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as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track
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Zokuhei
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23rd June 2012
Old 23rd June 2012
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as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track

Dear colleagues,

after living with this forum for quite some time now, I finally found something I feel I have to share with you guys.

After having concentrated on "standard" multitrack ProTools productions in the Indie and Post-Punk area for the last years, I started to get bored by the usual way of working, gridding, tuning, editing, you name it and you all know what I am talking about.
I felt like I had to change something in order to motivate myself again and to enable my clients to really make music.

Some time ago I started working on direct to 2 track tape recordings and found it to be exactly what I was missing at that moment. Most of my clients were sceptical and scared at first but I asked them to just try it.
Finally I had my first "live to 2 track" album recording booked with the german Indie quartett "Adolar" last weekend.
We booked the "Emil-Berliner-Studios" in Berlin. (It's a great new studio in the same building as Hansa, working mostly on classical music for "Deutsche Grammophon" but with a great vintage analog room)

I set the band up in the recording room just as I wanted the stereo image to sound like. Drums and Bass amp in the middle, Synth amp half left and Guitars left and right.

I put up a pair of SDCs as a main microphone setup and added Overheads, SD, BD, FOK and Amp Mics. 12 channels all together.

After 2 days of soundcheck we were set on the following setup:

Main Mics - B&K 4006 (black grid)
Overheads - Brauner VM1s
FOK - U 47
Snare - MD 441
Bassdrum - TLM 170
Bass - U67
Guitars - Royer 121
Synth-Amp - TLM 170

All pres were V72s going to a late 50s Siemens console (Guitars and Synths premixed with 70s Polygram console coming back on two tracks on the Siemens desk). The mix went to a Neumann Mastering console for final EQ adjustments and got recorded directly on 1/4" tape with Studer c37.

The band loved the sound and I especially loved being in full action, mixing live, deciding on the sound as the boys played.

I added some pictures of the setup for you sluts to have a look.

I can't say I'll never work multitrack again, but I found this way of working to be a great alternative for me to rediscover my love for recording and producing. As a young producer and engineer, this was a new discovery for me and I am lucky enough to have clients that trust me with this.

I hope you enjoy the idea and the pics and I'd love to hear what you guys think about it!

All the best,

Tim Tautorat
Attached Thumbnails
as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track01.jpg   as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track02.jpg   as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track03.jpg   as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track04.jpg   as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track05.jpg  

as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track06.jpg   as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track07.jpg   as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track08.jpg   as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track09.jpg   as "High End" as it gets - direct to 2track-liveto2track10.jpg  

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23rd June 2012
Old 23rd June 2012
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Nice to read that someone is digging the direct to 2. Its kinda the antithesis of what seems to be happening more and more (i.e. lack of decision making during tracking, a gazillion od's, fixes it in the mix, etc.) Heck, people are even taking stems to mastering nowadays...

I tend to always print a direct to 2 during basic tracking days. I'll send a clean feed (no mutes or solos audible) to a stereo AD/DA, masterlink, or even a dat.

At the end of the day, the band walks away with clearly labeled takes and there's no time spent printing refs, especially since no one ever seems to alott time at the end of the day to do this and expect the tracks ready to take home since they spent the whole day recording...
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23rd June 2012
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I love this method as well

it's much more immediate and fresh...mixing on the fly (fun!!), summing to tape. It also discourages endless overdubs, which I hate...forces rehearsals before and commitment during recording. and then it's over and you can send it out the door, oftentimes without mastering (if it was done in a day). This is Old School and Proper, and in a good number of ways, the standard that should be adhered to
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23rd June 2012
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Very cool. I've always wanted to try it, but no client has been willing so far.

I'm not sure why direct to 2 track is more "high end" than multitracking, but kudos for embracing the process!
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23rd June 2012
Old 23rd June 2012
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Tim, you just became something of a personal hero! I too am tired of the '40-vocal-track comp', gridding and the endless "You can fix that though, right?" It's great that you've got yourself some adventurous clients who are willing to try it. I bet the session was a doozy.
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23rd June 2012
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A band should be a band... and that is the only way to record a true band... the setup is fckn sick as.
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23rd June 2012
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Thanks everybody for the kind words.
And yes, the session was massive fun.

@trakworx:
I didn't mean to degrade multitrack recordings in any way! The title was only referring to the great consoles, mics and machines used, that are anything but usual for my understanding.

@myles83:
I am still looking for a good way to combine the different ways of production for sessions where d2t alone doesn't work. I will probably try that the next time I work on a multitrack session. Thanks for the idea!

I wasn't sure about the kind of sound I would be able to create at first but after some practicing with the band on each song I was able to find a quite modern sound, that suits the band very well as it's based on what you hear in the room.

Still interested in more opinions!

