Dubbing off old multi-tracks

I’m sure many here have done this, just wondered if there were any particular tips, procedures, or plugins to make it easier. In my case, I have a lot of old 4-tracks (and the original machine) with three tracks of audio and one SMTP track. I’m assuming the SMTP track should just be recorded hot and dry in Ardour.

Aside from cleaning the tape machine, and buzzing them over, are there any techniques, or JAMIN processes that can help?


Ardour can slave to SMPTE encoded as MTC. There is code floating around to do this, but it has not been incorporated into Ardour, partly because of a feeling that it might be better off as a standalone JACK client.

“to do this” means “to slave to SMPTE as an audio signal”, or more precisely, convert SMPTE as an audio signal into timecode information.

slaving to MTC is already implemented. there are boxes you can get (JL Cooper, for example) that do nothng but convert timecode formats.

a better way to solve the problem may be to just line everything up by eye and ear.

Sorry, I perhaps wasn’t clear enough on what it was originally. The tapes were all from sequencing (many) MIDI tracks to three tracks of audio. The sequencer had a hardware SMPTE box, and read SMTPE directly from an audio tape track (no MTC needed), and chased the tape as slave. The tape is mostly vocals and guitars, and everything else was sequenced, and played back into various synths and drum machines. Track four on all of these is the SMPTE tone.

There was no video involved, just a sequencer syncing to a 4-track via SMTPE.

I am just wanting to get them off the old tapes, some of them are 15 years old or more. I am fairly sure that I could just output the SMPTE’s audio track from Ardour into the sequencer and it would sync to it. Hopefully it wouldn’t be able to tell (or care) whether it was tape or computer it was coming from as long as the levels were good.

It would have been much better to have mixes of all these, of course. I’m not really wanting Ardour to do anything with the SMPTE as timecode, just as audio, to rescue them from the aging tape hardware. Most of the synth hardware has changed since the tapes were recorded, and it will be a moderate hassle re-assigning sounds to the MIDI tracks. On the upside, most of the synth sounds I have now are quite a bit better than back then. Note to self, MIX it this time, and no more 4-op FM for bass…

This would not be sequencer software running on the same PC as Ardour.

So, what are some good basic tape cleanup tips/JAMIN techniques for dubbing off old tapes?