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Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

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Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby siderealxxx » Mon May 13, 2019 12:46 pm

Hi, at risk of opening the floodgates...

I'm considering running final mixes of a project of mine onto tape.

They are obviously digital productions and I'm seeking some of the qualities of tape that I'm not getting from the plugins (Slate VTM for example) before mastering.

I'm also quite attracted by the SSL Fusion for similar reasons...!

Does anyone know of a decent professional service offering this? Maybe it's been covered somewhere in SOS but not turning anything up.

Thoughts/opinions appreciate! Thanks
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon May 13, 2019 1:18 pm

Doesn't one of our contributors offer a tape archiving service (James Perrett)? Usually that means transferring tape to digital but he will have the kit to do it the other way too.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Dave B » Mon May 13, 2019 2:28 pm

+1 for James.

If you really must... :)

Years ago, mates of mine who had a studio had a couple of clients who did this and they found that their carefully detailed mixes came back noticeably different. The client liked the 'big bottom end', but the engineers found it all unbalanced. So, if you are planning to do this, might I suggest a test run first? That way, you can get a mix back to compare and decide if you want to tweak things a little knowing how the results will change...
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby ken long » Mon May 13, 2019 4:16 pm

A properly set up tape machine, lined up to the stock it's using should be pretty transparent.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon May 13, 2019 4:53 pm

True, but some people want to really hear the tape they're paying for... which means driving it hard and bending the sound quite a lot...
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby ken long » Mon May 13, 2019 5:07 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:True, but some people want to really hear the tape they're paying for... which means driving it hard and bending the sound quite a lot...

Tape layback is a service I did offer and use different brands of tape for this but it's sometimes hit and miss with the clients.

OP seems to think he'll get something from the tape that he's not getting from the plug ins. Though that's true, it might not be the effect they are after.

Expectations don't always mirror reality, IME.

A test run is a good idea but that's not free either.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby siderealxxx » Mon May 13, 2019 5:33 pm

Yep would be looking for a bit of colour obviously, but don't want to sacrifice too much either. As always in audio, juuuuuust the right amount ;)

Thanks for the suggestions, will look into it.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby ken long » Mon May 13, 2019 7:09 pm

siderealxxx wrote:Yep would be looking for a bit of colour obviously, but don't want to sacrifice too much either. As always in audio, juuuuuust the right amount ;)

Thanks for the suggestions, will look into it.

For the price you might be charged for the service, could you stretch a bit and just grab a 15ips Revox B77 off eBay? Get some tape and experiment? There's one on there now that supposedly has undergone a service. You can always throw it back on eBay the price has been pretty steady on those.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Ramirez » Mon May 13, 2019 7:39 pm

I can also offer this service. Send me a PM for details if you’d like.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby innerchord » Tue May 21, 2019 3:52 pm

There are many, many flavours of tape plug-ins available, and most of them can be tested free of charge.

If you can't find what you're looking for in a plug-in, I don't think you'll find it in a real tape machine!

I prefer my plug-ins by far. I can have multiple tape sounds at various points in my project, move them around, adjust and readjust the levels, and never pay a hire fee! They sound the same at night as in the morning, and I don't have to get up earlier to align them. What a great world we live in now!
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby ef37a » Wed May 22, 2019 1:36 am

Never quite understood what "tape sound " is? Is it Studer or Scully? BASF or Ampex?

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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Rich Hanson » Wed May 22, 2019 7:31 am

Or that 'crinkly' sound when, for some reason, the tape has started to slip out from the pitch wheel and capstan and the machine is munching on your edge track...
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby John Willett » Wed May 22, 2019 11:15 am

ef37a wrote:Never quite understood what "tape sound " is? Is it Studer or Scully? BASF or Ampex?

Or the hiss and noise - or the wow of slow speed variations - or the flutter of fast speed variations - or the offset sound of azimuth distortion - or bias noise - or ..... :mrgreen:
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby CS70 » Wed May 22, 2019 11:22 am

Or anything that you have no idea what it is but you think is gonna make a bad mix sound good, but it's really not :D
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Elephone » Wed May 22, 2019 10:13 pm

You could do it 'yourself' virtually, via the MIX:ANALOGUE service. They have lots of other classic gear you can access online too.

https://mixanalog.com

I was thinking of using that service to better compare plugin simulations with the real thing. It'd be interesting, and maybe a way to learn to tweak the plugins to sound better.

