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Killing tape hiss and saving the sound...
Old 19th February 2003
  #1
Killing tape hiss and saving the sound...

Ok, so I got my Hd system for my little home project studio and realized this...it sounds good...for digital...and distorted guitars still sound fake and semi lifeless. So, I'm thinkin bout getting a 1/2" reel two real to track to first before the dredded a/d tone slaughterhouse. I've never done this before and admit my noobness. Here's my question: What techniques, hardware and/or plug ins do the "pros" use to get rid of the tape hiss that goes along with the warmer sound? I want the warmth, but I'd like to keep the hiss out of the picture as much as is possible.

Thanks for your help,

Steve

p.s. As I'm no repairman, does anyone sell 1/2" 8 track machines new anymore? ...or in great shape???
Old 19th February 2003
  #2
Here for the gear
 
rubykitty2000's Avatar
 

Get an Otari mx5050 and an MRL, hit the tape hard and don't even worry about the hiss.

Charles
Old 19th February 2003
  #3
thks, what the hell is an MRL?
Steve
Old 19th February 2003
  #4
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

lordy... dont get a deck then. get a fatsoJR or a HEDD. or a spider. or get a royer r121, or all of the above.
Old 19th February 2003
  #5
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by guittarzzan
thks, what the hell is an MRL?
For the most part I'm going to agree with AJ. But, what makes you think that tape is the magic answer if you've never used a tape deck? And don't tell me that you have, because if you have you'd know what an MRL is.
Old 19th February 2003
  #6
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

whats really sad jay is this studio in town that runs analog 1" 16track, im not sure if they have an MRL tape for it... or if they align the machine. this place said they print stereo to their 1/2" 4 track to double tracks [1/2 L 3/4 R] for a "better sound"... i told them that maybe tracks 2/3 would give them a better sound than 1/2 or 3/4 staying off the "edge".

what gets me however are people who think just because a studio uses analog decks, they are somehow "better"... or just recording analog in general, no matter what deck is being used or if/how it is aligned.

michael has a funny story about guitar sounds and analog decks.
Old 19th February 2003
  #7
I didn't claim to know anything about reel to reel machines to begin with so I see no shame in asking what an MRL is. The only tape machine I've used ever was an old tascam 8 track cassette recorder.
I have a fatso and it's nice, but surely not a "magic" machine and I highly doubt that what it does can compete with actually tracking to tape to begin with.
From what I have gathered, many or most of the higher end studios will track drums, bass and distorted guitars to tape and then edit in pt...at least for the "rock/hard rock" genre. I don't have to be an expert to figure out that they must be doing it because it sounds the best. They have access to virtually any gear and choose analog. That tells a noob like me that maybe I should try that and see if I get closer to the quality sound I'm looking for. Of course, there are exceptions and I'm sure some people have had success with going straight to disk.
I'm simply asking how the issue of tape hiss is dealt with in this type of set up and what gear and/or plug ins are recommended to get the best transfer into PT.
...cut me a little slack. I'm asking questions and trying to learn as much as I can.
If someone out there has recorded great sounding guitars going straight into pt, I'd love to hear the material and how it was done. I'm not talking about Tom Petty guitars, but more in the Godsmack, Nickelback genre...I'm not a big fan of either band, but their guitars sound pretty natural to me as opposed to say R. Zombie guitars which I think sound like amp farm etc or my stuff when going direct to pt.

Thanks guys,
Steve
Old 19th February 2003
  #8
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Lots of people are using a Fatso in front of an A/D and are really happy with it. Fletcher is one of them and he's the guy who modded a Harley Davidson golf cart and drove it around the AES show with "Analog is back and it's pissed" on the side.

