Dr. AIX's POSTS — 22 November 2015

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I messed up. As hard as it is to admit it, I screwed up a couple of the copies of Christian Jacob’s “Beautiful Jazz” analog tape copies. A couple of my customers got in touch and wondered whether something was wrong with the copies I made for them. It seemed that the right and left channels were out of balance. They were right. Somehow the first couple of copies I made contained the mistake (if there are others, please contact me). I haven’t figured out exactly what went wrong but I can only imagine that I tweaked the right input to the transfer machine or the output of the source machine somehow. It’s true that the left and right sides of aren’t necessarily uniform but it was obvious that the tapes would have to be transferred again. Today was the day that I managed to get the gear together again and make the transfer once again.

It was late last summer when I made all of the arrangements the last time, which included renting a truck with a lift gate, driving out to West Hills, and setting up the transfer station here at my studio. This time around I managed to secure a second machine from a friend that was kind enough to let me use his deck free of charge…and getting it here wasn’t as big a challenge because his studio is very close by. I’m only sorry that I didn’t realize this back in August.

All of this for the cause of analog sound. The repro and record calibration of the machine, the cleaning and demagnetizing of the tape path and heads, the correct setting of the record amplitude makes analog transfers exacting work. Compare that to a digital transfer. You take the digital data from one file and copy them to another file…without any loss during the exchange. The analog transfers that I made today lose 3 dB of dynamic range…I’m just saying.

I sat in my main studio and listened to the playback of each copy as they were being recorded. Yes, with a professional tape machine you can switch from the input to the output and check the final product. Digital Audio Workstations can’t do that. When you make a recording to Pro Tools and you want to listen to the output of the DAW, you get the output of the ADCs not the actual digital recording. Tape machines allow the engineer to check the actual recording. It’s called “confidence” recording and it has saved me many times. If you have a signal when monitoring the input and you don’t have a signal when you switch to the tape output, you failed to engage record mode.

Auditioning the playback of Christian Jacob’s “Beautiful Jazz” recording was a real treat. It’s an amazing performance by a first class artist. The analog master and the copies capture all of the music and artistry. But the 96 kHz/24-bit high-resolution recording, is superior…if you like clarity, sparkle, dynamic range, and details. I know everyone has an opinion on analog tape but it’s no contest for me.

I happened to notice a post from David Pogue’s Reel-to-Reel Yahoo Group about a “4-track Lou Reed ‘Transformer’ 7.5 ips” analog tape that sold on eBay for $391! Unbelievable! It’s obviously not about the sound if someone is spending that kind of money.

So the new copies will make their way to the customers this week. I’m glad that I was able to correct the error. My apologies to those that have had to wait.

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

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