Recording to Tape In-the-box

Posted: 6th April 2011 by Mezzanine Floor Studios in Audiophile, Hot Gear

Anybody that has been around the recording industry knows the merits and headaches of recording to tape. The “magic”, “glue”, warmth, and saturation on the one hand, and the hiss, laborious editing, and low availability of good quality tape on the other.

Artists like Eminem refuse to record to anything but tape, while many others will track to tape originally, then capture the recordings into Pro Tools. Other engineers will record to Pro Tools first, edit, then record to tape before moving on to mixing the album.

For those that work only in-the-box, Universal Audio has created a new method of doing this with their new UAD based Studer A800 modeled plugin.

UAD Website

True audiophiles will argue that this isn’t the same as recording to tape only, or to tape and then capturing into Pro Tools. They are correct in that it isn’t exactly the same thing. But the results using the UAD version of the Studer A800 are nonetheless stellar.

With the UAD plugin I can take the sound of tape with me on my Macbook Pro- a darn sight lighter than the 900 lbs the real Studer weighs. There are other bonuses, too: Real tape costs money above and beyond the cost of the tape machine. Using UAD I can record to hard disk, which is far cheaper.

The other thing about using the UAD plugin is that it is far more flexible than the real Studer machine. First and foremost they added a button to toggle the hiss on or off. This alone is worth the price of admission for those who love the tone and saturation of tape but don’t want the hiss.

Next in line, the folks at UAD included models of 4 different kinds of tape, and the three standard speeds- 7.5, 15, and 30 IPS and the ability to use either CCIR or NAB EQ settings as appropriate. Unlike the real Studer A800, however, with the UAD plugin you can use different settings on different tracks at the same time, which opens up a whole new world of sonic possibilities.

For instance, to me the smoothness of 30 IPS is almost always preferable for vocals and for “sharper” sounds like cymbals, strings, or acoustic guitar. The low end head bump at 15 IPS makes it ideal for recording transient drums like the kick, snare, and toms, and also for bass. Distorted electric guitars often benefit from the “gritty” feel of 7.5 IPS. I can even choose NOT to use the Studer on a track if I prefer the dry digital sound.

What UAD have done is enabled a new generation of engineers to enjoy the wonders of tape without the headaches. Myself I’m totally sold.



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