How to mimic what happens (chemically) to analog tape as it ages?
April 22, 2016 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm a musician, working on someone's project where the sound needs to be very accurate to the recording techniques and sound of a specific time period in the early 80s. There are many steps in the recording process, but the sound of old tape is one of the more difficult ones to get right. Even if no one here has an answer, I would love to be in touch with someone who knows what happens chemically to analog tape as it ages (under normal storage conditions), and whether it's possible to mimic that process chemically with a new reel of tape. Thanks!
posted by dmalashock to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I strongly suspect you'll get better results using an aged tape plugin rather than trying to recreate it chemically. Some of the changes are magnetic rather than chemical, so there's not just some chemicals you can pour on tape to get that effect.

Also, if you try to do something chemical, you're risking ruining your recording if you make a mistake, whereas digital processing gives you as many tries as you have time to get the effect to sound how you want.
posted by Candleman at 10:05 AM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


you may have seen this (i just found it via google), but this paper goes into some detail.
posted by andrewcooke at 10:12 AM on April 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'd use something like U-he Satin, myself, maybe, but you probably could get a new reel and 'age' it. Most of the audible effects of aged tape are actually from 'stuff that has happened to the tape that nobody wanted', such as temperature warping or improper winding. If you're talking about perfectly-treated tape, and what happens to that, the effects are probably more subtle and Satin would probably be more than fine, or just recording to current tape.

Here's a paper that explains some of the effects and why they happen, which you could maybe use for ideas to warp/age some tape.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:12 AM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


There are lots of good plugins that do this these days. u-he makes great analog-modeled plugins. There's also Steven Slate's Virtual Tape Machines and PSP MixSaturator.

iZotope vinyl will give you varying levels of "lo-fi" effects, and it's free.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:38 PM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


You may wish to consider also thermo-magnetic effects: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Print-through . Old tape that has been in storage for years can have this - though it's a transient effect.
posted by jet_silver at 7:54 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


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