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Emulation of heavily driven, transient tape response (hardware)
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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echoesoflife's Avatar
Emulation of heavily driven, transient tape response (hardware)

Hi Dear Gearslutz,

I've been reading on this subject for months and finally decided to start a discussion on this very specific idea.

I am working with heavy rock and metal music, and I have a bit of a specific approach for drums.

I dislike drum bus direct compression (although using a fair bit of it in parallel).

Instead, I absolutely love the dynamics of smashed tape on the drum bus directly. I am referring to UAD Ampex tape emulation (sometimes Studer). If one cranks up the input and output almost to the max and then compensates with gain trim, the particular difference in the dynamics becomes very apparent: natural compression, saturation, very heavy attack and spank in your face sort of sound. Without sounding too compressed, this approach just sounds different.

This is the sound that I'm chasing for a while and I would love to improve it - as I certainly know that tape plugins are still relatively limited.

Now I've recently stepped out of the box and I am just looking for particular pointers on hardware that would allow to achieve this exact character - heavily driven Ampex tape with huge attack.

Please note that I'm not quite looking for the other tape characteristics such as warmth, major saturation (although it would be great to have these too, but based on research that I've done you can't have them all as of yet). At this stage, I am only aiming to fulfil the very specific task of emulating the dynamics of heavily driven, transient Ampex tape.

Because I am looking to use it in hybrid mixing workflow, the real tape unfortunately is not feasible to use.

Having read million pages on tape emulation subject, I still can't quite find the tool that may help me to achieve this behaviour.

I own RND 542 and I would say that these boxes do not do this particular thing (maybe I would experiment more with them), although they sound very very nice on the whole mix bus as saturation tools.

I was considering a multitude of devices including HRK colour, Zulu, Anamod, Elysia Nvelope/Karacter, even Kush Electra.

Because of this non-conventional purpose of usage based on drum examples/samples that I've heard (no real usage experience!), I am not quite convinced that these or other similar units could perform what I'm after (please correct me if I'm wrong!).

Anyone, please suggest if such a thing exists - a box of magnetic dynamics and transience.

Why am I trying to upgrade the workflow that seems to be working well enough already? As my skill grew, I started to notice that plugin version includes a certain buildup of presence at 3-7 kHz when driven hot that sounds digital and unpleasant. That becomes apparent in the mix. Moreover, I consider this approach to be something distinct that I like to emphasise in all my mixes, hence making it best in the chain makes sense.

Any pointers/discussion is greatly appreciated.

UPDATE:
I'm adding the audio samples with the On and Off UAD Ampex on the Drums Output. Level matched, same mix. All the parallel processing is turned off.

Note how Ampex adds more attack to the snare, but not like how transient designers do.
Ampex also obviously makes drums brighter, saturates them. And that's where, I believe, the plugin falls a bit short on the extreme settings, exposing the brittle character - subtle yet audible.
Attached Files

In The Darkness Ampex OFF NRM.wav (6.47 MB, 464 views)

In The Darkness Ampex ON NRM.wav (6.47 MB, 466 views)

Old 1 week ago
  #2
Roger Mayer 456HD's. Barely anybody has them, apparently, but I own a pair along with the 542's and the Roger Mayer's are a lot more of what you're after.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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echoesoflife's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ripripstabstab View Post
Roger Mayer 456HD's. Barely anybody has them, apparently, but I own a pair along with the 542's and the Roger Mayer's are a lot more of what you're after.
Thank you for the recommendation! This looks promising. I'll keep an eye on the used listings. Rare unit.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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echoesoflife's Avatar
As a small update, I decided to compare the Softube Tape emulation with the UAD Ampex regarding my transience ventures. Softube doesn't sound anything like I want it to. When driven, it completely rounds off all the transients and compresses the signal with slow decay, as opposed to super punchy Ampex.

Hence I am wondering whether there could be any other tools which, when driven hard, exhibit this similar transient response on drums.

I even tried feeding drums into my CAPI VP26 with pad engaged and that somewhat delivered what I'm after, however I feel like it's not the best use for the preamp and would be too heavy-handed for direct drum bus processing.

