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Studer A827 vs. Ampex MM1200 for 'modern' rock sound Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 15th February 2017
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Studer A827 vs. Ampex MM1200 for 'modern' rock sound

Salutations Slutz,

I am planning to record a full-length hard rock album this year. It's a project that I've been planning for over a year now. One of the key aspects of the project is my committment to record and mix it ALL analog. No dumping into Pro Tools for edits, no ITB mixing. The audio will only be converted to digital once after mastering. Please don't spend any replies trying to convince me out of this. I have deliberated long and hard over the issue and am thoroughly committed to keeping my audio out of the computer for tracking and mixing.

I have two studios that I am considering working out of. Both in the state of Georgia. One is equipped with a Studer A827 24-track, and one with an Ampex MM1200 16-track. The studios are both equipped similarly, lots of good outboard gear and similar dimension/design control rooms and live rooms. I understand from what I've read on GS that these two machines are both considered to be some of the best ever made. The contention is that the studio with the MM1200 would cost me much less per hour than the studio with the A827. The Ampex studio is not by any means an inferior studio to the Studer equipped studio but I believe due to the location and the projects the owner prefers to work on, he charges much less. This would allow me more studio time.. But much lower track count.

So my question: If my goal is to achieve a modern rock sound, which machine would be preferable to use? I guess a big part of my question inherently is, is it possible to get a 'modern' rock sound using only 16 tracks?

If I used the 24-track A827 my tracks would look like this:

10 channels for drums
3 channels for bass
6 channels for electric guitars
5 channels for vocals

On the 16-track MM1200 my tracks would look like this:

7 channels for drums
2 channels for bass
4 channels for electric guitars
3 channels for vocals

I have recorded digital 'mock ups' for many of the songs as proofs of concept for my arrangements/just to figure out the tones I want and how I want the tracks panned, eq'd etc. I believe I could make even the 16 channel set up work.. My only concern is the drums.. I know some great drum sounds have been made using minimal mic setups, but I definitely don't want an 'old-school' drum sound. It is essential to me that the drums sound really tight and precise in the stereo image, that the kick and snare are very defined and that the snare has 'crack' to it, as opposed to just 'thwok'. I would not be satisfied with any 70s or 80s style recorded drum sound that I am aware of. I'm going for a Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik drum sound (the best recorded drum sound ever IMO) or a drum sound like that of Rage Against the Machine's debut album. (I know that the Rage album was done on a Studer, the BSSM drum sound I've only been able to find conflicting information on) but I've also heard that the MM1200 has more balls for drums than any other machine.

Anyone who could help advise me? Can a newer sounding rock record be done with fewer than 24 tracks?

Thanks in advance for any insights.

-MM
Old 15th February 2017
  #2
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

As far as drum sounds go, in my opinion the room matters a lot more than the tape machine. I'd bring my own snare to each studio and ask them to record a few snare hits with an overhead in what they think is the best spot in the room.
Old 15th February 2017
  #3
These machines will be as 'modern' sounding as your technique is. Close micing/samples/lots of mics will sound just like you'd imagine, and completely different than just a few mics in a more lively room.
Old 15th February 2017
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Wiggy Neve Slut's Avatar
 

Have you used tape much before?

Are the players capable of making a record that means no editing?

What style of Rock are you going for?

In terms of tone think of the studer as the cleaner one that will still sound fantastic.

Think of the Ampex as more solid and deeper sound on the bottom end. However the transport is not as good on the Ampex. For overdubs the punch ability is slower unless the deck is loaded with the fast punch PURC cards. I'd be checking that out first if you're intending to stay totally tape.

If it was me I'd track drums, bass and some guitars to the Ampex and do everything else digital. Or dump that to tape and then stripe sympte with a daw locked to it and record extra tracks on new tape and them dump back into daw for mix. That way you'd keep all the tape goodness!

What desk will you be using?

Best of luck !
Old 15th February 2017
  #5
Gear Nut
 
fazeka's Avatar
 

Studer A827 = more refined

16 track MM-1200 = Rock -n- roll

Just MHO.
Old 15th February 2017
  #6
Here for the gear
 

Myself,i would go with the Ampex. I worked on them back in the day. My question is, what condition is the Ampex in ?
Old 15th February 2017
  #7
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggy Neve Slut View Post
Have you used tape much before?

