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2 inch tape speed
Old 24th April 2003
Lives for gear
C.Lambrechts's Avatar

2 inch tape speed

Just wondering at what speed you tape guys usually run your sessions and why.

The reason I ask is this. I'm starting to like my JH-16 more and more ... but can't decide on what speed to run it ... clearly I notice the difference in quality ... if quality is the right word to use because in some cases I actually prefered 15 ips over 30 ips.

I had a local 'tape guru' friend come in to seperately allign / calibrate the damn thing for 15 ips and on another day for 30 ips.
Clearly I find that if it's alligned for 15 ips it doesn't perform as well at 30 ips and vice versa.

Do you guys switch from 15 to 30 without re-alligning your machines or do you allways run at the same speed ?

Most studios I know running tape run at 15 ips .. but I must add to that that I know for sure that it is more a budget thing then a quality thing. Hell most of them never ever even calibrate their machines let alone have an allignment tape at hand. If I eventually decide to keep and use it I want to do it right or not at all.

Still I have a hard time making my mind up about the speed ... it is definately not a tape cost question because that doesn't bother me. Not at the rate I plan to use it which is probably no more then a couple of days a month if that.
Old 24th April 2003
Lives for gear
Mike Tholen's Avatar

for sound quality.
I use a Studer 827-J37-and 3M series 400 8trk.
usually gets dumped to RADAR then PTHD.
Old 24th April 2003
Capitol Studios Paris
jon's Avatar


Like you, with my MCI JH machine, I found that it didn't align well to both 15 and 30 and I more or less had to choose one.

I think it depends on the stuff you're doing. 15ips moves the low end head bumps down an octave...on my Studer A820 for example, from 110/55 to 55/28 Hz.

For crunky, gritty, bass-heavy or garagey stuff I might use 15. Most of the time, I work at 30ips. I like to track everything to 2", not just bass and drums, but vocals as well, and for this I find 30ips to be the most versatile and luminous while still providing the beef and woomph and emotion of analog 2".

Every engineer working here this past year with 2" has gone with 30ips -- you name it, Americans, Brits and French. Haven't seen 15ips in a good while.

P.S. - Ed C. emailed while he was in town recording the Stones last year...format was 2", 30ips, no NR on an A820. A PT+AD8k system was synced up for the tracks beyond the first 22.
Old 25th April 2003
Lives for gear
e-cue's Avatar

I've used 2' tape very little in the past year. When I did, 30 ips (no sr). When I do 15 ips (Jimmy Jam and Terry Louis held off longer than anyone I knew) I use dolby SR. My pref is using the studer (820/827's) and doing the whole "knee step" alignment where you hit the right arrow 5 times. Man, I haven't done my own alignment in so long. Shame on me.
I realign (even if I have them stored in the studer) anytime I switch IPS mainly because I've seen funky things in the past that techs told me wouldn't happen (mainly bias peaks n such). If I was doing an indierock project, I'd check out 15 because I dig the 'grit' (is that the correct buzzword?) as well as the bonus of saving on tape costs. 15 never impressed me with vocals. It's weird but the last time I a/b'ed tape, I seemed to like BASF900 over my GP9 preference at 15 ips (and 7.5 as well). The last time I worked on a silver top MCI, 30 was the pref for the producer (project studio).The MCI JH24's had a high Z repro head, if memory serves, and isn't supposed to really sound good on the 15 ips setting. Also if it's an older unit, there's an erase head that's supposed to greatly improve your punching (similar to quick punch) and reuse of tape, as well as some type of input/output transformer mod that suppose to make these sound much cleaner (and less warm and mushy).
Old 25th April 2003
Gear Maniac
Chae Ham's Avatar

You guys do check your alignment before every big session don't you? Just put a dup alignment tape up, and make sure nothing is too out of whack, or make fine adjustments.

