Reel to Reel?

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thenoureldin
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Reel to Reel?

Post by thenoureldin » Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:37 pm

Does anyone use reel to reel recorders in their setups?

If so how do they work with hardware exactly? I'm confused and curious about them they look so cool

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ersatzplanet
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by ersatzplanet » Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:21 pm

When I first started playing Electronic music back in the late 70's, the band I was in used R2R decks all the time. Samplers were rare and expensive so we used them for echos and for playing loops. It was a three-piece ensemble and each of us had one or more decks in use next to the synths we had. I had Sony decks modified to do variable speed (easy to do with decks that have DC motors), and a Revox for recording the gig (stereo final mix). I still have them but haven't turned them on in ages. The outputs of the looping decks were fed into synths to be modified and gated and such. I had two Synthi AKS and a VCS3 at the time and it was pretty easy to plug them into those. The Sony was mainly a echo deck for me doing stereo bounce echos. Much nicer than the mono Echoplexes I had (though echoing echos was VERY cool).

The Wave players modules in the market today can easily do all of the loop playing or background sound field uses the decks used to do and do them infinitely better. If you want the "sound" of the old decks, then you just record sounds off an old deck and use that plaid from a modern wav player. The new modules easily offer things that are very hard to do with decks - wide range variable pitch under CV control, easy reverse playing (also under CV control), basic live editing (start point and length), and file selection. With some players that offer granular control, like a Nebulae, you can do stuff not possible on standard decks like change timing without changing pitch or changing pitch without changing timing. The "loops" can also be huge if you want them to be (as big as you can fit on a card on most players).

As far as Echo uses, there are many echo modules out there that can surpass many of the features a deck based one can offer. I used to own a Echophon and it was, with the right controller (a slide pot controller in my case), VERY close to the same playing experience as my Echoplex is, you can play them almost the same way as moving the head stack on the Echoplex. But it also added the feature of pitch change on the echos and more.

The tape decks look cool, and there is something pleasing about using a mechanical device too. Editing tape to make classic Musique concrète pieces can be very rewarding, but the tools we have today can give almost identical results MUCH more easily, and with MUCH less maintenance. Tale decks require care and work or they die easily. Getting parts for them (especially head stacks) is getting harder and harder.

I have a Lot of Wav players in my rig. I have replaced all but two VCOs with them in my modular. I have 2 4ms STS, 2 Nebulae, and a Tesseract Nutella. It is like having a bunch of decks at my disposal.
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Lux A Turner
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Lux A Turner » Sat Oct 03, 2020 7:22 pm

Ah.. reel to reel... I remember it... hazily.

I remember the two Revox A77's we had at college, one of which had been modified with a vari-speed control. I never used them to make / record music, but I remember using them to create sound effects for shows, with tape echo and loops. I remember sitting, hunched over an editing block at 2 o'clock in the morning with knotted shoulder muscles and a razor blade, physically cutting the scratches from an effect recorded from a vinyl BBC FX record and adding a section of clear tape at the end of each effect, to trigger the auto-stop. I remember accidentally brushing against a mic. stand that I'd just spent several minutes positioning just right, to get the correct tension for a 30 second tape loop and having to spend several minutes more positioning it again (30 seconds @ 7.5 inches per second = a loop of 225 inches / 18.75 feet).

In short: I remember it being a total pain in the arse. I cannot tell you how glad I am that digital recording technology and ridiculously fast desktop computers have been invented since then. Now I can try out an idea in seconds, that once would have taken ages to set up, then just Ctrl +Z my way back out of it if it doesn't work out and try out something totally different, at random.

It's like... do I want to invest in a classic roadster, like an MGB, which I'll have to love and tweak and care for myself every day; or do I just want to slip into an MX-5 (Miata) and drive, drive, drive?



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ersatzplanet
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by ersatzplanet » Sun Oct 04, 2020 11:50 am

Lux A Turner wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 7:22 pm
It's like... do I want to invest in a classic roadster, like an MGB, which I'll have to love and tweak and care for myself every day; or do I just want to slip into an MX-5 (Miata) and drive, drive, drive?
This is the PERFECT analogy for it. Tape decks LOOK fucking cool, and the physicality of playing them and such has a certain lure, but maintaining them so you can run them at a consistent good level, is a real pain. And getting spare parts is a real pain.
-James

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Hyberus » Sun Oct 04, 2020 12:13 pm

I sometimes use two Akai DS4000s for slightly wobbly mock Frippertronics type stuff.

