SECOND OPINIONby Richard Alan Salz
What are some of the best-dressed analog tape decks wearing this year? Red of course! As soon as you open the box, the hot cherry-red reel announces that this is something different from what you have come to expect from the folks at Quantegy (formerly Ampex).
This tape is loosely based upon a 3M product acquired by Quantegy awhile back. Quantegy’s design goals included: super high output, super low noise and a new binder system that eliminates “dirty tape path syndrome.” In my opinion the folks at Quantegy have certainly met their design goals.
I used the GP9 (2″) on an interesting project that started life in the digital domain on a pair of ADAT tapes. Once the material was transferred, it was time to replace some of the old tracks and add some new ones. I found the GP9 did, in fact, have a lower noise floor than some of the other tapes I’ve used, such as Quantegy’s own 499.
I found I could work at very hot levels without feeling like the tape was compressing. I noticed a lower level of tape shed on the heads with the GP9 than with other tape formulations.
The GP9 is a really great new tape that is perfect for projects that require an analog warmth with a digital noise floor. This is likely the perfect choice for jazz and country projects. The new binder system seems to be a substantive improvement over previous formulas – and that red reel looks so cool!
Richard Alan Salz owns and operates a recording studio in Vermont that provides Web-oriented media, and he is a contributor to Pro Audio Review
Since its release in fall 1998, Quantegy GP9 tape has taken the analog world by storm. Although digital recording mediums continue to increase in popularity due to their powerful editing capabilities and the price restrictions of analog, developments such as Quantegy’s GP9 give the music industry a stronger argument than ever for recording to analog tape.
Quantegy GP9 tape has a 3 percent higher pigment (oxide)-to-binder ratio than most tapes (typically in the 65 percent range). This higher ratio allows the high +9 dB recording levels to be obtained. Typically, the downside to more magnetic material on a tape is it leads to more tape shedding. This is not the case with GP9, however. Due to a unique binder system, the tape is almost entirely shed-free.
Originally GP9 was released in only 1/2″ and 2″ widths; 1/4″ and 1″ widths have since been added. Buyers can choose either Quantegy’s high-density polyethylene TapeCare box (which Quantegy acquired from 3M) or the more conventional cardboard-encapsulated Tyvek storage boxes.
I recorded my first GP9 multitrack session last fall as soon as the tape became available and I was immediately hooked. Up to that point I had been alternating between Quantegy 499 and BASF 900. Both of these tape formulations are very good but far from perfect. I liked the bottom end of 499 better than the 900 but the top end doesn’t seem nearly as musical as the BASF 900.
The extreme shedding of 499 always left me a bit wary of the tapes durability as well. The Quantegy 499 formulation takes the strongest characteristics of both of these tapes and leaves the less desirable ones behind. It is big and full yet defined and punchy, exactly what you want from an analog tape.
When tracking the Los Angeles-based rock band Backbone earlier this year, the producer, Bobby Blazier, and I decided to record to 16-track analog and then transfer to Pro Tools for our overdubs and mix. We concluded that GP9 was an excellent choice. We mixed the project in Pro Tools and printed to the newly modified Ampex ATR102 two-track 1″ analog machine, again using Quantegy GP9 tape.
Quantegy boasts that more albums go gold on Quantegy audio tape than all other tape brands combined. After listening to GP9 it is easy to see (and hear) why.
Prices for the tape vary, depending on configuration. Sample prices (all prices ARE for 2,500′ lengths): 1/4″ pancake (in tray, no reel): $12.75; 1/4″ NAB reel (in TapeCare box): $22.59; 1/2″ NAB reel (in TapeCare box): $40.70; 1″ NAB reel (in TapeCare box) $71.45; 2″ precision reel (in TapeCare box) $151.80; 2″ (5,000′ length) precision reel (in shipper): $353.10.
Contact: Quantegy at 770-486-2800.