recorded an album, I'll dump the whole thing to analog before mixing
it. And...I almost always use analog tape for mastering."
Gus Dudgeon: producer /
engineer: Elton John, David Bowie, etc
Q) I want to know if its possible
to get a top quality
project from a PC recording software from start to
finish. Some examples Cooledit Pro, Paris, and Cakewalk9. -Sean
In either the digital or analog world, the
most important part of a recording is the quality of the source (like
namely in-tune vocals, fine instruments, great songs, tight
performances, good track structure/arrangements, good acoustics, mics,
well-played grooves, etc.). With
a great source, the listener is always drawn into the music.
Certainly, the sound of analog is revered, but the convenience and
economy of digital is high on everyone's list.
An aspect of PC
digital recording is that
the lower the
sampling rate, the more of a "broken-up" effect the sound
can have. The highs sound more harsh and edgy, the bottom is less
round and solid, and the upper-mids don't stay as warm and
musical when mastering eq is applied. Using
a higher sampling rate (from 48k to 96k) helps, and using a Big Ben or
other box to digitally clock your computer helps get a more "analog"
sound -- and of course Separations
help get a less "collapsed" sound from digital summing (64 bit systems
will be interesting to watch
mean a number of things -- it could be an
all-analog project recorded with a Neve, API, D&R, SSL or vintage
Trident console, mixed to 1/2" analog tape -- it could mean a 96k 24
bit DAW project that's recorded in one of the remaining "A-list"
studios and summed in the analog domain -- it could mean all samples
and loops in a home recording environment that's well mixed and
mastered, etc. One of my favorite formats is still analog
tape. The bottom is solid, the top is smooth and it's natural
"compression" gives body and level to the sound.
Key: Analog is *infinite*
sampling. There are no gaps in the sound. Analog "holds" the bottom end
better, and adds a sweetness to the top end that I still haven't heard
from any black "analog emulation" box. Analog tape compression gives
more emotion to the sound (gads, now we're getting esoteric)!
Keep referencing back to commercial CDs in your studio to keep an eye
on the smooth sound of pro-mastered records. That way you're
keeping your ears tuned to top quality.
Q) Is it
around $1,800.00 to
convert the head the existing 1/4" head and assembly to 1/2" or will
1/4" offer me the low end warmth and necessary frequency response that
I'm looking for? -OD from the UK
Either 1/4" or
give you good sound and warmth, as well
as more silky highs than digital. 1/2" is more stable and has a better
signal-to-noise ratio. The analog sound will be there in either format.
through a Finalizer
(yeah, I hate what it does to my mix too, but I need my CD-R to be loud
for those A&R guys).
It's a common
clients/a&r want hotter
reference copies... not understanding that a more dynamic mix (with
less overall level) is a better source at mastering time. Print
versions with and without the Finalizer, that way you're covered both
Q) I have
blackface recorders and
and old Tascam 80-8 1/2 inch 8 track. Should I track to the adats and
mix to the 1/2 inch? Or should I track drums and whatever else I can
fit on the 1/2 and transfer them to adat? The adats are to bright and
harsh sounding and I want to warm up the sound somehow with 80-8. -Jeff
I would track
drums/bass/whatever to the 1/2" then transfer to adat.
Save that 1/2" tape. Then I'd stripe another 1/2" tape with SMPTE time
code on track 8. Slave the ADAT via a BRC to the 1/2" time code, then
record your next six tracks on 1-6 of the 1/2" machine.
that over to
your 2nd ADAT, then record the remaining
tracks on 1/2" and mix to a dat machine, 2 track analog, or analog-in
of a CD burner. If you only have 16 track capability, do the drums on 4
tracks - kic, snare, DL-DR (all other drum mikes in a congruent stereo
image). You can try mixing to two tracks of the 1/2", but it may add
some noise. One layer of analog will help the whole sound. Use Emtec
(BASF) 911 or Quantegy GP9 tape (see my page for alignment tips) and maybe rent a tube
compressor to run the vocals through at mix time.
Using tube mic
mics, and some vintage gear can help warm
things up too. I also like some warmer plug in's like ones found
in the UAD cards.
Q) How do you determine the best level
tape saturation? -Aaron
Tape saturation is one
of those buzz words that is just a name for a
different tone. It's like the overdrive on a guitar amplifier. If you
asked me how much overdrive is best for guitar, I'd say it depends on
the song, your taste, and the audience you're trying to reach. Well,
tape saturation just changes the sound. The hotter the input level
going to tape, the more saturation you'll get. Use your ears, and try
different amounts of record/input level to see what suits you.
the more record
level, the less tape hiss, but also, you get
more crosstalk and more print-through you get (which mud's up the
sound). Crosstalk is how much of one channel bleeds into an adjacent
track, usually from about 400hz and down. The way you lessen it is to
record softer or put more physical space between the adjacent tracks.
