Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

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Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by hannahjazzz »

ADVICE NEEDED ON AUDIO MASTERING. MASTERING BOFFINS, PLZ COME FORTH FROM THE BLACK ART DEPTHS:

Hey Guys,

I need some advice on the best way to get 1/4 tape into digital format for software mastering with no/ minimal processing?

Also re bit-rate/ sample rate, should I go with 16 bit or 24 bit? It needs to be compatible with all of the status quo regarding being ‘release ready’——

I’m coming out of analog from either a studer 1/4 inch tape machine and I work on pro tools LE 8 on OS X 10.5.8. I will be mastering on T-RackS 5 or 5 Max software. Wondering if I should use stand alone software and can go straight to T-RackS (bypassing PT), or put the tape through an interface into PT? My only problem is I would like to avoid recording stereo .wave into PT as this is another digital process and I’d like to keep it as analog as possible.

All advice/ thoughts welcome. I need all of the advice I can get! Mastering Engineers plz help. Thanks a lot. Have a good one. H xx.

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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by The Elf »

You need to record the tape output through an audio interface. PT is fine. I would go for 24-bit, leave lots of headroom, then dither down to 16-bit in mastering.

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 9:22 pmMy only problem is I would like to avoid recording stereo .wave into PT as this is another digital process and I’d like to keep it as analog as possible.

This makes no sense. There is no 'analogue as possible'. When you record it, you digitise it - full stop. It's no longer analogue and there are no degrees of 'analogue-ness'. It will be recorded as a WAV, or maybe an AIFF file - which one makes no difference, as long as your mastering software can handle it.
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by hannahjazzz »

I was just thinking once in pro tools it’ll become crackly and horrid as digital is.

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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by The Elf »

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:11 pm I was just thinking once in pro tools it’ll become crackly and horrid as digital is.

I'm afraid that's absolute nonsense.

Assuming you are using a decent digital interface (and it's hard to find a truly 'bad' one these days, even at budget prices) - and assuming you know what you are doing to make a decent recording with it... a digital recording will give you back *exactly* what you put into it - no more, no less.
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by hannahjazzz »

The Elf wrote:
hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:11 pm I was just thinking once in pro tools it’ll become crackly and horrid as digital is.

I'm afraid that's absolute nonsense.

Assuming you are using a decent digital interface (and it's hard to find a truly 'bad' one these days, even at budget prices) - and assuming you know what you are doing to make a decent recording with it... a digital recording will give you back *exactly* what you put into it - no more, no less.

Definitely valid for some types of music I am sure- electronic etc—-

I just can’t get over the warmth of tape and a Neve. No emulate can recreate a neve, A80 or a B67 imho.

Financially analog is also an investment whereas digital seems to loose money, hence why I don’t see it as an investment so much.

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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by BWC »

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:11 pm ...crackly and horrid as digital is...

I'm amazed that this severely outdated assessment still pops up once in a while. Digital audio has come so far over the last several decades, and still the "early days" perception persists.

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:30 pm No emulate can recreate...

Strongly disagree!

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:30 pm Financially analog is also an investment whereas digital seems to loose money, hence why I don’t see it as an investment so much.

Are you investing in your gear, or your art?
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by The Elf »

I'm afraid I don't see the problem here. You record to tape, and with all the Neve, etc stuff you enjoy... Then you record that as a digital recording at the end of the process. You will hear back exactly what you put in!

You said:
I need some advice on the best way to get 1/4 tape into digital format for software mastering with no/ minimal processing?

To do this you will need to digitise your audio. Like it or not there is simply no way around that. Sorry!

It is clear that you don't really understand digital recording, and have an odd aversion to it, so maybe hire someone in to help you with it?
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by hannahjazzz »

I’m never shocked by how misogynistic this community is. Especially those who usually have nothing to be fly about.

I don’t have to explain my education, nor my personal vocations to anybody. Especially on a forum whereby the fact of the matter is that my fellow ‘peers’ on this thread most probably haven’t got an analog studio and that’s okay. I just don’t buy into plug-in mania. I’m sorry but I’ve got an A80 and I’ve used the plug in. It doesn’t cut it. Nor does the Leslie. Nor does anything emulating analog because the whole point of analog is that it is being put through a process. No matter if your sound source is digital (which I use to get my mix up) before I mix on studer, or analog (tape), no desk gets rid of the harshness of digital. That’s why tape is sought after. Sorry to break it to you. Perhaps my ears are so fine tuned to it that I can tell if something is digital or analog in 1-3 seconds because I sit for 8 hours in my studio every day. Not many people have that Lucy art I am sure, but I worked for it and I’m successful from my music career.

There’s a reason why analog equipment is sought after. It’s not about money, it’s about being smart with it. Plug ins are disposable, “much like bic razors”… I am sure the high-arts community from such peers will be delighted in patronising me further with who said that! Haha. Google it whilst you can. I’m not keeping tabs, nor am I up for the bullshit angst of whiney engineers who perpetuate patronising information. I don’t like digital. So be it. Accept it and move on with your lives. Peace out.

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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by hannahjazzz »

Not many have that luxury* typo

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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by Aled Hughes »

Whatever your views on analog and digital are, if you want a digital master of it, then you’re going to have to digitise it. To do that you’ll need and interface and recording software.

Your only option if you want to keep it analogue is master onto 1/4” tape and then cut vinyl records from that.

If you want the music to exist online (or CD) then it has to be digitised.

