Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Polytrix

Help with recording to tape/sampling from tape

Recommended Posts

Sorry if this has been asked before.

 

I'm probably in the need of purchasing a cassette deck with line in/out recording capabilities.

 

What would you recommend purchase wise? Essentially I'm looking to record my DAW made digital tracks onto tape to use the analogue saturation as a mixing device/effect.

 

Also I'd like to have a convenient tape machine basically as at this point I only have a cassette Walkman with no recording capabilities. I would be running into it from a Focusrite Scarlette 6i6 but I'm not totally sure how it'd work in terms of amplifying my interface's output to record to tape. I do have an external preamp in the form of a desktop tube amp so I can output to that before sending out from there to a tape deck. Or do you buy a tape deck with a built in preamp to drive the tape?

 

Hope this makes sense!

 

I watched this video and thought it would be a great addition to the studio considering I've got a lot of tapes and don't have a way to quickly record from them or record to them.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i like my tascam 122mkiii because it's direct drive which means there's no belt to worry about, ever melting or getting brittle and snapping. replacing belts can be a megabitch, depending on the deck. but i got lucky with mine and only gave 70 bucks because it was untested.

 

i've been looking at these for a while, thinking that if i ever got another tape recorder this would prob be the one:

http://www.audio-ideas.com/reviews/analog-sources/marantz-pmd430.html

prob a few others in the pmd line that are good too.

 

you shouldn't have to worry about amplifying the signal if it's line level, which it should be if it's coming out of your d/a. the tape decks would use the same type of levels. plus they'll usually have a gain knob on there anyway that should be able to give you some gain if you need it.

 

one other thing to consider is that the '3 head' decks offer you an ability that the much more common 2 head decks don't, which is that you can record onto and play off of the tape at the same time. 3 head decks were usually more high end. 2 head decks had an erase head, and the play/record was handled by the other head (which could only do one of those functions at a time). 3 head ones have a separate head for play and record, with the record one coming first. so your signal can record onto the tape and then get picked up off the tape right after it's recorded, and you can actually monitor whats being recorded right off of the tape. what this means is that you can essentially just go through the tape as an effect, in one pass, just to color a signal, without having to rewind and hit play. you have a slight delay (the distance between the record and play heads), but everything stays in sync besides that.

 

like say you record just a kick drum from a mix onto tape, rewind and play it back and record that back into your DAW from the tape, the tape deck's motor speed isn't perfect so your new 'tapified' kick will be out of wack after a couple minutes (or less), and will lose timing. the last few bars may be up to a seconds off from where they should be. you could go in and do some DAW edits to straighten it out, sure. but with a 3 head deck you'd never have to do that. you'd just play the kick track from you daw, out D/A onto tape, right back off the tape, back into A/D and recorded to a new track on your daw, all in one go. and the kick would never drift out of timing. can be pretty handy. plus you can hear what the 'tapified' audio is sounding like while its being recorded, so if you don't like it, you can just stop the recording, or do something to adjust it on the fly. instead of recording the whole track, rewinding, and playing back to find it sounds ass.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brilliant.Thank you. I think I need a 3 head tape deck then.Price UK?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Damn it, I thought it was far cheaper to achieve this. It's like £100 at least.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yeah dude i mean, you could buy some cheapie deck and maybe luck out and end up with a cool way to process stuff, but it'll only be 2 head and you'll have to do the normal rewind, play to re-record to digital and there will be drift and the length of the re-recorded one won't match up to the original so you'll have to edit or stretch or something if you want or need it to match back up. that can still be good tho, and maybe the deck lasts you for years.

