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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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! 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.
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.
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. 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.