I don’t think you can record directly into T-Racks, so you’ll need another program. I wouldn’t worry too much about the program itself because they don’t have an effect on the sound when you’re just recording. You could easily do the ‘mastering’ stage in T-Racks after the transfer. There is no degradation if you move the file from one program to another.
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by BWC »

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:52 pm I’m never shocked...

I don't see anything misogynistic or patronizing about it, and no one's asking you to explain anything about yourself. We're simply disagreeing with you. There's no need for hostility.
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by Eddy Deegan »

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 9:22 pm I need some advice on the best way to get 1/4 tape into digital format for software mastering

(My highlighting). You want to convert from analogue tape to digital format. So far, so good. After posting your question, you were given some excellent advice by a professional engineer who knows what they are talking about.

However, you then contradict yourself:

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:11 pm I was just thinking once in pro tools it’ll become crackly and horrid as digital is.

This is simply not true. Having had your assumption corrected by more than one responder you decide that's misogyny although why you would I have no idea.

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:52 pm I’m never shocked by how misogynistic this community is...

As it happens you're wrong. People being combative and unreasonable will be moderated regardless of gender.

You're either being unreasonable or a troll. Either way please remain polite, as everyone else has.
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by RichardT »

There’s no avoiding digitising your masters if you would like them on streaming services and the web - there is no other way of going about it.
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by resistorman »

sigh
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by ken long »

Hey Hannah,

Just connect the outputs of the Studer into the inputs of the interface you are using. The Studer will be XLR outs so connect them using XLR cables.

Putting aside the inherent noise of the machine, the only thing that will affect the sound quality of the digital transfer will be the kind of interface you use. The better the interface the more transparent the transfer.

Transfer at 24-Bit. The sample rate is a matter of preference. Try 44.1 but also try 48 and 96 and see if you like the little difference it will make.

I'm not sure what you mean by crackly. I guess you mean clipping? Just make sure you're peaking at -10, -12dBFS. You're recording at 24-Bit so you've got ample headroom. You don't need to be hitting 0dBFS.

Finally, make sure the heads on the Studer are clean (iso-propyl) and if that isn't the machine the recording was made on, try and match the head alignment.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by The Red Bladder »

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:11 pm I was just thinking once in pro tools it’ll become crackly and horrid as digital is.

You are actually right, but only if you are using older converters - for example one of the older ProTools LE boxes or PT before HD came along. Avid stuff only became technically acceptable with the advent of HD. Until then, it was best avoided (as were some others!)

That was because many converters had timing problems that caused high-pitched noises outside of hearing range that interfered with high-pitched sounds within hearing range and caused HF distortion. Modern converters are internally clocked so the problem has gone away on everything except some of the ultra-cheap ADDA converters found in budget laptops etc.

I would suggest a Focusrite box - https://focusrite.com/en/usb-interfaces
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by RichardT »

The Red Bladder wrote: Tue Sep 21, 2021 8:55 am
hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:11 pm I was just thinking once in pro tools it’ll become crackly and horrid as digital is.

You are actually right, but only if you are using older converters - for example one of the older ProTools LE boxes or PT before HD came along. Avid stuff only became technically acceptable with the advent of HD. Until then, it was best avoided (as were some others!)

That was because many converters had timing problems that caused high-pitched noises outside of hearing range that interfered with high-pitched sounds within hearing range and caused HF distortion. Modern converters are internally clocked so the problem has gone away on everything except some of the ultra-cheap ADDA converters found in budget laptops etc.

I would suggest a Focusrite box - https://focusrite.com/en/usb-interfaces

Yes, Focusrite interfaces are clean, and good value. To be honest, as long as you avoid the cheapest kit, most audio interfaces today do a very good job.
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Re: Converting 1/4 inch tape to digital for mastering help needed please

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

hannahjazzz wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 9:22 pm I need some advice on the best way to get 1/4 tape into digital format for software mastering with no/ minimal processing?

Make sure your tape machine is in good condition, well aligned, with the correct replay EQ and optimised replay head azimuth. If the tape was encoded with a noise reduction system make sure the decoder is correctly aligned too.

Connect the tape machine to a decent audio interface, and record with generous headroom into the DAW of your choice.

If the tape is in good condition you'll just need to optimise levels in the DAW to suit you distribution format (CD, streaming, Mitchell, etc). Job done. No processing involved.

If it needs 'remastering' you can either go down the digital plugin route with T-racks etc. Or you can process in the analogue domain before digitising, which is obviously the preferred option for those of an anti-digital persuasion.

Also re bit-rate/ sample rate, should I go with 16 bit or 24 bit? It needs to be compatible with all of the status quo regarding being ‘release ready’

The dynamic range of tape is well below 16 bits, but 24 bits is the norm for streaming material these days, so I'd go with that. It also makes your T-Racks processing easier with more room for manoeuvre.

My only problem is I would like to avoid recording stereo .wave into PT as this is another digital process and I’d like to keep it as analog as possible.

You've got a very big problem then... :lol: You very obviously can't avoid recording a digital file if you want to digitise the tape, and .wav is the most commonly used format. And once the signal is digitised by the audio interface any and all recording software will handle it the same way and sound the same. PT, Logic, Nuendo, RX, T-Racks... whatever, makes no difference.

With the greatest respect, you seem to hold some irrational and erroneous anti-digital prejudice which is likely to impede your ability to make the most of your tape transfer.
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