Compact Cassettes.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by colby2415, Jul 12, 2017.

  1. I've recorded hundreds of cassettes over the years and mainly played them in cars. I always recorded with the Dolby on but when I played them back, the Dolby was off. You are not going to hear tape hiss in a car, but on home equipment, the Dolby really muffled the sound during playback. Adjusting the tones controls just didn't get it. It was better to leave the Dolby off and then use the tone controls to get the best sound.
    The pre-recorded cassettes were done using high-speed duplication, so sound quality was never as good as what you could do yourself at home with decent equipment. On top of that, the major manufacturers of pre-recorded tapes never used as good a tape quality as you could buy in blank tapes. On pre-recorded cassettes, the housings which the tapes were in were also not very good quality. It would be a major step up in quality if someone took the factory pre-recorded tape out of the cassette it came in and transfer it to, say, the cheapest TDK or Maxell cassette.
     
  2. Tim Müller

    Tim Müller Active Member

    Location:
    Germany
    Yes, it's either azimuth or playback gain/sensitivity of the tape.
    Azimuth must be perfect, otherwise loss of highs, and phase problems of the stereo image.
    If the tape was not recorded at proper azimuth, unfortunately the playback azimuth must be "mis-aligned" to the azimuth of that tape, to reproduce full high freq response.
    Dolby is a compressor/expander system. If the level during playback is too low, then the expander does not fully expand the highs to their normal value => sounds dull.
    Have a technician adjust the playback gain of your deck.
    Also, the sensitivity of the tape might just be too low, or it might have lost level because of ageing.
    If you are technically skillfull, you can adjust the playback gain of your deck until that tape plays ok.
    You should mark the original position of the trim pots, to be able to return to the standard alignment of your deck.
    Best regards
     
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  3. GyroSE

    GyroSE Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Sweden
    Wow, that sounds fantastic! :) Yes they are Type II/Chrome.
     
  4. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Forum Resident

    The gap in a song was never an issue for me even going back to the compact cassette because I never split a song between two sides (one of the things I disliked most about 8-track). I would also rarely split an album between two sides (only when the album was longer than 45 minutes [I used 90 minute tapes]). I had no issue with the few minutes of blank tape at the end of Side One/Side Two.

    Fortunately, my CD player had a feature that made making cassettes a breeze: Peak Search. After making a program for the side I could hit a button and it would search the entire program and repeated replay the loudest few seconds of the program. It made setting the proper recording level easy.
     
  5. Tim Müller

    Tim Müller Active Member

    Location:
    Germany
    Regarding azimuth adjustments...

    You must not use just any screwdriver. use a screwdriver of a non-magnetic material. Plastic would be suited, or some metalls or alloys that are not magnetic.

    There's a difference between adjusting the azimuth and to tinker and mess about it...

    For adjustments, you need a test tape that was recorded on a professional machine with garanteed 90° azimuth. It's either sine waves on it, so you need a scope for adjustments.
    Or it's white noise on it. Then, you can adjust by ear. For maximum high end. Adjustment tapes are recorded full track, not mono or stereo tracks. That's why you cannot make your own test tapes on your own decks...

    During playback, when the two channels are summed to mono, a misaligned azimuth makes some high frequencies to cancel out.

    Doing such "adjustments" without a real test tape means, sooner or later, you end up with your decks all misaligned, your tapes recorded to azimuth settings all over the place. So, you would have to "adjust" the azimuth for every tape you play...

    Have your deck adjusted by a service technician.
    If you have a second deck, you could use that one only a playback deck, and adjust the azimuth as well as playback gain to recorded tapes or pre-recorded tapes.

    To adjust playback level, you also need a test tape recorded on a calibrated machine. With scope and service manual, you adjust playback gain to the value found in the service manual of the deck.
    Adjustments to the level meter of your deck may not be accurate, because the level meters are not calibrated.

    Best regards
     
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  6. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    I used to use "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes from CD along with the mono button to adjust the azimuth. The track has a high level of hi-hat treble content in it. Today, I would use "I Love You" by Donna Summer.
     
