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Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby analoglife » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:10 pm

I'm a double bassist and a pianist, 6 months ago I got a 4 track tape recorder at a yard sale and started recording myself playing my bass, and then playing piano over that. A little while after I got access to digital recording technology and I didn't like how my recordings sounded, so I went back to my 4 track. It's not just a "lo-fi" thing because that isn't really my aesthetic, it's a specifically and intangible quality of music recorded in an analog manner as opposed to encoded digitally that I find really pleasing. I want to start getting a little bit more serious about my recording and learn how to master my own recording using analog processes (cutting tape on a reel), beyond it being useful for my own music audio engineering has become an interest of mine in itself and I could see myself enjoying doing this sort of thing as a job. I also make movies on film (the project that I am going to get started on is going to be the soundtrack to a film that I'm working on and my LP) and a lot of the editing process for tape seems analogous to film editing, but I don't know the specifics of it all.

My question is twofold —

Where/how can I learn analog mastering/audio engineering?


What gear should I get for myself to start out with?
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby James Perrett » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:33 pm

I'm assuming that you're talking about a 4 track reel to reel here...

Firstly, if your analogue recordings are sounding vastly different from their digital equivalents then I suspect that your 4 track needs to be cleaned and aligned. In a professional studio this would have been done every day. While regular cleaning is essential, most machines hold their alignment for a fairly long time but any 4 track reel to reel is going to be at least 25 years old and possibly more like 40 years old. Rubber parts will often have degraded and component values may have changed as the components (especially capacitors) age. It will also need to be set up for the particular tape type that you are using - the tapes that these machines were originally set up for are no longer available.

As far as mastering is concerned - I'd suggest a half track Revox reel to reel as the minimum standard (preferably a high speed version). While Revoxes were intended as home hifi machines, they were well built and they found their way into many studios. I still use a B77 here.

Probably the best way to learn all this stuff is to hire an analogue studio with an experienced engineer for a day and go through the whole process with the engineer. That way, they can show you how best to record the particular instruments you play and then how best to mix the final result.

It may also be worth investigating Desmond's Muzines website as he has archives of recording magazines from the days when analogue was the only way to record.

http://www.muzines.co.uk/

It may also be worth looking at some of the old Studio Sound issues on the American Radio History site at

https://www.americanradiohistory.com/Studio-Sound.htm
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby CS70 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:31 pm

analoglife wrote:It's not just a "lo-fi" thing because that isn't really my aesthetic, it's a specifically and intangible quality of music recorded in an analog manner as opposed to encoded digitally that I find really pleasing.

James has already got you covered on the answer you were looking for, but since you started "just" 6 months ago, I'd add a word of caution.

For a beginner, recording and mixing well in digital is in some ways is much harder than doing so with analog equipment. This is compounded by the fact that it seems far easier. After all, the kit costs far less, every 14 years old is doing it in their bedroom and you're up and running in minutes, right? Can't be that pro, so can't require as much skill as an analog setup.

The reality is that most beginners overcook the levels, have no idea of the correct gain structure (or what a gain structure is), overload the excellent converters in their interfaces, normalize everything around -3dB, then put three compressors in line (they cost nothing), maybe a bunch of effects (same price) and a limiter, squashing the hell out of everything until they get something whose entire dynamic range is 3Db (between -3 and 0dBFS on the DAW meter). And then state that they don't like how it sounds and analog is oh so much better.

Not saying you're like that, but wanting to go full tape reels *for sound reasons* after 6 months is a little... indicative. :D

Thing is, same room and same mics, with an analog setup you have a bigger chances to set up your gain somewhat right (or at least not catastrophic), you'll have far less effect boxes (if any) to damage things with and your overall path from recording to final mix will be shorter and the sheer complication of doing much more than the basic with your recording will discourage you from doing much at all. No wonder it sounds better!

But the issue is not the tools - it's your skills with them.

