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FAQ about analog recording

Is there really a difference between computer recording and tape recording?

Yes there is and the difference is bigger than many would assume. After studying audio for over 25 years, it sounds to us that tape does not bring anything additional to the performance with the exception of a small amount of tape compression which isn’t that huge of a factor. Yet, tape actually loses less than DAW recording compared to the original performance.

On tape the guitar sounds remarkably natural. It’s like standing next to the amplifier.
Jussi Turunen, guitar

Most studios are monitoring audio from the soundcard output so they are all the time listening the signal after A/D and D/A conversion. If you have a chance, compare the sound to how it sounds before soundcard and you are on to something pretty cool.

I also think that it will be a growing trend as awareness spreads. In a way the circle can close.
Jarmo Nikku, guitar

The difference between computer and tape recording is clearly described on this video:

Why bother recording on tape and using analog equipment as the final product will be an mp3 on internet anyway?

Many say that older music sounds better. When you hear a before-early-90’s era Queen, AC/DC or for example a Metallica song on internet or on the radio, there’s something in them that touches you. In comparison most of the recently made music sounds way more flat, cold and emotionless compared to them.

When listening the songs at home it’s amazing how different the dynamics are and how much better it sounds compared to digital recording. By far the most natural sound compared to any recording I’ve ever done. Had goose bumps and teary eyes when listening to our songs. You Anssi are one heck of an analogue audio guru! 
Mikko Huopainen, guitar/Royal Max

In Finland all music played on radios is either mp3 or mp1 depending on the station and still older music sounds better. Every band will benefit from tape recording even if the final product would be an mp3. If your final product will be a vinyl or a cassette, the benefit is even bigger. There the loss is way smaller as long as you keep the manufacturing signal chain analog.

The mixes sounded very natural. The sound was enjoyable, wide and “big”, and there didn’t seem to be any need for doubling etc.
Jussi Turunen, guitar

We have every piece of Astia-studio gear as plugins so why bother to buy any studio time from you?

That’s cool to hear. Plugins are nice to get to know the characteristics of equipment. We don’t know the advertising company for plugin manufacturers but they are definitely doing an amazingly great job at marketing.

Unfortunately the difference between a hardware unit and a plugin is the same as with a real life Ferrari compared to a Playstation car game. For some reason people think that if they have the plugin, it is exactly the same as the real life hardware unit. There are blowup rubber dolls available that “emulate a real life woman”. And yes, we have heard that some do prefer them. Yet, most men like a real woman instead of an emulation…

When recording on tape we should be super good musicians as there are no editing or autotuning possibilities, right?

Cutting the tape using a razor to combine different drum takes can be done, but usually it is not needed. All other instruments can be recorded even in small pieces, yet we do not recommend it. Longer pieces or even full live takes usually sound better.

When recording on DAW you often tend to play pretty careful to avoid the mistakes. Instead of that, on this session each of us broke free from such chains. The tape captured the most genuine and emotional band with all cool “flaws”. The touch and feel of your playing is caught on magnetic tape in much greater detail compared to digital recording. And that is awesome!
–Tino Jäntti, drums/Vanguardian

Imagine if Kurt Cobain from Nirvana had his vocals autotuned. How horrible it would have sounded! Tape recording captures the emotion and once the emotion is correct, the performance becomes mesmerising.

The recording experience is much nicer. With DAW the playing gets painstaking while with tape both the emotion and the “touch” of the musician come forth instead of the endless re-recording. Also the straightforwardness of the tape recording is very appealing. The sound is tweaked before recording and after that there’s no need to spend more time on that. With DAW the amount and diversity of both the plugins and emulations can easily distract you from the main point which should be the playing.
–Mikko Saviranta, guitar/Vanguardian

Every musician we have recorded on tape says that there’s a strange “forgiving factor” as small mistakes just seem to disappear. Make the same mistake on a computer recording and you either need to edit or re-record the part.

Recording on tape was surprisingly much easier compared to digital. Using the analog methods recording as finalized sound as possible you can step out of the vicious circle of digital recording where you have all the options to tweak until the end of time, while leaving the sound cold and lifeless.
–Markus Martinmäki, vocals/Vanguardian

Read more about why you too should record on magnetic tape:
You Must Be A World-Class Virtuoso To Record On Tape – And 4 Other Myths About Tape Recording

And it was surprising that you can combine a track using several takes. Meaning that one take might not end up on the song as a whole, yet it could cosist of multiple recording passes.
–Snake, guitar/Serpico

How can we make a good recording when tape is limited to only 24 tracks?

As we use VCA automation, one track is used from the SMPTE time code so we only have only 23 tracks. Still, that is more than enough.

Many great albums have been done using 24 tracks or less. When we worked on Ensiferum album, they told us that all melody guitar parts need a double, lower octave, higher octave, fifth and third to start with. Once they heard how tape recording of only one guitar sounded, they told us that one lead guitar is more than enough.

We don’t know when music making got this twisted (well, actually we do as it has something to do with DAW’s taking over and bands starting to produce themselves) but 24 track tape recording can easily sound a lot bigger compared to 100 tracks of DAW recording and we are more than happy to demonstrate this to you.

