Endless Analog CLASP Signal Processor Review

May 21, 2010 4:30 PM, By Kevin Becka



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D-sub connectors give you the ability to record up to 24 tracks through CLASP.

D-sub connectors give you the ability to record up to 24 tracks through CLASP.

I spent the first day with CLASP in a session recording a six-piece band. Drums were in an iso booth while the rest of the players were taken direct or miked in the large main room. Cue mixes were built from the CLASP outputs, which offer the same listening experience as hearing input on the analog machine: zero latency, before the converters. Levels were set, and the session ran from Pro Tools with CLASP running in the background. After the initial tracks were cut at 30 ips, new Pro Tools playlists were created on all tracks and another pass was run at 15 ips. The difference was remarkable. The bottom end on the kick, low toms and bass was thicker, with more saturation at the top end and, of course, more tape noise. After some discussion, the 30 ips pass was kept and the bass and vocal were auditioned and re-cut at 7.5 ips. This particular singer’s voice benefitted from the lower tape speed, and the bass took on a richness and symbiosis with the kick that was not apparent at the higher speed. Because of the mix of the speeds, the noise wasn’t as intrusive as it was when the entire track was cut at the lower speed.

Another session involved re-cutting drums on an existing track. The CLASP-specific plug-ins and master faders used in the previous session were imported into this day’s session, and I was up and running in no time. Levels were set and I put CLASP into Demo mode to audition tape speeds. As I was listening straight off the uncorrected repro feed from the machine, it necessitated killing the cue feed to the drummer. While the drummer was playing, I could drop out of Record on the analog machine, change tape speeds, engage Record and hear the difference. I can’t say enough about this feature. It lets you audition the “effect” and change levels to tape accordingly. It’s much like changing the settings on an EQ or compressor on the fly.

Once out of repro-only mode, I could sync to the track and re-cut the drums. The drums were first cut at 30 ips, then I created new playlists for the second pass and cut at 15 ips. Just for fun, I then dropped down to 7.5 and did the same. CLASP’s front panel buttons make this a simple operation: Choose the desired speed on CLASP, change the machine’s speed and you’re off.

Once the drums were cut, we started experimenting with the rest of the track—which had been cut directly to Pro Tools a year before. I created an ADT (automatic double tracking) effect on the vocal using the interface. This is similar to how it was done in the 1960s: using a secondary tape machine set at a different speed. I didn’t need a second machine because I re-recorded the vocal to a new track through CLASP at a slower speed. The difference in the head gap created a great double. I tried a few different speeds until I nailed it and moved on.

Another great trick? I took some interesting guitars that unfortunately had a nasty digital edge to them and tamed them down by re-recording them through CLASP. This corrected the edginess, giving the tracks a roundness that was easier to tuck into the mix. This particular technique was an “a ha!” moment for me, seeing the possibility of tweaking the sonics of tracks not previously recorded to analog tape.

The only problem with CLASP is that it’s harder to describe than to use. At first, it’s tough to grasp the concept, but once CLASP is in your session, the wow and wonder of your first encounter with pro audio is revived. During sessions with live musicians, I was easily jumping between tape speeds, auditioning and changing levels to tape based on what I heard, then printing that directly to Pro Tools. It was easy to re-record original digital tracks back through CLASP for color, create ADT, run tests at different tape speeds—all while having a blast. The system quickly reminds you about the beauty of tape’s effect on transients, low frequencies, cymbals, vocals, guitars and more, especially at slower speeds. The workflow was sonically and functionally inspiring because CLASP puts the tape machine behind the curtain, letting the session run just as it would with the DAW alone.

Like other early releases of new technology, CLASP is costly. However, the payoff for home and commercial studios with tape machines in mothballs, or those looking to put their own unique creative stamp on their work, is worth it. And the timing is perfect: The used audio gear market is rife with tape machine bargains from 2-tracks on up. Plus, the arguments that good tape is no longer available or too costly no longer hold water. I bought 10 reels of RMGI 900 2-inch and the formulation is as good or better than any BASF, Ampex or Quantegy tape I’ve used. There was a time when this wasn’t true, but the market has reset itself and there’s plenty of good tape out there from ATR and RMGI. In all my years of writing product reviews, I’ve gotten excited about great products from time to time, but this is something more: It’s a concept whose time has come. If you get a chance, try CLASP for yourself and rediscover your love of sound.

Kevin Becka is the technical editor of Mix.

Click on the Product Summary box to view the Endless Analog CLASP product page.

Click on the Product Summary box to view the Endless Analog CLASP product page.

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