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refae
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#1
22nd March 2013
Old 22nd March 2013
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Mixing/Mastering to tape- opinions?

Advantages/disadvantages? I mixed my first CD from PT8 to an Ampex 1/2" tape machine, then mastered back from tape to digital. Is it really worth the extra effort/cost?? The CD sounded great, but I dunno I
If it was the tape that did it... Thinking about a straight digital mix & master to save costs this time. What are ppls Typical practices and preferences for commercial quality mix/mastering? Pros and cons? What should I do? Music is cat Stevensish pop folk rock thanks
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23rd March 2013
Old 23rd March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by refae View Post
Advantages/disadvantages? I mixed my first CD from PT8 to an Ampex 1/2" tape machine, then mastered back from tape to digital. Is it really worth the extra effort/cost?? The CD sounded great, but I dunno I
If it was the tape that did it... Thinking about a straight digital mix & master to save costs this time. What are ppls Typical practices and preferences for commercial quality mix/mastering? Pros and cons? What should I do? Music is cat Stevensish pop folk rock thanks
if that's what sounds good to you, keep doing it.
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23rd March 2013
Old 23rd March 2013
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I did it for years before they had plugins if I still had my tape machine I would still do it. It does add some warmth.
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23rd March 2013
Old 23rd March 2013
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I alwys mix to tape weather im doing a digital project or tracking to tape. I always prefer the sound of a mix done on my old Fostex model 20 to an in the box mix. It just sounds more musical to me.
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23rd March 2013
Old 23rd March 2013
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loved my ATR102 half inch machine. Best two track i ever had. However the modern need to recalls and stems has made it a very difficult thing to keep in the loop with anything but rock. So, unfortunately - with the rules we have here, if it aint used for 2 years it goes - sold it to Paul Epworth and I imagine he'll get a lot more use out of it. Loved it but just didn't fit into the workflow here anymore.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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The reason I ask is because A) last time I did tracking/mixing in a commercial facility and this time I'm doing it myself and B) moneys a bit tight. If it really does add "warmth" (can someone please explain that?) then is it really going to be an audible difference? Ie it will color the sound and more ppl will buy it, etc (I know, what a loaded question!) lol. I guess style wise what is the application and what is the difference in timbres btwn tape mix and digital mix? Thing is I don't have anything of mine on a par to compare it to, all I've done is the tape thing, it is pricey and I just want to see if it's really necessary (ie some audiophile thing). I just want the music to sound warm and clear, is tape REALLY necessary? Or will a pro tools digital bounce and a digital mastering facility be just as good if not better?
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by refae View Post
The reason I ask is because A) last time I did tracking/mixing in a commercial facility and this time I'm doing it myself and B) moneys a bit tight. If it really does add "warmth" (can someone please explain that?) then is it really going to be an audible difference? Ie it will color the sound and more ppl will buy it, etc (I know, what a loaded question!) lol. I guess style wise what is the application and what is the difference in timbres btwn tape mix and digital mix? Thing is I don't have anything of mine on a par to compare it to, all I've done is the tape thing, it is pricey and I just want to see if it's really necessary (ie some audiophile thing). I just want the music to sound warm and clear, is tape REALLY necessary? Or will a pro tools digital bounce and a digital mastering facility be just as good if not better?
At the risk of coming across cynical, if you are asking these questions at all you likely shouldnt be bothering with tape. Considering you have experience working with tape it's probably worth the exploration to work without it for a while and compare your old efforts with new ones and then you'll be able to answer all those questions for yourself.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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My experience is pretty mixed. The real action with tape is for the original recording from microphones. Sometimes tape helps a mix and many times it doesn't.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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looks like another OTB ITB thread.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Yes if you are questioning it dont bother. See how this digital record compares to your other tape mixed one once its said and done. I agree with Bob and think the real magic is when its printed to tape from the start instead of dumped onto it after the DAW touched it.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isawsasquatch View Post
If you're happy with the mix you're hearing coming off the console, a digital capture of that mix will keep you happy. Will a tape version sound better? Possibly (probably, I'd say), but that doesn't mean your digital version is bad by any means.

In other words, get the mix right, print it digitally, and move on.



Funny; I've always felt a bigger beneficial impact is made by printing a mix to tape, versus tracking to tape. Of course, this is highly dependent on tape machine, speed, and tape formula.



No, it doesn't. One can print an ITB mix to analog tape just as readily as an OTB mix.

Ok thank you all for participating, this is the kind of conversation I wanted to start.