Are the players capable of making a record that means no editing?

What style of Rock are you going for?

In terms of tone think of the studer as the cleaner one that will still sound fantastic.

Think of the Ampex as more solid and deeper sound on the bottom end. However the transport is not as good on the Ampex. For overdubs the punch ability is slower unless the deck is loaded with the fast punch PURC cards. I'd be checking that out first if you're intending to stay totally tape.

If it was me I'd track drums, bass and some guitars to the Ampex and do everything else digital. Or dump that to tape and then stripe sympte with a daw locked to it and record extra tracks on new tape and them dump back into daw for mix. That way you'd keep all the tape goodness!

What desk will you be using?

Best of luck !
Yes, I believe we are. I am hiring a session drummer from Nashville who has been playing professionally for decades to record the drums. My goal is hopefully to be able to record two drum tracks a day over five days, for a total of 10 drum tracks. I am expecting that a seasoned professional should be able to complete two keeper tracks in a full day in the studio, even with the constraints of analog and no PT editing (please tell me if that is an unrealistic goal though).

I will be recording the electric guitars and the bass. My only experience recording with tape is using a cheap TEAC 1/4" two track to play through, which was merely done for my own experimentation/study on what tape does to a sound. However, I began recording on hard disk recorders where punching in was a function I never learned to use. Once I moved in to PT I learned how to punch, but OCD makes it so that I never use the feature. I hate looking at waveforms that have splits in them and I don't ever edit after the fact. I always record complete single takes on guitar and bass in one pass until I get a good enough take. As far as time constraints in the studio that I don't have at home, my songs also have drop outs for most of the instruments (places where that instrument or all of the instruments stop playing for a bar/measure occasionally). So few of the tracks will actually require being played in their entirety correctly. I think this should make it no trouble for me to record my parts to tape.

The vocals are one part that I actually would be okay doing as digital overdubs after the fact, so long as all the music tracks are only bounced out once from the board as a stereo track either to 1/2" tape or to a mastering grade 2 channel converter but never indivudually dumped into the DAW.

-MM
Old 16th February 2017
  #8
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
A couple things I will mention, as food for thought, and in no particular order. You mention Blood Sugar Sex Magic and Rage against the machine. The key to those drum sounds (beside from the drummers) is Brendan O'brien. Can you afford him? (I ask only slightly facetiously). Both those records were don't on 24-tracks as best as I can remember, or 2 24-tracks synced. Are you planning on using automation? If so you need to keep a track open for SMPTE time code. Are you OK with erasing each take you don't like? It sounds like you don't comp a lot of things (any?) so that probably isn't a problem. On tape you won't see the punch ins, so you could use this very useful feature. Are you working with the house engineers in either studio? Have you heard their work? That's often a bigger deal than equipment. Have you priced new tape lately? Is you budget prepared for 4-6 reels of new tape? The used stuff is getting dicy at best. I just send back 3 of 4 reels a client bought used. Do you know what speed you plan to run the deck at? That also effects the amount of tape you need. A 2,500ft reel of tape is 15 minutes of playing time at 30ips, but a half hour at 15ips. What consoles, mics, outboard and (iff you're one of those guys) preamps are available at each studio?
Old 16th February 2017
  #9
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
A couple things I will mention, as food for thought, and in no particular order. You mention Blood Sugar Sex Magic and Rage against the machine. The key to those drum sounds (beside from the drummers) is Brendan O'brien. Can you afford him? (I ask only slightly facetiously). Both those records were don't on 24-tracks as best as I can remember, or 2 24-tracks synced. Are you planning on using automation? If so you need to keep a track open for SMPTE time code. Are you OK with erasing each take you don't like? It sounds like you don't comp a lot of things (any?) so that probably isn't a problem. On tape you won't see the punch ins, so you could use this very useful feature. Are you working with the house engineers in either studio? Have you heard their work? That's often a bigger deal than equipment. Have you priced new tape lately? Is you budget prepared for 4-6 reels of new tape? The used stuff is getting dicy at best. I just send back 3 of 4 reels a client bought used. Do you know what speed you plan to run the deck at? That also effects the amount of tape you need. A 2,500ft reel of tape is 15 minutes of playing time at 30ips, but a half hour at 15ips. What consoles, mics, outboard and (iff you're one of those guys) preamps are available at each studio?
Hey Drumsound,

