Ever felt that your digital mixes were just missing something? Something warm and musical and just flat-out real? Well, what you’re probably missing is the beauty of analog tape. There’s something very pleasing to the ear lurking in the particular way analog tape captures sound, and it’s something that’s impossible for digital technology to replicate. And yet, as Roger Mayer observes, these qualities can be captured on a CD, which leads us to the realisation that they can be incorporated within your own recordings too. But how? Roger’s 456, that’s how! It allows you to duplicate the dynamic and harmonic qualities of analog tape even within the digital realm. Here’s Roger’s extensive documentation about what the 456 is, what it does and how it does it.
456 SOLID STATE ANALOGUE TAPE
The widespread adoption of Digital Processes for virtually all aspects of sound recording and reproduction has renewed interest in obtaining the desirable qualities of the original analogue tape recordings. The Classic and Legendary albums that have been Digitally Re-Mastered from the original master tapes contain the soft compression and warm sound that we love. Listening to a legendary CD proves the original tape qualities can be digitally reproduced.
The 456 uses the latest ultra-high speed analogue design techniques to accurately duplicate the dynamic and harmonic properties of analogue tape in real time with zero latency or any other time smearing artefacts. It continually processes each of the positive and negative peaks independently with zero attack and release time thus maintaining the full audio fidelity of the original signal with analogue tape qualities.
The 456 can be used after a microphone pre-amplifier and before the DAW. This effectively enables the tape compression and harmonics to be added at source and especially makes recording of difficult percussive sounds very easy as all the very fast high frequency peaks are controlled so as not to go into digital distortion.
The optimum recording level is set in seconds by simply turning up the Threshold Control until audible distortion is heard and then adjusting the digital record level to -4dBFS. The Threshold Control is turned down and monitored by ear until the right sound is obtained.
“If it sounds right it is right”
Constant meter monitoring can be forgotten with DAW peak metering too slow to display and track the very fast peaks that give the A to D converters trouble.
The 456 will control and shape each positive or negative peak giving you confidence of never going into digital distortion and safely use the maximum digital range possible to obtain the best resolution and quality. Without using a 456 you would only be aware of over recording on playback when it could be too late.
In Post Production the 456 can be used to warm up a previously recorded digital track or to aid in the final mix to give it analogue tape characteristics as in CD Mastering.
It has a 3 section Equaliser with carefully sculpted tone control curves to adjust the Bass, Treble and Presence. These controls have been designed to give a useful range for optimising the sound and are best described as Mastering
So you can understand that the use of the 456 is unlike any other Digital Software Program and operates with zero latency and any number of them can be used in real time simultaneously thus saving significant Studio Time.
The desktop single version is available now and will also be packaged into a 1U half rack Stereo Version and a 1U half rack 2 Channel Version building into multiple free standing or rack arrays. Available soon.
Using software programs for Tape Simulation increases CPU load dramatically when multiple instances of a plug-in are used and then there is the latency and all kinds of associated problems as the computing limits are reached. Their use is normally confined to simple post production tasks.
Performance is physically constrained even with a 192Khz sampling rate or 5.2us time window that only equates to one sample per 18.7degrees phase of a 10Khz wave. It is easily understandable that peaks are not treated accurately or in real time. The effect of the anti aliasing filter properties must also be considered. These issues contribute to the cold sound and high frequency lack of detail described by many.
As mentioned before old analogue tape recordings when converted to CD are considered to sound pleasing to the listener and in many cases set the benchmark to which people aspire to. The digital recording process works best from analogue sources. Using multiple digital effects has limitations for recording not occurring with traditional studios that had analogue desks and tape.
The green output curve shows the soft knee compression characteristics. As the input increases to 0 dBFS the output increases and is held to a maximum level of 0 dBFS. This corresponds to analogue tape saturation with the peak level no longer increasing.
2nd Harmonic Curve:
The red 2nd harmonic curve shows the increase of harmonic content as the input nears 0 dBFS. As with tape the 2nd order harmonics add warmth and are pleasing to the ear as they possess a direct musical relationship.
3rd Harmonic Curve:
The blue 3rd harmonic curve increases to about 3% when the output is nearly at peak level. This is very similar to what happens when the tape is driven to near peak saturation.
The values shown are for peak levels and the actual mean operating levels will be down around the -20 dBFS where the distortion is low in value. The actual output noise level is below -96 dBFS peak and the frequency and impulse performance exceed that obtained from analogue tape making it like HD Tape.
The 456 uses our latest triple shielding construction containing a 6 layer PC Card with 2 copper power planes. The internal PC connections are between these shielding layers.
The die cast aluminium box is the 3rd shielding element. This provides very effective shielding against EMI and RF interference from Mobile Phones, Routers and Computers that all are present in modern studios.
The audio signal path is completely Class A with a very high bandwidth. The -3dB point has been set to above 100Khz. The low end extends to below 10Hz. Peaks are accurately high speed manipulated with ease and maintain the original phase position in the waveform. This fact can be observed using the latest high speed storage oscilloscope technology.
This is a completely discrete analogue design hand built using only selected low noise transistors, low noise metal film 1% resistors, metalised film capacitors from the World’s top manufacturers all combined in a design to provided ultimate studio quality audio.
The 48V DC input power is further regulated and filtered onboard to provide virtual battery performance and the lowest possible noise under all conditions.
Input Level: Nominal -20dB to +4dB Unbalanced
Output Level: +4dbu or 3.5V peak Unbalanced
Output Impedance: 50ohms
Load Impedance: 10K or greater
Dynamic Range: 96dB
Size: 100mm width x 120mm depth x 50mm height
Power Requirements: +48V DC at 60mA regulated
Universal World AC / DC Switching Adaptor Supplied