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The reel end of analog?
January 13, 2005 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Tip and Shout: 2'' Tape: "But last Friday, [Jeff] Tweedy hit a snag as he prepared for a session in Wilco's Chicago studio space: Nobody could find any of the professional-grade audio tape the band is accustomed to using."
posted by pfafflin (37 comments total)

 
This is truly fucked up. I had to put a reel on reserve for myself until I could get there with the $220.
posted by jon_kill at 10:34 AM on January 13, 2005


"Neural-band recording devices just don't have the same connection with the artist as computer recording does", laments Oscar Young, audio engineer at Tranquility Moon Base V's Cosmic Wavetron Studios. "Digital recording confers a level of richness and warmth that these new bio-active implants can never match."
posted by phong3d at 10:36 AM on January 13, 2005


My friend who spent several thousand dollars on a 2" deck is going to be really depressed soon.
posted by drezdn at 10:38 AM on January 13, 2005


[i love wilco, but i never again want to see jeff tweedy done in a WSJ line drawing.]
posted by mudpuppie at 10:38 AM on January 13, 2005


Interesting, but sad. Analog recordings do sound better (this belief might be the only thing Lenny Kravitz and I have in common), IMHO. Nice to hear that Mr. Albini is still a crank, albeit one on the side of the angels in this case.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:40 AM on January 13, 2005


Aw, man. This shouldn't be so painful to read, but it is. Digital recording is ok, but you can really hear the difference. I need to go listen to Being There again now.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:48 AM on January 13, 2005


We were just talking about this the other night. The studio where we record just added a 1 inch 8-track machine, and now we can't get any tape for it. It's tricky, man, like the floor just dropped out.
posted by mikrophon at 10:48 AM on January 13, 2005


I'll bet that those who stockpiled 2" tape are making a killing on eBay right now....
posted by Lynsey at 10:48 AM on January 13, 2005


great article.

lots of possible knock offs on ebay.
posted by orange clock at 10:49 AM on January 13, 2005


At the same time, could we all be getting a little Y2K nutty, what with the hording tape and all? The article did say that they are courting investors, and that the shut-down was probably temporary . . .
posted by mikrophon at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2005


And the conversation continues over at the forums at Albini's Electrical Audio studio.
posted by pfafflin at 10:52 AM on January 13, 2005


It seems like there is enough of a demand for this tape to support a small company. Hopefully when Quantegy gets its financial mess straightened out, it will be able to serve that demand. If not, the demand might prompt someone else to do it.
posted by goatdog at 10:57 AM on January 13, 2005


I agree w/ goatdog. Lots of people still want analog. I'm sure some manufacturer will step up to feed off the niche market.

This said, if you are good with your digital equipment, you can get pretty close to the analog sound with quality dsp mastering plug-ins. Especially if you release on analog media like vinyl. I have heard some pretty impressive "pseudo-analog."
posted by p3t3 at 11:15 AM on January 13, 2005


According to an engineer friend of mine, Quantegy is still sending out tape, but at a very slow pace, as they have only a skeleton crew working while they figure out the financial situation/future of the company. All of the 2" tape got snapped up by the bigger studios, but there is still some 1/4" (for 2-track mixdown) available (depends on the retailer). I'm bummed because I just got a 1" 8-track machine but I only have two reels of tape to use. Anyone got a good deal on a degausser? ;)
Digital is fine for editing, but audio always sounds better when recorded to analog first, IMHO.
posted by turtlegirl at 11:22 AM on January 13, 2005


You know, I liked Wilco a lot more ten years ago. You know, when they were good.
posted by keswick at 11:24 AM on January 13, 2005


Thanks for the article. Looks like Albini hit a sort of retro-jackpot. And hey, if Wilco runs out of tape, they can probably get the hook-up from Albini's studio.

Here's a really interesting interview where Albini talks shop to a group of students (caveat: its really, really long, so you might want to download the 149 megabyte quicktime file). He discusses digital versus analog, how he works, and what kinds of music he finds interesting to record.
posted by tweak at 11:25 AM on January 13, 2005


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses Quantegy tape on its space shuttles to record information ranging from pressure to temperature.

For that heavy, warm sound you only get from tape saturation?

Well, I've got 5 reels of used 996 Wilco can *have*.
posted by RockCorpse at 11:25 AM on January 13, 2005


tweak: great link, thanks for sharing!
posted by turtlegirl at 11:40 AM on January 13, 2005


You know, I liked Wilco a lot more ten years ago. You know, when they were good.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out in '02.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2005


They haven't even reached the 10 year anniversary of A.M. yet--maybe you meant you liked Wilco better when they were Uncle Tupelo? Or before they actually released anything?
posted by LionIndex at 12:18 PM on January 13, 2005


Speaking of Wilco and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,
I recently heard about the whole Irdial/Wilco lawsuit deal for the first time (previously on MeFi here which I apparently missed).