Note: I have and use plenty of analog boxes, but because it's *fun*, not because of the sound. That's a perfectly fine reason - as is the pleasure of twisting knobs or the mental ease of working a more intuitive, human-like interface. We have reels at the studio and I've sometimes used them to see what was happening. Other times, I've put down down tape emulation (the excellent Waves J37) where I thought it shuld go... and you (or I) wouldn't be able to tell the difference at all. Other than the fact that edits were incredibly tedious and time consuming with real tape (yeah, you practice the bloody thing til you can do it while sleeping - it does sound better than if it's not that rehearsed since it's easy to comp later).

Of course, there's nothing wrong with learning the basics on a small analog setup - after all, many DAWs use that as a metaphor, and the front-end is always analog anyways - you gotta have an input voltage somewhere no matter what :).

But thinking of going tape reels after 6 months.. hm. Put it like this: there is a reason for which very few people doing this seriously, still do use these systems. Reason they don't, it's because they can make things sound stellar in a much easier and quicker way on DAW; because they know what they're doing. When they do use tape, it's a deliberate choice because they like the workflow better, because it's fun, or as a (very effective) commercial tactic - it impresses the impressionable, who don't know any better, and who therefore are more easily parted with their money. Just like big monitors in the studio.

If you learn your tools and take the same attention that tape forces you to take in playing, singing or whatever you record, stay assured that you'll like your digital recordings just as much as the analog ones - and u won't be able to tell the difference.
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby analoglife » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:12 am

James Perrett wrote:I'm assuming that you're talking about a 4 track reel to reel here...

Firstly, if your analogue recordings are sounding vastly different from their digital equivalents then I suspect that your 4 track needs to be cleaned and aligned. In a professional studio this would have been done every day. While regular cleaning is essential, most machines hold their alignment for a fairly long time but any 4 track reel to reel is going to be at least 25 years old and possibly more like 40 years old. Rubber parts will often have degraded and component values may have changed as the components (especially capacitors) age. It will also need to be set up for the particular tape type that you are using - the tapes that these machines were originally set up for are no longer available.

As far as mastering is concerned - I'd suggest a half track Revox reel to reel as the minimum standard (preferably a high speed version). While Revoxes were intended as home hifi machines, they were well built and they found their way into many studios. I still use a B77 here.

Probably the best way to learn all this stuff is to hire an analogue studio with an experienced engineer for a day and go through the whole process with the engineer. That way, they can show you how best to record the particular instruments you play and then how best to mix the final result.

It may also be worth investigating Desmond's Muzines website as he has archives of recording magazines from the days when analogue was the only way to record.

http://www.muzines.co.uk/

It may also be worth looking at some of the old Studio Sound issues on the American Radio History site at

https://www.americanradiohistory.com/Studio-Sound.htm


I'm talking about 4 track cassette machine, the machine that I have is about 30 years old. I was planning on getting it onto larger tape by plugging it onto a reel to reel with my output cable. I don't have the means/desire to hire a professional studio to do my music, but I will check out the machine and magazine you recommended.


Whether my recorded is dirty, faulty, broken or whatever else, I like how it sounds...
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby analoglife » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:22 am

CS70 wrote:
analoglife wrote:It's not just a "lo-fi" thing because that isn't really my aesthetic, it's a specifically and intangible quality of music recorded in an analog manner as opposed to encoded digitally that I find really pleasing.

James has already got you covered on the answer you were looking for, but since you started "just" 6 months ago, I'd add a word of caution.

For a beginner, recording and mixing well in digital is in some ways is much harder than doing so with analog equipment. This is compounded by the fact that it seems far easier. After all, the kit costs far less, every 14 years old is doing it in their bedroom and you're up and running in minutes, right? Can't be that pro, so can't require as much skill as an analog setup.

The reality is that most beginners overcook the levels, have no idea of the correct gain structure (or what a gain structure is), overload the excellent converters in their interfaces, normalize everything around -3dB, then put three compressors in line (they cost nothing), maybe a bunch of effects (same price) and a limiter, squashing the hell out of everything until they get something whose entire dynamic range is 3Db (between -3 and 0dBFS on the DAW meter). And then state that they don't like how it sounds and analog is oh so much better.

Not saying you're like that, but wanting to go full tape reels *for sound reasons* after 6 months is a little... indicative. :D

Thing is, same room and same mics, with an analog setup you have a bigger chances to set up your gain somewhat right (or at least not catastrophic), you'll have far less effect boxes (if any) to damage things with and your overall path from recording to final mix will be shorter and the sheer complication of doing much more than the basic with your recording will discourage you from doing much at all. No wonder it sounds better!

