Aphex Aural Excitation, with Half-Inch 8-Track

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Aphex Aural Excitation, with Half-Inch 8-Track

Post by Lost on side » Mon May 04, 2015 1:37 am

I come to you humbly...

So I know these exciters are poo-poohed, and tut-tutted by many, but I was wondering if anyone has used them while working with the half-inch 8-track format?

I searched a bit, but no one mentioned half-inch tape, most were either digitalists, cassetters, or 2-inchers. I'm wondering if, used with discretion, it might help out on the opposite ends of the frequency range? I'm working with a Tascam 48, and mixing to a 1/4" Otari MX5050 (though I'm on the trail of a MTR 10).

Which model is most sought after (I'm guessing I want one with "Big Bottom")?

They can be found for pretty cheep, so I'm willing to take a shot, but some direction would be appreciated...thx.
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Re: Aphex Aural Excitation, with Half-Inch 8-Track

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Mon May 04, 2015 3:04 pm

Lost on side wrote:I come to you humbly...

So I know these exciters are poo-poohed, and tut-tutted by many, but I was wondering if anyone has used them while working with the half-inch 8-track format?

I searched a bit, but no one mentioned half-inch tape, most were either digitalists, cassetters, or 2-inchers. I'm wondering if, used with discretion, it might help out on the opposite ends of the frequency range? I'm working with a Tascam 48, and mixing to a 1/4" Otari MX5050 (though I'm on the trail of a MTR 10).

Which model is most sought after (I'm guessing I want one with "Big Bottom")?

They can be found for pretty cheep, so I'm willing to take a shot, but some direction would be appreciated...thx.
I'm no help with the specifics of your question but I will say that I once had a record mixed by Trina Shoemaker and she used a BBE Sonic Maximizer in line on toms. I think it was the 822 but don't quote me on that.

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Post by Lost on side » Mon May 04, 2015 3:46 pm

Yes, I have read that people like to use them on things like tom fills to bring them forward in a mix.

I'm really interested to hear if anyone has used them to compensate for the limitations of 1/2" tape machines. Some seem to like them for 4-track cassette recording, so I wondered if they might provide something nice either across the mix buss, or on individual tracks.
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Post by Jim Williams » Thu May 07, 2015 8:59 am

Exciters are THD generators with a high pass filter. Yes, they add distortion at higher frequencies to add 'harmonics' to the signal, britens them up.

If you consider that analog tape generates 4% THD at 10k hz all on it's own, analog tape is a form of exciter itself. I wouldn't think you would need that unless there is some high frequency absorbtion or filtration going on with your gear or tape machine's electronics.

Anyone can throw together a DIY exciter on their own. Just use a guitar pedal overdrive box, send the output to a sliding high pass filter and fold back to taste.
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Post by Lost on side » Thu May 07, 2015 11:12 am

Thanks for the response.

I see what you mean about using a distortion box. Used exciters are so cheap though, that they can be had for $30 (and they have more direct control, an internal side-chain, and are stereo)....less than a distortion pedal.

I think I will borrow one, and see what happens. I will try to follow up here.
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Post by Sean Sullivan » Thu May 07, 2015 10:46 pm

I occasionally like to, in plug in land, set up a Waves Aural Exciter on a stereo buss and feed instruments to it just to see what it does. It's easy to get carried away, but when used subtly it really can add a nice sheen to things. Try it on acoustic instruments. I found they work pretty well on things like banjo, when boost top end bring out a lot of pick noise, but with an exciter you can add a little sparkle without that. Nice on dull vocals too, maybe ones cut on a ribbon or with too much proximity effect and boost too much top end brings out too much sibilance. It would be worth $50-$100 for something like a Type III.
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Post by Injured Ear » Fri May 08, 2015 4:46 am

A buddy of mine was selling an old BBE exciter and his Craigslist copy said something snarky like, "If you think you need one of these to make your mixes better, than you probably need one of these"

I find that they help when trying to bring life back to guitars and basses recorded with dead strings. A well known engineer I worked with used them in parallel on tom toms.

I mixed a project in college from 1/2" 8 track with it across the 2 mix. I never lost any sleep over it.

