Benefits of recording to reel to reel

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powertran
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Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by powertran » Fri Feb 07, 2020 4:02 am

I've got an Akai reel to reel. Can anyone advise me on the benefits of recording my analogue modular stuff to tape rather than hard disk. I'd have to record the tape to hard disk eventually anyway. Is there any sonic benefits or should I just record it digitally in the first place?

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BailyDread
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by BailyDread » Fri Feb 07, 2020 5:15 pm

sonic benefits? depends on what you're going for. if you're looking for the qualities imparted by recording to tape (softened transient response, softened high frequency content, possibly some saturation depending on how you drive it), you will certainly find a benefit to recording to tape before you record the tape digitally.

if you're going for clean, then no, because anything in between the source and the converter will degrade the signal in some way. it just depends on if that particular flavor of degradation is what you're looking for.

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Toowoombaus
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by Toowoombaus » Sat Feb 08, 2020 12:37 pm

powertran wrote:
Fri Feb 07, 2020 4:02 am
I've got an Akai reel to reel. Can anyone advise me on the benefits of recording my analogue modular stuff to tape rather than hard disk. I'd have to record the tape to hard disk eventually anyway. Is there any sonic benefits or should I just record it digitally in the first place?
There is definitely a difference!

But there are so many unanswered questions and so much of determining what is “better“ depends on what you’re trying to do and what other tools you have available to you.

First of all can you get the right tape?
Secondly make sure that the machine is biased properly this will affect your sound.
Do you have a good microphone preamplifier? This is probably one of the most important links in the chain.
Don’t have to spend a fortune but if you don’t have a great one I would recommend getting one that is very clean and one that won’t color the sound a lot.

Focusrite ISA TWO is a good example and you can get them used for 500 bucks and they are the mic pres in the Focusrite board that sir George Martin used the Air studios anyway....

You’re going to get a little bit of tape hiss and that’s OK just make sure you send it a nice strong signal so you have a good signal to noise ratio.

The benefits are sometimes difficult to put into words but you can “see into the sound“ with analog more than you can with digital, it has a depth of field. Bass always sounds better on analog to me bass frequencies I mean.

What’s the recording for? Because these are very subtle differences and if you just want a good quality clean noiseless recording maybe digital would be a better way to go... it’s hard to say without knowing the context.

I have a real to reel eight channel machine myself but of course it needs to go to the shop.

Let us know what you end up deciding and tell us some more about your project, sounds exciting!

powertran
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by powertran » Sat Feb 08, 2020 4:56 pm

Thank you very much for the good advice. I'm probably fishing for those answers!
I've got an akai 4000ds mkii. I record to it in stereo live from a basic Mackie mixing desk. I've bounced some recorded tape stuff to hard disk before. It's a very primitive setup.

https://goldair.bandcamp.com/releases

sorry to spam (and it's so miserable) but it's probably the best way to hear how it sounds.

I want to release an album as a physical tape to try to keep the whole thing analogue. Instruments and recording. I like the sound of early sheffield rough trade/mute sound i.e. that eras rough 7 inch vinyl sound. When I try to record solely digitally i don't like the sound.
Even though there is some obvious wow and flutter on the tape recordings I prefer it. It seems like the sound gets kind of distilled once it's on tape if that makes sense.

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Toowoombaus
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by Toowoombaus » Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:33 pm

powertran wrote:
Sat Feb 08, 2020 4:56 pm
Thank you very much for the good advice. I'm probably fishing for those answers!
I've got an akai 4000ds mkii. I record to it in stereo live from a basic Mackie mixing desk. I've bounced some recorded tape stuff to hard disk before. It's a very primitive setup.

https://goldair.bandcamp.com/releases

sorry to spam (and it's so miserable) but it's probably the best way to hear how it sounds.

I want to release an album as a physical tape to try to keep the whole thing analogue. Instruments and recording. I like the sound of early sheffield rough trade/mute sound i.e. that eras rough 7 inch vinyl sound. When I try to record solely digitally i don't like the sound.
Even though there is some obvious wow and flutter on the tape recordings I prefer it. It seems like the sound gets kind of distilled once it's on tape if that makes sense.
Yeah I’m listening to it now sounds good. And I don’t view this is spam you’re sharing the music that you were talking about in the post. Wow and flutter is part of that medium and I I like hearing that.
It doesn’t sound like you have any compression or limiting on the first track, do you?

I watched an interview with Steve Albini and he was talking about an analog compressor that sounds just as good as very expensive vintage ones it’s called “the really nice compressor“ I bought one it’s stereo and it does compression and or limiting. New they are only $175 used about 150 I’ll include a link.
https://reverb.com/item/118104-fmr-audi ... compressor

If you have the budget it might be cool to run your mix through something like this before the tape machine.
One trick is to set the attack time to 25 or 30 ms so the punchy part of the sound comes through and the compression turns on after that.

When I was younger I used to get to go to Bernie Grundman mastering all the time with projects for the company I work for for the mastering sessions he mastered Michael Jackson’s thriller and princes purple rain and a bunch of stuff and he actually mastered my bands demo tape for free one day.
But that was the beginning of me learning how important a little bit of compression is in shaping the sound and the analog ones sound way better than the plug-ins.
Just a thought.

