The Plangent Process

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Stephen Murphy, Dec 8, 2014.

  1. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    Location:
    New Braunfels, TX
    Thanks a bunch for that NPR link. That is some fantastic audio restoration work. Its like a magic trick. Might provide the link in any discussion that trashes digital audio processing technology cuz' those kind of artifacts ain't gonna be fixed in analog.
     
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  2. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    It's really for Jamie to explain his process, and the existing explanations are not clear enough if someone has little familiarity with analog tape recording and what The Plangent Process does.
    Here are some photos in an attempt to show visually what Plangent does.

    Every analog tape recording has "wow", a slow variation in the speed, and "flutter", a higher variation in speed. This is unavoidable with a mechanical analog tape recorder.

    The effects in the photos here are exaggerated. After all, we have been listening to analog tape recordings since c.1950, and usually they sound pretty good, but wow and flutter are always there to some extent.

    To visualize what Plangent does to an analog tape recording, using a photo:
    (Also imagine "looking" at these from left to right, representing playback of an analog tape.)

    Here is the original scene
    [​IMG]

    Here is the original photo with "wow" only
    [​IMG]

    Here is the original photo with "flutter" only
    [​IMG]

    Here is the original photo with both "wow" and "flutter". This represents the original analog tape recording that Plangent will work from.
    [​IMG]

    When The Plangent Process is used on an analog tape visually represented by "photo with wow and flutter" just above, it becomes this - which is what it is supposed to be. The Plangent Process does this precisely and exactly and correctly.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
  3. jamiehowarth

    jamiehowarth Forum Resident

    The 2010 vs 2104 Springsteen is indeed from different tape machines and preamps but they're both aligned to the tones and bith excellent rigs. Bob Ludwig has notes going back many years… he didn’t want to throw Bruce with different EQ so the two versions are predominantly differentiated by the w and f processing.

    Bob has no financial or other interest in the company, he did hear flat before and afters of the material before moving forward - the non-Plangent of Darkness that appears on “The Promise” box set was also transferred by us for evaluation, we had been asked to work on the title cut (from the multitrack) and some demos of Racing in the Streets which came out well and were included.

    At the time so much of our work had been obscure concerts and previously unreleased material that I asked Toby Scott if we could take a shot at Darkness even though it was awfully late (3 weeks and that was piece of it was already locked). Bob was surprised: he like others had thought it could help with noticeable audible wow but not the amounts below 0.1% in an extremely good recording.

    That set came out in November, during the Christmas/New Year’s break he had a moment to do some further listening snd analysis and he reached out and was effusive about it, and over the next months we re-did the transfers on all but Nebraska (done later) and The Live 75-85 which was mixed to 1630 and simultaneously to tape - maybe someday the tapes can be revisited. The best A/B comparison between Bob’s topnotch ATR102 with DeParavincini electronics and the Plangent preamp and processing is the BTR 40th vs the big box set version - both are mastered to Bob’s notes identically.

    The Plangent Aretha monos were done after mastering from Rhino’s versions using the nice work of Dan Levitin.

    I would love to redo the website (needs it) to include A/B of flat versions but I don’t want to get lawyered, and it’s a touchy ask.

    As for Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty there isn’t much difference from flat - Dave Glasser is doing very small subtle EQ - the flat playback of Barncard’s mix is fantastic. There are a few refinements in the processing including a new method of compensating for the phase response of the original recorder - those and the upcoming Crosby and another big title I can’t reveal are the best we can do today.

    By the way the audiophile trope re: rhythm pace and timing is real, coined by Linn - I was very skeptical but heard it and bought a Sondek I couldn’t afford at the time. Very similar w and f reduction audible effect and yes Mississippi Queen is a good example. That should still be available on the website.
     
  4. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maine
    @jamiehowarth - I posted this earlier in the thread and wondered if you could provide any info on the workflow/process for multitracks. Thanks.

    "It appears that custom head stacks are available up to 24 track, along with a 4 channel wideband preamp. So I can imagine it's possible to ingest a 4 track tape directly, and assuming none of the tracks were bounced then it would be possible to eliminate all tape transport artifacts, although the bias signal would be particular to each track if they were recorded at different times, right? And what about 8 track or more? Can you use more wideband preamps together and ingest all 8 (or more) tracks at once? And finally, on a multitrack with bounced tracks, is there any way to sort out and correct the two sets of transport artifacts, those incurred from record/playback originally and those added when recorded to the new track? I'm guessing bounces made through the studio chain (mixer, DA's, etc.) would lose any really high frequency information, but I know some 8 track machines allowed bouncing directly in the machine, so not sure if the electronics would pass any relevant signals. Maybe I'm not phrasing that correctly, but ultimately I'm wondering if you can ever sort out more than one pass on a tape machine."
     