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Post by Lost on side » Fri May 08, 2015 10:35 am

Haha.

I'm not sure why people get so snobby about things like this. The bottom line is that if something changes a sound, it is a valid tool. If, when, or how someone wants to use it is all that matters.

I think a friend of mine has one he will lend me.
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Post by Jim Williams » Fri May 08, 2015 12:57 pm

It's always been a usable device in the audio toolbox. The first one I had was a Type 2 that came out in 1983. It was great on cassettes, better than Dolby.

I used them quite a bit back in the 'ol synth 1980's era. Midi was new and we would stack favorite keyboards together into the console and mix all new, complex sounds.

The problem was noise, a lot of it. I used a dbx 900 'single ended noise filter' module to get rid of it. Those are great sliding low pass filters with a side chain detector that follows the highest frequency in the music and filters automatically everything above that point.

Of course, nothing is free and it dulled the sound a lot. Out came the Aphex Type III exciter. That would bring back all the top end detail without any noise, instant fix. You can dial odd or even harmonics, very useful. Then I sent it through Dolby SR onto 456 or 250 tape, it was super quiet.
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Post by kslight » Fri May 08, 2015 1:12 pm

I think getting specific 1/2" use only responses might be tough, were it me I would think that the 2" and cassette users would give a close approximation of what to expect.

The only thing I can say is try it and let us know what you find.

IMHO if you find your signal too dull off tape I would look at bringing in a little high end TO tape rather than trying to fix what's coming off it...assuming the machine is aligned and you are using fresh tape/etc... I have a lot of experience with narrow tape formats and I find that if brightness is important that it can help maintain brightness and manage noise simply to boost a little on the way in and then cut on the way out.

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Post by Lost on side » Fri May 08, 2015 2:24 pm

I am always looking for ways to improve my recordings, and I have read a bit about what the exciters do. I just wanted to try one out, and posed the question in the context of using it with a 1/2" machine, because I know that they don't have the specs of a wider format.

I'm not overly concerned about the high end I'm getting, but of course, sometimes you're the last to know. I guess I was hoping someone would reply:

"yes, it solved all the shortcomings of my 1/2" machine. No one believed in my genius, but I'm here to tell you, it's a lifesaver. I have the platinum records to prove it. Great minds think alike!"

I just want to give it a go, and see what I learn...
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Post by kslight » Fri May 08, 2015 7:15 pm

I guess it depends on what you perceive it's short comings to be, because IMHO the short comings of the narrow formats are also their strengths...if I wanted something outside of their range I would probably reach for a different format. As one of the big supporters of narrow formats, mind you, not at all knocking them.

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Post by Sean Sullivan » Fri May 08, 2015 8:55 pm

A lot of really successful records, especially 70's country rock, were mixed with Exciters. Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Eagles...
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Post by Lost on side » Sat May 09, 2015 2:55 am

kslight wrote:I guess it depends on what you perceive it's short comings to be, because IMHO the short comings of the narrow formats are also their strengths...if I wanted something outside of their range I would probably reach for a different format. As one of the big supporters of narrow formats, mind you, not at all knocking them.
I'm really just interested in experimenting, and finding out what both the tape machine, and the exciter are capable of. I would say that most of the recordings that I appreciate, were recorded to either 1" or 2" tape. I suppose the response might be "well then you should probably acquire a machine in one of those formats", but I'm broke. For now, I am looking at different ways to maximize what I already have (especially if it's only a modest expenditure).

I might be completely misguided. I just thought I'd ask if anyone had used one with their 1/2" machine, and if they found it beneficial (or not). What peaked my interest was that people liked to use them with cassettes. I thought that perhaps they would be useful for livening up some bounced down drums, or adding a touch of low end compression on a mix buss.
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Post by mrc » Sat May 09, 2015 5:11 am

I use a dbx 296 spectral enhancer after a dual 31 band graphic for feedback cuts for FOH. The worse the club or room the more it helps restore the sound without feedback. Also use a dbx 120a on the kick, and line mix that with the bass to feed the subs, live.
I've used the 296 on 4 track recording, and learned to not reprocess a track in a bus, you'll hear bee's buzzing in the background, lol.

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