Tape Recorder to Instrument Amplifier Interface

By Larry Crane (Nov/Dec 2000)

It's amazing how one little box could change what I do so much. Simply put, this is an impedance matcher for going from the output of tape/board/line-level type single to the input of guitar amps, stomp boxes and the like. Boy this opened up a lot. Now drum busses are feeding distortion pedals and coming back into the mix. Crappy delay pedals don't distort out when I try to feed them off the mixer. Everybody's vocals end up going through the Fender and it seems. Jeff Saltzman, our trusty freelancer here, has even been using it at the receiving end of long cable runs (with a mic pre at the top) to feed bass amps. That just a simple box with a transformer and potentiometer could unlock so much makes me aware of how strange it is that no one else is making something like this.




Field Test: Tape Recorder to Instrument Amp Interface

by Bob Hodas (Jan, 1996)

Reamp is a new product that is so simple in concept and so practical in application that I can't believe no one manufactured it before now. It's also so inexpensive that anyone with a tape recorder will be able to afford one or two. Essentially, REAMP is a properly impedance-matched interface between the tape recorder and the instrument amplifier. What does this mean? REAMP allows the user to play something already recorded on tape back through an instrument amplifier. The creative possibilities abound, but before we discuss applications, let's look at the box itself.

REAMP is about the size and shape of the popular Countryman direct box. Because it is passive, there are no batteries to change, and it is RF-protected. On the input side is a ground lift switch and a female XLR +4dBu connector in which to plug your tape track output. On the output side is a volume trim pot (yes it goes up to 11) and a 1/4 inch jack for connection to an amp.

As you can imagine, there are many applications for a box of this type. It means that you don't have to make a commitment to a sound before you record your guitar tracks. Just record direct and figure it out later. How many times have the other musicians sat around while the engineer and producer tried to figure out the best tone for the track? The energy of the performance is one of the most important things you want to capture on tape. Now you can spend time doing creative experiments with different amps and mic technique without burning out the players. You might also record a direct guitar during tracking just to have more flexibility with tone and imaging during mixdown.

If isolation/leakage during tracking is a problem in the studio, or if high volume in a late night session in a home studio is unacceptable, then REAMP is the solution. Record the instrument direct and then re-record it with REAMP at a more convenient time or play it back "live" during mixdown.

You don't have to limit the REAMP to guitars, as any instrument recorded on tape could be played back in the studio during mixdown or re-recorded back to tape for that live feel. This not only applies to synthesized tracks emulating real instruments, but even to drums, organs, electric pianos or any sound where you might want a different ambience. Why should a recording studio go unused during a mix session, when it could be used as a live chamber?

On a recent Aerosmith tour, the band recorded a concert for a new live album. The remote truck engineer was unable to achieve the proper tone from the bass player's live rig and recorded a direct bass track as a safety. Later, they REAMP'd the direct track through the bass player's studio rig and were able to retain all of the energy and punch of the live performance using the original tracks. REAMP has been successfully used by many other well known groups, engineers and producers such as the Rolling Stones, Steve Vai, Chris Isaak, Van Halen, Blind Melon, Roseanne Cash, Craig Street, Alan Sides, Jack Joseph Puig, Bryan Carlstrom, Jay Baumgardner, Tom Laune, The Neville Brothers, Andy Johns and Matt Wallace.

REAMP was originally conceived by engineer John Cuniberti for sessions with guitar wizard Joe Satriani. It definitely has a place in the engineer's toolkit along with outboard preamps and direct boxes. I know that I can make better projects with this item.

Based in the San Francisco area, Bob Hodas is an acoustical consultant and recording engineer whose credits include Winham Hill Records, the Doobie Brothers, the Village People and Mickey Hart.





Road Test: Tape Recorder to Instrument Amp Interface

by Craig Anderton (Nov, 1998)

One of the cool things about software plug-ins is you can record a track dry, and postpone adding effects until it's mixdown time. Not sure which distortion you want to use on guitars? Just record it straight and use a distortion plug-in (like Steinbergs's Red Valve It or Line 6's Amp Farm) after the fact to create the type of sound you want.

In a way, the REAMP is kind of like an "analog hardware plug-in", as it also allows you to postpone processing until late in the recording process. Here's how.

CONTROLS

The REAMP (designed by recording engineer John Cuniberti while working on a project with Joe Satriani) is a small (5"X3"X2"), well-constructed box that could probably survive being run over by a truck or dropped from several stories up. You feed a tape or hard-disk track into the +4, balanced, XLR input, and out comes a guitar-level/impedance signal at a 1/4-inch phone output jack, suitable for feeding into a guitar amp. Other controls include an output trim control and a ground lift switch (that, incidentally, doesn't just lift the ground pin, but the shield as well). The box is entirely passive (no power required), and consists primarily of a high-quality transformer (frequency response, 20 Hz-20 kHz, +/- 1 db) with some high-frequency filtering to minimize RFI and other interference.