Any pointers would be greatly appreciated, this quest seems never ending!
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Software I’d look at kush TWK. Hw, id look at Zulu or overstayer mas. I’ just received a Zulu but haven’t put it thru the paces yet.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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ionian's Avatar
Off the top of my head either Overstayer MAS or Black Box HG-2
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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How would hooking up a 2 track deck as a hardware insert be any different than hooking up a 2 channel hardware rack unit for hybrid workflow? Software emulation of anything works if you are not trying to get an exact copy of the real thing and it seems from your post you want the sonics of the real thing. Software emulation just trades off a different set of compromises, as such since you pointed out excessive 4-5khz, have you tried using an EQ plug prior to it to cut that range of frequencies feeding it? Source frequency shaping prior to insertion into both hardware and now plugs has been standard workflow for at least 50 years.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Have you tried Klanghelm's SDRR?
Old 1 week ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by echoesoflife View Post
I even tried feeding drums into my CAPI VP26 with pad engaged and that somewhat delivered what I'm after, however I feel like it's not the best use for the preamp and would be too heavy-handed for direct drum bus processing.

Any pointers would be greatly appreciated, this quest seems never ending!
I’ll be watching this thread like a hawk haha

I use my VP28s for this and whilst not quite sounding like tape they do round off the transients in a nice way

I find less is more with them and mixing into them is essential. I get the best results using something like schwa scope after it to see how hard I’m pushing it. Just leaving a bit of spike seems to work best I find

My only gripe is that they can be a touch dark but I think maybe that just comes with the nature of what they’re doing.

I did a mix recently where I printed the CAPI drum bus onto tape at 30ips and it sounded lovely but, like you, I’m also looking for something I can do in real time
Old 1 week ago
  #10
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I will post a level matched sample of drums without and with my processing chain so that it makes better sense of what I'm after soon! Thanks all for your contributions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by szyam View Post
Software I’d look at kush TWK. Hw, id look at Zulu or overstayer mas. I’ just received a Zulu but haven’t put it thru the paces yet.
Thanks szyam!

Based on Zulu demos, it seems like it adds too much darkness and saturation to the drums. Instead of additional transience and punch. That has put me off, although obviously I don't have experience with the device.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ionian View Post
Off the top of my head either Overstayer MAS or Black Box HG-2
Thanks ionian!

Yes, both of the devices seem very exciting. I am not sure that such an investment is worth for my purposes (drum bus only), however I will try to at least trial these in a local studios to get experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
How would hooking up a 2 track deck as a hardware insert be any different than hooking up a 2 channel hardware rack unit for hybrid workflow? Software emulation of anything works if you are not trying to get an exact copy of the real thing and it seems from your post you want the sonics of the real thing. Software emulation just trades off a different set of compromises, as such since you pointed out excessive 4-5khz, have you tried using an EQ plug prior to it to cut that range of frequencies feeding it? Source frequency shaping prior to insertion into both hardware and now plugs has been standard workflow for at least 50 years.
Cheers Bassmankr. Yes indeed, I have to do some cuts for this reason. I find this buildup being a characteristic of the plugin itself and its algorithms. My main concern is that I would like to achieve my goals with simplicity. If I drive the plugin to its extremes and it exhibits some unpleasant buildups, I'd rather use a hardware device that would do the same thing but better, simpler and faster. Hope this makes sense.

I also don't have any experience with the real tape and most likely will not have it, too. It's just the reality of modern workflow for me, and I'm sorry to be ignorant. I think that my goals are still valid even with this major limitation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ripripstabstab View Post
Have you tried Klanghelm's SDRR?
Thank you! Looks interesting!
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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echoesoflife's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by woodfoot View Post
I’ll be watching this thread like a hawk haha

I use my VP28s for this and whilst not quite sounding like tape they do round off the transients in a nice way

I find less is more with them and mixing into them is essential. I get the best results using something like schwa scope after it to see how hard I’m pushing it. Just leaving a bit of spike seems to work best I find

My only gripe is that they can be a touch dark but I think maybe that just comes with the nature of what they’re doing.

I did a mix recently where I printed the CAPI drum bus onto tape at 30ips and it sounded lovely but, like you, I’m also looking for something I can do in real time
Hey woodfoot,

That's a nice synchronisation in thinking right there, just last night I though that maybe a certain kind of mic preamp would allow me to achieve what I'm after!

