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Cassette recording tips? Type I or II?
Old 31st March 2021
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Cassette recording tips? Type I or II?

Hello all

Before anyone jumps in to tell me that cassette is a waste of time let me just put forward that I've been recording in a DAW (Cubase) since the start but I'm interested in the way different processes and different levels of ease influence the creative process.

With cassettes I always hear about their limitations but on the other hand I have always enjoyed listening to cassettes for their sort of punchiness and simplicity. It would seem to convey something very well on cassette the composition would need to work a certain way.

Getting to some questions:

I recently picked up a Tascam 644 (4 track cassette recorder) and I'm wondering what the actual advantages would be to me using type II tape.

I seem to have gathered from reading around in different forums that Type II cassettes are generally less dark/less noisy/more high end. The line I keep hearing is "use ONLY type II tapes with your machine."

But do both types of tape produce that sort of desirable saturation (or is it distortion?) when the levels are hot? Or is this more an aspect of the Type I's? I was told earlier to never push the levels into red with my machine, but this was from a radio engineer so I dunno. I know that people push the Type I's into the red as a common practice.

Is it also true that type I tapes tend to carry the low end stuff better? This is what I read several places, but I haven't been able to determine why. Is this a result of distortion of the low harmonics by pushing the tape, or is it just the way the tapes are made? This is of interest to me because I'm using a lot of sub bass, Roland 707-type kicks, house type rhythms, and I've heard you can lose lows on cassette. I may eventually pick up a proper tape machine but I wanted to do a project on this 644 as a preamble!

I do have both types of cassettes but I was hoping to hear from some people with experience something about your best practices.

Any comments welcome and appreciated!
Old 31st March 2021
  #2
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️
But do both types of tape produce that sort of desirable saturation (or is it distortion?) when the levels are hot?!
type 2 or chrome tapes have a better top end response, in terms of signal input to signal output.

so they are the better of the 2 types.

beyond that, just use your ears.

Buddha
Old 31st March 2021
  #3
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🎧 10 years
Type II tapes required higher bias settings, but could maintain better high frequency response and lower distortion, and because they are higher output, better S/N ratio too. They also used 70uS play EQ which further reduced noise.

But there were some very good Type I tapes as well at one time.

Note that when you change tape type, not just from Type I to Type II, but changing brands within a type, you need to align the machine for best performance for each tape type. Some machines had built-in provisions for doing this manually, then toward the end of the cassette hay-day, they auto-biased and auto-EQ'd for every new tape. That was one feature that really made cassettes work well. Until then, optimizing for tape was something you did once and then picked a favorite Type I and Type II and never wandered from them.

Unless, of course, you want the thing to sound crappy, then just pop in whatever and leave it alone.
Old 2nd April 2021 | Show parent
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie ➡️
Type II tapes required higher bias settings, but could maintain better high frequency response and lower distortion, and because they are higher output, better S/N ratio too. They also used 70uS play EQ which further reduced noise.

But there were some very good Type I tapes as well at one time.

Note that when you change tape type, not just from Type I to Type II, but changing brands within a type, you need to align the machine for best performance for each tape type. Some machines had built-in provisions for doing this manually, then toward the end of the cassette hay-day, they auto-biased and auto-EQ'd for every new tape. That was one feature that really made cassettes work well. Until then, optimizing for tape was something you did once and then picked a favorite Type I and Type II and never wandered from them.

Unless, of course, you want the thing to sound crappy, then just pop in whatever and leave it alone.
Gotcha, I wonder where my machine (Tascam 644) falls in the lineup. I think it was produced in 1989, a four track recorder made specifically to use type II's.

I looked through the manual and didn't find a word about head alignment...

Still wondering about the question of the low-end -- if it's produced better with type I's as I heard rumor of.