I think it’s cool that you’re doing a whole analog release not many people have the ability to do that even if they wanted to you so I say go for it!

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naturligfunktion
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by naturligfunktion » Tue Feb 11, 2020 3:49 am

I would try to record on it! If it sounds good it may become a part of your sound, who knows :)

Give it a go at let us hear the results!
:sb:
A new track for your enjoyment

powertran
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by powertran » Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:39 am

Thanks for all the advice and encouragement.

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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by Technologear? » Tue Feb 11, 2020 6:42 pm

Listening to your bc link, which is really good, I think it stylistically fits to do anything that makes your recording more gritty and less clean. Anything characterful. I'd try hitting the tape hard; running the mix through pedals and fx on the way to the tape; blasting it through your monitors and recording a stereo mix; anything bolder.
Keep making music.

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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by Analog Prophet » Sun Feb 23, 2020 4:47 am

I had in mind to do the same. Bought a Studer A810, a Revox PR-99 and a Revox B-77 and had great plans to use them for tape saturation. I used them for a period to listening to music (great sound) but sadly didn’t use them for the purpose I bought them - it was more continent to use the UAD tape plugins (make a good work in my ears) in my hybrid studio with an analog mixing console and outboards. And I didn't had space enough so it ended up selling them. Do I regret selling them? Yes, but as I was not using them as I had in mind it was the right thing to do for me.
The best beat of any music
is the beat of your own heart


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DeanG
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by DeanG » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:43 pm

I still have tapes from the seventies done on that machine, really considered it my instrument for electronic music back then. I used the sound on sound feature and bounced tracks a lot and the Akai is still here and still works. I didn't have any great mics, just whatever I could find. Worked for me! Just go for it, if it agrees with you're ear. Tape's gotten expensive since back in my day hasn't it?
I am my own source of uncertainty.

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ersatzplanet
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by ersatzplanet » Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:14 am

duplicate....
Last edited by ersatzplanet on Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
-James

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ersatzplanet
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by ersatzplanet » Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:16 am

*For me* tape machine offer more hassles than they offer advantages. If you want to get the "tape sound" you can master to tape, but keep the multi tracking to the DAW. You can also, depending on the type of music you are making, pass the sound "through" the tape deck by recording and monitoring off the tape. This of course is only practical for background ambience and tracks that don't need strict tracking with other tracks because the time delay imposed. You can spend time shifting the tracks later in the DAW, which can be easily done if you slate them or use time code. Also tape decks make great echo machines. They can have a quality that standard digital echos find hard to emulate. Many DC motor powered reel to reels can easily be converted to a vary-speed echo with the addition of just a pot. I have done this a few time to old Sony decks.

I still have my ReVox A77 but have to say it lays dormant all the time. Maintaining a reel to reel can sometimes be a challenge.
-James

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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by twentyfive2lyfe » Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:33 pm

ersatzplanet wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:16 am
Many DC motor powered reel to reels can easily be converted to a vary-speed echo with the addition of just a pot. I have done this a few time to old Sony decks.
I picked up a Sony TC-353 recently and it actually sounds great after hours of cleaning and lubricating all the moving parts. I'm going to have to look into this; never crossed my mind that it would be a possibility. The echo feature built into it is already super fun.

edit: well shoot, this is an AC capstan motor

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ersatzplanet
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by ersatzplanet » Fri Sep 11, 2020 11:43 am

twentyfive2lyfe wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:33 pm
ersatzplanet wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:16 am
Many DC motor powered reel to reels can easily be converted to a vary-speed echo with the addition of just a pot. I have done this a few time to old Sony decks.
I picked up a Sony TC-353 recently and it actually sounds great after hours of cleaning and lubricating all the moving parts. I'm going to have to look into this; never crossed my mind that it would be a possibility. The echo feature built into it is already super fun.

edit: well shoot, this is an AC capstan motor
That was rare for the older decks. The easy way to tell, without even having to open them up, is there will be a 50/60 cycle switch on decks with a AC motor in them. They used the line frequency as the reference. Only very expensive decks used internal converters. If there is no 50/60 cycle switch, and the deck is not an expensive one, the chances are VERY high it uses a DC capstan motor.
-James

James Husted - Synthwerks, LLC - www.synthwerks.com - info@synthwerks.com - james@synthwerks.com
Synthwerks is a proud member of the Mostly Modular Trade Association (http://www.mostlymodular.com).
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ahmo
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by ahmo » Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:06 pm

I had an 8 track reel to reel for a while. Did a bunch of comparisons of the same recording into computer and the R2R. It definitly sounded different, sometimes better, but as others have said the benefits didn’t outweight the hassles and I didn’t use it very much day to day.