I'm slightly concerned about the grittiness that these add. I probably need to experiment with my VP26 more (as I only have 1 it's proving more difficult).

As I need some flexibility to maintain clean character of drums and add punch for modern productions vs smash them hard in heavier sort of stuff...

I will post some samples tonight so hopefully more experienced folks could chime in.

Thanks again!
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by echoesoflife View Post
Hey woodfoot,

That's a nice synchronisation in thinking right there, just last night I though that maybe a certain kind of mic preamp would allow me to achieve what I'm after!

I'm slightly concerned about the grittiness that these add. I probably need to experiment with my VP26 more (as I only have 1 it's proving more difficult).

As I need some flexibility to maintain clean character of drums and add punch for modern productions vs smash them hard in heavier sort of stuff...

I will post some samples tonight so hopefully more experienced folks could chime in.

Thanks again!
Yeah you definitely need 2, this is Gearslutz!

I think just mixing into them without going too hard, whilst not 'clean' does still sound 'unsmashed'.

I tend to have them on a final bus with a few different buses feeding them, one being a clean drum bus with nothing on, the other is a chandler Tg1 bus smashing it to **** so they spank. Sitting that under the open one makes the drums really punchy and the capi's catch all the spikes.

In that way the spikes saturate the Capis but the sustain of the drums don't saturate as much and so it doesn't create muck on the tails. In this instance the TG1 does something magical to the tails so the combo sounds lovely when I get it right.

As with anything, gain staging is critical
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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echoesoflife's Avatar
Hi all,

Just updated the first post with the On and Off UAD Ampex on the Drums Output. Level matched, same mix. All the parallel processing is turned off.

Note how Ampex adds more attack to the snare, but not like how transient designers do.
Ampex also obviously makes drums brighter, saturates them. And that's where, I believe, the plugin falls a bit short on the extreme settings, exposing the brittle character - subtle yet audible.

I want more of this character, and better
Old 1 week ago
  #14
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echoesoflife's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by woodfoot View Post
Yeah you definitely need 2, this is Gearslutz!

I think just mixing into them without going too hard, whilst not 'clean' does still sound 'unsmashed'.

I tend to have them on a final bus with a few different buses feeding them, one being a clean drum bus with nothing on, the other is a chandler Tg1 bus smashing it to **** so they spank. Sitting that under the open one makes the drums really punchy and the capi's catch all the spikes.

In that way the spikes saturate the Capis but the sustain of the drums don't saturate as much and so it doesn't create muck on the tails. In this instance the TG1 does something magical to the tails so the combo sounds lovely when I get it right.

As with anything, gain staging is critical
Mmm, now you got me lusting over these Chandlers, yet again
Old 1 week ago
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ripripstabstab View Post
Roger Mayer 456HD's. Barely anybody has them, apparently, but I own a pair along with the 542's and the Roger Mayer's are a lot more of what you're after.
Yes the Mayer has more harmonic excitement than the smooth top end of the RND boxes.
I use them both as well as an Anamod which at extreme levels is great for increasing RMS, I also feel the Bereich Density sounds similar to the Anamod without the bass bump and is really versatile with the various settings.

Have you tried Acustica's Taupe plug in? That's pretty wild.
Old 1 week ago
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by echoesoflife View Post
Hi all,

Just updated the first post with the On and Off UAD Ampex on the Drums Output. Level matched, same mix. All the parallel processing is turned off.

Note how Ampex adds more attack to the snare, but not like how transient designers do.
Ampex also obviously makes drums brighter, saturates them. And that's where, I believe, the plugin falls a bit short on the extreme settings, exposing the brittle character - subtle yet audible.

I want more of this character, and better
I know what you mean, I find using the UAD Ampex in conjunction with the Weiss Deesser tames the brittle frequencies that tape would take care of naturally but doesn't destroy the balance of the kit.
Old 1 week ago
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_G View Post
Yes the Mayer has more harmonic excitement than the smooth top end of the RND boxes.
I use them both as well as an Anamod which at extreme levels is great for increasing RMS, I also feel the Bereich Density sounds similar to the Anamod without the bass bump and is really versatile with the various settings.

