pl | en



The first fully functional HDD non-linear recording system

Or how album recorded using RADAR sound like



Images: press releases | Wojciech Pacuła

No 211

December 1, 2021

DIGITAL SOUND RECORDING – method of preserving sound in which audio signals are transformed into a series of pulses that correspond to patterns of binary digits (i.e., 0’s and 1’s) and are recorded as such on the surface of a magnetic tape or optical disc. „ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA” |; accessed: 07.01.2021.

AMANTHA BENNETT, describing the situation in recording studios in the 1980s and 1990s, emphasizes that many commercial recordings from that time were made with the use of recording techniques known from previous decades, including analog recorders. As she says, one of the most frequently chosen recording methods in those decades was not a digital recorder, but a microprocessor-controlled 24-track Studer A-800 tape recorder. Launched in 1976, it quickly became part of the landscape in top recording studios in Europe and the United States. It was still used back in the 2000s and produced thousands of well-known albums (Bennett, p. 71).

⸜ Two first pages of the Studer A-800 user’s manual

The strong position of analog tape recorders at that time can be seen in the title of the pro audio magazine established in 1996: "Tape Op". In the editorial to the anniversary issue of the magazine from March / April 2021 (congratulations on the beautiful anniversary!) its founder and editor-in-chief LARRY CRANE wrote:

This April marks 25 years of Tape Op Magazine. I cannot believe the little photocopied ‘zine-like-thing that I began in 1996 is still around, let alone now reaching so many people. Our focus has shifted and widened over these years, and it has changed along with the times and technology. In 1996 I knew hard disk recording would supersede analog tape and tape-based digital tracking at some point, but I would have been hard-pressed to predict plug-ins and mixing in the box! It’s interesting as well to look back and remember that I was running an 8-track analog studio in my basement for $10 an hour when Tape Op began.

"Tape Op” was named after the lowly “tape operator,” as seen in UK studios in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It was a job that was essentially a “human tape deck remote” that became the entry position for many engineers. The person who was in the room and learning the craft was the concept behind the name of this magazine, and it still resonates at the core of all we do. There is always so much more to discover, so we carry on, tracking music in a myriad of ways and making art. Oh, yeah; and talking with others about their journey through this world as well!

⸜ LARRY CRANE, Welcome to issue #142 of Tape Op, “Tape Op” Mar/Apr 2021, p. 7, ; accessed: 4.11.2021.

Bennett adds that many of the recordings at that time were actually made against digital recording and that that is how a group of sound producers and engineers opposing the domination of digital devices in the recording studio was formed. The ball, however, had already started rolling and nothing could stop it ...

The beginnings were modest, because reel to reel digital tape recorders, both of the first generation, i.e. with spinning heads (years 1971~1982), and of the second generation, with fixed heads (DASH by Sony and Pro-Digi Mitsubishi - 1981~1991) were very expensive and very few sound directors knew how to operate them. The revolution was brought by the ADAT digital tape recorder in 1991, inexpensive, accessible to everyone, thanks to which you could build a small recording studio in your own basement.

All of these systems had one drawback - they were linear recording systems. Launched in 1993, only two years after ADAT tape recorders, RADAR was hard drive-based and was a non-linear system. We wrote about its beginnings in the first part of this article HERE.

⸜ RADAR II system with 24-bit recording (44,1 or 48 kHz); an interesting fact – the keyboard is from the first version, for the second one it was even bigger • photo press release Otari

Unlike previous systems, it remained a niche way to record music, as it sold not in tens of thousands, but rather in hundreds of copies. However, it has been used by major producers and recording engineers, and has produced many excellent albums. Its role was different - it turned out to be a bridge between analogue tape recorders and digital DAW systems, such as Pro Tools.


