Monday, August 15, 2016

Mixing to tape vs not... A listening test.

By Tim Dolbear

I promised some test files of mixing to tape.

Here is a song, NOT MIXED, just a fader up/ruff mix of the session, no plugs other than some verb in the AUX. This is a song I am tracking/producing for Paul Martinez called "The Little Things"

Test files; 44.1k 24bit. Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) was done with Saracon. Tape is ATR Master Tape at 15IPS. Session is at 96k.

1. No tape = The ruff mix leaves Sequoia, Mytek D/A feeding a Great River EQ-2NV, into our Manley ME VaribleMu the captured back to Sequoia at 96k using an Apogee A/D.

2. Tape Clean =  The ruff mix is leaves Sequoia, Mytek D/A feeding a Great River EQ-2NV, into our Manley ME VaribleMu then to the MCI JH110B and captured back to Sequoia at 96k.  Levels are set very cleanly, Less tape compression and saturation happens as a result.

3. Tape-Pushed = Same routing as Tape Clean but hitting the tape +3db harder.

Info about level:
The Taped Pushed version is louder RMS of course, but no peak overs.  In fact I can feed it a normal level and have the A/D peaking at about -4db, And then bring up the Feed to the tape machine 6 db and the peak after tape never goes above -1db at the A/D, no overs.

RMS comes up, tape compression comes up, the Limiting the tape imposes kicks in and makes it so I bring it up +20db on input and not have overs at the A/D.  Very cool!  So notice the peaks and not just the RMS. But really its about the over all sound. thats it.

All in/out levels on the machine are Calibrated to 0VU/-16DB digital. The input feed to the tape machine is handled by the Mastering edition Manley Vari-Mu that is Stepped in DBs so recall on a mix is possible

Remember the best way to compare these files is to load the 3 wav files in to your DAW on separate tracks and Solo the one you want to hear. Its a good way to go back and forth to compare. In Samplitude/Sequoia you can mute tracks 2 and 3, and while track 1 plays, if you solo either 2 or 3, it switches instantly to the solo'd track.

Enjoy and post your comments!


  1. Wow! What a difference tape makes! I'm really surprised. Tape adds a cohesive, live sound to the music. The pushed tape added more warmth. Awesome!

  2. Sure makes me glad I have the Cranesong HEDD. Dynamically it nails the tape compression thing, but it can't do the warmth and beautiful hi-end stuff tape does. Sounds mighty good, Tim. If I had to pick from the 3 to master from, I'd pick Tape Clean, fwiw.