Tape Project Forum

General Category => Prerecorded Tapes => Topic started by: michael22 on June 07, 2012, 06:24:25 PM

Title: The Shins revisited
Post by: michael22 on June 07, 2012, 06:24:25 PM
A friend of mine heard the CD of Port of Morrow playing in a record store (he had previously heard my tape) and said the album sounded great. Out of curiosity, I hooked up my dbx II decoder and tried the tape. To my surprise, it sounded "normal," with full bass, clear highs, and wider dynamic range. The playback decoding control was set about 1/3 of the way up. Is it possible that this tape was duplicated from a dbx-encoded running master? Today, I heard "A Simple Song" from the CD on radio and it also sounded fine. So something was obviously screwed up in the duplication ... a member on another list thought the dynamic range of the tape was "about 5 db."
Title: Re: The Shins revisited / mastering practices
Post by: steveidosound on June 15, 2012, 01:23:16 PM
I still have to actually listen to mine. I have heard the CD and the digital download (and the CD I burned from that) and my vinyl copy.
The album does suffer a bit from the "loudness wars" that we have all discussed here and elsewhere, which are an artifact of modern mastering practices, which are, I guess a matter of taste to some degree. But this sounds like way over and above from the reviews I have read on other groups.
(side note - I found I have not posted on the Yahoo reel to reel group since 2007!)
This begs the question, who did the duplication or mastering for the R2R version?  Does anyone actually know what digital and or analog processes were used to create the album anyway?
Where is there a R2R dupe line running anywhere in the world beside the Tape Project and the other even smaller audiophile efforts in this field?
Perhaps someone just got overly ambitious with compression and pushing the levels on the dupes.
Mastering for digital and for analog are two different animals, and within analog, 1/4 track 7 1/2 ips reel is not the same as 15 ips 2 track (or cassette for that matter), and all of the above different than the characteristics of vinyl. You can slam digital right to the limit and keep it there avoiding all the dynamic range that digital can afford if used correctly, and this seems to be the case with a lot of music today.
With any analog it is a balancing act of effectively utilizing the dynamic range available for the "best" result, which is subjective and media-dependent.  Some compromise between noise and distortion. Sounds as if the person doing this for the band chose to error on the side of  loud, no tape hiss, and  forget about the saturation effects that come from pushing the levels in this media. It would not be the first time this has happened in reel to reel duplication. The bigger question for anyone who has any pretense to liking quality music reproduction is, are  people now only using analog media for the  "caricature" of it's "sound" or as a effort to use the recorded media to the best of it's ability to capture sound in a faithful and musical way?

To the forum moderator - sorry about using other peoples 2nd hand opinions of the tape's sound.
Title: Re: The Shins revisited
Post by: ironbut on June 15, 2012, 04:40:47 PM
Watch it Steve!

Seriously, without knowing anything about the way these tapes were made, everything is speculation.
I can remember after cd's had totally taken over, a few bands would put out vinyl versions of their releases as a novelty. They were pretty awful (sound wise) and the quality of the vinyl might as well have had sand as one of the ingredients.
If the Shins tape was also released as a novelty and really meant to be sold to die hard fans of the band who don't even have machines to play them on, they could have easily been made on an old Teac or Sony that isn't even biased for the tape it was recorded on.

Personally, it really doesn't make that much difference to me. IMHO, the value of a band like the Shins releasing a title on tape is more symbolic. It makes a larger bit of the music buying public aware that something called "reel to reel" exists and can be used as a consumer media type.
As a little reality check, most people in this world don't even know what an audiophile is and many audiophiles haven't even heard of the Tape Project (although that's getting better). And just a fraction of them have actually heard a TP tape.

I suggest that if folks are wondering about the sound that can be had on any tape, they go to the source. I did ask these questions a while back on the Shins web site but never heard back.

I'm satisfied with my purchase. I wasn't expecting to be blown away and I'm just glad it wasn't recorded onto some old 456 that the studio had lying around.
Title: Re: The Shins revisited
Post by: steveidosound on June 16, 2012, 02:29:25 PM
Hi, while I mostly agree with what you are saying Steve, it does make me cringe when people use what can be such a wonderful media as reel to reel or vinyl for it's "sound" in a sort of nostalgic or bad way, ( I  _LIKE_ those clicks and pops and static and distortion) when it has potential to be very good. Similarly, though I have engaged in "digital-bashing" along with many die-hard analog fans, I know, at it's high bit rate best, it can probably exceed the sound quality of the best analog.
Tied to that fact is that if open reel is to be any kind of niche format, we DON'T need a poorly executed example by a semi-major band "defining the sound"of reel to reel at it's worst for novices.
Again, since your best efforts to find out how they did this have been ignored, we can only speculate that someone who didn't understand how best to duplicate or master to reel to reel did this. That is why I am glad there are people like Paul and Keith (and many others) that DO understand the technicalities and respect  the music as well.
Anyone can turn up the volume. It takes a real pro to turn out a musical gem.
Title: Re: The Shins revisited
Post by: michael22 on June 17, 2012, 07:55:51 AM
This came from Bob on the reeltoreel list:

"The Shins original 2 track master is a 30 ips 1/2" tape with NO noise reduction in use. It was remastered for CD from ProTool digital files. I was at The Lodge Mastering Studio to make sure the Ampex ATR100 2 track was up to spec. At that time during mastering, there was no mention of a reel to reel release, so I have no idea what was used for a running master ..."