Don't get me wrong. I love tape. I own a 2" 24 and a 1/4" 2-track and I'll use them until they fall apart or I can't get tape anymore. But, it is NOT a magic cureall. If your guitars sound like shit going to digital some, using plastic and oxide ain't gonna help matters at all. Just the fact that your saying you want to get rid of the tape hiss from analog on an electric guitar track is really funny to me. That being the case, you probably shouldn't get an analog deck and should spend time working on the guitar sounds your getting. I've heard plenty of good to great sounds done on digital, it requires a different approach then tape. Running a cassette 8-track or even 4-track is NOT the same as a real tape machine. I mean, shit... any guitar amp makes a hell of a lot more noise then any tape deck I've ever come across. Even a cassette.

And no, nobody is selling new 1/2" 8-tracks anymore. Studer and Otari both have very limited production on new analog decks. It's a shame really.
Old 19th February 2003
  #9
Jay is 1000% right. If you aren't getting great guitar sounds to 24 bit digital, then analog tape isn't going to save it. And it's not just about great quality gear, not just any old piece of top shelf kit will do. It has to be taken to the next level. It's taken years of experimentation to find what my ears tell me is the perfect combination of tools for the sound that I've imagined in my head first (even with a good player and room). And the tools that I prefer foremost have only been available to the public for a relatively short time. The old vintage guard doesn't do it as well for me. I think the new generation of designers are doing an incredible job of interpreting the old designs. So what's your front end signal path now? Start with the guitar and amp. The guitar, amp, microphone (s), preamp, compressor, and A/D are extremely important. Assuming you have a great guitar player, and you aren't getting great sounds then it's either the tools, or the operator.
Old 19th February 2003
  #10
Lives for gear
 
e-cue's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by guittarzzan
thks, what the hell is an MRL?
Steve
In case anyone else didn't know:
MRL stands for MAGNETIC REFERENCE LABORATORY. They make 'calibration tapes' (which everyone usually just calls an MRL). These MRL,"Calibration Tapes", contain test signals used to calibrate (that is, measure, adjust, or both) your tape machine so that it will conform to the accepted standards. Various test signals are available, depending on what you want to measure: reference [fluxivity], azimuth, and amplitude/frequency response.

OKay, now I feel like one of those star trek dorks.
Old 19th February 2003
  #11
Lives for gear
 
drundall's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by guittarzzan

From what I have gathered, many or most of the higher end studios will track drums, bass and distorted guitars to tape and then edit in pt...at least for the "rock/hard rock" genre. I don't have to be an expert to figure out that they must be doing it because it sounds the best. They have access to virtually any gear and choose analog. That tells a noob like me that maybe I should try that and see if I get closer to the quality sound I'm looking for.

Steve
I don't mean this as a slight but I think you shouldn't worry about analog and work on honing your skills. If you're going for a Nickleback/Godsmack sound in PTHD I'd say it's definitely doable. Do a little research on modern guitar recording techniques and I'm sure you'll develop a method that'll be satisfactory. Have fun with it and remember-garbage in, garbage out.
Old 19th February 2003
  #12
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

yup... it REALLY starts at the amp. shit, the players fingers really. but for us, all intents and purposes the AMP. and the guitar too. never underestimate a great guitar. it will sound incredible not even plugged in.

and for me, i prefer a 4x12 cabinet to get those kind of sounds. and a GOOD 4x12... not some shitty ass marshall cab. i prefer bigger cabinets like the mesa, orange, vht cabs. they have a tighter whomp to them. speakers loaded in them make a difference as well. some people like greenbacks, i like blue alnicos [of course the most expensive of the lot]

then its onto mics. i cant stress a royer R121 enough, especially combined with something else... lately i have been using a U195 in FAT but a Crown CM700 also works for me. the SM57 can work as well. the royer alone can be too dark for most guitar sounds, so if its the only mic, i tend to run the amp a lot brighter than normal.

then its where you PLACE those mics. i spend a good amount of time moving them ever so slightly to dial in the sound.... of course you have to know the sound when you find it. this is an unbelievable huge part of the equation... probably more than the recording gear [but not the amp... gotta sound great in the room first]

preamps make a big difference as well. its almost always an API/chandler EMI/Flamingo for me... and looking to add a Neve sometime soon. id imagine a vipre on slow rise could also serve its purpose in smoothing out a guitar tone as well.
Old 19th February 2003
  #13
Gear Addict
 
mplancke's Avatar
Re: Killing tape hiss and saving the sound...

