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new to analog tape - hints / tips?
Old 25th July 2005
Here for the gear
🎧 15 years
new to analog tape - hints / tips?

Hi Folks,

I've got my first session on 2" coming up in a couple of weeks and just wanted to pick your collective brain about things to watch out for to let me get the best possible result.

Just for some background, i've been engineering for about 5 years and have been pretty successful at it so far. However i've been brought up entirely in the digital domain, started live on ADAT's and moved through to DAWs. The band i'm working with are quite passionate about tracking the drums and bass to tape and i'm pretty excited to have a crack at it.

So my questions basically are:

1) in terms of placement of tracks on the tape should I be careful where my kick/snare etc fall .. i'm thinking that sticking any really dynamic signals next to a loud not quite so dynamic signal. For example sticking a compressed DI'd bass next to a hi-hat track probably isn't the best idea.

2) in terms of printing signal to tape can things get too hot? I expect i'd be wanting to be careful with how hot i'm printing my kick and snare tracks so as to not obliterate the transients. I assume that printing kick + snare really hot the tape with saturate on the transients losing punch?

3) is it necessary or desirable to compress signals much going in (obviously some smashed room mics going to tape would be an exception where the compression is used as an effect)? Using a high-output tape is it necessary to use compression to bring the average signal level up to keep outta the noise floor?

Anything else to watch out for?

Sorry for the noob questions, but we gotta learn somewhere

Old 25th July 2005
Lives for gear
themaidsroom's Avatar
🎧 15 years
does the studio with the 2 " machine use it regularly ?
Old 25th July 2005 | Show parent
Here for the gear
🎧 15 years
Its used pretty regularly. I also have organised a good local tech to come in and line the machine up.
Old 25th July 2005 | Show parent
Lives for gear
themaidsroom's Avatar
🎧 15 years
get it aligned to + 6
and get gp9

as far as transients go - i would record something so its hovering as close
to 0 as possible without breaking up with or without a compressor
and then record the same thing where its maximum peak is the only
thing that's allowed to hit 0 ..
listen to the difference in those two sounds.......
the air or the punch - or something you find in
in my experience with tape
which is only three years.......
much much less than many here,
usually its all about the calibration and the setup
of the machine - so that you know
what you're hearing is pretty close
to what's there

then there's noise on one side and distortion on the other

if you use it regularly then you'll
be able to trust your ears

be well

- jack
Old 25th July 2005 | Show parent
Lives for gear
rainsinvelvet's Avatar
1 Review written
🎧 15 years

This is the guy I had go through my MM1200. He's got some good info about all things analog machine.

Hope you find it helpfull.
Old 25th July 2005 | Show parent
Jules's Avatar

Just get the drummer to take his headphones off and play the song (on his own) WHILE YOU HAVE TAKEN THE 2" OUT OF SYNC and put it into REPRO & RECORD

This way you can HEAR how the tape is reacting to level and push levels or back them off to your taste...

You can EQ drums in this mode too - but bear in mind there will be a slight delayed reaction due to the gap between the record head & the repro head!!!

This is IMHO, a GREAT way to finalize kick drum EQ & record level thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup (and drum eq/levels in general)

Once done - headphones back on - and continue with session ...

No need for "guesswork" & you will KNOW what the drums will sound like when you play them back...

(BTW this trick will give the rest of the band a laugh as the drummers arms will be waving wildly 'out of sync' with the sound coming out of the control room monitors.. somehow bands find this 'our drummer looks like an idiot' phenominon 'hilarious'...

(P.S In theory, you could even mess with the record line up while the drummer was playing and the tape was in repro.. to arrive at ideal settings to suit the drums but that is a rather er.. advanced, "expert level" type of adventure to embark on...)
Old 25th July 2005 | Show parent
Gear Addict
peeceebee's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Clean the heads FREQUENTLY!

In terms of track placement, edge tracks are frequently the most dodgy, depending on the health of the heads- so you might want to put instruments on the edges that feature less prominently in the mix, ie don't put the lead vocal on an edge track-

In terms of crosstalk, if you group your tracks so that adjacent instruments are related as much as possible, ie drum tracks next to each other, etc., then any bleedover won't be a problem in practice- Depending on your program content, bleeding between tracks is rarely a problem- (for most standard music- for quirkier program material, ie using muted tracks that were recorded hot next to a naked sound that will be soloed hot in the mix, and was recorded at a lower level for example, it may be noticeable-)

As to levels, remember that the vu's on tape machines are SLOW, and averaging- for example a signal with fast transients and a lot of high frequency content, like a hi-hat for example, will read MUCH lower than it actually is, compared to a signal with less transients and more low frequency content, like an organ pad-
Generally you can print a hi-hat at -6 or lower, and it can still start to saturate, while you can print a bass above 0 for the same distortion level-

A good safety would be to print a first take while the performers warm up and listen back, soloing each track, and listen for the relative saturation/noise ratio- remember tape acts like a compressor, and you can use that effect by controling how hard you hit it- so use your ears, and you should be able to get sparkling transients, or fat city, appropriately when you want them by controlling how hard you hit the tape.
Old 25th July 2005 | Show parent
Gear Guru
Musiclab's Avatar
[QUOTE=peeceebee]Clean the heads FREQUENTLY!

If the deck tape path is f**ked, then I would but also I would get it fixed before I record anything. I align my deck to +9 over 185 Nano weber and I use GP9. It's really not hard to cut to tape just use your eye and ear, dont worry about trying to hit everything hot especially the hat track.
Old 25th July 2005 | Show parent
Gear Guru
u b k's Avatar
🎧 15 years
slam everything really hard for a few minutes to get it out of your system. then back things off and see if you can vibe out the sweet spot of the tape you're using.

switching between input and repro will let you know what the tape is doing to the transients. less is more, and a drum that sounds nice and fat when solo'd might actually be too squished to cut thru the mix. tape limiting is a unique creature, since you're not familiar with it i'd err slightly on the side of caution.

also, i wouldn't smash anything on the way in to the deck, and that includes overheads. moderate limiting is ok on vox/gtr, and a little slow compression on overs should be fine, but save the heavy stuff for mixdown. if you over compress something on the way to tape, you are effectively screwed come mixtime.

del ubik
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