WANTING TO SHARE WITH YOU THE DESCRIPTION of the possibilities that RADAR offered and see what effects it was possible to achieve with it, we listened to six titles, discussing the musician (band), recording method and sound quality. To make reading a pleasant experience for you, not a chore, we have divided the description of the albums into two parts. In the one you are reading, we present three of them:

⸜ BLUR, Blur, EMI Records 7243 8 55562 2 7, COMPACT DISC | 1997.
⸜ BOB DYLAN, Time Out Of Mind, Columbia/Sony Records SRCS 8456, COMPACT DISC | 1997.
⸜ BLONDIE, No Exit, Beyond/BMG Japan BVCP-21037, COMPACT DISC | 1999.

In second part we will take a look at another three CDs, that was published after 2000:

⸜ PANTERA, Reinventing The Steel, EastWest Records America 62451-2, COMPACT DISC | 2000.
⸜ U2, No Line On The Horizon, Island Records/Mercury Music Group (Japan) UICI-1077, COMPACT DISC | 2009.
⸜ NEIL YOUNG, Le Noise, Reprise Records 525956-2, COMPACT DISC | 2010.

As in the case of ADAT tape recorders, and previously all digital recorders, the recording engineers had a choice of several options regarding the method of RECORDING → MIXING → MASTERING.

In almost all cases, the multi-track recorder was RADAR; the exception is the album in which some of the drum tracks were recorded in analog and only then transferred to digital domain. Anyway, it would be similar to the situation with the PINK FLOYD’s A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987), for which the percussion was recorded on a 24-track analog Studer tape recorder, and then stereophonically mixed for digital tape (more HERE).

However, while the source was digital, the mix and mastering could be either digital or analog. So there are several combinations. The first one assumes that the digital signal is converted into analog, mixed in the analog domain and recorded in stereo on a RADAR or DAT tape recorder:


In the second, equally popular one, the source was still the multi-track RADAR, and the signal converted to analog was mixed in an analog mixing console. The "master" tape, however, was recorded on a stereo analog tape recorder with a ¼ or ½ inch tape. It would look like this:


However, while in the case of records recorded with an ADAT tape recorder this is common knowledge, it is different with RADAR, usually we are not sure about it. I assume, however, that the mastering tape recorder was a RADAR or DAT because it was the simplest option. And there is one more option that makes the most sense from a technical point of view: digital recording, digital mix and digital mastering. However, while in the world of Pro Tools it is a common strategy, in the 90s and early 2000s it was not so popular yet. It would look like this:




⸜ BLUR Blur

EMI Records 7243 8 55562 2 7
Rok wydania: 1997 | COMPACT DISC


BLUR IS ONE OF THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE British bands of the 90s. Founded in London in 1988, released his first album, Leisure, in 1991. The band was then composed of vocalist Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, Alex James on bass guitar and drummer Dave Rowntree. The music that the band proposed then is most often associated with the culture called Madchester - created in the late 1980s in Manchester, and related to the indie-dance (indie-rave) scene. In addition to Blur, its most important representatives were such bands as: The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Charlatans.

⸜ Blur live in Rome on July 27th 2013 • photo Σπάρτακος/Wikipedia

The album in question was the fifth album in the band's discography. It was released on February 10th 1997 by Food Records. In the years between this one and debut album, Blur changed its style and entered the Britpop scene, competing with such bands as Suede and Oasis. In 1995, Oasis’s (What's the Story) Morning Glory? brought the competition to an end, and critics unanimously proclaimed them the winner of the best band competition.

The failure prompted the Blur group to rethink their priorities. This time, its driving force was Graham Coxon, the band's guitarist, underground music and lo-fi style fan. And this is what this album is - largely experimental, not avoiding dirty sounds. Although the critics predicted failure, in the end the band was remembered by fans as a carrier of nice melodies, the effect surprised everyone. The first single debuted at number one in the British charts, and in the US it reached the high, 61. place of the Billboard 200 list. In turn, the track Song 2 became the most recognizable song of the band in the United States.


BUT DAMON ALBARN who initially did not share Coxon's musical fascinations, began to appreciate them over time. The breakup was not complete, however, as he invited STEPHEN STREET, the producer of some of the band's previous albums, from the Britpop era, to produce the Blur album. Street was also known for producing the Smiths’ Strangeways, Here We Come (1987), Morrisey’s Viva Hate and Everybody Else Is Doing It by The Cranberrys (1993).