Quote:
Originally posted by guittarzzan
Here's my question: What techniques, hardware and/or plug ins do the "pros" use to get rid of the tape hiss that goes along with the warmer sound? I want the warmth, but I'd like to keep the hiss out of the picture as much as is possible.

Thanks for your help,

Steve
As Fletcher has said on many occasions...

Tape hiss becomes irrelavent once you hit the standby switch on your Marshall stack.

Mark
Old 19th February 2003
  #14
Thanks guys for the feedback. Now, I know I'm no pro, but as far as getting a nice sound from my amp, that I can do. I get it all set up and rehearse/audition it through my monitors (and yes the cab is in a different room with very little bleed), then when I record and play it back, it seems to have lost some of the "sheen" or "liveliness" etc and the articulation seems a little more mushy. I have played for years and done some good woodsheddin on picking and playing tight. I'm not the best, but at the guitar, I'm no noob.
My signal chain is PRS guitar-VHT Pitbull CLX 100 head-either a Mesa 2x12 or VHT 4x12 cab to either a 57 or senn 421-Vintech X73 pre -Digi 192 at 88.2. I've messed with the Fatso some, but as cool as it is, it doesn't seem to make up for what is lost in the conversion. I've tried hitting the 192 at different levels to see if that makes a difference...it doesn't. If I get it too hot, obviously I get the nasty dig distortion. I am considering a royer mic, but I don't think that addresses the problem. I get it to sound the way I like coming through that signal chain in rehearsal, then once I push record and play it back, the signal has blatantly lost some of what I love about that VHT amp.
I posted another thread about going to tape first and pretty much across the board, everyone said you usually end up with a better sounding product than going straight in to PT. After quite a lot of trial and error, I think I agree with them...it must sound a little better.
If there are any books that specifically address recording distorted guitars straight to disk, I'd love to know what the name of the book is I'd definately read up on it.

Thanks guys...now off to my day job,
Steve
Old 19th February 2003
  #15
...if this helps at all, some of my favorite records in terms of how the rythm guitar sounds are: STP Core, Godsmack debut, VH 1, Nirvana Nevermind, I hate to admit it, but Ratt Out of the Celler and a few more. I'd love to read up on how these were recorded, but my gut feeling is that most if not all went to tape first. I say this knowing you guys will correct me if I'm wrong lol.

thx again,
Steve
Old 19th February 2003
  #16
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

okay, first of all. level into digital for distorted guitar do NOT need to be hot. in fact, i keep it at least -6db down. there isnt much dynamic range to a distorted guitar signal so keeping the signal above your digital window isnt as important as say cymbals or even vox or acoustic guitar.

also, you mention "sheen"... you arent going to find "sheen" on dynamic mics. try a good condensor combined with the dynamic or alone. im recording the same setup right now. VHT pitbull100, although into an orange cabinet. a U195 on the speaker. mic placement is HUGE, like i said before. most of the speaker will come across as "dead" until you hit the sweet spot where the sound will just open up. i cant tell you where that is... but i could find it for you if i were there.
Old 19th February 2003
  #17
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

also try one mic up on the grill and another out in the room.
Old 19th February 2003
  #18
High End Moderator
 
mwagener's Avatar
Steve

from what I read in your post, you have a pretty cool recording chain. I would definitely follow alpha's advice and try a Royer 121 (or 122), it does wonders for the guitar sound. You can place it an inch away from the speaker without damage, so it won't pick up too much of the room behind it (it's figure 8) if you want a dryer sound.

Do I understand it right that you hear the sound that you want listening through your recording chain and control room monitors but once it is recorded it sounds different through the same monitors, so the only difference between you liking it and not liking it is the actual pass through PT? If so, what exaclty changes, can you describe it? Are you listening through PT before recording, or to a point in the chain where it hasn't been "digitized "yet?

