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Analog alignment ideas
Old 1st November 2002
  #1
Gear Head
 
nick's Avatar
 

Analog alignment ideas

To those of you who work on analog:

Do you ever change the alignment / bias on an individual track for a specific effect or tone ?

Do you set up the EQ to be anything other than flat when tracking / mixing ?

Also has anyone compared the American vs. the European EQ curve thing (CCIR and NAB i think). Is there an audible difference at all?

Has anyone ever tried to overdrive the input of the tape machine and then turn the record level down ? What's it sound like ?

Also any other techniques or tricks appreciated !

I've been thinking about using alignment in this way but I haven't found anything on the net about it. So i've really got to sit down with a tape machine and try all this out, but until i get a chance, please satisfy my curiosity !

Thanks,

Nick
Old 1st November 2002
  #2
Lives for gear
 
groundcontrol's Avatar
 

Re: Analog alignment ideas

Quote:
Originally posted by nick
To those of you who work on analog:

Do you ever change the alignment / bias on an individual track for a specific effect or tone ?
After you finish completely calibrating a pair of 24 track machines, I'm not sure you'll still entertain those kinds of ideas...

I have, however, calibrated two machines for different tape formulations/fluxivities to print different instruments to each one when using a 48 track setup.
Old 1st November 2002
  #3
Lives for gear
 
drundall's Avatar
 

I've biased a kick drum track by ear before to get a harder kick sound. Don' t know if that's what you're referring to.
Old 1st November 2002
  #4
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Re: Analog alignment ideas

Quote:
Originally posted by nick
Do you ever change the alignment / bias on an individual track for a specific effect or tone ?
Every now and again... but you have to have the luxury of having lots and lots of studio time available. When you can do things like budget 8 hours+ per overdub, then you can do things like play fuck around with the alignments.

Quote:
Do you set up the EQ to be anything other than flat when tracking / mixing ?
Sure. It's rather common to set the 10kHz test tone a db down, so you end up with an extra db at 10kHz on the tape. I've seen other cool alignments, like 1kHz and 100Hz at 6db>250nWb/m with 10kHz at 3db>250nWb/m... the theory was that with 456 the midrange could be laid down at a near infinite level... it would just compress, and the overall sound would get a tad brighter... but slamming the 'upper regions' of the sound into 456 was kind of a "no no"... so this alignment allowed a kind of "best of both worlds scenario.

As the tape wears on... as it's overdubed, sent over the heads a couple thousand times when mixing... it was not uncommon to to bump the 10kHz up like a half db for every day of mixing on the song... sometimes more... kinda depended on the machine, how badly the tape had the shit beat out of it while you were tracking, how much coke the mixer had done [which leads to 'high end loss' in the mix engineer], etc.

Quote:
Also has anyone compared the American vs. the European EQ curve thing (CCIR and NAB i think). Is there an audible difference at all?
Yeah, there's a difference... there was a great article in Tape Op about it a few months back.

Quote:
Has anyone ever tried to overdrive the input of the tape machine and then turn the record level down ? What's it sound like ?
On most machines, that doesn't sound very good [it really depends on the 'front end electoronics', and how they sound when driven too hard. Most of the decks I've done that on were none to happy about the event... a 3M M-56 was pretty cool about doing it, but for the most part, machines aren't partial to the concept.

However... going the other way around can be way cool. I read an article many years ago about cutting Lowell George's slide guitar where they realigned a track on the deck to like +13 [somewhere like 10db>250nWb/m]. You could only align, or record on one track at a time, or you could burn up the record head that was such a hot level!!

Well... I've tried it, and frankly, it sounds the fucking balls!! I've used it on a couple things besides guitars... like backing vocals, it's a real favorite alignment for backing vocals. Again, make damn sure you only have one track in record at a time... or you'll be buying a new record head [which will be kind of expensive... so be careful].


Quote:
Also any other techniques or tricks appreciated !
Alignment techniques?... this was more like an effect... for a guitar solo once... we knew the solo was going to be heavily flanged in the mix... so we took it an extra step farther and had the assistant stand at the deck with an alignment tool and rock the azimuth in time with the song. I don't know if it made enough difference to warrant the pain in the ass... but it was something to try.

Quote:
I've been thinking about using alignment in this way but I haven't found anything on the net about it. So i've really got to sit down with a tape machine and try all this out, but until i get a chance, please satisfy my curiosity !

You need to talk to 'old people'... the stuff I outlined here was all stuff I heard about either by having to deal with a tape that had been recorded like that, or tales from folks who are my seniors who had done them in the past.

With tape alignments, the only thing that could limit experimentation is the desire to not burn up the record head... anything after that seems like fair game to me.

