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Neve Designs Tape Emulation report.
Old 14th August 2005
  #1
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rlnyc's Avatar
 

Neve Designs Tape Emulation report.

Well, aside from Michael Wagener, nobody has filed a report about the Rupert Neve designs 5042, the tape emulator and line driver. So here's mine -- I received my 5042 some time ago but have been on tour and vacation and haven't had a chance to put it through paces. Yesterday I began to run some signal through it. So far only guitar recorded with a Royer 121 into the Portico 5012 preamp and into the 5042. That's the only thing I used it for yesterday, but I got enough information to be able to describe something about it and what it might be capable of. I do not have any other kind of tape emulator, like HEDD or Fatso (even if I have heard them), and although I have a lot of old two inch tape reels lying around I have not worked to tape in a while. My current information storage is an Alesis HD 24 XR, and a 24 track analog board.

I quite like the sound of the converters in the Alesis, and I have no problem making records in the digital realm. I have been involved in a number of records that have been completely analog -- two inch tape to half-inch or quarter inch tape to vinyl mastering. But I am not sentimental about such hefty and tedious formats. I usually got very depressed trying to get what was heard in the studio onto a vinyl record. Aside from the obvious limitations of the digital realm, such as trying to describe curves with straight lines, I am mostly pleased that the sounds that are recorded stay exactly as they are all the way to the CD. This is not to say that I am completely satisfied with the lack of euphonics in the digital realm. High-end information especially is often phase skewered and tending towards the harsh. Those are the problems that we have to try and solve as acoustic scientists.

The Rupert Neve designs 5042 does quite an amazing job at making it seem as though whatever is sent through it has seen tape. After working with it for a couple of hours I called them and discussed it with them because there is no manual printed yet and I wanted to get an idea of the parameters that they thought about, as though working to tape. Clearly, when you are working to tape you have to align and bias the machine for whatever type of tape you are using, and then you set tones. When I do work to tape I like to hit tape damn hard, recognizing that you might squash a little high-end but get vibrant colors and an increase in euphonic harmonics. With the 5042 there are two knobs, input level and a knob called tape saturation. That one doesn't have any numbers on it, but they said that the meter can tell you more or less how hard you are hitting it. The one meter can either give you input information or tape saturation information. I can report that the tape saturation effect is very strong. On the website Rupert says that one should use it lightly and he is absolutely correct. The device also has a choice of 7 1/2 or 15 IPS. You can probably imagine that the slower the speed, the more bottom shows up and the midrange gets fatter and the high-end gets more attenuated. I don't think I have ever made a record which used 7 1/2. We always went 15 or 30 IPS. 30 IPS is pretty damn clean. I can understand that a tape emulator which emulated 30 IPS would do practically nothing useful to somebody looking to solve the problems created in the digital realm. After all, 30 IPS (speeding up the tape pass) was a way to solve defects in the sound storage system of tape -- moving it more towards what we have achieved with the digital mediums.

So the 7 1/2 IPS option can be very strong. To tell the truth, I've gotten used to the high-end clarity (even if sometimes verging on the harsh) of digital, and hearing something go through Rupert's tape emulator can be something of a surprise. It is extremely easy to have things become phat and warm, but dull. The 15 IPS mode can also be strong, but the low-end doesn't seem as overwhelming and the midrange stays a little clearer, and the top end, while attenuated in the way that tape will give it back to you, is still more present than the slower option.

As I said before, I am not an enemy of the digital realm for media capture. I do not work with the computer and I do not use a mouse and I do not look at the music. Everything comes back through an analog board and I listen to it. So I am not really sure that I need a device like this. I pay attention to the way things sound all the way through the recording process. I use a lot of ribbons and overdriven preamps to approximate the sound that I like. And yet I am looking forward to trying the 5042 on the following, which I am certain from hearing it that it will be extremely helpful:

Drum overheads, which often contain high-end information which gets unpleasantly skewered in digital storage. Vocals, which need to have warmth and the vibrancy of tape emulation to survive the kind of high-end equalization which allows them to sit properly in dense mixes. And on the two buss, as a way of introducing euphonic pleasantries into the entire mix, which sometimes otherwise might seem sterile and clinical. This would be in addition to a high-end stereo compressor, which I personally almost always use on the mix -- I have never found it satisfactory to leave it to the mastering engineers, preferring to get absolutely as close as possible to something I can live with without any mastering whatsoever. In my own case, the fight is usually to prevent the mastering engineers from jacking the record up so that it can "compete" in a world where flat line limiting rules.

