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Why Steve Albini Still Prefers Analog Tape 440

Posted by timothy
from the he'd-have-to-reinvent-his-legend-otherwise dept.
CNET's Steve Guttenberg ("The Audiophiliac") profiles prolific audio engineer and general music industry do-it-all Steve Albini; Albini (who's worked on literally thousands of albums with musicians across a wide range of genres) has interesting things to say about compression, the rise of home-recording ("The majority of recordings will be crappy, low-quality recordings, but there will always be work for engineers who can do a good job, because there will always be people who appreciate good sound."), and why he still prefers to record to analog tape. (Note: Albini is justly famous not just for his production work, but in particular for his essay "The Problem with Music.")
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Why Steve Albini Still Prefers Analog Tape

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  • all you need is a decoder program. its not like the old days when devices were dumb and we had new physical formats for every music generation. starting with CD's and DVD's every new generation of device plays most of the old formats if not every single one. the price of production drops so its not a big deal for new and faster devices to play old formats

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @12:54PM (#44790669) Homepage Journal

      How will a regular musician know if the format or encoding is common enough to have decoders in the future? That's hard to predict. Some new something could be just around the corner that will make people dump and forget the current stuff. And the current stuff could have some goofy DRM in it that the musician cannot detect and that limits decoder makers because they don't want to get sued.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:04PM (#44790717)

        If you care about longevity, you write PCM. You know the stuff, a number per sample and channel. An idiot could look at a file like that and understand what it is with not a header in sight.

      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:05PM (#44790721)

        How will a regular musician know if the format or encoding is common enough to have decoders in the future?

        Perhaps in the same way that VXA [mit.edu], for example, allows you to future-proof compressed archives?

        • by ethan0 (746390)

          that project looks pretty interesting.

          but it just moves the question one step away: how do you know if the decoder can be executed in the future - will VX32 be around and supported at some arbitrary point in the future?

          • by gl4ss (559668)

            how about defining an arbitrary "law" for the problem..

            for all file formats reading them 5 years to future from any given day is at least 5 times easier. (reading includes writing a decoder and presenter sw)

            this is even true for dreaded formats like swf. for nes rom files. for gif files. for arcade rom rips. for cad files. for pcx files. for mp3. for mp3+. for aac. for mpg. for anything, if you have a file format that is hard to write a decoder today then I can guarantee that it was much, much harder to do

      • by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:07PM (#44790739) Homepage

        Analog master tapes normally have extensive printed notes on their label, about things like the speed used and which tracks are in what location. Digital files need similar documentation on things like format used. Studio masters being made by the musician shouldn't have any DRM silliness to deal with.

        The main challenge for digital audio preservation is that all audio tracks need to be exported into simple PCM files. I would agree that some common studio digital formats will not be readable in the future. That means the musicians need to get .wav files instead of things like ProTools files. But saying properly exported and documented digital is fragile compared to analog tape is ridiculous. I expect to be able to read PCM files saved onto current CD and DVD media for at least another 50 years, while it's already hard to get good quality tape playback.

        • I'd worry about those expensive studio recorders not being available in the future. The chance of finding a copy of the source code for, say, FLAC and computer hardware that can run it seems higher than a specific 4 channel tape deck last made in the 1990s.

        • by Telvin_3d (855514)

          I expect to be able to read PCM files saved onto current CD and DVD media for at least another 50 years, while it's already hard to get good quality tape playback.

          I wouldn't be too sure about the 50 years thing. The manufacturers tend to state an average lifespan of around 25-35 years for burned CDs and DVDs. Based on independent testing, those turn out to be fairly accurate numbers. But they are an average. For every one that lasts 25 years, there is one that goes 45 years no problem and one that is kaput after 5.

          There are two major things that go wrong. First, any minor flaws in the how the disc has been sealed and the reflective backing will oxidize over time, ren

      • Can you give any examples of music that is permanently lost to an unpopular format or bad DRM? It may happen in the future that some music is abandoned due to software but music is already being lost due to lack of playback hardware. He can stomp his feet and say that tape is best but there will be a time when no one makes tape players any more, it is pretty unlikely that there will be a point in the future when we stop using computers to play back media.