Bob Olhsson, can you please share some of your 'mixed' experience? Can you please elaborate on what you mean by that & some of your experiences, negative & positive, w/ digital & tape mixes/masters?

So, I guess what I'm really wanting to clarify is some of these subjective comments, like "It does add some warmth"... "Sometimes it helps"... "I think the real magic is when its printed to tape"... etc

I don't mean to attack anyone, I just want some objectivity-- is a DAW 'dumped' tape mix really going to have more dynamics or warmth or feel to it than a straight digital print of the mix? What is the science behind it? And what are peoples' experience in the field working with artists & musicians & making records?? When does a bounce to tape add something and when is it getting in the way?

Obviously mixing/mastering to tape is a tool, I'm just looking for some clear objective guidance on how to use it... ha! clear objective guidance in making a record... maybe I'm crazy lol
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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I use my ATR 102 1/2" machine for layback mastering (hitting tape when processing mixes). What I find it often does is: give the bottom end a nice full solid thump, smooth out high frequency harshness/brittleness, increase depth of field. Depending on how hot you hit the tape it can either increase crest factor or work as a very pleasant peak limiter. Some projects benefit more than others from tape. What is the genre here? Maybe just use a ME who has a nice tape machine?

------------------------------------------

Re: tracking to tape vs mixing to tape - I do either or both sometimes and IME they each do something different, so saying one is always more important than the other doesn't necessarily apply. It depends on so many variables.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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1/2" tape junkie...

I now mix to a hybrid machine I built. Sony 5000-2 transport with Ampex 440C electronics...and 1/2" Ampex heads adapted to Sony block (Thank you John French!)

I have never looked back... but I grew up on Ampex. ProTools HDX never sounded so good!
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#14
24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isawsasquatch View Post
A DAW mix dumped to tape will have less dynamics, as the tape adds some compression. This is often part of what we respond positively to: a tighter, more "glued together" sound; the sense that we're listening to a finished record.
I see this as how hard you'd hit the tape, as far as adding compression, hitting it conservatively should not change dynamics, while driving it hard will.

Quote:
Originally Posted by refae View Post
If it really does add "warmth" (can someone please explain that?)
With tape, often times you'll get a low bump and a high end roll off and people associate this with warm sounding, but it's really just a characteristic of the process and most tape machines frequency response
which isn't so hard to get with eq as well if that's the sound you're after..

For tape layback, sometimes it's a matter of printing both digital and tape and hearing back and choosing what you like best. Often for me, a wide percentage of the time it's the digital copy that wins. Tapes decks have to be aligned and calibrated properly and used with decent converters to even be in contention or it's not worth the round trip.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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To me the main benefit of tape is that the very gradual distortion curve can make subtle detail more audible. It comes down to a question of the increase in detail being worth the degradation from a generation of tape. All signal processing is a compromise between what it improves and what it screws up. It all does both!

Recording analog and mixing to DAT usually sounded much better to me than multi-track digital has no matter if it was mixed to analog or was just "treated" using an analog machine.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isawsasquatch View Post
Some dynamic range will always be lost when printing to tape, at least in terms of signal-to-noise ratio. Printing hot will compress more, but give you better SNR, printing quiet will leave transients more intact, but with a worse SNR.

But my point was simply that a mix printed to tape won't, as the OP put it, "have more dynamics".
Printing to tape at conservative levels can actually restore some dynamic range to compressed/limited material. I've done it. 'Agree about the noise.

(Edit: Crest factor, not dynamic range, is the technically correct term for what I mean here.)
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
Printing to tape at conservative levels can actually restore some dynamic range to compressed/limited material. I've done it. 'Agree about the noise.
I think a bricked waveform can "look" un-bricked after running to tape because of the low end roll off, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's adding more dynamic range beyond what the tapes eq curve is doing..

You can see the same transformation take place when adding an aggressive high pass filter in the digital domain to a bricked waveform. It will "look" un-bricked.

.. and if tape adds compression, how can it also add dynamic range?
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Just try it for yourself. It's audible, especially in the low end.

I know about the low end roll off (though my ATR is actually +1dB at 20Hz). Tape has dynamic interactions with the signal beyond just frequency response. It does not always reduce dynamics. It can increase dynamics. Results vary with machine type, tape speed, source, recording level, etc.

That is my experience. Enjoy,

To wit: Your thoughts on Kramer MPX (starting at post #43)
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio X View Post
I think a bricked waveform can "look" un-bricked after running to tape because of the low end roll off, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's adding more dynamic range beyond what the tapes eq curve is doing..