  7. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Forum Resident

    Fortunately, towards the end of cassettes' reign some companies started putting a bit more effort into improving their cassettes. A&M released Synchronicity by The Police in a cassette that used Type II tape that was biased for Type I (so it was playable on all players) and it sounded very good. Unfortunately, it was likely too little too late.
     
    Grant likes this.
  8. harby

    harby Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    I'll help - this post of mine nine years ago: Digitalizing cassette tapes

    If you are doing the cassette equivalent of "needle-drops" or transfer work, then yes, adjusting azimuth is vital. In Adobe Audition, the phase view allows you to see the exact phase and group delay between the two channels, and after knowing what to expect, one can obtain optimum playback of a side.

    If you don't want to tweak every time, you can use a reference tape to know where you started (even record your own test tones first so you can put your deck back to original every time), and find out what setting plays back the largest collection of prerecorded tapes of different labels well.
     
    Grant likes this.
  9. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    And, if you really want to make the most of a cassette recording, record your source material into the computer first, tweak it to your satisfaction, then copy the results to tape.
     
  10. I mainly used Type II recording tape making my cassettes and NEVER played them back in the Type II setting, ALWAYS the Type I setting. Never had a problem and combined with the Dolby switched off, my cassettes sounded fantastic. One of the tricks was to kept the levels near peak.
    Eventhough some record companies began having their cassettes made with better or even Type II tape, they still used cheap cassette shells and you could still buy better blank tape than the pre-recorded cassettes used for about $1. Being high-speed duplicated caused the pre-recorded cassettes to have a lower sound quality than a vinyl record AND dubbing a vinyl record onto a good quality blank cassette(or using any other type of blank tape format for that matter) ALWAYS produced a superior recorded tape compared to a pre-recorded tape. Even using not the highest quality of tape recorder or turntable, but decent ones.

    Most cassette tapes were used in cars or for background music and seldom used in the home with decent quality stereo systems, so for most, pre-recorded tapes were just fine. Just before CD's entered the market, I remember companies were coming out with cassette changers for the home and even jukeboxes(which were dismal failures, but a few are still around).

    After CD's were introduced to the U.S. market, things started changing for everyone. The first CD players cost over $1.K and the CD's were $20. to $25. When the CD prices started dropping and the major record companies recognized them as a more profitable and superior medium, prices started dropping even more. I remember at my local record chain stores, like Tower Records, LP and cassette prices were up to around $8.88 and CD prices were down to $9.99. Even after CD prices started going up again, Tower was regularly having sales for $10.

    I think, after recordable CD's and the equipment to record them reached reasonable prices and CD-R drives became common in computers, the cassette tape died a quick death. I boxed up all my cassettes atleast 15 years ago and they have not seen the light of day since(and that includes a bunch of blanks). I don't think that I even have a working cassette player anymore, not even in my 1982 Mercedes!
     
  11. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Forum Resident

    I always used Dolby B Noise Reduction (NR) when recording and playing back my tapes and I don't recall having any of the issues that others have mentioned. It is likely that is because I played the tapes back on the same deck the I recorded them with. I did like the treble boost that Dolby B NR gave me when playing back my tapes on players (like in my car) that didn't have Dolby B NR.

    It's unfortunately that a different type of NR didn't become the standard: dbx. I had a deck with dbx on it and the tape recorded with it sounded great (no hiss and more dynamic range). Unfortunately it had one major limitation that caused me to abandon using it: You had to play the tapes back with dbx. Without it, the tapes sounded like you were listening to them at the bottom of a metal can.

    If I ever returned to cassettes would use an equalizer to reduce the tape hiss on playback by increasing the treble during recording, then reducing treble by the same amount during playback. It would eliminate the pumping issues I've heard about with Dolby NR.
     
  12. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    Well, that's the exact, same thing Dolby does: boosts the treble or recording, and performs an inverse EQ on playback. You only get the "pumping" when one of the two processes are out of alignment. DBX had the same problem.
     