Funny that you mention 15ips, I've been entertaining the idea of buying a separate 1/2 machine JUST for tracking elec. guitars or bass at 15ips... You just can't duplicate that sound!
Old 25th April 2003
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
I'm pretty hardcore at 15ips, I hardly ever use 30. It started as a way to keep the tape costs down but the bottom is so much richer at 15, not only that but guitars sound better to me too. Call it grit, dirt whatever. I like it. If I'm running at 30ips it's because I'm concerned about noise. 15 isn't that much noiser then 30ips but it can be a problem with some material. But if it's distrorted guitars and loud rock I'm at 15ips with no if's and's or but's.

If I switch tape speeds for anything more then an effect I align the deck again. Actually, I put up the MRL and cut a new set of tones for each new project. The only exception is back to back demo stuff that's only 2-3 days apart. Even still, if one of the record tones comes back more then 1dB off I put the MRL up and do a quick tweak. The only thing I don't do for each session is the bias, mostly because it's a huge PITA on a JH-24. Once a month I set the bias on the deck so it's never too far off from where it's supposed to be. I also leave the deck on 24-7 which helps to keep it stable.
Old 25th April 2003
I used to find 15ips a hiss and location nightmare back when I used tape. I am re-interested in it (16tk) now..

Where I interned & worked for 6 years - Procedure for assistants the start of EVERY new session.

Line up from test tape or session tones (PB & Sync 1k 10k)
Bias with 10k signal
Record line up (1k 10k and 100hz rec & playback)
Print session tones

This could be DAILY if new sessions were in & out. There were 3 studios. All had Telfunken 2"'s & ATR102 1/2"s
Old 25th April 2003
member no 666
Fletcher's Avatar
An interesting little 'factoid'... at 20ips you reap about 80% of the low end benefits of 15ips... and about 80% of the noise benefits of 30ips... the key is to keep the machine stable at those speeds which is a mod that can be done by a highly skilled tech.
Old 25th April 2003
Gear Maniac
recorderman's Avatar

Wow...I guess it really is the new millineum....we're all speaking of tape the way that egyptologists speak of hyroglyphs. Back in the day (up till only just a few years ago) when damn near all I did was tape...I was alignment king. Don't know about a demag each and evry day...that's one thing I never saw here in LA. Demag was a bit more infrequent.
You guys out there with the analog do need to really know about this stuff. You should take the time to read the manula for the particular machine you have. And perform alignments and alignment checks most religiously. As to 30 vs. 15...Studers, MCI's, Ampex name it...thay all have separate electronics (cards, ect) for these two speeds...they have two...the curves are differrent so having your machine setup for 30 and 15 is something that can be had at all times. Of course it's bets to choose a "house " brand of tape, since the formulation and construction (backing, etc) has a huge influence on how said tape interacts with your machine. Tension, head lap, azimuth, etc can all be directly related to the brand of tape your using...and this needs to be setup by a tech with the tools (tensionometer, etc). Smart thing to learn if your an owner.
How about azimuth? that's something I always checked that most didn''s reall easy to check without a scope:
Bring tracks 2 & 23 up on the console, panned center. Adjust each separately to 0vu on the stereo buss. Flip on out of at 10k adjust azimuth till the signal reaches it's "quitest" spot..the more two tracks (2& ouposite ends of the head stack) are out of pahse (becuse you flipped phase on on of the return channels) the more they're IN PHASE in therefore your azimuth is correct.

As E-Cue mentioned...on the studers...starting with the 820 (1/2" & 2") they've head a High freq. slope that most people don't know get to it by pushing the eq button five times...many a machine I seen with this never'll make you do a wrong alignment if it's not setup properly.

More on this later (I'll dig out some notes...I've got tons of stuff from finding the bias adjustment for unknown formulations by yourself, etc)

MMM...wish I was working with tape today...I miss it.
Old 26th April 2003
Gear Guru
Drumsound's Avatar
I cut mostly at 30ips. I like the crispness of it. I will do some things at 15ips, especially if tape budget is an issue. To me 30ips gives me the modern sound, while still giving me that yummy analog sound as well. My machine only has one bias control per track. My tech suggested a 20K bias to make the transition form 30 to 15 less noticeable. My machine is very stable and doesn't need much tweaking to stay where it should. Last year after it was moved only a few channels we out of alignment.