Title: How many Shins tapes were produced?
Post by: michael22 on December 16, 2012, 06:24:04 PM
Anyone have any idea how many of these tapes were produced? I'm listening to No. 108 and am wondering whether anyone has one with a higher number ...

I'm asking because a colleague is trying to assess the market for a rock music reel, probably 2- or 4-track 7-1/2 ips. It's a currently popular 'cult' group ..

Also, any recommendations on who could duplicate such a reel?
Title: Re: The Shins revisited
Post by: ironbut on December 16, 2012, 07:50:22 PM
Hey Michael,

I know that one of our members says he has #134 but I'm guessing that there were more tapes sold to "Shins" fans/collectors than to "tape lovers" like us.
You should ask on a Shins fan site.
Title: Re: The Shins revisited
Post by: michael22 on December 16, 2012, 08:49:22 PM
I agree, I think the reel tape was more of a novelty collectible than an audiophile offering (at least, judging by the sound of it).
Title: Re: The Shins revisited
Post by: kooz on August 28, 2013, 04:09:57 PM
Hey guys, first post here.  Sorry to necro this really old thread, but I got impatient waiting for a response at this other forum (http://www.tapeheads.net/showthread.php?p=352361#post352361).

The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned post:

The first thing I notice (since I'm usually staring at my tape deck while listening) is the VU meters are almost immediately PEGGED at max level, and they only rarely drop into metered range. On my RT-707 this is registered as 3+ dB. I can't help but feel this is bad for the meters - an audible "tick" can be heard whenever they bounce into the ceiling...

Audibly, several passages, especially the harder-hitting bass and driving beats, seem to exhibit distortion.

After playing through the first side, I decided to try side two in my Tascam 22-4. Being a (slightly) newer, semi-professional deck, it may be calibrated for a higher output tape. The meters on that deck max out at +5 dB. Despite that, the result was essentially identical: meters completely bottomed-out for the majority of playback. Same or similar distortion observed during heavier passages.

I just checked against my vinyl copy, as well as a FLAC CD rip... the distortion is not present in either copy. I want to say it sounds like tape saturation... but it seems naive to assume the mastering/duplication engineers let this happen, intentionally or not.

It seems perhaps the output on the tape is too much for my decks' heads and/or electronics to handle. I can record on these decks and bounce into the top end of the VU with decent tape (UD, UD-XL/XLI) all day long... I don't suspect my decks to be problematic, just insufficient.

There has been some mention earlier in this topic about this release using SM911... that should be a +6 dB tape, right? Does that mean the average should be floating around +6 dB? Or should it be +6 peak? Either way, I would almost be inclined to believe this is on SM900, as constantly being over +5 dB seems really high, even if the intent is to average +6 db...

Then again, I just took a peak at the 1st track off the CD rip, and the dynamic range is definitely pretty heavily compressed. I guess it's conceivable that they'd be able to park the meters pretty much in-place if they used this source. That would definitely be a disappointment, but maybe the vinyl looks the same too. I haven't checked that out. I would find it hard to believe, though, considering the technical limitations with that format.

Either way, I've gotta wonder... SM911, SM900, +6, +9 dB... what does it matter how high of SNR you're getting from the tape if it doesn't sound right on a typical consumer-level (the format they chose) tape deck?. If they intended us to play it on Studers and ATRs they probably should have released through the Tape Project.

I'm curious what others with this tape have to say on the matter. Is everyone else's deck up to the task?

Having read through this thread (after arriving here via Google), I am particularly intrigued regarding the section I highlighted in bold...  My assumption was that whoever was in charge of dubbing these reels knew what the hell they were doing.  The opinions being tossed around here have me starting to cast doubt though.

Is the general consensus that these tapes (I have #058, BTW) are basically junk, sonically?  Or could I possibly be "on to something" regarding the need for higher-end gear to unlock their hidden potential?  Is there any validity to the idea that a +6 or +9 tape, played back on a ~0dB calibrated deck could overdrive the heads or their supporting electronics?

Has anyone given this tape a try in a deck that's been calibrated to something like SM900?
Title: Re: The Shins revisited
Post by: ironbut on August 28, 2013, 05:10:55 PM
Hey kooz, (btw, we use our real names on this forum. Please read "Forum Rules")

It's my opinion that the Shins reel to reel release is a novelty item which was meant for collectors and certainly not for audiophiles.
As such, I don't believe that a well thought out duplication chain was employed. At the low end of the scale, perhaps nothing more than a couple of old Teac's which weren't adjusted or even cleaned very well.
Considering the price, having a professional studio make the copies one by one would be totally out of the question IMHO.
So, even if the person(s) doing the duplication was familiar with reel to reel tape, this is not the results of what I'd call a "serious" effort.

Where the distortions were introduced is academic at best.
Without first hand knowledge of how the tapes were produced, it's all guesswork and internet noise.

BTW, I bought my copy as a collector's item from the "tape enthusiasts" point of view and also in hopes that enough of these tape would be sold so folks in the industry might take notice.
I wasn't expecting much of the tape itself.
Title: Re: The Shins revisited
Post by: kooz on August 30, 2013, 10:43:30 AM

Thank you for the reply.  I think this pretty much confirms my suspicions, which is disappointing to say the least, but it's good to have some sort of closure, haha...