Also, the question of running high levels into tape machines in general, why people always talk about this. Is this for the effect of the analogue distortion?
Old 2nd April 2021 | Show parent
  #5
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️
Gotcha, I wonder where my machine (Tascam 644) falls in the lineup. I think it was produced in 1989, a four track recorder made specifically to use type II's.
That filled a very specific market segment: the growing "home studio". Multi-track reel-to-reel machines were fairly expensive, and a bit fussy to work with. And, you still needed a mixer. The Portastudio line filled both needs. As an audio recorder, it was unremarkable other than it being a 4 track cassette.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️
I looked through the manual and didn't find a word about head alignment...
I wasn't referring to head alignment, which I strongly suggest you do not attempt! Alignment, or calibration, of an analog recorder involves playback EQ adjustment to a standard reference tape, then record bias, level and EQ for best performance through playback. It's a lot to do, so unless the machine handles that with an automated procedure, it's a task for a lab. The later machines though often had user accessible bias adjustments, but to use them correctly you still need to be familiar with the procedure.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️
Still wondering about the question of the low-end -- if it's produced better with type I's as I heard rumor of.
Nope. Low end is not a function of tape type. However, if you under-bias a Type II you get exaggerated high end which throws total response out of balance and may be interpreted as having poor low end response. But what changed is the high end.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️
Also, the question of running high levels into tape machines in general, why people always talk about this. Is this for the effect of the analogue distortion?
Running high levels with cassettes is a pretty bad idea. They fall apart pretty quickly into distorted and dull mush. With reel-to-reel, you can elevate levels, and mush slowly into distortion. And doing that at the higher speeds like 15ips or 30 ips, you won't dull the top end much in the process.

Personally, I hate tape distortion, always have, and I come from that world, being around tape of many types continuously since 1963. We always avoided it, often obsessively. High levels and tape distortion was a sign of a novice engineer, or someone who just simply spaced. Now it's a deliberate "thing", which I still hate when I hear it. Before high bias, high output tape, it just happened and at normal levels. Scotch 111 was a distortion mess. There are RCA classical recordings made on that stuff in the late 1950s that just grate on your ears with tape distortion. Fantastic performances and good recordings destroyed by tape. Oh well, can't turn back time.

Last edited by jaddie; 2nd April 2021 at 08:26 AM..
Old 3rd April 2021
  #6
Gear Guru
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️
But do both types of tape produce that sort of desirable saturation (or is it distortion?) when the levels are hot?
IMO, whether it is "saturation" or "distortion" depends on whether or not you think it is desirable. As Jaddie said, professional engineers of the Tape Era did not generally consider noticeable amounts of it to be desirable. It is not possible to record to tape and get zero saturation, but many of us tried.

Quote:
Or is this more an aspect of the Type I's? I was told earlier to never push the levels into red with my machine, but this was from a radio engineer so I dunno.
The radio engineer is, like most professional engineers, concerned with getting a sound that, coming out, most closely resembles the sound that he sent in. You do not share this goal. You are actively trying to alter the sound that comes out. For him, a tape deck is a device that records and plays back sound. For you, the tape deck is an effects box. Once you understand this, it frees you to do whatever you like.

Quote:
I know that people push the Type I's into the red as a common practice.
It may well be a common practice among those in the post-digital age who are using a cassette deck as an effect.

But in the Age Of Tape, we only went into the red a bit in the sense that we were aiming for a high average. Like Blackjack. Nobody wants to bust, but if you never hit on a 14, you are going to lose money. None of us wanted distortion, but we also desperately wanted to drown out the tape hiss, so a little bit of red was a compromise. For myself and everyone I knew, cassettes were not a production medium. They were just to give people something to take home and play since nobody had reel to reel decks at home and CDs had not been invented yet.


Quote:
I do have both types of cassettes but I was hoping to hear from some people with experience something about your best practices.
Best practices would be to not pump your music through a cassette deck and expect it to sound like Dark Side of the Moon. Best practices would be to use a wider, faster tape format for Production and use cassettes only for Distribution. Best practices would be to keep the levels conservative and minimize distortion.