But the issue is not the tools - it's your skills with them.

Note: I have and use plenty of analog boxes, but because it's *fun*, not because of the sound. That's a perfectly fine reason - as is the pleasure of twisting knobs or the mental ease of working a more intuitive, human-like interface. We have reels at the studio and I've sometimes used them to see what was happening. Other times, I've put down down tape emulation (the excellent Waves J37) where I thought it shuld go... and you (or I) wouldn't be able to tell the difference at all. Other than the fact that edits were incredibly tedious and time consuming with real tape (yeah, you practice the bloody thing til you can do it while sleeping - it does sound better than if it's not that rehearsed since it's easy to comp later).

Of course, there's nothing wrong with learning the basics on a small analog setup - after all, many DAWs use that as a metaphor, and the front-end is always analog anyways - you gotta have an input voltage somewhere no matter what :).

But thinking of going tape reels after 6 months.. hm. Put it like this: there is a reason for which very few people doing this seriously, still do use these systems. Reason they don't, it's because they can make things sound stellar in a much easier and quicker way on DAW; because they know what they're doing. When they do use tape, it's a deliberate choice because they like the workflow better, because it's fun, or as a (very effective) commercial tactic - it impresses the impressionable, who don't know any better, and who therefore are more easily parted with their money. Just like big monitors in the studio.

If you learn your tools and take the same attention that tape forces you to take in playing, singing or whatever you record, stay assured that you'll like your digital recordings just as much as the analog ones - and u won't be able to tell the difference.

I didn't run my own digital set up, my buddy who is in school for audio engineering recorded me with his school's equipments. It might be that he was just unskilled, but it sounding worse on pro equipment in a real studio as opposed to on a cassette in a 30 year old 4 track being recorded via a Walmart microphone suspended above my piano's soundboard in my living room, to me, that there is a real difference in sound.

Well, part of it might be my bias against digital, I like analog things, my music on a physical medium and not encoded digitally is very appealing to me, and actually cutting tape as opposed to playing with software makes the process into an art instead of a cold science. But, whatever, I just want to learn and I have budget to buy some starter equipment (like $1000 give/take
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:26 am

analoglife wrote:... A little while after I got access to digital recording technology and I didn't like how my recordings sounded, so I went back to my 4 track. It's not just a "lo-fi" thing because that isn't really my aesthetic, it's a specifically and intangible quality of music recorded in an analog manner as opposed to encoded digitally that I find really pleasing...

Analog tape at its best and in the right hands sounds pretty good, but it's not more faithful to the original sound than digital. It's less faithful. Digital is much closer to how your double bass and piano actually sound. it's also quieter, cheaper, the gear is more portable, it has much longer record times, etc.

As CS70 mentioned, you may have been clipping (overloading) your digital recordings. Zero (0) on the record meter is absolute maximum. In practice we stay somewhat below 0. The "harshness" of digital is usually just clipping.
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby CS70 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:34 am

analoglife wrote:I didn't run my own digital set up, my buddy who is in school for audio engineering recorded me with his school's equipments. It might be that he was just unskilled, but it sounding worse on pro equipment in a real studio as opposed to on a cassette in a 30 year old 4 track being recorded via a Walmart microphone suspended above my piano's soundboard in my living room, to me, that there is a real difference in sound.

Ha! Then definitely the "might" is not a might! :D

Well, part of it might be my bias against digital, I like analog things, my music on a physical medium and not encoded digitally is very appealing to me, and actually cutting tape as opposed to playing with software makes the process into an art instead of a cold science. But, whatever, I just want to learn and I have budget to buy some starter equipment (like $1000 give/take

No issue with that, 'course everyone is entitled to their likings. And everyone is entitled to have likings who are completely arbitrary. The one thing random likings do, however, is that slow down your ability to become good at whatever you want to do. Sometimes they block it altogether.

A tool is a tool, and the art is in who wields it, not the tool itself. Michelangelo used the same type of scalpel as the guy tearing down walls. There's no "cold science" in recording whatever you do (check the Mix Rescue columns on SOS for example).. there's a good mix, or not.

