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Recording to tape is sooo overrated!
Old 23rd June 2016
  #1
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Glenn Bucci's Avatar
 
45 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Recording to tape is sooo overrated!

Personally I like recording in digital much better than tape. This so called "magic" tape gives is rubbish.

Some of the things I don't like about recording with tape:
1. Tape hiss,
2. Realign tape heads
3. demagnetizing the heads
3. DBX noise reduction changing the overall sound of the music. Dolby C was used on cheaper reel to reel units which was even worse.
4. The more you play a song over and over you start losing the quality of the recording.
5. Splicing tape is a pain. Cut and paste inside a DAW so much easier, faster and non distructive.
6. Trying to jump to a particular section of the song was time consuming. With DAW's you can loop a section and take multiple takes which you could not do with tape.
7. Cost of the tape and making sure the storage of it is done properly.

Sure there are nice things as well like it could help gel a mix. Also back in the day if I choose 3M over 456 I would obtain a different sound as well as what tape speed was used. You could also push the signal and get more compression as an effect. However the 7 cons are much more than the pros.

The UAD Studer or Oxide tape plug ins are a great way to add some smoothness back on a recording. Portico, Cranesong, and some other hardware also can be another option as well.
Today's converters don't sound harsh, but just clear and detailed.

If you love recording with tape I know why. Not trying to change anyone's mind, but just giving my perspective. Reordered with tape for 10 years before going to digital. It took a while for converters and technology to improve to where I preferred digital

Last edited by Glenn Bucci; 23rd June 2016 at 03:42 AM..
Old 23rd June 2016
  #2
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🎧 5 years
I did mostly location recording to tape using Nagra and Revox machines, we always tried to get the highest detail and lowest noise that tape was capable of. The recording levels were set near the tape limits to keep noise low, it's been so long ago I don't recall what they were. Doing the same thing now but using digital Nagra recorders to get highest detail and low noise. However no more tapes that have to be baked and far superior quality, this is the sound we were trying to get with our reel to reel recordings. And all the things that Glenn said.
Old 23rd June 2016
  #3
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chrischoir's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Old 23rd June 2016
  #4
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waxman's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Put a fork in it...
Old 23rd June 2016 | Show parent
  #5
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Wizzomixer's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Yes, I don't miss using tape either. Back in the late 80s, early 90s, I had three studios to look after. That meant 30ips, 15ips, and 7.5ips alignment for an Ampex MM1200 2" 16 track, an Ampex MM1200 1" 8 track, an MCI 1" 8 track, and eight MCI quarter inch stereo machines. Then Pro Tools TDM arrived in 1994. I haven't looked back.
Old 23rd June 2016
  #6
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Me_Likey's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I was thinking about this the other day. I had an hour or so to kill, so I figured I'd work on a project with that time. I fired up the DAW and was ready to work. Back in the tape days, I'd need to find the correct reel, clean the heads (and let them dry), thread the tape, rewind from tails out, find the spot on the tape I wanted to work on, and then worry about all the extra passes I was putting on my $100 reel of tape. Not a huge deal, but I probably would have passed on working on the project with only an hour to kill. Long live digital.
Old 23rd June 2016
  #7
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theblue1's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Different people value different sonic characteristics. I get why a lot of folks, particularly those working in rock, like some aspects of the tape experience. Tape saturation, in particular, is highly valued by many for its characteristic timbral and dynamic ballistics. And even if many don't like some of the other more noticeable aspects of tape work, like hiss, that's often considered an acceptable tradeoff. But other negative aspects are talked about less by many -- and for some, they can be a deal-breaker.

I've owned five multitrack reel recorders over the years. Perhaps if one or more had been top end machines in perfect working order, my feelings looking back might be more charitable. There's no question I didn't much like tape hiss and lack of frequency response linearity -- they're pretty obvious. But once I'd settled into digital recording in the 1990s, I realized that the same time domain problems that had always made me hate cassettes (though I owned many decks over the years, several of them quite expensive) had been considerably more subtly but nonetheless certainly affecting all my recordings.*

Hiss and frequency issues may be most noticeable for many but, for me, it's the time domain issues that really drag down tape and to a lesser extent grooved records. (Not everything is a wild, wobbly 70s Jamaican prssing -- but no center hole is ever 'perfectly' centered. Of course, since so much modern vinyl was cut from tape masters, it's a double whammy there.)