A 21st century indie artist deliberately pumping his signal through a cassette deck is really performing what is known as "abuse". The electronic equivalent of putting thumb-tacks on the hammers of your piano, or taking a pen-knife and cutting a slit in your guitar amp's speaker cone - like Link Wray.

These may be considered as perfectly legitimate artistic license if it gets you the sound you are after, but it's kind of like asking "which kind of thumb tacks" are best - or "which penknife" should I use to put a gash in my speaker?

You are looking to get some kind of 'sound', and you probably will know it when you hear it. Use both types, push them or don't push them. Pick the format and the methods that sound cool to your ear.
Old 3rd April 2021 | Show parent
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
[QUOTE=joeq;15386201]IMO, whether it is "saturation" or "distortion" depends on whether or not you think it is desirable. As Jaddie said, professional engineers of the Tape Era did not generally consider noticeable amounts of it to be desirable. It is not possible to record to tape and get zero saturation, but many of us tried.


The radio engineer is, like most professional engineers, concerned with getting a sound that, coming out, most closely resembles the sound that he sent in. You do not share this goal. You are actively trying to alter the sound that comes out. For him, a tape deck is a device that records and plays back sound. For you, the tape deck is an effects box. Once you understand this, it frees you to do whatever you like.



It may well be a common practice among those in the post-digital age who are using a cassette deck as an effect.

But in the Age Of Tape, we only went into the red a bit in the sense that we were aiming for a high average. Like Blackjack. Nobody wants to bust, but if you never hit on a 14, you are going to lose money. None of us wanted distortion, but we also desperately wanted to drown out the tape hiss, so a little bit of red was a compromise. For myself and everyone I knew, cassettes were not a production medium. They were just to give people something to take home and play since nobody had reel to reel decks at home and CDs had not been invented yet.




Best practices would be to not pump your music through a cassette deck and expect it to sound like Dark Side of the Moon. Best practices would be to use a wider, faster tape format for Production and use cassettes only for Distribution. Best practices would be to keep the levels conservative and minimize distortion.

A 21st century indie artist deliberately pumping his signal through a cassette deck is really performing what is known as "abuse". The electronic equivalent of putting thumb-tacks on the hammers of your piano, or taking a pen-knife and cutting a slit in your guitar amp's speaker cone - like Link Wray.

These may be considered as perfectly legitimate artistic license if it gets you the sound you are after, but it's kind of like asking "which kind of thumb tacks" are best - or "which penknife" should I use to put a gash in my speaker?

You are looking to get some kind of 'sound', and you probably will know it when you hear it. Use both types, push them or don't push them. Pick the format and the methods that sound cool to your ear.[/QUOTE

I appreciate this response. Love Link Wray, cool you brought him up.

I know there are limitations to cassette, but it seems to me that if you understand these limitations you know how better to work with a medium, and could possibly use its characteristics to your advantage. For instance, I could see someone like Aphex Twin being successful recording in any format.

My questions weren’t regarding ‘how to get an indie sound’. I was more just wondering if there’s an advantage to running levels hot other than drowning out tape hiss, also wondering how cassette affects the low end. What I was hoping for with tape was some analog warmth and pop from drums and bass, among other things. This is what I meant by ‘best practices’. For instance, curious if running certain instruments or frequency ranges hot would add analog ‘thickness’. I may eventually get a proper tape machine but experimenting for now.

