Thinking about adding a cassette deck to my set-up

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by malagacoolers, Aug 7, 2020.

  1. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    I recently transferred a tape I'd made of an LP twenty years ago to digital as I'd lost the LP somewhere along the way. I swear the tape sounds better than I remember the LP itself sounding.
     
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  2. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    Agree- got my 3 head direct drive JVC deck for something like twenty bucks about 15 years ago. Definitely the best deck of the many I've owned over the years.
     
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  3. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    What model JVC?
     
  4. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    That means you need Dolby B, because the vast majority of prerecorded tapes were recorded with that.

    Given that you look at recording as an optional extra, Dolby C and other NR systems won't be necessary. You won't need support for anything else than type I type because those are the only blanks available today, even though most better decks supported type II and IV as well.
     
  5. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    You can connect the tape deck's LINE OUT to any of the unsed inputs in the Denon's "AUDIO IN" box. Just remember the label of the input you decide to use, that'll be the one the tape deck can be selected from. Unfortunately you won't be able to make recordings because the Denon lacks a REC OUT, which is normal for recent receivers. Vintage receivers and amps from the analogue era would typically have a REC output, if you're interested.

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    This cassette player that I purchased has Dolby B and C. I have to be honest, it sounds to me like it muffles the sound. I prefer how it sounds when there is an audible tape hiss. I should note that the two cassettes I bought don't mention Dolby on either of them. Will a Dolby cassette sound better? Do you even need to use Dolby B and C when playing a cassette specified as Dolby? Thanks for being patient with my questions.
     
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  7. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    You should use the same Dolby settings during playback as during record, otherwhise it will sound wrong (too bright or too muffled, depending). That means if you do your own recordings, you should meticulously write down on the cassette which setting was used during recording (Dolby B, Dolby C, or Dolby off). Prerecorded cassettes will likewhise have a note printed on them which Dolby system was used. If it just says is "Dolby" or it shows the double D Dolby logo, it'll be Dolby B even if not explicitly stated. The Dolby logo will sometimes be very small, like on this one on the right above "GT0008".

    [​IMG]

    So that one is a Dolby B. The bulk of prerecorded cassettes from the 1970s, 80s and 90s were with Dolby B, while 1960s era cassettes had no Dolby because it wasn't invented yet. The few cassettes made in the 2000s and 2010s also tend do be without Dolby because the licenses had expired, so if yours don't say "Dolby" and don't show the double D logo they likely were made without. Dolby C and other Dolby versions were very rarely ever used on prerecorded tapes, so you're unlikely to come across one. Dolby C will only occur in your household if you decide to make recordings with it yourself.

    And yes it's an improvement, it reduces tape hiss. Dolby C is better than Dolby B, and if the same setting is used during playback as during record, it'll not sound muffled but just right.
     
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  8. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
  9. Classic Car Guy

    Classic Car Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northwest, USA
    Teac / Tascam still makes the recorder player. (not as good as the 80's)
    as far as cassette tapes yes. National Audio Co. USA still makes them from tapes all the way to the jacket. The normal bias position is actually better than the 80's-90's tdk-d90. they also have high position bias tapes too. I haven't tried it yet. But Ill tell you the normal bias I recording from the 80's and they still sound good on my sony 3 head and 300b amp.
    I have close to 45,000 collections and recording. nothing better or best but I wont trade it to a cd sound.
    you might wanna pickup an old teac to start with. hopefully you get a fresh one for $100.00 and change the belt. I suggest try not to buy the popular ones. chances are theyre already been beaten up. I had 2 teacs that I been using since the 80's. Not the best sound but its up there, never ate a tape, no mistakes, a true work horse and its well under-rated player which actually was good for I had a chance to pickup my backup in the 90's like new and its still great today.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
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  10. Classic Car Guy

    Classic Car Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northwest, USA
    Its a very good deck. I actually use that as a recorder. Its really magical even on normal and ferric-chrome. The problem with those machines nowadays its so popular and been passed on to so many people. unless you find one it the box and hardly used.
     
  11. Classic Car Guy

    Classic Car Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northwest, USA
    you might wanna ask the guy @john morris I think he works on those a lot and he's totally up to date on cassette decks and very knowledgeable.
     
  12. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Both the cassettes I bought dont specify Dolby anywhere on them. They are both newer tapes purchased from Tapehead City. When I selected Dolby B on one of them, it just sounded really muffled and unnatural. However, your response is suggesting that is the way it should sound? Perhaps it's a case of my ears not being use to proper playback?
     
  13. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    No. As there is no indication of Dolby used on them, you should set Dolby to off, and then it'll sound right.
     