Such as

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by kindredlost » Tue Oct 06, 2020 7:48 am

A project band I was in in the 70's used decks quite a bit. Mainly for recording our work but also as tools for looping or other effects. Samplers were prohibitively expensive and even the most modest stomp box pedals were pretty pricey so things like chorus/flanging and reverse effects were things we tried to do with the decks. One of my favorite machines was the Dokorder 8140 four channel R2R. It was good quality and affordable but there are not as many still on the market. It had echo and SOS built right in on the front panel which was a popular use for these cheaper four channel decks.

I totally agree with James assessment of the convenience of modern digital circuitry to do what was a labor intensive task back when. When these modules and software applications became available I jumped all over them and was amazed at how easy it was to derive an almost exact effect. I'm especially fond of some of the Euro modules from Make Noise but there are many good vendors and designers making excellent modules, software apps and pedals. The beauty of it is there is a built in bias towards integrating control voltages into the modules. That is something which was very difficult to do with a physical tape unit. You had to have the nerve to build gear and hack your way into some of those machines in order to use them with a control voltage. Of course reverse was a matter of turning the tape around and flanging or chorus would send the engineer home with a oxide stained thumb that night. LOL

There is still something magical about using tape to do some sonic effects which are still not quite the same as what I can get otherwise from modern means. Tape feedback echo and SOS degradation are so much more ubiquitous and a captive part of the domain of magnetic tape. It takes a bit of careful understanding of the properties of how tape works to get the same effect from digital platforms. Not at all impossible but it does take a bit of planning whereas it just happens as a matter of nature in the tape world.

If you are dead set on using tape as an effect then you should do it as a learning experience but my guess is you will have a net return of respecting the convenience of digital sound manipulation after exploring the tape realm.

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by smetak » Tue Oct 06, 2020 9:35 am

I thought about R2R myself, but was quickly discouraged by price and general hassle on format and equipment.

A cheaper and easier way, if interested, is getting a three-head cassette player and hook it onto a mixer.

The best solution would be an old Marantz professional recorder, a PMD 200 series will do.

In addition, I've stumbled onto this simple solution to substitute the mixer:

http://proto-schlock.blogspot.com/2015/ ... delay.html

And have fun!

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ersatzplanet
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by ersatzplanet » Tue Oct 06, 2020 10:27 am

kindredlost wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 7:48 am
There is still something magical about using tape to do some sonic effects which are still not quite the same as what I can get otherwise from modern means. Tape feedback echo and SOS degradation are so much more ubiquitous and a captive part of the domain of magnetic tape. It takes a bit of careful understanding of the properties of how tape works to get the same effect from digital platforms. Not at all impossible but it does take a bit of planning whereas it just happens as a matter of nature in the tape world.
Yes tape echo has a certain "warmth" that most digital echos don't have. There are some great digital echos though, that are designed to emulate the tape echos, and do it really well too. I have had some success with echos that allow you to patch things into the feedback loop (or if you manually set that up) and then with the right subtle filters, you can get VERY close to the harmonic "tape fade" that happens in tape echos, where the echos slowly start to lose their harmonic content on each repeat. Still, no heads to wear out, and no tapes to replace!
-James

James Husted - Synthwerks, LLC - www.synthwerks.com - info@synthwerks.com - james@synthwerks.com
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Hyberus » Tue Oct 06, 2020 12:31 pm

One way I've found quite successful in emulating tape delay digitally is with the Ibanez DM2000, which has a send and return loop in the feedback chain. Whack a low pass filter into that, tweak the settings a bit et voila. For added tapiness put a tiny amount of modulation on it.
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Flounderguts » Tue Oct 06, 2020 3:00 pm

I use R2R (an Akai 280D-SS) for some of my stuff. I record theremin and drum loops and then play them back. Because the brake and takeup motors are so complex on my deck, I rigged up a foot pedal that uses a bike shift cable to slow down the track by applying the manual brake to the feed and capstan. Speeding up the tracks doesn't interest me much, but I can get stuff really slow with the manual braking.

I dream of doing bowed tracks as well, but I never have...hard to do with 7" reels.

