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Ampex 440C at 15ips too noisy for quiet folk music?
Old 31st January 2009
  #1
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Ampex 440C at 15ips too noisy for quiet folk music?

Right, I'm thinking of buying a 2 track 440C (1/4") but I'm wondering if there would be too much audible tape noise at 15ips considering the kind of music I make (folk music basically - alot of guitar, violins, banjo, accordian, double bass, etc). Would 15ips be ok or would you recommend forking out a bit more cash for an optional servo capstan so I could run it at 30ips? I would be tracking straight to it: 2 shinybox ribbon mics with Cinemag tranformers, running into 2 modified Ampex 350 preamps, hitting the 440C, then Lavry Blue converters and finally into my DAW. I would be layering up quite alot of overdubs.

Thing is, I quite like a bit of tape noise/hiss; lends a recording character. Just yesterday I started a thread about how I love the sound of 'Jacksonville City Nights' by Ryan Adams, which blatantly makes no attempt at noise reduction or transparency; the solo acoustic track 'September' is covered in tape noise!

I already know the 440 has quite alot of character compared to say a Studer, particularly at 15ips. So I don't want to lose too much of that character by moving up to the more transparent 30ips, but at the same time I'm worried 15ips might be more suitable for rock/punk as opposed to quieter folk stuff.

Any thoughts?
Old 31st January 2009
  #2
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Thought of sidestepping the issue and recording in a *natural environment"? By that, i mean setting up outside or opening windows in the studio. Then your tape noise is often just masked by the sounds of real life without them becoming intrusive when the music starts...
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FireMoon ➡️
Thought of sidestepping the issue and recording in a *natural environment"? By that, i mean setting up outside or opening windows in the studio. Then your tape noise is often just masked by the sounds of real life without them becoming intrusive when the music starts...
Thanks for replying and I mean no disrespect, but this sounds like absolutely mad advice! Do you do this yourself? I track in an acoustically treated live room where the very last thing I should be doing is swinging open a window, or worse still, trying to record outside in the Irish weather!

And the cliché fading out sound of chirping crickets in a courtyard at nighttime has been done enough already! heh
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #4
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Mad it might sound, but i can think of a whole host of Folk albums that were recorded in a such a way..One the classics being the Heron album..If you want to turn it around... ask yourself this..Just how mad is it to record folk music in a totally isolated environment?
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #5
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There is one trick comes to mind but I'm not sure you have the tracks to cope..The old record the band in situ and then record the room without the musicians and stick it back out of phase to the original... It's worth a go... it should cancel some of the noise out...
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #6
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soundbarnfool's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
15 IPS is fine, but try 30 too.

Inglewood SoundBarn
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FireMoon ➡️
Mad it might sound, but i can think of a whole host of Folk albums that were recorded in a such a way..One the classics being the Heron album..If you want to turn it around... ask yourself this..Just how mad is it to record folk music in a totally isolated environment?
Touché my friend, you have me there! Your folk aesthetics are pure! heh

But, if I was overdubbing many tracks, you would have layer upon layer of environmental noise building up and after 30 or so tracks it might start to sound like im playing in a jungle!

So let us take it as given that I shall be recording indoors (hell, I've spent enough on this room already, I might as well make good use of it!) and that my primary concern is tape noise, not environmental noise. Could anyone tell me if 15ips or 30ips on the Ampex 440C would be more suitable for my circumstances?
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #8
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Piedpiper's Avatar
 
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The "quite alot of overdubs" is what has me worried. Every time you add another layer of same, you're adding another layer of hiss. Once or twice, maybe thrice, is nice, more than that and you should be considering 30ips. Sounds lovely though...
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piedpiper ➡️
The "quite alot of overdubs" is what has me worried. Every time you add another layer of same, you're adding another layer of hiss. Once or twice, maybe thrice, is nice, more than that and you should be considering 30ips. Sounds lovely though...
Well now you've gone and opened up a whole can of worms about stacking theory!

Alot of people don't believe in stacking theory and I was certainly under the impression from reading various posts that hiss doesn't accumalate when multiple tracks are layered over one another. After all, if you record to a 2 inch 24 track machine then thats 24 separate tracks of information, each with their own hiss, and people don't have a problem doing that!

Anybody want to weigh in on that? I'm getting a bit worried now!
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #10
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PlugHead's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I had an Ampex 440 for a quite a few years. They aren't 'bad' sounding machines, but for quiet, delicate music, 15 IPS is too noisy (IMO), and with the 440 maxing out at 15 renders it as less than stellar. If you were talking ATR 102 I'd say "hell yeah!"

That said, if you were 'mixing' to it with fairly healthy level, and/or tracking live stuff that is not too ambient/quiet, I think it could work if your aesthetic is for tape, 'cos it does that well. Just make sure the unit is in great working order - I spent quite a bit of time tinkering around to keep all the moving parts (and there is a ****load of them on those beasts!) quiet and working properly - they are not a simple design - tons of moving parts, and wear happens regardless of how they've been maintained - they are old, and often require some lovin to bring them back to life.