I grew up self recording and I guess I don’t really view writing, production, effects, recording and engineering as separate processes. So if a medium has a cool effect while altering the original sound I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. But yes, accurate reproduction is a different thing so I understand where you’re coming from.
Old 3rd April 2021 | Show parent
  #8
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq ➡️
The radio engineer is, like most professional engineers, concerned with getting a sound that, coming out, most closely resembles the sound that he sent in. You do not share this goal. You are actively trying to alter the sound that comes out. For him, a tape deck is a device that records and plays back sound. For you, the tape deck is an effects box. Once you understand this, it frees you to do whatever you like.
Somehow I feel misrepresented by the above. First, not just radio engineers (which doesn't actually describe me anyway), but ALL engineers of the tape era considered it fundamentally to be a means to record and play back sound. The designers of all pro tape machines were striving for the goal of faithful reproduction. It's how those machines were made, and came into being in the first place. And they never exactly did that anyway. But, those very same engineers realized the potential of tape machines as creative tools too. The engineers figured out how to do tape echo, even ping-pong stereo tape echo. We applied vari-speed to pitch bend, we cut, spliced, sliced and diced tape, even forming the very first loops. We flanged, played recordings backwards and at other speeds. There were entire pieces of music written for and performed on tape recorders, and the arrival of audio tape machines gave birth to a whole new genre of music: "electronic music", which without tape wouldn't have existed. The grandfather of electronic music, Karlheinz Stockhausen, wouldn't have created any of his major works without tape, and for the most successful electronic music recording of all time, "Switched On Bach", Wendy Carlos recorded most of the tracks (played on a Moog Modular) at half speed, then played them at full speed simply to gain a sense of extreme precision (though I also suspect her playing wasn't up to that full tempo task).
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq ➡️
It may well be a common practice among those in the post-digital age who are using a cassette deck as an effect.
To one degree or another, tape has always been an effect.
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq ➡️
But in the Age Of Tape, we only went into the red a bit in the sense that we were aiming for a high average. Like Blackjack. Nobody wants to bust, but if you never hit on a 14, you are going to lose money. None of us wanted distortion, but we also desperately wanted to drown out the tape hiss, so a little bit of red was a compromise. For myself and everyone I knew, cassettes were not a production medium. They were just to give people something to take home and play since nobody had reel to reel decks at home and CDs had not been invented yet.




Best practices would be to not pump your music through a cassette deck and expect it to sound like Dark Side of the Moon. Best practices would be to use a wider, faster tape format for Production and use cassettes only for Distribution. Best practices would be to keep the levels conservative and minimize distortion.

A 21st century indie artist deliberately pumping his signal through a cassette deck is really performing what is known as "abuse". The electronic equivalent of putting thumb-tacks on the hammers of your piano, or taking a pen-knife and cutting a slit in your guitar amp's speaker cone - like Link Wray.

These may be considered as perfectly legitimate artistic license if it gets you the sound you are after, but it's kind of like asking "which kind of thumb tacks" are best - or "which penknife" should I use to put a gash in my speaker?
The thing is, cassette machines force a mask of performance on you because they can only do so much well. There was/is no getting around the audible limitations, and if you want that and like it, great. If not, don't use it. Professional machines have far fewer limitations, certainly nothing that is as out of control as cassettes, and with proper care and feeding can do a very respectable job at replicating the input signal. Or mangling it in many ways, at will.
Old 3rd April 2021
  #9
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
I always used type II as it was recommended for my Fostex. I never had issues with the lows but did deal with hiss. I always recorded with sequenced bass and drums, and direct through my multi effects pedals for guitar. And at that point, only had a 58 for vox. Also after bouncing would lose quality in some cases after trying to cram too much stuff on that skinny tape.
But if this is an experimental project I'd try both and try the same methods for both and see want sounds best to you. Have fun!
Old 3rd April 2021 | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hook11 ➡️
I always used type II as it was recommended for my Fostex. I never had issues with the lows but did deal with hiss. I always recorded with sequenced bass and drums, and direct through my multi effects pedals for guitar. And at that point, only had a 58 for vox. Also after bouncing would lose quality in some cases after trying to cram too much stuff on that skinny tape.
But if this is an experimental project I'd try both and try the same methods for both and see want sounds best to you. Have fun!
Same. I always followed the manufacturer's recommendations.

Have 16-pack of nos Maxell XLII-S here, just waiting for a project, or maybe I'll buy some Bitcoin with them eventually.
Old 3rd April 2021 | Show parent
  #12
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️
...My questions weren’t regarding ‘how to get an indie sound’. I was more just wondering if there’s an advantage to running levels hot other than drowning out tape hiss,
Well, you will get more distor... I mean saturation. Seems like you may very well consider that to be an "advantage". For me, even the best, cleanest cassette being run at conservative levels is already too dirty for the music I make.

