Two Track Music Community

Music => General Recording Dicussions => Topic started by: onetrack on November 05, 2018, 06:46:43 AM

Title: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 05, 2018, 06:46:43 AM
I finally got round to a project I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time.

And that is to convert my old songs from cassette to digital. There are several reasons for this:

1) to hear them again after maybe a 20 year absence
2) to attempt to clean them up abit and remaster
3) for 4 track recordings - convert each track separately (again to try and clean up and get better remaster version of complete song)
4) to have a permanent version that’s futureproof
5) to be able to share vintage songs with other folk

I had already done part of this exercise about 10 years ago. But as I have about 15-20 cassettes , I just picked a handful of good songs I could find.

So, I got my Forstex X-14 (anyone remember them? Picture attached l) out the loft and tried it out yesterday. Would it work from 10 years in loft and moved house to house?

Well it works....but...UURGH! There’s a mechanical problem and something is kicking every 3 seconds and knocking the cassette, so you get this horrible warble which ruins the listening.

I opened her up to look inside and there were a couple of small components rattling around that fell out. So there we are. Can’t be used. Too expensive and probably not able to get fixed or replaced. >:(

However, I found a small portable cassette player/mp3 converter on eBay for about £15, so I’ve ordered that and a two least I’ll be able to play and convert the complete songs I own on cassette.

So, to sum up - I’m very frustrated that I can’t do my project as I had intended. But at least I’ll be able to convert all the songs to digital format.

Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: Smurf on November 09, 2018, 02:30:15 PM
I had a Yamaha MT40 4 tracker & the Tascam 8 track cassette back in the day, and they worked fine for the time.  ;D  Wrote a lot of songs with them, and still have a couple huge boxes of tapes here.

You can find these units on ebay all the time, IF you are willing to take the chance.  :o  The biggest problem is the cassettes themselves, more than likely the tape is stuck to itself inside the housing, maybe even to the housing itself. you really need to be careful with these old tapes.  ~:)  There are units that will unwind / reverse the tapes VERY slowly so they do not shred / stick to the next layer, or you can just use a pencil & wind them by hand....this is what I did and it worked fine most times, but I still lost some due to the tape sticking to itself.

Good Luck with the project, there is always surprise tid bits lurking on the tapes for sure!  8)
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 14, 2018, 10:36:09 AM
It’s been a fun project. Listening to songs for the first time in 25 years. Some gems and some right turds.

4 tracks are expensive on eBay.

I wonder if I record the side b of a 4 track recording and then play it backwards at a slower tempo, I can then record the a side 2 tracks and get a complete song?

I’ve attached a pic of the cassette I purchased off amazon for about £15.
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: whitestrat73 on November 14, 2018, 01:07:13 PM
I tried doing that, some years ago. Was wanting to get stuff I had recorded on my dead Yamaha MT-2x. I was reasonably successful, but, a lot relies on the speed consistency of the cassette recorder and the re-player. I used an old Teac machine, to play back. It was good in the 80s, not so good in the 2000s... LOL.

The recording of the 3rd and 4th tracks, reversing and slowing down bit, seemed to work pretty good, for me. It wouldn't be fair to expect the mechanical drive system to be as solid as todays digital system as far as wow and flutter is concerned.....  ::)
Any attempts to line up with a digital 'time line' were futile, in my case. Too much random speed issues ( alright, it is possible that the playing was at fault, too....a little bit).  :(
I did manage to use a couple of tunes, though. I even persuaded 'Tommy Duffy' to add his fretless bass to one of them, which I'm very proud of. It did take quite a bit of work tidying the original tracks, but it was worth it!

It'll be interesting to hear how you get on....  8)
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 14, 2018, 01:39:06 PM
Thanks whitestrat.
I will try that for reversing and slowing down reverse cassette side if need be.

It’s a real labour of love but I managed to convert 3 songs ina bout 2 hours last night.

