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Thread: Slaving the Deck Vs. Chasing Tape

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    Post Slaving the Deck Vs. Chasing Tape

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    These days, syncing your DAW with tape is a great way to build a hybrid work-flow by mixing the best of both the digital and analog worlds. I often see discussions on having the DAW chase the tape machine but rarely see a discussion of Tape chasing the DAW or 'Slaving the Deck'. Instead of hijacking some other thread, I thought it might be nice to have a thread dedicated to this topic. I was unable to find one through searching.

    Personally, my DAW chases Tape. I use the remote of my tape machine and when I press play on it, Protools leaps into action. I work this way for a very simple reason: I was easily and inexpensively able to buy the hardware to allow me to accomplish that. I picked up a JLCooper PPS-2 on ebay and was off and running.

    Whenever I read through a post with someone asking questions about making a similar setup work for them a few posts will usually contain a little text at the bottom saying that it's better to have the tape machine slave to the DAW. (I'm looking at you Sweetbeats ) Accomplishing that, for me at least, seems to involve sourcing some rare hardware and I'm wondering what the benefits are? My TSR-8 has the sync ports built it, the machine is ready to do this kind of thing, but I've not done it and I'm not sure how to do it beyond finding a Tascam ATS-500 or ATS-1000 (The Midiizer?). Am I missing some obvious and simple method to lock the machine and my DAW together? What do I gain as benefits? Is it just that my DAW will be a more reliable time keeper?

    Robert

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    Beck Guest
    You got it Robert! With all due respect to my friends here that do it the other way... having the analog deck chasing the DAW is in a word... Wrong.

    I've been syncing devices with SMPTE even before MIDI came on the scene back in my audio/video days. With MIDI and DAWs there are even more reasons than ever before to have the analog deck as master. One reason is cost. I also use an inexpensive JL Cooper box... the PPS-1 that has worked flawlessly for me for 20 years now. I currently run a TSR-8 as master with an Echo Layla and the results are outstanding.

    Perhaps the biggest and most obvious reason to use the analog deck as master is the responsiveness of the DAW compared to the mechanical transport on an analog deck. When the DAW is slave it makes fine adjustments at the speed of light to stay in perfect sync. When an analog deck is slave the mechanical transport cannot respond nearly as fast to fluctuations and this is often quite audible. Tape decks naturally drift a bit and the transport logic control is periodically making adjustments to keep the tape speed consistent. When the tape transport makes these fine adjustments as the tape is running a DAW or MIDI device will follow instantly. So in short for the tightest sync using an analog deck with MIDI or DAW having the tape deck as master will be most accurate.

    You're going to get other opinions on this of course and people do have success the other way around. However the other way requires much more expensive gear that's getting harder to find and many analog decks can't even be slaved. They have no means for external transport control. I've been syncing various equipment since I was 17. I'm now 40-something and using the analog deck as master has proven to be the best option in every scenario I've encountered over the years. I’ve never had an issue with this method, so this is the way I highly recommend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beck View Post
    ...having the analog deck chasing the DAW is in a word... Wrong.

    When the DAW is slave it makes fine adjustments at the speed of light to stay in perfect sync.
    I think I'm pretty consistent in pointing out that the advantage (and thus the recommendation I give for most) to slaving the DAW is cost and ease.

    Tim, I take exception to you using the word "wrong". You are doing a disservice to readers IMHO.

    The "professional" method has always been to slave the tape machine.

    People need to understand that the "fine adjustments" the DAW makes to stay in step with the tape machine means actual subtraction or addition to the digital audio. Audible? Probably not, but I don't want my capstan motor making a decision for me about what I do and don't want in my DAW project.

    The other thing that is important to realize is that with all the fuss about the integrity and quality of your wordclock in a digital environment, you are, in essence, making the mechanical tape transport your wordclock reference by placing that as the master..

    That to me is counter-intuitive. I won't say "wrong". It is most certainly an effective and accessible means of sync'ing a tape machine and a digital transport. It is not the method I have chosen, and I feel really comfortable with my reasoning, but that will never stop me from encouraging others to slave the DAW. I will educate, and then make a recommendation based on what the poster's experience, skill level and financial means are and in most cases it is just not worth it for somebody to go through the additional headaches of slaving the tape machine.

    BUT...I want to go on record as stating the if you want the relationship that maintains the integrity of your digital audio and clock reference, you will seek to slave the tape machine. Period.

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    Ahhhh......mmmmmm......

    I've done it both ways. I use to slave the deck way back when I used my Atari/Cubase combo because there was a specific driver installed on the Atari/Cubase that talked directly to the tape deck.

    Right now, I use the tape deck as master and I slave my Samplitude DAW to it. I tried it the other way...and found this way worked better and was more stable.

    One thing though...I don't believe that the DAW is actually responding to the deck continuously for every SMPTE/MTC fram as a *speed* reference. AFAIK, the DAW uses the computer's internal clock or Word clock to drive/set it's audio engine, and the SMPTE is there mainly for start/stop cues.
    IOW…the DAW’s audio *speed* is NOT controlled by the tape deck’s SMPTE/MTC…but rather by whatever digital audio clock is being used (computer or incoming Word).

    I've never tried actually slowing down the deck manually to see what the DAW would do. I don't think the DAW will slow down and/or speed up along with the tape...I could be wrong….but if anything it may just stop because the SMPTE sync has been lost.
    Of course, I may be totally wrong...but here a quote from a discussion on the Samplitude website by someone who I think knows his stuff… and I think it kinda’ says what I was trying to say above.

    Time code is intended to be used only to find the precise location to be synchronized. The speed is dictated by the reference [computer or Word clock].

