Jul/Aug 2020

Welcome to issue #138 of Tape Op.


In one week, I'll be helming my first attended studio session in over three months. It's with one of my favorite long-time clients, and we're knocking out basic tracks for a single song; a short, simple, focused day. But I'm extremely nervous. (If you're reading this issue right now in 2020, you know the context and why. If it's 2050, and you're on some new version of the internet researching "ancient music recording techniques," then do a little digging and you'll see what was going on right now.)

I've certainly been nervous about upcoming recordings before. Imposter Syndrome sometimes rears its ugly head, whispering in my ear the fear that the musicians will see right through me catching my bluff, and the session will crumble in front of me. Or maybe it's a date where I don't quite know what to expect or prepare for, with people I've never met, and many potential (unknown) technical hurdles to overcome. Some days just getting my head in the right space to listen intently and guide everyone in the room, all while getting sounds and keeping an eye on the gear, can be a lot to prep for.

But I've never entered a session where I've had to be worried about my physical health, wearing a fabric mask, and keeping as much physical distance from the clients as possible. Next week, I'll be heading in early to set up mics, hoping to spend as little time in the same physical space as the musicians once they arrive. Surfaces will be constantly wiped down with disinfectant. The coffee maker will be off limits. Everything will feel less "spur of the moment." The natural flow and actions that were once simple and unconscious will need to be carefully considered. I won't even get to hug my friends as they enter the building.

I place an immense value on collaboration and camaraderie in the recording studio, and putting up so much distance and boundaries between us in the middle of what should be an open, free, and creative process is going to feel very wrong to me. I know we'll get through it successfully and with our health intact, but it feels so odd. I know we'll create some great music, but I value the health and safety of my clients and myself more than anything.

I can't wait to feel safe again one day, and I'm wishing the same
for you and yours.

The Recording Academy's P&E Wing's "Considerations for COVID-19 Safe Studio Reopening" www.grammy.com/sites/com/files/studio_guide_final_05282020.pdf

— Larry Crane, editor

In This Issue See more →


Columns See more →

End Rant

Equalizers and Equality

by Larry Crane

One of the cities in the United States that changed the face of popular music more than anywhere else has to be Memphis, Tennessee. It’s also a very important story of racial integration; of...

Gear Geeking

Gear Geeking w/ Andy

by Andy Hong

I imagine many of you have utilized extra shelter-in-place hours to work on DIY projects in the studio or home. I certainly have, and despite all the hours I've dedicated to these tasks, my fixit list...


Gear Reviews See more →

Vacbax 500 Series Tube EQ

by Roll Music Systems  |  reviewed by Eamonn Aiken

There's something appealing about a two-band EQ. It implies a broad stroke – "just a bit of this and a pinch of that" – in a way that is optimistic, confident, and unfussy. Simple tools...

I Heart NY Plug-In

by BABY Audio  |  reviewed by Ben Bernstein

I admit it, I don't always feel like creating a separate aux channel to add parallel compression on my drum tracks. Enter BABY Audio's I Heart NY parallel compressor plug-in, a bus compressor that...

VDI Tube Direct Box

by Hazelrigg Industries  |  reviewed by Jeremy Wurst

The Hazelrigg Industries VDI is a single channel, all-triode, vacuum tube-based DI featuring the same circuit from the D.W. Fearn VT-I/F and VT-3. The VDI offers an uncomplicated design: Instrument...

Moo X Mixer APB-16 Plug-In

by McDSP  |  reviewed by Don Gunn

Colin McDowell of McDSP, and his gang of wickedly smart development minions, haven't been sitting back and complacently idling away since releasing the plug-in controlled, all analog APB-16 [Tape Op...

SSL 2 USB Audio Interface

by Solid State Logic  |  reviewed by Scott McChane

SSL has officially dived into the crowded sea of interface making with the intent of bringing a professional level of sound quality to music makers of all levels. The SSL 2 is a simple two input USB-C...

Bitwig Studio

by Bitwig 3  |  reviewed by Kevin Friedrichsen

Is it a modular sound design tool masquerading as a DAW, or is it a DAW acting as a modular instrument? Bitwig Studio blurs these boundaries, creating an environment where traditional linear time and...

Mercury Mastering DA Converter

by SPL electronics  |  reviewed by Tom Fine

SPL electronics is a 35-year-old German company that makes everything from the Vitalizer sweetener/equalizer to a well-regarded de-esser and desktop digital interfaces to mastering consoles and signal...

T8V Powered Monitor

by ADAM Audio  |  reviewed by Scott McChane

Let's use some simple steps for choosing monitors, based on how one might select a bottle of wine. Set your monitor price point (much like wine, with monitors you'll likely need to buy at least two),...

Soothe2 Plug-In

by oeksound  |  reviewed by Gus Berry

I love low end and I try to mix with a lot of power coming from that range. This is tough when your monitors and room start to lose clarity and tightness below 100 Hz. I have to consciously spend a...

THE BOX 2 Console

by API  |  reviewed by Ed Hickey

With the shift to digital recording and razor-thin budgets in recent decades, recording consoles have disappeared from many modern recording studios. In place of a 96-channel behemoth, a new studio...

KickBlock Drum Anchor System

by KickBlock Product  |  reviewed by Larry Crane

If your studio is anything like mine, you see a variety of drums come through and sometimes the kick drum will not stay in place. Developed by drummer Will Butera with his dad Jay, KickBlock is a must...

EC6 Tube Preamp

by Electric & Company  |  reviewed by Justin Mantooth

Based in Austin Texas, Electric & Company builds and restores boutique preamplifiers. The EC6 is a mono tube preamp based on the preamps from the Ampex 600 series reel-to-reel tape machines. The...

Revelation II Tube Mic

by MXL  |  reviewed by Dylan Ray

The Revelation II is MXL's newest offering from their Premium Studio microphone line. This large-diaphragm, continuously variable pattern tube mic features top-shelf components: Internal Mogami...

The Ballad of Tommy LiPuma (Book)

by Ben Sidran  |  reviewed by Larry Crane

The late Tommy LiPuma's career covered seven hit-making decades of music, and musician/writer/etc. Ben Sidran [father of Leo Sidran, Tape Op #135], who worked with Tommy extensively in the studio,...

LUNA Recording System

by Universal Audio  |  reviewed by Dana Gumbiner, John Radin

Senior Writer Dana Gumbiner covers the bulk of this major new software release from Universal Audio, but we've also asked our newest reviewer, John Radin, to comment from a guitarist's point of view....


Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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