Here’s probably the best of the bunch. It really helps if he original tape recording is clean and loud to begin with.


https://soundcloud.com/user-210021613/ooger-booger-2018-remaster
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 14, 2018, 10:21:18 PM
I’m finding it a revelation and fascinating hearing my old songs from 20 plus years ago.

So much material. But some tapes are warped and I’ve tried to get rid of the hiss on some but made them worse.

But the strangest thing just occurred. Between two of my songs was some music that was on the tape recorded previously. And it was a local band from Kent but the singer sounded just like Gazebo. No, kidding. I’ll upload it tomorrow for you to hear for yourself. Now if Gazebo turns round and says “yeah I was in a kent band 20 years ago and the guitarist was named Paul (with glasses) and we played indie rock” then I’m gonna be mightedly freaked out!😳😳😳
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 16, 2018, 10:58:32 AM

Gazebo has confirmed he was in no such band I before amentioned.

I’ve attached the file anyway. Maybe everyone has a someone somewhere with a similar voice. I guess the chances are high with a world population of over 6 billion😆
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: Dino on November 17, 2018, 02:28:01 AM
I see "0kB" in the file size Onetrack.



Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 17, 2018, 07:08:06 AM
Oops :o

 ::) Maybe this one works instead
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 19, 2018, 11:57:16 AM
I’ve found this to be a rewarding, educating yet frustrating task.

I’ve learnt the obvious. If the initial recording isn’t that great then no matter how much efforts are made to the digital copy, it won’t sound much better.

My method of approach is:
1) transfer song from cassette to audacity
2) apply some noise reduction (based on an. Segment of pure cassette hiss)
3) open clean file in Kristal
4) apply some eq and master compressor and (if deemed needed) some glacverb reverb

I’ve found I’m not a huge fan of the master limitor compressor. It really seems to push the drums up in the mix and make them sound very pouring. Also the classic eq doesn’t seem to do what I’d ideally like it too (as it sounds too harsh). Maybe I’m aiming for something out of reach, as I’m trying to get louder vocals, less hiss and more clarity to the instruments.

Any suggestions for VST’s which may assist my mission would be wary welcomed 👍
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: Dino on November 20, 2018, 11:00:09 AM
definitely has the Gazebo vocal tone and feel.
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: agradeleous on November 21, 2018, 07:47:50 PM
Sounds good :)
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 22, 2018, 02:19:01 PM
I unearthed a song I haven’t heard in 20 years, and still like it.

https://soundcloud.com/user-110079551/escape-1998-ish
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 26, 2018, 10:11:07 PM
I found another song I really like. What I’d like to achieve is to clean up the 4 track cassette recording and try and remaster.

What I’ve managed to do is save down 4 individual stems.

Step 1
 So the first two were on normal playback of the cassette. I saved file in audacity. Then because one was panned hard left and one hard right, I panned recording hard left and resales as one stem and then opened original file again and panned hard right and saved as 2nd stem. Then I reopened and converted stereo to mono and amplified and did noise reduction, then resales file for each once more.

Step 2
For tracks 3 and 4 I had to turn the cassette over and record it to audacity.
Then I had to reverse the sound file and then do as step 1.

Happy with my files, I proceeded to open Kristal and dump each stem into individual tracks. When I played back I discovered tracks 3 and 4 sounded off key and out of time. So I will need to revisit the file for each and change tempo slightly to make it faster and hopefully in tune with the rest of the tracks. Not quite sure how I do this other than trial and error. I also have no idea what the tempo of the song is.

It’s compelling to see this project through and I hope I can achieve my goal of making the song sound 10 times better than the original cassette recording.

Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: whitestrat73 on November 27, 2018, 09:26:18 AM
If you get stuck, Al, I'd be happy to help getting the tracks ready for your re-mastering. Not saying I'd get better results than your good self, but I'd be using Sonar, which has many more facilities.
Sounds like you are having trouble with tape speed consistency of your playback machine.....
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 27, 2018, 06:18:34 PM
I got a feeling it’s not the tempo of reverse recorded tracks that’s the issue. I think it’s pitch as on playback it sounds off key and I’ve tried speeding it up and it still sounds out of tune.