You can see the same transformation take place when adding an aggressive high pass filter in the digital domain to a bricked waveform. It will "look" un-bricked.

.. and if tape adds compression, how can it also add dynamic range?
This makes sense to me. Mixing to tape & mastering back to digital is basically compressing & de-compressing the music, any *PERCEIVED* shift in dynamic range must then be from the EQ coloration of the tape, right?
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
Just try it for yourself. It's audible, especially in the low end.

I know about the low end roll off (though my ATR is actually +1dB at 20Hz). Tape has dynamic interactions with the signal beyond just frequency response. It does not always reduce dynamics. It can increase dynamics. Results vary with machine type, tape speed, source, recording level, etc.

That is my experience. Enjoy,
I'm not doubting what your seeing or hearing, but saying that the digital medium you are feeding your tape deck has all the sub sonic sludge down to 0 dB that a tape deck can't reproduce, ...so with the tape deck stripping all that away you come up with more headroom and a larger crest factor, which might give the illusion of more dynamic range but to me is caused by eq and not with any kind of analog de-compression. This same phenomenon can easily be re-created in the digital domain as well with a hpf.
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24th March 2013
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You guys are thinking about it instead of doing it. Try it before you knock it. Even some tape sims do it well. If you don't have a machine, UAD Studer 800 at 30 IPS is a good example. Much more going on than just frequency response. No EQ can do it the same. Tape sound is complex - different things happen at different frequencies at different levels and it all interacts in a magnetic field.
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24th March 2013
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I'll repeat this link that I added after the fact to my earlier post:

Your thoughts on Kramer MPX (starting at post #43)

Just a lil back up
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24th March 2013
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Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
You guys are thinking about it instead of doing it. Try it before you knock it. Even some tape sims do it well. If you don't have a machine, UAD Studer 800 at 30 IPS is a good example. Much more going on than just frequency response. No EQ can do it the same. Tape sound is complex - different things happen at different frequencies at different levels and it all interacts.
When you record any analog source straight to tape at conservative levels, do you also find that tape increases the dynamic range of that program material?

...or is it only digital brick walled sources?

I did see the other post mentioned, but it only re-enforces what I am saying about it being able to be re-created it in the "digital domain" with a plug. ..with "filters". ...and not some mystical analog tape decompression.
I have used tape for a L O N G time, but have never found it to increase dynamic range.
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24th March 2013
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I record, mix and master to tape (combined hybrid with digital). Forget about 'warmth'. Certain types of outboard gear will give you far more of that than tape will. Tape will give you an increase in the sense of space and air around the instruments, which translates to things sounding larger. While at the same time it tucks everything in (what we call 'glue' in audio terms) in a subtle way. This is a very subtle combination of harmonic distortion and compression.

Just like people forget about with an outboard compressor, there are two things going on in a tape machine. The front and back internal audio electronics, and then the tape itself (in the case of a compressor, the front end and back end electronics and then the type of compressor circuit). If you compare an Ampex with discrete electronics and transformers to a transformless monolithic machine (like an Otari), there is a big difference in weight of the tone. And 16 track 2 inch vs 24 track 2 inch makes a big difference too.

Digital, no matter how good, always sounds more narrow and to the front of the speakers as compared to tape. I think this, more than harmonic distortion (which is still great and necessary IMO for a great sounding recording in many genres), is what people who know tape really like about it. I'd rather track to tape and mix to digital, I think you get more benefit that way. But if I only had a mixdown deck (which is what I only did have for about 4 years), it still helps the quality of the recording.
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24th March 2013
Old 24th March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio X View Post
When you record any analog source straight to tape at conservative levels, do you also find that tape increases the dynamic range of that program material?

...or is it only digital brick walled sources?
I have not tested it with analog sources so I'll not comment on that. It doesn't have to be brickwalled.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio X View Post
I did see the other post mentioned, but it only re-enforces what I am saying about it being able to be re-created it in the "digital domain" with a plug. ..with "filters". ...and not some mystical analog tape decompression.
I have used tape for a L O N G time, but have never found it to increase dynamic range.
I'd like to see you replicate the sound of a tape machine using nothing but a digital EQ. Do you think the plug-ins are just using filters?
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24th March 2013
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I'd like to see you replicate the sound of a tape machine using nothing but a digital EQ.
This is not my argument even though I do not think it would be to hard.