According to both musicologists and scientists specializing in recording techniques, this album is considered a breakthrough for the band. For Samantha Bennett it is a classic example of the "maverick production method", ie an approach in which different methods and approaches are combined and new and old solutions are used in a creative way (p. 160).

First of all, as he writes, the opening sessions were moved from Townhouse, where Blur used to record, to Primrose Hill's Mayfair Studios. Moreover, after the initial sessions, the band moved to a studio in Reykjavik, Iceland (which one is unknown) to break out of the "safe zone".

The experiments concerned both the texture of the recordings and the method of recording. Song 2 starts with the drums positioned, unusually, in the center of the mix. He told the editor of the "Under the Radar" magazine:

The opening drum loop of Song 2 was recorded by Graham and Dave playing simultaneously in the same room on two separate drum kits. There was a single microphone in the room and it just happened that when they played like that, I recorded it. We could do things like that very quickly without having to stop, sample and all that blah, blah, blah.

⸜ MARCUS KAGLER, Taking Snapshots with Stephen Street or Stephen Street Blah Blah Blah, „Under the Radar” 2003, no. 5, p. 92-93.

Street, asked in 1999 by a journalist from "Sound on Sound" magazine about the most interesting products in his studio, replied without hesitation that one of the devices that completely changed the way he worked was the Otari RADAR. As he said, he is its "absolute fan", he bought it right after its introduction to the market and used it to record the Blur album. The effect, he said, was brilliant - "[Otari] sounded so good my jaw dropped to the floor." Initially, he recorded sound for 16 tracks, and later added eight more to the system. It recorded, let's add, on the first system, from 1994, using signal with a resolution of 16 bits and a sampling frequency of (probably) 48 kHz.

The RADAR system was chosen by him because of its similarity to recording on an audio tape and because "he did not like computers and playing with the mouse". RADAR for him was a tool that helped him in the producer-artist relationship. Simply because, as he said, "the remote is on your desk and it looks and acts like a tape recorder, so people don't even think about it - you just record what you do with the band." Another advantage of the system for him was that it allowed him to return to the material later and cut or paste fragments of the song he liked. Moreover, it was "such a creative leap that I can't imagine how I could get by without it."

Stephen Street is one of the manufacturers who used the advantages of digital, non-linear recording, but wanted to maintain the "feeling" of working with an analog tape recorder. It was an important element of his creation process, not just a "recording device". At the same time, however, Street did not like the already popular Pro Tools system, which after all offered much greater editing possibilities. Commenting on Blur's next album, entitled 13, produced not by him but by William Orbit, he said:

"RADAR played a huge part in the making of the last Blur album, and was probably instrumental in the direction they have now taken with Pro Tools, which was used extensively on 13. Tracks like Essex Dogs (from the Blur album – ed.) began life as a 25minute experimental jam that was later cut down to eight minutes using RADAR, and we also used it for some of the drum parts on other tracks."

⸜ SUE SILLITOE, Stephen Street. Producing Blur, Cranberries & Catatonia, „Sound on Sound” August 1999,; accessed: 3.11.2021.

The result of these efforts was an album of a much simplified production, about which Blur's drummer, Dave Rowntree, said: “We wanted to purify the sound so that there was nothing in it we wouldn't have played ourselves." Fun fact - Street mixed most of his albums using small, bad reputation, near-field monitors, Yamaha NS10. As he said, if something sounds wrong on them, it will sound wrong everywhere. Let us add that an analog mixing console was used for recording and mixing.

DIGITAL (multi-track RADAR 16/48 (44,1?) → ANALOG → DIGITAL (stereo, RADAR, DAT? 16/48)

RELEASE Blur was originally released on CD, double LP and cassette; the Japanese CD version featured an extra track. The CD was released in many countries simultaneously, most often by local EMI branches. The first remastered version was released in Japan in 2002 in the "mini LP" version. In 2012, a "box" was released with the remastered material and an LP album, also with the material after the remaster. Finally, in 2014, 24-bit FLAC files were made available. We are reviewing the first COMPACT DISC release from Great Britain.