Tim Tautorat
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23rd June 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zokuhei View Post
I am still looking for a good way to combine the different ways of production for sessions where d2t alone doesn't work.
Commit, commit, commit! your name will be on it, so you're forever married to it. make the bus sends to your DAW be POST monitor fader. the monitor mix you create in a multitrack session should sound I-freaking-dentical to the direct to 2 version...
right?
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23rd June 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zokuhei View Post
T
Still interested in more opinions!
Can you post files?
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23rd June 2012
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@kooz:

Right!

The live mix could at least be something I do for myself and for checking back during multitrack mix. I found, that the monitoring mix during tracking often sounded fuller and more natural to me than what I did in mixing.

Not even thinking about how much I hate to just sit and wait while listening to solo drums and click playing basic tracks

@trakworx:

Unfortunately I can't as the release is going to be some time from now and the label won't allow me to. As soon as promotion with snippets starts, I'll post some samples, for sure!


btw. excuse my "german" english, especially in cases I don't really get what you guys mean. Just give me a second try then!

Best,

Tim Tautorat
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23rd June 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
Very cool. I've always wanted to try it, but no client has been willing so far.

I'm not sure why direct to 2 track is more "high end" than multitracking, but kudos for embracing the process!

My first thought when I read "more high end" was that one less process was applied to the audio (mixing)
Straight to 2 track does have a really clear and pristine sound, simply due to the lack of wires and electronics.... let alone conversion and/or tape transfer.

It's great fun to track to stereo, I don't get to do it often enough sadly.... ironically it's the bands on a tight budget (time constraints) that get this treat..... just to save studio time mixing.
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23rd June 2012
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Originally Posted by crosscutred View Post
My first thought when I read "more high end" was that one less process was applied to the audio (mixing)
Technically speaking, I'd say multitrack recording/reproducing is the one less process. He did the mixing on the fly, but it was still mixed. Point taken though. It's a more direct and pure process that captures a moment in time like nothing else can.
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Are you rehearsing the songs with the band to adjust things like what effect to use or how to compress certain things then going for a take, or are you doing those things and cutting to the 2-track and then picking the best one later?
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23rd June 2012
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@drumsound:

What I actually do is to set up all the dynamics, eqs and effects while the guys rehearse for themselves and then work on the "automation" while I let the band play run-throughs. Only when I feel that I got a feeling for the verses and the chorus and really know what happens in the bridge I put on the red light.
Not more takes than needed.


Best
Tim
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23rd June 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
Technically speaking, I'd say multitrack recording/reproducing is the one less process. He did the mixing on the fly, but it was still mixed. Point taken though. It's a more direct and pure process that captures a moment in time like nothing else can.
Yes, I put that badly, the process that is avoided is another transfer/conversion.

I have never heard something sound better than straight to 2 track tape.... performance notwithstanding.
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23rd June 2012
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Hi Tim,

I admire this pursuit. Congratulations
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23rd June 2012
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Good on you , I recorded a quasi-jazz album direct to DAT back in the day , the performance and completeness totally triumphed and the clients were rapt.
The challenge was to get the right mix.

I imagine the final product you achieved on tape was very rewarding on several levels and if the music was cool will stand the test of time to listen to.
Cheers, Ross
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24th June 2012
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Way to go Tim!
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24th June 2012
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I remember having a record (vinyl) back in the late 70's by Lee Rittenour and a group that was recorded live to 2 track and the sound was fantastic. I think it was done in Japan. I think there was a version of Valdez In The Country on it. of course those guys were amazing.

kudos to you for pulling this off...
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24th June 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by climber View Post

I remember having a record (vinyl) back in the late 70's by Lee Rittenour and a group that was recorded live to 2 track and the sound was fantastic. I think it was done in Japan. I think there was a version of Valdez In The Country on it. of course those guys were amazing.
I believe you're talking about this album:

It was entitled "Gentle Thoughts", and was actually done "direct to disc" (...as in live straight to the cutting lathe) back in 1977.

They also had a 2-track running for safety (and for possible re-issues), which is what they used to make the CD re-issue awhile back.
.
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I remember ( kind of) the Ritenour album with Eric Gale, Abe Laboriel ,hHarvey Mason and the chick keyboard player... That's a great album and direct to disc too !
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There is something about a band playing live and to tape that is basically impossible to re-create with the individual instrument/overdub process. There is a certain immediacy and energy to the performance.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyc View Post

There is something about a band playing live and to tape that is basically impossible to re-create with the individual instrument/overdub process. There is a certain immediacy and energy to the performance.
That is because a musician can react to what has already been recorded, but a musician that has already been recorded cannot react to what has yet to be played.

...Sure, we may work the parts out in advance and anticipate what we plan to do later, but that's NOT the same thing as true INTERaction.
.
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24th June 2012
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Live-to-2 track recording is thrilling and a lot of fun.

