You are here

Tape machines

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Moderator: Moderators

Re: Tape machines

Postby James Perrett » Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:04 am

Trevor Johnson wrote:If you want a tape machine as an ornament, which I suspect most of these new machines will end up as, nothing still looks better, I think, than a nice A77 with matching metal NAB reels.

I'd maybe go for a B77 but either would have the desired aesthetic effect. There seems to be a big market in fancy NAB adaptors and fancy reels at the moment too with all sorts of shapes and colours available.

Just out of interest I worked out that, allowing for inflation, my B77 cost the equivalent of £2,500 in today's money back in 1982.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 10353
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Tape machines

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Jan 10, 2021 7:09 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
mountain lion wrote:Why do companies like waves choose to model old vintage tape machines?

Cos they're the ones the middle-aged and older bedroom engineers remember coveting in their youth... :lol:


Is There a difference in Sound?

Every tape machine sounds different....

I'd imagine top competing Studer and Ampex machines for example, set up with the same tape and under equivalent conditions would sound virtually indistinguishable, both as recorders and for playback. The main limitation, namely the analog nature of the record/playback process, was common to the machines and tapes.

OTOH with indifferent maintenance and alignment, two analog audio tape machines, even of the exact same make, model and issue date can sound hugely different both in record and playback, but in their day, at the top level, pro machines were maintained and aligned to objective standards.
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2317
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Tape machines

Postby mountain lion » Sun Jan 10, 2021 8:29 am

Do neutron and ozone include tape saturation?
mountain lion
Regular
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Apr 11, 2015 12:00 am

Re: Tape machines

Postby Arpangel » Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:20 am

Tape machines I’ve owned;
Philips portable cassette, Ferrograph valve RTR, Ferguson RTR, Tascam 3440, Revox B77, Tascam 32-2B, Fostex 280 cassette, I must admit, I hated all of them, I was always struggling with them, to get the sound I wanted at the time, which back then, was a sound that was as high quality as possible, but now I want exactly the opposite, and I love all tape machines, the crappier the better.
User avatar
Arpangel
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6759
Joined: Sat Jul 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Tape machines

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:48 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:
Trevor Johnson wrote:If you want a tape machine as an ornament, which I suspect most of these new machines will end up as, nothing still looks better, I think, than a nice A77 with matching metal NAB reels.

:thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:

That's exactly what I owned many years ago 8-)


Martin

Me too, I'd love a B77 though but the A77 was proper...

Image

I think I still have a NAB hub and at least a couple more reels too
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 15173
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Still taking this recording lark seriously (and trying to record my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Tape machines

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jan 15, 2021 11:50 pm

Sorry, late back to this one...

Tim Gillett wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:Every tape machine sounds different....

I'd imagine top competing Studer and Ampex machines for example, set up with the same tape and under equivalent conditions would sound virtually indistinguishable, both as recorders and for playback.

It was/is certainly possible to line up different machines identically on a test set, with the same reference flux, rec/rep levels, and spot frequency levels at 100Hz, 1kHz and 10k, 15kHz or whatever.

But in practice, different machine types still sound different when recording and playing programme material. In my experience there were definite audible traits with different machines that were often distinctive -- much like the differences between, say, a classic Neve and an SSL console, for example.

I think this is readily explainable since different brands and designs of tape machine obviously had different electronics (many, but not all, used input/output transformers, some were built with discrete transistor circuits, others with different grades and types of ICs, etc), and with different power rails (and thus headroom and slew rates) which all affected their sound character in small and subtle ways.

Different brands of machine, (and different formats of machine within a brand) also have quite different low end characteristics because of their different head constructions and dimensions, and the associated playback head-bump differences, creating peaks and dips at different frequencies and with different amplitudes.

Within an organisation machines tended to be aligned in very consistent ways, but even so there were inevitable engineering differences, either because of different manufacturers' recommendations and procedures, or because of end-user alignment preferences and working practices.

And all that is reliant on the machines using the same tape type, the same speed speed, the same EQ, the same tape widths and track numbers, and record to the same levels. In practice, of course, different people use different configurations and all these things made audible differences too.

So i think its fair to say that, in practice, every machine in the real world sounds slightly different to every other machine. And while I've not had much personal experience of Ampex machines, I have spent a lot of time working with Studers -- mostly A807s, A810s, A812s, A80s, B67s, Revox PR99s, Sony APR5000s, and Telefunken M15as, and they definitely all had identifiable or at least distinguishable sound characters. The later Studers were probably the most neutral and similar to each other.
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 30112
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound
In my world, things get less strange when I read the manual... 

Re: Tape machines

Postby MOF » Sat Jan 16, 2021 3:57 am

So i think its fair to say that, in practice, every machine in the real world sounds slightly different to every other machine

I remember reading back when everything was analogue that some engineers and producers liked to track on one brand of machine and mix down on another, ditto with desks i.e. Neve then SSL and not just because of the automation and compressors/gates per channel but because of the different sound.
MOF
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1489
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 1:00 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Tape machines

Postby Arpangel » Sat Jan 16, 2021 9:48 am

MOF wrote:
So i think its fair to say that, in practice, every machine in the real world sounds slightly different to every other machine

I remember reading back when everything was analogue that some engineers and producers liked to track on one brand of machine and mix down on another, ditto with desks i.e. Neve then SSL and not just because of the automation and compressors/gates per channel but because of the different sound.