One thing I did notice was how the 8 tracks from the machine were easier to get a good mix on than the equivalent 8 tracks on the computer, on the same mixing board. Also the EQs seemed to respond better, grabbing the right frequencies and not tampering with the vibe of the sound as much on the digital tracks. Perhaps it was the tape compression effect making all the difference. Still not worth the hassle and I sold it before a big move where it wouldn’t have survived transit.

twentyfive2lyfe
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by twentyfive2lyfe » Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:12 pm

ersatzplanet wrote:
Fri Sep 11, 2020 11:43 am
twentyfive2lyfe wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:33 pm
ersatzplanet wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:16 am
Many DC motor powered reel to reels can easily be converted to a vary-speed echo with the addition of just a pot. I have done this a few time to old Sony decks.
I picked up a Sony TC-353 recently and it actually sounds great after hours of cleaning and lubricating all the moving parts. I'm going to have to look into this; never crossed my mind that it would be a possibility. The echo feature built into it is already super fun.

edit: well shoot, this is an AC capstan motor
That was rare for the older decks. The easy way to tell, without even having to open them up, is there will be a 50/60 cycle switch on decks with a AC motor in them. They used the line frequency as the reference. Only very expensive decks used internal converters. If there is no 50/60 cycle switch, and the deck is not an expensive one, the chances are VERY high it uses a DC capstan motor.
There is no external 50/60 cycle switch. But, I saw somewhere on the Tapeheads board a claim that the motor (which was shared among a handful of Sony models) was AC. Should've bookmarked the thread. According to the service manual, the motor is an IC-624H1Image. Need to learn how to read the schematics in the manual better, it might clear it up without me having to open it back up.

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ersatzplanet
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by ersatzplanet » Sat Sep 12, 2020 12:10 am

twentyfive2lyfe wrote:
Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:12 pm
There is no external 50/60 cycle switch. But, I saw somewhere on the Tapeheads board a claim that the motor (which was shared among a handful of Sony models) was AC. Should've bookmarked the thread. According to the service manual, the motor is an IC-624H1Image. Need to learn how to read the schematics in the manual better, it might clear it up without me having to open it back up.
I just downloaded the service manual for the TC-353 and it does look like it has an AC motor and is designed for only 60Hz operation. It only has one motor in it and all the speed stuff is done mechanically. The TC-353 is more of a consumer model than the ones I worked on. The power amp and speakers for home stereo use. The Echo is an nice added feature. Sorry if I got your hopes up.

The most common deck I worked on was the TC-558 series.
-James

James Husted - Synthwerks, LLC - www.synthwerks.com - info@synthwerks.com - james@synthwerks.com
Synthwerks is a proud member of the Mostly Modular Trade Association (http://www.mostlymodular.com).
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twentyfive2lyfe
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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by twentyfive2lyfe » Sat Sep 12, 2020 1:26 pm

ersatzplanet wrote:
Sat Sep 12, 2020 12:10 am
twentyfive2lyfe wrote:
Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:12 pm
There is no external 50/60 cycle switch. But, I saw somewhere on the Tapeheads board a claim that the motor (which was shared among a handful of Sony models) was AC. Should've bookmarked the thread. According to the service manual, the motor is an IC-624H1Image. Need to learn how to read the schematics in the manual better, it might clear it up without me having to open it back up.
I just downloaded the service manual for the TC-353 and it does look like it has an AC motor and is designed for only 60Hz operation. It only has one motor in it and all the speed stuff is done mechanically. The TC-353 is more of a consumer model than the ones I worked on. The power amp and speakers for home stereo use. The Echo is an nice added feature. Sorry if I got your hopes up.

The most common deck I worked on was the TC-558 series.
Thanks for the knowledge!

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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by wackelpeter » Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:34 pm

The Philips N4515 has an DC driven motor. It already has 3 speeds but is easy to mod. There are 3 trimmers for each speed designation and an accompayning fixed resistor. Changed that fixed resistor with an small fixed resistor and a pot in series. So i have access over a certain amount of speed variation for each of the 3 speed stages.

But yes, do not mount those pots flat on the top, like i did. One of the pots got faulty and i have to reassemble the whole to get rid of it. Better punch out a bit of it's housing and put a plate with those pots on it, making it easy re-accessable. You could also make it CV controlled with vactrols but i think this doesn't fit with a delay, where the sound depends on dry signal and delay being in sync somehow. Only way for a more "musical" approach would be to switch between two voltages that had to be precisely dialed in before but also there it depends on what the actual signal hitting the machine does and what it outputs.

Only downside as i have looked it up, it seems really pricey now... Got mine a few years back at the bay for 100 euro.

Maybe if someone is interested i can make a short demo... But it'S already present in almost each recording listed in the silly soundcloud link below...

The only thing i couldn't make it work for, the reason i bought it for, was making it play loops... Tried several things but the motor will stop quickly...

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Re: Benefits of recording to reel to reel

Post by maxl0rd » Fri Sep 18, 2020 11:52 am

ahmo wrote:
Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:06 pm
One thing I did notice was how the 8 tracks from the machine were easier to get a good mix on than the equivalent 8 tracks on the computer, on the same mixing board.
This. Every time.

I noticed this 100% for most rock recordings, but for electronic music it seems to make less difference to me. I think the historical and cultural baggage of so many years of analog recording weigh heavier on certain genres.

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