Best of luck!
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby The Elf » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:01 am

I feel a great sense of 'wanting to be different'. Nothing wrong with that. But, as the others have said, it's all about the user of the tools, not the tools themselves.

Give us an example of your recordings and let's hear what you're hearing.
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:02 am

analoglife wrote:I want to start getting a little bit more serious about my recording and learn how to master my own recording using analog processes (cutting tape on a reel),

We've all been there -- it becomes quite addictive! ;-)

The problem from your perspective, though, is that the world has gone digital.

I know some people really think anything digital is terrible and analogue is always better -- and they're perfectly entitled to their subjective opinion... All I would ask is 'Have you ever heard a CD that really impressed with its musical sound quality?'

I've heard plenty, and that's all the proof I need to know that digital is a fine medium when used properly. Unfortunately not all recordings are as good as they could or should be... but that doesn't mean 'digital' is crap, it just means not everyone knows what they're doing... and I suspect that was the case with your friend and his digital recording of you. In other words, I think it might be foolish to dismiss digital outright...

The other aspect here is that it's very difficult to assess your own work, and that a recording made with modern good quality equipment -- whether analogue or digital -- is likely to be a lot more revealing than a recording made on a tired cassette multitracker with ambient mic placement. It needn't be, of course, but the norm is to aim for 'fidelity' by default...

However, you want to learn and I certainly applaud that... So the first thing I would say is that learning to edit and master recordings using a digital DAW and plugins etc is cheap and the options are plentiful. Doing the same in the analogue world is going to be relatively expensive, and it will be a lot harder to find suitable equipment in good condition. Not impossible by any means, but you need to understand what you're getting yourself into.

Pro quality analogue gear is seriously expensive, and even second-hand pro gear is very expensive (actually more than new stuff in many cases!). On the other hand, if you want to work with vintage semi-pro gear to match your cassette multitracker the problem will be finding appropriate devices -- most will have been recycled by now -- and any you do find will almost certainly be in need of substantial maintenance.

Next, physical cut-editing on cassette tape is technically possible, but the small size, low tape speed, and very difficult head access makes it extremely fiddly, unreliable, and limiting. I certainly wouldn't recommend going there at all. On the other hand, cut-editing on open-reel tape is very practical and surprisingly rewarding, and the necessary materials (editing block, single-sided blades, grease pencils, adhesive tape, leader tapes, etc) are still just about available from specialist suppliers. However, to get into tape editing you will need to invest in a decent flat-bed open-reel tape machine to work on, and again, that is not going to be a cheap option. More importantly, the ongoing costs of tape machine maintenance and the daily costs of new open-reel tape will make a serious dent in your piggy-bank funds.

Still not impossible but you need to know what youre getting yourself into. For example, a Revox B77 quarter-inch machine (as James suggested) in decent condition for recording and editing will likely cost £1000 or more, and it will require regular ongoing maintenance and alignment to work properly and reliably. A single NAB reel of new 1/4-inch recording tape will cost you £50 a go, and once heavily edited isn't reusable (or I wouldn't recommend reusing it, anyway). There are smaller project-studio tape machines, like the old Fostex units, but they are much harder to maintain and even the 7-inch spools of tape they use will cost £25 or more each.

I have both a Revox PR99 (the broadcast version of the B77) and a Studer A807 here, and I love them both, but I wouldn't dream of music editing with them -- far too slow, cumbersome and restrictive! The only physical tape editing I entertain these days is remaking failing or duff edits when re-mastering vintage tape recordings. I do still record to analogue tape occasionally, but the recording always gets transferred to digital for mastering and distribution.

So, what I'm really saying is that the world of analogue recording is technically non-trivial and deceptively expensive. Maintenance is essential, difficult, and costly. If you can't do it yourself -- which would require an engineering background and some expensive test equipment -- finding a good technician to do it for you is equally difficult and expensive. Good studio technicians are in great demand!

So while I appreciate your interest in, and attraction towards, old-school analogue recording and production methods, you just need to be very aware of the financial and practical implications before you commit yourself to that route.