        • by Tapewolf (1639955)

          Can you give any examples of music that is permanently lost to an unpopular format or bad DRM? It may happen in the future that some music is abandoned due to software but music is already being lost due to lack of playback hardware. He can stomp his feet and say that tape is best but there will be a time when no one makes tape players any more, it is pretty unlikely that there will be a point in the future when we stop using computers to play back media.

          How about the Doomsday Book? Not music, but an unholy hybrid of laserdisc media using a proprietary variant hooked up to a 512k BBC Micro.

          To be sure, there are a lot of examples of things that would have been lost if they had been digital - most of the recovered Dr. Who episodes, that Woody Guthrie concert from 1949, the stereo masters for Jesus Christ Superstar, Court of the Crimson King and untold others.

          A lot of people in this thread seem to have been pooh-poohing the idea of using tape as an archival f

      • Yes, predicting the future is not an option. It is known to be hard.

        Note, some of us are open source minded and drag digital copies of this
        that and almost anything with us. I suspect he is a product consumer.
        and has found a media he can work with. He will have seen a lot of
        digital solution come and go none of which were as good as his analogue
        tool kit. Modern audio digital recording is a long way from where he
        has been but is still compared to his gold-standard analog tape to validate
        its quality.

        The i

    • by gigaherz (2653757)
      Imagine a future where having access to your storage space, and being able to see the raw contents of your data is something of the distant past. When someone finds some old device, labelled as containing music, that seems to have used a PHYSICAL connection to a computer. This person tries to find the means to recover that music, but realizes that the only people with such old computers charge a huge lot of money to extract them from the device, and make them available on the new-internet, assuming they are
    • by Anonymous Coward

      it is the same principled stance as Stallman. don't wait until there is a problem - make sure there never is a problem.

      I disagree with him, but I appreciate his concerns. he has spent 20 years trying to get people out from under the thumb of the RIAA, and this is one of his many tools to do so.

      "because It's not a problem now" is how people paint themselves into a corner.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Sunday September 08, 2013 @02:54PM (#44791491) Homepage Journal

      its not like the old days when devices were dumb and we had new physical formats for every music generation.

      The "having new physical formats" is a relatively recent thing. From 1894 for the next hundred years phonographs changed little, and it was always backwards-compatible. When it changed from 78 RPM to 33.3 and 45, newer players would still play the old 78s. When stereo was introduced the new stereo records would play on old monophonic players with both channels playing through its one speaker. The design was engineered that way. A monophonic record had the up and down motions translated to sound, while a stereo record had both channels in the up and down motion and a single channel in the sideways motion, which combined with the up and down signal filtered that channel out through destructive interference.

      With cassettes and 8 tracks (I never had an 8 track, I was using cassettes before 8 tracks were popular) most people recorded the record the first time they played it so they could hear it in the car. My old '02 has both cassette and CD. It was probably 1995 before I had a CD player. And a turntable bought today will play records from 1894.

      • by lgw (121541) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @03:08PM (#44791597) Journal

        It's quite hard to find a player for wax cylinders. And if you find an old one, it likely won't play celluloid cylinders as they've shrunken enough over time to be a problem.

        The broadly successful digital recording formats of today will be easily playable by players in 100 years as well. The secret to a "future-proof" format is mass use of that format, not analog-vs-digital, or open-vs-closed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 08, 2013 @12:51PM (#44790651)

    And the longevity of analog tape? It decays. We have a steady stream of older musicians who are desperate to use our ancient reel-to-reels for a chance to digitize their brittle, fragile old tape recordings.

    No storage medium is permanent, but PCM audio has remained mostly unchanged since Max Mathews, Bell Labs, 1957.

    • by greg1104 (461138)

      Anyone who recommends long term storage via analog tape is being incredibly irresponsible. We don't need another generation stuck with tape baking [wikipedia.org].

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Indeed, with digital you've still got bit rot to worry about, but as long as you've got backups, monitor the backups and transfer to a more recent storage medium from time to time, you shouldn't ever be caught in the position of not being able to read the files.

        It also becomes trivial to store multiple copies of the same file in different locations.

      • But you may be storing digital files on tapes.

      • by ffflala (793437) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @02:06PM (#44791181)
        That was my first thought.

