Shedding Part 1
Mike Konopka 1988
Has one of the following scenarios ever happened to you?
Scenario #1: One of your best clients has finally decided
to mix those "killer tracks" you cut last year.
After a 20 minute safari into the darkest corners of the studio's
tape vaults, you finally bag the precious reels. Cautiously,
you "shuttle" rewind the masters which gives you time
to configure the console in anticipation of a chart-topping mix-down.
Suddenly, your "GRAMMY acceptance speech" daydream is
shattered by an occasional ticking sound coming from the whirling
reels. There it is again! Snap! Crackle! Pop!
Horrified, you find your "killer tracks" are littered
with tiny random spot erasures rendering the masters useless!!
Scenario #2: The phone rings. An anxious producer
wants you to mix an album he tracked awhile ago across town at
O. Howie Ream'em Studios. When the client arrives, you cue
up his first master wondering what awful sounds lurk on the "other
studio's" reel. As you push up the faders, all
the tracks just make this hellified screeching noise, and worse
yet, oxides are starting to shed off the heads and guides of the
multitrack. Even with audio turned off, the banshee-like
noise emanates from the very tape machine itself!
Scenario #3: Sadness of sadness...due to the recession,
it is announced that "Monumental Sound" is forever closing
its hallowed doors and an equipment auction date has been set.
The big day arrives. With visions of tube mics, Fairchild
limiters and other vintage goodies in your head, you arrive at
the auction hours early. But, all you can find at the near
empty "Monumental" is a couple of broken coffee machines,
some Turner mics, and a 24 track calibration tape. The test
tape looks pretty good, so you outbid the other auction vultures
and still save yourself a couple hundred bucks. Back in
your own studio, you decide to playback align your "out of
whack" 24 track once and for all. But when you attempt
to play this tape, the reels barely even turn: thick black
gobs of oxide spew off the heads as your transport refuses to
play this tape.
All of the above tape problems are related to "hydrolysis",
which is a problem inherent to tape binder formulation (polyester
urethane) currently used by all tape manufacturers. Hydrolysis
is one of the biggest problems facing tape manufacturers and the
audio recording industry, and yet, it is one of the most widely
misunderstood and least discussed problems. Tape manufacturers
are not anxious to tell you that the recordings you are working
so hard on today will turn into a pile of gooey crap in a few
short years. But if you call your tape maker to complain
about tape shedding, they know too well about this widespread
problem. At The EARDRUM, we've made some calls and here's
what we've learned: (continued>)
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