an analog machine
is easy. Basically the settings are
as simple as adjusting a stereo - there's volume, treble and bass. The
"record bias" is sort of like tuning in to the radio station you
like... not a big deal. Just realize that each channel has a
volume/treble/bass setting, and there's a volume/treble/input setting
for the record side of the machine... so don't be intimidated by this
goal of all of this to
to end up with 3 alignment tones at the
beginning of your master tape. This is so that each channel sounds the
same, and so the mastering engineer can set up his/her machine to sound
the same way yours did... in terms of volume, treble and bass.
need to have a 250 nW/M
alignment tape and a tone generating
oscillator. The frequency response curve of the tape will either be
NAB, AES, or IEC/CCIR - NAB used to be the standard for 7 1/2 or 15
ips, but AES may be the standard now. Get alignment tape for the speeds
of your machine (try Micworks or ATR Services).
Also get some splicing tape (1/2" or 1/4", depending on your machine),
some single edge non-lubricated razor blades, some leader tape
(preferably plastic), and be sure you have an editing block that's easy
to get to.
recommended, but ok in a pinch: If
you can't find an oscillator,
your alignment tape on your analog deck, set the 1k tone on the both
channels of the tape for a PLAYBACK OUTPUT LEVEL of 0 vu, and record
the tone onto your digital system setting the input so the digital
meters input signal reads minus 12. Then record the 10k and 100hz tones
(from your alignment tape) the same way - tape output level at 0 vu,
digital input meters showing -12. Good idea: Even though you recorded
stereo tones, it's more ideal to delete one side and clone the other
side over to replace it. Make sure it's perfectly lined up in exact
sync with the first side, that way it's exactly one identical tone
going to both sides. Set each channel to minus-12, onto a cdr for
future use. Print each tone three times in a row so you have 2 - 3
minutes of each tone. That cdr will then become the tone generator for
your console. This just isn't a great idea if your machine isn't really
stable on the high frequencies.
then - back to the
Play the alignment tape
and set the PLAYBACK head (output) level of
the 1k tone to -2dB on the machine meters. That was easy.
you have to find the
"high frequency" playback level (NOT the high
frequency record level). It may be on the front where it's easy to
find, and it may be inside the machine where it's easy for a technician
(or you) to find. On some machines you take off the bottom panel of the
deck and it's right there.
Play the 10khz tone and
set it for -3 vu on the meters on the
machine. This is where it can be important to have a new alignment
tape. An old alignment tape can have wear on the edges, and possibly
cause the meters to fluctuate. If you have a new tape and you see the
meters moving around instead of staying still (like 1k probably did),
it can also be because (A) the heads and tape guides on the machine are
worn unevenly (B) the motors are older and not stable (C) the tape
tension adjustments or tilt of the capstan is incorrect. (Here are the experts
to contact if the
problem is really radical.)
Set your tape deck to
playback the CUE (or record head) level. This
used to be called Sel-sync on older machines. Repeat steps (1) and (2)
for the RECORD HEAD (CUE) adjustments. Remember, these are different
pots than the ones you adjusted when you did the PLAYBACK settings.
It's possible that there may not be an adjustment for the high
frequency adjustment for the cue depending on the machine.
take off the alignment
tape and set the machine back to the
Put your BASF 900 tape
on the machine "Heads out" (the full reel is
on the left, empty on the right). Roll off about 6 feet of tape onto
the floor. Set the area of tape that's close to the machine into the
splicing block and use your razor blade to cut a diagonal spice - toss
the 6 feet of scrap tape.
your leader tape (if
it has arrows on it, aim the arrows in the
direction of the take-up-reel) and hand-thread about six feet onto the
take up reel. Then cut a diagonal splice in the leader tape, and use
the splicing tape to join the two tapes. Use your razor blade You
should now have the 6 ft. of white leader tape wrapped around the
take-up reel, sliced to the BASF 900 which comes from the supply reel.
Thread the tape through the machine tape guides and MAKE SURE THE
RECORD SIDE OF THE TAPE IS UP AGAINST THE HEADS, NOT THE TAPE HEAD
one-and-a-half to two
minutes of tape forward, and edit in
(insert) another 4-6 foot section of leader tape and thread the machine
again. Roll another 30 seconds of tape forward, and edit in another six
foot section of leader tape. Rethread the machine and roll it back to
the first section of tape.