Quote:
So if a medium has a cool effect while altering the original sound I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.
Certainly. If you like the way it sounds, then it is part of your artistic process and no one can say it's "wrong". But who can advise you how much cool effect you want to dial in? I could talk about the things I used to do to try and get the cleanest possible sound out of a cassette, but in the end that's advice on how to minimize the very "cool effect" you are pursuing. My way to get the cleanest possible sound would be to not use cassettes!

I have no beef against "analog warmth", the majority of my hardware is tube gear for example, but I am certainly unwilling to make what I consider to be huge sacrifices in clarity and signal to noise ratio to get my analog warmth from a cassette deck.

That is my artistic process.
Old 4th April 2021
  #13
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Malcolm Boyce's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Regarding the original Type I VS Type II question. It your machine isn't switchable, it is likely optimized for a certain tape type, and it will be in the manufacturers specifications. Some cassette machines were actually switchable for record settings, so you could adjust accordingly. Just mixing and matching types will produce different results, but will be working outside their design, which presumable was to be most accurate, input to output.

From the 644 manual:
Attached Thumbnails
Cassette recording tips? Type I or II?-tascam-644-tape-type.jpg  
Old 4th April 2021
  #14
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More specific details on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compac...d_formulations
Old 4th April 2021 | Show parent
  #15
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jaddie's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Malcolm Boyce ➡️
Read with the usual Wiki "Caution" flag. Most of that article is OK, but there are some blaring technical errors.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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Good tapes are getting harder to find, but you could try some of the less collectable Chrome tapes like TDK CDing II.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #17
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Years ago I had a very nice HK cassette deck. It was heavy duty, all metal, black finish. A really nice deck. I had a full test bench and the proper test tapes so I did my own setup. That deck had adjustments for every playback and record function and I was literally able to get the frequency response flat as a board from 1K-22K. I can't remember the low end response though it did sound great.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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i have basement tapes recorded mono over various single different mics just setup on a mic stand into a cassette recorder
obviously the levels sre all over since we were loud n proud. these are all original compositions that cannot be recaptured because of the passing of the guitar and bass players. when i ay them back i must EQ different ranges and actually need volume to hear the mix.
my question is what do you recommend i do because i did ambient recordings into my smartphone. they turn out ok but i think i can make them better with a decent field recorder maybe 4 or 6 track with ambient capabilities.

i can add vocals and drums where they are weak if i can line record while i ambient record on a new track the parts that are lost in the mix to bring them out. then blend them back into the final recording.
my goal is not perfection but enhancing and clarity as much as possible.
some nights the guitar was louder than everyone (most common problem) so i need to add vocals, cymbals, and drums. i can get the bass back on most recordings but some it is weak at best. that's what I'm thinking about doing.
any comments on this are appreciated.
RayRay

Last edited by rrb6699; 4 weeks ago at 05:34 PM.. Reason: sp
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gorquin ➡️
Years ago I had a very nice HK cassette deck. It was heavy duty, all metal, black finish. A really nice deck. I had a full test bench and the proper test tapes so I did my own setup. That deck had adjustments for every playback and record function and I was literally able to get the frequency response flat as a board from 1K-22K. I can't remember the low end response though it did sound great.
....at -20 re: reference. Ever try it at 0dB?
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #20
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by rrb6699 ➡️
i have basement tapes recorded mono over various single different mics just setup on a mic stand into a cassette recorder
obviously the levels sre all over since we were loud n proud. these are all original compositions that cannot be recaptured because of the passing of the guitar and bass players. when i ay them back i must EQ different ranges and actually need volume to hear the mix.
my question is what do you recommend i do because i did ambient recordings into my smartphone. they turn out ok but i think i can make them better with a decent field recorder maybe 4 or 6 track with ambient capabilities.

i can add vocals and drums where they are weak if i can line record while i ambient record on a new track the parts that are lost in the mix to bring them out. then blend them back into the final recording.
my goal is not perfection but enhancing and clarity as much as possible.
some nights the guitar was louder than everyone (most common problem) so i need to add vocals, cymbals, and drums. i can get the bass back on most recordings but some it is weak at best. that's what I'm thinking about doing.
any comments on this are appreciated.
RayRay
Forget the phone and field recorder. Easy to capture, but in the end, way too difficult to get where you want to go.