My advice would be, if you want to learn audio engineering and production -- and it seems you do -- the science, technology, art and craft are all the same whether you're working in the analogue or digital domains. Mic placement techniques are the same regardless of what is actually recording the mic signal. EQ and dynamic processing skills are the same. The craft and art of mixing is the same... And there are plenty of colleges, courses, books, magazines and websites that aim to teach these things.

You could do a lot worse than take out a subscription to SOS and hang around these forums to start a decent education in the subject, too!

As for equipment, by all means stick with your cassette multitracker if you like what it does as a recorder. Nothing wrong in that, and I'm the first to recognise the benefits of capturing your musical creativity with a simple hardware recorder, away from all the inherent distractions of a computer.

But I would recommend transferring those cassette multitracker recordings into a computer DAW for onwards editing and post-production, primarily because it's the easiest way forward with the lowest introductory costs. And you'll also find it easier to get online support and help as you develop your understanding and skills.

If used sensibly, a DAW won't alter or destroy the character and quality of your source recordings at all, but will allow you to learn the basics of editing, mastering and production without breaking the bank. If, when your skills and knowledge have developed, you want to transfer your interests to the all-analogue world you can -- and by then you'll understand what is required and necessary much better.

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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby desmond » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:43 am

Having grown up through the era when home recording always equalled tape (until sequencing & samplers helped get away from the reliance on it), and hated the limitations at the time, I have some nostalgia and romance from rolling tape, and even the sound of a crap 4-track cassette machine - and even this has had a resurgence of late, with people running their synths/drum machines/modulars through cassettes.

However, this use is mostly tape as "effect", or as part of a workflow, and not the *whole* workflow.

I strongly suspect many people's modern attraction to going back to non-pro analog is precisely for the *effect* of it - the fact that what comes back from the recording is *not* an accurate copy of the source, but is an artifacted, characterful version - a sort of Instagram filter on pictures analogy, for an instant "opinion" on what was recorded - a quick attempt to turn boring reality into "art" without any real effort or intent.

Digital (assuming basic recording competence etc) just spits back at you what you put it - and that can seem rather boring, if you are doing anything other than recording and preserving what happened at the source as accurately as possible..

But it's all a question of perspectives, and workflow to help you achieve your desired results. If that means tape for you, go for it. But as has been mentioned, you'll need to bear in mind way more practical considerations and costs than going with modern gear.

There are good reasons the world has moved on... :thumbup:
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby Guest » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:53 pm

Not sure if’n dis bloke’s for real, anyhoo, you guys keep telling my man that dis or dat (-tape) is better/more real, well, one mans real… the only perfection in this world is mother nature…

I can totally understand where he’s coming from and would encourage him to take this potentially very rewarding avenue…

Me and plenty of others didn’t or never have had the best listening gear etc, it’s about the intervals, this is objective, the listening preference purely subjective, regardless of so-called ‘superior’ quality.

Not even subjective, but indelibly imprinted on ones’ own personal circuit-board, 7inch mono vinyl etc… I really like the sound of cassette, still use it to dis day and every day at that…

BLOODY LUDDITES, oops, oh no, dat’s me innit.
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby blinddrew » Fri Jun 15, 2018 7:13 pm

Thing is LDASHD, it's not actually just about the sound, it's about learning the tools and techniques. And for the points Hugh made again, it's much cheaper to learn and experiment in digital than in analogue.
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby Watchmaker » Fri Jun 15, 2018 7:54 pm

There's quite a bit of discussion on how artists through the years have struggled with the technological limits of their medium. When I first started learning how to record in the early '80's (still learning!) everyone complained about tape hiss and compression artifacts - even on the Otari 24 tracks we were using. (ok, maybe "complaining" is too strong a word - that machine was ridiculous, but you get my point I hope) Then came CDs and the first iterations were, like all first things, buggy as hell and got a deservedly bad rap. The conversion algorithms needed more work, the converters themselves needed more work, and people all through the creation and production process needed to learn how to hear music in the face of brutal clarity. Some got damn good at it, some of us have yet to get there.

But since then, technology has completely eclipsed the human limitations of hearing, while the art itself remains simply in the realm of human perception. Thus, many developers are trying to re-create much of what we complained about because it sounds better. Like the 4 or 5 tape emulations I own - UAD has some really nice sounding plugins.