Incidentally, is there anyone online who's done that comprehensively, and has plenty before & after .WAV files to download?

There seems to be an extreme lack of interest in recording such comparisons and making them available, yet no lack of interest in how 'real' simulations sound.

I would love to compare the effect of analogue equipment with a variety of dry signals, all carefully done scientifically, including when the equipment is being driven hard, pumping, saturations, comparing first, second, third generation prints to tape and all that, but I appear to be alone in this... and I simply don't have access to the gear!

Cheers.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby James Perrett » Wed May 22, 2019 10:35 pm

ef37a wrote:Never quite understood what "tape sound " is? Is it Studer or Scully? BASF or Ampex?

It could be any of them - though Ampex would be a pain to use nowadays as any Ampex tape would require baking before use. In addition you would need to think about speed and possibly preferred eq standard. For the types of machines and tapes used professionally, the differences are fairly subtle for a single generation but become more apparent after half a dozen generations of tape. In the analogue days you would normally end up with at least 3 generations of tape (multitrack, mixdown and production master) for any commercially released material.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Thu May 23, 2019 1:09 pm

ef37a wrote:Never quite understood what "tape sound " is? Is it Studer or Scully? BASF or Ampex?

Dave.
Exactly, there are so many combinations. Those of us who used it can remember all the pros and cons but these days I suspect it's looked on (listened to?) with rose tinted spectacles (headphones?).

I used to really like the thing that Revox B77 did with Ampex 456 at 15ips, except for the (lots of) hiss and (tiny bit of) flutter.

My Sony TC-200 was an ancient domestic machine, but did a nice top end boost with Maxell chrome tape because the bias was preset for 1967 era tape formulations! It was also a pretty cool guitar amp. Kinda wish I'd kept it so I could model it in a plugin.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Elephone » Thu May 23, 2019 5:39 pm

Well, I don't think everyone looks back on it with rose-tinted spectacles. I know what a pain tape machines and tapes can be, but there is no doubt something to the sound ... just probably, ironically, not so much when you use ultra high-end machines used properly.

I remember Keith Richards on TV saying when they went into the studio, they wanted to drive the tape into the red, but the engineers in lab coats always protested because it's not the 'proper' way to record a clean signal.

That's also why I think tape plugins disappoint many people: They really want that messed up analogue-ness that is difficult (and irrational) to emulate in software.

I mean, The Velvet Underground 'Sunday Morning' has a glockenspiel that clips ...and sounds great if you've not trained yourself to frown on improper use of equipment.

It's similar to how real ink-on-paper block prints and early photographs have something about them, an 'etherealness'. I'm sure you all know what I mean anyway.

But this is where the confusion lies. It's the more extreme effects of tape saturation-compression, wow 'n' flutter, etc that people might be really after, and that might be a better thing to do on individual instruments while multitracking rather than on a stereo master.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby The Elf » Thu May 23, 2019 6:09 pm

Like other old hands in this thread, I'm not convinced that those seeking 'the tape sound' actually know what they want - it's 'make-it-sound-better-magic-wand' time again, I suspect.
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Re: Digital mixes to tape (pre-master) service?

Postby Elephone » Thu May 23, 2019 6:29 pm

I think many are dissatisfied with what they actually sound like, because let's face it, digital recording offers exactly that. Many bands would be better off carefully choosing their gear and getting their sound right live. And then insisting they use that gear in the studio (and ideally at gigs) so they know what they're getting and asking for a true recording first.

Then they can apply post production analogue gear (or plugins) for effect, exactly as an effect rather than thinking of it as anything more 'true'.

Also, I suspect as hearing deteriorates with age, 'clarity' of sound may become more desirable. I suspect that's why ageing musicians can appear to miss the point of their early sound... maybe they simply can't hear it the same way they did in their twenties! I mean, if they used the same guitar amp, are they turning the treble up slightly with every passing year?

Just a thought.
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