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Author Topic: 4 track cassette recorder issues  (Read 456 times)

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Offline onetrack

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4 track cassette recorder issues
« 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.


Offline Smurf

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #1 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)
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Offline onetrack

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #2 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.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2018, 10:40:46 AM by onetrack »

Offline whitestrat73

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #3 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)
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Offline onetrack

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #4 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.


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Offline onetrack

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #5 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!😳😳😳

Offline onetrack

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #6 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😆

Offline Dino

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2018, 02:28:01 AM »
I see "0kB" in the file size Onetrack.




Offline onetrack

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2018, 07:08:06 AM »
Oops :o

 ::) Maybe this one works instead

Offline onetrack

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #9 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 👍

Offline Dino

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2018, 11:00:09 AM »
definitely has the Gazebo vocal tone and feel.

Online agradeleous

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2018, 07:47:50 PM »
Sounds good :)

Offline onetrack

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #12 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

Offline onetrack

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #13 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.


Offline whitestrat73

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Re: 4 track cassette recorder issues
« Reply #14 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.....
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