How long it takes to make recording, mixing and mastering to one song and how about a full-length album?

We have done albums in just one day including recording, mixing and mastering. Nope, this time it was not a punk trio, but a 12-piece band who definitely had done their homework.

Some dude said it’d take one day to setup the gear and do the soundcheck. Then at least another day to track just the drums. Maybe two days for the guitar and bass along with one two days for vocals. That sounded like a pretty rough estimation.

Then we talked with Anssi and it all sounded so much more rational and better. For example that you’ll arrive at the studio on the previous evening set everything up and on the morning of the first session day you can immediately start rocking as there’s no need to mess up with anything…. We all agreed that we want to do the session at Astia-studio!!!
–Spade, drums/Carousel Full of Faces

Usually one song can be done in one day and 2-3 songs in 2-4 days. The usual full-length album session is 10-20 days. On every session we advice the band to arrive on the previous evening. Without any additional cost they can setup instrument and we’ll setup mics and adjust sound for recording along with headphone mixes. This way we can start recording immediately in the morning of the first session day. This always saves us 3-4 hours of studio time.

Read more about the session length that includes recording, mixing and mastering along with general session experience at Astia-studio:

How do you manage your headphone mixes? Most studios have digital headphone mix system and that seems to have a small delay.

Yes, you are right about the delay. Every digital monitoring system has a small delay as sound needs to be converted from analog to digital to record it and then from digital to analog to monitor it. On most digital systems the delay is very slight but still there. You can easily feel it as you’ll for example lose the touch when playing the guitar.

The new headphone system at the Kippoland was very pleasant and user friendly.
Masa Maijanen, bass

We use Furman HDS-16 full analog monitoring system. Every musician gets a 16 channel analog headphone monitoring mixer and they can adjust the headphone balance to taste. It’s analog there’s no delay!

This was a great experience. I usually spend quite some time setting a good vocal sound up, but now it was immediately good. I only adjusted the levels between my voice and various instruments, which took approx. 1 minute and then I was good to go. Of course it didn’t hurt to sing into Pave Maijanen’s old legendary Neumann U67 tube microphone from the 60’s either.
Patrik Eriksson, vocals

When recording the basic tracks most musicians are familiar how difficult it is to communicate with each other while wearing headphones in a big reverberating room. The Furman system has a built-in talkback that allows the musicians to discuss easily by a press of a button.

The monitoring system was great! Easy and fast to adjust. Sound was pleasant.
Harri Ala-Kojola, drums

We want to track our music live all at once. Do you have enough room or will there be leakage between mics and most importantly; can we track vocals live with the band?

Our studios are designed for live recording. Live tracking is what we highly recommend. Vocals can be recorded at the same time without any leakage from other instruments. Drummer, bass player, guitar and keyboard players are located in the same room so they can see each other. Vocalist is usually in an isolated booth to minimize leakage from other instruments. If leakage is no problem, naturally the vocalist can be placed in the same room with the others.

After rehearsing a lot together with the whole band it felt natural to also record all together.
Noora Korppi / Faulty Messenger

We heard that tape is pretty expensive. Is the tape included in price or how it all works?

Tape is a bit more expensive compared to hard drive space. For multitrack recording we have chosen Recording The Masters SM900 2″ tape. We only use new and never re-use old tape.

RTM SM900 2″ tape costs 10€ / minute and one reel that can have 32 minutes including the pauses between the songs costs 310€. The price includes VAT 24%.

You can buy the tape directly from us and we adjust each reel to fit our tape machines. We mix to Recording The Masters SM900 1/4″ tape and always include the mix tape in the studio price regardless of how many songs we work on.

Many studios spend days mixing one song. We cannot afford that with your price. How long the mixing takes?

We no longer mix material recorded on computer in other studios. When we did, it took us approximately one day to make both mixing and mastering to one song. When we mix material recorded on tape by us, we can usually mix 3-4 songs per day.

The session was really inspiring and addictive experience. One of the coolest things was mixing that basically took place throughout the session.
Kalle Virtanen, vocals/Serpico

It is also possible to make things a lot faster. We recorded, mixed and made mastering for the Irvisko band’s 5 song EP “Katkon Jälkeen” in one 10-hour studio day.

…mixing music recorded on magnetic tape seemed to be a lot faster.
–Mikko Saviranta, guitar/Vanguardian

We have done mixes faster and also slower depending on how many instruments there are on one track and how long the song is. Straight-forward punk rock is much faster to mix compared to 15 minute progressive metal song with many instruments recorded on the same track.

Every band we work with is blown away by how fast the mix is completed. It is highly recommended that the band stays in studio during mixing. This way the mix version 1 is always accepted and no other versions are needed. You are warmly welcome to experience the magic of the full analogue recording at Astia-studio!

Curious about our full analog experience?

ASTIA-STUDIO

Full-analog Astia-studio is on a mission to bring back the energy and emotion with over 25 years of recording experience.

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Kaakkoiskaari 9
53500 Lappeenranta
Finland
+358 40 505 1595
anssi.kippo[at]astiastudio.fi