All good questions. Brendan O'Brien did BSSM with Rick Rubin. He however did not work on Rage's debut album (which is their masterpiece IMO), as far as I know it was Garth Richardson producing and Andy Wallace mixing. O'Brien did the rest of Rage's studio albums but IMO these do not sound as great as their debut despite the songs being of equal caliber generally. And sadly, no I can not afford any of these people haha.

I wouldn't be syncing any machines as the studios in question don't have multiples of their multi-tracks.

The drum engineering would be done by the drummer himself (he is an experienced recording engineer in addition to drumming) who has recorded tracks for me digitally before which I have been very pleased with. He typically does larger setups (around 12 mics).

I will be engineering the guitars and bass as that is the fundamental component of my sound and something I have studied for the past 13 odd years now. I will of course take input from the house engineer (who is the studio owner).

I was not anticipating needing 4 to 6 reels. I had only planned to use 2 at 15 IPS. The supplier would be ATR Magnetics. Their 2" reels go for $350 a reel today. Album run time is around 52 minutes, so I thought I'd be covered with 2 reels.

Both studios have similar/comparable levels of equipment, usual suspects for pres (Vintech and API), Urei and Universal Audio for dynamics, lots of Neumann mics, plus some rarer Telefunken mics at the studio with the Ampex and some Lawson tube mics at the studio with the Studer. Royer ribbons for guitars and the regular 421s etc. The studio with the A827 also has a great Ampeg SVT head and cab for bass. Overall I am confident with the quality of the gear at either facility. The tape machines are what I lack firsthand experience with though.


-MM
Old 16th February 2017
  #10
Lives for gear
 
skybluerental's Avatar
 

The Ampex 16 track will have more of a "sound" and for rock n roll I think it would be slightly sonically superior to the Studer based on my experiences.
16 Track 2" sounds better than 24 track to my ears and the Ampex electronics beat the Studer sonically in my opinion.

However, if you plan on doing the whole record on tape, as opposed to hitting tape then dumping to digital, I would say overall the Studer is a better deck because it will be easier on the tape and better for doing punch ins.

The transport on the Studer is much more refined, but the electronics in the AMpex sound deeper and bigger to my ears.

The engineer will make a MUCH bigger difference than the tape deck though.

Also, you will almost certainly need more than 2 reels of tape for a 52 minute record.
Old 16th February 2017
  #11
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by skybluerental View Post
The Ampex 16 track will have more of a "sound" and for rock n roll I think it would be slightly sonically superior to the Studer based on my experiences.
16 Track 2" sounds better than 24 track to my ears and the Ampex electronics beat the Studer sonically in my opinion.

However, if you plan on doing the whole record on tape, as opposed to hitting tape then dumping to digital, I would say overall the Studer is a better deck because it will be easier on the tape and better for doing punch ins.

The transport on the Studer is much more refined, but the electronics in the AMpex sound deeper and bigger to my ears.

The engineer will make a MUCH bigger difference than the tape deck though.

Also, you will almost certainly need more than 2 reels of tape for a 52 minute record.
Thanks Skybluerental.

Can you elaborate please on needing more than 2 reels for about 50 minutes of material? If each reel at 15 IPS can provide about 30 minutes of play time, why will I need more than 2?

-MM
Old 16th February 2017
  #12
More Tape

You will need more than 2 reels because you have to have a leader at the front end of the tape and the end of the tape. You will need space between each of the songs on the reel as they are recorded and kept. 5 Songs on one reel equals 10 "Blank Tape Space" areas. I used to deal with this all of the time when I ran Studers at my studio. People wanna try to play it to the inch with Tape because it's expensive. But, you can't just butt all of the songs right up against each other and expect to be able to work freely. You really need 4 Tapes to do your project. You could do it with 3, but you will still have to be space/time conscious about laying the songs down. At least it will give you a little wiggle room on having an extra take of the main song on the album.

