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Getting that portastudio vibe

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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby James Perrett » Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:52 pm

The Elf wrote:I never used a cassette multi-tracker. And I'm happy I kept it that way!

Neither did I - in fact I never got the 4 track thing at all. I did a couple of projects on 4 tracks - one cassette based and one on an old half inch Ampex and they both involved too many compromises which, I felt, got in the way of creativity.

I was much happier using a 2 track Revox and building things up in mono using sound on sound. It meant getting each sound right before recording and getting the mix right too. Punch ins were very audible so you really needed to perform the whole part all the way through. I learned an awful lot about building up songs and mixing by working in this way.

And when I finally upgraded to 8 track the Revox made a great master recorder.
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby MOF » Fri Feb 07, 2020 11:23 pm

I was much happier using a 2 track Revox and building things up in mono using sound on sound

Really?, I couldn’t wait to upgrade to my four track Teac A3440, I used my Sony reel to reel machine (formerly used for sound on sound duties) to add delay and mixed down to a cassette recorder.
I love having what technology gives us now, though I do think that once you get past thirty or so tracks it’s getting a bit overindulgent.
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Feb 07, 2020 11:48 pm

I never did the 'PortaStudio' thing either, I went from using two cassette recorders to, first a Revox A77 which was then supplemented with a Teac 3440 and then a Tascam 48. After a while in the box I returned to hardware with Akai DR8 and later DR16 followed by a Mackie MDR24/96 which I still have though I'm back ITB with an X32 as front end. But, TBF, I still don't record seriously like most on here.

What this leads me to think is that what I need to do is get my mind back on creating music and treat the recording medium and a tool to get the job done. Maybe it's time for me to consider another 'PortaStudio' of some kind......*

*Ok I'll try to just get motivated to practice some stuff to a point where it's worth recording maybe?
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby desmond » Sat Feb 08, 2020 1:34 am

I did the whole portastudio thing and always pretty much hated it, but it was all technology and funds allowed at that point.

While I have some nostalgia for those times, it doesn't mean I would want to revisit it - I don't need a reminder of all the downsides - but if people want to try out different workflows and play with different techniques, then more power to them.

When I finally got my first "proper" recorder, (digital 12-track), that synced with my sequencer, it was *amazing*...
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby nathanscribe » Sat Feb 08, 2020 12:39 pm

desmond wrote:When I finally got my first "proper" recorder, (digital 12-track), that synced with my sequencer, it was *amazing*...

Which one was it?

First digital recorder I saw up close was a couple of 4-track Soundscape racks hooked up to a PC running something like Win 3.1... not quite a portastudio! This'll have been around '94/'95. Back at home I was direct to stereo as everything was sequenced. Simpler times! In some ways, at least!
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby desmond » Sat Feb 08, 2020 1:00 pm

nathanscribe wrote:
desmond wrote:When I finally got my first "proper" recorder, (digital 12-track), that synced with my sequencer, it was *amazing*...

Which one was it?

Akai DPS12. The only one prior to that was Roland's VS880, which was 8 tracks *compressed* audio. The DPS12 was uncompressed audio, 12 tracks, and I could sync/control it via Logic... I saw the news piece in SOS about it, new it was the ideal thing for me, and then trundled up to London to go get one...

(And yes, I had to go back to Akai when all the Jazz drives started dying and were recalled...)
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby ManFromGlass » Sat Feb 08, 2020 2:32 pm

Using a 4 track cassette machine was so early on in my recording career (but not my age!) was such a thrill I never even considered it had a sound. Having 4 tracks really opened up a world of bouncing possibilities that was much easier than a 2 track with SOS.
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby CS70 » Sat Feb 08, 2020 7:34 pm

Never dealt with a 4 track or tape I'm afraid - back in these times I just went in, played the guitar and there was a guy beyond the window who took care of everything :D

But agree it's a head thing. For making music, anyways. Like for anything, if you let yourself be distracted by your tools, the most likely reason is that your music isn't exciting you enough.

In my $.10, the trick is not so much to go back to outdated and poor quality tech - no more than driving a model T would give you back the thrill of driving... but you want to get back the excitement about music of early days: listen to new music, jam with it, learn new techniques - anything that gets you out of the creative rut which makes you focus more on what you use rather than what you're using it for. We all have been there a time or another.