Same is true in video where HD was all the rage until we realized no one wants to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman in bigger than life clarity. TV shows now add grain filters and desaturate the video to make it more pleasant to watch, even though the raw footage is unbearable.

Point being, the medium is in every way unquestionably superior and less costly than analogue, and allows for far more freedom of creative content than ever before. The question becomes, what artistic choices will you make to take advantage of the possibilities? (fwiw, I love the sound of my ancient cassette four tracks, good ol' Tascam!)
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby Guest » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:12 pm

Seems to moi that the geezer wants a more hands on approach, a human touch, not a mouse’s… and he very much seems to like that ‘special’ analogue sound… and cost don’t come into it… musos ain’t never got enough dosh, und da ‘World An’ ’is Wife’ is permanently after it, innit.

The end-product is all that counts… not the quality of the perceived, ‘quality’ medium that transmits it.
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby blinddrew » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:43 pm

Which is all good, but hopefully analoglife has a good idea of what they're getting themselves into now. After all, it might seem reasonable to assume that there'd be a load of old analogue gear sitting around that you could pick up for peanuts, which might be true, but not for anything good...
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:27 pm

LdashD wrote:Seems to moi that the geezer wants a more hands on approach, a human touch, not a mouse’s…

I always find these comments interesting. Any recording process requires technological intervention and therefore some interface between the operator and that technology. ‘Human touch’, call it ‘hands on’ if you like, is required to operate any process. Is operating a mouse and having more visual feedback, having more control over the outcome less or more ‘human’ than pressing transport controls, using dubious and less reliable media, guessing start and stop points, etc?

I accept some people don’t like to use computers, but you could argue that technologies that are computer-free have less human touch, at least in an intellectual sense. Artistic output need not be compromised by technology - actually I find the opposite to be true.

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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby Guest » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:20 pm

Hmm, try drawing wiv a mouse…

Or if’n you prefer, in my own personal experience I’ve found it a lot easier to manipulate a desks’ EQ directly wiv me (and two of ‘em at that) hands, rather than a mouse, point being, the latter adds hardware that is only necessary for a computer to er, compute… point being, me fingers is connected directly to me bonce, no need for a gratuitous interface…

The guy, if genuine, wants to experience the ART… the dwindling arts and crafts, generally, need to be preserved, not just for nostalgia, also cos they still have something to offer, albeit possibly only aesthetically in dis more than perfect digital age, but that nevertheless is ample reason to pursue such matters…
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby blinddrew » Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:44 am

I sort of agree with both of you, there are times when the accuracy and precision of a mouse and decent graphical interface are what i need. Other times i want to stick my hands on a bank of faders or knobs, close my eyes, and really listen* to the changes i'm making.
But for that i have a couple of control surfaces configured to give me that hands on approach. You don't have to go analogue for that.

* I can get a bit OCD about numbers and shapes on the display if i'm not careful; dialling something in to 960Hz say, and then having to fight the compulsion to tweak it to a nice round 1000.
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby ore_terra » Mon Jun 18, 2018 7:01 am

... but if that would be the question the obvious (for me, of course) answer would be getting a control surface; not "going analogue".
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Re: Analog mastering — questions about learning and gear.

Postby Watchmaker » Mon Jun 18, 2018 10:21 am

Also, if the OP intends anyone to hear the work outside of his living room, it's going to be digitized anyway...especially for mastering.

step one: record, step two: mix, step three: master.

I totally get wanting to master in analog, I don't understand wanting to edit tape though, pain in the ass process just for bragging rights :-P

IMO there are more pros to doing step one and two in digital than there are cons, considering how many options there are to "warm things back up." I don't know many mastering engineers but they all seem to have top of the line analog gear to bring in all the subtle harmonic content that inexperienced recording and mix engineers miss.

One thing fer sher: You will train your ears to the equipment you have and pros can get great sounds out of gear others view as less than spectacular (with enough time on it). Buy some almost top of the line digital gear and commit. In the end the gear, as long as it's not utter shit, won't hamper you in the least. Now the room on the other hand...
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