Oh, and if you want my choice for machine. The Studer running 15 IPS sounds amazing. So does the Ampex, but for the little bit more of color you will get, you would have 8 less tracks with the Ampex machine.

You will be just fine tracking with 24 Tracks and the Studer. Make sure you have enough Brand New Tape to get the job done.
Old 16th February 2017
  #13
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
I always thought 827's were kinda boring.an 800 though.
yeah I'd do the 1200.that said I have 2 m79's gathering dust .
analog or digital..the most important thing is does the room sound any good.
Old 16th February 2017
  #14
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
I agree, at least 3 reels of tape should be handy for 52 minutes of music. You didn't mention consoles, and I think it's important for both sound and workflow. What about automation? Without it you'll want to splice up the 2-track, or do the 'ol "all hands on deck" mixing, which can be fun.
Old 17th February 2017
  #15
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
As far as drum sounds go, in my opinion the room matters a lot more than the tape machine. I'd bring my own snare to each studio and ask them to record a few snare hits with an overhead in what they think is the best spot in the room.
Hi Brent,

A few of the posters have mentioned this, and though I'm not new to the idea of how crucial room acoustics can be, I wonder what is the sound you would be looking for in this situation? Like what should I be listening for as I hit the snare? Any science to the method or is it just purely 'what sounds cool to me'? I have been in 3 professional studios in my life, 2 of which are the couple that I am deliberating over using in this thread. I did not have the opportunity to test a snare drum in such a fashion though this looks like something I will definitely be trying now. I merely tried the 'clap test' just to see how reverberant the room was in each. The two studios I am considering we're both fairly reflective. They both have similar dimensions but are for the most part squareish/rectangular in shape (I know this is not generally ideal) with high ceilings over 15'. They both sound much more reverberant than the third studio that I have been in, the late Doppler Studios in Atlanta. Doppler had an awesome live room designed by George Augsberger. It was a very dry sounding room though. What kind of room would you be looking for for a great snare/full drum kit sound generally?

Thanks.

-MM
Old 17th February 2017
  #16
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Master Moss View Post
... what should I be listening for as I hit the snare? Any science to the method or is it just purely 'what sounds cool to me'?
The latter. But given that you're just starting out, you might want to get some other opinions from people you trust who have done it a lot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Master Moss View Post
What kind of room would you be looking for for a great snare/full drum kit sound generally?
Hard to say.

I wouldn't go in with a preconceived notion of what "good" is going to sound like to a microphone. I've been in rooms like Columbia 30th St., and Mediasound A, and Power Station/Avatar A where the magic was immediately self-evident. I've heard it in a video shot on a phone at Sun. On the other hand, I've been in places like Sigma/Philly, Sound City and Record Plant B/NYC where there was no obvious correlation between what I heard standing in the room and the great records that were made in them.
Old 17th February 2017
  #17
Lives for gear
 

I would like to post a vote for the Studer a827.
I own one, the reason I do is that it's as clean as you can get on tape whilst still offering all the fun bits of tape. I'm not talking about saturation- although it will do it.
I'm taking about great dynamic range and Smooth as F delivery of source material
Old 17th February 2017
  #18
Here for the gear
 

i record as a musicians 3 vinyl from tape in the 80' with my band, one 45 and two 33 cronogically on 8, 16, and 24 tracks, the 24 track on tape was the best sonically, very punchy and open sound, we ask the mixing guy why they sound so different between 8 16 and 24 tracks he answer very simple: the bigger is the tape
the better is, if you translate this in the digital domain is the same difference between a cheap sound card and a top of line one, with the 16 tracks i think that you can track down drums very well, but then you need at least other 15 tracks for bass GTR overdubs and vocals, not a problem if you produce drums with three mic like bonzo fron led zep then you will be ok with the 16 tracks, have fun and RnR!!!
Old 19th February 2017
  #19
Lives for gear
 

I'd love to know what the name of the Ampex studio is.