Have you tried Acustica's Taupe plug in? That's pretty wild.
I've had my eye on the Density, for sure. I have Taupe but don't really gel with it - mostly due to the UI which feels convoluted and bloated - and go for U-He's Satin 9 times out of 10 if I'm using a tape plugin. Taupe is definitely better at injecting the kind of energy we're talking here, though...
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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echoesoflife's Avatar
Hi all,

Just finished a bunch of tests on a different project.

UAD Ampex On and Off
RND 542
CAPI VP26 (I should have backed it off a bit, but it shows the character well)

All level matched.

Looks like I like CAPI the best out of these.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pbg6v9iq2...Ah-D3IWCa?dl=0 (Attachments wouldn't work)
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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echoesoflife's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_G View Post
I know what you mean, I find using the UAD Ampex in conjunction with the Weiss Deesser tames the brittle frequencies that tape would take care of naturally but doesn't destroy the balance of the kit.
Yep, this is an interesting phenomena. I also find that it may be stacking with other plugins sometimes.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by echoesoflife View Post
Hi all,

Just finished a bunch of tests on a different project.

UAD Ampex On and Off
RND 542
CAPI VP26 (I should have backed it off a bit, but it shows the character well)

All level matched.

Looks like I like CAPI the best out of these.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pbg6v9iq2...Ah-D3IWCa?dl=0 (Attachments wouldn't work)
In which case, for saturation you’d probably like what the Silver Bullet does to drums.
Old 1 week ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by echoesoflife View Post
Hi all,

Just finished a bunch of tests on a different project.

UAD Ampex On and Off
RND 542
CAPI VP26 (I should have backed it off a bit, but it shows the character well)

All level matched.

Looks like I like CAPI the best out of these.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pbg6v9iq2...Ah-D3IWCa?dl=0 (Attachments wouldn't work)
This is interesting.

With the CAPI being the VP26 it's less heavy handed than the VP28 which makes sense given the 28s second gain stage. I can see a use for both though

I have been planning to grab a few more CAPIs for a while so I might get some 26s

Old 6 days ago
  #22
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echoesoflife's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_G View Post
Yes the Mayer has more harmonic excitement than the smooth top end of the RND boxes.
I use them both as well as an Anamod which at extreme levels is great for increasing RMS, I also feel the Bereich Density sounds similar to the Anamod without the bass bump and is really versatile with the various settings.

Have you tried Acustica's Taupe plug in? That's pretty wild.
Cheers Paul.

I haven't tried Taupe and to be honest I'm reluctant to do so. I've been lately noticing that additional plugins only complicate the workflow by adding more choices, as well as once stacked, add up to particular unwanted character in certain cases.

Plus, the resell value of plugins is almost 0.

Therefore I am trying to find a hardware piece of moderate price that would do the thing, rather than a plugin.

I may be wrong though, but this seems to be a good observation this year (after 4 or 5 years completely in the box with million of plugins).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_G View Post
I know what you mean, I find using the UAD Ampex in conjunction with the Weiss Deesser tames the brittle frequencies that tape would take care of naturally but doesn't destroy the balance of the kit.
This can be done, but again, it adds complexity. In the ideal world, I'd like a box with simple controls, minimum hassle and good sound straight away.

I've been through so many phases with mixing when the recorded results are average, and you are trying to fix them up by adding a gazillion of parallel layers - air, crunch, saturation, compression, anything. It takes you few hours longer to craft the mix, you get ear fatigue and it still doesn't sound as good as if it was recorded well in first place.

So I guess that's something that I'm trying hard to avoid right now as of recent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_G View Post
In which case, for saturation you’d probably like what the Silver Bullet does to drums.
My Silver Bullet is currently in customs, awaiting for clearance Once it's here, I'll test it out and will report! I am planning to use it for the whole mix bus though.

Which got me thinking that maybe a simpler LTL device would do the trick for drums (RGB, Mister Focus, Chroma?)

Once I'm familiar with A and N circuits, it will become apparent.
Old 6 days ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodfoot View Post
This is interesting.

With the CAPI being the VP26 it's less heavy handed than the VP28 which makes sense given the 28s second gain stage. I can see a use for both though

I have been planning to grab a few more CAPIs for a while so I might get some 26s

I absolutely adore this little CAPI for vocal tracking! It can be really clean, or it can be super gritty, with fantastic character which I haven't heard before. Plus, I got it really cheap.

Are you using your CAPI for mixing at all?
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