Is recording on 4-track cassette still viable?

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Brian Brock
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Post by Brian Brock » Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:04 am

wow - the Tape Op Messageboard giving a collective "ehh" to recording on 4-track cassette.

The times really are changing. I would never have thought I'd see this day come...

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Post by GlowSounds » Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:12 am

Brian Brock wrote:wow - the Tape Op Messageboard giving a collective "ehh" to recording on 4-track cassette.

The times really are changing. I would never have thought I'd see this day come...
My sense is that TOMB is giving an "ehh" to the OPs feeling that digital is cold/tinny and full of artifacts, and that cassettes are going to fix that.

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Post by magritte » Tue Dec 10, 2013 10:58 am

GlowSounds wrote:OPs feeling that digital is cold/tinny and full of artifacts.
Why, though?

Isn't digital well known for that, and why we have many plugins trying to simulate analog? Why we have some guys running their mixes through tape, etc.

What's wrong with acknowledging limitation? Tape obviously has limitation. I'm not saying it doesn't, just that I prefer those limitations. I prefer the convenience of digital, so it has a huge strength, too. Ideally I would like to use both for what they're best at.
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Post by dino » Tue Dec 10, 2013 12:29 pm

Although it's not been run in a while, I still hang on to my Tascam 234, and some NOS cassettes. I actually recorded a friend with it a few years ago because it was easier than dragging the computer and racks of gear out of my place. It has indeed made recordings that folks could not believe it was capable of.
I'm recording digitally now but somehow miss the sound of that old boat anchor. It was quite the machine in its day, even if that day was twenty plus years ago.
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Post by dfuruta » Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:39 pm

i think most of the people who run their digital mixes through tape or use plugins trying to simulate "analog" sound enjoy the distortions & artifacts of those technologies. there's no shame in that...

digital is objectively and measurably the winner for accuracy; analog can be better for friendly sounds. hell, if i had the money i'd be listening to everything on gramophones. there's a lot to be said for compromised objective fidelity.

some of my favorite albums, too, came out of 4 tracks. but, i don't think you can make a case that there are fewer or less noticeable artifacts than pretty much any digital system from the last 20 years.

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Post by Gregg Juke » Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:06 pm

BB-- I don't hear a "collective 'ehh'" at all, just measured, thorough, appropriate responses...

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Post by ott0bot » Tue Dec 10, 2013 11:20 pm

I think cassette is still viable. it's the only medium you can homemake something that still feels like a finished product and doesn't cost a whole lot.

several well-known local bands have been putting out cassette releases more frequently. Tapes are not that hard to find online, and Fry's electronics still carries them here. I have a stash of Maxells from a closeout sale from my old work, and could easily do a small run cassette release for about 20-30 dollars out of pocket.

It's hard to justify selling burned CD's, and printing them is not worth it. Vinyl is preferred, but too expensive. Digital downloads are great, but not fun to sell at shows. I think a cassette, t-shirt, sticker, or patch with a digital download coupon is the way to go.

the argument about sound quality is bogus. Cassettes don't sound great, and digital can be just as "warm". it's all about capturing what's there. if it sounds good in the room, digital recordings reflect that. I love digital, it's so easy to use and flexible.

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Post by red cross » Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:25 am

A cool 4 trk cassette recording someone posted on the dreaded purple site:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC2HjKm3 ... e=youtu.be

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Post by honkyjonk » Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:40 am

double post
Last edited by honkyjonk on Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by honkyjonk » Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:48 am

I hope people (some of whom have never even used a cassette 4 track) continue to think cassette sounds like crap so I can continue to find 424's for relatively cheap.

The source mentioned earlier, NAC has type II high bias cassettes for cheap. They sent me a couple samples for free and I really really dig the 771 Chrome Plus tape: http://nationalaudiocompany.com/771-Chr ... 01265.aspx

So, now I have 80 of them (min. order) From what I can tell, they're easily as good sounding as the TDK SA tapes, better even I think, and probably as good as the grey maxell XLII's, though I haven't done as direct a comparison with those. Regardless, they are definitely worth the .83 cents a piece (60 min. w/ J card and case) especially with the ebay/amazon prices for XLII's these days.

