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Studer A800mkIII VS Digidesign Reel Tape Saturation
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fro
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17th June 2010
Old 17th June 2010
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Studer A800mkIII VS Digidesign Reel Tape Saturation

Hi all, I have done a research project in order to determine how well do tape plugins actually preform. I have tested Cranesong Phoenix, Duy DaD Tape, Digidesign Reel Tape Saturation, Massey Tape Head, and Sound Toys Decapitator (not a dedicated tape emulator, but very versatile nonetheless). Machine used was Studer A800mkIII and RMGI SM900 tape @ 30 ips, hit decently hard.

I have then selected the closest plugin to the Studer for the material that was used in this case, and tweaked it to get it as close as possible on each individual Chanel. It turned out to be Digi RTS, and coincidentally, one of the algorithms of the plug is actually modeled after Studer A800mkIII - which made this that more interesting.

In order to eliminate any inconsistencies, material was recorded with Digi 192 I/O inbuilt converters. From there i ran 24 tracks out to Studer and back using Lynx Aurora converters. I also ran a pass through the same analog path to include the extra ADDA stage files passed through Studer had. Theese files were used for comparison had DIGI RTS applied.

Special care was taken to match operating levels throughout the whole process.

The idea of this research was to keep it as close as possible to the real-world scenario, as that is what matters at the end of the day. Therefore, I have done a basic ITB mix with both versions in the same session, sharing the same channels @ the same operating levels.

I have constructed a really simple and short survey containing the link to the files, as this is for my college project.

I you have a few spare minutes, have a listen, you might be surprised.
Of course, I will reveal the results after people have had a go at it. I will also post overall stats of the survey.

Thanks
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17th June 2010
Old 17th June 2010
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Track 2 sounds much more glued together,smooth and has more soul to it. Im anxious to know now.

Track 2 was the reel to reel. If IM right Im getting one cause I just now know what all the talk is about. It would be awesome if Im wrong though, cause then I can just get the plug in.LOL
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17th June 2010
Old 17th June 2010
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In 2 everything sounds more real to me.

1 is like a sound-xerox of the instruments playing.
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18th June 2010
Old 18th June 2010
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status update

Thanks everyone for taking a few minutes to have a listen and answer the questions. What I can tell you is that, at the moment, there is approximately an equal number of choices on each side. I will leave the survey open for a couple of days more to see if it stays that way.

What I am considering at the moment is adding another question along with a third audio file. Third audio file would be created simply by switching between the real tape and the tape emu files for X number times. The question would be to give a number of times that you noticed the switch. Would someone care for something like that? If there is enough interest, I will update the survey, otherwise, I'll just analyze the responses I'm getting from the original survey. Cheers
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18th June 2010
Old 18th June 2010
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I, too, prefer 2. There is a lot more "tape effect" going in that one. I suspect 2 is the plugin, since it sounds a bit "over the top" - in a nice way. If this is the emulation that comes the closest to the actual tape machine, I can only dream about how far apart the others were. This is not very close sounding, in my book...
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18th June 2010
Old 18th June 2010
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They are really different... the first sounds "cleaner" and the second sounds more compressed and has a lot of "bass build up" (more "processed")... a bit to much even...

So I guess that the second is the plug-in because it is a bit too much of the "tape like behaviour"... it is trying too hard to make it sound like tape (does this make any sense?).