        My second was that Steve Albini certainly wouldn't be ignorant to these issues. Rather, he probably has a New Jersey warehouse or two of blank tape and unused tape machines that he bought up as manufacturers have dropped off, and is setting himself up for a stable, long term niche market of people who need either tape and/or tape machines.
    • He might be speaking of the project files themselves. How long will you be able to use a Pro Tools 11 project file? I seem to recall difficulties with some major DAW in getting files to work on both Windows and OS X.
      • Here's an interesting thing: Cakewalk Sonar records completely in PCM, having a file to write how it all connects and what edits were made to the files. Hardly the fastest format, but it allows for the files in question to be imported (via a sound engineer working for really long) to pretty much anything.
        • Is the file itself well documented and in a text-based format?
          • Considering that the project file incorporates not just settings from the program itself, but also settings from the myriad of external applications, it doesn't really seem possible or practical to have an open or well-documented format for it. Most likely, updates can and will break it, meaning re-doing mastering, but hey, that's what people usually do when they get master recordings on their hands.
    • by Tapewolf (1639955)

      And the longevity of analog tape? It decays. We have a steady stream of older musicians who are desperate to use our ancient reel-to-reels for a chance to digitize their brittle, fragile old tape recordings.

      No storage medium is permanent, but PCM audio has remained mostly unchanged since Max Mathews, Bell Labs, 1957.

      Depends on the substrate and adhesive. I suspect there are Nazi-era tapes that are still playable (this was certainly the case as of 1991, see 'The Secret Life of the Video Recorder': http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=gOULWR4h4Io#t=1017 [youtube.com] ...17 minutes in)

      There were a lot of problems with tapestock from 1975-1994 which used a synthetic substitute for whale oil. Japanese tapes that carried on using whale oil (Maxell) and formulations prior to this are rock-solid, and Ampex/Quantegy

  • by SerpentMage (13390) <[ChristianHGross] [at] [yahoo.ca]> on Sunday September 08, 2013 @12:58PM (#44790685)

    I have this argument oh so often... Analog is not better. The reason why digital can be sucky is due to the resolution. If you want super quality digital audio it will not be a song that needs 10 MB of room. It will be a digital file that probably needs about 500 MB per song. That is the problem, not the underlying technology.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:15PM (#44790819)

      This is so fraught with unsubstantiated nonsense it makes me ill. Which resolution are you referring to, sample rate or bit depth? Do you know what those actually do?

      Sample rate: a higher sample rate allows for higher frequency representation. As in, if you have a sample rate of 48,000Hz, you can play back a frequency of 24,000Hz (already above the range of human perception). Higher sample rate = more high frequencies you can't hear.

      Bit depth: higher bit depth increases dynamic range (think: ability to represent *quieter* sounds), and reduces quantization error (white noise). A 24bit CD has a 144dB dynamic range and 1/33,554,432th of the signal will be noise. Even 16 bit (CD) has 96dB range and 1/131,072th noise. Going higher won't make anything sound better.

      It is MUCH more important that you have a guitar amp that doesn't buzz, a drum kit that's been tuned well, and a singer that can actually sing than it is to get 'super digital quality.' But please, continue to believe in nonsense numbers like 500MB per song.

      • by Shinobi (19308)

        Higher resolution could also be having more channels, like, say, one channel for each instrument

        As for sample rate, just because the ear doesn't pick it up per se, you can still FEEL those frequencies, which you'll note if you ever go to a live orchestra. Some pipe organst can go below 10Hz. You won't hear the primary sound but you'll hear the harmonics, and you'll feel the low-frequency rumble. Even with raw digital audio recordings, pipe organs, grand pianos, violins etc are still examples of where even t

        • Higher sample rates allow higher frequencies, lower stuff should come through just fine.

          There ARE some issues with the simple "double the max frequency = sample rate you need" rule-of-thumb though. That's only for a specific type of reconstruction (part of the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem) that isn't actually done. So there IS some interpolation error, and how much of it depends on the quality of the filtering in the output stage. In general this is very, very small, but it is present and can be detecta
    • And 5 GB per song is nothing for master files. Hell, that's a few minutes of video. You think you have problems.

      • And 5 GB per song is nothing for master files. Hell, that's a few minutes of video. You think you have problems.

        Hrm; when we have the bandwidth for 5GB songs, sending all the channels and the mix data separately would actually be really helpful for optimizing the playback to the environment. 'One mix to rule them all' is always going to be a compromise.