This is why it's good to record similar instruments closer together on
analog tape, so that any crosstalk is musically more related. So...
don't record the bass next to the lead vocal, or big percussive drum
tracks next to your smpte time code track.... and don't record your
smpte track at 0 VU right next to a delicate flute solo. Smpte sounds
awful bleeding into anything!
happens when you store analog tape. Just like a
magnet held close to the tip of a screwdriver will magnetize the end of
the screwdriver, magnetic tape held/stored next to another piece of
magnetic tape will pick up some of the magnetic energy from the other
layer of tape. In other words, some of the first 16 bars of your song
is printed *through* the tape onto the next 16 bars, and the next 16
bars and so forth.
hotter the record
level (leading to more possible tape saturation) the more crosstalk and
print-through you will get. Decreasing the playback levels (a normal
part of elevated tape alignment technique) will not change these
conditions. How much *record* level is the sole determining factor.
Q) I'm currently using a Tascam 424. Can
I get decent results or am I wasting my time?
course the results can
be decent! Well, depending on who you play
the demo for and what *they* are looking for. If you saturate the heck
out of a tape for a purist/classical label, they may tell you to take a
hike. If you don't hit hit the tape hard and the label is looking for a
lo-fi punk thing, it could have a *slight* factor in the response you
get.... but frankly, I think if your material is a knockout and you've
got great attitude and performance... the amount of tape saturation (or
lack thereof) won't be a deciding factor.
you are a
musician/writer, your demo should demonstrate your level
of proficiency in the areas of (1) song writing (2) performances (3)
star quality (4) production/presentation (this is where mastering is
important) (5) attitude/business commitment and (lastly) your
you are an
engineer/producer/studio owner, your demo should
demonstrate that list in reverse order (interchanging
engineering/production as required). Musicians get signed because of
their music. Engineer/producers get signed because they use talent and
the right tools to make a recording that grabs people's attention and
is a superior sound vehicle that captures the expression of the artist.
Tape saturation is simply another tool that's part of your sound
palette. (Learn how to align a 2-track analog tape machine here.)
Q: I've just spent hours studying and reflecting on your incredible
tips and frankly, I want to hire you. Do I even need to be there for
the mastering session? -Mark
happy for you to be
here if you prefer, and it's fine if you
would prefer to just send in your mixes (and/or Separations). When you
send me your project, send me
either 3 of your favorite cds, or a compilation CDR with 4-5 songs on
them from commercial artists that you really dig the sound of. We'll
talk on the phone once I hear your stuff and what you send me, and I'm
sure you'll feel very comfortable as we progress.
Q) I plan on mixing in Pro tools at a "real
studio". After the mix is done and is a stereo file sitting on the
computer, what should I transfer this too? (DAT CDR..). -Curtis
is to do 24 bit stereo
files along with multi-stems (if you're on
a DAW) - Masterlink is great, but here's more mix format
Is there any benefit of sending this out to
1/2 Analog and using that as my input to the mastering stage?
- with a professionally
balanced mix, the analog "compression"
sounds great - it adds body and
"apparent level", sweetens the highs, gives a woodier sound to snare
drum and warmth to guitars and vocals. Holds bass better, too. Separations
have many advantages when it
comes to addressing smoothness on particular tracks that may need it
more than other tracks.
you can still get analog tape (Quantegy bites the dust?)
and that the studio is
very on top of their alignment procedures.
Ask the engineer to be very specific about how their machines are
aligned, as it's easy to say "Yes, it's aligned." (when it's really
just set the way their tech set it 6 months ago). Ask what curve they
use at each speed, do they check azimuth before every session, what
level are they elevated to, what kind of machine, what kind of shape
are the heads in, are they able to get BASF 900 for you... you should
get very confident sounding answers to all of these questions. Also be
sure they are taking the signal directly off the playback head, not
just going through the input electronics. Oh, and buy a roll of virgin
tape for your session - "renting" used tape for your mix is risky at
Actually go the extra
measure and buy enough tape to mix your whole album on (go 15 ips if
its better for your budget). Use your analog tapes for mastering, and
just make transfers to dat or CDR as backup. After you've put the songs
in order, leader between each song, but make SURE you don't edit the
tape at the exact beginnings (or endings) of the songs. Leave 15
seconds pre/post dead air around the song - there can be pre-roll
noise. The beginnings and spread between songs can be fixed in
Q) Will baking etc. be able to revive my
456 and 499 masters for remixing later on, or should I back them up by
transferring over to BASF 900? -Jeff
will revive them
later. However, I'd plan on either backing them
up when you do play them (baked) again, or sooner if you think it's
going to be a while till you play them.
anymore, but they have someone who does, and they
foot the bill (except for the shipping). The question is whether
they'll still be doing that in 10 years. After a while they may not.
The baking technique is simple - convection oven maintaining perfect
temperature for long periods of time.
sometimes works for the moment, but then the
loosened up tape gets stickier, so be prepared to do whatever seems the
safest at the moment for the results you want to last.
Created 3/12/99 •
cutting hot cds
Q&A - What was it
made that authentic '60's sound?
Get ready for MASTER QUALITY
High Resolution Audio sold online!