KMR Audio have just announced that they will be taking on the UK distribution of an innovative product made by US company Endless Analog (www.endlessanalog.com), called CLASP (Closed Loop Analogue Signal Processing). Developed by engineer Chris Estes, CLASP is a unique concept designed to integrate open-reel tape recorders into DAW-based recording systems using a combination of hardware and software, and it does so in a number of very clever ways.
On the hardware side, an innocuous-looking 2U box provides all the analogue ins and outs on 12 D-sub connectors, and these connect to your tape machine’s sends and returns (up to 24 channels), and your DAW’s inputs and outputs (again, up to 24 of each). A further D-sub is designed to connect to your tape machine’s remote control input, while a pair of MIDI sockets hook up to Pro Tools.
An RTAS plug-in (of which only one needs to be loaded, and which can be instantiated anywhere in a Pro Tools project) sends machine control data to your tape recorder (including transport control), shows how much time is left on the tape in use, and also selects between three monitoring modes (of which more later).
The audio signal path is as follows: signals from a mixer, mic preamp or line-level source (or whatever you happen to be recording) go into the 2U CLASP box’s line inputs, and are then split and sent to two destinations: your mixer (for latency-free monitoring, should you require it), and the tape recorder’s inputs. Once the signal has been recorded to tape, a signal from the tape machine’s repro head is sent to Pro Tools (so the audio ultimately captured benefits from all the sonic attributes of tape recording).
The really clever bit, however, is the way in which CLASP deals with latency: when the unit is first hooked up and configured, the specific model of tape recorder must be selected in the plug-in. The plug-in then calculates the amount of delay caused by the tape recorder’s transport mechanism, the gap between the record and repro heads, and the tape speed in use (this can be changed very easily once CLASP is calibrated). It even compensates for wow and flutter, and the final calculated delay is said to be accurate down to a single sample. This latency figure is then sent to the plug-in, which, thanks to some cunning reverse-engineering of Mackie’s HUI protocol, time-stamps all audio recorded through CLASP so that it is perfectly in sync with Pro Tools, and your project’s existing audio.
Endless Analog say that their CLASP system combines all the plus points of analogue recording with the convenience of DAW workflow, and as far as we could tell at a recent demonstration, this did indeed seem to be the case. For example, the fact that incoming audio is time-stamped to line up perfectly with audio that has already been recorded means that it’s possible to perform gapless drop-ins, while the ability to change tape speeds mid-session allows you to track some instruments at 15ips, and others at 30ips (for example), so you can take advantage of the different sonic properties of various tape speeds in one song.
With its UK RRP of £6000, the Endless Analog CLASP is obviously targeted towards high-end facilities, but for studios that regularly record to tape, it does have its economic benefits. Because the tape tends to simply record for its duration before being rewound back to the beginning, it doesn’t get the additional stress of being repeatedly fast-forwarded and rewound, as would happen if you were just using the tape machine on its own, so tape reels should last much longer. What’s more, this comparatively gentle use of the recorders transport controls should minimise wear and tear, and mean fewer calls to your technician.
Already in use by such high-profile US engineers as Denis Savage, Chuck Ainlay and Lenny Kravitz, Endless Analog’s CLASP system should be hitting UK shores around February. KMR say that they will be demonstrating the system at their main London premises from mid-February, though if you want a demonstration at your own studio, Endless Analog founder Chris Estes will be touring the UK with the CLASP system from March. To book a demonstration, call KMR on +44 (0)20 8445 2446.