Plug in the tone
generator (either the oscillator or the cdr) into
your console and play the 1k tone so that the output meters on your
mixer read 0 vu or minus 12dB on digital meters. Both left and right
should be exactly the same. While watching the PLAYBACK level on your
analog deck, record the 1k tone and set the RECORD INPUT LEVEL so that
your playback meters show 0 vu. Record just enough to get that level to
Next, play the 10khz
tone on your oscillator/cd, but play the level
so that the console meter shows minus-five on the vu meter, or -17 or
-18 on the digital meters. Find the machine's BIAS ADJUST (or bias set)
for the speed you're recording at (hopefully at least 15 inches per
second). Again, it may be under the bottom or back panel that you've
removed from the machine.
you are playing that
10k tone, record it onto the 1st section of
tape. Never mind if the machine's meters look funny. Turn the bias
adjust down (counter clockwise) a pretty decent amount. You'll see the
machine meters go down.
start slowly turning
the bias adjust up, watching the machine meter
of the channel you're adjusting. Keep turning the bias up till you see
it reach a peak, or a high point on the meter. This point could be at
-5 or -6.5 or -3. It doesn't matter. You'll find that if you keep
turning the bias UP, at some point, the machine meter level will start
to go down. This is good! Experiment. Turn the bias up and down to kind
of see where that peak occurs on the meter.
you can stop
experimenting now. Turn the bias down, slowly bring it
up to that peak spot, continue turning up the bias till you see the
machine meter drop 1.5 dB if you're recording at 30 ips. (If you're
recording at 15 ips, the meter should drop 4 dB.) So if the meter peaks
at -5, increase the bias till the meter reads between -6 and -7 (at 30
ips). This is the amount of "over bias".
the same for the other
channel. It's ok to change the
console/oscillator's output if you need to - the important part is how
much the meter drops from the high point. Just keep doing this whole
alignment process over the same area of tape - that 1 1/2 minutes you
have at the head of the reel. It won't hurt the tape to keep recording
over what you've recorded on before... for doing tones that is...
manufacturers recommend different bias settings, and
different machines may require different bias as well. This one is just
a general overall recommendation for BASF 900. Ask your tape supplier
(or manufacturer) to tell you what's best. Here's two numbers for BASF
tech support: 800-371-0152 and 877-284-2600.
Now set your
oscillator/cdr back to 1khz and turn the console level
of that signal back to 0 vu (-12 digital). Record that tone onto your
machine and set the RECORD LEVEL (not the playback level) for 0 vu on
both channels. Whew! That was easy.
Now set the oscillator
to 10k at 0 vu (-12 digital) on the console.
Still on the same piece of tape, set the HIGH FREQUENCY RECORD setting
(yep, it's another tweaking pot somewhere hidden in the machine) so
that the machine meters read 0 vu.
Double-check your 1k
tone by setting the oscillator to 1k at 0 vu
on the console. Set the RECORD LEVEL for 0 vu (it may not need
Now... there may or
may not be a pot (potentiometer) to tweak this
next part. You want to set your oscillator for 100hz at 0 vu on the
console. I don't have to keep mentioning the -12 on digital boards,
right? Look to see if you have a LOW FREQUENCY PLAYBACK LEVEL
adjustment. If you do, record the 100hz tone and set the LF PLAYBACK to
read 0 vu on the machine. If you don't have that adjustment, you're
stuck with whatever the machine gives you. It may be +1 or -0.5, but in
any case, it's worth it. It's analog. Do still record the tone, even if
your machine doesn't have that adjustment.
Another easy one. Play
your oscillator 1khz at 0 vu on the
console. Set your machine to INPUT (the tape doesn't even have to be
rolling). The meter on the machine is showing you the input signal now,
not the PLAYBACK signal that we've seen all along in this process. Find
the INPUT CAL (or input meter) pot.... yes... somewhere inside the
machine probably... and set the machine meters to read 0 vu. This is so
that whatcha see is whatcha get.
Now reset the machine
to the PLAYBACK head mode and take the tape
back to the top. You should now record 30 to 40 seconds of a 1k tone (0
vu on the console) at 0 vu on the machine - another 30 to 40 seconds of
a 10khz tone (0 vu on the console) after the 1k tone, and last another
30 seconds of a 100hz tone on the tape. These are your alignment tones,
and you should print a set of these for every project you mix. If it's
a 4-song demo or f it's a 12-song album, record tones and keep them
there at all times.
extra 30 seconds of
blank tape that follows the alignment tones is
there in case you need to re-bias your machine, like if someone brought
in a different brand tape for you to mix on. The 3rd leader is called a
pad, and it's good to put on there even if you're the only one using
your machine. Let's say that you mix three songs this month, and then 2
months later you want to check the record alignment (a good idea).
You'd have to record on the tape to check the record alignment, right?
That's what the pad is for. Saves you having to search for blank tape
to record on. Now you're ready to start your mix. Zero the counter at
your last leader - always let the machine roll a good 5 to 10 second
before the downbeat of your song. At the end of each song, let the tape
roll at least 10 to 15 seconds after the final sound of the song
finished. Put in another 15 seconds of leader tape between songs.
you've done this
process a few times, it will seem easy, and won't
take you more than 15 minutes. To lessen the print-through, always
store your tapes TAILS OUT. Take off the take-up reel (full of tape)
when storing the tape. For your next project, you'll take off the
(former) supply reel and use it as the next take-up reel for the
recording to end up on. Store tapes in a cool dry place away from any
speakers or other magnetic field (unless you like remixing the whole
banana again). Enjoy that analog sound!
a while when you're
comfortable with this setup, click here for
of alignment refinement.
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