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Author Topic: Back to basics recording  (Read 3449 times)

Offline ironbut

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Back to basics recording
« on: September 11, 2010, 02:16:37 PM »
About a year or so ago, a query was made on the ASRC list (and later made it to the Ampex list IIRC) about an appropriate semi-portable, tube based reel to reel recorder for use in a multi location recording project by an unknown "major artist". It grew into an excellent thread with opinions and options from a wide cross section of folks who'd been (or are) involved with tape in the professional arena.
I don't know about you guys, but I love those kinds of discussions and my knowledge of these "portable" beasts grew a great deal from following that thread.
Well, here's a "thank you" post from the original poster and some discussion and links to find out more of where this all led.

"I heard some clips the other day from John Mellencamp's new
album (produced by T-Bone Burnett), which was recorded with
an Ampex and one Microphone, in 3 historic locations (First
African Baptist Church, Savannah, GA; Sun Studios, Memphis;
and room 414 of the Gunter Hotel, San Antonio, TX). I am
assuming this is the project that someone was trying to
scare up a recorder for on this list a while back. An
interview I saw said he found the recorder on ebay for $350.

One of the reviewers I heard thought the record was trash
because it was too "gimmicky", and thought that John was
pretentious for trying to walk in the footsteps of people
like Elvis and Robert. The other thought that the record was
great because it sounded great, and from what I heard, I
agree with him.

-Matt Sohn

On 8/30/10 10:18 AM, Mahern, Paul Cantwell wrote:
Matt,

I am happy to hear that you liked the sound of the Mellencamp record. And yes, I was the one who posted here last year asking for recommendation of a portable recorder. It was Eric Jacobs that suggested that we look at the Ampex 601. I have been engineering records for almost 30 years now and I must say that this was one of the most educational experiences I have ever had. The RCA ribbons we used sounded magical through that 601 preamp - far from clean but amazingly musical.

Here is a video clip of one of the songs recorded at Sun Studios. What you are hearing is the sound of one RCA 44 and the 601. The slap delay is even coming from the repro head of the 601. I would love to know what member of this list think of the sound.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBrQv66oLxc&feature=player_embedded

Very Best

Paul Mahern
Mahern Archival Engineering


On Aug 30, 2010, at 11:02 AM, Aaron Levinson wrote:

Congrats from Philly as well Paul. The record sounds sweet and natural. Of course the players have to nail it in order to get it right and that is the way it should have been all along. Did you do any splicing between takes? My guess is not as I think the 601 only runs at 7.5 and 15 ips if memory serves and while quite possible it's certainly not as easy to execute as it is at 30.

Is the album available on vinyl? It would be criminal if it weren't.

AA

Aaron,

I work with Paul, and thought I'd chime in here. Rounder is issuing the album on vinyl and you can see more about that here:

http://www.rounder.com/artist/music/default.aspx?pid=64124&aid=98316

You're right, if this were only available in digital formats, it would really sell the project short in the end.

Best,
Christian

Christian Rutledge, Manager
Mahern Archival Preservation"

steve koto
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: Back to basics recording
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2010, 01:16:20 AM »
Have one of the vinyl copies on order. Expected release in early October.
Have a stereo 601-2 and a  602-2  Have Russian and Chinese ribbon mics (no RCAs :-()  including a blumelin stereo one as well as one of the Ampex tube mixers.
Now if I could restore them (the recorders), get some musicians that play well and a nice room...
I seriously have dreamed of doing such recording my entire life including direct to disc.
If you listen to the NPR interview Mellencamp actually was toying with the idea of even bypassing tape for this!
But he was told it would be too difficult to do direct to disc.
Well, it seems Rounder has it available now, so I just ordered another copy!
« Last Edit: September 12, 2010, 01:29:55 AM by steveidosound »
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Offline ironbut

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Re: Back to basics recording
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2010, 02:23:18 AM »
I just ordered the vinyl as well. I'm not a huge Mellencamp fan but I'd love get a listen to this one.
I really love the idea of taking the same recording chain to different famous "rooms" to record an album.
I also love the work that T-Bone Burnett's does so I think this album should have a lot going for it.