Unless of course it's never been the music to excite you, but using that specific tool. In which case by all means go ahead and buy another :D
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Arpangel » Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:54 am

Life, is strange, understatement.
I hated portastudio's when I had no choice, back in the 70's/80’s, now I love them, they produce interesting results, and digital seems boring in comparison.
But when digital first came out it was a revelation to me, amazing, but now it’s just boring, it’s like a lot of things, they become so good and transparent they don’t have any inherent personality or or interest, steam trains compared with a modern electric, old cars versus modern ones, the modern trains and cars are more efficient, more reliable, cleaner, but completely boring.
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby desmond » Sun Feb 09, 2020 12:29 pm

Arpangel wrote:But when digital first came out it was a revelation to me, amazing, but now it’s just boring, it’s like a lot of things, they become so good and transparent they don’t have any inherent personality or or interest, steam trains compared with a modern electric, old cars versus modern ones, the modern trains and cars are more efficient, more reliable, cleaner, but completely boring.

It *should* be boring. It should record, faithfully and accurately, what you are asking it to record. Recording is not a scenario where you want life to be *interesting* in uncontrollable and potentially disastrous ways...

The interest should be in the audio being recorded, and it's arguable that DAWs have made many of us quite lazy, but it's easy enough to invest effort in the music, the audio, create the life and interest and spark and the magic of the moment if you try. I just think a lot of people are not that engaged with the audio that's being recorded and want some effortless magic process to change it into something better than what we made...
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Arpangel » Sun Feb 09, 2020 12:51 pm

desmond wrote:It *should* be boring. It should record, faithfully and accurately, what you are asking it to record. Recording is not a scenario where you want life to be *interesting* in uncontrollable and potentially disastrous ways...

The interest should be in the audio being recorded, and it's arguable that DAWs have made many of us quite lazy, but it's easy enough to invest effort in the music, the audio, create the life and interest and spark and the magic of the moment if you try. I just think a lot of people are not that engaged with the audio that's being recorded and want some effortless magic process to change it into something better than what we made...

It’s not that I’m unhappy with what I’ve recorded, on any medium, although, it does happen sometimes!
It’s the feeling of instant tear jerking nostalgia I get from some effects, like my portastudio is an "effect" it takes me right back, it’s an intense emotional experience that just improves anything for me, like musical monosodium glutamate.
I’m not using it so much now, as I’ve got my Shallow Water pedal, which is instant time travel.
All this adds extra emotion to my music, it’s OK without it, but now, I deliberately compose for it to be added. No matter what program or instrument I’m using, my first reaction is to figure out how I can distress it.
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby CS70 » Sun Feb 09, 2020 1:21 pm

Arpangel wrote:It’s the feeling of instant tear jerking nostalgia I get

Basically the same feel I get, thinking about a ZX81.

Still no reason to go back having a 1K RAM (my wonderful 16K extension died many years ago) :D
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Feb 09, 2020 2:34 pm

Nostalgia’s not what it used to be.........

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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby desmond » Sun Feb 09, 2020 2:48 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:Nostalgia’s not what it used to be.........

It's certainly more expensive...
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby MOF » Sun Feb 09, 2020 4:23 pm

Life, is strange, understatement.
I hated portastudio's when I had no choice, back in the 70's/80’s, now I love them, they produce interesting results, and digital seems boring in comparison.
But when digital first came out it was a revelation to me, amazing, but now it’s just boring, it’s like a lot of things, they become so good and transparent they don’t have any inherent personality or or interest, steam trains compared with a modern electric, old cars versus modern ones, the modern trains and cars are more efficient, more reliable, cleaner, but completely boring.

I see you as the perfect candidate for UAD plugins using one of their interfaces in ‘unison’ mode. :lol:
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby N i g e l » Sun Feb 09, 2020 9:08 pm

I mainly use a PC DAW but also have a hard disk porta studio for working away from a pc screen. The recorder is used to produce rough demos that can then be corrected/worked on in the PC.

The stage before that is a midi workstation synth that is usefull for knocking up tryouts.

I sold my modern SD card recorder and went back to hard disk because the thing was physically bigger and easier to use !

My only tip would be to get somthing thats PC compatible [USB transfer] so the tracks can be transferred to PC DAW for "final touches".
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Eddy Deegan » Mon Feb 10, 2020 12:45 am

CS70 wrote:
Arpangel wrote:It’s the feeling of instant tear jerking nostalgia I get
Basically the same feel I get, thinking about a ZX81.

