I never had the privilege of cutting tape and splicing tape.

However, the studio I work at owns a couple great tape machines.

What sound effects do you think would sound great on tape?

I know Horns and Brass record great on tape,

therefore, would cymbals being bowed and dry ice on metal sound good?

How about gunshots? I'm sure they'd sound great,

And swordfighting?

Basically, my guess is anything with high transients in it will sound good and softened by recording it to tape.

Has anyone tried anything of the like?

I'm wary of wasting a bunch of tape with my sound effect experiments and tape isn't cheap now-a-days, so if anyone has already tried this sort of thing and found something doesn't sound good let me know.

  • maybe you should ask that people specify when they answer if they have actually recorded anything on analog tape? Suppositions are a bit like assumptions....
    – user49
    Mar 17, 2011 at 6:50
  • Why Don't You Each form an opinion based on trial and error rather than snark and misinformation. Tape and digital both have their pros and cons I know that first hand. It's subjective to the listener as to which "sounds" better. Furthermore, the analog work flow is something that makes you really think about what you are doing and commit to a signal path, it takes discipline and a lot more forethought for both the engineer and artist. There is something to be said about that. Music is always a labor of love
    – user18659
    Jul 4, 2016 at 0:16

7 Answers 7


In my opinion, guns are Ok on analog. But I Prefer just to record at 24/96+ and use saturation pluigins in post, if Im looking for that sound. I always just prefer the digital recordings and the machines are easier to deal with in the field. Plus, I hate noise/hiss.

However, I would like to try explosions on analog. I didn't get a chance to run a nagra the one time I recorded explos.

I can't think of anything else I'd try analog on.

  • 1
    @Chuck Russom - from the man who we all know has more experience recording guns than the rest of us. that's some interesting info. thanks for that feedback. Aug 10, 2010 at 11:55
  • hiss/noise is hardly an issue with the dynamic range of anything worth recording on analog tape
    – user49
    Mar 17, 2011 at 6:48

I would argue that anything that has such incredible volume that it's going to blow out your recorder's signal no matter what you do, that's the thing to record to tape. I've only used tape a few times in my early learning days, but there's one thing I do know...distortion sounds better than clipping.

So, i think gunshots and other sounds of that ilk would benefit nicely. In order to capture the "body" of those sounds that occur after the transients, you're signals have to at a reasonable gain setting; meaning the transients are probably going to go supernova. I think a tape recording in this kind of situation might sound superb.


I was lucky enough to have a go with a big old Otari MTR-90 24track at uni. Id say try anything that has sharp transients, tape really does do nice things with compressing transients and gives the sound much more body and depth.

I'll also second what other people have said about pitch shifting with tape, definitely worth a try! When i first had a go with the tape machine i probably spent a good 20mins playing with slowing the 1kHz test tone down haha!

Other than that, just try processing any sounds with it, one thing i did was distort the hell out of a pad and then brought it back into ProTools and layered it with the original adjusting the level almost as a dry/wet control on tape distortion.


I've only used the 1/4" Nagra that we have stuffed on a shelf here, but pretty much anything I recorded on it sounded fantastic.

As a few people recommended here, anything you're looking to pitch shift benefits greatly from being on tape.


A trick I've read of is to record digitally, then sum through tape (and sum through really hot, too, so you get lots of happy tape compression), and get that back into your DAW to mix the sounds together.

That's, unfortunately, all I can contribute to this conversation.

  • I wonder if anyone's invented a plug-in or a little box to create the same effect without wasting any tape.
    – Utopia
    Aug 10, 2010 at 0:31
  • yeah right, like 'emulating' a moog
    – user49
    Mar 17, 2011 at 6:48
  • There an interesting article in the current (March 2011) issue of Sound on Sound. They review of UAD's emulation of a Studer A800 24 track. They go to the trouble of tracking a band on an actual Studer to A|B. The results were very similar, with deeper cleaner bottom end on the plugin and smoother mids for tape.
    – AdamAxbey
    Mar 19, 2011 at 19:12

I'll try & get permission to post the best example I have of sounds recorded on a Nagra, which illustrate the difference beautifully, but don't hold your breath as they were cannons from a certain pirate trilogy... The best I can do is try & explain it/dance about architecture: the digital recordings are very, very good, especially the wider recordings where bottom end has had time to swell, no complaints there... but the Nagra recordings are like someone did a seperate session with a different prop that was much larger and both easier on the ear and more powerful at the same time. As per my comment about tape saturation plugins vs moog sim plugins, it was like a totally different experience. If you've actually been there, there is no comparison. And that was at 15ips. Anyone who has used a Nagra knows that you transfer to digital at 15ips, then rewind switch to 7.5ips, retransfer, rewind, and transfer at 3.75ips... The results are totally unlike any digital plugins or processes that I've ever heard.... And I am biting my lip saying this, but convenience as a reason not to use a Nagra? Come on, if generations of production sound recordists got a crick in their neck using them to capture dialogue for some of the best films ever made then surely its not too much hassle to at least try? As someone once gave me the best advice I've ever heard: Trust your own ears, only


Haaa, people will tell you that analogue records with an incomparable body and digital captures the snappiest transients, so I'd say anything transient will sound floppy with an analogue recorder. This seems to make perfect sense with the examples you give...

In Sound for Picture: Film Sound through the 90's (Tom Kenny), I can't remember who goes out to record guns with both types of recorders for these reasons; body and attack.

Bowed cymbals would be more a matter of frequency response as it is a very rich sound. What does dry ice on metal sounds like? Never tried myself :)

  • You mean there is hope for making a pleasant recording of a crinkly plastic bag/tin foil???
    – Utopia
    Aug 10, 2010 at 0:00
  • Well, I'm not sure about how the details (crinkling) would come out actually. I would think of the analogue recorder as something that inevitably smoothes out too abrupt attacks. I recorded some crinkly plastic two weeks ago and it sounds like a very harsh and biting rain, maybe the same thing recorded on tape would sound less cold and crisp... Aug 10, 2010 at 0:07
  • Heh I was half-joking. Plastic is about the hardest thing I have ever tried to record. That and small chains and things of that nature. I'll try it on the tape and let you know.
    – Utopia
    Aug 10, 2010 at 0:25
  • @Justin - Oh,Dry Ice on metal sounds like an alien dying. Very cool sound.
    – Utopia
    Aug 10, 2010 at 1:03
  • @Ryan please do, even better would be to grab a pair of matched mics and record both in analogue and digital, but you don't have to do it :D Aug 10, 2010 at 1:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.