I can certainly see that if someone were working "in the box," and struggling with the unforgiving nature of the digital realm, that a device like this could be an absolute godsend if used with discretion. Short of actually running physical tape through a tape machine, I have never heard anything do so good a job at making signal sound as though it had gone to tape. Rupert Neve has done one thing for certain -- he has made good on his word concerning tape emulation.

Very best regards,
rlnyc
Old 14th August 2005
  #2
Great review rlnyc.. thanks.
Old 14th August 2005
  #3
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kevinc's Avatar
 

Nice review rlnyc.

Looks like a great piece of equipment.
Old 14th August 2005
  #4
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Vari-Mu's Avatar
 

thumbsup
Old 14th August 2005
  #5
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

very cool
Old 14th August 2005
  #6
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Watersound's Avatar
 

I can't wait to pick one up...should be getting it in 2-3 weeks. I'll keep you guys posted!
Old 14th August 2005
  #7
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GYang's Avatar
Great !!
I wait for mine.
Old 15th August 2005
  #8
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jjblair's Avatar
Thanks for the effort. Any chance you can A/B it with a 1073 through a Studer or something?
Old 15th August 2005
  #9
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I wish someone could compare it with the Fatso. Jules?
Old 15th August 2005
  #10
Well I have a Fatso & a Hedd..

I think it may take a while for demo unit to make it over to Europe...

But I am v keen to try it!

Old 15th August 2005
  #11
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thanks for the report. if anyone A/Bs it to an ATR102 or A80 please post results.

my fantasy is to get a tascam DVRA1000, the portico tape thing and have alot of extra rack space.
Old 15th August 2005
  #12
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5042 does actually sound like a tape machine, more so than a Fatso. I have no experience with HEDD. Fatso seems to mess w/ frequencies, which is alright for the right application like tyranny as an insert on a bass guitar track or a little tape warmth on guitar tracks.

The saturation knob on the 5042 is strong and best used sparingly. The 7 1/2 - 15 knob does produce noticable differences with the 15 knob depressed adding more umph to my ears. As an effect, the 5042 is subtle, but very cool. Haven't taken the 5042 off my tracking chain since I got it a week ago. I have used on hard rock vocals and guitar tracks where I am looking for some analog vibe in the digital world. The 5042 is a keeper.
Old 15th August 2005
  #13
Lek
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I received a 5042, tried it but sent it back. It sounded nice but I was only going to keep it if it overwhelmed me - as money is tight. I'm more a musician / composer than engineer, so take this with a grain of salt.

Tried it on tracking bass guitar (direct through an api 3124) and didn't like it. It took away some of the subtleties/nuancies in tone of my 70s p bass.

I mixed down a song, then compared it with no processing, with hedd processing (two different ways - tape knob at 6, or a mixture of the other two knobs - triode 4, pentode 5), and with portico processing (I liked 15ips, knobs 12pm). I also had a great river eq2nv in line. Hedd d/a and a/d for the conversion.

The hedd and portico were cool in different ways. I would have loved to have kept it, but as I said it didn't overwhelm me, and I need the money for other things. If I want to alter/enrich/affect my mixes, I will perhaps use the hedd, have them transferred/mixed to real tape, or leave it to a mastering engineer. By the way, I also tried out a portico mic pre but strongly preferred my api 3124
Old 19th October 2005
  #14
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trigg's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by gp71
I received a 5042, tried it but sent it back. It sounded nice but I was only going to keep it if it overwhelmed me - as money is tight. I'm more a musician / composer than engineer, so take this with a grain of salt.
I had some stuff of mine processed by the 5042 and had the same feeling.

I think it's a great tool for big studio's who do a lot of recording, but it's a bit too subtle and too expensive for a home-recording studio (like mine)
Old 19th October 2005
  #15
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And remember folks,

for $1400, you can buy a mixdown deck.

And emulation never sounds as good as the real thing.
Old 19th October 2005
  #16
84K
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kilowatt
And remember folks,

for $1400, you can buy a mixdown deck.

And emulation never sounds as good as the real thing.

Valid point. But for people with space restraints, the portico fits in a 1/2 rack space.
Old 19th October 2005
  #17
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Well, that is true. An Otari MTR-12 isn't exactly 'small'
Old 19th October 2005
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 84K
Valid point. But for people with space restraints, the portico fits in a 1/2 rack space.
and that would be me!


