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Three Cheers For Tape Hiss!

Discussion in 'Archive' started by The Trout, Aug 28, 2007.

  1. The Trout

    The Trout Member

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    Hey there, folks. I don't post very often, but I've been ODing on Disney audio the past few weeks on my spiffy new headphones and felt the need to speak up - Randy Thornton is the patron saint of the Disney back catalog. Yeah, sure, I know you knew that already. You love him because he releases the previously unreleasable, or because he goes that extra mile to put together some truly well produced official park albums. Well, you know why I love him? TAPE HISS.

    Yep, tape hiss - Randy, in his infinite wisdom (no sarcasm there folks), does NOT drown his albums in NoNoise. Now, I know I lot of people hate hiss, but trying to get rid of it just sucks the life right out of recordings. Listen to the Ghost Host on the Haunted Mansion 30th disc - his spiel is totally no-noised, laden with digital artifacts and sounding all around dead (and not in the good, ghostly way ;)). Now, listen to the Musical History - you can clearly hear that lovely tape hiss behind every audio track in the show. I mean, heck, listen to the singing busts - Thurl's track has more hiss than his fellow busts, and I LOVE it! Randy's mixes and restorations are always oozing with dynamic range and that ever-so-intangible breath of life.

    Another good example is the Country Bear Jamboree on Musical History - a lot of producers would've cranked the volume knob to 11 and NoNoised the crap out of the recordings, destroying any warmth and life the recording may have had. Randy mixed the tapes together warts and all - you can clearly hear hiss levels vary with every bear. The end result is a mix that lets you hear exactly what's lying in the Disney vaults - a recording teeming with warmth, life, and all that other good stuff. The whole thing just pops, and it's mostly because of that nasty tape hiss everyone always hates so much.

    And so, Randy, I salute you - keep cranking out these amazingly restored tracks for audiophiles (and Disney nerds) everywhere.
     
  2. Horizons

    Horizons Playlist Author

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    I, myself, am not a fan of tape hiss at all. I guess its just personal preference (some like more bass, some like more treble, etc...)
     
  3. thx99

    thx99 Real-life Harry Caul Moderator Playlist Author

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    It's not really a matter of being a "fan" of tape hiss but rather an opponent to liberally-used hiss/noise reduction filters which often result in pinched recordings with artifical, flat-sounding strings, for example. I realize that the topic title implies that tape hiss is a good thing, but I don't think that was The Trout's intention.

    Hiss is broadband noise (noise which affects a broad range of frequencies) which is random, which means that developing a filter to effectively attack this noise and predict what it will be in the next instant without compromising the desired signal (the music) is very complicated and has not been perfected. In contrast, a high-level tonal sound at a relatively stable frequency can be reduced quite simply with a notch filter without serious degradation to the desired signal.

    If given the choice, I'm sure we all would like hiss-less recordings, but the problem lies in what is sacrificed to achieve this effect. I'm with The Trout on this one: leave some (or all) of the tape hiss in if ultimately it produces a more natural-sounding result.

    Producers and fans alike need to realize that recordings made, say, pre-80s may include recording characteristics that just can't be dealt with effectively without sacrificing something. There are so many factors in play with regard to tape storage, restoration, playback, filterting, etc. that it may be impossible for a producer to make pre-80s recordings sound like they were recorded yesterday. And really, should that be the goal? I don't think it should be, but certainly, those problems which can be dealt with effectively without serious drawbacks should be addressed. Just leave those problems/solutions with negative consequences alone IMO.
     
  4. The Trout

    The Trout Member

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    What he said - of course I'd prefer audio to NOT have noise. But the tapes most of our favorite tracks are on are gonna have hiss and I love that Randy doesn't try to remove it. Trying to eliminate the tape hiss always takes sound information with it and dulls the entire product (as well as introducing digital artifacts of its own). The hiss makes everything sound natural and alive.

    Anyway, I just thought Randy doesn't get enough props for that. I mean, he gets props for everything else, just not this specific thing. ;)
     
  5. narkspud

    narkspud Member

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    Chiming in to agree 1000% with the OP. Tape hiss does NOT rock, but engineers with enough sense to leave it alone do!

    Would it surprise you to learn that original editions of CDs are often worth a lot more than the currently available remastered versions? This is one reason why. "Remastered" has become a synonym for "screwed up."
     

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