Well as an update on that old story if anyone's interested- Irdial scored a settlement for around $30,000 - and they used the money to repress the Conet Project Box Set. The Irdial site doesn't seem to be updated, but it's been available for a few months now. A little googling should bring up a copy.
posted by p3t3 at 1:33 PM on January 13, 2005


Oops. I always think AM came out in 94, because their first gig was in 11/94. I was being a bit of a prick (surprise) in my earlier post. Basically, I liked Wilco better when they were a band and not Jeff and some sidemen. Wilco died to me the day Jeff fired Jay Bennett.
posted by keswick at 1:52 PM on January 13, 2005


I was being a bit of a prick (surprise)

I figured you were just taking the piss. That's why I extra-special had to call you on it.
posted by LionIndex at 2:05 PM on January 13, 2005


I liked Wilco better when they were a band and not Jeff and some sidemen.

How quickly you forget John "Rasputin" Sitiratt.
posted by COBRA! at 2:16 PM on January 13, 2005


Stiratt
posted by COBRA! at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2005


AM, of course, was pre-Bennett, though he is thanked on the liner notes. Wilco, in my mind, was Tweedy, Stiratt and Coomer - Bennett still seemed like a session man to me, albeit an amazing one.

Since Stiratt and Tweedy are still in the band, I feel like Wilco is still the band I have loved for song.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2005


Your favorite band used to not suck.
posted by gigawhat? at 2:23 PM on January 13, 2005


Is tape reusable? If so, can't you just keep like two or three spools for a studio, and do it in tape before digitizing it? Of course that way you won't have the master tapes for all eternity, but using it as an effect rather than a storage medium is way better than nothing.
posted by abcde at 2:27 PM on January 13, 2005


song = so long.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:56 PM on January 13, 2005


p3t3: Irdial scored $30,000 for claiming copyright on radio signals they recorded??? that's pretty funny

abcde: yes, tape is reuseable, though pristine (virgin) tape is the only useable stuff for high end audio work
posted by sunexplodes at 4:34 PM on January 13, 2005


I think the things Jay brought to the band are pretty obvious. It was great hearing Brian Henneman tear into "Casino Queen" on AM though. Brian doesn't get enough love. Then again, "Idiot's Revenge" probably didn't win him many friends with the indie kids.

In summary, YHF = great. AGiB = teh suck. Palace at 4am = great. Chelsea Walls = teh suck. The things Stiratt brings to the band: background vocals, bass. Possibly coffee or bagels. oh snap

Oh yeah, and ObOnTopic: um, I expect someone will start manufacturing the stuff. Possibly Larry Crane. okay, maybe not.
posted by keswick at 5:08 PM on January 13, 2005


Is tape reusable? If so, can't you just keep like two or three spools for a studio, and do it in tape before digitizing it?

My understanding is that you'll lose quality each time you rerecord over tape, and you'll sometimes get stuck with ghost noise.
posted by drezdn at 6:09 PM on January 13, 2005


Degaussing the tape after each usage helps, but the more you use a tape, the more little flecks of oxide will physically chip away from the plastic backing.
posted by Vidiot at 7:30 PM on January 13, 2005


According to another message board, there are other companies with the ability to produce the tape, and someone will probably pick up the slack.
posted by drezdn at 7:43 PM on January 13, 2005


Looking ahead to a tape-starved future, Mr. Tweedy has a fallback: The band has an archive of around 100 reels of tape it has used in recording its various albums. By splicing out and saving the final version of each song, he figures they can maintain the archive and also generate a supply of tapes that can be recycled for future recording sessions.


This makes me want to cry.
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:32 PM on January 13, 2005


C'mon, 20 reels of that is probably alternate takes of "Less Than You Think."
posted by keswick at 12:53 AM on January 14, 2005


Is tape reusable? If so, can't you just keep like two or three spools for a studio, and do it in tape before digitizing it?

My understanding is that you'll lose quality each time you rerecord over tape


...a producer friend of mine has been hoarding tape. He's been experimenting with recording to disk, then bouncing it to 2" tape. He's likened it to "adding a generation" rather than loosing one. He doesn't seem real worried; I think the 2" tape can be erased a lot more fully, and more times than consumer tape. He's planning to get by with a few dozen reels that he can reuse. He'll archive to digital.

Other counter-intuitive Tape-Op nerd things he's told me: you loose a generation ripping Audio CD -> WAV -> Audio CD -> WAV. It's not a perfect transfer. And that there's debate that mass produced CD-Rs have better fidelity than glass mastered Audio CDs.
posted by bendybendy at 3:36 AM on January 14, 2005


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