  14. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    If the cassette doesn't say Dolby "B" then it probably isn't. Dolby "C" is different -- it is a reduction system designed to be used on your machine and when you record on your machine. You will not buy a pre-recorded cassette that says Dolby "C". Many modern cassette lovers prefer non-Dolby tapes because, even with the hiss, the analog purity is better. Find that my pre-recorded tapes from the 60s, before Dolby, still sound very pleasant -- and have plenty of hiss, too.
     
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  15. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    :shake::yikes: Good advice but be careful. Many mastering engineers have done the same thing. "Doesn't say Dolby A on it......So I will play this quarter inch tape back with no NR.."
    Noooooooooo!! (Like Darth Vader from the end of Episode 3.) And many times they were wrong.
    The use of Dolby A became so prominent that studio staff stopped writing it on the boxes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2020
  16. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    I always listen to cassettes with Dolby off.
     
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  17. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    With only Type 1 tapes being able to buy you would think they would at least encode with Dolby B.

    Check out your Dark Side Of The Moon CD. Nice and quiet eh? Like the analog purity?
    Now take off the Dolby A decode. Now add 10 more db of noise to your CD.

    A good 3 head cassette deck might manage 60 db 'A' weighted. Maybe 63 db with a real hot level and Metal tape. That is 61 db unweighted. Now you have the dynamic range of a quarter inch 1958 3 track. Noisy as all hell! And that is IF you have a Metal tape. For a TDK D or some other Type 1 tape 61 db 'A' weighted is the most you are gonna get. And 61 db is super noisy. That is not a bit of noise.

    All figures are 'A' weighted @ 0VU @ 15 ips. Except where indicated:
    * 2 inch 16 track in 1975.... 66 db
    * 2 inch 24 track in 1975....64 db
    * Typical quarter inch 3/4 track from
    1965...60 - 62 db
    * Studer A800-24 Mark 1 (1973).....66 db
    *Stephens 2 inch 40 track @ 30 ips.... 67 db
    * 3 head cassette deck.....60 - 61 db W/ Type 1 tape.
    * Average 2 head cassette deck..... 59 db W/Type 1
    * Four track cassette recorder. No DBX....54 db
    * 1987 Studer 827 with modern tape..... 70 db
    With Dolby SR....100 db.

    It is personal of course but you might want to look at what a little it of noise sounds like. A 3 head cassette recording with a Type 1 tape is not a quarter inch half track recording at 15 ips.....Or 7 1/2 ips......Or 3 3/4 ips for that matter.

    Thousands of analog masters and 2 inch 24 tracks tapes are Dolby A / SR encoded for a good reason. But each to his own. I would never make a tape without a least Dolby B. Don't try that with Beethoven's 9th. :mudscrying:
     
  18. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    Yes to analog purity. Even with the hiss that you usually only notice between songs.
     
  19. Bruno Primas

    Bruno Primas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    If the azimuth of the play head is not aligned, Dolby mode will sound terrible. If adjusted properly on a deck with no other issues, the playback won't be muddy-sounding when using Dolby, you'll just cut down tape hiss.
     
  20. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    That is true with cassettes made in the past decade or so -- very few of them are Dolby-encoded anymore.

    But back in the '90s and early 2000s, most cassettes produced by Sony-owned record labels (including Columbia) did not have any indication of Dolby on them, but were in fact Dolby B encoded.
     
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  21. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    I used to myself; it added necessary treble, although I suspect my top-end castrated Technics speakers were the culprits. It wasn't the case with my LPs, so I can't be sure.
     
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  22. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    John: Interesting that you raise the professional Dolby "A" and "SR" systems as I have been using them in my home studio for the last two weeks with a Dolby 363 unit. They are very powerful and provide, generally 10-15 dB of reduction for "A" and 25 dB or more for "SR." SR has been used continuously in the industry since the late 1980s and is, IMHO, Dolby's magnum opus. You can still get some minor pumping with "A" but SR is over-the-top good as an audio experience.
    Don't want to get into this area too much as it is a cassette thread -- will just add here that the two pro Dolby formats are not used in the cassette world and for recording purposes are not appropriate as they require very careful calibration to the recorder on the input side and the mixer on the output -- that most home setups will not have.
    BUT, do want to add that I have been copying my own SR Dolby takes from studio R2R machines (Otari MX-5050 and MTR-10) to a Nakamichi MR-1 for transfer listening tests and have tried 3 cassette options: straight, Dolby B and Dolby C. Since these are my takes and the studio tapes are well listened to, can make these conclusions with accuracy:
    1. the straight transfers are the most accurate from a timbral standpoint; at the same time, they are noisy to listen to.
    2. the Dolby "C" transfers are the quietest (S/N of >70) and, overall, most pleasant for general listening.
    3. Dolby "B" is the worst of all worlds -- somewhat quiet (S/N of >64) but with the dreading pumping (sudden volume shifts) and, overall, less timbral accuracy.
    Mostly, I listen to pre-recorded tapes on my 3 cassette decks. I like the cassette sound and liked it back in the 60s-80s when I preferred cassettes over vinyl. Fortunately, I still have all of the tapes I purchased then and most of them sound great. When I make a tape now, have decided based on the above, that I will automatically use Dolby "C." as the reduction option.
     
