Letters from Our Readers - Tape Op #94

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Rod O’Brien

As usual, Tape Op #93 was great. Brian Kehew's job is a dream come true for any fan of classic recordings. He mentions the Talking Heads' track "Life During Wartime" in the article. It was a while ago, but this is what I remember about that album: The recording was a unique experience to say the least. The basic tracks were recorded at Chris [Frantz] and Tina [Weymouth]'s loft in Long Island City on two separate weekends. The building was an industrial building with heavy machinery running Mondays through Fridays, so we brought the Record Plant Mobile unit out and set up the band on a small stage that they used for rehearsals. We turned amps around to reduce the leakage, but there was definitely bleed. We set up two floor wedges for David to use as monitors on scratch vocals, but we reversed the phase on them to help the bleed. Brian Eno and I placed several pairs of room mics, including some PZMs, on the walls of the loft to use as ambience mics. The console was an original API with 560 modules. The tape machine was an Ampex MM 1200, using [Ampex] 456 tape at a standard +3 alignment with no noise reduction. Brian Kehew should have had a tone reel, as we always tried to make one. I think the reason we never finished the guitar overdub on "Life..." was that David [Byrne] thought the song was way too long for the album. I think it had two more verses but the band and Brian Eno convinced him we could make it work with an early fade. As for the "Enoisms," there were a lot of those; Eno was always experimenting. He would ask me, "What if we plug that track into this, send it to that, and then I take it into the synth?" We tried everything; nothing was off limits. Brian and the band were incredible to work with - a truly great time in my career. Thanks for a great magazine.

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by mark.t.chard

I have kept every copy of Tape Op I have ever read. When I am blind, in diapers and in the nursing home, I will hire a Cub Scout to read Tape Op to me.

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by alexandre reyter

I was wondering if you guys have ever tried out the Millennia AD-596 converters. It seems to me to be one of the most exciting pieces of gear out there. It's very hard to find any feedback or reviews on the Internet. I was wondering if you intended to cover it? How does it compare to the monsters out there such as the Burl B2 Bomber or the Black Lion Audio FM192? I'd be grateful if you'd would write a few lines about it, since I've been considering buying it but am kind of reluctant not knowing what to expect in terms of sonics. Kind regards, and thanks to the team. You guys are the best mag out there.

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 1:17PM

Thanks for the compliments, and thanks for being a reader. From time to time, we get letters like yours, requesting that we review a certain product, or asking us for our opinion on a set of gear that the reader is considering for purchase. We do try to schedule reviews that we think will interest our readers most, but with that said, if you have a shortlist of products that you are considering for your next expenditure, my suggestion to you is to find a dealer that will allow you to demo those products in your own studio. There you can choose the product that is ultimately best for your needs. Many of the pro audio dealers that advertise here in Tape Op have demo policies that might fit your needs. A direct comparison of high-end A/D and D/A converters, in particular, would be difficult to address in a meaningfully objective way. My opinion is that converters do have "personality" in their sound, however subtle, and it would be far better for you to hear those personalities with your own ears than to read my (or anyone else's) descriptions of those differences.

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Bob Ross

Dick Hyman's recollection of being introduced to the ondes Martenot by Carroll Musical Instruments rental company (Tape Op #92) brought back some fond nostalgia: From 1987 to 1988 I was Carroll's in-house audio engineer and head of their Technical Services Department (which essentially meant I was responsible for maintaining any of their rental gear that required electricity!) I distinctly recall stumbling across that very ondes Martenot during a routine Spring cleaning. If ever there was an electronic musical instrument that looked like it came from a Dr. Seuss book, this was it! Totally bizarre to see and touch one of those rare beasts in the flesh. I wasn't able to get many useful sounds out of that ondes Martenot then, but several years later I employed one of its "analog signal processing" (sic) techniques when recording electric guitars: An extension speaker cabinet that was included with Carroll's ondes Martenot consisted of a compression driver bolted to a Chinese gong (!), and I cobbled something similar together when looking for the anti- archetype guitar tone on a project. Thanks for the memories.

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Anonymous

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy receiving and reading Tape Op. Your publication has been a great help in my little home recording studio. I look forward to each issue. I have bought gear (like the Mojave Audio MA-300) based on your reviews.

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Jeremy Forman

I just want to say thanks for Tape Op. The most recent issue included an interview with Jeff Lynne, one of my all time favorites - and it was terrific! The fact that this is a free magazine and it's real print, not just online, makes this a beautiful thing.

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Neil Lindsay

This is in response to the question posed by Scott Miller [Tape Op #93], pertaining to the presence peak in a mic's frequency response building up and adding additional boost to a vocal (or other) tracks when recording and mixing multiple tracks of the same part. With all due respect to the various people answering the question, the only person that had the correct answer was Ethan Winer. Whether it is best to use different mics, or to change the vocalist's position, angle, or distance from the mic, these are all artistic choices that deserve discussion. But they are not the issue that was asked. The math question (whether or not a presence peak is additive with multiple tracks) has an indisputable answer, which I will attempt to prove and illustrate:

Let's say there is a 6 dB peak at 10 kHz, and you record six takes of the same vocal part, by the same vocalist, in the same position, and add them together. Except for differences in performance (timing, pitch, etc.), once you adjust the level of the mixed multitracked part to the exact same level as the single version, you will have exactly the same amount of boost at 10 kHz. You can accomplish the same thing by copying the first track onto many tracks on your DAW (respecting phase, timing, and polarity) and prove this. It won't give you the little differences that we "mult" a vocal track to supply, but it will give you several tracks with the same amount of presence boost, and the tracks added together will sound exactly the same as the single version. Now, if you were to play the vocal back through a perfectly accurate speaker and record onto another channel through the same mic, you would then add to the presence boost, and the more times you repeated that, using the last recorded track, the more pronounced it would become. This is the problem that we used to encounter with doing sound on sound (not sound-with- sound) on reel-to-reel machines, but it was usually bass buildup and loss of highs. There are many techniques to make multitracking vocals more interesting; including techniques for recording harmony parts, that we could discuss at a future time; but I hope my explanation of this question is made clear.

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Allan Douglas

Jeff Lynne and John Hampton in the same issue [Tape Op #92]? Dang! Gee, thanks, folks!

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Colin Redmond

Excellent End Rant ["Eliminate Variables" - Tape Op #93]! I've run into many of these problems and came to the same conclusions. You've also pointed out some things I have been ignoring and finding irritating. Just fix it! The advice works for both big and little studio guys; like myself. I've loved the mag for years!

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by John Lambrou

Great job on the greatest magazine that's free. I've (quietly) enjoyed every issue, but had to speak up after reading your Bill Laswell interview [Tape Op #93]. Simply fantastic; his concluding remarks are words to live by. Keep 'em coming!

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Peter Wetherbee

I am so pleased to have my interviews so nicely condensed in Tape Op style, but wish to clarify a confusing element early on in the Bill Laswell interview: When I refer to the "first Praxis album," I meant to refer to 1984, not the Transmutation Axiom CD that a lot of people think of as the "first" Praxis album. Hopefully this error was transparent to those who care, but I wanted to clarify.

Published on Tue Mar 12, 2013 by Tom Kwas

I love the articles interviewing, or about, vintage recording and recording personalities. The interview with archivist Brian Kehew [Tape Op #93] is "golden" with information, especially his take on the Talking Heads. Past articles on the people that recorded symphonies with a three mic setup on 3-track machines made great reading as well! I also have to say that it's pretty uplifting to read the stories of recording people still rolling tape, or still working with analog audio boards. More "vintage history" please!