BTW, when was the NPR interview? Fresh Air?
steve koto
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: Back to basics recording
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2010, 04:20:35 PM »
here it is -
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129275541
The part about the lathe is at least in the commentary on this page, might be in the intro. to the interview too, but I think the actual Fresh Air interview was an older one from when they were first starting the project. 
« Last Edit: September 12, 2010, 04:27:00 PM by steveidosound »
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: Back to basics recording
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2010, 12:23:11 AM »
Got my vinyl of this. Not quite what I had hoped for. Not bad... Perhaps some digital post processing?
What do you think Steve?
Steve Williams

you don't want to know what equipment I listen to...

Offline ironbut

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Re: Back to basics recording
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2010, 01:12:05 AM »
I haven't had a good chance to listen to it yet.
Unfortunately, when I went to play the first lp, I noticed some very bad hum in the my right speaker. I tracked the problem down to a bad solder joint in the interconnects between my preamp and amp. Easy fixed I thought, right?
After fixing the cable, I put the first lp on and the balance was way off (for those who don't know, this is a two disk mono lp). I flipped the selector and played an SACD and it was fine. Then I double checked all my wiring and the two SU transformers which all seemed good to go.
Well, somehow when I was pulling or replacing the IC, I wiped out the cantilever of my cartridge! Either that or the fairies came and bent it over to the left while I was in Monterey.
Luckily, it's just an Audio Technica OC9 that I bought used for about $90 many moons ago.
So, it's time to make lemonade and upgrade my OC9 with some fancy cantilever and stylus or move on to a different cartridge altogether.
Tomorrow I'll pull the Audio Technica and install a back up (a GAS Sleeping Beauty that I haven't heard in decades) and make a decision.

steve koto
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Offline ironbut

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Re: Back to basics recording
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2010, 11:52:45 AM »
Hey Steve,
I got a chance to listen to one of the lps. Luckily, I was able to bend the cantilever back and according to the "HiFi Review" test record, it's tracking pretty well.

I found that the recording does what it was designed to do. It has that old radio sound and a lot of nostalgic charm.
I did have to adjust my listening practices to really enjoy it though.
If you haven' tried it yet, try turning down the volume to the listening level of what would be normal with a circa 1950's mono radio console or one of those old record changers with the heavy wooden lids and the speaker in front (my mom had an RCA).
The record kinda sounded like crap at the higher volume levels that most audiophiles use to approach "live performance levels".

So, try meeting the recording half way and I think you'll enjoy it much more.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2010, 08:49:39 PM by ironbut »
steve koto
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Offline rawbcca

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Re: Back to basics recording
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2010, 08:21:14 PM »
Just finished listening to both LPs.
I played it through an all solid state system and I loved it.
It truly does have that old 50's tube sound, a little raw & unrefined and I like that.
And yes you definitely need to find the sweet spot in the volume setting to enjoy it.
I'll be recording it to reel for easy home listening and to CD for the car.
Cheers
Richard
REVOX PR99 mrkIII, REVOX G36, STELLAVOX SP7, TASCAM 3030, TEAC A-3440, TEAC X-2000R, TEAC X-2000M

Offline steveidosound

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Re: Back to basics recording
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2010, 11:09:24 PM »
I have listened to the whole thing through now on headphones, which is probably not the best way to listen to a mono program.
Still, to me it does not really quite have the vintage sound that other recordings of that era might have. It is not that clean, but somehow seems a little less dynamic even than a vintage recording on vinyl. I wonder if they just pushed a bit hard on the tape levels? Does anyone know if it was 7 1/2 or 15 ips on the old Ampex 600 series? I don't think they ran stock @ 15.
It does have less tape hiss than a typical vintage recording. Perhaps tape compression taken to a bit of an extreme? Or, they could have done all kinds of manipulation and post-processing to it in the digital domain, "re-mastered" it, then spit it back out to vinyl.

In any case I am still an advocate of moving back more toward this type of recording, especially for more or less acoustic small groups.
Good room sound , minimal micing, all playing together, mix balance mostly through careful acoustic placement, but perhaps in stereo, going direct to analog tape or perhaps direct to the disc lathe.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2010, 11:12:12 PM by steveidosound »
Steve Williams

you don't want to know what equipment I listen to...