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Endless Analog CLASP at the Motor Museum – exclusive review by Mike Crossey…

Monday, December 13th, 2010 7:24 am

endless analog clasp at Miloco The Motor Museum, LiverpoolIt’s a pleasure to welcome guest blogger Mike Crossey, our partner at the Motor Museum Studio in Liverpool, to share his thoughts on the latest piece of gear at the studio, the Endless Analog CLASP – Tape to DAW synchronization hardware…

I have always been a big fan of recording to analogue tape, for me it adds another dimension to the recording that is impossible to get with digital. It emotionally has more impact on me. All of the records I have worked on that have stood the test of time with me personally have all had tape in the chain at the recording process.

As a huge fan of this way of recording I can list many advantages to recording this way!

Tape gives those slight differences in tone that provide cinematic width to your stereo sounds.
Tape thickens your transients providing a more meaty punch to your drums and percussion.
Tape smooths your dynamics in a much more musical way than any compressor can, leaving you with more power in your raw tracking.
Tape provides a sonic thumbprint to all your individual tracks that allows them to marry together perfectly in the mix.
Tape forces you to use good engineering practice with your gain structure and levels.
Tape laces your sounds with harmonic richness that makes your EQ feel more powerful in the mix.
Tape running at 15 ips gives a huge tight low end that has to be heard to be believed.
All that vintage gear everyone loves, U47s, Vintage Neve mic pre-amps etc, were all designed to hit tape and sonics of that process were allowed for in the design. Check it out!

In my view, the reasons that tape has been left behind to the pro tools generation have never been sonic reasons but financial reasons and convenience. Much of modern culture makes this sacrifice, quality for convenience/cost.
Imagine being able to work with the speed and editing possibilities of pro tools but still have all of the benefits of tape! I never thought this would be possible until now!

When I first heard about the Endless Analog CLASP system on youtube I was literally straight on the phone to the designer Chris Estes In Nashville to have him explain it to me more. The main challenge for Chris is to actually get across how seamlessly CLASP works and how this is achieved. I’ll have a go…

CLASP allows Pro Tools to take complete control of your tape machine. Once the tape is loaded on the machine, you never need to touch the tape machine again for the whole session. You can work in Pro Tools as you would normally! How amazing is that!
CLASP has a built in switching system that automatically controls how your performers can monitor what they are playing (with zero latency!) and what is routed to tape.
CLASP learns your tape machine and can take control of the pro tools delay compensation engine to automatically compensate for the delays between the record head and the repro head in real time.
CLASP is constantly sending information about the status of your tape machine to pro tools via MIDI and in vice versa, can control your tape machine through the cable that would normally run to your remote transport.
CLASP allows you to change tape speeds on the fly mid session. Would you like to record your bass and drums at 15ips and your vocals at 30ips? No problem. This was never possible before when working just with tape.

Lets say for example you have a singer with the vocal chain patched into multitrack input 3, you then arm track 3 in pro tools ready to record…

1. CLASP routes the live mic directly to channel 3 on the console from here the vocal can be sent to foldback, this allows the performer to monitor themselves with ZERO LATENCY.
True zero latency monitoring is not possible when monitoring post converter in pro tools. I have noticed a marked increase in the comfort and performance of a musician performing to a true analogue signal of themselves.

2. CLASP then also simultaneously routes this signal directly to the 3rd input of the tape machine, when you put Pro Tools into record, your tape machine automatically jumps into record also.

3. Whilst in record during the take, CLASP automatically transfers the take straight from the repro head into input 3 of Pro Tools.
All delays involved in this process are corrected in real time!

3. Once your take is finished and you press stop, as soon as you disarm track 3 in pro tools and CLASP automatically then routes Pro Tools output 3 to track 3 on your console in place of the original live mic ready for playback.

4. In summary, the recorded region in pro tools has hit tape, been played out off the repro head, transferred to pro tools and been placed in sample accurate time with your existing tracks. Seamlessly and instantly!

This process allows you to work with playlists, comp between takes, edit arrangements and everything else you would normally in a pro tools session but with every track recorded to tape with that sound :)
As you are working with the tape machine in a non linear way, there is no need to rewind the tape between takes. My preference is to work at 15ips on our studer A80, this allows for 30 minutes solid record time before a 45 second break is needed to let the tape rewind again, CLASP warns you when you are about to run out of tape and you can of course rewind the machine directly from pro tools without having to leave your workflow.
Because of the way CLASP integrates Tape with Pro Tools, you also see less tape wear and wear on the machine itself. This allows reels of precious tape to go a lot further and minimum maintenance required!

Anyway as I’m sure you can tell from this blog, I am blown away by this system and it has allowed recent sessions to run smoothly and quickly without any compromise to the sound quality, suddenly I am able to use tape on the single sessions where only a few days are booked for tracking!
Here at the motor museum, we have also been having fun experimenting with different lineups on the Studer. Adding a slight high lift at 10Khz on the record lineup at 15ips and setting the bias by ear on a 40Hz sub tone Steve Albini style being my favourites!
Producers and Engineers, Come and check it out!

www.miloco.co.uk/motormuseum

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Endless Analog - Digital Controlled Analog Tape Recording

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