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WHY does Fostex R8 sound better than digital?
Old 21st May 2006
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

WHY does Fostex R8 sound better than digital?

Hey guys!

Don't hate me for bringing up this subject again, but I'm seriously in need of ideas and advice.

I have an old Fostex R8 tape recorder, which I guess is not among the best analog recorders. However, it sounds SO much better than my digital recordings.

The sound is in your face, it's warm, full and beautiful.

In comparison, my digital recordings sound one-dimensional, harsh and nowhere near as good.

Am I doing something wrong?

My digital chain is Summit MPC-100 into a Lynx L22 card.

Thanks in advance for your opinions and ideas.
Have a great day everyone.
Old 21st May 2006
  #2
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frequency
Hey guys!

Don't hate me for bringing up this subject again, but I'm seriously in need of ideas and advice.

I have an old Fostex R8 tape recorder, which I guess is not among the best analog recorders. However, it sounds SO much better than my digital recordings.

The sound is in your face, it's warm, full and beautiful.

In comparison, my digital recordings sound one-dimensional, harsh and nowhere near as good.

Am I doing something wrong?

My digital chain is Summit MPC-100 into a Lynx L22 card.

Thanks in advance for your opinions and ideas.
Have a great day everyone.
Could you please explain what the signal chain looks like when you record analog and when you record digital. I have to figure out what you are doing in order to better understand where the problem is... Do you have any short demo clips that demonstrate the difference?
Old 21st May 2006
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks, RainbowStorm.

Well, actually I haven't been using the Fostex in years, but I brought out some old tapes a couple of days ago and was stunned about how good things sounded.

The analog chain I was using would be:

Soundcraft Spirit board straight to the R8. Just the preamps in the board.

I even remember when I was mixing years ago I used that board and I didn't have a clue about proper EQ use. I would boost rather than cut... Still it sounds better. I'm using Waves plugs for EQ now.

I have my studio in a different room these days, that could be part of the problem...

I don't have sound clips here and now. I'll see what I can do.
Old 21st May 2006
  #4
Lives for gear
 
max cooper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frequency
Soundcraft Spirit board straight to the R8. Just the preamps in the board.
I think a lot of people are finding that the recordings they made this way sound better in some ways that what they're doing now. Some of it could be less thought about what people say you should do and more of messing with it until it sounds right.

I just read that the Dust Brothers tracked most of Odelay with the pres in a Spirit.
Old 21st May 2006
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frequency
Thanks, RainbowStorm.

Well, actually I haven't been using the Fostex in years, but I brought out some old tapes a couple of days ago and was stunned about how good things sounded.

The analog chain I was using would be:

Soundcraft Spirit board straight to the R8. Just the preamps in the board.

I even remember when I was mixing years ago I used that board and I didn't have a clue about proper EQ use. I would boost rather than cut... Still it sounds better. I'm using Waves plugs for EQ now.

I have my studio in a different room these days, that could be part of the problem...

I don't have sound clips here and now. I'll see what I can do.
Ok, in other words it could be a combination of things and it probably is.

I noticed that you said you are cutting the EQ right now instead of boosting. In my ears that sounds a little like it could have something to do with it. When you cut you should be aware of that you are then compromising the signal, especially when you are not using a top of the art EQ effect and not an ideal monitoring environment. Compromising the signal is good, it makes more important instruments in the mix shine. But when you cut the wrong instruments you kill the mix. Also the wrong use of the trim/volume faders could be a part of your problem.

But instinctively I think your main problem happens much earlier in the process, I think it happens in the tracking process. Were you tracking in a different room when you were using the Fostex R8? Were you using different mics or a different miking technique? Instinctively I recommend a Distressor + Universal Audio 2194 converter and tracking in a different room. That's the first thing I would try. Then I think you should think about upgrading your control room monitors. Try something like a pair of Genelec 1031A, they respond a little like radio speakers.

That's what I think, but if I would hear some clips I think I would have a better clue...
Old 21st May 2006
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RadioMoo
You are joking, aren't you?
He is not joking, he just wants to know why is old stuff sounds better than his new stuff.
Old 21st May 2006
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RadioMoo
You've got the proof right in front of your eyes - or ears, I guess. If the Fostex does the trick, why go through all sorts of acrobatics to get a digital rig to sound just as good, which it won't.
Well, he could have recorded completely different instruments, with different mics, different room, different players and so on. I'm not sure using his Fostex R8 right now would give the same result as then.
Old 21st May 2006
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

I don't know what the Fostex R8 is. I had a Fostex M80 and I thought that the DIGI 001 sounded much better. Caught the transients much better and was a clearer, punchier sound. I always mixed through a console though.
Old 21st May 2006
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
dtucker's Avatar
 

[QUOTE=max cooper]Some of it could be less thought about what people say you should do and more of messing with it until it sounds right.
QUOTE]

Funny you mention this. I recently listened to some old (digital) recordings I did. While the sounds themselves weren't spectacular (I can do better now) I was amazed at some of my choices in regards to the mix. Stuff that I, for some reason, wouldn't probably choose to do now that I have more experience. It made me question whether or not I had lost (with all the wonderful gear I had amassed over the years) my ability to think artistically...as opposed to what I "should" do. Since then I've been trying to listen more and react to my first instincts and forget about the gear.

