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Getting that portastudio vibe

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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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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Albatross » Mon Feb 10, 2020 1:07 pm

Tim Gillett wrote: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!

I have two of those EL3541 machines. One, my dear departed dad gave me. It was made in the year of my birth and was the first machine i ever recorded on. I took out the valve amp rewired it all and built it into a new surround as the mechanicals were shot to bits. Still use it to this day and it sounds great.

The second i found on ebay, mainly because I'd be gutted if the other one bit the dust.

Thanks, Dad.
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Albatross » Mon Feb 10, 2020 1:27 pm

I get that portastudio vibe with an old Samsung N130 netbook, a Tascam US-122 that i got for fifteen quid off eBay, a little Spirit Notepad about thirty quid and for the proper portastudio experience a Korg Nanokontrol.

The whole lot goes in a briefcase, does a dozen stereo tracks in Reaper with ease and it all cost less than a hundred quid. Its my bitsa writing setup.
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby jimh76 » Tue Feb 11, 2020 6:32 pm

He he he.

I'm still on the portastudio vibe and have been for 25+ years.

I got my first tascam porta02 in 1994, and am currently using a Tascam DP32SD. I don't use my computer at all..... apart from sometimes for 2 track mix-downs, or if I need to correct a vocal using autotune.

To correct the vocal, I'll take the SD card out the DP32, into my laptop, correct the vocal, then put the SD card back in the DP32 and carry on.

I've got a few basic bits of outboard gear (Lex MPX550, Warm WA12, GAP Pre73, Samson Gate, Klark T KT76, RNC) which I love messing about with.

If I do use the laptop for mixdowns, I'll open up Soundforge, open a stereo 24bit 44.1 file, go from the DP32, through my RNC/Gate using my MPX550, then record, top and tail and then onto CD. But that's all I use a computer for.

I think I'm a dying breed, but I just find that the creative side is a lot easier. I've never tried the logic/protools recording onto computer type thing, so can't compare, but for me it does help only have 20 tracks or so (the DP32 is 20 track mono, or 32 track if you use stereo tracks as well). I find I'm trying to work things out whilst recording, so I don't run out of tracks.

Like I say this work's fine for me, as I think I would be too tempted to "Definitely Maybe" a song and have 12 guitars, 3 snares, 4 kick drums etc if I had unlimited tracks. (Def May is one of my favourite albums by the way, but definitely not my favourite recorded album. It's a bit too mushy for me)

Hope this helps.

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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Feb 11, 2020 6:55 pm

jimh76 wrote: currently using a Tascam DP32SD.

I had one recently-ish. I bought it to get away from computer reliance but like an idiot I didn't do my homework and when I found out it had zero support for MIDI sync I realised it was utterly useless for my needs. There is no way I'm going back to FSK or any of its derivatives!

Rather than return it I boxed it back up and put it under the table thinking it might come in useful for something one day. I then realised that DAWs are actually brilliant, got a new PC, installed Reaper and all my plugins and have been very happy ever since.

The DP got a good home in the end - I gave it to the 15 year old son of a friend of mine who really needed something like that for his guitar-based work - but it still smarts that Tascam didn't implement MIDI sync on it, and also that I didn't check before buying one (I just assumed it would have it; shouldn't they all?)

It just goes to show how a specific feature one needs can make all the difference when it comes to the usefulness or otherwise of a bit of kit.

I should have done my homework for sure, but Tascam, no MIDI sync on a 32-track hardware recorder, really? Grrrr ...
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Re: Getting that portastudio vibe

Postby Darren Lynch » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:14 pm

Part inspired by this thread, last night I got the toys out (Hootersound B1 preamp, Sansamp, Casio keyboard) and recreated my beloved Tascam DP02CF in Logic. That's eight tracks with Hi/Lo shelving EQ and now't else. I created a track very quickly, but started to feel trapped by the inability of the setup to accommodate some basic moves which are now instinctive (Check gain structure, check phase, HPF, plus LPF on the Sansamp guitars etc). So not even a portastudio environment in a DAW is especially useful when you enter, what Brian Eno calls, 'spanner mode'. And the required tools are but one tempting click away...
The irony is that my 2008 Mac/Logic 8 setup is itself antique by today's standards, but has proved reliable, day in day out. The mechanical complexities of a tape portastudio combined with being prodded continuously during operation meant mine lasted about 4 years apiece. My DAW is actually the most reliable and long-lived piece of recording kit I've ever owned.
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