  • by cblood (323189) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:01PM (#44790701) Homepage

    If you had a few hundred thousand dollars tied up in analogue equipment you would champion it's "superiority" too. That and resistance to change. Don't get me wrong the guy makes great sounding records. but I doubt if Steve or anyone else for that matter could pass a double blind test and identify analoge from high end digital.

    • by greg1104 (461138)

      You really should RTFA before constructing your strawman. "Albini records to analog tape, not because he's in love with the sound of analog. No, he's concerned that as digital formats continue to evolve, today's digital recordings will be unplayable in the future".

      • "Albini records to analog tape, not because he's in love with the sound of analog. No, he's concerned that as digital formats continue to evolve, today's digital recordings will be unplayable in the future".

        And what about that reel of tape that Albini hands you at the end of your recording session? Where are you going to play that in the future? Reel-to-reel tape machines are disappearing fast because they wear out, break down and no replacements are being manufactured.

        • by greg1104 (461138)

          That discussion is already going on in another thread here. This one, anchored with an incorrect "stranded investment" claim, is redundant.

    • by jythie (914043)
      I would be curious to see more experiments like that actually done. There is actually something to the 'golden ears', a small percentage of the population really does have much finer grained hearing then most people. Unfortunately for every person who actually does have this unusual trait, there (like wine drinkers) probably a thousand people who do not but blindly follow their lead, and probably another thousand who since they can not tell the difference they conclude that there is none.
      • by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Sunday September 08, 2013 @02:01PM (#44791149) Homepage

        I can credibly claim to be in the "golden ear" crowd as a former high-end audio reviewer [soundstage.com]. You need functional ears, but that's more about training than anything else. The better reviewers have spent years of their life carefully listening to different equipment and music, trying to become good at hearing small differences.

        There are a few small tricks people usually fall for that good listeners try to get a handle on:

        • Louder is better. This one is very hard to isolate out; if you're not using tools like a voltmeter sometimes to match levels, you're being fooled by it.
        • More compressed is better.
        • Boosted bass and treble is better.
        • Familiar is better.

        The last one is the most insidious, and I have an anecdote on how deep that goes. When 24/96K digital was first being released for studio use, I sat through a single-blind demo room at an AES show. They played an excellent analog master jazz recording, a version sampled at 24/96, and a version at 16/44.1 CD resolution downsampled via their equipment. I correctly graded the three from better to worse, seemed pretty obvious to me even though the high res digital was very close to the original.

        As the presenter worked the room asking people which of his samples A, B, and C were, it was obvious mine was not the majority opinion. There were a few vocal people expressing their opinion that got things completely backwards. They thought the CD quality version was the "best", and therefore it had to be the original master. As this was an AES show, these were people who worked with audio all day, and their preference didn't match reality as I heard it at all.

        Listening to their (incorrect) arguments for why they made their decisions, I realized they liked CD quality and its limitations. There was some compression to the CD version and a bit of a fuzzy/harsh roll off at the top end. But it was what they were used to. They thought recordings were supposed to sound that way, because most recordings they listened to did. You can see "familiar is better" in every generation of listener. People who grew up on vinyl like surface noise, early CD listeners are used to terrible aliasing filters, and people who grew up with low rate MP3s like their artifacts. And on the studio side, there are people who like the way analog tape sounds. To be fair, that was better than any digital available until very recently. Recent remasters of old analog recordings are still digging out details you couldn't hear in the earlier digital transfers. I think current generation 192/24 bit digital equipment is more than good enough to replace analog tape though; we passed that point a few years ago.

        • I think current generation 192/24 bit digital equipment is more than good enough to replace analog tape though; we passed that point a few years ago.

          I don't have access to this kind of gear these days, but I can tell you that it shouldn't be surprising. Back, gosh, almost 25 years ago in school, I was doing some audio stuff, both from the CS and the music sides of the house, and it was pretty clear from what we knew about both the anatomy of human ears and the physics of musical instruments that CD and 48

          • by greg1104 (461138)

            The Bob Stuart paper [meridian-audio.com] that influenced the DVD-Audio standard hit interesting numbers starting from the ear. I don't think Bob left quite enough margin for error in the equipment needing to be significantly better than what you hear to be transparent though, which is how we got from his 20 bit/58KHz suggestion to need 24/192.