Wow and flutter can be pretty obvious, but not that long ago I was able to get an interesting perspective on the more subtle time domain problem of head scrape. I'd known about head scrape on some level for years, but never thought much about it, since there wasn't much I could do, and its effects (crudely put, a sort of very high frequency 'micro-flutter') were often difficult to sort out by ear.

But in reading about the Plangent time-domain-oriented restoration process for tape and disc masters, I came across some demonstration comparisons between original releases and Plangent-processed versions. Most were the sort of night-and-day examples sales directors love -- old recordings with lots of wow 'magically' restored to seemingly rock solid timing -- but the one that really got me intrigued was one of the most subtle, a snippet of Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star."

EW&F had a rep for slick, glossy recordings -- and this is -- but once the Plangent Process had removed the extremely high frequency time distortions caused by head scrape, the resulting sound was better still, with a smoother sound, resulting largely from a reduction in intermodulation distortion that had been a byproduct of very subtle headscrape-caused time domain issues. http://www.plangentprocesses.com/examples.htm


* Actually, poor wow and flutter was one of the first disappointments when I got my first stereo tape deck. It was pretty bad. Not as horrible as the new stereo cassette decks that were just emerging at the time [which were hideous] but not good. But it was relatively inexpensive for the time, cheapest name brand stereo deck I could find (a Sony); in today's dollars it cost about $850 ($130 in 1969; my ~minimum wage job paid $1.20/hr. Ironically, the first stereo cassette deck I saw -- while I was in picking up my own deck, actually, not just sounded fluttery as hell, but was very expensive.
Old 23rd June 2016
  #8
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IanBSC's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Most of my experience with tape was with a Studer A827 Gold, and it didn't have many problems. At 30ips the sonics were badass. I do miss it, and actually the slower pace in the studio the tape transport created, being focused more on performance than edits.

I think the preference has a lot to do with the type of music. A minimal live-ish band situation works a lot better with tape than does dance pop.

Although digital is more appropriate for a lot of things and requires less upkeep, I don't find that any of the emulation plugins sound as good. I usually just track through the UBK Fatso if I want it digital tracks a little smoother.
Old 23rd June 2016
  #9
Deleted 9e29a36
Guest
I still record to tape. That's what I do. And I'm a Southerner, so I'm not going to get in a hurry, irrespective of what I'm laying down.

Hell, maw still uses a Singer foot-powered sewing apparatus.

Last edited by Deleted 9e29a36; 23rd June 2016 at 06:06 PM.. Reason: Afterthoughts abound.
Old 23rd June 2016
  #10
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oceantracks's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Don't forget that when you are talking about a truly pro analog tape recording, as from a major artist of the time or whatever, they weren't just making the album with a tape machine.

The typical analog studio had a great board, great mics, and great outboard to go with it, not a TLM mic and a bunch of WAVES plug ins.

Yes the other bits, like editing were a pain, but believe it or not every session didn't involved editing. I'm willing to bet (if it could be proved) that the amount of editing done now is directly a result of ....."because we can" rather than "because we HAVE to" today.


TH
Old 23rd June 2016 | Show parent
  #11
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theblue1's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks ➡️
Don't forget that when you are talking about a truly pro analog tape recording, as from a major artist of the time or whatever, they weren't just making the album with a tape machine.

The typical analog studio had a great board, great mics, and great outboard to go with it, not a TLM mic and a bunch of WAVES plug ins.

Yes the other bits, like editing were a pain, but believe it or not every session didn't involved editing. I'm willing to bet (if it could be proved) that the amount of editing done now is directly a result of ....."because we can" rather than "because we HAVE to" today.


TH
Excellent points -- particularly about the temptation to 'overuse' the convenient aspects of digital production -- which I suspect many of us struggle with -- or simply give in to. That last, of course, is not a technological problem, per se, but a human one.

I did want to get in one (perhaps peculiarly personal bit): while I'm comfortable with digital recording and production, and, overall, don't miss the sound of tape, I do retain my near lifelong love of tape recorders -- even if I haven't used one daily in almost a quarter of a century -- much as I love old cars, hurdy gurdies, steam locomotives, and biplanes. I love cool old machines. And if someone gets something out of using them, more's the better.


What DOES bother me, at least a little, though, is that there are a lot of younger folks who may not even have a great deal of experience with digital audio -- and who have no real experience with tape -- but who allow themselves to become convinced that they have to work on a tape recorder to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.

