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Tube Saturation -> Compression (Guitars and Tape Machines)
Old 28th January 2013
  #1
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Tube Saturation -> Compression (Guitars and Tape Machines)

For a while now I've been aware of the fact that distortion is a form of compression, and that distorted electric guitar is, by nature, a compressed signal. Same goes for seemingly any signal run hot to analog tape (from what I understand, correct me if i'm wrong, transients compress due to their reaching the limit of a track's bandwidth.)

During a recent session, I was recording a 70's tube ampeg that was going through a 610 preamp. The guitar was quite distorted to begin with, and I added a little bit of fuzzy mojo on top of that with the 610, and then it hit +9 BASF 2'' tape.
For the first time, I was actually able to hear compression artifacts simply by running tubes and tape input ''hot''!

- By this I mean slight dips in volume after harder hits, almost the way a medium/heavy-handed compressor would work it's magic on a source. I couldn't believe my ears; thinking it was either a fault in the reel or the player's style (given it was pretty unique).

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Are there actual, measurable, so-called ''attack and release'' times for things like tubes (both in amps and pres) as well as analog tape?
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The effect I was hearing was almost like having a high-threshold, low ratio compressor pumping along. It just really made me think: since the action of tubes/tape is source level dependent, would these audible artifacts be fast-attack/auto-release/low ratio/source-dependent-threshold 'type compression?

Please excuse me if my language or ignorance to the obvious sounds noobish... I am fairly versed in using compressors (own an 1176, LA2A, etc) and have been working with tube amps and my tape machine for several years now...
This just really blew my mind!

Any insights would be great!
Old 28th January 2013
  #2
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donnylang's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I've heard something like this happen when solid-state electronics overload (like of like a fuzz box), in fact I've used it on purpose on occasion.

What kind of tape machine are you using? +9 tape is pretty hot to be getting super-saturation.

Personally, I don't think a compressor and tape have similar characteristics at all. My guess would be that you're overloading the electronics on your tape deck and/or mixer.
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