            • Good point - you have to work in a much bigger space than the final output. But even at that, 58Khz seems too small; it's been a while since I was doing psychoacoustics, but one of the confounding factors was that certain instruments (cymbals, etc.) have very high harmonics, and those can directly vibrate the ear bones in a way that has a different "sound" than the action directly on the eardrum. It's true that an adult eardrum can't really hear over 20Khz, but that doesn't mean that the ear can't sense o

              • by mestar (121800)

                " It's true that an adult eardrum can't really hear over 20Khz, but that doesn't mean that the ear can't sense over 20Khz."

                No, it means exactly that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:09PM (#44790753)

    Albini records to analog tape, not because he's in love with the sound of analog. No, he's concerned that as digital formats continue to evolve, today's digital recordings will be unplayable in the future. I loved the way Albini put it: "I feel it would be irresponsible to give my clients digital files as their permanent masters, knowing they would eventually disappear or become unusable, so I won't do it. Some of the bands I work with don't appreciate the difference, or take seriously the notion that music should outlive the people who make it, and I understand that." Still, Albini feels that analog tape offers the best chance for recordings to survive. I agree, and analog tape can be used to create great sounding high-definition digital masters. That's not true of the vast majority of recordings that are being made today; most are limited to 48-kHz/24-bit digital.

    Seriously, WTF? Apparently, Albini hasn't heard about the troubles studios and bands that existed before 1980 have been experiencing with their archives. They have to bake the tapes in the oven to get one last good play before the substrate disintegrates entirely. With digital, at least, you can keep backing up your precious masters to new formats without loss, to say nothing of the benefits of having redundant clones stored in disparate locations. I doubt very seriously that capability to read WAV or other formats that are simply a header tacked onto interleaved PCM samples will ever be lost.

    Then the schmuck writing the article thinks noisy analog tape has "higher definition" than 24-bit digital. The fight against audiophoolery and ignorance will probably never end...

    • Check out what it takes to read a Cray disk pack from the 1980s. That is the challenge with digital formats. http://www.chrisfenton.com/cray-1-digital-archeology/ [chrisfenton.com]

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @03:08PM (#44791599) Homepage Journal

      Apparently, Albini hasn't heard about the troubles studios and bands that existed before 1980 have been experiencing with their archives.

      Albini uses analog tape because it provides him with some job security. If you have a 1/2" analog tape recorded on a $20,000 machine, you're going to have to find a $20,000 tape machine to play it back.

      The one thing he has right is that those $20,000 machines are usually surrounded by guys who know how to place microphones, how to use EQ and mastering gear. They're usually surrounded by rooms where care has been taken to get good sound.

      It's the milieu, not the technology. Albini is a smart guy and an opportunist, but he's also often full of shit.

  • He's a moron (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:21PM (#44790869) Homepage

    He might be a fantastic audio engineer, but I think his reason for continuing to use analog tape is idiotic.

    Albini records to analog tape, not because he's in love with the sound of analog. No, he's concerned that as digital formats continue to evolve, today's digital recordings will be unplayable in the future. I loved the way Albini put it: "I feel it would be irresponsible to give my clients digital files as their permanent masters, knowing they would eventually disappear or become unusable, so I won't do it" ... Albini feels that analog tape offers the best chance for recordings to survive.

    I can't see FLAC losing support for a long long time. When it finally does, the beauty of lossless digital formats is that you can batch-convert your entire library into a newer, better format with a very small script and no loss of quality. Seriously, if you don't have the diligence to convert your music library once every 25 years, do you really think you'll be able to keep a tape from rotting or being accidentally degaussed?

    As for tape -- once it's on there, that's it. You can't transfer the audio anywhere else without it being lossy. Audio engineers have been able to transfer older recordings from tape with excellent results so I'm not say it would necessarily sound bad (assuming your tape is still good) but why use a lossy format if you don't have to?

    I can only assume his reasoning is for the super-long-term Roland Emmerich future. In 2000 years, some aliens will be digging up a post-nuke Earth and come across a collection of tapes, which will be easy to reverse engineer relative to a digital system's multiple formats (HDD/file system/compression).

    This sounds like the classic case of an audiophile finding a way to justify use of an ancient technology, but I don't understand how an actual audio engineer could succumb to such nonsense.

    • You can't transfer the audio anywhere else without it being lossy.