But, I don't think that one is "better" than the other...
Tape and plug-ins are just tools and it is the artist to say what better fits his sound.
fro
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18th June 2010
Old 18th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by World Studios View Post
If this is the emulation that comes the closest to the actual tape machine, I can only dream about how far apart the others were. This is not very close sounding, in my book...
Please remember that this the emulation that came closest for this particular material. I just want to be clear that this is in no way a comparison between the plugins/search for the best tape emulation plugin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Spot View Post
But, I don't think that one is "better" than the other...
Tape and plug-ins are just tools and it is the artist to say what better fits his sound.
Spot on. Exactly what I'm trying to prove by conducting this research. The results are still close on each side. If it stays that way (or goes tape emu way), it will prove the point.
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18th June 2010
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How can I listen - can't find the files
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18th June 2010
Old 18th June 2010
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The high fq´s at track 2 are more present yet harsh compared to track 1. Overall track 1 seems to be more glued in a natural way. I guess that track 1 is the swiss army knife and track 2 is the digi plugin. I really hope that I am wrong )
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18th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteJames View Post
How can I listen - can't find the files
follow the link to the survey in the original post.
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18th June 2010
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It would be great if you would also post the original unprocessed sample of the digital file when this survey is done!
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18th June 2010
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Very intresting comments. Im excited to know now. BUt to me track one makes me feel more like Im in the control room while track 2 feels more like an experience. But I come from a HIp HOp back round so I concentrate heavily on the snares and percussive elements to sound undynamic and smooth.
BUt I have only even attempted to do anything with music about a year ago so Im still wet behind the ears.

But I will be happy if it is a plugin cause Im hunting for a tape machine right now.
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19th June 2010
Old 19th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amfortas2006 View Post
It would be great if you would also post the original unprocessed sample of the digital file when this survey is done!
I will certainly do that. Survey is till open - follow the link from the original post. I will be revealing the results tomorrow or Monday (time permitting). Thanks everyone for participating so far. Cheers
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19th June 2010
Old 19th June 2010
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No.1 is Studer

No.2 is digital tape saturation processing

No.1 sounds more tape compressed, transients are better tamed, kick sounds "rounder" in no.1 (which is not neccesarily a preference for everyone, but I think, it's the effect of real tape compression) - it sounds like rerecorded on tape, while no.2 sounds like a recording processed through plug-ins. But I am not saying one is better than the other - they are just different...
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20th June 2010
Old 20th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fro View Post
What I am considering at the moment is adding another question along with a third audio file. Third audio file would be created simply by switching between the real tape and the tape emu files for X number times. The question would be to give a number of times that you noticed the switch. Would someone care for something like that? If there is enough interest, I will update the survey, otherwise, I'll just analyze the responses I'm getting from the original survey. Cheers
I'd prefer this. It's two hard for me to compare without instant switching. Pretty much the same to me but I don't know jack about tape.
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21st June 2010
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I prefer #1...more glued and less harsh
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21st June 2010
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If 1 is Digi Reel Tape I'm buying it.
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21st June 2010
Old 21st June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amfortas2006 View Post
It would be great if you would also post the original unprocessed sample of the digital file when this survey is done!
thumbsup would love too !
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21st June 2010
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I prefer 2. More relaxed, bigger, more comfortable. Louder somehow aswell.
To me 1 sounds like plugin-smallness (i.e. familiar).
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22nd June 2010
Old 22nd June 2010
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Survey closed!

Okay, survey is now closed. Very interesting results indeed. I bet you're all waiting for this so...

Track 1 is Digidesign Reel Tape Saturation

Track 2 is Studer A800mkIII
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#21
22nd June 2010
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Survey stats

Out of 52 participants that attempted the last question 28 (53.8%) thought that Track 1 is Studer, and 24 (46.2%) got it right. This does not include 3 participants who could not hear the difference at all.

The survey had a question logic so that whoever couldn't hear the differences between the files - couldn't attempt the main question. I am also posting the survey summary so you can draw your own conclusions.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf SurveySummary_06212010.pdf (7.6 KB, 257 views)
fro
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22nd June 2010
Old 22nd June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amfortas2006 View Post
It would be great if you would also post the original unprocessed sample of the digital file when this survey is done!
Here we go, Track 3 - without tape processing (real or emulated)

In addition, I uploaded Track 4 as well, consisting of an x number of switches between Tracks 1 & 2 from the original survey. If anyone cares, take a guess at how many switches have been made. You can listen to the track as many times as you like, although I encourage you to do one pass only, as this would have more real world relevance.

Also, since the survey is now closed I'm posting the link to the original survey files (Tracks 1 & 2).