So, yes, maybe there is some way you worked then (analog) that has changed in comparison to the way you work now (digital). We are talking two completely different formats...it's only logical to assume that you would work differently. It's also possible that you listen less and watch your waveforms more.

And, hey, it's also possible that your Fostex stuff really does just sound better to you than your digital stuff. Solution? I would think that only your ears can figure that out.
Old 21st May 2006
  #10
Lives for gear
 

[QUOTE=dtucker]
Quote:
Originally Posted by max cooper
Some of it could be less thought about what people say you should do and more of messing with it until it sounds right.
QUOTE]

Funny you mention this. I recently listened to some old (digital) recordings I did. While the sounds themselves weren't spectacular (I can do better now) I was amazed at some of my choices in regards to the mix. Stuff that I, for some reason, wouldn't probably choose to do now that I have more experience. It made me question whether or not I had lost (with all the wonderful gear I had amassed over the years) my ability to think artistically...as opposed to what I "should" do. Since then I've been trying to listen more and react to my first instincts and forget about the gear.

So, yes, maybe there is some way you worked then (analog) that has changed in comparison to the way you work now (digital). We are talking two completely different formats...it's only logical to assume that you would work differently. It's also possible that you listen less and watch your waveforms more.

And, hey, it's also possible that your Fostex stuff really does just sound better to you than your digital stuff. Solution? I would think that only your ears can figure that out.
Well, in terms of mixing there are a lot of guidande or best practises that I think are misused or misleading. One such thing is EQ cutting. When I tried to follow these rules from the book I basically ended up with nothing. Now I realise that when the right context is not present it's easy to fall into the trap of following some guidance and lose the song. So generally, next time you do something, try to do it the other way around instead. There are so many things you can do wrong in mixing. The most basic thing is in the use of the input track volume faders. When I didn't know how to use the volume faders I always compared my mixes with the ones where the volume faders were all set at unity gain and realised that was actually better sounding than when I tried to balance the tracks. So in mixing it's very easy to create problems rather than to eliminate problems.

Cutting is killing. Know when to kill.
Old 21st May 2006
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

Wow, this is great!
Thanks for all your thoughts on this.

I think the room has something to do with it. My other room was better.

Forget what I said about the EQ. Ten years ago I didn't have a clue what I was doing and some of the mixes sounded like a complete mess. When I mix those songs now they sound G R E A T.

Actually I hardly need to EQ at all because those tracks sound amazing.

When I work in digital it's almost like everything sounds worse, so I find myself tweaking EQ until I get sick of the song and end up with something I'm not very proud of.

It might be the room or me doing something wrong. I know analog is supposed to sound better, but I think the R8 was a semi-pro machine back in the day and would expect my digital chain to give better results...
Old 21st May 2006
  #12
Lives for gear
 
seaneldon's Avatar
 

if the r8 is anything like that e16 machine they made (16 track 1/2" with unbalanced everything, really bad dolby and removable lite-brite meterbridge, yikes), i'd say there's gotta be really heavy variants between your analog and digital recordings to make the fostex sound better. i had to track drums to the e16 once and almost jumped out the window. sounded godawful even with good mics and pres, and would break ever hour on the hour.
Old 21st May 2006
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Sounds Great's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by seaneldon
if the r8 is anything like that e16 machine they made (16 track 1/2" with unbalanced everything, really bad dolby and removable lite-brite meterbridge, yikes), i'd say there's gotta be really heavy variants between your analog and digital recordings to make the fostex sound better. i had to track drums to the e16 once and almost jumped out the window. sounded godawful even with good mics and pres, and would break ever hour on the hour.

I had a Fostex E-16 with Dolby and thought it was awesome. Made some of my best sounding recordings with that tape deck. And it never broke, except once when some of the led's went funky and I had it repaired and never had trouble with it again.
Old 21st May 2006
  #14
Lives for gear
 
seaneldon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great
I had a Fostex E-16 with Dolby and thought it was awesome. Made some of my best sounding recordings with that tape deck. And it never broke, except once when some of the led's went funky and I had it repaired and never had trouble with it again.
based on other discussions i've had with engineers i'm familiar with and enjoy, i'd say you might be the lucky guy out of a few thousand, rather than i was the unlucky out of a few thousand.
Old 21st May 2006
  #15
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Faderjockey's Avatar
 

I had a Fostex G16S (Dolby S) years ago....I did alot of cool recordings with it...It was unbalanced. But it did sound really nice for being a not so pro tape deck..

