Wednesday, September 3, 2008

J B Ferox - VST Tape simulator

Digital recording is cold. Let's face it folks, we gained an amazing signal to noise ratio but lost something on the way.
In my never ending pursuit of lush sound in a digital world I've tried lot's of things.

Tubes add a certain harmonic distortion to sounds which is nice...but that's not IT.

Compression can do wonderfull things to sound from fattening to making something really groove...but that's not IT.

It starts with a clean optimum level recording, but with digital you really have to fight the peaks if you want lush and smooth.
What I mean by that is ordinary limiting of the peaks in your audio is not going to give you the warm fuzzy feeling your looking for.

Back when tape was the recording medium that ruled, there was a constant battle to keep the noise level down. Thus, you recorded as hot as you could to the tape. A byproduct of this was that extreme peaks were reduced simply because the tape could not record them. So, with nicely distorted and squashed peaks, the bulk of the important stuff was recorded at optimum levels.

With digital it's ALL recorded (if you don't clip), peaks and all. Not only that, the nature of peak level metering in today's hardware/software means a lot of stuff is not even recorded at optimum levels (more on that in future articles).
Just limiting the peaks actually affects the good stuff immediately after them. It's the nature of limiters, they are stupid and release time dependant. Additionally, tape has a certain amount of noise which actually helps carry the sound. Seriously. A certain amount of noise in a recording can actually be a good thing, dithering being a classic example.

So, finally the point of all this waffle.... A good tape simulator will not only tame your peaks in a way that prevents the good stuff being compromised. It also adds the distortion and noise characteristic's that make us feel warm inside.

J B Ferox is an excellent FREE one available on the net here.

Download it and do a little test. Drums are perfect for this due to their massive peak to RMS ratio. Find or create a snare track, limit it with ANY limiter you care to use. Now do the same thing with Ferox and see which one sounds better.
My money is on your choosing the tape simulation.

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