesn´t get you that famous early 70s tape sound. It´s useable though.
Look for old Studer and Ampex decks. A half inch - 1 inch 2 track mastering deck would be perfect. Please do consider that mint condition pro tapes might be expensive.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Cool... thanks for the advice.

I'll keep my eyes open for good deals.

My friend here calls me a nerd for going through all that trouble to get a compression effect I could get with a plug... he just doesn't understand Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
AFAICR, that particular model is a tad weird.. the S noise redux and some other stuff doesn´t get you that famous early 70s tape sound. It´s useable though.


The Fostex, not the AKAI.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Using reel-to-reel decks for adding that analogue warmth/tape compression etc. is possible. It can render excellent results. However, there are issues. You will figure it out, I´m sure.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think I'm going to bring it to a friend's studio... I want to try stuff out now... and find all about those issues...

A buddy of mine wants me to record his band (hardcore trash metal I can't stand much). It will have to be a one-take thing as they are not "trained" musicians... and they want a live feel... completely understandable. He said he wants a "trashy" sound... It'd be fun to do record direct to the Akai... If it's good enough. Gonna have to borrow a few comps for that... or a o1v...

Or maybe just the drums and bass... so much things to try... I'm basically a 31 yr old analog virgin. Had a 4-track for 15 years but... y'know.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I wouldn't master onto Akai r-to-r decks- they're not very good imo. To my ears they sound too 'squashed' (I know- I've also got one. 4000DX??- okay for echo, apart from it's difficult to change the speed). You'd be better off looking for an old Revox A77 or B77, with a 15ips speed selection. The old Revox (or Studer) sound so much nicer- plus you can do all kinds of wild shit with them too! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
A 1/4 inch deck won´t provide you with the much hyped tape compression... well.. it will.. but not in a really useable fashion.


Not so true concerning the Fostex R8. This was a lovely sounding machine- great for electronic stuff too, especially as it gave a lovely sweet-sounding compression imo.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

v-un-v wrote:
elektro80 wrote:
A 1/4 inch deck won´t provide you with the much hyped tape compression... well.. it will.. but not in a really useable fashion.


Not so true concerning the Fostex R8. This was a lovely sounding machine- great for electronic stuff too, especially as it gave a lovely sweet-sounding compression imo.


Same for some Phillips ones. Phillips used a sort of compander chip to combat tape-hiss and that adds to the effect. The same chip is actually used in some higer-end BOSS analogue effects.

Depending on the genre and effect needed you can actually get very impressive results with casette tape and a higher end tape deck. It's not for solo piano but for house it can work miracles.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:


Depending on the genre and effect needed you can actually get very impressive results with casette tape and a higher end tape deck. It's not for solo piano but for house it can work miracles.


I'll second that! Especially good trick for dance stuff. And even stranger, that compander chip can be very effective in cheap cassette units- the 'auto-level' can produce some very good sound indeed, which sounds great over a big PA.

Early Aphex Twin is a prime example of this. Mastered onto a crappy tape deck with an autolevel function, then remastered onto DAT. I don't think this was originally intentional as a process, I think it only happened when James fancied getting them on to vinyl! You can hear the tape chews on "Selected Ambient Works vol 1"- especially on the 1st track, and later on "We are the music makers", the fat-cassette-overdriven bass just sounds sublime Very Happy

As I've always said, production and or equipment is rather overrated. Lee Scratch Perry is my Lo-Fi hero, next to Holger Czukay Wink

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

v-un-v wrote:
elektro80 wrote:
A 1/4 inch deck won´t provide you with the much hyped tape compression... well.. it will.. but not in a really useable fashion.


Not so true concerning the Fostex R8. This was a lovely sounding machine- great for electronic stuff too, especially as it gave a lovely sweet-sounding compression imo.


Well, not really in the same league as a Studer, Ampex or an Otari... if we still are talking about tape saturation here.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:

Well, not really in the same league as a Studer, Ampex or an Otari... if we still are talking about tape saturation here.


Saturation? Well I'm not too sure. Compression of trying to squeeze 8 tracks onto 1/4 inch tape? Yes. I think so. That and the combined Dolby C was a very musical combination. Added toys such as the SPL Vitaliser helped increase the bass and top ends- as well as making the midrange more transparent. But now we're getting back into production Evil or Very Mad Shocked Laughing

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

v-un-v wrote:
elektro80 wrote:

Well, not really in the same league as a Studer, Ampex or an Otari... if we still are talking about tape saturation here.


Saturation? Well I'm not too sure. Compression of trying to squeeze 8 tracks onto 1/4 inch tape? Yes. I think so.


8 tracks onto 1/4 inch tape simply means more "problems" as in less magnetic material for each track, more dropouts, thinner tape, deisgn issues re the heads and alignment and all that.

