Getting Dirty

So far, this all assumes we’re using a medium that has a broadly similar performance across quiet and loud sound sources. In fact, most analogue recording gear has a much smaller ‘linear’ range when compared to modern 24-bit DAWs.

Tape in particular exhibits frequency-dependent compression, which becomes more and more significant at higher signal levels. This delivers the much-loved sound of tape saturation, and a progressive form of audio ‘squashing’ that is associated with ‘warmth’.

A good way to see this in hear this in action is by taking a bass sound…

…and comparing it with two different tape versions…

The first is a ‘normal’ recording, while the second is recorded ‘hot’ (i.e. with the signal pushed to higher levels on the input), and therefore creating enhanced saturation.

The frequency response chart clearly shows a more complex curve for the hot tape version (orange) in the 400-1000 Hz range when compared to the original (red):

Pic 9a

However, this doesn’t provide the full picture. Comparing the two in a waveform editor shows that the waveform undergoes quite a bit of transformation in the process:

Pic 10a

Capturing The Moment

Pushing the incoming signal level is most definitely where much of the excitement lies, but there is a possible downside to saturation. Squashing a signal dynamically can mean losing some transient detail.

This is especially important when it comes to drum sounds.

Here we have a layered snare and clap hit. Comparing the attack portion of the waveform of each helps us see what is going on. The original is shown by the black wave on a tan background, while the tape version is the blue line on grey background:

Pic 11a

Whilst some transient detail can be lost, here (and especially in parts of an analogue signal chain utilising valves or transformers) harmonically pleasing distortions may make for a more favourable, if less ‘accurate’, overall sound.

We looked at harnessing some of these techniques in software in the Adding Analogue and Creative Distortion walkthroughs.

6th March, 2015

You currently have an ad blocker installed

Attack Magazine is funded by advertising revenue. To help support our original content, please consider whitelisting Attack in your ad blocker software.

Find out how

x

A WEEKLY SELECTION OF OUR BEST ARTICLES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX