View Full Version : losing quality in 2 track

10-26-1999, 09:43 AM
Since the mix bus in PT seems to thin out our mixes we have started breaking out to a console and mixing through it set at unity. When we are ready to go to 2 track we add 2 more audio tracks and set them to record from the main outs on or console. This has given us a much "bigger" sound for our mixes. The problem is that by the time we import those 2 track into another session and do our "mastering" (dither, L1, etc.) and bounce to disk then burn a CD, there is a large loss of sound quality.

Are we doing something wrong?

Jonny Atack
10-26-1999, 01:48 PM
I tried the same with my DDA analog board on a 16-bit, 24-track PT project using individual outputs from 3 888/24s (rev M) back into 2 of the 888/24 inputs.

The sound was 'bigger' particularly in the mids but that did not make up for the damage from the additional D/A and A/D conversions that this process brings to the table. The bottom end lost definition and thump and the high end lost sparkle & sheen. Bouncing the analog mix to a PCMR500 DAT recorder thru the analog inputs was even worse (no surprise), enducing a noticeable coloration of the sound. I did double blind A/B/C tests with 2 other people and it was not difficult to pick out each of the 3 mixes...PT to disk vs thru desk into 888/24 vs thru desk into DAT.

With 24-bit projects the conversions should be less harmful, but I haven't had the time to make the same tests with a 24-bit mix.

The conclusion I'm at for now is that you need to get the sound as 'big' as you need it to be before tracking into PT, using the highest-quality mics, pres, digital clocks and converters.

-- Jonny

10-26-1999, 02:39 PM
Well, thankfully we are no longer in the days when a Mackie desk and 2 ADAT's are considered a "digital studio", and it's nice to see that people care about the loss of quality in multiple A/D-D/A conversions, however in some cases I find that I might still gain from using the right equipment at the right time, even if it means multiple conversions. In final mix and/or mastering I find this is the case.
I go out directly w/out going thru the mixbus in protools, but I set the levels as high as possible (so that I'm using the maximum number of bits for each track) then adjust the final levels on the analouge desk (that way I don't loose bits), then out from the mixbus on the analogue console, into a Manley Variable Mu (using it's wonderful compression, and setting the RMS level for the track) then on into a Manley Massive Passive (using it's wonderful eq), then I go thru an Apogee Rosetta, using the soft limiting to get the peak-levels for the track just right, The rosetta does it's UV22 and then I'm on disk in 16bits, dithered and ready, RMS just right, Peak levels just right. Voila, done. This gives me that magnificient sound I just can't live without. (For me, that means mixdown and mastering is done) (After that I just build a playlist in MLCD, burn via Jam, job done.)

Another thing, I find that the chase to make super-loud records is causing a lot of people to destroy the sound of recordings. I tend to find, on a regular pop-type track, if I compress and limit the track so hard my RMS is louder than, say -4dB, I've wasted it. I tend to settle for an RMS at -5 or -6 dB. Sure, I don't get the absolute maximum number of bits, but any louder that, the track just gets too squashed. What do you think?


10-26-1999, 02:56 PM
benjamin -

are you running PT at 24-bit? If so, how are you using the uv22 to go back to disk at 16 bits?


10-26-1999, 02:57 PM
are you really sure about this, that PT mixes sound thin? I have mixed over 20 albums, the last one on PT and it's my best sounding work definitely. The worst was recorded on Adat, the second best was recorded on 2" 16 track (maybe the bass were better tham PT?). maybe the issue it to learn how to use PT and the plug ins?

Jonny Atack
10-26-1999, 03:30 PM
Lion, on your last album did you track direct to PT or did you lay tracks onto 2-inch tape first? I still prefer rock drums or massive guitar tracks when they are laid down on my vintage MCI JH114 on the way to the hard drive. I use the MCI as an effect.

10-26-1999, 06:25 PM
V interesting!

My Plan:

Way in: Quality mics & pre amps & eq's
Conversion: Apogee / Cranesong Hedd

In between: Pro Control, plug ins. Filterbank etc. Full session recall / reset capabilities.

Way out: PT mix 24 bit to Hedd to finaliser to Apogee 16bit UV22 (budget can't afford pro mastering) to DAT or (mastering budget) 24bit version back in to PT to take to mastering as a sound file.

My all digital plan! if that don't work I'm gona get me a 1/2 inc Ampex! F**k it!

Massive passive IS amasing! I tried one out. great for mastering.

Kenny Gioia
10-26-1999, 11:01 PM
Jonny Atack

I'm actually looking to do the Analog thing into Pro Tools Myself. I love the sound of the MCI

Could you please descripe how you record into Pro tools through the MCI

Do you track Analog (Synced Up) then bounce later on or do you record through the repro head live while monitoring directly???


Jonny Atack
10-27-1999, 04:31 PM

A very good point. I don't know if my MCI 2" can sync to anything (built in '79!). To avoid jitter problems with PT chasing the MCI and avoid sloppy habits/laziness on the part of the musicians I tend to put down drums and bass live and track the guitars and vocals to these tracks -- all on the MCI the old-fashioned way.

I transfer these MCI tracks in one pass to the ProTools (with 3 888/24s) and proceed to cut/edit/mix down to a stereo 24-bit 44,1 kHz file. Any further overdubs after the MCI transfer are tracked directly to PT. No sync headache, no jittering.

However, for projects involving less of a live band feel, I've been meaning to try the tape head monitoring method you mentioned, to record thru tape into PT while monitoring tracks that are already in PT. I'd have to sit down and figure out how to best calculate the number of samples to move each recorded PT track earlier in time by to make up for the tape head distance and the A/D conversion time.



[This message has been edited by Jonny Atack (edited 11-24-99).]

Jonny Atack
10-27-1999, 04:53 PM
Further to the above, I'm not at all happy with the quality loss I hear when comparing any MCI 2" track with its "bounced direct to PT24 (not thru desk)" version. We are hearing an audible loss of high end sheen and low end definition plus more chunky mids -- after the transfer.

Admittedly, we are really hearing TWO conversions when listening to the PT track (one A/D and one D/A) when we're supposed to be comparing the result of ONE conversion to the original.

Just the same, we're going to test a Rosetta and AD8000 soon to see if there is an audible improvement over the 888/24s. By reading over previous posts, there were opinions both ways, so now we're going to compare for ourselves.

Would the addition of a PSX100 or Aardsync box improve the conversion quality just by providing a more stable clock?

10-27-1999, 08:47 PM
"Would the addition of a PSX100 or Aardsync box improve the conversion quality just by providing a more stable clock?"

It's supposed to!

Not keen on hearing about the poor sync capabilities of the MCI ! I was planning on getting one soon! Please elaborate! What to do about midi click track with this method??

I often (on 2" sessions) do a final check on drums by asking the drummer to jam on his own without cans, and listen to the repro head, this allows me to set tape compression levels v accurately (I both change eq and send to tape levels, there is a delay but you get used to it) and it gives the rest of the band a laugh while they watch thier drummers "out of sync" movements.(and of course no surprises with the sound on playback)

I'm pissed off in general with tape I find it expencive and limiting at 16 mins per reel at 30ips. I have invested in Apogee's to try to see it off, haven't realy gotten going with em yet on a full session...fingers crossed.

Answer me this, how else can I try out different takes (say 5) of one chorus of an 11 channel drum mic set up? Has to be PT, you could cross patch to fresh tracks once on analog (what a PITA!and then what?) but after that you are f**ked! THATS why I want to leave tape behind, that and the nail biting, "we cant afford another reel, we will have to go over that last one if we want to try another take".
Moan groan


Kenny Gioia
10-27-1999, 10:00 PM
Jonny Atack

Thanks for the Reply.

I'm a little depressed to find that you're hearing the 888/24 converters negatively.

I think I'm gonna get a Rosetta when I get my tape machine.


How would a syncbox or the PSX make his conversion better when he's transferring all in one pass???


Jonny Atack
10-28-1999, 10:49 AM
Jules, I don't honestly know if my MCI can chase in sync, because the thought of Lynx $$$ has led me not to bother checking that possibility out. BTW it's a '79 JH114, not the newer JH24, so please don't conclude anything from my MCI setup. Anybody out there know about MCI chase sync?

Tape is a total PITA, but I love the sound of it! I don't have enough vintage pres and compressors to get anything like that sound when recording direct to PT. I did try recording drums through my DDA to PT once at the same time as to the MCI. They sounded flat and gray in comparison. To be fair, my MCI is aligned to record with 1-2db more sensitivity at >10Khz and <100hz because it sounds better to me than a flat response, so the test is biased, but adding EQ to the PT drums does not sound anything close to the color I get with the MCI and 499 tape. Maybe if I tried the Magneto plug that Disco liked a few months back...

We're test driving the Apogee the weekend after next.

Jonny Atack
10-28-1999, 11:04 AM
BTW if you're planning to get a 2" tape machine for personal or project studio use, I can't stress enough the need for a great tech familiar with your particular machine. I have a great one who gives my MCI a good check-over every couple months, replacing/repairing anything that doesn't look good on the oscilloscope, track by track, bias, phase, mechanical alignment, etc. Makes all the difference in the world.

Again, tape is a PITA and PT is so much more convenient. I love PT's ability to store all the parameters between sessions. But I still need tape to get the final sound. Just compare recording guitars with and without tape, the difference in emotion and musicality is not subtle. At least not for the kind of music I'm working with (rock, rapcore, jungle, reggae, big beat, but not a lot of adult FM mainstream and no euro-dance).

I guess it's all been said before, but now I've said it for myself. There.

10-28-1999, 03:39 PM
Points taken re MCI's Thanks guys! I have a guy to fix it if I get one. meeting him persuaded me, a bit like liking your dentist!

1) Apogee rocks!

2) DAD Tape & Magneto are supposed to be absolute must have plug ins for anyone from an analog background.

3) Have any of you guys looked ito the Cranesong Hedd? Its a hardware (solid state) valve / tape simulator. I tried one out - WOW! I'm want to get one... Michael Beinhorn uses one, he's a cool producer, (PT Apogee etc) good to get gtrs into PT with that tape fatness...


Jonny Atack
10-29-1999, 05:12 AM
Thanks, Jules. For those guitar and vocal overdubs that are 'too late' for tape (i.e. after the big transfer), I just use my Tubetech pres (& comps too if necessary) on the way from the amp and mic to the ProTools and that sounds pretty good to me.

I'll save the $$ for Apogee and maybe a PSX100 or Aardsync -- we'll test these units soon.

FWIW Jules, the French studios have been dumping their analog 2' 24-tracks at pretty low prices ($4K-$5K for MCI 24s and $6K for Studer 2" 16 tracks) for the past couple of years in a total rush to digital. I know a guy here in Paris who makes a decent living buying up vintage decks and desks in France, cleaning them up, and shipping at twice the price to English and American clients.

10-29-1999, 08:53 AM
I've got some Tube Tech stuff myself....

Re French studios, Funky Junk in the UK have just opened a branch in France & Italy, probably to take advantage of the rush to digital you mentioned, but thier prices seem to not tally with yours! 4-5 thousand Pounds!!! (not dollars, did you hit the wrong key?) is what they are offering them for....

I can see mainland europeans wanting digital stuff and Brits wanting to hang on to "old values'. Typical!!

P.S. Old gear dealers are dreaming up plans for little high quality mixers for PT users. I wisg Digi could just hurry up and improve the internal buss we could avoid these folks waiting to sell us little desks for 30,000 to compensate for PT short fall in sound quality. Expect a deluge of "deluxe PT mixer solutions" on thier way any day now.....It's going to make us all look bad with the gear we have paid a lot for.

[This message has been edited by Julian Standen (edited 10-29-99).]

[This message has been edited by Julian Standen (edited 10-31-99).]

10-29-1999, 02:48 PM
adam -

I'm running a second application to record the returning signal. I tend to use peak, but it doesn't matter which one (as long as it doesn't introduce errors).

- benjamin


Jonny Atack
10-31-1999, 10:11 AM

I mean $ as in USD. I paid 27,000FF ($4.5K) for mine, with full XLR cabling and the remote unit.

The guy here who is co-opening the Funky Junk in Paris is the guy I was referring to, in fact. He was already doing this before and I believe F-Junk was one of his main clients. He buys up vintage analog stuff here and ships the stuff to the UK. The price difference is pretty intense. I have a friend who bought a 60's 48-channel MCI desk in need of a serious overhaul for $3000. I paid $15,000 for a 54-channel DDA desk in great shape, only needed to change the VU-meter bulbs, the faders and a couple of pots. My impression is that in the UK this stuff is more expensive.

My only valve pres and comps are Tubetechs cos I got a deal on them. How do they stack up for you compared to your other valve gear?

Sorry Digi about not talking about PT very much on this thread, but PT MIX+ is still the real heart of my studio!

Jonny Atack
10-31-1999, 10:24 AM
Correction on my franc-to-dollar conversion, the DDA was $12,000.

10-31-1999, 03:34 PM
Jonny A,
I had a feeling about the French Connection! Thanks for the info...it figures

Re Tube Tech, I love my compressor (LCA2A). A Teletronix would be a nice luxury! The only other valve stuf I have is a TLA EQ1 which I like for vocals (then into Foucusrite 215 / Eurei 1176 / Focusrite 215 / DBX 902 de esser!!) My pride and joy is a rack of 4 Helios modules from the Ronnie Lane Mobile truck. (recorded Led Zep, the Who and Bad Co) I have 4 new API mic pres I like too.

I want them all! DW Fearn, Telefunken V77, Neve 1073, Amek 9098...you name it! Steve Earl is crazy about Telefunken stuff, I think he is cool.

I worked in East Berlin not long after the wall came down, the patchbay at the studio looked like something out of Frankenstien! V friendly people there.I asked the "Herr Director" via a translator if he had any valve mic's I could use on the session, no he said with a big smile, we got rid of all of them and have these new ones! Classic!

Personaly I could do with powered pairs of desk modules from MCI 500, Harrison 3, Neve 1073.


gear rant, OK busted! http://www.digidesign.com/ubb/images/icons/grin.gif

10-31-1999, 03:46 PM

I am thinking, maybe I'm being silly using a second app to import the returning signal from the rosetta, I mean, since it's possible to dither to 16 bits on the master bus, I would think it possible to insert the rosetta in the masterbus somehow, thus avoiding unnecesary steps. I'm gonna try this out this week.


10-31-1999, 06:00 PM

You want to use the Rosetta to dither with UV22, that what you are paying for! It's v nice too!
Re your other method....you want to send 24 bit signal to rock around your cool analog outboard stuff, not 16 bit, only at the end of the chain use dither/UV22 it must/should come last for the best audio quality.
Sounds like you had it right first time round! Interesting!
I think you would dig the Cranesong Hedd, try get one on demo/loan.(www.cranesong.com/heddinfo)


[This message has been edited by Julian Standen (edited 10-31-99).]

Jonny Atack
11-01-1999, 02:03 PM
Jules, what kind of Tube Tech comp is that? I have the CL1B mono valve comp, which sounds v nice, very warm. The dual mic pre Tube Tech MP1A is v nice too, but haven't compared them to a Fearn yet!