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  23. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Cool. Dolby B works well when Dolby levels are set right. Unfortunately that doesn't happen too much. Had a 3 head Nak 582. The Dolby B tracked perfectly. But then my Nak had a manual calibration system with mechanical average peak meters. I could align my machine to a .25 of a DB.

    Dolby A only pumps when the tape machine isn't aligned or calibrated properly. I have transfered lots of Dolby A encoded tapes. The problem isn't with the NR systems but badly aligned machines. Came across maybe 3 - 5 Dolby A encoded tapes that pumped. And it was minor. Most of the Quarter inch half track tapes from 1968 - 1984 were Dolby A encoded. Also it could be the compressor over the stereo bus. Perhaps that is what you are hearing. If you having problems with Dolby A tapes it is not because of some flaw in the system. It is because of misaligned machines. Thousands of Dolby A encoded tapes have proved that. Hear any pumping on DSOTM? NOPE? Crime Of the Century? No Answer? Nope. Dolby A has a proven track record.

    Dolby B is compatible with systems that don't have it. Trying playing a tape back encoded with Dolby C without
    the decode. Fun!

    Telecom 4 was used for awhile and it didn't pump as it didn't rely on the proper calibration of record or playback heads. But it came to late and Dolby SR saved the day.

    My point was that recording a cassette with no NR is not practical. Even a three head cassette deck with a Type 1 tape is just too noisy. My mentioning of pro RTR was to compare the signal to noise ratios so people could see the difference. For example many engineers used their 2 inch 16 tracks without any NR back in 1972. But back in 1972 a 2 inch 24 track was noisy as crap. If an engineer is throwing Dolby A (8 - 10 db. The 15 db I have not heard) on his 2 inch MCI JH24 with it's 62 db unweighted signal to noise ratio why would anyone record a cassette without NR when it boasts a wimpy 59 db unweighted at best? So the RTR in this thread is relevant. Neither I nor anyone here will object to you bringing in your experiences with NR Pro systems. Please post this if you wish sir. I would love some Pro RTR feedback. Many on here are audiophiles and wish to know how theses various Pro NR worked and their various problems. If you post about Pro NR systems and others object I will come to your defense.

    This is why I brought it up. But since you work in the field as I once did then i assume you know all this. But many others don't. Many of my posts are for everyone.

    The Studer A800-24 Mark 1 (1973)
    Ampex ATR124 (1979)
    Stephens 2 inch 40 (1973)

    These machines were the exceptions back in the 1970's. 2 inch 24 and 40 track machines you could use without NR at 15 ips. But back between 1969 - 1984 2 inch 24 tracks were not as quiet as they are today. Even if you are using an old machine the head stack is new. A 1987 Studer 827 with the hot tape formulations of today can pull off 68 db unweighted without NR. That is DAMN quiet. But back in 1972 things were different.

    History lesson for everyone.
    The 2 inch 16 and 24 track came out at the same time. The Ampex MM-1000 16 / MM1000 24. The MM1000 24 was super noisy and badly needed Dolby A. Many orders were placed in 1968 but no one received their Ampex 16/24 tracks until 1969. The 2 inch 16 track tape machines around in 1967/1968 were prototypes. Like the one in Mira studios. But you couldn't order one off the shelf. There is even an early 3M 24 track prototype. Rumored.

    In 1967 Scully banked everything on their 1 inch 12 track. (284-12). Only 60 sold. It is in fact the rearest multitrack in existence. Scully's 284-12 had the same specs as their well selling 284-8. The only difference was that the 12 track was 1 db noisy.

    Someone wrote a letter to 3M, "If these guys at Scully can make a good sounding 1 inch 12 track then you should be able to manufacture a good 2 inch 24 track. Same thing right?" Apparently the 3M 2 inch 24 track prototype of 1968 sparked the interest of Ampex. Now the 3M 24 track prototype of 1968 is a rumored to have been built. It was never sold to any studio.

    One small problem. Ampex had never made a 1 inch 12 track before. The MM1000 24 was noisy and wasn't really good.