      Very nearly, all art is lossy. A painting fades. Sculpture deteriorates. Dance is never the same twice. The fact that analog tape is lossy, by itself, does not invalidate the medium. Consider that all your backed up digital data is one good EMP or massive solar flare away from being forever irretrievable.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:22PM (#44790877) Homepage

    "Albini records to analog tape, not because he's in love with the sound of analog. No, he's concerned that as digital formats continue to evolve, today's digital recordings will be unplayable in the future. I loved the way Albini put it: "I feel it would be irresponsible to give my clients digital files as their permanent masters, knowing they would eventually disappear or become unusable, so I won't do it."

    Somebody should start the Open Source movement!

    Somebody should really explain digital to this guy. His delusion that analog tapes will outlive digital content is sad, and represents a serious level of incompetence; I don't care how many bands he has recorded.

  • by Trip6 (1184883) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:25PM (#44790907)
    Huh? The magnetic bits start to lose their little minds after 10 yrs. Yes you need high band width a to d (at least 20 bit) but that is cheap these days. And it all comes down to the speakers reproducing the music since they add so much distortion the original sound is lost anyway.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      The magnetic bits start to lose their little minds after 10 yrs.

      The magnetic bits start to "lose their minds" as soon as they're recorded. With analog every little comic ray particle that hits the tape changes the recording. It just takes 10 years until that adds up into something you can actually hear. If you think that analog is better than digital because digital is quantized, then every one of those imperceptible cosmic ray impacts is utter destruction, since you can't perceive the defects in modern digital audio formats either.

  • by bmo (77928) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @01:41PM (#44791031)

    I have a PhD in Digital Music Conservation from the University of Florida. I have to stress that the phenomenon known as "digital dust" is the real problem regarding conservation of music, and any other type of digital file. Digital files are stored in digital filing cabinets called "directories" which are prone to "digital dust" - slight bit alterations that happen now or then. Now, admittedly, in its ideal, pristine condition, a piece of musical work encoded in FLAC format contains more information than the same piece encoded in MP3, however, as the FLAC file is bigger, it accumulates, in fact, MORE digital dust than the MP3 file. Now you might say that the density of dust is the same. That would be a naive view. Since MP3 files are smaller, they can be much more easily stacked together and held in "drawers" called archive files (Zip, Rar, Lha, etc.) ; in such a configuration, their surface-to-volume ratio is minimized. Thus, they accumulate LESS digital dust and thus decay at a much slower rate than FLACs. All this is well-known in academia, alas the ignorant hordes just think that because it's bigger, it must be better.

    So over the past months there's been some discussion about the merits of lossy compression and the rotational velocidensity issue. I'm an audiophile myself and posses a vast collection of uncompressed audio files, but I do want to assure the casual low-bitrate users that their music library is quite safe.

    Being an audio engineer for over 21 years, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. While rotational velocidensity is indeed responsible for some deterioration of an unanchored file, there's a simple way of preventing this. Better still, there have been some reported cases of damaged files repairing themselves, although marginally so (about 1.7 percent for the .ogg format).

    The procedure is, although effective, rather unorthodox. Rotational velocidensity, as known only affects compressed files, i.e. files who's anchoring has been damaged during compression procedures. Simply mounting your hard disk upside down enables centripetal forces to cancel out the rotational ruptures in the disk. As I said, unorthodox, and mainstream manufactures will not approve as it hurts sales (less rotational velocidensity damage means a slighter chance of disk failure.)

    I'd still go with uncompressed .wav myself, but there's nothing wrong with compressed formats like flac or mp3 when you treat your hardware right

    --
    BMO

  • You want to give me a master copy on tape? Great!
    I wouldn't say no to CD either, and pretty much any other format or media.

    Just be sure there's at least one a digital copy in a lossless DRM free format included in the pile of copies you're giving me.

  • 1. Copying from one analog medium to another reduces the quality no matter the quality of your equiptment 2. All analog media decays either by time (the physical medium decays) or by playback (physical contact with head wears it down) That means that no matter what eventually your original recording will be destroyed. However, you can take a WAV file and copy it digitally 1:1 many times. This includes backups and moving to different storage media.
  • by bheading (467684) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @02:13PM (#44791225)

    "I feel it would be irresponsible to give my clients digital files as their permanent masters, knowing they would eventually disappear or become unusable, so I won't do it."

    The hilarious thing about this is that I don't think anyone even makes analogue tape machines, right now. I checked Fostex, Studer, and Tascam. No tape machines being made.