+1 :thumbup:

... though in my case I can say exactly the same about the Spectrum 48k, Spectrum 48k+, Atari 520STFM and Acorn Archimedes A3010.

... and the Yamaha DX9, and the Roland D10 (even though they were both cut down budget versions of the 7 and the 20 respectively)

... and the Yamaha SY85. No, wait, no ... not the SY85. I still use them a lot and they are every bit as lovely (and useful) today as they ever were. In fact, probably more so when working alongside more contemporary equipment. They are digital but the filters implemented in them are superbly musical.

PS: For anyone venturing into the vintage 4-track arena, I can heartily recommend the Akai Professional MG614 though finding a good one these days is difficult. With chrome tapes running at double speed the audio quality was excellent.

Referenced in https://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/the- ... -come/1628

Sound On Sound, August 1986 wrote:On show at the British Music Fair will be several new products from Akai and these include what is possibly the most sophisticated 'portastudio' type unit available - the Akai MG614. This unit encompasses all the usual features to be found on a 4-track standard cassette-based recorder, but it also boasts some very special extras.

The system has built-in computer assisted signal patching and routing for flexible monitoring, track bouncing and mixdown. There's an auto-locate facility with search, repeat, play and record functions for fast and accurate drop-ins and a unique 'fifth' track for sync code operation where a sequencer or drum machine needs to be used in sync with other material on the audio tracks.

On the audio side, the cassette will run at normal or double speed with dbx Type I noise reduction being used to keep the signal quality high. The six input channels offer two-band parametric EQ and two effects sends, each with a stereo return.


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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Eddy Deegan » Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:36 am

For completeness, with regards to the 'unique fifth track' mentioned in the marketing blurb, it's not actually a 5th track on the tape.

The MK614 sync code shares track 1 with whatever audio is recorded on it. The sync code (FSK) is at 23kHz, thus above audible range, and as such track 1 serves both purposes. That said, I did experience sync problems if I recorded anything overly toppy on track 1 so I used it for bass or vocal parts to be safe and that was no problem at all.

It does require the double-speed tape mode and limits the ability to re-record or bounce the audio on track 1 after striping the FSK but the sync works well and cannot be heard.

I used to use a TR707 for the drum parts, with the MK acting as the master. If I recall correctly this had a nice side effect in that the TR707 converted the FSK sync signal to MIDI clock on its output, thus getting a drum part for free on the TR and up to 16 MIDI channels on an external sequencer synchronised with tracks 1-4 of the MK; the TR sitting in the middle.

The caveat was that FSK didn't support mid-track locations so you always had to start the sync from the beginning of the song, rather than being able to automatically locate an external MIDI sequencer to the right location when punching in mid-timeline.

That, the extra tracks, built-in MIDI clock with support for SPP for mid-song punch-ins, lack of wow and flutter (not that the MK had enough that I noticed), basic editing features (enough to be useful) and the fact it didn't require cassettes was why I was absolutely delighted when I upgraded to a Fostex DMT-8 digital multitrack.

Even then, the DMT-8 and my SY85 didn't play well together originally, but I ended up diagnosing the cause which was that 2 bytes in the MIDI transmitted from the DMT-8 needed to be reversed to get seamless SPP support.

Whether that was the DMT or the SY at fault I can't say for sure (I suspect the DMT though) so I just wrote a little program for the Atari ST which monitored the stream and reversed the order of those 2 bytes as they passed through. I implemented a full-screen Bar/Beat indicator while I was at it.

Everything worked perfectly after that, except I started needing more than eight tracks :lol:

That was a trip down memory lane! Personally I prefer Reaper, warm nostalgic feelings notwithstanding ;)
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Wonks » Mon Feb 10, 2020 10:05 am

The EQ on the MG614 is also semi-parametric, not parametric a stated (by Akai), as the Q--values for each band are fixed.
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Tim Gillett » Mon Feb 10, 2020 10:52 am

My first "decent" tape recorder in my teens was a second hand Philips unit like this one made around 1960.

https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/philips_el354100h.html

It had only the two tracks to record with and it was only mono but with some fiddling and use of its trick record feature I was able to record three tracks. I recorded a third track over the top of the previously recorded second but it erased the highs of the second track, so the second track had to be the bass line!
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