I'm going to a/b some mixes at 15 and 30 sometime soon. If I really dig the 25ips mixes I may start to track at 30 and mix at 15.
Old 26th April 2003
Lives for gear
littledog's Avatar

What's tape? Is that something like what ADAT's use? heh
Old 26th April 2003
Lives for gear
adamcal's Avatar

For a long time I had a 1" 24 track, I hated it, but it did the job (I made a lot of albums on it) and it got me and my studio started in the biz. Then for a few years after getting sick of the thing and multiple in soundcards became a reality i went totaly DAW.

But last year I finaly found a good 2" (what I always wanted) and even scored a full SR and A rack as part of the deal.

God dam im happy now, the best thing you will ever hear is a rockin band straight off the 2" multi.

but theses pesky bands want it transfered into the computer , no problem, thats why im here, and in truth mixing from the computer is so much eaiser, but damm, love that sound straight from the deck.

Im back in analog, lovin it, Tape rocks!

Old 26th April 2003
Lives for gear
e-cue's Avatar


Any thoughts on tape speed?
Old 27th April 2003
Lives for gear
adamcal's Avatar

Latley I have been using 15 with the SR on. For the bigger budget stuff i will go 30 without the SR if its loud stuff or with if its very quiet type stuff. (the bands pays for the tape after all, I give them the option)

One day if I get bored I may stick the dolby A cards in for a young band, just to see what its like for fun.

Aside from that I have only been using it since the end of last year so I havent had time to form an opinion on my preference.
Old 27th April 2003
Here for the gear

I like to use Emtec 900 or Quantegy 456 at 30ips. Most of the machines I use tend to be Studer 827s, 820s, or in a few cases, an A-80mkIV or an 800. Mixdown is usually to ATR 102 on either 456 or 900 at 30ips. The cool thing about the newer Studers is that you can store alignments so I'll have one side set up for 30 and the other set up for 15, so I can A/B the differences. 9 times out of 10 the band prefers 30ips because they think 15ips sounds too "old", "dark", and noisy.
Old 28th April 2003
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Originally posted by recorderman
As to 30 vs. 15...Studers, MCI's, Ampex name it...thay all have separate electronics (cards, ect) for these two speeds...they have two...the curves are differrent so having your machine setup for 30 and 15 is something that can be had at all times.
Ehh, a JH-24 has only one pot for the 1khz tone (marked "lvl") on both record and repro. There is a seperate set of pots on each card for high & low EQ as well as bias. It's usually close when going from one to the other but it's almost never exactly at 0VU. Usually within a 1/2dB or so which is pretty damn good. It's probably related to tape tension or something.

I've been running a lot of GP9 but I think I'm going to try SM911 again. It sounds like 456 in the midrange but is a bit more open.
Old 28th April 2003
Gear Guru
Drumsound's Avatar
Originally posted by littledog
What's tape? Is that something like what ADAT's use? heh
That should have been 15 not 25ips. 1/4" tape for mixing.
Old 28th April 2003
lflier's Avatar

Geez. When I was working 100% on tape we aligned the machine at the start of every session. Not only do people run at different tape speeds but different operating levels make a difference in the sound too. If you're relying on a tech to align your machine and then leaving it that way regardless of tape speed etc., you need to learn more about your machine! It's not rocket science, it can be a pain to do it all the time but IMO is no more so than backing up and defragging a hard drive every day.

You DON'T need to demagnetize every day though!

As for tape speed - they're different flavors and I prefer to decide the speed based on the project. If it's something like a folk project or very pristine pop where low noise is a must and/or crisp highs, I run at 30. Rock, it's a toss up. I love the way electric guitars and bass sound at 15, and cymbals are just lovely - a nice thick washy smoothness. If it's a classic rock sound someone is after, I usually go for 15. If it's a more modern rock thing, 30.
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