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Where do I start with tape?!
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Iain Hutch
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#1
24th November 2006
Old 24th November 2006
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Where do I start with tape?!

Ok...

So I really hope I won't be flamed for this... But I am considering venturing into the world of tape... I feel a bit of an 'engineer fraud' as my engineering experience and previous training (of sorts) has never led me anywhere near a real tape machine... it's been computers from the start

I've been demoing various bits of gear recently, looking for what would make the biggest difference in my studio... I eventually settled on a Neve 1073 DPA, but before I go and buy any more 'toys', I'm starting to think the next thing should be some kind of tape machine...

Now I am very aware of the learning curve and the maintainance issues (I have a connection who may be able to help with the maintainance) - thats why I want to start now... get something that will help me to learn to use tape - that I can use on non-critical projects or in my own down time until I'm confident with what I'm doing...

So really I'm thinking 2/4/8 track machine ... I don't need 16 or 24 yet - small studio, don't track drums here, obviously a tape machine is not portable!!!

But my question is, what are the 'good ones'?! I've seen many comments about 'such and such' a machine being a real bad-one for parts/reliability or whatever where others are considered safer bets... any suggested models to look out for, and ideas of what I should be paying would be greatly appreciated!!

Also any suggested sources of information on using tape?! I'm quite aware that I'm ignorant as... but I really do want to put in the work... I know the 'sound' is not all about tape - it's also about good engineering skills, decent mics, etc etc but from what I can figure out listening to some albums, tape still adds something special...

Cheers for any help... sorry if I'm crashing ignorantly around!!

Iain
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24th November 2006
Old 24th November 2006
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An Otari MX-5050 8 track 1/2" is not a great sounding machine but it will get you in the door as far as learning set ups, bias, eq, etc. for under $1000. There's a big gap between that level and the next level. Tascam 8 track machines are not worth it IMO. I would also avoid dbx machines like the 1" Tascam 16.

Many interesting 8 track 1" machines at Audio Village

If you want to use tape as an effect then many 2 track machines are out there. Ampex 440 is solid and has a strong tone with 456.

Search these threads to learn more
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24th November 2006
Old 24th November 2006
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Iain, your place to start is with the "search" function. Not to be a #$$, but with as much knowledge as you currently have, you are not ready to jump into the "tape" world. Having a pro machine comes with a price - $$$, maintainence, alignments, downtime, oh yeah, and more $$$.

If you just want to fool around, a Tascam 38 or the Otari mentioned above would be OK and a good place to start, but they are not really pro machine like a Studer, Otari 24tk, or MCI. Personally, without a pro 2" machine, I'd rather stay digital than use a prosumer analog deck that's 20+ years old.
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24th November 2006
Old 24th November 2006
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Hi!

Thanks for the replies so far...

dr Bill... that's exactly my point... I know my knowledge is very much lacking... but how do I change that... Most people I speak to tell me it's not worth the effort... but I've read enough and heard enough to question that... I am willing to put in time, effort and money.. but where does someone like me who is 'not ready for tape' go to 'get ready'?!

- I did try the search function... quite a lot actually... you'll see I've only posted a few times ever... I tend to lurk and search mostly... it's just I couldn't find anything which really answered my question - most of the chat is about 16/24 track machines which as I mentioned before, does not really suit what I need...

Cheers for the model suggestions Lucey... a good start!

I'm quite aware I'm an ignorant eejit when it comes to tape, etc... but where on earth do I start to change that?! There's plenty people here who say it's worth the effort...

Iain
Iain Hutch
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24th November 2006
Old 24th November 2006
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Oh and I don't know if something's up with my computer, but I couldn't get the link to work... It told me 'no matching threads'??! I've been through all the threads that came up sticking 'tape' into search, for starters....

Cheers
Iain
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24th November 2006
Old 24th November 2006
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this might "rile" some of the tape purists and enthusists out there. i started my humble career with an 8-track tascam cassette, moved to a fostex r-8... and buy the time i was ready to attempt my first real full-length record the industry was moving to Adats.

it is an expensive proposition to move to tape of any consiquence... i agree you shouldn't really waste your time with prosumer stuff. buy a microphone, more plug-ins... but spending 1000$ on a semi-pro tape deck isn't whats standing between you and greatness.

i've experimented with running my mixes to 2-track.... and compared it to psp saturator, and the results were so similar that i didn't bother using the tape machine ever again. i do have access to a 24 track 1" which I may dump a project to after it's been recorded and edited in digital, just to see if there is any mojo to be had there.

i have enough experience to know what i'm getting into with the tape thing, but i choose not to because there are just so many other things that i could spend my money on, or time exploring that would have a larger impact on my recording than a tape machine. until you know that you simply "have to" have a tape machine at the request of your clients etc... i would just stay ITB and use tape emulation.
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24th November 2006
Old 24th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain Hutch View Post

I'm quite aware I'm an ignorant eejit when it comes to tape, etc... but where on earth do I start to change that?! There's plenty people here who say it's worth the effort...