Now, for sure, there seems to be a lot of opinion out there that nothing delivers the 'tape sound' like a tape recorder (reasonably enough, perhaps ) and for some, maybe a tape-centric production paradigm really will be the only one that will really deliver -- BUT even for those who are 'destined' to end up with tape, a huge amount of learning about audio technology, science, and production can be accomplished without breaking the bank (or one's mind) to recreate the past.

My advice, even if you know in your secret heart of hearts that you will never be happy until you're tracking and mixing onto analog tape -- do not let your current lack of tape machine(s) stop you from practicing, growing, and learning about sound.

Even if you can't afford any other hardware than a halfway decent converter (and maybe not even that), even if all your plugs are freeware, you can still build your skill set, get experience, and prepare yourself for that glorious day when you get your new tape deck. (But keep your digital rig as fallback. I'm just sayin'. Keeping a 20 to 40 year old tape deck running decades after the last one rolled off the assembly line is not always totally reliable.)

.

Last edited by theblue1; 24th June 2016 at 12:53 AM..
Old 23rd June 2016
  #12
Dot
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🎧 15 years
Glenn, everything you listed above really comes down to work and costs. Nothing else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Bucci ➡️
Personally I like recording in digital much better than tape. This so called "magic" tape gives is rubbish.


6. Trying to jump to a particular section of the song was time consuming. With DAW's you can loop a section and take multiple takes which you could not do with tape.
Well, #6 really isn't true. There are all sorts of ways to use tape for multiple tracks and takes. I've recorded background vocals on tape where we used 20+ tracks—just for bkg vox.

Get up a usable stereo ruff mix. Record that on to another machine. FF the master tape down to a fresh section. Fly in 2-track mix to channels 1 and 2 of master tape. 24 usually has SMPTE. So, now you've got tracks 2-23 totally free for recording.

Build up a lot of bkg vocals, then mix them down to the other machine. Go back to original song portion of tape, and then fly the 2-track bkg vox mix on to 2 open tracks for stereo. Done. And it's not destructive, because you can always go back to the original tracks for more tweaking and mixing if you want.

Here's a song from a label album where I did exactly that in 1990. There were over 20 tracks of bkg vox on the chorus. And this was before Autotune and Melodyne, and the lead vocal was heavily comped from multiple takes and tracks, and there were a lot of razor-sharp punch ins and outs, even on individual words and consonants. I also sometimes used a Publison for time stretching/pitch change, and an Akai S1000 sampler for what was early digital editing. The song still gets played in clubs to this day.



And you can use the same technique for laying down loads of takes of anything, comping the tracks, and then flying in the finished comped take.

To me, it's not even work. I love working with tape. Tape can be used like an actual instrument. It's real, it's alive, it breathes. Splicing is not a big deal.

And obviously, you can record to tape, and then move everything into the digital domain.

At this point, it's really down to costs. The machines, the tape, the real estate needed to run and maintain everything. Nothing more.

I love working in digital, too. Especially in the last few years, and I agree the converters and the technology has really come into its own, and it's getting better. But with all the advancements in technology, tape is still brilliant. Film is still brilliant. Just because working with actual 2" tape or real 35mm film on a pro level is beyond most people's financial means, doesn't mean it's overrated, and it's hardly archaic. And as an archive format, analog tape is still saving a lot of projects, even when they were "backed up" to digital.

Last edited by Dot; 23rd June 2016 at 08:13 PM..
Old 23rd June 2016 | Show parent
  #13
Deleted 9e29a36
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 ➡️
Excellent points -- particularly about the temptation to 'overuse' the convenient aspects of digital production -- which I suspect many of us struggle with -- or simply give in to. That last, of course, is not a technological problem, per se, but a human one.

.................

My advice, even if you know in your secret heart of hearts that you will never be happy until you're tracking and mixing onto analog tape -- do not let your current lack of tape machine(s) stop you from practicing, growing, and learning about sound.

Hear, hear!
Old 23rd June 2016 | Show parent
  #14
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Me_Likey's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnny nowhere ➡️
I still record to tape. That's what I do. And I'm a Southerner, so I'm not going to get in a hurry, irrespective of what I'm laying down.