My .02 c
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #11
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yrplace's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
You could get a dolby 363 and run at 0 to +4 level with SR... or try and find a 15 ips CCIR ref tape and set your machine up that way. Much quieter than NAB eq.......
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #12
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vernier's Avatar
 
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Hiss is a non issue. I can't even make my Ampex hiss if I try.
'
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #13
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Aisle 6's Avatar
 
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I owned a 440 until recently and tried it a 15ips. Mine had the input transformer option and at 30 there was a ton of mojo and no need to slum it at 15ips. Also the tape was critical. I loved the sound of 456, but it was a bit noisy. GP9 was a bit edgey but quiet. Apparently the ATR services tape has the sound of 456 with the level of GP9. With the right tape, and a well aligned machine, hiss was not a problem at 30 ips and I never required 15ips.

I loved that machine so much that I kept 2 of the line amps and am currently having them modified as stand alone line amps just to add the colour of the transformer for mixing. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!heh
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James_Avery ➡️
After all, if you record to a 2 inch 24 track machine then thats 24 separate tracks of information, each with their own hiss, and people don't have a problem doing that!
Yes, and they run it at 30ips.
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #15
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🎧 15 years
Although they ended up on vinyl, the classics of folk music were cut on 15 IPS or even 7.5 IPS decks!

A well set up AG-440C running 456 or any of the newer formulations 15 IPS @ +6 should be quiet enough that no one would complain.
FWIW, I set mine up for +5 over 185 nwbr on the recommendation of an absolute Ampex expert. For rock material it is qiet enough.
Yes, there is hiss down there, but I wouldn't think that it would be enough to stop the show and render good performances un-listenable.

Still, if your deck will run 30 IPS you will get an additional 3db above the noise floor.

You really want a servo motor machine anyways.
They are much more stable.

I am confused about how you plan to record the material because you mention over-dubbing multiple passes.

Generally, the specs for analog decks that the manufacturers publish are for one track.
They don't put them all in record and measure the noise, but it really doesn't add and accumulate the way you would think that it does.

A properly set up 2" 24 track deck running 30 IPS @ +9 has a low enough noise floor that most of the noise is from the mic/pres, mics and studio ambient noise level like the HVAC system.
The noise comes from the same sources and accumulates at about the same amount as with digital.
The available dynamic range is pretty much the same and with 2" running Dolby SR the dynamic range is equal to or better than with digital!

Back to your Ampex specific question....
I have recording of some 20th century orchestral stuff (Varese and Honneger) that was recorded on an Ampex deck that was a hybrid of 351 electronics (tubes) and a modified AG-440 transport running 30 IPS.
Those are 50 year-old design electronics, but there is almost no detectable hiss!
I am not sure of the operating level they used.
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #16
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Drumsound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by James_Avery ➡️
Well now you've gone and opened up a whole can of worms about stacking theory!

Alot of people don't believe in stacking theory and I was certainly under the impression from reading various posts that hiss doesn't accumalate when multiple tracks are layered over one another. After all, if you record to a 2 inch 24 track machine then thats 24 separate tracks of information, each with their own hiss, and people don't have a problem doing that!

Anybody want to weigh in on that? I'm getting a bit worried now!
Actually as I understand it when 24 track machines were introduced many weren't happy about the additional hiss. Plus, when working on tape most mixers will be judicious about muting tracks to minimize hiss. Not a huge worry, but something that is to be considered.

Is it possible that you'd be betterserved with a 24-track deck or recording to your DAW and mixing to the 440C?
Old 31st January 2009 | Show parent
  #17
Deleted ff086b4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piedpiper ➡️
Yes, and they run it at 30ips.
Not back in the day they didn't! Or did they?! I have a 1975 1st edition of 'Modern Recording Techniques' by Robert E. Runstein and he only ever talks about aligning machines at 7.5ips and 15ips.
Old 1st February 2009 | Show parent
  #18
Deleted ff086b4
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Bump. Anyone else got opinions?
Old 1st February 2009 | Show parent
  #19
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I stand corrected. I've only ever run em at 30 but that was in the 80s.
Old 1st February 2009 | Show parent
  #20
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vernier's Avatar
 
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Leave digital gear out of it . . .

Just use the 440 and mix to tape.

It's what sounds right for folk.


'
Old 16th February 2009 | Show parent
  #21
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piedpiper ➡️
The "quite alot of overdubs" is what has me worried. Every time you add another layer of same, you're adding another layer of hiss. Once or twice, maybe thrice, is nice, more than that and you should be considering 30ips. Sounds lovely though...
I'm not sure I follow? Are you saying if you record record a band, utilizing all 8 tracks then do a vocal overdub, you are adding more hiss?

Or if are you saying that if you take 8 tracks, dump them into whatever flavor of digital, then record 8 more tracks and dump those into the digital world (making them 9-16) that you are multiplying the background noise?
Old 16th February 2009 | Show parent
  #22
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier ➡️
Just use the 440 and mix to tape.

It's what sounds right for folk.


'
Man... how many times do I keep going back to those pre-66 Dylan albums and just being astounded at how good they sound!!!!!
I love it
Old 16th February 2009 | Show parent
  #23
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyt ➡️
I'm not sure I follow? Are you saying if you record record a band, utilizing all 8 tracks then do a vocal overdub, you are adding more hiss?

Or if are you saying that if you take 8 tracks, dump them into whatever flavor of digital, then record 8 more tracks and dump those into the digital world (making them 9-16) that you are multiplying the background noise?
neither. see original post.

I love those early recordings also. It's the "simpler is better" thing at work. That, and tubes, which is also a "simpler is better" thing.
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