Posts Tagged ‘multi-track’

ADAT digital multi-track recorders

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

The Alesis ADAT digital multi-track tape recorder is an iconic piece of early 1990s audio recording equipment.

ADATs used consumer S-VHS video tape to record up to 8 tracks of digital audio.

They were modular, meaning that each machine could be synched with up to 15 other ADAADAT type II machineT machines. It was therefore possible, in theory, to create a home recording studio with capacity to simultaneously record 128 tracks of audio, a process known as ‘mega-tracking’.

Similar to other early digital audio technology such as PCM 7030 and DAT, ADAT utilised recording methods originally developed for analogue video tape.

In analogue video the use of helical scanning and rotating recording/ playback heads was the means to produce the larger bandwidth necessary to capture the analogue video signal.

Helical scanning was logically re-purposed for recording digital audio because it similarly requires substantial bandwidth (the original ADAT recorded at a sampling rate of 48 kHz/ 16 bits).

Recording revolution

According to George Petersen ‘the Alesis ADAT changed the entire recording industry, beginning a revolution of affordable recording tools. Overnight, the cost of digital studio recording plummeted from a sizeable $150,000 for the Sony PCM-3324 24-track to a relatively modest $12,000 for three ADATs at their original $3,995.’

Figures from the Audio Engineering Society suggest that ‘20,000 were sold in its first year from October 1992 to November 1993 and 80,000 sold by 1998.’

Sound studies scholar Jonathan Sterne argues that ‘ADATs were symbolic of the democratization of audio recordings and changes in the audio industry,’ facilitating ‘the rise of amateur recording and a whole “semi-professional” realm of small studios, often located in homes or other less-than-optimal acoustic spaces.’

ADAT at Great Bear

At Great Bear we receive relatively few ADAT recordings in comparison with analogue multi-track formats.

This may be because ADAT is ‘recently obsolescent,’ and for everyday reasons users of this technology have not got around to migrating their archive to digital files.

Like all early digital audio formats recorded on tape, however, ADAT raise specific preservation concerns.

As we have stressed before, tape-based digital recordings do not degrade gracefully. They are subject to catastrophic rather than moderate signal loss. If the original recording has errors that prevent the ‘smooth’ playback of the tape (e.g., from clogged heads or the presence of dust), or there is any kind of damage to the tape surface (scratches or mould), this will create irreversible drop outs within the preservation copy.

As an emergent format used by people with a range of technical expertise, it seems reasonable to expect ADAT recording practices to be a little unsettled and experimental. The physical strain on both tape and transport in a heavy production environment must also be considered (the shuttling back and forth of the tape mechanism), as this would have shaped the quality of the original recording.

In the Great Bear studio we have several ADAT machines (the M20 and ADAT XT) ready to transfer your tapes.

We deliver transferred files as individual, synchronised track ‘stems’ and use ADAT ‘sync’ and optical cables to ensure an authentic born digital workflow.

Perhaps now is the time to remix that early digital multi-track masterpiece…

7″ 8 track reel to reel tapes recorded on a Fostex A8

Monday, September 30th, 2013

We were recently sent a collection of 7″ 8-track reel-to-reel tapes. All the 8-track tapes were recorded using Dolby C noise reduction on a Fostex A8 machine. They haven’t been stored in optimum conditions and as many were recorded on AMPEX tape, they need to be baked prior to transfer in order to treat their probable binder hydrolysis.

Ampex 7" Tapes

The A-8 was part of the home recording revolution that took the 80s by storm. The A-8 in particular was popular because it was the first machine to offer eight tracks on just one 1/4″ tape. The machine, like its ‘first mate’ the 350 Mixer, were not meant for professionals but enthusiastic amateurs who were happy to work things out themselves. ‘Sure you won’t know everything right off. But you won’t have to. Just hook up to the 350 (our instructions are easy and explicit) and go to work. You can learn the key to incredible flexibility as you go. While you are working on your music. Not before,’ were the encouraging words in the 350 mixer manual.

Fostex_A-8LR

Products like the Fostex A-8 enabled bands and artists who would never have got a commercial record deal to record their music. All sorts of weird and wonderful sounds were recorded on multi-track tape recorders, and they often received airplay on John Peel‘s radio shows.

When we transfer reel-to-reel multi-track tapes we save each stem individually, so you can remix the recordings digitally if you want to. If you spent far too much time in the early 80s playing with your home studio and have a load of old tapes lying in your cupboard, we can help give them a new lease of life. With Ampex tapes in particular, it is critical to transfer them now because they will deteriorate quickly if action is not taken soon.


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