The BLUR ALBUM SURPRISES FROM THE FIRST SOUNDS of the opening track - Beetlebum. It surprises, above all, with its perfect tonality - that's once - but also with the clarity of the recording (I'm not talking about "sound", but about "technique"). The guitar opening the album is not as dirty, as "dry" as on the NEIL YOUNG’S Le Noise album, but it is just as massive, just as dense. And the vocals - they are great here. In calmer parts they are brought to the fore, without much compression, and when the whole band is playing, they are withdrawn into the stage, but also without compression.

The album is not one-dimensional, because the ideas for the songs change - just listen to the second one on the disc, the Song 2. Frequently broadcast on radio stations, it resembles post-punk bands, sometimes a modern version of The Beatles albums - the vocals are distorted, dirty, just like the guitars. Interestingly, everything remains clear and transparent - something that cannot be achieved on most discs. The percussion was also perfectly captured - let's listen to the kick opening the Country Sad Balladman, in which we have another sound processing, this time in the style of country recordings from the 1930s.

Throughout the album, we have a sense of the producer's control over the presentation. Listened almost 25 years after its release, it is still fresh and surprising. This is helped by an excellent recording, which skillfully reconciles the purity that can be obtained from a digital recording with the dirt and compression that is provided by a strongly driven analog tape. Let us add that the sound stage is not particularly wide here, it is a rock album, but it is deep and has well-differentiated layers.

The debut album of Blur confirms what many producers and recording engineers mention - that the RADAR system has digital recording and processing ease and analog sound quality. A great, wonderfully recorded album!

Sound quality: 8/10


⸜ BOB DYLAN, Time Out Of Mind

Columbia/Sony Records SRCS 8456
Rok wydania: 1997 | COMPACT DISC


BOB DYLAN IS THE ONLY MUSICIAN who won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Robert Allen Zimmerman, born May 24, 1941 in Duluth, American singer, composer, songwriter, writer and poet, received it in 2016.

⸜ BOB DYLAN at the Azkena Rock Festival 2010 • photo Alberto Cabello/Wikipedia

He recorded his first album in 1962. It contained almost exclusively covers played with the accompaniment of a guitar, with a folk vibe. It was similar with the next, released in 1963, album The Freewheelin ’Bob Dylan, from which one of the folk “hymns ”comes, the Blowin’ in the Wind. However, Dylan is not a slave to one style, but rather a searching artist, much like Miles Davis. And just like the legendary trumpeter, Dylan shocked his fans when he performed with an electric rock group at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

The artist's discography includes several dozen, published quite regularly, albums. For many critics, Time Out of Mind became a symbol of the musician's return to the top league after artistically weaker achievements in the 1980s. During his career, he sometimes leaned towards large ensembles, and sometimes solo projects - and the two albums preceding the Time Out of Mind were muted, intimate, almost ascetic.

Recorded in January and February 1997 and released on September 30th of the same year by Columbia Records, his 30th studio album was another return to recording with a big band, but also to a more determined use of the possibilities of a recording studio. The album won three Grammy Awards: "Album of the Year 1997", "Best Modern Folk Album" and "Best Male Rock Performance" on Cold Irons Bound.


THE ALBUM HAS BEEN PRODUCED BY DANIEL LANOIS and "Jack Frost" - that’s an alias of Dylan himself. Lanois is one of the most famous music producers. He is known for his out-of-the-box thinking and together with his friend Brian Eno, he has signed ground-breaking albums for rock and electronic music genre. Let's recall two of them: U2’s Joshua Tree and Peter Gabriel’s So, and we'll know who we're dealing with. Anyway, we will return to this producer in this text two more times (!) with the No Line On The Horizon of the Irish band and Neil Young's solo project Le Noise.