Hell, maw still uses a Singer foot-powered sewing apparatus.
I would love to skip as much technology and maintenance as possible. My "thing" is making music and want to get to the heart of it with minimal distraction. I guess my dream setup would involve brain implants or something.
Old 23rd June 2016 | Show parent
  #15
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theblue1's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Me_Likey ➡️
I would love to skip as much technology and maintenance as possible. My "thing" is making music and want to get to the heart of it with minimal distraction. I guess my dream setup would involve brain implants or something.
Back in the late 90s I used to say that my production ideal was to take a blank CD-R (remember those?) and put it against my forehead and have my beautifully conceived, perfectly executed music just, you know, appear on the disk.
Old 23rd June 2016 | Show parent
  #16
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oceantracks's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 ➡️
Excellent points -- particularly about the temptation to 'overuse' the convenient aspects of digital production -- which I suspect many of us struggle with -- or simply give in to. That last, of course, is not a technological problem, per se, but a human one.

I did want to get in one (perhaps peculiarly personal bit): while I'm comfortable with digital recording and production, and, overall, don't miss the sound of tape, I do retain my near lifelong love of tape recorders -- even if I haven't used one daily in almost a quarter of a century -- much as I love old cars, hurdy gurdies, steam locomotives, and biplanes. I love cool old machines. And if someone gets something out of using them, more's the better.


What DOES bother me, at least a little, though, is that there are a lot of younger folks who may not even have a lot deep experience with digital audio -- but who have no real experience with tape -- who allow themselves to become convinced that they have to work on a tape recorder to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.

Now, for sure, there seems to be a lot of opinion out there that nothing delivers the 'tape sound' like a tape recorder (reasonably enough, perhaps ) and for some, maybe a tape-centric production paradigm is the only one that will really deliver -- BUT even for those who are 'destined' to end up with tape, a huge amount of learning about audio technology, science, and production can be accomplished without breaking the bank (or one's mind) to recreate the past.

My advice, even if you know in your secret heart of hearts that you will never be happy until you're tracking and mixing onto analog tape -- do not let your current lack of tape machine(s) stop you from practicing, growing, and learning about sound.

Even if you can't afford any other hardware than a halfway decent converter (and maybe not even that), even if all your plugs are freeware, you can still build your skill set, get experience, and prepare yourself for that glorious day when you get your new tape deck. (But keep your digital rig as fallback. I'm just sayin'. Keeping a 20 to 40 year old tape deck running decades after the last one rolled off the assembly line is not always totally reliable.)
Ha! Yes recently got an old Roberts 770x like I had as a kid....great shape. Now I can play back aging tapes in my closet. Man does this thing get HOT!
Old 23rd June 2016
  #17
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vernier's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
The great analog sound experience, there's nothing like it. The vibe, magic ..the way things gel together ...a winning combination.

But it's not just tape. The cool sounding analog recording was the combination of all the gear used from that era. It all matched.
Old 23rd June 2016
  #18
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Glenn Bucci's Avatar
 
45 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Dan
I was referring to looping a section in a DAW where you can have a go at 5 takes one right after the other with no wait for rewind, etc. then take bits from each take if you want with the mute, cut, features in your DAW. Very simple and done quickly.

Time in my studio is precious and I don't want to use the time like I used to for maintenance of the equipment. Still would like to record with tape for fun, but I just prefer digital now with analog gear when tracking. If you prefer recording with tape that's fine, there is no right or wrong answer, it comes down to personal preference.
Old 23rd June 2016 | Show parent
  #19
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T_R_S's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier ➡️
The great analog sound experience, there's nothing like it. The vibe, magic ..the way things gel together ...a winning combination.

But it's not just tape. The cool sounding analog recording was the combination of all the gear used from that era. It all matched.

Vibe and magic does not come from tape it comes from the players in front of the mics
Old 24th June 2016
  #20
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mbvoxx's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I spent 30 years producing on tape and it's true that all the things on the OPs list are just part of the process.
At the time it was acceptable to go thru all of that. But now there is no need. I don't miss it.
Old 24th June 2016 | Show parent
  #21
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chrischoir's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks ➡️

The typical analog studio had a great board, great mics, and great outboard to go with it
But along with a great room that's all you need to make a great recording. Tape or A/D is just for storage. It's not what makes a great recording. All professional engineers will tell you the tracking room and control room acoustics are #1 , and they are.

Tape is not helping anyone, if anything is degrades the recording and makes it sound worse. Digital is much more beneficial.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks ➡️
not a TLM mic
Tlm 49 is pretty good mic, even Tlm 102 is pretty cool too. Obviously you've used neither.
Digital converters and TLM mics are not holding anyone back from making great recordings
Old 24th June 2016 | Show parent
  #22
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oceantracks's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir ➡️
But along wit he a great room that's all you need to make a great recording. Tape or A/D is just for storage. It's not what makes a great recording. All professional engineers will tell you the room is #1 , and it is.
Wow...thanks.