From my experience in recording guitars (and building guitar amps) a very deciding factor for the sound is the output transformer in the amp. If you put your fingers in your ear just slightly while the amp is blasting away, most of the bottom end will drop and you only hear some upper range distortion. That distortion can be kind of harsh and scratchy (don't know how to describe it any other way), not very smooth, depending on the quality of the output transformer. Two different output transformers installed into the same amp can give you completely different sounds. Analog tape or even analog circuits might get rid of some of that harsh sound or at the least won't be emphasizing it, but digital won't cover it or might even enhance it and change the whole tone towards that color. So if your chain is analog until just before the PT system, the trick could be to modify the sound AFTER it comes back out. In that case I would put a Crane Song HEDD into the chain (after the PT system) on the way back to the console and experiment with the tape knob. The FATSO will give you similar results, but the HEDD does (to my ears) a better simulation of actual tape sound. If you are mixing inside PT, I don't know if there are any plug ins (PSP warmer?) that could take care of the situtaion.
Old 19th February 2003
  #19
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by guittarzzan
I get it to sound the way I like coming through that signal chain in rehearsal, then once I push record and play it back, the signal has blatantly lost some of what I love about that VHT amp.
this part is a bit odd to me as well. something is wrong. i dont think going to tape first would help in this situation because by saying this, i would expect if you get the tone on tape that you like and then dump it in, its going to lose back out anyway if you like the live tone through the monitors and dont like it after ADA.
Old 19th February 2003
  #20
Thanks again. Michael, in answer to your question, yes, I can get a sound I like when the signal has gone into and out of the 192 during rehearsal, but once recorded, it just sounds a little mushy, lifeless and the articulation seems to have suffered. Like if I'm playing a chord riff with some stops, some of the articulation seems to be a bit blurred. I've tested this with some very simple riffs so I know it's not crappy playing. I have no ego about skills at playing and I always look at that first.
Are you saying that it might help to record it, then run it back out of pt through a Hedd or Fatso then back in again?
Maybe I'm just too anal about good guitar sounds, but I absolutely hate to just settle for less when I've heard great sounds on cd.

Is there/are there any books or literature out there that go over albums recorded and how they were done with specifics? It's much easier to model some techniques after some successful recordings than for me to sit here pulling my hair out for months. I'm not trying to find the end of the world, ultimate guitar sound. I just am trying to get my pt system to do my nice toooob amp a little justice.

I very much appreciate your time in your responses.
If I can't figure it out soon, I think I'll just go buy an Ak and head over to Iraq and join the party.

thx again,
Steve
Old 19th February 2003
  #21
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

um, there needs to be some problem solving going on here first. you LIKE the sound going in AND out in monitor mode. but WITHIN PT, you ahve a problem once it is recorded.... do you see my logic here that a tape deck is NOT the answer to your problems.

if it sounds fine travelling in ADC and out DAC unrecorded...???
Old 19th February 2003
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Kris's Avatar
How isolated is your listening environment... Is it possible that you are hearing the live sound of the amp combined with your monitors when listening before recording, and then when on playback you of course don't hear the live amp?

If so, experimenting with 2 (or more) mics as previously mentioned may be the key...

Lately I've been micing the back of my open backed Fender amps along with close micing the front and have been getting better sounds to tape (Hard drive) because of it...
Old 19th February 2003
  #23
Gear Addict
 
CrazyBeast's Avatar
 

Being a guit player, I'm pretty picky about guitar sounds too (although I wouldn't say I'm into the same stuff as you) and here are my 2Β’.

What D/A are using to monitor through? Once I got a HEDD and started monitoring through it I started getting a much better picture of what was going on - during tracking and mixing.