 

but there's always a pretty big risk that you spend some money on one and the belt breaks or melts or something else goes to shit, a channel cuts out, it stops working altogether, watever. this is old tech and it has mechanical stuff inside. if u want it to last you'd need to learn some maintenance and hope you can fix whatever will prob eventually go wrong with it. i feel like my tascam 122 is pretty solid and i don't expect it to break down any time soon but i dont use it a ton either, and it still may somehow break down. but a less high end deck is a crap shoot/gamble. sucks but thats the way it is. plus blank tapes arent cheap and it really sucks if your deck ends up eating them

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks you fucks, now I've been looking at Marantz cassette gear all afternoon.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Search this forum for cassette, Joshuatx seems like the expert on this subject;

 

http://forum.watmm.com/topic/82988-best-way-to-record-to-cassette/?hl=cassette

 

 

Ok, I could write a book on this but I'll keep it succinct and you can ask me more if need be.

 

i'm looking to make some cassette's to give away to friends.

what's the best device to record these? i tried a tascam 4 track and it was noisey and low volume so no good.

i'll be doing about 20 c90's.

 

The best cassette deck will be a profession single well deck or a decent brand dual deck. The 4 track is not optimized for that kind of duplication. I prefer mid-fi and hi-fi late 80s and 90s models because they tend to be less maintenance than late 70s and early 80s decks and the belts are usually still good. With some searching and patience you should be able to get a good deal on one. I've had some great dual decks that I bought for $10-15. If you want something reliable, get a restored/refurbished deck (i.e. with new belts, re-capped, cleaned) from ebay or local specialty store - you're looking at $100+ for that though. Tascam sells new decks for $350. AVOID boomboxes, the decks that came with bookshelf/modular stereos, department store era electronics, etc.

 

Brands like Nakamichi, Tandberg, Teac are the most renowned. Akai is up there too. Tascam single and dual decks are very solid. That said, so are JVC, Onkyo, Yamaha Bang & Olsen Pioneer, Sony, later era Technics, etc. What I do is this: browse around then look up that model online, especially on Tapeheads.net or Audiokarma.org where experts/enthusiasts weigh in; ebay prices are also a good indicator of quality.

 

3-head decks are usually better but rarer too. You should also check the deck to make sure the tape head (the metal part that records and plays the tape) is ok and not worn down. Check with test tape to make sure it plays, otherwise the belts (90% of the problem with most broken decks) are out.

 

Some q-tips + isopropyl alcohol (91% or 99%) will clean a lot - specifically the pinch rollers and tape head. Demagnetizers help but only if you plan to dub and play tapes A LOT. Basically the alcohol removes the rust colored tape residue. Demagnetizers, well, demagetize, preventing the tapehead and pinch rollers from removing even more tape fragments. Use carefully - I'd look up tutorials online. This maintenance is what most neglect to do and a huge reason tapes and tape players decline in quality.

 

Since you are only doing 20, it's not worth getting a high-speed duplicator. They are often low-fi and mono because usually they were meant for spoken word/speeches/audiobooks and in the US specifically...sermons. Likewise, 2x dubbing might not be ideal, if you have time 1x recording from source is ideal.

 

Though you already have them I bet, the best tape would be vintage type I tape or type II chrome. Type IV metal is very expensive and more for extreme audiophiles. Shorter length of tape is usually better and faster for obvious reasons. Newer Maxell and TDK are always good, but you can find good deals at various online stores for new stock or ebay for older unopened tapes.

 

As said earlier, push the recording into the red on the peak levels: too low and you get too much noise: it'll be quiet and when you turn it up it's more hissy. Just test it out, set the record level, and start recording the copies. Too much in the red and you get tape saturation though tape saturation is a lot less abrasive than digital clipping. I wouldn't mess with Dolby B or C (or NR) unless you have a very, very dynamic and high-frequency heavy music (i.e. classical, ambient that has less bass and more treble, etc) and you want NO tape hiss at all. Yeah, don't mess with that I'd say, but I can explain it later if needed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you. When I get a moment, I might just scour ebay to see what's out there. I like the idea of snagging a cheeky deal if available.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Get one of the grey, first generation Tascam 424 Portastudios - you won't regret it! I'm sure there are tape decks that sound "better" (hell, the Nakamitchi I found in the trash years ago sounds way better) but the 424 has THAT SOUND. I love the way the mixer pres distort, too.


Plus it's the only cassette deck I've used that has three speeds - the standard one, double like most four tracks have, but also HALF of standard, which gets you in to really lo-fi territory. Plus it has varispeed.