In the chapter devoted to Daniel Lanois in the Behind The Glass Volume II monograph HOWARD MASSEY even talks about a "radical approach", and the chapter itself is entitled Nothing Is Sacred (p. 14). The producer in question is also an excellent guitarist, which helps him understand the needs of the artists he works with and what he used on the discussed album, which includes the sounds he plays on the guitar and mandogitar; incidentally, the latter is also a frequent choice of Robert Plant.

As we read in the material prepared for the 80th birthday of the musician by the BBC, the album was created relatively quickly, although the lyrics were already written in 1996 and finished in January during the recording sessions. Organist Augie Meyers recalls that the recordings took only 30 days. Rolling Stone adds that Dylan met Lanois in the hotel room on tour and that was when he showed him the first lines of the lyrics. His biographer Clinton Heylin adds that the songs were mostly written during the winter at Dylan's ranch in Minnesota.

Work on the demo recordings began in 1996. Lanois worked on them with TONY MANGURIAN in his small studio in New York and continued in Oxnard, California, in his own producer studio called Teatro - in an old theater. As he said, he wanted to record at Teatro because "this place has the best possible vibrations". Six of these drums were later to the album.

The actual recording sessions took place in Miami-based CRITERIA STUDIOS, which later changed their name to Hit Factory in January 1997, but Rolling Stone suggests that the mix lasted until March. It was not without problems - during the recordings there were frequent quarrels, Dylan destroyed a few guitars, and before the album was released, the musician was hospitalized with a heart infection and the European tour was canceled.

Criteria Studios have a long history. They were founded in 1958 by the musician Mack Emerman (1923–2013) and in the 70s they were the site where many global hits were born, especially since the site was used by Atlantic Records for their artists. This is where such hits as Derek and the Dominos’ Layla, James Brown’s I Feel Good , and parts of albums such as Hotel California by The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours were recorded. The studio was designed by Hollywood architect Charles C. Reed Jr.

The most important console in the 1960s and 1970s was the powerful MCI mixer, which was replaced in 1978 by the SSL table. However, Daniel mentions that he only uses large consoles for mixing - when recording he uses API or Neve consoles, from which the signal goes directly to the recording device. He is a fan of old tube mics such as the AKG C24, RCA 77. He is known to treat drums as one instrument, not a collection of several ones. To record the kick drum from a distance, he uses the Coles ribbon microphone and adds to it, monophonically, the Neumann U47 tube microphone suspended over the percussion; sometimes adds the Shure SM57. Dylan's vocals were recorded with a Sony C37 microphone.

The producer of Time Out of Mind has a strong opinion on analog and digital technology. When asked by Massey if he still prefers analog audio to digital, he replied:

Not necessarily. When I listen to my recordings from the '70s and' 80s and compare them with newer ones, I can hear the difference, but it is not just the use of tape - it is in what direction we were going in our heads and where our expectations led us. It's a slow process, year after year, in which a tiny fraction of the old ways of working is gradually disappearing. This is erosion rather than a hardcore technique shift. So I do not miss the sound of the tape, but rather a philosophy that we followed at the time. I think this is a more important distinction than between analog and digital.

⸜ HOWARD MASSEY, Behind The Glass Volume II. Top record Producers Tell How They Craft The Hits, Backbeat Books, San Francisco 2009, p. 15.

Contrary to Dylan's Oh, Mercy album from 1989, on which Lanois used a drum machine, Time Out of Mind was created with as many as 11 musicians, including an actual drummer. The producer first recorded old blues songs on which they then put drums and erased the backing. The recording was made on the 16-bit version of the Otari RADAR recorder. Back in 2003, in an interview with the "TapeOp" magazine, the producer said that he had old analogue tape recorders, but that he works mainly with the RADAR system.

Let's add that Daniel Lanois is a lover of old, analog cameras and he is the author of the photo that was on the cover of the disc in question. He took it using an analog Nikon camera with 35 mm film.