APPLICATIONS

Suppose you have a session with a guitarist, and can't afford the time to tinker with a variety of amp a d distortion sounds. A typical REAMP use would be to record the guitar's direct out to a separate track, in addition to (or maybe even instead of) a "dirty" track created by using a guitar preamp (or miking a standard guitar amp). On mixdown you can then feed the direct track into the REAMP, and experiment with feeding a variety of guitar amps to get just the sound you want.

Of course,, this technique isn't limited to guitar. Musicians are discovering the creative possibilities of running synthesizers, drum machines, and even vocals through amplifiers; REAMP saves you from having to commit to a sound during recording, as you can take a track at any time and "reamp" it. Sure, you could kluge together an attenuator to feed an arnp for a lot less, but the REAMP does the job in a high-quality fashion.

Another use is to interface tape tracks with "stomp boxes" designed to accept guitar-level signals only. Feed the track into the box via the REAMP, then send the stomp box out to a console mic pre. Yet another application is to avoid leakage problems when recording a band. If the guitar amp leaks into the drums, send the guitar into a SansAmp-style box hooked into the headphone mix while recording so the guitarist can monitor using a dirty signal, but recording the direct signal only. After the drums have been recorded, "reamp" the guitar signal through an amp and record the amplified sound, sans leakage. And of course, you can crank the trim control up all the way to overload the guitar amp and obtain a heavily overdriven sound … you get the idea.

Of course, the concept isn't perfect; many guitar players would rather play through the amp that will create the fmal sound, as they like the interaction obtained by playing through an arnp in real titne. However, that doesn't mean you can't have the guitarist play through a favorite amp, but also slip a direct out into a spare track in case you want to REAMP the track later with a different amp.

Overall, this is a clever little box; either you "get" what it does, or you don't. If I this sounds like the kind of device that belongs in your bag of tricks, rest assured that it does what it sets out to do very well.





Gear Me Up, Scotty!: Michael Seifert Interview

By Jeff Anderson (August 2007)

Michael Seifert is a Guitarist/Producer for Tori Amos, Too Short, & Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

EQ: What have you been doing lately, in terms of recording guitar, besides just putting the usual suspects up on the cabinet?

Michael Seifert: I’ve been a big fan of the Reamp V2 lately. It’s like a reverse direct box, but it has a gain knob on it to knock the signal back down to instrument level. It’s awesome because you can play back something that’s pre-recorded, and it’s pretty much identical. It gives you a lot of flexibility. I’m just finishing up a record right now, that I’m also playing on, for a guy named Will Bowman. What I’ve been able to do with the V2 is track the whole record using Amp Farm — just to get the parts down — and then go back later and worry about getting the tones. This has let me focus on the performance first, without having to lug gear around and spend a bunch of time getting tones.

Just before it was time to mix, we spent around two days actually re-amping the recorded signal. I borrowed a ton of equipment from friends (which I only needed for two days instead of two weeks, thanks to the Reamp). The other cool thing about this approach was that I could go through all of the songs and structure them in my head, picking which tones will be the same for different songs, and then dial the tones in and lay them back for each of these different songs all at the same time. This also gave me flexibility during the mix: If we ended up not liking a tone we had settled on, we could just use the Reamp and go back and change the sounds.

EQ: So what gear, besides the Reamp of course, do you find yourself using a lot?

MS: For dirty tones, I like to run through a Marshall JCM 900, or a custom-built amp called a Maximum, paired with a greenback Marshall 4x12. I also like using the Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster pedal, which is similar to a plain old overdrive, except it’s actually boosting the output of the pickup so you can get more preamp distortion. I find that putting this in the chain while recording adds a lot of “focus” to dirtier tracks. For more clean stuff, especially when I want more space to the sound, I’ll close mic the cabinet and then put either a Neumann UM57 (tube) or an RCA 77 (ribbon), about 15 feet away from the amp, panned hard left and right. The trick is to make sure the amp is in the same room that the drums were cut, because it seems to put the guitar tone more in the same sonic space as the drums. Does that make sense? The room sound makes it feel more like the instruments were performed and tracked together, even though they weren’t.

EQ: Cool stuff. Any other neat tricks you would like to share with us?

MS: Here’s one I’ve been using recently: I’ll plug the guitar straight into a DI box and then into my Neve console pre. I then use the pre to overdrive the sound, instead of getting that amp or pedal overdrive sound. Then I double, triple, quadruple the take and bus it down. This is especially cool for single-note lines, as it gives the guitar a really thin, synth-like, horn sound. It’s not for every guitar part, but it’s a cool little signature.

Michael Seifert (Guitarist/Producer for Tori Amos, Too Short, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

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