 

 

Edit: this was recorded straight to stereo then dumped to cassette on a 424 and back into the computer, for what it's worth.

Edited by RSP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to have one of those Tascam Syncaset 3 head rack four tracks and it was definitely really nice but I sold it and kept the 424, as an effect I found it more useful.

 

If you can find one that works, the Marantz PMD-360 is a pretty cool 3 head machine, too. I got one for next to nothing at a thrift shop a long time ago and it was great while it lasted but eventually the belts (or idlers, I forget what's in there) wore out. It has a couple speeds, decent noise reduction, and repro-head monitoring so you can use it with a mixer as a crude tape delay. In good shape it's a really solid machine, it was pretty much the standard for concert bootleggers in the 80s, until DAT took off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope i'm not high-jacking this thread, but i recently got a Tascam 414 MKii

 

The main idea was to put final mixes through it - but i'm still trying to get my head around the process

 

I always read people saying you should put the signal in 'hot' - does that mean pushing the master fader up on your DAW before you play in it? If so, by how much? Should i be wanting to keep the LED peak monitors on the unit at 0, or should i be pushing them to +6 if i want all that sweet juicy tape sound?

 

I'm also dealing with pre-recorded cassettes at the moment, and I keep hearing the reversed audio from the other side bleeding through very faintly as i record (not sure it it actually records ontop, but when songs fades out I can hear the reversed audio again)

 

Should I be 'recording' over these with no inputs, to 'clean' the space on tape? Or should the eraser head be doing that for me anyway when i record?

RSP - did you do much major work or EQ'ing to the audio you got after putting it through the tape again?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Recording hot only really matters if you aren't using noise reduction, the DBX will counteract most of the benefits of recording a hot signal to tape (but you'll still get the benefit of overdriving the mic inputs if that's what you want). I always ran them hotter than you're probably supposed to, in the red most of the time but not pinned, and I like the sound, even with DBX on.

 

The 424 MkII is a nice machine, too, I just found the MK I more reliable after having one of each (new). I don't think any of them would disappoint, and there are some Yamaha 4 tracks that sound great, too.

 

 

EDIT:

 

I did a bit of compression and subtle EQ BEFORE dumping to tape, and I boosted the lows a bit with the EQ in the 424 while I was recording, but that's it. DBX was on.

 

As far as the bleed through from the other tracks, that definitely happens, and the louder the signal on the tape the more it happens. It could also be an issue of your machine being a little out of alignment, but that kind of comes with the turf. You could try recording silence over all four tracks a couple of times before you use the tape, or even get something like this (but try to find one cheaper).

 

A nice thing about portastudios is that they were kind of designed for people who are just getting started, so the tolerances for, say, impedence of the input signal seem pretty loose - I've had no trouble plugging everything from a guitar up through a +4db calibrated line out to the mixer inputs of that thing, and they all sounded the way I expected (not necessarily "good" in the classic sense but definitely like a portastudio). Those 424 preamps are one of the most fun bass distortions I've used.

Edited by RSP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the tips!

May try turning off DBX and see about reducing the noise afterwards in Reaper

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another way to look at it is that now that tape noise isn't an inherent part of recording, it's just another creative decision. Leave the noise if you like it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow 4 years ago! Back again with more tape questions

Have upgraded to a beautiful Tascam 244 and have bought a bunch of nice high quality blank tapes

Am currently recording straight to tape from hardware and then recording the individual tape outs to the computer for final editing but now am reconsidering the idea and thinking to record into the computer first, tidy up, then bounce to tape - just so I'm saving as much potential tape space

However now I'm just double guessing the idea - am I potentially going to lose some quality in doing this? I vaguely recall some people online saying that once you digitise your recording bringing them into the PC it loses some of its qualities and muddies the signal by the time you put it to tape? 

Any thoughts or suggestions as to how to mitigate this if it is an issue? Record into the PC at the highest quality possible?

Or is it all too subtle and you wouldn't hear the difference either method?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...