    So although 2 inch 24 were around by 1969 (off the shelf) studios didn't really start to use them until 1971. 3M, Otari, Tascam, MCI and others started to make 2 inch 2 track machines. By 1976 the 2 inch 24 track had become the pro studio standard. Let me clarify this. Of course from 1973 to 1975 24 track recorders were heavily in use. No argument there. But many studios still had only 2 inch 16 track machines. Many engineers felt the 24 track machines just weren't as good. And they weren't. The bottom and top end weren't as good. And they were a lot noiser. And more than a few pro engineers were NOT in love with Dolby A and less so with DBX Type 1. Which brings us back to the NR issue.
    In 1975 they were still a few major studios that refused to switch to 24 track. Rush's first album on 1974 was done on a 1 inch 8 track. Even by 1974 Abbey Road Studios were still using 1 inch 16 track. DSOTM had to be bounced down to a second 16 track tape. So the first tape had no NR. But when Alan Parsons bounced down to the second tape he used Dolby A. David Bowie's, "Ziggy Stardust" was also recorded on a 16 track machine.

    Tascam takes credit for the 24 track format becoming a studio standard. Considering most studios had: Studers, 3M, MCI or Ampex thst is a bizzare claim. I know Tascam had some good 2 inch 24 track machines in the market but in no way were they "leaders" in the 24 track market. The 24 track machine become the defacto standard because:
    1. Prices went down
    2. The quality of the machines got better
    3. By 1976 every pro studio had one. So if you made a 24 track tape in Boston on a Studer, you could take the tape to New York and add an orchestra there on an Ampex.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2020
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  24. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    There’s a price to be paid for reducing “noise”. A reduction and altering of important and irreplaceable information and sound. Musical sound.

    The “noiseless” muffling effect. I want things wide open. Not with a blanket over it, dampening the hiss. Because noise reduction doesn’t involve surgical precision. It’s holistic similar to chemotherapy. Rather than somehow only taking away hiss with no other sound removed.

    Analog cassettes will never sound crystal clear like CD’s. But I still prefer the advantages of analog. Even if that means a little hiss between songs. Which I realize would be totally unacceptable with today’s modern “clean” digital recordings.
     
  25. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    John: Your posts are always the best because you feel free to provide historical and reference information; CONGRATS!
    A few points: the 10-15 dB figure I provided comes from the Dolby Model 363 Specifications sheet that describes 75-80 dB for 15ips tape machines. I back-engineered this for my Otari MX-5050 deck that does 63 dB at 15 ips and rounded it off to 10-15. Any differences are not particularly important here as other factors (loudness, etc.) impact the final result.
    Am a bit confused concerning your comments about A reduction and alignment/calibration issues. Dolby A records its own noise as preparation for the take and, provided this noise is there, do not know how the decoding could be incorrect because the decoder reads this noise. Perhaps you are referring to later misalignment problems. I assure you that my system is correctly aligned and that I have heard minor pumping -- but it is, just a hint and only audible on the best studio reference monitors.
    The best document I have found for explaining, in detail, the nature of A versus SR is a sales document given to me by the gentleman who sold me the 363 unit -- who worked for Dolby and Otari for years. This Dolby document, titled Dolby SR: Dolby Spectral Recording is NOT, unfortunately, available on the web and I only have a hard copy. But it does a superb job of explaining the fourfold, fixed nature of Dolby A and the variable nature of SR that includes masking and other human acoustical considerations. Lots of charts, data, and engineering information. Again, for me, SR is the best system for reduction.
    NOW, the machines you describe are some of the best -- but, these days, they are getting rarer and rarer. You probably know that ATR rebuilds Ampex decks and, for a measly $25k and up, you can get an excellent performer.
    Many of us, however, use Otari decks because they were built like tanks and you can still afford them. Their numbers are dwindling. BUT, they were known during the day as excellent performers and, especially, for their S/N capabilities.
    The MTR-10 that I am currently rebuilding, has a 30ips figure of 73 UNWEIGHTED (!) and 79 weighted. This makes it, of course, suitable for use without any reduction at all.
    The studio I purchased the MTR from had it set up for playback only, connected directly to the 363. 30ips tapes sent to them (SR encoded) would, therefore, have a true S/N of 108! This is serious quiet and was professionally used for many years in this century to provide analog waveform accuracy, "warmth." and complete quiet.
    So, keep those comparisons coming and consider the addition of the Otari lines -- built like tanks, looking like washing machines, and excellent performers that rival Studer in audio excellence.
    AND, John, when you find that extra Studer A810 lying around your place, give me a PM. Would consider passing along a few dollars for such a machine...(LOL)
     
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