I used to offer bands a live recording in the studio. They could come in and set up, then I'd mic'em up and get levels and a mix going while they were jamming. Then we'd start recording to 2 track. At that time, it was DAT (or cassette!).

They'd get 3 hours of studio time, and they'd leave with as many songs as they could squeeze in. One group did 18 songs, out the door!

I'd keep my eye on 'who was doing what' through the glass and ride the guitars and vocals as the guys played. It was a great way to document their tunes, and a great way for me to hone my mixing and troubleshooting chops in the hot seat. I did those fairly regularly for many years. It took very little studio time, and I got a hundred bucks!

I listen back to those old recordings, and they were pretty darn good! And tons of fun!
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24th June 2012
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Its threads like this that restore my faith.

On behalf of many in the GS community... Bravo!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
I believe you're talking about this album:

It was entitled "Gentle Thoughts", and was actually done "direct to disc" (...as in live straight to the cutting lathe) back in 1977.

They also had a 2-track running for safety (and for possible re-issues), which is what they used to make the CD re-issue awhile back.
.
I have a few "direct to disk" LPs, the sound is excellent.

As well as the technical advantage of losing tape altogether, you got the advantage of a great performance.

There was no possibility of editing, the whole side of the disk had to be recorded in a single take - any mistakes and it all had to be scrapped and start again. That certainly focuses the mind.

I also have a master lacquer at home - this sounds absolutely amazing and really demonstrates what gets lost in the LP manufacturing process.
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24th June 2012
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Quote:
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I have a few "direct to disk" LPs, the sound is excellent.

As well as the technical advantage of losing tape altogether, you got the advantage of a great performance.

There was no possibility of editing, the whole side of the disk had to be recorded in a single take - any mistakes and it all had to be scrapped and start again. That certainly focuses the mind.

I also have a master lacquer at home - this sounds absolutely amazing and really demonstrates what gets lost in the LP manufacturing process.
As a question, not a challenge....

Wouldn't the cutting lathe need either tape or a delay to cut the groove then the audio?

So it's a pretty fair chance the audio would be printed to tape, then there would be two repro heads for the lathe to cut the two passes. Therefore it is tracking to tape and then transferring to lacquer in one process.

The advantage of this over using a digital delay would be both in avoiding the conversion process of digital delay and having a tape backup incase of a fault at the lathe.

Or is there another way to do it? I'm no expert in this.
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24th June 2012
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@c1ferrari:
Special thanks to you, man.

@crosscutred:
Actually I think, that a Vinyl cutting machine only needs a delay to be able to write smaller levels closer than higher levels and to make better use of the space on the disk.
I have been working as an engineer on a number of direct to disc recordings with some Jazz and classical artists during the last year, as 3 times grammy award winning classical engineer Rainer Maillard is working on opening up a label for direct to disk recordings in Berlin. He was former head of the engineering staff at Deutsche Grammophon and is now head of "Emil Berliner Studios".
We disabled the delay and reduced the side length at about 15 minutes to be able to write directly to the laquer. That said, we always had a senior cutting engineer from Amsterdam with us to operate the Neumann VSM80.

The corner with the neumann stereo console at "EBS", you see on one of the pictures, actually looks like this zoomed out.

All the best,

Tim Tautorat
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24th June 2012
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I just did 2 projects live to 2-track

1/2" frankensteined machine....a Sony 5000-2 transport with Ampex 440c electronics and heads. Both (remote) sessions were a huge success. I do mostly jazz and grew up doing 2 track recording. After so many years of ProTools sessions it's really refreshing to work this way...this time around with high end gear. The clients loved the sound. Since I do a lot of remotes and end up mixing in totally non-optimum spaces I purchased the JBL 4328 system, with the room tuning kit. Gets me in the ballpark, then mastering done on my Barefoot mm27s. It warms my heart to see a young engineer/producer working in this format.
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24th June 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crosscutred View Post
As a question, not a challenge....

Wouldn't the cutting lathe need either tape or a delay to cut the groove then the audio?

So it's a pretty fair chance the audio would be printed to tape, then there would be two repro heads for the lathe to cut the two passes. Therefore it is tracking to tape and then transferring to lacquer in one process.

The advantage of this over using a digital delay would be both in avoiding the conversion process of digital delay and having a tape backup incase of a fault at the lathe.

Or is there another way to do it? I'm no expert in this.
No, in "direct to disk" there was no tape involved anywhere.

A skilled cutting engineer cut the output of the desk direct to the master disk.

They wanted to by-pass tape with all it's problems completely.

There was no tape anywhere, that's why it was much better.

But - there was no editing, the complete side had to be played through I one take.

Another method of getting higher fidelity was DMM - Direct Metal Mastering where one complete stage of the LP manufacturing process was by-passed by cutting the metal master directly, rather than cutting a lacquer.
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