  5. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Location:
    NY
    Let's get back on topic, please. Computer Operating systems discussions belong in their own thread. This thread is about the Plangent Process
     
  6. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    Location:
    City of Angels
    I've tuned in and out of this thread. I love what this process can and has done.
    I'm sure it has been gone over - so I know it's just me and I missed it. But is Plangent only effective in first gen mixes (or tapes)? Can a consumer 1/4" reel to reel be improved, or is that one all cooked in and done for?
     
  7. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I believe Jamie has indicated it's like going back a generation. If you have the master tapes, it's like listening to the mix session in the studio. If you have a second generation copy tape, it's like listening to the master. Etc.

    You can always fix the speed issues unique to the tape you have. Fixing the issues of previous tape generations is another matter.
     
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  8. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Yeah, I know the history of that. I think it can be turn with turntables -- and I assume tape decks, devices where their are actually mechanical variations in timing and tempo. But for the last 20 or 30 years I see it being brought up in the context of electronics, CD players, etc. I'm not sure I've heard one of those components impact the timing or tempo of a recorded performance.
     
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  9. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maine
    I forgot that there's another Plangent Processes sample on their Facebook page under "videos". I remember seeing more information somewhere in the past regarding source, etc., but in any case it's from the Beatles' Sullivan performance. Apparently there was some original horizontal scan frequency (15,734 Hz) in the audio track, and that was a usable reference for the process.
    Plangent Processes - The Finest Tape Playback System On The Planet
     
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  10. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    Location:
    New Braunfels, TX
    You can sort of simulate the effects of distorted rhythm, pace and timing by dropping the pitch by one semitone in your DAW of choice on songs recorded in analog (usually around the '70's) and most likely EQ'ed for vinyl released on CD that are high pitched with punchy fast paced percussive drums and bass. What happens is the chipmunk vocals sound like real people but the pace feels slowed down that I have to slap my leg in time as rudimentary metronome and find it really hasn't slowed down. It's just that it feels slowed down because the punchy percussive emphasis has softened due to this pitch drop.

    I just did this on the song Magic by the group Pilot. As it is it's quite harsh, scratchy and un-listenable cranked up. After dropping the pitch and EQ'ing the frequencies that emphasize the percussive punch it sounds a whole lot better. Of course not as profound an improvement heard in the NPR Plangent Processes interview.
     
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  11. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Yes!
    And without knowing any specifics or secrets, I bet it already has been used on 1/4" quarter track stereo consumer type reel recordings.
     
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  12. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maine
    It even works on wire recordings... This live Woody Guthrie wire recording from 1949 was able to be restored using 60 cycle in the recording as a reference.

    Down to the Wire

    The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949
     
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  13. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    Location:
    New Braunfels, TX
    So there's no before and after restoration of this recording on YouTube? Anywhere?

    Found the non-restored version but not the restored one.
     
  14. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    ??? I think the only releases of this are the restored version.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
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  15. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    That Guthrie wire recording was initially played back on a highly modified Ampex tape machine that sprang from the mind of audio restoration maven Art Shifrin (Art's a good friend of mine) - from a thread about wire recording transfers, look for the Youtube clip of Art describing wire recording playback from Webcor to Ampex:

    Can someone explain what a wire recorder was

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled Plangent Process thread in progress...
     
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  16. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maine
    There were impressive samples available back when the recording was released but they appear to be long gone now.
     
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  17. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    The Guthrie wire recording was processed with Jamie Howarth's proto version of what became Plangent. Here is a different article about the Guthrie wire

    Forgotten audio formats: Wire recording

    The parts on the second video there that go just slightly off speed are parts with dropouts of fractions of a second (including actual dropouts and breaks in the wires that were "spliced" with knots, existing in the wires as delivered to the archive, or during the "restoration", knots are about all you can do with a wire). Plangent can't work where there is no signal at all. I think today those parts (fractions of a second) could be restored better (the dropouts that still remain after a Plangent processing) by a good restorer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2021
  18. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Using that Ampex seems to be unnecessary way overkill to me. There's no reason to not use an original intact Webster-Chicago wire recorder transport and head. One would not have to use its original electronics.