I always say that everything has a sound, that is, until I'm blindfolded, then most things sound the same.

:D
User avatar
Arpangel
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6759
Joined: Sat Jul 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Tape machines

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Jan 16, 2021 1:39 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Sorry, late back to this one...

Tim Gillett wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:Every tape machine sounds different....

I'd imagine top competing Studer and Ampex machines for example, set up with the same tape and under equivalent conditions would sound virtually indistinguishable, both as recorders and for playback.

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
...Different brands of machine, (and different formats of machine within a brand) also have quite different low end characteristics because of their different head constructions and dimensions, and the associated playback head-bump differences, creating peaks and dips at different frequencies and with different amplitudes...

True. Thanks for the reminder of head bump. I agree it was a problem and varied between head types to a degree and of course tape speeds. Being more a high tape speed problem, it was there at 15ips but audibly worse at 30 ips, and of course only in the lower bass region.

Here are some plots for head bump for various studio tape machines: http://www.endino.com/graphs/

Interestingly, in 1982 Dan Dugan wrote a paper for AES about the head bump problem and his solution was apparently to use parametric EQ, I assume two bands to correct both the peak at the one freq. and the dip at the other. But I wonder what was the attitude of the staff at the typical facility? Did they attempt to do anything about head bump as Dugan proposed? You would think that if head bump was perceived as a significant problem there would have been significant attempts to address it. Maybe there were. I dont know. Perhaps a discussion in itself.
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2317
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Tape machines

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Jan 16, 2021 1:57 pm

I think it was being addressed, and improvements made -- one of the last areas of tape technology still to be perfected -- with different head designs and constructions. But the march of digital pretty much ended that line of R&D!

I think the later Studer machines certainly had a flatter low-end response than many other brands and relatively negligible head bumps. I think the Endino plots actually show that quite well. And a few tape machines had more sophisticated low-end EQ options to help smooth things out too.

For anyone wondering what this is all about, the head bump issue was of most concern when recording 'popular' music in all its forms where the mechanical dimensions of the replay head caused a small peak in the replay response (with a corresponding trough at a higher frequency). These peaks and troughs often aligned with the kick drum fundamental to either emphasise or weaken it -- head bump peaks often ended up around 70 or 80Hz and could be 2 or 3dB -- so quite a significant EQ! And of course the peaks and trough moved up an octave at 30ips compared to 15ips which is why many preferred recording at 15ips and putting up with the slightly higher noise floor.

And also hence the often apparently quite bizarre preferences of some recording engineers /producers /mastering engineers for different machines when tracking to mixing to mastering...
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 30112
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound
In my world, things get less strange when I read the manual... 

Re: Tape machines

Postby James Perrett » Sat Jan 16, 2021 2:03 pm

It certainly helps to have a decent set of tones with both 50Hz and 100Hz included to detect issues with head bumps when transferring old tapes.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 10353
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Tape machines

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Jan 16, 2021 2:20 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I think it was being addressed, and improvements made -- one of the last areas of tape technology still to be perfected -- but the march of digital put pay to all that!
Indeed it did.

Hugh Robjohns wrote: The later Studer machines certainly had a much flatter low-end response than most other brands and relatively negligible head bumps. I think the Endino plots actually show that quite well.

Yes the Studer A827 looks particularly good there.

Hugh Robjohns wrote:The head bump issue was of most concern when recording 'popular' music in all its forms where the head bump's peaks/troughs might align with the kick drum fundamental to either emphasise or weaken it -- hence the often quite bizarre preferences some recording engineers/producers/mastering engineers for different machines when tracking to mixing to mastering...


Yes and with careful setup with a good parametric, each machine's head bumps could conceivably have been corrected as Dugan suggested, and problem largely solved. Good tape machines were already full of EQ circuits. Why not a little more for head bump?

I guess for non technical production people the tape machine was just a black box with its own mysterious mojo.
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2317
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Tape machines

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Jan 16, 2021 2:24 pm

James Perrett wrote:It certainly helps to have a decent set of tones with both 50Hz and 100Hz included to detect issues with head bumps when transferring old tapes.

Yes, I often wish...
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2317
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Tape machines

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jan 18, 2021 12:14 pm

I recently came across this BBC service check list for the various tape machine formats used in BBC radio (mono and stereo 1/4-inch, multitrack, cassettes and carts) -- which makes for nostalgic reading! There are also some reference level charts at the end, including the BBC's digital alignments for CD and DATs etc!

http://www.bbceng.info/Operations/studio_ops/BBC-Tape-Machine-Maintenance-Guidelines.pdf
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 30112
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound
In my world, things get less strange when I read the manual... 

Re: Tape machines

Postby MadManDan » Thu Jan 21, 2021 4:32 am

Ehhhhh, just wait for behringer to make one :headbang: :bouncy: :roll: :clap: :headbang:
User avatar
MadManDan
Frequent Poster
Posts: 606
Joined: Mon Sep 13, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Across the pond....New Yawk

Late '14 mini 3 GHz i7 16 GB
Catalina 10.15.7. Glyph atomic. FF Scarlet 18i8. 
Sup Drum 3. Cubase 11 Pro
iCon iKb 8x.  Mics, spkrs, 'phones, gtrs, greedy cat


PreviousNext