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Comparison: Tape vs. Digital

Having recently restored an Otari MX-5050, I was eager to send some mixes to it for comparison. I hooked it up for a recent session with Mike Viola, and used our console’s L2/R2 outputs to supply a faithful duplicate of what would be sent to our A/D converters. Our MX-5050 is calibrated to 355nW/m +3, and I recorded to 1/4″ RMG 911 tape at 15 inches per second.

Here’s a look at the waveforms with recordings below. The tape recording is clearly louder with a reduced dynamic range, though it has roughly the same peak level compared to the digital recording. This is the result of tape compression.

Here’s a look at the amplitude statistics for each version. They confirm that both recordings have roughly the same peak amplitude, while the tape recording is about 4dB louder overall. The tape recording is louder and fuller while overall headroom is about the same.


Finally, here’s an A/B comparison I created to compare the two recordings in real-time. I started with 10 second intervals, then 5 second intervals, and back up to 10 seconds. The recording starts with the digital version. You can follow the changes by looking at the timeline below.

Which recording do you prefer?

Note that both channels are at +3dB in order to compensate for padding in Adobe Audition’s mix engine. On an unrelated note, I’m really beginning to hate Audition CS 5.5 with a passion.


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