I was doing a write-up on Machine Head’s latest in-studio video and the recording engineer mentioned that they were using CLASP (“Closed Loop Analog Processor”, but for the acronym to work shouldn’t it be “…Signal Processor”?) to bring the analog tape into the digital domain of Pro Tools. Now at first I just assumed this as a standard SMPTE code on a track to sync up the tape’s timeline with the software, but it turns out to be something very different.
First, give me some slack if I get a detail wrong. I’m still investigating what CLASP is. In fact, I want anyone in the know to clarify things. But as I understand it, CLASP essentially turns 2″ tape into piece of outboard gear. A lot of studios will track, let’s say, drums, to tape and then bounce them into Pro Tools, or Logic, Nuendo, etc, right afterwards, but that can be time consuming if you’re doing that take after take. Plus if you’re using playlists for your takes then they’re not going to be perfectly lined up if you’re playing to a click. Alternately you can leave the drums (or bass, rhythm guitars, whatever) on the tape and keep it synced with your digital audio workstation, but then you have to deal with the tape wearing out, and slow search times, and you can’t have multiple takes without doubling/tripling/etc the number of tracks.
So what CLASP seems to do is keep the tape running (although you can turn it off when its not needed) and the audio goes right in and right out of the tape machine like it’s a preamp or compressor. In fact you’re essentially using it like a preamp or compressor. That does use quite a bit of tape, but it’s not being saved there, so you’re constantly recording over what you did. Think of it more as a cache. Plus since you’re not stopping, starting, and seeking with the tape quite as often, it’ll last longer than you’d expect. Sure, you’ll still probably need a reel for each song or two, but that’d be the case the old fashioned way regardless.
I’m attaching a couple in-action videos from CLASP manufacturer Endless Analog’s website, but the most informative info I found on what clasp is came from Vintage King, so check that out if you’d like. I’m sure this is gear that no one is going to be integrating into their basement studio, but I don’t know, I think it’s pretty cool.