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Analogue Reel To Reel Mastering Pros and Cons (with demonstration)

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posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 06:05 AM
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I have been slowly getting an old early 1970s Revox A77 fully restored. It is the 1972 Mk 3 two track model. It is now all ship shape and recording beautifully thanks to a gentleman in Suffolk, UK, who is a wonderful engineer with this vintage gear. He was not cheap, mind! Here is a picture of the machine, but unfortunately my camera is broken so I had to "borrow" a picture from the internet,



The big problem with using a reel to reel tape deck is the cost of repairs and servicing, the tape itself, the hassle of it all to set up, storage and scarcity of people who know how to fix them. That makes it necessary to use a courier now as there is nobody in my area I can trust. They weigh 33lbs so that is also an expense issue and anxiety ridden whether or not it may get broken in transit.

The pros are that you get lush analogue sound. There is no way any digital technology can produce this natural saturation. The stereo image goes out like a mist rather than spikes. It spreads wonderfully. The difference is in fact subtle. I was not able up until yesterday when I got the unit back to appreciate just how good the quality of sound is. I am dumbfounded that something from the early 1970s could sound so good when hooked up to a digital studio. The instant glue effect smooths the sounds out so well. It really is music to my ears.

I bought the unit second hand over a year ago, but it has taken a long time to get it back on the road. It has cost me almost £700.00 ($900.00 or €800.00). I was very hesitant as this is always going to be an expensive thing, now they are a museum piece. It will require continual servicing and we all know how machines break (that is what inspired us to evolve digitally, in part). I will only use it as a mastering method so it will be running to record no more than four tracks a month (that is my usual composition time line). With such light use it should be realistic financially as the servicing will only be required every few years, using it so sparingly.

I feel like I have self actualized with my music. It has taken me from 1990s until yesterday to fulfill my mission in total. That is to be able to make my music, master it and have an analogue recording all by myself. The journey has been long and fascinating. I have learned so much about computing, world cultures (exposure to a huge variety of music and cultural influences), deep emotional experience and expression that led into poetry too, technology in general, many and varied musical instrument skills, so many skills and so much knowledge. What a great way to spend a life. It is very innocent too as this pass time hurts nobody. It is a gentle and delicate life.

I have put this experiment on Soundcloud for anyone who may be interested. See what you think between the two different masters? The first is analogue (the tape) and the second is a straight digital master using UAD plugins etc. I am totally in love with the analogue sound,

soundcloud.com...

Lol, I called it "House of Common" after those lot up in Westminster!


This has been worth every penny. I have totally fallen head over heels in love with the tape. I will be looking to keep this in my musical life from now on, even though it is very expensive. These days I do not bother much with sharing my music. My interests are much more introvert and studio based. I like my quiet life living by the ocean composing. I am particularly enjoying making these analogue Deep House beats at the moment. It is very minimalist and stress free. That makes it very enjoyable to make.

When I was very little I was obsessed with reel to reel tape recorders. All through my life I have been obsessed with tapes, recording and ended up with my own studio. Even when I was three years old I was at it. My mother singing those sixties "chick" songs did it to me. I equated her vanished voice with the tape recorder and the beautiful women singing the songs she used to sing to me. Unfortunately I was not able to spend my childhood with her or my natural dad. In adult life we have become closer and I live just down the road from her now. My real dad is just about to come into my life as I am going up to meet him later this month, but that is for another thread. It is amazing that the early experiences of childhood have such profound influences on us as adults. Deep in our unconsciousness those experiences reside. That is why child abuse is such a terrible crime. it messes people up so deeply.


edit on 8-2-2019 by Malak777 because: (no reason given)




posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 06:14 AM
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I am a broadcast engineer irl....I can still splice tape in my sleep. I just rebuilt my Dad's r2r machine that he bought in 68.

Advice:

1. Foam tip q tips and isopropyl to clean the heads...NOT cotton tips.

2. There is a solution that keeps the rubber on the pinch rollers from drying out....get it.

IMO, analog is warmer, fuller and just plain better.

Congrats on the machine, she looks sweet!



posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 06:30 AM
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a reply to: Malak777

Incredibly Good Investment!

Your stock photo has 2 VU meters.
Is yours a two or four track unit?