Despite what everyone says - I rarely care for a 57 shoved on the cone, regardless of the preamp, A/D, etc after it. Actually I rarely care for ANY mic by itself on the cone! As a guitar player you're used to hearing your tone from 4 - 6 feet away, so mic it there! Or wherever it sounds good - walk around and find the spot and put a condensor there (sometimes small, sometimes large), and then put a Royer (yes, they truly rock on guitar) somewhere near the amp. Move them around until the phase stuff is worked out and you should have a rockin tone. Oh, run them through two different flavor preamps if you can.

There's plenty of other things to worry about and try, and I don't think tape will be a cure-all...
Old 19th February 2003
  #24
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Roland's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by alphajerk
yup... it REALLY starts at the amp. shit, the players fingers really. but for us, all intents and purposes the AMP. and the guitar too. never underestimate a great guitar. it will sound incredible not even plugged in.

and for me, i prefer a 4x12 cabinet to get those kind of sounds. and a GOOD 4x12... not some shitty ass marshall cab. i prefer bigger cabinets like the mesa, orange, vht cabs. they have a tighter whomp to them. speakers loaded in them make a difference as well. some people like greenbacks, i like blue alnicos [of course the most expensive of the lot].
I agree with all the above post. Particularly what Jay was saying earlier, but even with a Marshall 4 x 12 great sound can be had! Listen to all those Def Leppard tracks.

Regards


Roland
Old 19th February 2003
  #25
I listed my signal chain above. I'm using a Digidesign 192 i/o for a/d/a and am recording at 88.2. The problem isn't mic placement. I can get a workable sound I like running from cab to mike to pre to converter back out of converter to my monitors. It's once I record it and play it back that I'm unsatisfied. I don't think tape is a cure all, but it certainly seems to be the choice of most high end studios recording guitars. Am I wrong? I know it isn't a cure all. If you had your choice of recording a fairly distorted guitar to pt or to tape first which would you choose? I think most would want to go to tape first. My old tascam 8 track cassette was able to capture some pretty decent guitar tracks, but had a lot of hiss.
What I'd really like to know is what tools are people using to deal with tape hiss. I'm not worried about it for loud passages, but on softer parts it would probably be audible.
thanks again,
Steve
Old 19th February 2003
  #26
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drundall's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by guittarzzan
I can get a workable sound I like running from cab to mike to pre to converter back out of converter to my monitors. It's once I record it and play it back that I'm unsatisfied.
Steve
WTF?

Sounds like you've got some freakshow shit going on there. My system sounds the same playing back as on input. If that's not the case for you something must be amiss...
Old 19th February 2003
  #27
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

personally, i would skip the tape and go direct to disk.... tape isnt going to solve all your problems unless you go buy a 2" 24 track and a nice analog board and bag the PT system.

i think you need to check out different mics on the setup first if you arent going to try and find out why the recorded material differs from the monitor signal and adjust for that.
Old 19th February 2003
  #28
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

If you don't want to spend $10k or more and 5-10 years learning how to do this in order to finish your record...I would find and hire a good engineer that you trust and go into a recording studio that he recommends.

It's the quickest path.
Old 19th February 2003
  #29
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Roland's Avatar
Running to tape on things like drums, can have real life advantages. Thats providing a) You have a good 2" 24/16 well aligned. b) You are an experienced engineer that knows just how much to "push" to get the end sound that you want. With guitars the results would be much less noticeable and recording guitars to digital is really no limitation at all.

I respectfully suggest that if your sound is only "workable" you have got other problems that no amount of analogue tape is going to solve. I would further suggest that unless your pro-tools is badly clocked or there is something wrong with your AD convertors, your problem lies with the source. As Jay said earlier "Garbage in garbage out". You can have all the studio kit and guitar kit in the world, but its ultimately the fingers of the guitarist that make the sound. Guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughn sounded good even when badly recorded.

Regards


Roland
Old 19th February 2003
  #30
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Kris's Avatar
I agree that something must be wrong... this might be a good time to contact Digidesign support... You might have a bad I/O or clock or something...

What you hear monitoring vs what you hear on playback should be the same, no? Unless they are at different listening levels...
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