DIGITAL (multi-track RADAR, 16/48) → ANALOG → DIGITAL (stereo, RADAR, DAT?, 16/48)

RELEASE The album was released simultaneously on two LPs and a single CD, as well as on a cassette tape (there was also a Polish version). The first remaster was made in 2003, but only for the European market, and another one, equally territorially limited - in 2010. Only in 2014, a new edition of the LP and CD was prepared in Japan. In 2017, Columbia prepared a special version of the album on two LPs, which was accompanied by a 7’’ single.

We listen to it from the Japanese version, released in the same year as the American one, but by Sony Records, the parent company of Columbia Records. However, it is special - it is the so-called SAMPLE plate (marked as such on the inside of the disc, near the hole). They were - and still are - prepared by record labels with reviewers and radio stations in mind; later, CD-R copies were made for them, and today they are almost always replaced by a link to a file or stream. The samples in question had the advantage that they came from the first batch of pressed discs - it was about delivering the discs to the recipients as quickly as possible. This means that they were made of fresh, not yet used matrices, which always translates into better sound.


The very first sounds of Time Out of Mind show that a lot of work has been done on this album. The sound of Love Sick, a slow ballad that is played and sung fairly softly, has the fullness and density that we expect from a good recording. There is great timbre, space and vividness here. The second track on the album Dirt Road Blues confuses us because it was recorded as if it was an amateur recording of a band playing somewhere far in the South of the US.

With the next song we come back to a nice, pastel playing, but the Million Miles is back "on the road". This time, however, with good sound. Dylan's vocals are located far away from us, with a long reverb and delay effect, making it seemingly coming from far down the stage.

Listening to the next tracks, we notice that the dynamics of this album is averaged, but it was done with feeling, completely different than on the No Exit by Blondie. Here the timbre is nice, although there is no lower bass at all, and its mid-range is suggested rather than filled - and yet the whole is tight, quite nice and well-thought-out. What’s missing the most is tangibility of the sound. Even when, as in the Not Dark Yet, the vocalist is shown closer to us, with a short reverb, he is shown without filling.

⸤ Sound quality: 6-7/10



Beyond/BMG Japan BVCP-21037
Rok wydania: 1999 | COMPACT DISC


BLONDIE IS ONE OF THE MOST RECOGNIZED American rock bands, and the singer, DEBBIE HARRY, has also achieved success performing solo. Greg Kot, a "Rolling Stone" journalist, in the review of the album in question said that the label even reminded him that "Blondie is a band". The band was founded by Debbie and guitarist CHRIS STEIN in 1974 in New York and on their first albums they played new wave music, a melodic version of rock that is a response to punk music.

⸜ CHRIS STEIN, DEBBIE HARRY i TOMMY KESSLER at Mountain Winery festival in Saratoga, California in 2012 • photo Kevin Edwards/Wikipedia

In 1982, after the sixth album Hunter, the band broke up and returned only fifteen years later. On January 15th 1999, the album No Exit was released, the seventeenth album in Blondie's discography. A single from it, Maria, was the band's first number one on the UK charts for seventeen years, with two more songs on the list as well. The album turned out to be a hit, quickly went gold, and sold in two million copies. However, not everyone was delighted with it, as expressed by the already mentioned Kot describing the album with the words "dilettante", awarding it only two and a half stars out of five possible.


No Exit was produced by CRAIG LEON, an American music producer currently based in the UK. He is considered a key person in the career development of such bands as The Ramones, Suicide, Talking Heads and - obviously - Blondie.

After 1998, Leon focused on composing, mainly contemporary music, which was included in the repertoire of many leading orchestras and performers, including - a fun fact - Sinfonietta Cracovia, with which he recorded Bach to Moog for Sony Classic in 2015 with Bach pieces arranged for Moog synthesizer and orchestra. This producer had a long history with Blondie as he produced the band's first two albums.

