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Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

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Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Marbury » Sat Nov 21, 2020 7:52 pm

As I still have my Fostex 280 4 track and a few Maxell XLII tapes, and an Awai player/recorder in my hifi set up downstairs, I was wondering what the best way to preserve the analogue signal onto the final master.

As I am on Bandcamp, I like the idea of making cassette and even vinyl releases but need to know the best process to get to the release stage. Would my DAW mixes mastered onto tape be true analogue or would this be pointless as the signal starts out digital ? The reason I ask is because Bandcamp offer a vinyl pressing service from your masters which I assume would be wav or Flac files. I also like the idea of perhaps investing in a good reel to reel to master onto (and I have some old 60's recordings made by my grandfather I would like to sample but the old Grundig machine I have needs a bit of work to fix)

Basically I am just asking do I have to invest in higher end equipment or can I get a lot out of what I have ? I like the best quality recordings I can get, as well as the low fi experimental noise/drone by making tape loops etc.

This guy seems to know his stuff but I think he has gone a tad overkill on his gear :crazy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg3AuGUQxIs&t=213s
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby MOF » Sat Nov 21, 2020 7:58 pm

Stay digital, unless you particularly want your masters to sound lo-fi, even then you can get reel to reel and cassette plugins that give you more control over how much of each parameter you want i.e. hiss, wow and flutter, overdrive etc.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Nov 21, 2020 8:27 pm

If you have a tape that you want to preserve the sound of when played on a tape machine, the best way is to record it into a DAW from the tape. Digital recording is faithful. Record a 'tape sound' into it and barring anything you do to it in the box you'll get a 'tape sound' out of it.

This goes for multitrack as well. Record the mix from the Fostex into the DAW, and if you feel you might benefit from it later, record the individual tracks also.

Tape -> DAW -> FLAC/WAV export -> Vinyl (or tape)

That way you keep the tape sound and lose the drawbacks as you've got it digitally captured.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Marbury » Sat Nov 21, 2020 8:51 pm

Ok, that sounds straightforward enough. The reason I questioned it was the Hainbach guy gave an analogy of analogue to digital as breaking a ming vase into 44 thousand pieces and reconstructing it meticulously. It would be very good but never as good as before it was broken.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby desmond » Sat Nov 21, 2020 9:05 pm

Marbury wrote:Ok, that sounds straightforward enough. The reason I questioned it was the Hainbach guy gave an analogy of analogue to digital as breaking a ming vase into 44 thousand pieces and reconstructing it meticulously. It would be very good but never as good as before it was broken.

Yes, but it's a bit of a flawed, simplistic analogy, unfortunately...
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Trevor Johnson » Sat Nov 21, 2020 9:37 pm

I also like the idea of perhaps investing in a good reel to reel to master onto (and I have some old 60's recordings made by my grandfather

A 'good' reel-to-reel to master onto would normally be a 2 track, whereas your grandfather's 1960s recordings are likely to be 4 track.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby blinddrew » Sat Nov 21, 2020 10:09 pm

Marbury wrote:Ok, that sounds straightforward enough. The reason I questioned it was the Hainbach guy gave an analogy of analogue to digital as breaking a ming vase into 44 thousand pieces and reconstructing it meticulously. It would be very good but never as good as before it was broken.
A bit of mandatory watching for anyone thinking about the whole analogue to digital conversion process: https://benchmarkmedia.com/blogs/applic ... tion-video
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Marbury » Sat Nov 21, 2020 10:11 pm

The recordings he made were mono, he didn't have a 4 track as it was the early 60s. The grundig was a later acquirement in the 80s.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby CS70 » Sat Nov 21, 2020 10:40 pm

Marbury wrote:Would my DAW mixes mastered onto tape be true analogue or would this be pointless as the signal starts out digital ?

Yes, they would be as analogue as it gets.. not a single digital bit! (see what I did there? :)

Digital and analogue are only means of transportation, like a car. The music is like a passenger in the car. A recording stored to digital is like being in a Maybach: everything is pristine and the passenger is completely insulated from the world outside. A recording stored to analogue tape is like being a cabriolet - the passenger is still the same person when he gets off, but the hair is gonna be a bit messed up.

Moving a digital recording to tape is simply getting out of the Maybach and into the cabrio.

The reason I ask is because Bandcamp offer a vinyl pressing service from your masters which I assume would be wav or Flac files. I also like the idea of perhaps investing in a good reel to reel to master onto (and I have some old 60's recordings made by my grandfather I would like to sample but the old Grundig machine I have needs a bit of work to fix)

Basically I am just asking do I have to invest in higher end equipment or can I get a lot out of what I have ? I like the best quality recordings I can get, as well as the low fi experimental noise/drone by making tape loops etc.

