Is recording on 4-track cassette still viable?

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magritte
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Is recording on 4-track cassette still viable?

Post by magritte » Sun Dec 08, 2013 7:09 pm

I'm looking to get back into 4 track recording. I realize all the advantages of digital, but I just can't accept the tin/cold sound of it, nor the artifacts.

But that's a different discussion.

What I am wondering if it's even possible to record on 4-track anymore. I am having a hard time finding Type 2 chrome oxide tape (I think these are the best for recording on 4track, correct me if wrong?). And I also read anything being made is done in China/Korea and low quality. Is new old stock the only option, and if so, are 25 year old tapes okay to record on?

Any thoughts on what my options would be? Thanks.
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Re: Is recording on 4-track cassette still viable?

Post by dfuruta » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:05 pm

magritte wrote:I'm looking to get back into 4 track recording. I realize all the advantages of digital, but I just can't accept the tin/cold sound of it, nor the artifacts.
Can't stand the artifacts (I don't hear many artifacts, but maybe my ears are bad), so you're going to record on cassette! I love it :D

Re: your search, take a look at national audio company. They seem to still sell type ii chrome cassettes.

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Re: Is recording on 4-track cassette still viable?

Post by magritte » Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:54 am

dfuruta wrote:Can't stand the artifacts (I don't hear many artifacts, but maybe my ears are bad), so you're going to record on cassette! I love it :D
I know, right? It makes no sense.

I tried for the past 5 years to like digital and get the sound I want, but I'm ready to give up now. And just go back to crappy tape.

Thanks for the lead. I am going to check out that company now.
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Post by Orpheus » Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:08 am

Is giving 1/4" or 1/2" reel a try unfeasible?

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Post by curtiswyant » Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:30 am

Orpheus wrote:Is giving 1/4" or 1/2" reel a try unfeasible?
I never messed with cassette much, but I have a Tascam 22-4 1/4" 4 track. It's not too convenient for laying down ideas quickly, like a cassette 4-track would be, but 1/4" tape is cheap and it sounds loads better than cassette. It's a nice tool to have around.

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Post by standup » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:31 am

I mostly record to Pro Tools. But I use cassette too sometimes, it's fun. the sound has a certain character that's interesting sometimes. I would never say it's better than digital recording, but it's different. I like the workflow, removing the unlimited re-do's and unlimited deferral of decisions.

There are a few companies that sell new unmarked cassettes loaded with type II tape, for example:
http://www.deltamedia.com/products/type ... -bulk.html
http://www.totalmedia.com/store/audio-1/cassettes-1233/

I've got enough old retail-packaged cassettes that I haven't ordered from these folks lately, but that day will come eventually.

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Post by JWL » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:44 am

I have no idea where to tell you to find tape, I haven't used cassettes in many, many years. Thank the gods.

I can't imagine preferring the sound of cassette recordings to even the most basic digital recording. Like seriously, I'd rather record 8 bits at 22KHz than deal with cassettes.

But good luck, I know there are still a few hardcore 4-trackers floating around out there.

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Post by magritte » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:46 am

standup wrote:I mostly record to Pro Tools. But I use cassette too sometimes, it's fun. the sound has a certain character that's interesting sometimes. I would never say it's better than digital recording, but it's different. I like the workflow, removing the unlimited re-do's and unlimited deferral of decisions.

There are a few companies that sell new unmarked cassettes loaded with type II tape, for example:
http://www.deltamedia.com/products/type ... -bulk.html
http://www.totalmedia.com/store/audio-1/cassettes-1233/

I've got enough old retail-packaged cassettes that I haven't ordered from these folks lately, but that day will come eventually.
Sweet. I am going to call these guys and National Audio Company today. I need to know if these tapes are new or new old stock.

I used to record on 1/2" inch tape. It's great, but I just don't have the space for such large/heavy machines right now. Even finding space for a 4-track will be difficult. I just have a small 1br apartment.

I wish I could get digital to sound less "tin"/cold/shallow (not sure which adjectives..). Many people seem happy with the sound. It's so convenient that I want to like it.
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Post by magritte » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:51 am

JWL wrote:I can't imagine preferring the sound of cassette recordings to even the most basic digital recording. Like seriously, I'd rather record 8 bits at 22KHz than deal with cassettes.
Why do you say that? There is a definite sound difference (cliches like "warm", etc). Some people prefer that sound. Why act like different = crappy? It doesn't.

