Charleston Sound Studios have added "new" piece of equipment to their battery of recording tools: an old analog tape machine. The MCI JH-24-track 2 machine was once owned by The Who's Pete Townshend and has been fully restored and refurbished to like-new specifications. "Analog tape machines deliver warm, full-bodied, and pleasantly saturated sound that modern digital recorders and studios lack," Charleston Sound's Casey Banally says. "Our ears are analog, and because analog machines amplify and harmonically record and reproduce natural sounds, things recorded to tape can have a more pleasing and full tone."
We recently paid a visit to the Mt. Pleasant studio, who has recorded the likes of Darius Rucker, and as it turns out, the vinyl-loving hipsters out there have it right after all. According to CSS, the sound quality of vinyl records (pressed from magnetic tape) far outweighs the cheaper, digital alternative, and the studio is hoping more local artists will want to return to analog via their new console.
If all this analog talk is gibberish to you, here's the basic breakdown. Analog, or tape, recording is an old-school way to capture sound, but for a few reasons. According to owner Jeff Hodges, "What we hear is analog. Analog machines capture the same kind of natural sound. The magnetic tape and other components add to the harmonics."
This means that this type of recording captures all of the different pitches and tones that create an entire sound, instead of just getting the sum of the whole's parts — or what Hodges likes to call the "fluorescent light" kind of sound that digital gets.
Because of this feature, analog recording is perfect for jazz, rock, or country bands that want to record live as a group. Hodges describes the sound quality of analog as "warm, organic, and lush, with something pleasing about its imperfection." But what's even better is that the recording can be edited using the same high-quality program (Pro Tools) that's used to edit digital recording. "It's the best of both worlds," says Hodges.
The only downside to this piece of equipment is the price. Hodges spent thousands, and each 30-minute tape roll (that can be re-used, but only three or four times) costs a whopping $450. But even though it costs exponentially more to record this way, Hodges will keep the recording price the same, whether you'd prefer to record with digital or analog devices.
A few have already taken advantage of the availability of this machine, including Seacoast Church, Grayson Hugh (a contributing artist of the Thelma and Louise soundtrack), and Sol Driven Train.
For more information about the studio, its opportunities, and how to record with them, visit charlestonsound.com/studio or call (843) 216-5556.