Quote:
Originally Posted by kilowatt
And remember folks,

for $1400, you can buy a mixdown deck.

And emulation never sounds as good as the real thing.
can't remember ever seeing an ATR 102 1/2" for $1400... and even if they were giving them away they still take up alot of space. if the 5042 actually performs as advertised, it could theoretically be even better than a tape deck. no alignment, wow, flutter, or tape to degrade with each pass... i know this is wishful thinking, but i'm still waiting for some good samaritan to A/B the 5042 to an ATR or Studer 1/2".
Old 19th October 2005
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by raal
can't remember ever seeing an ATR 102 1/2" for $1400... and even if they were giving them away they still take up alot of space. if the 5042 actually performs as advertised, it could theoretically be even better than a tape deck. no alignment, wow, flutter, or tape to degrade with each pass... i know this is wishful thinking, but i'm still waiting for some good samaritan to A/B the 5042 to an ATR or Studer 1/2".
All the points I was thinking when I bought mine. Actually these are the points that Michael Wagener makes about digital and emulation devices as well to paraphrase. He can use what he wants to use (he has the talent and the clients to buy anything he pleases) but he likes digital because it gives him back what he puts in. With things like emulation devices you can control the sound.

Also yeah a 2 track ATR might be in the same price range but that only helps with the mix down. For me the goal is subtle. As gp71 said above the effect is almost un noticeable if used spraining but for my money I want that effect on all tracks not just the 2 bus. Can't do that with a 2 track deck, not with any degree of productivity. Bouncing 1 track of audio over to a DAW at a time while the client is sitting there is not productive.
Old 19th October 2005
  #20
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u b k's Avatar
 

two words: studer a810. well, i suppose that's one word and one number.

align it at +6/250 and hit 456 fearlessly: creamy, soupy midrange compression for days. your vocals and acoustics never had it so good.

switch to 499 for mixdown and feel the bass wrap around you.

be the master of 80 pounds of pure analog iron and silver. watch your huge VU's dance and your big 12" reels spin as you laugh at the girlymen with their 1/2" rack emulators with the tiny thimble-shaped knobs. stike stike MUUAAAHHAAHAA! stike stike


gregoire
del ubik
Old 19th October 2005
  #21
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rlnyc's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kilowatt
And remember folks,

for $1400, you can buy a mixdown deck.

And emulation never sounds as good as the real thing.
that's so lame. this kind of advice comes out of the woodwork. i don't WANT a f*&king TAPE DECK. i have two sitting in storage. too heavy to move. not worth the effort to sell. need alignment. gotta find buy and thread tape. tape storage, baking old tapes, rewind. demag the heads. GIMME A BREAK. i am 53 years old. i know what a tape machine does. i know what it sounds like. I DON'T WANT ONE ANYMORE.

i want to move into the future. if something half rack size for 2 channels helps stuff sound better then great. if you want to lug a tape machine somewhere and exult in it, fantastic, enjoy, but i am over it.

lightly,
rlnyc
Old 19th October 2005
  #22
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Has anyone actually compared to ATR/Studer??? Can someone post some samples? I'm going to order one because I read one review that talked about the "turn up the volume on digital" issue.. when you listen to digital mixes loud, the frequency doesn't glue together as well as when i dump my mixes on an ATR. So if it can do that, I'm at least willing to give it a shot.

Steve
Old 19th October 2005
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bang
Has anyone actually compared to ATR/Studer???
we used to have both (1/2" versions) in a commercial studio we had in the 80s. i always picked the ATR for my stuff. it was fatter, more mojo. the studer was more 'pristine' i guess. i preferred fatness.
Old 19th October 2005
  #24
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cdog's Avatar
If you want the sound of hitting tape agressively.... why not record to tape?
Old 19th October 2005
  #25
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Portico 5042 price and...

I'm very interested in making my digital recordings approach the smoothness of analog. I sold my original ADAT back in the 80's and went back to a (discontinued) analog 8 track, and never regretted it. Fast forward to today: as my analog machine is wearing out and tape availability is an issue, I bought an Alesis HD24XR. Better converters, higher bit/sample rates - digital has improved. And yet, I still sorely miss the sound of analog tape: the rounding of the spikes; the tape compression; the way my songs seemed easier to mix as a result.

I've been thinking about more "analog sounding" converters (UA 2192, Hedd 192), but I'm wondering whether this is really the answer. More recently, I'm looking at the EL Fatso, and now the Portico 5042.

