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Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby Elephone » Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:02 pm

Rather than start a new topic, thought it best to revisit this old one...

The fact that tape emulation software websites don't seem to offer comparisons between split-signal recordings (one going to the real tape machine and one to the plugin emulation of that actual tape machine and tape) suggests they're not convincing enough.

I mean, why wouldn't they offer customers audio examples of identical tracks recorded both digitally and on tape, then compare their plugin effect with the tape track? Seems the obvious thing to do.

Martin Walker wrote: I'm sure I've seen some web sites that do exactly this, and will post links if I stumble across them again.

However, I wonder if some tape plug-in developers get caught out by the huge number of people who seem to think that 'tape' sounds hugely different, when in fact the whole idea of a well-aligned-up tape machine run with conservative audio levels sounds far more clean than the 'bass hump with lots of extra harmonic distortion' that people expect.

In other words , comparisons between 'real' tape and a plug-in that sounds very similar might actually put some potential customers off, because they were expecting it to make far more difference!

I have heard some examples of general "real tape vs plugin" comparisons, but that's not ideal, and they're not very thorough. I would have thought the best way would be to (also) elicit the more extreme responses of tape, by driving both the tape machine and the emulation hard using the same audio examples.

The differences often seem subtle, perhaps, because they're only emulating the most subtle aspects of tape and high-end, perfectly maintained machines. Also, there's no second or third generation (bounced) accumulation of tape effects being tested.

Though I don't like the example, here's a comparison (albeit on YouTube) where his actual tape machine (@ 27secs in) sounds far nicer, for me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEQV6ePUgbo

Another thing I've noticed with real tape, is the way noise is more integrated with the wanted sound, and how the signal breaks through it almost like gating/compression effect. With emulations, they seem to offer a parallel noise track that doesn't interact with the signal. Perhaps the solution is to cleverly use gates and side-chaining on a noise track.

I know most people don't want noise (unless it's dialed in on a synth) but I don't really draw those lines in the sand. I think it's part of what some people like even if they don't acknowledge it. I mean, we all like the sound of a crackling fire don't we? Not all the time, but...
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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby MOF » Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:33 pm

Have you ever had to fight with dolby? Enough said
Some engineers use undecoded dolby on vocal tracks, I’m surprised no one’s created a plugin to do that.
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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby James Perrett » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:54 pm

MOF wrote:Some engineers use undecoded dolby on vocal tracks, I’m surprised no one’s created a plugin to do that.

U-he's Satin will allow you to do that as well as do the trick where the highest band remains compressed to give an extra HF sheen. The Dolby emulation seems pretty good when decoding real Dolby A tapes.
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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby MOF » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:45 pm

U-he's Satin will allow you to do that as well
Thanks James, I didn't know about this plugin.
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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:34 am

I've recently been impressed by the sound of Airwindows' ToTape - generic GUI, but all the controls do something really useful to my ears, and you can download it for free.


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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Feb 09, 2019 9:39 am

Elephone wrote:...Another thing I've noticed with real tape, is the way noise is more integrated with the wanted sound, and how the signal breaks through it almost like gating/compression effect...


Having worked with magnetic tape for over 50 years, I've never had the sense that there was anything but "programme plus tape noise" going on, at least at low levels.

I guess the way to test this would be :

1. record a high quality source to tape.

2. to a copy of the source, digitally mix in the same tape noise, at the same level

A-B the two, level matched of course.

Elephone wrote:... and how the signal breaks through it almost like gating/compression effect.

I don't understand this. Gating and compression are such different effects. Gating is much more like expansion which is the opposite of compression of course.
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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby Guest » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:51 am

Tim Gillett wrote: Having worked with magnetic tape for over 50 years, I've never had the sense that there was anything but "programme plus tape noise" going on, at least at low levels.


I put electronic sounds through guitar and keyboard combo amps and valve outboard processors, but even if I had a top of a range Ampex or Studer I would still probably not use it.
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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:21 am

Normally the tape saturation effect is the main attraction of analog tape for these days, and often with a saturated tape the hiss is inaudible anyway.
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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby Kwackman » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:29 am

Still Vibrations wrote:even if I had a top of a range Ampex or Studer I would still probably not use it.

Good to read this!
I worked on analogue tape daily for many years, mostly Studer A80s, and if I never have to use a tape machine ever again, that would be perfect! Time taken up with line up, cleaning the heads (with the smell of Isopropyl alcohol lingering), de-magging, tape running out, very limited "undo" options, and tape hiss and noise, losing top end when you bounced down...

I've lost my rose tainted glasses!
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Re: Using Tape Plugins & Making Comparisons

Postby Elephone » Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:36 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:Normally the tape saturation effect is the main attraction of analog tape for these days, and often with a saturated tape the hiss is inaudible anyway.

I don't know, but there's a 'fizziness' I can't seem to emulate (when tape is pushed hard). The muddiness is not the same kind of 'static' fizz sound. The plugins seem to lack something in the highs and have a muddy rumble that doesn't sound right.

I suppose it depends on the style and sound you're into, but I don't think I'm talking about the subtle effects you get from high-end machines that minimized the artifacts I'm referring to.

Dub producers like Prince Fatty who use higher-end machines can't seem to get the authenticity of this (The Bakery) studio sound which sound like 1970s stuff to me. And, where I live, those Tascam (Studio 8-track) machines were often discarded from college music departments.

The Bakery:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdilvJOSEn4

Prince Fatty:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TnTYKFuLds
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