    Back to Plangent.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2021
  19. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    If you watch the video, Art Shifrin indicates that the modified Ampex transport does a much better job handling the wire than an original wire machine.
     
  20. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Maybe so but I think not by much. I have three wire recorders and I have not yet had any problem with the transports. The transport was 1947 overbuilt tough.
     
  21. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maine
    Very cool. Thanks for sharing the video link.
     
  22. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    Location:
    New Braunfels, TX
    Thanks for posting the SHF link to the wire transfer video. Just can't wrap my head around how a hair thin wire can record electromagnetic sine waves on a wire. I can understand how it works on tape. Fascinating video.

    Aren't there public domain recorded media one can access similar to Library Of Congress? Seems like there'ld be tons of hard copy stuff to work on restoring where copyright ownership isn't violated.
     
  23. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    I'll see if I can get hold of Art and get some thoughts on transferring wire recordings - to paraphrase conversations we've had over the years, Art's goal was to reproduce recordings in as accurate as possible manner and obtain the highest fidelity that he could. That Ampex deck modified to playback wire recordings handled the wire in as gentle as possible manner so that wire would stay in one piece; the Guthrie wire had a lot of time and effort expended by a team to obtain the best possible playback. As background. I doubt that a WEBCOR recorder would have extracted as much audio information as the modified Ampex deck (let alone run at an as accurate or consistent speed). I did a little online searching and came up with this hour and a half interview Art did for the University of Kentucky where he discusses all manner of audio formats and playback gear:
    Interview with Art Shifrin, February 8, 1999

    Art worked as a salesman for Ampex over 15 years, moved over to Vidipax and did transfers of all manner of recording formats and then started his own restoration business which he ran until retirement. Here's an example of Art's creative process involving the transfer of cylinder recordings - note the modified Rabco tangential tracking tonearm and the rest of the rig: Phonograph Makers: Art Shifrin
     
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  24. jtiner

    jtiner Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maine
    I think there used to be a section of the Plangent Processes page devoted to how the tape decks used were modified before transferring tapes to be processed. I remember reading that beyond fitting the special head stack, decks were meticulously aligned and modified to get every last ounce of performance/stability from the transport and electronics. There was even something done to improve the bearings/reduce noise in the capstan, I think. So yeah, squeeze every drop out of the source before before even thinking about restoration.
     
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  25. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    All I can say is I have no problem and the original wire mechanism is gentle enough, it's tough but it works. There's nothing on a wire over 5kHz or maybe 7kHz. But there is definitely always a 60hz hum. What head did he use - an original Webster-Chicago head? I guess if one worked for Ampex everything needs to be Ampex ;)

    Most if not all breaks or tangles happened during the rewind, not recording or playing. Solution for a current day archivist: Slow that Rewind Down, Boy.

    Also if the result is to be run through Plangent, there's not even a need for a more stable playback mechanism, if the Ampex was actually more stable (less W&F) than an original Webster.

    MacGyver that I am, when I saw that specially machined spreader wind on that Ampex if that had to be done, I just think of a $100 level wind fishing reel which was pretty much 60 years perfected and could be repurposed for that.

    Also, as far as I know, the Webster-Chicago wire machines were always branded Webster-Chicago, not Webcor. After making only wire machines for a few years (from 1947 or so), starting about 1953 the company made a few Webster-Chicago record players then 1954-1955 came up with the new and more friendly Webcor brand for those. There were some late blank wire reels branded Webcor and Webster-Chicago, but never the wire recording machines as far as I know. It follows that there might be some very late wire machines branded Webcor, but I have never seen a trace of one and I have looked for years for wire recording stuff. If there ever were any wire machines branded Webcor, over the manufacturing life of the things it must be something like 2500 Webster-Chicagos to 1 Webcor, and it is wrong to call a wire machine Webcor, unless it is one. I would love to see proof of a Webcor one to add a piece to the jigsaw puzzle story of that company.

    But the 1949 Guthrie wire was definitely-maybe recorded on a "Webster-Chicago". Montgomery Ward and Sears (Silvertone) and Crescent had wire recorders too under those brands and one of those is a possibility I guess.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2021
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