😳😳😳
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 27, 2018, 07:25:49 PM
Hi whitestrat

Thanks very much for the offer. Worth a go. I can send you the cleaned up versions I have? Or the raw recordings FLAC files?

I think you’re right. The 2 tracks that use the reverse side of tape and record backwards don’t sound right if I reverse the file. But the two tracks that record normally sound fine.

Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: whitestrat73 on November 27, 2018, 09:27:56 PM
No problem....  :)
Send whichever is the best quality, I guess.....
Can you get them onto the ftp, unless you prefer something else..... What format are the cleaned tracks in?
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: whitestrat73 on November 27, 2018, 09:33:58 PM
Ah, just picked up your emails........

I'll have a look tomorrow......
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 28, 2018, 11:59:44 AM
Cheers whitestrat. Don’t
Worry if you can’t fix it.
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: whitestrat73 on November 29, 2018, 12:35:24 PM
Back, again......

OK, I loaded the tracks into Sonar.

The first, but not too important, issue is with alignment. Not having a start point on each track hinders getting them aligned together, for me.

More importantly, when I tried to get a tempo for the drum track, I noticed that there are serious speed fluctuations. I expect this is down to the recorder and the replay machine. The tech term, I guess, is 'wow', often coupled with 'flutter'. The most tell tale sign is in your 'picky guitar' track.
Just for the record, the tempo seems to be 'around' 91 bpm.

About head alignment, etc, in this scenario:
It is possible that 'correct' head alignment, for playback of 4 track tapes, can't be achieved just by flipping the cassette in a 2 track machine. Rough alignment will cause poor quality sound reproduction, but not added speed fluctuations. The speed issues are probably due to the mechanical nature of the cassette machines in question. I used to sell Nakamichi cassette machines, which had seriously good speed consistency and a facility to align every tape to optimum. But, the N1000 was over £1000, in the 1980s..... And, by digital standards, it wasn't perfect..... ::)
Another cause could be tape stretch/shrinkage, due to age/storage conditions.

Sorry mate, I don't think there is much I can do.......
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on November 30, 2018, 09:03:20 PM
Ok whitestrat. I kinda thought this would be the outcome. Many thanks for trying.

At least I mixed down the 4 track recordings down to a seperate cassette recording of song at the time. It Might not have the best levels and it’s kinda stuck as it is but at least if playback is incorrect speed or pitch is out, then it will be wrong on overall recording.

I think the main issue is the 3rd and 4th tracks which use the reverse side of the tape. Playing these means they won’t align with tracks 1 and 2.

I have a feeling that I could transfer the same song onto audacity twice and get differing song lengths each time.
The cassette player I bought recently was £15. Maybe not the best. But I think I got some good results with songs. It’s the 4 track recordings that’s the problem.

Oh well it was worth a go. I was hoping to be able to clean up the separate tracks and add effects in digital environment but not to be. I can however clean up the final songs from tape and make them audible.
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: kevmsmith81 on December 06, 2018, 12:36:20 PM
If you get stuck, Al, I'd be happy to help getting the tracks ready for your re-mastering. Not saying I'd get better results than your good self, but I'd be using Sonar, which has many more facilities.
Sounds like you are having trouble with tape speed consistency of your playback machine.....

I'd like to extend the same offer as well - I have both SONAR/Cakewalk and Harrison Mixbus, and would welcome the chance to try and mix tracks which aren't my own.

I obviously can't do anything with any issues in terms of the mechanics of your cassette players, but can offer the above at least!