Capture the cassette into a Pc-based DAW, even the free Audacity, then add tracks of whatever you want, mix them into the glorious new version.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #21
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by rrb6699 ➡️
i have basement tapes recorded mono over various single different mics just setup on a mic stand into a cassette recorder ...

my question is what do you recommend i do because i did ambient recordings into my smartphone. they turn out ok but i think i can make them better with a decent field recorder maybe 4 or 6 track with ambient capabilities.
You did ambient recordings in an effort to augment the basement tapes? It's a bit confusing which "they" you are referring to.

You should forget the field recorder, unless you have a time machine and can bring it back to the 1970's with you and use it to redo the actual live performances. As jaddie said, this is a job for a DAW.

In the computer, you might take advantage of some of the new Stem Separation software. They can enable you to separate the old mono recordings into 4 elements: vocals (or whatever main melody), bass, drums, and "everything else". And then it allows you to rebalance them as you see fit.

If, for example, not enough drums survives for you to 'turn up', then you at least can delete ALL of the existing drums when you overdub new ones - so that you don't have two drum sets overlaid and competing in your new mix.

There is something called Audionamix XTRAX Stems which is a subscription, but you could just sign up for a month or so until you have separated everything out. Virtual DJ is another one and the resurrection of Acid Pro offers this feature. I believe Izotope RX has this feature, too.

Most of them do a pretty decent job on 'auto' mode, some give you the ability to go in and tweak the separations and improve the accuracy.

It is really quite miraculous, it works far better than I thought it would. Then again, I used to think it was physically impossible.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
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May or may not be any help but when I had a problem with ye olde Fostex 4tk the kind folks at Fostex tech support put be on to That's MRX pro and all my apparent problems were solved. How innocent we were.

http://vintagecassettes.com/triad_th...s/ethats88.htm
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
Deleted 49e1b71
Guest
non type II sucks..i never really like metal either

if you gave a music industry person a type 1 tape in the early 90s they didnt take you serious..like "you don't even care about your music"

XLIIs baby

Last edited by Deleted 49e1b71; 4 weeks ago at 09:55 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️
I seem to have gathered from reading around in different forums that Type II cassettes are generally less dark/less noisy/more high end. The line I keep hearing is "use ONLY type II tapes with your machine."

But do both types of tape produce that sort of desirable saturation (or is it distortion?) when the levels are hot? Or is this more an aspect of the Type I's? I was told earlier to never push the levels into red with my machine, but this was from a radio engineer so I dunno. I know that people push the Type I's into the red as a common practice.
If the machine is PROPERLY CALIBRATED for the tape, that is to say both the bias and record EQ are correctly set for the particular brand of tape that you are using, you won't hear any frequency response difference between Type I and Type II tape, but you will hear a huge improvement in noise floor with chrome tape.

Forget saturation. If you are using noise reduction, overloading the tape will sound terrible, and if you are using cassettes you are going to be using noise reduction because otherwise the noise will be even worse.

You will hear people saying all kinds of crazy things about which types and brands of cassettes are better and worse and they are all completely in conflict with one another, because those people did not calibrate their machines for the tape. One person has a machine whose bias is correct for Ampex Type I tape, another person has a machine whose bias is correct for BASF Type I tape, and they get totally different results and get into knock-down-drag-out fights about which one is better. If they had read the manual they would be much more mellow.