Purchase a tape splicer and go wild.

Don't forget the old trick...
"over the capstan and under the pinch roller".

Hook up with these people: www.navestudios.com...

S&F
edit on 8-2-2019 by Wildmanimal because: typo



posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 07:24 AM
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a reply to: theatreboy


Thanks for the advice. I am new to the tape thing so it is very appreciated. Well I bet you know your stuff. Tape editing is serious skill.

We have to keep this beautiful thing alive. It is worth it. My machine is exactly like that one in the picture and in very good conditon too.

You know, if they could build a new quality reel to reel machine that retailed at around the $1000 price tag it would make a lot of money. All over the world people with quality home studios would be interested in such a thing. It could totally reignite the market world wide. It would be great business and make jobs too. I bet a machine that was affordable could sell many thousands of units continually. It would no doubt make a big profit. In the music industry now there is a lot of money being made in all departments gear related and a huge customer base. There are millions of potential customers on a continual basis.




edit on 8-2-2019 by Malak777 because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 07:28 AM
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a reply to: Wildmanimal

Thanks so much for that info. Yes I will do all this. Mine is the two track version. It only does max of 7.5. I know the 15 are better quality, but all my other gear is so quiet and modern that it needs a good rough up. With House and Reggae particularly the 7.5 1/4 inch tape seems to do a good enough job. I want that tape sound so much. It is going to really help as I was constantly realizing the thinness of pure digital. I am using analogue synths, drum machines and digital too. It is a total mixture. We get the best of both worlds then, don't we.



posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 08:30 AM
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a reply to: Malak777

It's 2019. Why bother



posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 08:34 AM
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a reply to: Malak777

I guarantee you that I could put you in a room with a blind test of your antique reel to reel vs a modern high end DAW and you wouldn't know the difference. To the point that my sample rate is high enough that I produce "gentle mist. So long as I can get my sample rate beyond the rate at your ears can't even distinguish a difference.

Not only that, but the features blow your RtR out of the water lol. Better not make a mistake or you have to splice a tap or record the whole thing... That's fun lol. There's a reason the pros use DAWs man, and you don't know better. Just saying.

You may think you can hear better sound, but you can't. You are just convinced it is.
edit on 8-2-2019 by hombero because: (no reason given)

edit on 8-2-2019 by hombero because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 12:09 PM
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originally posted by: hombero
a reply to: Malak777

I guarantee you that I could put you in a room with a blind test of your antique reel to reel vs a modern high end DAW and you wouldn't know the difference. To the point that my sample rate is high enough that I produce "gentle mist. So long as I can get my sample rate beyond the rate at your ears can't even distinguish a difference.


Ive got to politely disagree with that assessment. Whether I record a band in ProTools HD or on my Otari 2” machine, I always do 2 separate masters for the client. One on the 1/4” machine and one in ProTools. The difference is very clear,not remotely subtle or undetectable. 9 out of 10 clients pick the analogue masters in a blind test. I don’t tell them which is which, I send them both versions and let them decide which the prefer.


Not only that, but the features blow your RtR out of the water lol.


Bells and whistles don’t replace a good set of ears


Better not make a mistake or you have to splice a tap or record the whole thing... That's fun lol. There's a reason the pros use DAWs man, and you don't know better. Just saying.


There’s definitely a reason, typically it’s laziness. That laziness may be on the part of The engineer sometimes and very often it’s the person or band you’re recording that can’t actually play their own music. If you can’t play your own music without making mistakes and rely on punchline and copy editing you shouldn’t be in the studio in the first place.


You may think you can hear better sound, but you can't. You are just convinced it is.


The differences are noticeable though. Maybe im just a dinosaur who is biased because when I first started recording, it was all analogue. ADAT’s were still a few years out. Don’t get me wrong, I have a pretty bad ass PT HD set up in addition to the analogue gear. I like to have options but personally, when I’m recording my own stuff, it’s all analogue aside from Pre-Pro demos.



posted on Feb, 10 2019 @ 11:51 PM
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a reply to: Malak777

Excellent!
It must be difficult to find
good quality reel to reel tape these
days? No?

Please share a time sample of your
tape machine with us at ATS sometime.

Blessings to you.



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