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Sound Advice

Emulating Analog Recorded Drums by Barry Lubotta

“Many engineers still prefer the warmth of analog recorded drums over those digitally recorded, particularly kick and snare. Those engineers lucky enough to have access to multitracks of both formats frequently capture the drums on analog tape, and quickly bounce them over to a digital domain and have access to a three head, two-track analog machine, can often emulate the above process, even without a synchronizer.

While tracking the entire drum kit digitally, run a pair of direct outs from the kick and snare channels on your console to the inputs of your two-track, simultaneously returning the outputs onto two free digital tracks. The result will be two analog sounding drum tracks that are between 10 and 60 milliseconds behind the beat of all your other tracks – the delay occurring because of the lag between the record and repro heads on your two-track. Now record all overdubs to the original digital tracks, ignoring the analog tracks until mixdown time.

The Akai A-DAM digital recorder has a handy ‘variable track delay’ feature whereby each track can be delayed up to 65 milliseconds during playback, while hard disk recorders and some other tape based digital multitracks are even more flexible in their time shifting capabilities. Listening to both the digital and analog kick drum only, delay the digital kick track so that it is exactly in time with the analog kick.

Next, offset all other tracks by the same amount and you’re left with two analog tracks recorded onto a digital multitrack that are in time with the rest of the drums as well as all your overdubs. Now you can mute or erase the original digital kick and snare for further over-dubs, or combine them with the two analog tracks for and even fatter sound. You can do the same trick with sequenced drums even easier by offsetting the computer generated drums (forward, ahead of the beat) by just the right number of milliseconds so that the sounds coming off the repro heads of your two-track analog machine mesh perfectly into the tune. No further adjustment would be necessary.”

Barry Lubotta – owner

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