The key is to get the machine calibrated properly. Get the record EQ and bias set right for the tape, get the azimuth set properly (and the worst thing about the whole miserable cassette format is the azimuth stability) and you will be fine. I would advise you to use a Type II tape if you can, but the key is to calibrate for the kind of tape you can get regularly and don't use anything else.
--scott
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
If the machine is PROPERLY CALIBRATED for the tape, that is to say both the bias and record EQ are correctly set for the particular brand of tape that you are using, you won't hear any frequency response difference between Type I and Type II tape, but you will hear a huge improvement in noise floor with chrome tape.
From the days when I set up cassette machines using a response plotter...

The response difference you get between Type 1 and Type II is level dependent. At -20dB they'll both work the same, pretty much. At -10 and up, the Type II will win for better high end response. Partly due to the 70uS EQ of Type II.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
Forget saturation. If you are using noise reduction, overloading the tape will sound terrible, and if you are using cassettes you are going to be using noise reduction because otherwise the noise will be even worse.
Man, did you ever speak!!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
The key is to get the machine calibrated properly. Get the record EQ and bias set right for the tape, get the azimuth set properly (and the worst thing about the whole miserable cassette format is the azimuth stability) and you will be fine. I would advise you to use a Type II tape if you can, but the key is to calibrate for the kind of tape you can get regularly and don't use anything else.
--scott
And just so everyone knows what calibration is all about....Step 1 is getting a copy of the repair manual. Without experience, do try anything without it. Then you start with a thorough cleaning of tape path, heads, guides, and rollers.

Get your test gear together. You need to be able to generate tones of several frequencies and types, and measure tone levels out of the machine, and measure distortion. Software works for this, and I would suggest REW, which unfortunately has a learning curve, but so would physical test gear.

Then use a reference test tape with test tones recorded on it (you need to buy this) and set up play azimuth, level, and EQ for flattest response, best performance, and minimum interchannel phase wobble as seen on an X-Y scope or other phase display.

Then you pop in a fresh tape of your selected type, and set up bias, level and EQ. If it's a two-head deck, azimuth is done. If not, have fun. You need to set a preliminary identical bias level in both channels first, as bias changes phase. Then you have to phase-alight the record head to the play head, ideally using a 1k-15k sweep tone, because it's possible to get zero phase at 15k and still be way out of azimuth, you have to check it a multiple frequencies. Bias, level, and EQ is an art that balances high frequency output, response flatness, and distortion, all of which are going in opposite directions. You crank up bias to reduce distortion, you loose high end, so you pick up record Eq...and so forth. Follow the repair manual carefully. Once you set bias, note the bias level and match it in the other channel, our record/play azimuth won't work. Because of all the interactions, it takes several complete passes through the entire sequence to get it all just right.

Get it all right and move on to calibrating the Dolby B-NR. Follow the manual instructions to the letter.

At some point, check wow and flutter. There's a software app for this, I just can't recall what it is. I'll post if I think of it, but we used to use a physical flutter meter and a purchased flutter test tape.

All of these principles apply to tape of any kind to a greater or lesser extent. Cassettes are the hardest to get "right".

Wow. Now I really remember how much I hated cassettes!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
Gear Head
 
MichaelDude's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I record to tape here and there, I like the sound, depending on what I'm going for. I have an old Marantz CP-230 and either use its built in preamp which is quite noisy but I usually plug my 1073 clone into the line inputs when I can.

"Warmth" is an arguable trait when it comes to cassette recording and I think it depends on what characteristics you attribute to it, one of them being saturation. What I've come to think is that, at least for me, the major factor is its transient response when recording - its a little more forgiving and gentle with things like acoustic guitar for example, and I think that element is exaggerated when driving the input.. whereas recording digitally has a sort of immediacy about it in the way that it captures those transients which is also cool depending on what you're going for.