Iain
Going all analog is worth the effort if you love the tone enough to accept the maintenance, if your clients allow this or you're a DIY artist, and if you have a sense of the whole field of analog AND digital options when you decide. Inserting tape in the process is no panacea and is best done at tracking (multitrack and analog all the way, or a dump) and at mixing (saving 2 conversion passes) so a nice 2 track machine is all you may need. The problem with people telling you about their experiences is two-fold.

1. All tape decks are no created equal, so the tone from a deck can be 'altered' by tape, or HOLY SHITed! by tape and staying analog.

2. Your ear and my ear are different, so you have to try things. This is the really tough part because there is too much to try as a newbie. If you heard the MM1200 16 track with Flux heads that I use for my own projects you might be sold ... but if you hear a Tascam or Otari you wont. And EVEN IF you're sold on the sound of the format, you or your clients may demand things you can't do, like automation, autotune and editing.



If you dont know the whole picture and are just saying "tape is good, I'm told" then I'm guessing you'd be happier to go with the right combo of mics, pres, compression and AD converters. Maybe try a Universal Audio converter and some plug ins or at most a 2 track analog deck to track through?
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24th November 2006
Old 24th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Going all analog is worth the effort if you love the tone enough to accept the maintenance, if your clients allow this or you're a DIY artist, and if you have a sense of the whole field of analog AND digital options when you decide. Inserting tape in the process is no panacea and is best done at tracking (multitrack and analog all the way, or a dump) and at mixing (saving 2 conversion passes) so a nice 2 track machine is all you may need. The problem with people telling you about their experiences is two-fold.

1. All tape decks are no crated equal, so the tone from a deck can be 'altered' by tape, or HOLY SHITed! by tape and staying analog.

2. Your ear and my ear are different, so you have to try things. This is the really tough part because there is too much to try as a newbie. If you heard the MM1200 16 track with Flux heads that I use for my own projects you might be sold ... but if you hear a Tascam or Otari you wont. And EVEN IF you're sold on the sound of the format, you or your clients may demand things you can't do, like automation, autotune and editing.



If you dont know the whole picture and are just saying "tape is good, I'm told" then I'm guessing you'd be happier to go with the right combo of mics, pres, compression and AD converters. Maybe try a Universal Audio converter and some plug ins or at most a 2 track analog deck to track through?
Good advice from Lucey & Lord Bunny.
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25th November 2006
Old 25th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_bunny View Post
...but spending 1000$ on a semi-pro tape deck isn't whats standing between you and greatness.

for $1000 you can get a studer a810/807; for half of that you can get an ampex 440 or revox b77.

it'll be a cold day in hell when psp's plug can make an acoustic guitar and voice sound as syrupy as a studer running some old basf 203 at 7.5ips. i'm not disparaging the usefulness or goodness of the plug, but i am definitely going on record that the plug and the studer aren't in the same league.


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25th November 2006
Old 25th November 2006
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It depends on what you want the deck for. If you're looking for something to use as a warmer, get a 2 track deck and run your stuff thru it as your recording and or mixing.
I don't really see the sense in an small 4-8 track track machine, if you're going to get a deck either get 2 track or a 2"16 or 24 track. They are cheap enough these days
and don't be afraid of the maintenance, get your deck checked out by a tech and have hime set it up and show you how to do an alignment, it's really not that hard.
Otari, Ampex, Studer, MCI, all make nice machines , although I think the Otari's are probably the most trouble free. Also Tascam makes a pro deck called the ATR 80, which was their answer to the MTR 90. It's a very nice sounding deck has a killer transport and sometimes they can be cheaper than the any of the others I mentioned. If you're in NY and want to check out some of the sound differences come by my place, since I have a 2" and a pretty big daw. Also btw if you're in NY and you want a nice 1/4 2 track I know someone selling a nice machine for pretty cheap. [shameless plug]
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#11
26th November 2006
Old 26th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
I don't really see the sense in an small 4-8 track track machine, if you're going to get a deck either get 2 track or a 2"16 or 24 track.

well, there are some funky 1" 8 tracks out there (scully, e.g.) that sound incredible and are a good bit cheaper than a 2" with similar mojo. 8 tracks are necessary if you do typical multi-mic drum recordings, or want to do a whole band on the way in to the daw.

2" 16 is pretty sweet, though...


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26th November 2006
Old 26th November 2006
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For me I like having the tape machine (sold the old 2" 24 track, now have only 1/2" 2 track) as another effects processor. For example, if I have drum overheads that sound like breaking glass instead of cymbals I can send them to the 2 track machine and back. Then I get to enjoy the gentle sound of tape as an effects box. It won't make or break a mix, but it makes me smile a little more than just slapping a warming plug on the track and moving on.