I paid $100 for my Akai, and it does pretty echo stuff as well, but I prefer using my MOFX and echo rockit for more immediacy.
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by doombient.music » Tue Oct 06, 2020 4:18 pm

Returned to using two-, four-, and eight-track tape recorders out of necessity (tape restauration job, digitising and re-mastering a heap of old tapes from the heritage of a notable American EM composer who passed away some fifteen years ago).

Caught the virus again (after having dabbled with my dad's ReVox A77 in the 1980s) after refurbishing a Tascam 38 and Tascam 32 -- lovely sound with good tapes, plus some external noise reduction (like a DBX224X). The rather anemic-sounding recordings of my first band album sound impressive after an SM900 treatment.

I enjoy combining the best of both worlds, analogue tape and ProTools. The price of tape is ridiculous, to say the least, but BASF and AGFA hold up better than Ampex and some batches of Quantegy.

Stephen
Last edited by doombient.music on Mon Oct 12, 2020 6:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Luap » Tue Oct 06, 2020 4:53 pm

I loved the sound of the old Revox tape machines I used to mess about with at college many years ago. But my hearing is knackered these days, so any sonic benefits of the things are largely wasted on me now. So how (and why!?) on earth I just landed myself a Revox A77 is anyones guess..
:help:

I think they have mostly become the new gramophone, in that few people actually use them, but they are interesting ornamental talking pieces..

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Cjuried » Mon Oct 12, 2020 4:36 pm

doombient.music wrote:
Tue Oct 06, 2020 4:18 pm
Returned to using two-, four-, and eight-track tape recorders out of necessity (tape restauration job, digitising and re-mastering a heap of old tapes from the heritage of a notable American EM composer who passed away some fifteen years).

Caught the virus again (after having dabbled with my dad's ReVox A77 in the 1980s) after refurbishing a Tascam 38 and Tascam 32 -- lovely sound with good tapes, plus some external noise reduction (like a DBX224X). The rather anemic-sounding recordings of my first band album sound impressive after an SM900 treatment.

I enjoy combining the best of both worlds, analogue tape and ProTools. The price of tape is ridiculous, to say the least, but BASF and AGFA hold up better than Ampex and some batches of Quantegy.

Stephen

Me, too! Have two Studer A80-24 Track decks, two B-67's, and A807, MX5050 and a a beautiful collection of Ampex, Scully and MCI decks. I just parted out a Tascam 38 and still have some parts available, if you need spares for you 38 and/or 32...

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Just me » Fri Oct 16, 2020 8:53 pm

I run a pair of Otari MX-5050's. I can make them work. I've never been able to make music with a computer.
One thing you can't get with digital is that smooth fidelity loss when bouncing tracks. In moderation it is magic. Just listen to TD Rubycon.
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Blairio » Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:43 am

Tape's properties go well beyond delays, echoes and modulation effects. Long after digital multitrack recording became the norm in studios, drum mixes were bounced to tape ( usually 1/2 inch stereo ) to take advantage of the compression and saturation that recording to tape affords.

Different decks and different tape brands imparted their own sound, a bit like different film stock did for pre-digital photography.

So I am suggesting that perhaps it is wrong to focus on reel to reel recorders as FX units, though I will grant that many a soloists performance has been enhanced by the Wem "Copycat" tape loop delay.

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by doombient.music » Sat Oct 17, 2020 11:16 am

Blairio wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:43 am
Tape's properties go well beyond delays, echoes and modulation effects. Long after digital multitrack recording became the norm in studios, drum mixes were bounced to tape ( usually 1/2 inch stereo ) to take advantage of the compression and saturation that recording to tape affords. [...]
As Flood is reported to say, "If something doesn't sound that interesting the way it is, I'll dub it to 1" stereo tape at 30 IPS, using Dolby SR".

Stephen

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Blairio » Sat Oct 17, 2020 1:28 pm

doombient.music wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 11:16 am
Blairio wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:43 am
Tape's properties go well beyond delays, echoes and modulation effects. Long after digital multitrack recording became the norm in studios, drum mixes were bounced to tape ( usually 1/2 inch stereo ) to take advantage of the compression and saturation that recording to tape affords. [...]
As Flood is reported to say, "If something doesn't sound that interesting the way it is, I'll dub it to 1" stereo tape at 30 IPS, using Dolby SR".

Stephen
That is an interesting choice. 2 track on 1 inch tape at 30ips with SR would have been the highest fidelity that analog recording technology afforded from mid 80's through to the mid 90's, and beyond. You would have to do something pretty extreme level-wise to significantly alter the character of the sound coming out of the SR units.