I also tried the Cobalt high bias type II's at NAC, and they sound pretty great too. They're even cheaper. But there's a little less high end. I preferred the Chrome Plus since we're dealing with 4 track here.

I know all you scientists will say it's voodoo, but I don't believe the digital medium is the most accurate. Or . . . I suppose the definition of accurate needs to be addressed. Because there's no way to adequately measure the capture of emotional depth, except to say subjectively that I hear it missing to some degree or another on all digital formats I've ever heard. Oh well, I usually don't care if shit distorts or not, unless it's just unbearably difficult to mix or something. I just want that intangible thing to be there as much as possible, and cassette isn't inherently a violator in that regard. If the machine is running right, that shit can sound amazing.

Those 234's are really really great, but I like the 424 mkII that I have now. It's easy to take anywhere and monitor things without an extra mixer. There are direct outs for putting shit on another medium. It's newer, but doesn't go for as much as the MKIII, which really doesn't have THAT many more features, maybe a couple extra channels of return monitoring? I can't remember, but they both have sweepable mid eq. I got one that was super mint for $67 plus shipping. Yay.
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Post by shedshrine » Wed Dec 11, 2013 1:15 pm

If I wanted some Tascam 424 mkII mojo, one option after I'd built a Hamptone and acquired some outboard toys was using external gain staging and coming in through the sub inputs to bypass all the deck electronics, and then using the 4 direct outs to the computer. Nice hybrid setup.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... I_crop.jpg

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Post by magritte » Wed Dec 11, 2013 1:25 pm

NAC is actually working with a manufacturer to make brand new tape (instead of new old stock). Apparently tape is back with a vengeance right now and business is booming there. I spoke with Steve yesterday, and he told me this directly. I guess what they're using now is NOS from a company that went out of business in the 90s. He said it's all temp/humidity controlled so just like new.

I wonder if the NOS will prove better than the new stuff.

And yes, I agree, I hope people continue to think tape sounds bad, because I bought a Tascam 244 today for cheap, and I think it will be able to make recordings that digital cannot (whether some want to argue that's for the better is irrelevant, imo, because it's not an either/or for me...I have a DAW and will use it if it's better for the job). I think one reason people bash tape is they assume the people using it have pro aspirations or are recording artists. Yeah, maybe for that it's not good (though we all know Bruce recorded Nebraska on a Tascam 144...), but for someone who likes a lo-fi sound, doesn't have pro aspirations, and just wants to record some stuff it has purpose. Over the past few days I've thought about this a lot and basically answered my own questions and feel owning a 4-track again so I can go for lo-fi when I'm craving it.
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Post by magritte » Wed Dec 11, 2013 1:45 pm

I bought a Tascam 244 today from a guy on CL today.

I don't know if I got a good deal or not. I paid $100 for it delivered to my door. I live near the TEAC factory, so I am going to bring it in next week to have it looked over. I'm hoping they can restore it to factory new specs, and I can have some fun on this thing.

I noticed a few issues (one VU meter doesn't light up, play works but it's depressed into the machine, and it makes a little more noise than what I'd consider normal). Hoping this isn't a money pit, but whatever, I want this thing back to new.
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Post by standup » Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:08 pm

Welcome to the club. That's probably a fine machine, pop in a cassette and see if it works. In my town, you can still go to the drug store and buy a blank cassette..... or at least you could 2-3 years ago, since then I've stocked up on Type II cassettes.

Maybe there's enough 4-track folks on TapeOp to start up a mailing address swap: record a track, send it to someone else, they record a track, send it on.

There's a group like that over at gearslutz.com, and I'm in it, (and mailed 2 cassettes out today) but I have always liked TapeOp better.

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magritte
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Post by magritte » Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:11 pm

standup wrote: pop in a cassette and see if it works.
Unfortunately I don't have any, which is why this purchase was a gamble. I am okay with money right now, so if I have to restore it more than I hope that's fine. I just want the machine to work like new.

NAC is sending me a few cassette samples.

By the way, I was told their 799 studio master tape is the best possible tape for 4-track. I know someone up above mentioned the 771 chrome plus. They told me that's the 2nd best one. I got a sample of each, and the cobalt (bassy from what I'm told), so we'll see.

I'd join an analog/tape club.
Thank you, Mario, but our princess is in another castle.

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