I've been doing some experiments with analog lately. (Probably experiments that I should have done 3 decades ago.)
I've been buying every blank cassette I can get my hands on and recently picked up a nice Yamaha Natural Sound cassette deck.
At the same time - I've had some transfer projects that forced me to find a few working reel to reel decks as well.
I only record local bands, where I have access to AC, Board Feeds, Stage, occasionally even drafted into mixing as well.
Recording Digital - is generally set it, and forget it, so its not hard to tend to another deck.The Experiments
- these are posted with companion digital passages. Streaming links as well as mp3 downs.
The first experiment was with reel to reel. I ran a 1969 AKAI X1800-SD reel to reel with some AMPEX 651 tape.Comparison 1
here [mu3 stream]
mp3 dl [sample 1] [sample 2]
The second, I ran a Yamaha Natural Sound Cassette deck - with a TDK D-90 (Type I) with Dolby C. I hammered the levels for this source, LEDs touching +12 at times.
I never would have driven a cassette deck this hard back in the day. This one blows me away how good it came out.
here (warning: Country Music alert!) m3u stream [Source comp 2]
mp3 dl [source 1] [source 2]
I dont think it's that hard to spot the digital source - but, the analog recordings came out far, far better than I expected.
I'll hold off on the reveal as to which is which.Conclusions
I've long suspected that - back in the Grateful Dead days - We probably should have been running normal tapes with Dolby ON - and hammered the levels.
Towards the end of my analog days (Sony D5) I used a few Maxell XLIS tapes - these are the normal bias ones. And, I was surprised they sounded so darn good.
Those normal bias tapes can produce a nice soft compression, and give the recording a bit fuller sound and more "drive."
With practice - I think you could really use this to one's advantage. I dont think Type II tapes are as forgiving with high levels. They just have inherently lower noise, and perhaps better frequency response.
I tend to believe that a lot of us under-recorded. Sometimes analog aud recordings have too much "treble-air" that mixes in with the noise too much - and sounds smeary.
Its also astonishing how good the reel to reel source sounds - for a machine made in 1969...running used/abused tape.
A more modern 1980s deck with dbx would probably require the golden ears to really pick out.Enter Digital
Today I can see a new role for analog - you can master live analogs, and immediately remaster to digital. You dont have to be concerned about tape alignment (well, unless you drop the deck on the way out the door) - or other issues one encounters when transferring old analogs. You really couldnt do this in the DAT days - too expensive. And I never cared for standalone CD burners. Now its cheap and easy to make a digital re-master to preserve the recording. Studios did this for years in the early digital days. (master analog, mix digital) Perhaps some still do.What does it mean?
Not much I guess - but If I were a guy who wanted to get into live recording - I would get going and dont wait around for a digital recorder. Grab Dad's old cassette deck and go!!!
I acknowledge that this is slightly impractical and esoteric, but damn interesting nonetheless.
I think sometimes we think there have been these huge strides in audio fidelity, and back in the 70s and 80s we all used tin cans and dixie cups...but - it seems we've had good sound for a long time.
I still probably wouldn't want to use analog record a un-amped acoustic session - but for amped music, where you can stay ahead of the noise - its fine.