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    wrong IS the right word... why in the world would you want the slower medium to chase the faster??? it syncs way faster the other way around...
    37.8% of all statistics are made up on the spot...

    hey give a guy some room... people are trying to evolve here... for crying out loud...

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    Quote Originally Posted by miroslav View Post
    I've never tried actually slowing down the deck manually to see what the DAW would do. I don't think the DAW will slow down and/or speed up along with the tape...I could be wrong….but if anything it may just stop because the SMPTE sync has been lost.
    Of course, I may be totally wrong...but here a quote from a discussion on the Samplitude website by someone who I think knows his stuff… and I think it kinda’ says what I was trying to say above.
    If the DAW clock is not tied to the SMPTE timecode reference on the master tape machine than how can you call it synchronized??? Think about it...

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    So, what does a setup where the tape machine chases the DAW look like? You are using a synchronizing box right? You don't press play in the DAW, you press play on a box? I've seen Sync boxes for ADAT machines that have sync ports for tape machines, the RC-848 has them, for instance. Sweetbeats, what does you setup look like?

    I understand what you mean about the DAW having to make up for the Tape machines not perfectly even playback. When I press stop on my tape machine the DAW goes for a bit before it stops. It seems to be able to carry on a bit with spotty code but it's the catching it up and slowing down it has to do to keep in sync that makes the issue.

    I have manually slowed down my tape machine to see what my DAW does.. and it freaks out. It plays a bit, stops, plays a bit, ect. I'm not sure it screws with things on a sample level, to me it seems more like it drops out if it's too far out. How does it keep in sync though? How does that work? It's trying to be 'frame' accurate to the SMTPE/MTC but how does that translate down to the sample level?

    How far down does the rabbit hole go?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sr71rules View Post
    So, what does a setup where the tape machine chases the DAW look like? You are using a synchronizing box right? You don't press play in the DAW, you press play on a box? I've seen Sync boxes for ADAT machines that have sync ports for tape machines, the RC-848 has them, for instance. Sweetbeats, what does you setup look like?

    I understand what you mean about the DAW having to make up for the Tape machines not perfectly even playback. When I press stop on my tape machine the DAW goes for a bit before it stops. It seems to be able to carry on a bit with spotty code but it's the catching it up and slowing down it has to do to keep in sync that makes the issue.

    I have manually slowed down my tape machine to see what my DAW does.. and it freaks out. It plays a bit, stops, plays a bit, ect. I'm not sure it screws with things on a sample level, to me it seems more like it drops out if it's too far out. How does it keep in sync though? How does that work? It's trying to be 'frame' accurate to the SMTPE/MTC but how does that translate down to the sample level?

    How far down does the rabbit hole go?
    First of all, it doesn't use any more hardware than when you slave the DAW. You've still got a tape deck, sync box, MIDI interface and the DAW system.

    I use the transport controls for the DAW that are present on my DAW controller but you can use your mouse or anything that controls the DAW transport and the tape machine chases. My synchronizer also has a controller for the synchronizer and THAT can be used as well.

    And how does it look (literally)?

    Here is a short Quicktime video of my BR-20T chasing Cubase...I give several examples of advancing or retreating the DAW timeline position by minutes and then pressing PLAY to give the synchronizer and tape machine the challenge of locking to a moving target. The TimeLine Micro Lynx does such a fine job of controlling the BR-20T and the BR-20T has such a responsive transport that there isn't actually any back-and-forth scrubbing at any point and the lifter control is very conservative so there is minimal impact to the heads. Its really slick.

    https://www.torridheatstudios.com/ft...T/MVI_6489.mov

    Some DAW's do indeed truncate or augment the sample stream to accomodate the fluctuations. Cubase doesn't. Now you're thinking: "Well what's the big deal then?!?"

    The big deal is this...here's how Cubase deals with audio playback...it still locks to an internal clock. Good. Wait...HOW does it stay in sync then? It...DOESN'T. The manual goes on to say that for true syncrhonization with Cubase a central wordclock reference is needed for the studio so that all components can resolve to a central clock. Ummm...including the tape machine...chasing.

    Boy. I guess those folks at Steinberg must be a bunch of idgets.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails untitled3-jpg  

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    Quote Originally Posted by sr71rules View Post
    You are using a synchronizing box right? You don't press play in the DAW, you press play on a box?


    Yes you do press play on the DAW and everything syncs to it. Why would anybody with thousands of dollars in convertors compromise the audio ?

    One more time on my tired old video to prove it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV63e7tWWIQ







    Quote Originally Posted by sr71rules View Post
    I have manually slowed down my tape machine to see what my DAW does.. and it freaks out. It plays a bit, stops, plays a bit, ect. I'm not sure it screws with things on a sample level, to me it seems more like it drops out if it's too far out. How does it keep in sync though? How does that work? It's trying to be 'frame' accurate to the SMTPE/MTC but how does that translate down to the sample level?
    Sonar (version 5 and 6 anyhow) will speed up chipmunk wise and slow down (think Lurch) before it completely gives up. The sychronizer that Sweetbeats is using was originally designed to be used with Avid/ Protools. It's the best of the best. Tascam used the Timeline system on the MX2424. You will see the logo on those machines.

    Cory, three cheers. No matter what people say, you are doing it the way the big boys did and many still do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dementedchord View Post
    wrong IS the right word... why in the world would you want the slower medium to chase the faster??? it syncs way faster the other way around...
    My problem with chasing the DAW is I don't think time is digital. Also It makes me think that it will cause some kind of weird wear on the tape deck mechanics.
    "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."

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