There are many myths regarding tape. Most of them are about how great it sounds, what a delicate media it is, that it’s troublesome and takes more studio time to work with. I can only confirm the first one. Tape HAS got an advantage in sound quality in my ears, but there are a few others worth mentioning, because tape
can sound more organic and big, compared with digital recordings
glues better at multitrack recordings
handles transients in a very euphonic way, especially drums and cymbals
clips peaks and gives us a higher level closer to 0dbfs before compression or limiting
makes us perform our best at the recording session and make important descisions earlier in the process
gives us natural breaks from listening to music when rewinding tape
Of course, some projects fits better with tape than others, and sometimes the advantages above can turn into disadvantages. If you like the creative process of working in a digital audio workstation, where all edits are possible, the tape is a clear limitation. And a digital recording will always be less coloured and have bigger dynamic range because of a bigger signal to noise ratio. Very often, we end up digitizing the tape recordings at a point in the process (which will happen eventually, anyway, unless you plan to only release your product on vinyl or casette), and then use the power of the computer at mixdown or overdubs.
There is an extra expense, because tape costs substatially more than hard disk space. The preferred 2” tapes at Skraaplan Studios are RMG 900 and ATR Magnetics. At 30 IPS (inches per second), one tape reel will hold 16 minutes of music, and 32 minutes at 15 IPS. 30 IPS is mostly used, but occationally 15 IPS is used, if a fatter bass and a bit more compression is preferred, at the cost of a bit more tape hiss and high frequency detail. A lot of rock music is still recorded at 15 IPS.
The Lyrec TR533 is of very high quality, and it is the last model, that Lyrec made, before they stopped making 24-track machines. It doesn’t have the Swiss clockwork precision of a Studer, but the audio is fantastic, and actually Neve sold the Lyric machines in the US as distributors.
The maintainance and calibration of the machines is very important, and they are always tested and calibrated before every project and cleaned and demagnetized every single day before use. We use exclusively Magnetic Reference Labs calibration tapes and quality demagnetizers from Han-De-Mag.
Skraaplan Recording has made several 100% analogue projects, and would love to assist you arranging all the details, if you are interested in making your next one an AAA. We have cooperated with both Abbey Road and Exchange Mastering in London on direct tape to vinyl transfers, and can help make arrangements with the right engineer for your project.