I guess guys that do electronic music can't make great recordings lol
Old 24th June 2016 | Show parent
  #23
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theblue1's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks ➡️
Wow...thanks.

I guess guys that do electronic music can't make great recordings lol


I would say that no room is perfect.

Ergo, the electronic musician has the perfect room.


Uh... you know.
Old 24th June 2016 | Show parent
  #24
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chrischoir's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks ➡️
Wow...thanks.

I guess guys that do electronic music can't make great recordings lol
That is not music, that is muzak. Sure you can do things without a room. You can go DI and use samples/synthesis and do everything in headphones. Sounds like fun. But somehow I bet you will be the first to make note that it wasn't a real band in a real room with analog tape.
Old 24th June 2016
  #25
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🎧 10 years
What about tracking to tape and immediately dumping to digital. This way you get the sound of analog and most of the things convenient about digital. I'm actually interested in picking up an ampex mm1200 or studer a800. It just seems to me all my favorite albums were done on tape and I think I just prefer the sound. I have nothing better to do than to get the best recordings I can. I don't mind the hassle if it turns out I prefer the sound.
Old 24th June 2016
  #26
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Godson's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
everybody loves the SOUND of tape, not actually trying to make an entire song like an arts n crafts project lol
Old 24th June 2016 | Show parent
  #27
Dot
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Dot's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Bucci ➡️
Dan
I was referring to looping a section in a DAW where you can have a go at 5 takes one right after the other with no wait for rewind, etc. then take bits from each take if you want with the mute, cut, features in your DAW. Very simple and done quickly.

Time in my studio is precious and I don't want to use the time like I used to for maintenance of the equipment. Still would like to record with tape for fun, but I just prefer digital now with analog gear when tracking. If you prefer recording with tape that's fine, there is no right or wrong answer, it comes down to personal preference.
LOL, well, I've done that with tape, too. Exactly that. Sample the section you want, cycle it on a sequencer, and have the player just record to tape as much as they want—as long as it's not much longer than 15 minutes at 30ips. (You could do the cycles with 1/4" or 1/2" tape as well, just by spicing several passes together.) Grab the good bits, and make a comp track. We've done that for rock guitar solos sometimes. Just let 'em wail for the whole tape if they want.

I just think you're seeing some production shortcomings with tape that aren't really there. People have developed a surprising amount of production techniques with tape over the years.
Old 24th June 2016
  #28
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toledo3's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
With a good all valve recording chain available, the idea that a tape machine is needed or desirable, often dwindles.

I'm not anti-tape by any stretch, but I think that if someone is looking for classic sounds, and has a bunch of solidstate mics and some sort of neve or API type pres, but no substantial valve gear....that they should probably take a look at that, before getting a tape machine.
Old 24th June 2016 | Show parent
  #29
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mappee ➡️
Tape has the Houdini effect of smushing things together in loveable manner.
We all love that. So what i'm hearing is a bunch of lazy ass engineers who find
that the sound is sacrificial to the work load.
It's not laziness. Reel tape is just too farkin expensive an unobtainable now. And I don't believe it is essential now, since the effect has been emulated rather well - and sometimes you just don't want that effect. So a DAW is the no brainer way to record.

I grew up with cassette portastudios - nothing like reel tape, but it gave me a good insight into tape saturation and wow and flutter. For some things it's great, but mostly it's total sh!t. I learned how to stripe a tape with FSK and use midi instruments untouched by tape to avoid the massive problems of bad tape sound.

I have a Strymon Deco now for getting tape sounds for my live stuff ... and it's delightful the way it just makes stuff sound good - "smushing things together in a loveable manner". It's not the reel thing - but it doesn't matter.

Not laziness - and people still do love the sound and find ways to get it. There are some great plugin emulations, and there are ways of using analog gear to get similar euphonic benefits. If anything, we have to work a lot harder.

Not laziness.
Old 24th June 2016
  #30
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Sacalait's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I said this back in the day when multi-track cassette recorders hit: "I'd rather hear a great song recorded on a cassette recorder than a sh*tty song recorded on 2" tape in a multi-platinum studio- ANY DAY!" I still feel that way.
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