EDIT: Just realised I posted this without reading Whitestrat's later reply.  It could well be an issue with the player itself rather than the cassettes though (although you can't rule out the cassette being warped or stretched).  If you have budget to do so, it's probably worth looking at a new 4 track recorder - I believe, if possible going for something from the early to mid 90's would be best, as this was when cassette was at its heyday and the mass-produced equipment was of a better quality.  There's a few going on Ebay currently for reasonable prices, like this one:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/TASCAM-Porta-02-MK11-Ministudio-4-Track-Cassette-Tape-Recorder-Multitrack/163413828226?epid=1741410862&hash=item260c392282:g:iE0AAOSwv0dcBmh3:rk:3:pf:0
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: whitestrat73 on December 06, 2018, 01:39:26 PM
Although, in theory, I agree with what you say, Kev, cassette machines, by design limitations, are always gonna have speed issues. Add age to the equation, and you get worn/stretched drive belts/pully-wheels, etc. Any old machine will need a thorough overhaul. I would guess, that, the only machines you can bring back to new condition are Revox.......
Added to which, over time, recording tape will deteriorate, either stretching and/or losing oxide. Especially if it was not the best to start with. I always used either TDK, Maxell or Nakamichi brand tapes, which were generally recognised as the best, yet my old tapes do not sound as good as in the day.

P.S.
Through the 70s and 80s, I worked in/managed 'high end' hi-fi shops, in the center of London. I dealt with Nakamichi, Revox, Teac, etc, tape machines. My best mate was sales manager, first for Maxell, then for Nakamichi.  ;) Because I always had Maxell tapes, the other reps plied me with their product, to try to get me to change.... LOL
At home I ran my own high speed Revox A77, along with an old Tandberg reel to reel, plus Yamaha and Teac cassette machines. When I left UK, at the end of the 80s, I got myself a Yamaha MT2x 4 track.
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: kevmsmith81 on December 06, 2018, 01:51:10 PM
Although, in theory, I agree with what you say, Kev, cassette machines, by design limitations, are always gonna have speed issues. Add age to the equation, and you get worn/stretched drive belts/pully-wheels, etc. Any old machine will need a thorough overhaul. I would guess, that, the only machines you can bring back to new condition are Revox.......
Added to which, over time, recording tape will deteriorate, either stretching and/or losing oxide. Especially if it was not the best to start with. I always used either TDK, Maxell or Nakamichi brand tapes, which were generally recognised as the best, yet my old tapes do not sound as good as in the day.

P.S.
Through the 70s and 80s, I worked in/managed 'high end' hi-fi shops, in the center of London. I dealt with Nakamichi, Revox, Teac, etc, tape machines. My best mate was sales manager, first for Maxell, then for Nakamichi.  ;) Because I always had Maxell tapes, the other reps plied me with their product, to try to get me to change.... LOL
At home I ran my own high speed Revox A77, along with an old Tandberg reel to reel, plus Yamaha and Teac cassette machines. When I left UK, at the end of the 80s, I got myself a Yamaha MT2x 4 track.

In that case, you're probably more knowledgeable about the subject than I would be.  I was just thinking using a 4-track may minimise the issue, what with the tape always being wound in the same direction.  But, yes I do see what you're saying and you're more likely to be right than I am on the matter!!
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: whitestrat73 on December 06, 2018, 09:06:25 PM
Quote
In that case, you're probably more knowledgeable about the subject than I would be.  I was just thinking using a 4-track may minimise the issue, what with the tape always being wound in the same direction.  But, yes I do see what you're saying and you're more likely to be right than I am on the matter!!

Yes, it may get you better results than a 2 track machine. So long as the head alignment is close to the machine used to record.
The magic of the Nakamichi machines was it's ability to align the heads both for recording and, by reading an alignment tone, also for playback.

....and, I'm sure I have forgotten more than I now remember.... LOL
Title: Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
Post by: onetrack on December 07, 2018, 04:45:51 PM
Thanks for your input Kev.

I don’t think I’ll be investing in buying another 4 track recorder. I don’t think I can Warrant that when (as whitestrat points out) there’s no guarantee it will solve the pitch/speed of tape issue.

Thanks anyway guys.