I have an Ampex MM1200 16 track and I live about an hour and a half away from Atlanta. I would love to know the studio because I might need their services at some point.
Old 22nd May 2017
  #20
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drpeacock View Post
I'd love to know what the name of the Ampex studio is.

I have an Ampex MM1200 16 track and I live about an hour and a half away from Atlanta. I would love to know the studio because I might need their services at some point.
Hey drpeacock. Sorry for the late reply. The studio with the MM1200 is Studio 1093 in Athens, GA.

And as an update to the original post, I've learned that the console at this studio is a Digidesign D-Command, which can not be run purely as an analog board, so if I record there I will have to dump from the Ampex into Pro Tools.
Old 22nd May 2017
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Master Moss View Post
Hey drpeacock. Sorry for the late reply. The studio with the MM1200 is Studio 1093 in Athens, GA.

And as an update to the original post, I've learned that the console at this studio is a Digidesign D-Command, which can not be run purely as an analog board, so if I record there I will have to dump from the Ampex into Pro Tools.
Interesting.

I have a buddy who at least used to do a lot of freelance work there (he's in one of the pictures on the website, in fact) and he always told me they had no tape—'course that's been a few years ago since he was telling me about that place. But it's not listed on the website in the "gear" section either.

Are you sure studio 1093 has an Ampex machine? Or could we be talking about Dave Barbie's place in Athens? Chase Park?
Old 22nd May 2017
  #22
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by drpeacock View Post
Interesting.

I have a buddy who at least used to do a lot of freelance work there (he's in one of the pictures on the website, in fact) and he always told me they had no tape—'course that's been a few years ago since he was telling me about that place. But it's not listed on the website in the "gear" section either.

Are you sure studio 1093 has an Ampex machine? Or could we be talking about Dave Barbie's place in Athens? Chase Park?
Chase Park has Otari machines I believe, and at least one Sony MXP3036 console. I knew the guy who used to do their service.
Old 22nd May 2017
  #23
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drpeacock View Post
Interesting.

I have a buddy who at least used to do a lot of freelance work there (he's in one of the pictures on the website, in fact) and he always told me they had no tape—'course that's been a few years ago since he was telling me about that place. But it's not listed on the website in the "gear" section either.

Are you sure studio 1093 has an Ampex machine? Or could we be talking about Dave Barbie's place in Athens? Chase Park?
I am certain they do, as I saw it myself about a year ago when the owner Jim graciously gave me an impromptu tour of his facility. At the time it was in need of maintenance, but having emailed with Jim just a few days ago, the machine is currently up and running. I assume it is unlisted on the gear page simply because so few artists are asking to record to tape anymore.

Chase Park does have reel to reel machines, Otari ones, as another poster said, but they don't have a very big live room. Studio 1093 has a larger one and that is one of the reasons I am considering tracking there.

-MM
Old 22nd May 2017
  #24
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Master Moss View Post
I am certain they do, as I saw it myself about a year ago when the owner Jim graciously gave me an impromptu tour of his facility. At the time it was in need of maintenance, but having emailed with Jim just a few days ago, the machine is currently up and running. I assume it is unlisted on the gear page simply because so few artists are asking to record to tape anymore.

Chase Park does have reel to reel machines, Otari ones, as another poster said, but they don't have a very big live room. Studio 1093 has a larger one and that is one of the reasons I am considering tracking there.

-MM
Well they've updated since I last knew then. Good for them. No tape to not functioning tape, to functioning tape, to hopefully the next step would be integrating tape with an analog console.

And yes, the room is reportedly fantastic.

If you're only considering tracking there, have you thought about tracking there on the Ampex in that room and mixing somewhere else? Could be the best of both worlds.
Old 25th May 2017
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Modern rock to me means the 1990s = 827

Clasick rock, 70s=Atr
Old 25th May 2017
  #26
Gear Addict
 

The Ampex is a fatter sound, I promise you that. For that and a more detailed/modern sound you would want to change out or remove the output transformers..