Best of luck with your own experimentation.
Old 1st November 2002
  #5
Old 1st November 2002
  #6
Gear Head
 
nick's Avatar
 

Thanks Fletcher, great stuff. Much appreciated, and exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

re: +13, hopefully sometime i'll have the courage to try that!
Old 1st November 2002
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Tim L's Avatar
 

... You won't learn that in college!

It's kinda sad to think that "2 inch" is seemingly becoming a lost art. I know plenty of people still use it everyday with great results, but I'm talking about being trulyintimate with the science, application, and all the little nuances of it inside and out... kind of like the classic oil painters. I hope more of the "knowledge" gets passed on before it vanishes. That was a great response!
Old 1st November 2002
  #8
Gear Addict
 

The +13 Lowell George thing, I think I might have read that same article. The engineer who showed the guy being interviewed the trick had done it on the two outside tracks of a deck simultaneously, so there was enough buffer not to snuff it outright? (I still wouldn't try this at home . . .) Not knowing any better, he did the same trick on adjacent tracks at a later point and cooked a head stack.

For analog mixdown, you can get some mileage out of tweaking your two track appropriately to the track you're mixing. The problem is that the mastering house you send it to needs to have a clue of how to work with the different alignments of different tracks, so probably not worth the effort if the client uses budget mastering.

Bear
Old 1st November 2002
  #9
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

Re: Analog alignment ideas

Quote:
Originally posted by nick
Do you ever change the alignment / bias on an individual track for a specific effect or tone ?
Yes, sometimes....PB EQ or bias.

Quote:
Originally posted by nick
Do you set up the EQ to be anything other than flat when tracking / mixing ?
I often boost PB up 1dB at 16k or 0.5dB at 10k.

Sometimes 0.5dB at 50Hz too, but that's not needed very often.

Free-lancers tend by and large to play it safe and request all flat, which I can understand.

Haven't run across the oft-mentioned HF loss over days of tracking or mixing...mostly using GP9 and Emtec 900 tapes...but maybe the change is so subtle that I don't notice it. Sometimes I xfer over to PT after basics tracking to have something to compare the tape sound to over time and haven't heard a change when I checked down the road. So there's a contrasting experience for you.

Quote:
Originally posted by nick
Also has anyone compared the American vs. the European EQ curve thing (CCIR and NAB i think). Is there an audible difference at all?
Haven't tried comparing. Maybe should, though. I'm in Europe but use NAB equalization.

Quote:
Originally posted by nick
Has anyone ever tried to overdrive the input of the tape machine and then turn the record level down ? What's it sound like ?
Never found that to be helpful, but I agree with Fletcher about the opposite. FWIW I've been aligning at +7/185 lately. I was doing +9 for awhile but was hitting tape too hard too easily.

Quote:
Originally posted by nick
Also any other techniques or tricks appreciated !

I've been thinking about using alignment in this way but I haven't found anything on the net about it. So i've really got to sit down with a tape machine and try all this out
It depends on the machine you are working with. Each has its sweet spots and you're going to have to find them by trial and error. I wouldn't count too much on assistants to know them or find them for you...or anyone other than someone who has a lot of tweaking hours on the machine in question.

FWIW I appreciate BIG TIME the automatic alignment feature on the A820...plus the two different tape alignments it can hold in memory...it makes the basic alignment go very quickly and you can use the precious time saved for trying things out. It's also a piece of cake to compare alignments...make one Tape A and the other Tape B...A/B the two.

Let us know what you try and like!



Jon
Old 2nd November 2002
  #10
Gear Head
 
nick's Avatar
 

Thanks everyone

Old 2nd November 2002
  #11
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by Gone Fission
The problem is that the mastering house you send it to needs to have a clue of how to work with the different alignments of different tracks, so probably not worth the effort if the client uses budget mastering.
The mastering house is going to get the same final 2 track product they would have gotten in the first place, the mastering house is going to get the same product they would have gotten as well. The only people to whom this kind of stuff will matter is the actual production team... and chances are way better than even that the deck is set back to it's original settings prior to mixing... [+/-3 db]
Old 2nd November 2002
  #12
Gear Addict
 

CCIR vs. NAB doesn't make a difference for playback? I thought it did, but I'm probably wrong. I need to reread the manual any time I align, so I'm the furthest thing from an expert on this front. Tape machines are pretty much black magic to me.

Bear
Old 2nd November 2002
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Steve Smith's Avatar
 

Re: Re: Analog alignment ideas

Quote:
Originally posted by jon

Sometimes I xfer over to PT after basics tracking to have something to compare the tape sound to over time and haven't heard a change when I checked down the road. So there's a contrasting experience for you.
Jon
Umm... I really do not want a pissing match again, but didn't you just spend an inordinate amount of time explaining how DIFFRENT PT sounded to tape and how you bassically thought it sounded like shit next to analog? seems like an odd format to use to reference the effects of tape over time, no? perhaps you are evaluating the diffrence?