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by doombient.music » Sat Oct 17, 2020 5:56 pm

Blairio wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 1:28 pm
doombient.music wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 11:16 am
Blairio wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:43 am
Tape's properties go well beyond delays, echoes and modulation effects. Long after digital multitrack recording became the norm in studios, drum mixes were bounced to tape ( usually 1/2 inch stereo ) to take advantage of the compression and saturation that recording to tape affords. [...]
As Flood is reported to say, "If something doesn't sound that interesting the way it is, I'll dub it to 1" stereo tape at 30 IPS, using Dolby SR".

Stephen
That is an interesting choice. 2 track on 1 inch tape at 30ips with SR would have been the highest fidelity that analog recording technology afforded from mid 80's through to the mid 90's, and beyond. You would have to do something pretty extreme level-wise to significantly alter the character of the sound coming out of the SR units.
I think that's what he would (ab)use it for -- excessive levels, tape saturation, and compression. Or general audio mayhem.

Stephen

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by flashheart » Sat Oct 17, 2020 6:20 pm

1/2" 2 track was used a fair bit, but TBH never heard of 2 track on 1". If it did exist I doubt there'd be any need for Dolby SR as well.
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Flounderguts » Sat Oct 17, 2020 6:53 pm

flashheart wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 6:20 pm
If it did exist I doubt there'd be any need for Dolby SR as well.
Otari made the MX-7800 as an 8 track, but 2 track machines were also available in the 7800 series, and they would play formats up to 2" at 30 ips. Also, 7800 series units produced after 1982 would have been custom built and could have Dolby if produced after 1986. Broadcast machines were often in odd formats like that.

However, I suspect the machine in question was the MTR-100A, an Otari 24 track machine with digital carriage control. Full track/head control was also a feature, and 2 track would be possible, either using just 2 tracks of 24 or with 12 track splits. I'm not a recording engineer, but I know a chap that uses techniques just like that in his studio. Interestingly, that machine was also offered with optional Dolby SR/A. Magnificent beasts, and all too often thrown into landfills by studio employees that simply have no idea what they are looking at.

Check out this old ad for one :yay:

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by doombient.music » Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:56 am

flashheart wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 6:20 pm
1/2" 2 track was used a fair bit, but TBH never heard of 2 track on 1". If it did exist I doubt there'd be any need for Dolby SR as well.
I suppose you might as well use an eight-track 1" recorder and use only two tracks on it which are far enough apart to avoid (undesired) crosstalk.

I seem to remember to have come across that Flood quote in that Good Vibrations -- The History Of Record Production book, many moons ago.

Stephen

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Blairio » Sun Oct 18, 2020 8:38 am

doombient.music wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:56 am
flashheart wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 6:20 pm
1/2" 2 track was used a fair bit, but TBH never heard of 2 track on 1". If it did exist I doubt there'd be any need for Dolby SR as well.
I suppose you might as well use an eight-track 1" recorder and use only two tracks on it which are far enough apart to avoid (undesired) crosstalk.

I seem to remember to have come across that Flood quote in that Good Vibrations -- The History Of Record Production book, many moons ago.

Stephen
1 inch 8 track could yield very good sonic results, with more 'real estate' per individual track than the standard 2 inch 24 track. From memory, John Martyn's seminal 1973 album 'Solid Air' was recorded on 1 inch 8 track.

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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by mrbloor » Sun Oct 18, 2020 8:50 am

I use 2 x Revox A77's in an expanded 'Time Lag Accumulation patch. There is a large tape loop connected between the tape decks, multiple delay lines are added and the sound goes out to multiple resonators connected to cymbals on the floor and a series of small amps. It's an amazing system to perform on and pretty unpredictable, I can get lost for hours trying to figure out where the sound will erupt from next.
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by Fabong » Sun Oct 18, 2020 9:04 am

I'd love to have an old 4-track tape machine but they are scary for the uninitiated!
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Re: Reel to Reel?

Post by doombient.music » Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:50 pm

Fabong wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 9:04 am
I'd love to have an old 4-track tape machine but they are scary for the uninitiated!
You can buy my re-capped Teac 3440. If shipping across the Big Pond doesn't deter you, that is.

Quite easy to operate. A lot easier than any DAW -- that's why I use them. They are essentially idiot-proof.

Stephen

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