Or just use an 827 and get Hifi with less balls
Old 26th May 2017
  #27
Gear Nut
 
fazeka's Avatar
 

Interesting. I think MM1100/MM1200 for '70s classic rock, ATR (assuming 10x or 124) = '80s rock (now "classic"?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by DannyMac View Post
Modern rock to me means the 1990s = 827

Clasick rock, 70s=Atr
Old 17th June 2017
  #28
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DannyMac View Post
Modern rock to me means the 1990s = 827

Clasick rock, 70s=Atr
Yes, this seems to be the consensus. And 'modern rock' is what I am going for. And 90s rock sound is the pinnacle of the rock sound, in my opinion. The perfect balance between hi-fi and still having personality. From 2000 on with the take over of Pro Tools, digital sound and digital editing capabilities rock has never sounded right. It all sounds too clean and too perfect/sterile.

I have decided to track at a studio using a Studer A827. i have my first two days booked at Sound Emporium Studios, Studio B in Nashville. Wanted to record in my hometown of ATL but these guys seem more comfortable with doing tape records than the two studios I was considering in Georgia.

Thanks everyone who has given me input on this thread.

-MM
Old 28th June 2017
  #29
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Argali View Post
You will need more than 2 reels because you have to have a leader at the front end of the tape and the end of the tape. You will need space between each of the songs on the reel as they are recorded and kept. 5 Songs on one reel equals 10 "Blank Tape Space" areas. I used to deal with this all of the time when I ran Studers at my studio. People wanna try to play it to the inch with Tape because it's expensive. But, you can't just butt all of the songs right up against each other and expect to be able to work freely. You really need 4 Tapes to do your project. You could do it with 3, but you will still have to be space/time conscious about laying the songs down. At least it will give you a little wiggle room on having an extra take of the main song on the album.

Oh, and if you want my choice for machine. The Studer running 15 IPS sounds amazing. So does the Ampex, but for the little bit more of color you will get, you would have 8 less tracks with the Ampex machine.

You will be just fine tracking with 24 Tracks and the Studer. Make sure you have enough Brand New Tape to get the job done.

Okay so I am about to place my order for the tape from ATR Magnetics and so I want to be absolutely sure that I need 4 reels and couldn't comfortably do it with 3. I just want my work flow to be understood to make sure all of the above applies to me, because it is (at least I expect) an atypical workflow for a tape project:

I am the guitarist and the principle songwriter for the material on this record. I will record in Pro Tools at my home studio the guitar parts along to complete tempo mapped click tracks for every track on the album. Then at the real studio, I will dump from Pro Tools the five or so guitar tracks and the click simultaneously out of the console on to the tape.

The drummer will then overdub his drum parts, playing along to the dumped clicks and the guitars. Since a perfect sync is unlikely, and because I dont want my guitars to have ever been converted a/d or d/a on the finished master, I will then redub my guitars to the tape, using the freshly recorded drums as the guide. The guitars dumped from Pro Tools to the tape will be erased. Then I'll finally overdub bass and vocals.

I will not be recording multiple takes of any of the songs, and nothing is being played together live. All parts are being recorded piecemeal. We will track to the dumped click tracks and to those alone, and punch in wherever necessary, until we get solid takes for each song's click section.

Does this workflow change any of the calculus for how much tape I will need?

And can you please explain the 'leader at the front and end of the tape'. How long does the leader have to be and what is its purpose? Is this for printing test tones?

Finally, you say '5 songs on one reel means 10 Blank Tape Spaces areas'. But thinking about it logically it seems there would only be four blank spaces per reel (not including the front and end leaders) :

Song 1 blank space Song 2 blank space Song 3 blank Space Song 4 blank space Song 5.

I submit these questions humbly, as I know everyone on this thread is speaking from extensive experience, and am grateful for the advice. But intuitively it seems working the way I am working, with 90 minutes of tape playback (3 rolls at 15 IPS), even with significant gaps between tracks and at the front and end of each roll, I would have almost as much blank space available as recording space, would I not? 52 minutes of material and 38 minutes remaining?

Thanks in advance for any insight.

-MM
Old 28th June 2017
  #30
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
With no multiple takes of any song, 3 reels probably will work. When I'm on Tape I forward to 1 minute in to start the first song on a reel. I also pay attention to the end and try to leave space at the end as well. Do any of the songs have long chords to be faded at the end? That will vary how much space you'll want to leave at the end of each take.
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