    Given this .. how easy will it be to play an analogue reel to reel tape in a few short years ?

    Hell, I currently have no easy means to play my 4-track double speed/dbx cassette multitracks from years ago, and I have to go out of my way if I want to play an LP.

    But, I can still access a tar file produced by a machine from 20 years ago, and I'd expect to have no trouble accessing a tar file from 20 years ago. Digital makes it easy to move your data as new technology comes out. Each time you copy your analogue tape you lose some of the original recording.

    • by Tapewolf (1639955)

      The hilarious thing about this is that I don't think anyone even makes analogue tape machines, right now. I checked Fostex, Studer, and Tascam. No tape machines being made.

      Given this .. how easy will it be to play an analogue reel to reel tape in a few short years ?

      I'd say it's more like decades. I believe Otari are still making the 5050. There are others who are reconditioning older machines (ATR Service for one) and the market for rubber rollers and drive belts has become something of a cottage industry. The big problem for manufacturing new decks is that ebay is flooded with the things and that makes it very, very difficult to compete with new equipment.

  • by mendax (114116) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @02:29PM (#44791323)

    I understand why this fellow uses tape. Stored properly, the tape can last for decades. However, there is a larger problem, one that has been in existence since the invention of practical audio recording in 1877. Audio recording mediums as well as their formats regularly change. Let me see how many I can recall off the top of my head (in roughly chronological order):

    Wax cylinders
    Edison flat disks
    The thinner 78 rpm 10- and 12-inch disks that eventually became the standard
    16-inch 16 rpm disks that were used by radio stations to record broadcasts
    Magnetic wire
    Mono magnetic tape (1/4 and 1/2 inch)
    Three-track tape (for studio masters in the mid-1950's)
    Two-track stereo reel-to-reel tape
    Compact cassettes (mono, stereo, and quadraphonic)
    33 rpm "long playing" records, the LP made with vinyl
    45 rpm "singles", the ones with the big hole in the center
    Stereo LP's and 45's
    Multi-track one inch tape used for studio masters
    Quadraphonic LP's (that's four audio tracks)
    14-bit digital recording onto VHS tape
    Compact disk (CD's)
    Super-audio CDs
    MP3, AAC, FLAC, PCM, AIFF, WAV, and whatever alphabet soup of compressed and uncompressed digital audio formats

    I've left out most digital recording media for the masters because those can vary widely depending upon the computer system used.

    The problem people making audio recordings face should be obvious now.

    Recording media (and formats) are going to continue to change as recording technology continues to develop and evolve, and as computer data storage media continue to develop and evolve. In my mind, the only way to make a master recording and keep it fresh and readable is record it digitally at a very sampling frequency and at a high bit rate so the recording resolution is very high, and then every so often copy it to a new recording media. In short, audio recording in a digital world requires the preserver to take an active role in its preservation. So, in my mind, this guy's attitude in recording masters onto audio tape is laudable but probably not practical long-term.

  • I could accept an argument that the only good equipment he has and knows how to work is based around tape. However it seems more like he doesn't know technically how things works and is looking to stir some controversy and learn from the debate that follows. Or I hope that is what he is doing. Somebody pass him a bong and ask him what he is really up to.
  • You realise you can backup analogue files as well? Sure you get into problems when making backups of backups of backups * 1000 (and personally I am not too sure that digital would far any better given the same care given), but that does not mean you cannot have 4 master copies stored in different locations.
    And we have no method that can keep a single copy of anything from disintegrating? Sure does analogue tape disintegrate eventually? Yes, but it would probably outlive the average DVD or harddrive.

  • by Flere Imsaho (786612) on Sunday September 08, 2013 @04:55PM (#44792231)

    I recommend watching the great docco Sound City. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_City_(film) [wikipedia.org] It's centred around the analogue Neve console that was used at Sound City studios http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_City_Studios [wikipedia.org] to record some seminal albums such as Nirvana's Nevermind, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, among others.

    There's some great interviews with artists, engineers and producers, regarding the difference between analogue and digital.

    Dave Grohl purchased the console when the studio finally closed, and he gets a bunch of great musicians who had recorded on the Neve over the years, and gets them together to record some new tracks. Paul McCartney, the Foo Fighters, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Stevie Nicks, to name a few.

    Interestingly, the docco turns out to be more about the people involved than the Neve console.

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