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Do you think the plug-ins are just using filters?
Mostly, Yes. ..with a little saturation and "compression" thrown in on the side for good measure.
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25th March 2013
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I can only speculate because I'm not a software developer, but the better tape plug-ins, like UAD ATR 102 & A800, Waves KMT, Slate VTM - these are big DSP hogs. I think there's a lot of complex algorithms inside to try to emulate not just the freq response but the way tape reacts to dynamics differently at different frequencies. There's phase shift, crosstalk, wow/flutter, hysteresis, head bumps, frequency dependent saturation, different tape formulas and bias settings - these things all affect each other in real time. They interact. Tape sound involves some serious physics. That's why none of the sims have really captured all of it yet. But the point is more about real tape machines and what they can do, and it doesn't matter in the end whether it's a perception of dynamics or a measurable increase because it's the sound to the ear that counts. I can use tape to make the bottom of a kick drum punch through more relative to a bass guitar at the same frequency - that's more than just an EQ curve at work - there's a dynamic element to it. And it's one reason why the OP might want to keep using tape in some way. Cheers,
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25th March 2013
Old 25th March 2013
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I can only speculate because I'm not a software developer, but the better tape plug-ins, like UAD ATR 102 & A800, Waves KMT, Slate VTM - these are big DSP hogs. I think there's a lot of complex algorithms inside to try to emulate not just the freq response but the way tape reacts to dynamics differently at different frequencies. There's phase shift, crosstalk, wow/flutter, hysteresis, head bumps, frequency dependent saturation, different tape formulas and bias settings - these things all affect each other in real time. They interact. Tape sound involves some serious physics. That's why none of the sims have really captured all of it yet. But the point is more about real tape machines and what they can do, and it doesn't matter in the end whether it's a perception of dynamics or a measurable increase because it's the sound to the ear that counts. I can use tape to make the bottom of a kick drum punch through more relative to a bass guitar at the same frequency - that's more than just an EQ curve at work - there's a dynamic element to it. And it's one reason why the OP might want to keep using tape in some way. Cheers,
LOL I'm even more confused after this awesome gigantic thread than when I first posted the question... people are clearly strongly opinionated on this issue...

I keep wanting there to be no difference at all between digital & tape mixes, if only to save myself the extra cost and money...

And I'm sure there is a *difference* between tape & digital bounces/mixes

Whether that translates to the typical everyday consumer of music, and whether that adds any magic special secret sauce or not... remains to be seen.

FWIW I am doing folk/rock in the vein of Cat Stevens/Elton John...

Honestly, I think I'm going to put my extra time & worry & effort into recruiting my talented friends to come in & perform/overdub rather than worry about the tape thing... I have a friend who has a machine & 3/4 of a 2" reel left, if I end up easily getting more reels & the tape mix thing comes together with my friend for a low cost, great, if not I'm gonna print it to digital and call it a day. A Mackie Onyx 1640i sure isn't a Studer, but f*** it, I ain't rich and the main thing is that the music is clear, good, and full of an emotional performance, I'm gonna focus more on that than signal to noise ratio lol I get a little bogged down in the 'right'/'perfect' way to record sometimes... guess I'll just have to try it out this time and see what happens, wish me luck!
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25th March 2013
Old 25th March 2013
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Quote:
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Advantages/disadvantages? I mixed my first CD from PT8 to an Ampex 1/2" tape machine, then mastered back from tape to digital. Is it really worth the extra effort/cost?? The CD sounded great, but I dunno I
If it was the tape that did it... Thinking about a straight digital mix & master to save costs this time. What are ppls Typical practices and preferences for commercial quality mix/mastering? Pros and cons? What should I do? Music is cat Stevensish pop folk rock thanks
Personally... for that type of music (which I love) it would be great if you could track & mix in analog, and then master off the 1/2" into digital for the final stage.

However... there's some really great organic or acoustic based records that are being done in a hybrid way... I love Ryan Hewitt's work on The Avett Brothers' "The Carpenter"; Beautifully recorded & mixed.

I guess the bottom line is how you like it.
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25th March 2013
Old 25th March 2013
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Be aware when you 'treat' your ITB bus mix with a tape deck you need to 'know' beforehand how it changes and colors the mix. I mean that some decks don't like to receive bass / low-mid heavy mixes as things will get muddy and wooly pretty fast.

So I suggest conservative low end levels when mixing to tape unless your are doing it at 30ips which usually cuts sub bass efficiently. IMO the mid-range will also benefit from lighter mixes. Of course different decks and tracking speeds will give you varied results so it's very hard to give more detailed tips.

I think it's advisable to buy cheap prosumer deck such as Revox A77 or B77 and learn how it treats material with different bias and eq settings. After this you have a pretty good idea what can be achieved with the medium.

Cheers
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