Just curious.

As a side note, I once had an assistant in Germany align the tape machiene to minus 9 instead if the plus 9 I asked for.. we were rushed to start tracking vocals so I phoned ahead.. I oly did one track before noticing, but it was a keeper as far as the artist and produce were concerened... boy was I pissed ( at me as well as him) ME: ( after listening to the tape playback and realizing what was happening ) hey guys, I need a second with the assistant to sort out a quick patching issue.. you want to grab a coffe in the lounge? ( the "code" the produce and I allways use for - get the artist out of here before I freak for a moment)
Old 2nd November 2002
  #14
Ted
Gear Maniac
 

Steve,

E-mail me with your number at [email protected]. I can't get a hold of you.

Thanks,
Ted In OKC.
Old 2nd November 2002
  #15
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

Re: Re: Re: Analog alignment ideas

Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Smith
didn't you just spend an inordinate amount of time explaining how DIFFRENT PT sounded to tape and how you bassically thought it sounded like shit next to analog?
An interesting interpretation. I have often said that I prefer analog tape for many things. That is not at all the same, to my mind, as saying PT sounds "like shit next to analog".

Basically, PT is like a fair-grade quality audio snapshot with somewhat less depth, height and width than the original. If I transfer my analog tracks to PT, and later on down the road the analog tracks exhibit less "air" than the PT transfer of said same analog tracks, then, all other things being equal, one could reasonably conclude that I've lost some air in the analog tracks.
Old 2nd November 2002
  #16
Lives for gear
 
Steve Smith's Avatar
 

gotcha, just curious what you were listening for.
Old 2nd November 2002
  #17
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by Gone Fission
For analog mixdown, you can get some mileage out of tweaking your two track appropriately to the track you're mixing. The problem is that the mastering house you send it to needs to have a clue of how to work with the different alignments of different tracks, so probably not worth the effort if the client uses budget mastering.
Most budget mastering houses don't have an analog deck to master from. I always print 30 seconds of 1k, 10k, and 100hz with 15 seconds of 50hz and 15khz on a two-track. I should do 50 and 15khz on 2" but I never do. I went into another studio in NYC yesterday for transfers and it was the first time someone asked me if I had printed 50hz so they could see the headbump. Ah well. The other thing is that any alignment tweaks for a given track or song should be noted so you or someone else can figure out what's going on later.

I tend to keep things flat. Kinda boring but it works because I usually don't have time to fuck around on a session. Maybe I'll try bumping the high end on the way in next time around.
Old 3rd November 2002
  #18
Gear Head
 
nick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Fletcher

The mastering house is going to get the same final 2 track product they would have gotten in the first place, the mastering house is going to get the same product they would have gotten as well. The only people to whom this kind of stuff will matter is the actual production team... and chances are way better than even that the deck is set back to it's original settings prior to mixing... [+/-3 db]
Fletcher,

Do you mean that you might print tones at -1db, for example, to get a 1db increase on playback when lined up to that tape. Or are you referring to the record side of things?
Old 3rd November 2002
  #19
Gear Head
 
nick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jay Kahrs

... I went into another studio in NYC yesterday for transfers and it was the first time someone asked me if I had printed 50hz so they could see the headbump.


Jay,

I haven't heard of this before, what's the benefit of 'seeing' the head bump?

Quote:
I tend to keep things flat. Kinda boring but it works because I usually don't have time to fuck around on a session. Maybe I'll try bumping the high end on the way in next time around.
Quote:
That's what I've been doing. I had wanted to try out this sort of stuff before, but hadn't really had the time to do it.
Old 3rd November 2002
  #20
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Nick, I meant that you print the tone at -1 and keep your mouth shut about it... then do your PB alignment at '0'... which gives you an extra db on the top end... an old man's trick for getting the project a tad brighter...

As for the 'headbump' thing... different machines have different headbumps. The headbump on a Studer at 30ips is generally around 100Hz... so if you line up the bottom at 50, you get a bit bigger, warmer, creamier low end than if you like up the low end at 100...

The thing is that the amount of the 'headbump' varies a bit from track to track... so if you line up the low end to be +1 at 100Hz, you could very easily be overdoing it.... but if you line up the low end at 50Hz... then you're out of the range of the 'headbump' [at least at 30ips... you're smack dab in the middle of it at 15ips... in which case 100Hz becomes a more usable alignment tone].

Got a headache yet?
Old 4th November 2002
  #21
Gear Head
 
nick's Avatar
 

Thanks again Fletcher
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