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  13. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Forum Resident

    Grant including the following as a quote from my original post:


    The one difference would be that the treble would always be raised/reduced throughout the entire recording, rather than just when the Dolby NR decides the boost/reduction is needed (such as during what it considers quiet passages). It would eliminate that variable.
     
  14. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    Those mistracking issues would still happen if the deck isn't perfectly aligned.
     
  15. colby2415

    colby2415 Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    Nice! I need to frequent thrift stores more often for this kinda stuff.
     
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  16. colby2415

    colby2415 Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    So basically what you are saying is that you should record from say a digital version of an album? Do you mean applying a sort of eq like dolby would? I never thought of this but it actually seems like a good idea.
     
  17. One of my early car stereos, a Pioneer, had Dolby B noise reduction. You could use it with tapes or FM radio. When turned on, it boosted the sound and made everything sound great. My first component cassette deck, a Superscope CD-302A, had external Dolby capabilities. Switching it on, running through the tape monitor circuit, it improved the sound of radio and records, but playing a Dolbyized cassette on the deck with the Dolby switched on sounded muddy.
     
  18. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    No, that is not what I meant. I meant that, if you want to copy a vinyl record or cassette tape to a tape, you can utilize the digital medium to make a superior copy.
     
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  19. colby2415

    colby2415 Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    Ah I see, makes sense. This will definitely yield much better results than using pre-recorded cassettes.
     
  20. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    I meant that if you want to be exact ie. anal about your final results, why not digitize the transfer before committing it to tape?
     
  21. colby2415

    colby2415 Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    Don't tell the analog purists who might prefer vinyl -> cassette as nothing goes from digital to analog.
     
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  22. I guess that you might have been joking, but they were digitally recording sessions long before the CD was introduced and they mastered it to analog for making records and tapes.
    Of the hundreds of cassette tapes I've recorded using mostly records as sources, I've never had an adverse problem. Most of any surface noise, ticks or pops never seemed to transfer to tape. In fact, in broadcast radio, dubbing the records to tapes made the recordings sound even better. Many radio stations began recording records to continuous-loop cartridges running at 7 1/2 ips. They had a better sounding recording, more convenience and the records didn't wear out. The automated radio stations had the music recorded on 10 1/2 inch reel to reel tapes running at 15 ips. The sound quality was astonishing and to think that they used records as their source for material.
    There's no need to convert analog to digital for making cassette tapes. But, if you are doing multiple tape copies, digital is easier.
     
  23. colby2415

    colby2415 Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    Yeah, I wasn't being serious. I know there was lp's in the 80's (and maybe earlier?) that were recorded digital. Just poking fun at the whole analog is better thing.
     
  24. Daily Nightly

    Daily Nightly Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    When I got a Philips CDR770 (in 2000), for the use of making "convenience" copies of stuff: there, frankly, was NO point to any longer holding onto a cassette deck (and I'd had a TEAC V-800X 15 years-old at that time). It had served its purpose for "portability", BUT --- the dropoff between the cassette and, say: recording three-and-a-half sides onto an 1800" reel to reel (at 7 1/2ips) was MORE noticeable -to me- than the cassette vs. CDR. I'd never collected cassettes before then anyway; so, losing it had no sentimental value.
     
  25. anorak2

    anorak2 Active Member

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    I don't think anyone denies this. The thing is that under less than ideal conditions Dolby B isn't that great, and this is why some people in the thread recommended to leave it off during recording. For example I have hundreds of cassettes from the 1980s with music recorded from the radio (invaluable shows such as John Peel amongst others) on type II tapes, but from a cheap no-name brand, all with Dolby B on. Even though these tapes are nominally type II, especially their treble performance leaves to be desired, and Dolby B aggravates this. Today I play them back with Dolby B on (as you should), but then run the output through an equalizer to further boost the highs. Without the equalizer they sound pretty awful, with it they're mostly OK. I regret having used Dolby then, I think they would play better today if I hadn't. Of course you might say with better tapes and a better deck the result would be much better, but money was limited and I was thrifty (still am :)). Bottom line, in the real world Dolby B isn't always the best choice.
     

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