I use type 2s and coming from experimenting with type 1s they definitely have a better s/n ratio. But that doesn't even really matter unless you're recording all of the arrangement by tape and those s/n ratios start adding up..
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #27
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie ➡️
That filled a very specific market segment: the growing "home studio". Multi-track reel-to-reel machines were fairly expensive, and a bit fussy to work with. And, you still needed a mixer. The Portastudio line filled both needs. As an audio recorder, it was unremarkable other than it being a 4 track cassette.
I wasn't referring to head alignment, which I strongly suggest you do not attempt! Alignment, or calibration, of an analog recorder involves playback EQ adjustment to a standard reference tape, then record bias, level and EQ for best performance through playback. It's a lot to do, so unless the machine handles that with an automated procedure, it's a task for a lab. The later machines though often had user accessible bias adjustments, but to use them correctly you still need to be familiar with the procedure.
Nope. Low end is not a function of tape type. However, if you under-bias a Type II you get exaggerated high end which throws total response out of balance and may be interpreted as having poor low end response. But what changed is the high end.

Running high levels with cassettes is a pretty bad idea. They fall apart pretty quickly into distorted and dull mush. With reel-to-reel, you can elevate levels, and mush slowly into distortion. And doing that at the higher speeds like 15ips or 30 ips, you won't dull the top end much in the process.

Personally, I hate tape distortion, always have, and I come from that world, being around tape of many types continuously since 1963. We always avoided it, often obsessively. High levels and tape distortion was a sign of a novice engineer, or someone who just simply spaced. Now it's a deliberate "thing", which I still hate when I hear it. Before high bias, high output tape, it just happened and at normal levels. Scotch 111 was a distortion mess. There are RCA classical recordings made on that stuff in the late 1950s that just grate on your ears with tape distortion. Fantastic performances and good recordings destroyed by tape. Oh well, can't turn back time.
Much appreciated. Getting a clearer picture

Will probably move towards thicker tape.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie ➡️
Somehow I feel misrepresented by the above. First, not just radio engineers (which doesn't actually describe me anyway), but ALL engineers of the tape era considered it fundamentally to be a means to record and play back sound. The designers of all pro tape machines were striving for the goal of faithful reproduction. It's how those machines were made, and came into being in the first place. And they never exactly did that anyway. But, those very same engineers realized the potential of tape machines as creative tools too. The engineers figured out how to do tape echo, even ping-pong stereo tape echo. We applied vari-speed to pitch bend, we cut, spliced, sliced and diced tape, even forming the very first loops. We flanged, played recordings backwards and at other speeds. There were entire pieces of music written for and performed on tape recorders, and the arrival of audio tape machines gave birth to a whole new genre of music: "electronic music", which without tape wouldn't have existed. The grandfather of electronic music, Karlheinz Stockhausen, wouldn't have created any of his major works without tape, and for the most successful electronic music recording of all time, "Switched On Bach", Wendy Carlos recorded most of the tracks (played on a Moog Modular) at half speed, then played them at full speed simply to gain a sense of extreme precision (though I also suspect her playing wasn't up to that full tempo task).
To one degree or another, tape has always been an effect.
The thing is, cassette machines force a mask of performance on you because they can only do so much well. There was/is no getting around the audible limitations, and if you want that and like it, great. If not, don't use it. Professional machines have far fewer limitations, certainly nothing that is as out of control as cassettes, and with proper care and feeding can do a very respectable job at replicating the input signal. Or mangling it in many ways, at will.
Appreciate this as someone into electronic music. I knew before I started this convo that cassettes had limitations. Just wanted to know more about it. I prefaced with me saying that I've recorded digitally most of my life, but so far on these forums I usually seem to sense a mild disdain when I bring up cassettes, lol

Thanks for answering specific questions. Yeah, I'm interested in tape because it pushes the production out of box/forces performance and at the same time seems to punch a little different...

Might honestly just get a good vcr at this point though... hehe

Thanks for the pointers !!
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
jaddie's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.danielnewell ➡️

Might honestly just get a good vcr at this point though... hehe

Thanks for the pointers !!
A good VCR? Honestly, I have no idea what that is.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie ➡️


A good VCR? Honestly, I have no idea what that is.
lol right... well, by good I guess I mean one with an input level meter
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