Barring going back to analog, which of these options do you recommend? Also what is the Portico selling for and how available is it yet?

Thanks for your thoughts.
Old 19th October 2005
  #26
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I still have to scratch my head on some of the places this biz is going...

You get enough outboard summing boxes, eqs, preamps, ..and you end up with ...a console...in pieces...for a whole bunch of money...for those who don't want a console.

You buy a box for $1400 that will do what a used tape deck will do ...because you want a tape recorder sound but don't want a tape deck...AND, one can look at the shiny $1400 box and comment that the box has no wow/flutter/weirdness...BUT..wow/flutter/weirdness ..even in a minute form...is how one gets...a tape recorder sound.
Old 19th October 2005
  #27
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A tape machine is not a very economical thing to have in today's studio. Besides the maintnance, there is the tape cost and tape availability. Furthermore, I think what Rupert's box does is try to emulate the most saught after characteristic of a tape machine, the gluey saturation sound. I don't think anyone loves the sound of an ATR for the wow and flutter, albeit they are percentage of the sound. But most of all, I tend to do a lot of mixes per song, and I'd go through tape really fast. Not to mention I'm a complete idiot and I'll occasionally forget to print some automation on a certain track and I'll realize it after I print the final 2 mix... If the Neve box can soften the digital highs and harmonically thicken the lows kinda sorta like a tape machine, then its a hell of a lot more worth having then an actual tape machine.
Steve
Old 19th October 2005
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thenoodle
BUT..wow/flutter/weirdness ..even in a minute form...is how one gets...a tape recorder sound.
respectfully, that's like saying hiss is also a way to get tape sound.

noise, wow, flutter, are the down sides - if i could get the sound without these, at the same time saving myself the hassle of alignment, leader tape, demagging as mentioned before, cost of tape, space for the machine itself and tape storage, i'd do it in a minute.

the question is if the 5042 can actually give you that sound... not if i'd take the option, even if it were more expensive than an ATR.
Old 19th October 2005
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thenoodle
I still have to scratch my head on some of the places this biz is going...

You get enough outboard summing boxes, eqs, preamps, ..and you end up with ...a console...in pieces...for a whole bunch of money...for those who don't want a console.
i think one of the main reasons for 'not wanting a console' is the space a large console takes. you can have a 100 track session in PT in a small space without breaking a sweat, and don't forget instant recall. this was not conceivable before the advent of DAWs.

summing/ITB/OTB debates take place because some people believe they can get a better sound with analog gear, not because they're particularly attached to huge consoles. at least i'm not. but i sure like the sound of good analog gear/consoles.

soon's it can all be done ITB i'll be there. but until then...

for the same reason if a 5042 and a tascam 1000DVRA can do the trick as a 2 track i'm in.
Old 19th October 2005
  #30
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kevinc's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thenoodle
I still have to scratch my head on some of the places this biz is going...

You get enough outboard summing boxes, eqs, preamps, ..and you end up with ...a console...in pieces...for a whole bunch of money...for those who don't want a console.

You buy a box for $1400 that will do what a used tape deck will do ...because you want a tape recorder sound but don't want a tape deck...AND, one can look at the shiny $1400 box and comment that the box has no wow/flutter/weirdness...BUT..wow/flutter/weirdness ..even in a minute form...is how one gets...a tape recorder sound.

Thenoodle if I ever meet you in person I owe you a beer for that post.


Particularly the thing about the broken up console.

I went that route myself and the one thing it`s good for is the fact that you can start out with 2 channels of quality mic pres, EQ, Compressor, converter etc... and build up. At least that 2 channels is of steller quality and than you just keep adding to it when you`ve got the bux.

Made sense while I was doing it but now I`ve got a big mess of outboard pain in the ass that I`ve got to plug and unplug every which way to go between tracking and mixing or even just mixing a different song. Such a bitch to deal with and I`m about to sell all my **** and get a decent console. I figure I can afford 16 - 24 channels in a halfway decent console for the price of the 8 channels I`ve got in seperate gear.

Theres too much outboard and not enough consoles out there in my opinion.

I agree with what you said about Tape as well but I think I`ve been stuck in digital land for too long now to go back.

Again what I`m really hoping for is a new recorder that simply sounds good enough in the first place so theres no need to make it sound like something else. It does seem silly trying to make something sound like Tape instead of just using Tape.
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