It's like how Polaroids look better than many 30MP DSLrs.
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Post by JWL » Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:19 am

I guess I just associate cassettes with "imposes undesirable audible artificats I must overcome inherent to the medium" as opposed to digital, which gives me back exactly what I put in, or gives me back exactly what I tweak and fuck up with plugins.

When I think of good sound, I don't want limited frequency response, excessive noise/tape hiss, wow & flutter, etc. Tape distortion can be a good thing for sure but I'd rather dial it in digitally so I don't have to put up with these other artifacts.

Honestly, even if I had the budget for a high end analog machine, like a Studer 2" 24 track, with an on-staff engineer to keep it running right, I would still probably work digitally.

I just can't see how switching to cassette as a medium will upgrade someone's sound.

That said, use the best tools you have and make good music, that's what it's all about. But I promise if you release your recordings I won't be buying them on cassette. ;-)

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Post by magritte » Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:36 am

JWL wrote:I guess I just associate cassettes with "imposes undesirable audible artificats I must overcome inherent to the medium" as opposed to digital, which gives me back exactly what I put in, or gives me back exactly what I tweak and fuck up with plugins.

When I think of good sound, I don't want limited frequency response, excessive noise/tape hiss, wow & flutter, etc. Tape distortion can be a good thing for sure but I'd rather dial it in digitally so I don't have to put up with these other artifacts.

Honestly, even if I had the budget for a high end analog machine, like a Studer 2" 24 track, with an on-staff engineer to keep it running right, I would still probably work digitally.

I just can't see how switching to cassette as a medium will upgrade someone's sound.

That said, use the best tools you have and make good music, that's what it's all about. But I promise if you release your recordings I won't be buying them on cassette. ;-)
I grew up recording on 4-track, and a bunch of friends who heard those recordings to this day say they're better than the record my band recorded in studio with all the best digital gear. We see more and more plugins on the market trying to replicate analog sound. So, there is something to this; people inherently hear a difference and like something about the analog, dislike something about digital, or a combo of the two.

I actually would like to use a combo of both analog and digital since both have positives, at least to me. I like the sound of tape, but the convenience of plugins and mixing in DAWs. I was thinking of maybe recording 4 tracks to tape, transfer them into the DAW, record 4 more tracks on tape, transfer those into the DAW, etc. I'm trying to research how to do this. It seems like I'd need an audio interface with 4 inputs to avoid sync issues. Would the 4-track need 4 line outputs? If anyone has opinions on that I'd love to hear them, but maybe I will have to make a new thread.
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Post by accordion squeezist » Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:29 pm


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Post by Orpheus » Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:32 pm

Digital *is* very convenient. Not that I'm trying to talk you out of or into anything, but if your space is a small 1 bedroom apt am I correct in assuming that there is no drum kit? Meaning that you're recordings for the time being are notes and compositional demos rather than something meant for release? Or are you using a drum machine?
I myself have a busted portastudio that I'm trying to fire up and use for rough compositional demos.

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Post by magritte » Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:06 pm

Orpheus wrote:Digital *is* very convenient. Not that I'm trying to talk you out of or into anything, but if your space is a small 1 bedroom apt am I correct in assuming that there is no drum kit? Meaning that you're recordings for the time being are notes and compositional demos rather than something meant for release? Or are you using a drum machine?
I myself have a busted portastudio that I'm trying to fire up and use for rough compositional demos.
That's correct, no drum kit. I use ezdrummer or program drums in cubase. Ideally, I would like to route those to the 4-track and record the drum machine on track 1, then record on the other 3 tracks and route it all back to PC. Then repeat... I don't know if this is possible. But it would be a mix of both mediums.
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Post by dfuruta » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:12 pm

cassettes give me the screaming shit-fits, but NAC has a good reputation - a lot of smaller labels i know use them.

i've got a 4-track of my own sitting around. feel like maybe i ought to try making an album on it for the joy of frustration, if nothing else.

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