Never really had trouble with it either.

I did use to work in a small studio that used a E16. That was ok...I thought the G16S sounded better..not as noisy.
Old 21st May 2006
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Hey...don't think you're weird alright? There's a certain 'something' my Otari 5050 8 track has that I can't get my DAW to pull off. The DAW is running Sonar and an RME Multiface 2. However, the Sonar rig is definitely better with kick & bass than the Otari..

Anyway, just saying I noticed something real similar to what you have.. and my next deck is going to be a G24S as soon as the $$ works out at the same time I find one. After that I'll see if I still want to add a 2" 24 track machine...

Todd
Old 21st May 2006
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frequency
Hey guys!

Don't hate me for bringing up this subject again, but I'm seriously in need of ideas and advice.

I have an old Fostex R8 tape recorder, which I guess is not among the best analog recorders. However, it sounds SO much better than my digital recordings.

The sound is in your face, it's warm, full and beautiful.

In comparison, my digital recordings sound one-dimensional, harsh and nowhere near as good.

Am I doing something wrong?

My digital chain is Summit MPC-100 into a Lynx L22 card.

Thanks in advance for your opinions and ideas.
Have a great day everyone.

I'm thinking it's because you secretly like flutter, wow, limited frequency response, channel crosstalk, low s/n, and phase slur... but... hey, who REALLY knows?

heh
Old 21st May 2006
  #18
Lives for gear
 
seaneldon's Avatar
 

here, this is a song i recorded with an E16. i'd call this a "no mix", with no eq'ing and only basic level setting. this is just how the machine sounds. maybe some folks like the way it sounds but i know i don't. my mp3 encoder on my home computer eats it hard so it might be really weird in the high frequencies, but it should give you an idea of why i don't like this machine. recorded the same band 2 years later on a better deck and PT TDM rig and it came out 1000 times better.
Old 21st May 2006
  #19
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seaneldon's Avatar
 

whoops. here. recorded entire band live. some vocal overdubs.
Attached Files
Old 22nd May 2006
  #20
Gear Maniac
 
dirren's Avatar
 

Now thats one insane song! Alomst diggin it although I'm not into the fratboy-dorm-ska-crazy-fart-in-the-mic-type punk. I have no idea why this band would benefit from a "crispier" sound actually! More tape to the people it seems...



/Matt
Old 22nd May 2006
  #21
Lives for gear
 
seaneldon's Avatar
 

it's not even that the other record was "cleaner", it was just a lot better sounding in general. we still kept the same kind of vibe. i'll put up a song from the "new" record later.
Old 22nd May 2006
  #22
Lives for gear
hey..

a couple years back i decided to dig through all of the home recordings I have made over the years and decided that my old 4-track stuff sounded subjectively better than my digital stuff. others might not agree but I felt that the analog format represented more closely what I was trying to do. so I bought an E-16. man that machine is great but the hiss is a major drawback, and I am now trying to find a tape format that will have virtually no hiss whatsoever.

I am thinking that the unbalanced cabling and using a patchbay, etc. might be contributing to the hiss....

anybody else notice this? would a TSR-8 be a major upgrade?

the 48 is balanced but has no dolby...
Old 22nd May 2006
  #23
Lives for gear
Hummm.I don't know...I think if one were to record some tracks to the " older medium" ( R8), with some of the better " budget" gear of today ( mics, pre-amps, outboard ) compared to the "budget' gear of that time, the results might be very different..! ( Hey.... this might warrant a test..!.. ( Memo to self: "dig out the old R-8"...heh ) Think about how far the "budget gear" have come since that time..! Hummm...I have a friend that have a " Fostex E-16". I might even talk him into giving this a whirl..!......
Old 12th April 2017
  #24
Lives for gear
Of course it sounds better

Why is this even aq question at this point

What tape does in terms of transient timing, overall compression, harmonic content ect
can't hold a candle to distracting and useless ultra-high and ultr-lows muddying up the mix and stealing headroom

The battle is over, analog sounds better but in today's' world convenience is a MAJOR consideration, which gives digital it's place

But this is all old news
Old 12th April 2017
  #25
Gear Addict
I had a Fostex R8 for years. Loved it. Then I got cubase in 2000, and not having to rewind tape was almost reason enough to drop the R8. Unlimited track count was another. But I struggled a long time to get mixes to sound decent in digital. Too much transient response, too much bandwidth, not enough harmonic distortion. Now I use RND and Great River pre's with a series of compressors when tracking, to get the transient control and distortion I want, and add more of the same ITB. And my mixes now are worlds better than they were on the R8.

I'd say that digital is just a different tool that you'll master with more practice.
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