The return of a great band after years of absence and the money invested in this return by the BMG label should direct its attention to the largest recording studios. However, it’s not what happened. As Craig told the „Sound on Sound” journalist, the band decided to record most of the material in their home studio, actually in the basement of Blondie's guitarist CHRIS STEIN:

Chris's basement was an unusual choice, […] but it worked very well because it gave us the freedom to experiment. We weren't on a shoestring budget — far from it. Basically the budget was whatever it took to make the record. But when you are paying £1,000 a day for a top studio you do become very aware of the clock ticking, and this in itself can be a bar to creativity. What the band wanted was a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere, and they felt the best place to find that was at Chris's house, so that's where we did it.

⸜ SUE SILITOE, CRAIG LEON: Recording The New Blondie Album, „Sound on Sound”, December 2010,; accessed: 4.11.2021

⸜ Digital mixing console Neve Capricorn used for the No Exit album • photo:

The producer mentions that Chris's studio, which he called RED NIGHT RECORDING, was very well equipped because the guitarist bought equipment from Blank Studios, which was closed in the 1980s. The key elements were the excellent MCI 600 analog console, the MCI JH24 analog multi-track tape recorder, the Linn 9000 sampler and a pair of JBL 4311 speakers, as well as the ubiquitous Yamaha NS10 nearfield monitors. Leon adds that he had a similar system in the UK, but his base was the Otari RADAR 24-track digital tape recorder - the photos suggest that it was the first, 16-bit version:

…I absolutely love [RADAR] – to the extent that I can't imagine making a modern record without it. The best thing about RADAR is that it's a technological device that doesn't sound digital. To me this is important, because I love the old analogue sounds and would never want to work exclusively in the digital domain. I certainly wouldn't want to do drums digitally, because I don't think digital can provide the right depth and clarity at the top end. But we used RADAR for pretty much everything else." (ibidem).

To stay in line with his "workflow" at the time, he brought the RADAR system to the United States and recorded the entire album on it. Some previously recorded tracks were bounced to two channels on the Yamaha 02R digital console - the point was not to fill all the tracks of the recorder. Moreover, some of the tracks were recorded directly from the Yamaha console, without any external mic preamps. This short introduction already shows that although it was supposed to be a simple, stress-free situation for the musicians, from the production point of view it was quite a complex process.

In the Blondie’s guitarist studio all the foundations were created in the form of a demo. The material, along with the Otari recorder, was then transferred to New York's ELECTRIC LADY STUDIOS - a great, respected recording studio. Bass, guitars and drums were added there, mainly due to the excellent acoustics of the studio. Acoustic guitars were recorded with AKG C414 B-ULS microphones, and the bass was recorded directly from the line and through a guitar amp using a tube microphone. In some cases, other instruments have also been changed.

With the material prepared in this way, they went to the third studio, CHUNG KING, where additional vocals were recorded. After Debbie wrote some more lyrics, some of the vocals were re-recorded, again in Chris's studio. The main tracks with her voice were recorded with a Neumann U87 microphone. As you can see, some tracks were recorded via the analog console, and some using the digital one. Along the way, Craig Leon producing the album did something else:

So at Electric Lady we did the bass and drums to the guide keyboard and click, loaded all that back into the RADAR, chose the best takes from Electric Lady, and then I’d put together what could loosely be called Take One and Take Two from about 20 takes. And then Take One or Two would be what we put in the RADAR as the version.

We’d get the basic track we really liked edited all together in the digital domain, and then to get the sound of tape compression, which you can’t get any other way, I’d send it over to a Studer [multitrack]. Then we transferred it back to the RADAR later to work on overdubs.

⸜ BLAIR JACKSON, Blondie: Still Dreaming, „Mix” 05/01/1999,; accessed: 4.11.2021.

Most of the mix was made in the Chung King studio, with a Neve Capricorn digital console and powerful Dynaudio monitors. The material was mastered by STEVE HALL in Future Disc (Los Angeles).


RELEASE Originally, the album was released on a CD, a cassette tape (there was also a Polish version), and even an HDCD. The album was released in many versions, depending on the country. Most of them received additional live tracks, which differed from release to release. In 2001, the album was re-released, along with other Blondie albums, this time with three additional tracks. Another reissue was released only in 2007, but it seems to me that this may not be an entirely legal release. We listened to the album from the first Japanese release from 1999.