That said, if we forget the usual hype re how fat and important tape distortion is, consider for a moment that well recorded audio on magnetic tape can sound really sweet.

Even many crappy decks can deliver a weird and wonderful sound. However, the best choice if you need a versatile and truly good sounding deck is a high speed 1/4 inch two track mastering device. Of course a 1/2 inch would be better, but these are still more expensive.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
v-un-v wrote:
elektro80 wrote:

Well, not really in the same league as a Studer, Ampex or an Otari... if we still are talking about tape saturation here.


Saturation? Well I'm not too sure. Compression of trying to squeeze 8 tracks onto 1/4 inch tape? Yes. I think so.


8 tracks onto 1/4 inch tape simply means more "problems" as in less magnetic material for each track, more dropouts, thinner tape, deisgn issues re the heads and alignment and all that.

That said, if we forget the usual hype re how fat and important tape distortion is, consider for a moment that well recorded audio on magnetic tape can sound really sweet.

Even many crappy decks can deliver a weird and wonderful sound. However, the best choice if you need a versatile and truly good sounding deck is a high speed 1/4 inch two track mastering device. Of course a 1/2 inch would be better, but these are still more expensive.


I had a Tascam 388 which worked just fine back in the day, lots better than, say my old Fostex cassette or the Tascam Portastudio I recorded with back in the mid 80s.

I outgrew the 388 because 7 tracks of audio plus 1 track of smpte sync wasn't enough.

I think any analogue tape is way less harsh about peak overload. As you say, the tape area is an consideration, but even so, it's more forgiving than the absolute limits of a digital domain recorder. And you do get a different sound, regardless of the tape/head area. Whether that sound has a decent S/N ratio is another story...

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Gee, and I thought I was nuts Wink
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I see what you are aiming at, Stein, but you definately CAN saturate a casette tape deck. Also considder the sort of tape (1/4") in those space echos and the sound those are known for.

You definately have a point but how many of us can afford to spend a cubic meter on a tape recorder? Also, those big reels, the 2" ones, let's see some hands; who can afford those? Oh, and while those hands are up, how many have the characteristic scars of actually working with them?

(I never got scared from those, though I do have a scar at that spot, I did once shoot some parts of the reel attachment through a rather expensive studio containing 3 synthies(!!!) ) once, at a rather large speed....).

Concluding; I feel that there are ADC's&DAC's with their own characteristic sound that's nice but I'd never use those for main mixes in daily life. The big tape ones are too bloody expensive as well as downright dangerous so recording to stereo 1/4" where it's suitable is a great and resonable compromise.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
I see what you are aiming at, Stein, but you definately CAN saturate a casette tape deck. Also considder the sort of tape (1/4") in those space echos and the sound those are known for.

You definately have a point but how many of us can afford to spend a cubic meter on a tape recorder? Also, those big reels, the 2" ones, let's see some hands; who can afford those? Oh, and while those hands are up, how many have the characteristic scars of actually working with them?

(I never got scared from those, though I do have a scar at that spot, I did once shoot some parts of the reel attachment through a rather expensive studio containing 3 synthies(!!!) ) once, at a rather large speed....).

Concluding; I feel that there are ADC's&DAC's with their own characteristic sound that's nice but I'd never use those for main mixes in daily life. The big tape ones are too bloody expensive as well as downright dangerous so recording to stereo 1/4" where it's suitable is a great and resonable compromise.


Did Kassen ever leave a hub lock off and hit rewind? Just wondering.

or was it fast forward?

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

EdisonRex wrote:


Did Kassen ever leave a hub lock off and hit rewind? Just wondering.

or was it fast forward?


Yes but equally crazy parallels could be drawn with chosing the wrong hard drive during a late night session and loosing a weeks work! Or in my case, dropping a rather old MD walkman while recording the last few empty minutes on the end of the disk and loosing that amazing jam session from the previous summer Shocked Crying or Very sad

Leave a tape machine lying on its back, and one can leave those hubs unlatched everytime! Very Happy Idea

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

EdisonRex wrote:

Did Kassen ever leave a hub lock off and hit rewind? Just wondering.

or was it fast forward?


He did! I can't remember in which direction I made it wind but I believe the lock shot towards me and to the left (mostly to the left). No damage was done and nobody got hurt but that thing went fast! Could've been far worse....

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 2:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kassen wrote:
EdisonRex wrote:

Did Kassen ever leave a hub lock off and hit rewind? Just wondering.

or was it fast forward?


He did! I can't remember in which direction I made it wind but I believe the lock shot towards me and to the left (mostly to the left). No damage was done and nobody got hurt but that thing went fast! Could've been far worse....


EdisonRex did that once, too. With 1/2 inch tape, and never did it again, because he got yelled at by the studio owner. Those hub locks are there for a reason.

I once saw a 2" tape reel levitate, but that's another story altogether, we were trying to make it misbehave.

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