That really depends on why you are doing it and what you expect. Sonically tapes and vinyl are at best equal and generally inferior, for example, you need normally to cut off a dollop of bass when you master to vinyl and you are forced to make the songs sound progressively worse as the size of the circles reduce towards the center of the disc - which is probably why discs have such large labels - and of course the more you use the disc the more, literally, you destroy information - friction being a physical reality. However, these very limitations often produce masters that are better, for a number of reasons often listed in past threads.

All of which usually makes very little difference if the music is great.

And all of which makes even less than zero difference if you have hundreds of loving fans with cash ready to buy your vinyl records/cassette tape for anything that you release, or if your fans are religiously convinced that vinyl sounds better and no amount of reality can convince them otherwise, or if you've dreamed of having your name on a record/tape since you were 8.

With the band we did produce a small run of cassette tapes to use as marketing a few years ago, using an UK based printing plant. They were very professional, not expensive and extremely efficient. A great experience. Should I make tapes again, I would not hesitate to use them again.

In the meantime, if I were you I would have fun with what I have. You may be surprised on how little difference it actually makes.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby James Perrett » Sat Nov 21, 2020 10:54 pm

Marbury wrote:The recordings he made were mono, he didn't have a 4 track as it was the early 60s. The grundig was a later acquirement in the 80s.

I think what Trevor really meant was that the 60's recordings could well have been recorded on a mono machine with quarter track heads. You could switch between two tracks in each direction to double the playing time so there were 4 tracks in total across the width of the tape. You could only record or play on one track at a time but later stereo machines used both tracks at the same time.

However, there were also half track machines which used one track in each direction. These tracks were wider so gave a slightly better signal to noise ratio under perfect circumstances. Professional stereo machines used this format but recorded on two tracks in only one direction.

It may be worth saying that lots of people seem to be digging out their old tapes over lockdown and buying machines to play them on so the prices of good machines have increased quite a bit recently.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Nov 21, 2020 11:42 pm

... and this illustrates what James has explained... a 4-track mono tape is recorded like this:

Image

Tracks 1 & 3 and 2 & 4 are all mono recordings made at different times.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:57 am

Marbury wrote: the Hainbach guy gave an analogy of analogue to digital as breaking a ming vase into 44 thousand pieces and reconstructing it meticulously. It would be very good but never as good as before it was broken.

He's a cool guy in many ways, but in this respect he is wrong if only in his conclusion. Tape is a band-limited system.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby DC-Choppah » Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:31 am

Cassette releases are growing fast.

People like to have a physical object, and the limited time is like a canvas to be painted on. There is a picture of the artist, and you have to flip it over and interact with it.

It is about reconnecting to a physical tangible object.

People don't want to pull all possible music from the cloud instantly. There is no connection there. We want a tangible human connection.

But tapes also have a unique nonlinear time dependent effect on the music that actually opens up the sound in a unique way. This makes them sound 'better' than digital. People can hear this instinctively.

Its funny to listen to folks talk about the technical aspects of why digital is better than tapes. But then the fan just likes to hold the tape in his hand and feel connected.


The gear you have will make a fine tape master as long as the machine has been maintained. Check the basic maintenance on it. It needs some routine things done to keep it going properly.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Arpangel » Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:23 am

You have what you have, you don’t need anything else. And recording from cassette on to an expensive reel-to-reel is pointless, from a quality point of view, as the RTR will add a bit more noise, and another layer of analogue dirt, the cassettes are of a certain level of quality as they are, the the RTR or your DAW won’t make them any better.
I love tapes of all kinds, and their attraction is endless, we have to accept the sound and it’s limitations, it’s all part of it.
Just decide how you want to release your stuff, on what format, and take it from there, warts and all.
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Re: Making cassette releases from 4 track and DAW recordings

Postby Marbury » Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:01 am

I just got myself a Lyra 8 and a Ventris dual reverb and would like to acquire a few more bits of analogue units (see my other post) just to get me out of the virtual world for a bit (no pun intended) by twiddling real knobs and sliders and learning more about synthesis. I was just getting the romantic notion of trying to preserve the recorded sounds as best I can. The Lyra is proving more challenging than expected but I will persevere as I feel it it something special and they will become collectors items like the early Moogs in years to come. Its not a gimmick, I genuinely love sound design and drones (sound effects is my bread and butter income) so I will stick with it. Its actually refreshing to limit yourself to a box like this. You have to build up a relationship and understanding. It didn’t even come with a manual. Then I have the brilliant new Cycles software for serious loop manipulation which I still am getting to grips with, and that is before I start with all the amazing ios apps for similar manipulation of sound. There has never been so much choice but it can also be a curse. My main problem is feeling guilty that I am not using all these tools and should be but everything demands time and effort which these days is harder to manage due to the demands of so much more stuff we have going on.

I have gone off on a bit of a tangent as I seem to be going through a midi life crisis (I have done it again) My musical tastes, and style have evolved so much in just a couple of years as well as my own methods of making music I am still finding my way but I think that is for another thread.
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