The average signal level on this disc is surprisingly low, which suggests a little use of compression during mastering. On the other hand, the last thing I would say about it is that it is "dynamic". The album is quite average in this respect. It seems smooth, which is best heard with the Debbie Harry's vocal, which has a slightly bland timbre and is deeply blended into the mix.

The instruments have been processed in a similar way because they sound in a pastel manner. The space is quite narrow and shallow - as it seems, the compression was used here, and it is quite strong, but during recording, not in mastering. Listening to the track after track it was not difficult for me to understand why this album went unnoticed.

The only exception is the track titled Maria, the third one on the album, which was quite famous and is still played by radio stations - in Poland, for example, by RMF.FM. It is also flat dynamically, and yet it does not bother like it does in other pieces. What's more, the sound of the drums was finally presented more strongly, together with the cymbals, which have a sweet, nice timbre. Let me add that from time to time also the track number 6 is played on the radio stations, i.e. Nothing is Real But the Girl.

So the album is dynamically flat, there is no low bass or upper treble, and its stereo panorama is significantly narrowed and shallow. Only in the track Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room can you hear the creative use of reverbs, as the sound of the Hammond 3B's synthesizer has been tweaked spatially. But this is an exception. No Exit is not a good album and its sound leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest disadvantage is that the vocals are strongly hidden in the mix, which makes them seem to blend in with the background.

Sound quality 5/10



⸜ Entry: BLUR in: Wikipedia,, accessed: 3.11.2021.
⸜ Entry: BOB DYLAN in: Wikipedia,, accessed: 3.11.2021.
⸜ Entry: BLONDIE in: Wikipedia,, accessed: 3.11.2021.

⸜ MARCUS KAGLER, Taking Snapshots with Stephen Street or Stephen Street Blah Blah Blah, „Under the Radar” 2003, nr 5, s. 92-93.
⸜ STEPHEN PATE, Daniel Lanois dislikes the sound of Pro Tools DAW, 22 lutego 2011, accessed: 3.11.2021.
⸜ SUE SILLITOE, Stephen Street. Producing Blur, Cranberries & Catatonia, „Sound on Sound” August 1999,; accessed: 3.11.2021.

⸜ GRAYSON HAVER CURRIN, Bob Dylan, Time Out of Mind, 13 maja 2018; accessed: 4.11.2021.
⸜ JOE LEVY, Inside Bob Dylan’s ‘Time Out of Mind’ Sessions, „Rolling Stone”, 30.09.2017,, accessed: 3.11.2021.
⸜ LARRY CRANE, Welcome to issue #142 of Tape Op, „Tape Op” Mar/Apr 2021, s. 7,; accessed: 4.11.2021.
⸜ PAUL GLYNN, Bob Dylan: 80 things you may not know about him on his 80th birthday,, 24.05.2021; accessed: 4.11.2021.
⸜ ROMAN SOKAL, Daniel Lanois: Recording U2, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, etc., „TapeOp” Sep/Oct 2003, nr 37,; accessed: 3.11.2011.

⸜ BLAIR JACKSON, Blondie: Still Dreaming, „Mix” 05/01/1999,; accessed: 4.11.2021.
⸜ GREG KOT, No Exit, „Rolling Stone” 10.01.2003,; accessed: 4.11.2021.
⸜ SUE SILITOE, CRAIG LEON: Recording The New Blondie Album, „Sound on Sound”, December 2010,; accessed: 4.11.2021.

⸜ HOWARD MASSEY, Behind The Glass Volume II. Top record Producers Tell How They Craft The Hits, Backbeat Books, San Francisco 2009. ⸜ SAMANTHA BENNETT, Modern Records, Maverick Methods. Technology and Process in Popular Music Record Production 1978-2000, Bloomsbury Academic, Londyn-Nowy Jork 2019.