Music used for this research project is a remix of a song named Reaction Reactive, by Homeland Visitors, taken form their self-released EP - Unenthusiastic - available as a free download from HomelandVisitors
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22nd June 2010
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amazing
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22nd June 2010
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OP: which of the other saturation plugs do you consider quite similar to digi reel tape ? not working with tools anymore, logic rig ftw thanks in advance
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22nd June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fro View Post
Okay, survey is now closed. Very interesting results indeed. I bet you're all waiting for this so...

Track 1 is Digidesign Reel Tape Saturation

Track 2 is Studer A800mkIII
How hard were you hitting the Studer?
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22nd June 2010
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Cool, I was wrong. Guess there was a reason why I returned all the reel-to-reel machines I had on loan after the initial enthusiasm...

Although I would say to anyone who never tried tape to try it yourself... don't judge solely upon such online tests.

But in reality - if you don't have a really good machine and are not prepared to invest time in maintenance - don't do it... I also don't use tape saturation plug-ins much...

No.2 sounded to me like I am used to from plug-ins - a little transient smearing, blown up sound, but not much "taming" of the signal - really, how hard did you hit the tape? It doesn't seem to do much compression and mayabe the bias or equalisation is set too "bright"...
No.1 still sounds more like "tape" hit a bit harder to me, even after I know it is not... It is obviously a quite good plug-in. The one I still use rarely is Virsyn Vtape - it is like a clean and simple to use version of Revox B77 (soundwise - my personal judgement, not the official statement from them).

Not the same when you have them side by side - and you can get all those hard hitting tape effects from the real thing, but if I would do a similar test as this one, you could hardly know which is which... especially if you add hiss to the plug-in... But still I mostly bypass it after trying... ehe...Live and learn.
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23rd June 2010
Old 23rd June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Spot View Post
How hard were you hitting the Studer?
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Listener View Post

No.2 sounded to me like I am used to from plug-ins - a little transient smearing, blown up sound, but not much "taming" of the signal - really, how hard did you hit the tape? It doesn't seem to do much compression and mayabe the bias or equalisation is set too "bright"...
I did hit the Studer in the right spot. I did 4 passes: clean, moderate, hard, and slamming. Slamming was just way over the top, so i decided to go with the "hard" pass for the remainder of this project. It is a well calibrated machine. However, I recorded @ 30 IPS, which is probably why you feel that way. I also must add that there was a significant (and noticeable) amount of compression. And later, when i transferred these passes to tools, waveforms weren't showing any transients form the original file. I find that it was easier to notice this on the individual channels tho, as opposed to the later stereo bounces (although you can).
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23rd June 2010
Old 23rd June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Listener View Post
Cool, I was wrong. Guess there was a reason why I returned all the reel-to-reel machines I had on loan after the initial enthusiasm...

Although I would say to anyone who never tried tape to try it yourself... don't judge solely upon such online tests.

But in reality - if you don't have a really good machine and are not prepared to invest time in maintenance - don't do it... I also don't use tape saturation plug-ins much...
I agree completely on both accounts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Listener View Post
... especially if you add hiss to the plug-in...
Hehe, not the same without the hiss
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23rd June 2010
Old 23rd June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darc View Post
OP: which of the other saturation plugs do you consider quite similar to digi reel tape ? not working with tools anymore, logic rig ftw thanks in advance
I was pleasantly surprised by the Decapitator. I know that it's not a dedicated tape emulator, but with it's comprehensive set of parameters, it got me pretty close. It also has a mix dry/wet control for convenient parallel processing. Cranesong sounded sweet too, a lot of nice tape characteristics, but different to what i was getting from this Studer. It is actually 5 different plugs (algorithms), so it's quite versatile. Unfortunately for you, it is TDM only.

Ultimately, the only relevant thing is to have a listen for yourself. And more importantly try different things for the particular material you're working on. That way you'll see what works (if anything). I think it should be as simple as like it/don't like it - move on.

These are just my humble findings based on this isolated project - I don't want to turn this into a plugin debate.
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23rd June 2010
Old 23rd June 2010
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thanks
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