I wish that printing a stereo digital mix to tape could make it sound like the analog good old days, but in my experience it doesn't. It just softens the transients and makes the bottom end different from what I mixed (sometimes better, sometimes worse). I'll often try it, but usually end up going with the non-tape mix for mastering.

So, my advice to you would be to play with a deck like the Otari MX-5050 mk2 or MX-55 to get a feel for tape without too much risk of a tape deck maintenance nightmare. If you love the sound of tape, you can upgrade to a Studer or Ampex and happily pay for the problems they might have. (Steer clear of the cheaper Tascam, Fostex, and consumer decks like Sony and Akai. They won't give you enough of the tape deck experience to really get an idea of what tape can do. Their limitiations are too noticeable.)

Good luck!
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29th November 2006
Old 29th November 2006
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it'll be a cold day in hell when psp's plug can make an acoustic guitar and voice sound as syrupy as a studer running some old basf 203 at 7.5ips.

well, bundle up... plugins are just going to get better and better. think of what they're goning to achieve in five or ten years! i love tape, and i know that the psp isn't doing all of that "today" but i really believe that tape is more than a 1000$ investment to really get into the game.

there will be a time when the law of diminishing returns will make tape, outboard comps prohibitavley expensive, we're almost there!

in this instance, i think considering what he's already got, spending cash on pre's and mic's is the better bet for improving the quality. format is usually the last thing i think about. tape is a luxury.
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29th November 2006
Old 29th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_bunny View Post
format is usually the last thing i think about. tape is a luxury.
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30th November 2006
Old 30th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_bunny View Post
iwell, bundle up... plugins are just going to get better and better. think of what they're goning to achieve in five or ten years!

i'm stickin' with my shorts and spf 50, thank you!

let's check back in 5 or 10 years, as you say. i can show you all the productions i did that are filled with pure tapey goodness, and you can show me what you were up to while waiting for the plugs to get there .


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30th November 2006
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If youre gonna jump into the tape world, then my advice would be to get an Otari MTR 90. It's fairly cheap compared to a Studer or an MCI. As far as going ito tape, keep the eq'ing to a minimum. It's better to add the eq later than to be stuck to an over eq'd sound. At least till you you get to know your machine. Also, don't be afraid to record hot. You get that tape distortion that gives yourdrums and bass exactly what youre looking for from tape.
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1st December 2006
Old 1st December 2006
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Just go for a 2" machine. I had the same debate about 2 months ago. I couldnt decide if i wanted to make the plunge. Im a young guy, so i started in digital and stayed digital for like 6 years.

Then I took a chance on a jh-24 from NY. After all was said and done I had the machine for $3400 shipped.

I did some research of course and bought some tape machine DVD off ebay.

Watched the DVD and learned how to align the machine and bias it. took me a few times to figure everything out. After about a week I was running the machne perfectly.

The damn thing blew me away. I had just spent $16k on a new digital setup... Now i dont even use it.

Just save the dough to get a good 2" machine and dont look back
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1st December 2006
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I saw a compact brenell 1" 8 track recently, does anyone have any experience with this machine?
Iain Hutch
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1st December 2006
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thanks for all the responses - especially those telling me just to go for it!!

I'm currently looking at an Otari MX80 that I can get for a farily good price...
We'll see how it works out...

Out of interest, what was the DVD called??

Cheers
Iain
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1st December 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_bunny View Post
there will be a time when the law of diminishing returns will make tape, outboard comps prohibitavley expensive, we're almost there!
.... tape is a luxury.
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1st December 2006
Old 1st December 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_bunny View Post

there will be a time when the law of diminishing returns will make tape, outboard comps prohibitavley expensive, we're almost there!
Yep - when we figure out how to stick multiple xfrmrs, tubes and t4s on a PCI-e card which is run off a ultra high quality power supply maybe your logic rings true.



Plugs are plugs - they are what they are and some sound good in their own right. I use them and like them but technology will have to develop beyond the transistorized cpu (no matter what frequency it's running at or however many cores per PC) before we really move forward in audio. Possibly nano? I feel like we've reached a plateau and from this point forward there is only room for minor improvements, adjustments and additional flavors.

Hardware will continue to reign supreme in high end audio processing because of it's amplification superiority and it's abiltiy to naturally be overdriven into pleasing harmonic sturctures. All you have to do is look at the business of hardware to see that the demand is actually increasing. There are more "boutique" companies now than 10 years ago.

For $8500 you can buy a stereo pair of Neve 1084. Or you could buy nuendo, a top PC, Dav BG1, rme interface and a few plug bundles. Yet, the neundo bundle is worth about half of that as soon as you pull the plastic off and in 5 years worth almost nothing. While the 1084s will increase in value. Hardware already costs more and that's not going to change, it's only going to go up.
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