Thinking about adding a cassette deck to my set-up

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

  1. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Forum Resident

    DRM: Your approach is, to me, the new view of cassettes and analog reproduction in general -- you will take the noise to get the waveform integrity.
    Since I started hearing this argument during the last year, have tried it myself and have gotten far more accepting of background noise. When I was used entirely to digital, could never listen to my older cassettes; the noise put me off immediately.
    Now, I consciously tune this out and drift into the timbre -- the vocal accuracy, instrumental attacks, etc.
    If you can handle the noise there is genuine value here and you realize that.
    You do know, I suspect, that if you listen to Dolby B tapes with the reduction off, you ARE NOT getting waveform integrity. The signal has been altered with treble boost and dynamic compression. So, what you are getting is an altered version of the performance that might sound more immediate because of the treble boost. But it will not be more accurate. Correct B decoding will provide a more accurate waveform when the original has been B encoded.
    Speaking of which, azimuth correction is the key here as noted above. This is why the Nakamichi Dragon and 680 lines, with their auto azimuth correction, are so sought after and expensive.
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  2. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Toronto, Ontario

    Oh I gave that A810 to the Sally Ann. :unhunh:
    We have an old Sony 1600, MM-1100 24 that doesn't work, and a 3M M23. And 8 Dolby A 301 units. Uncle Jack collects this stuff. When everyone was selling their 301 units back in the 1980's he kept his. These are the 1960's single channel units.

    The cheque is in the mail.
    Even a 66 db A weighted signal to noise ratio. (2 head 1985 cassette deck with Dolby B Type 2 tape) is enough to record music. Most of the 2 inch 16 track tape machines from the 1970's were 66 db A weighted. And a quite a few engineers didn't use any NR. Maybe that is why
    there is hiss on my early 70's CDs. Dolby A haters! Wow. 118 db. You can record a fruit fly passing gas with that. The 30 ips speed has me worried. If you had a half inch half track I could see the 30 ips choice but don't you risk damaging your bottom end with the higher speed? All quarter inch half track masters are done at 15 ips as you know. 30 ips would make it quieter
    and extend the top end. But the bottom end would suffer. I have seen Japanese copies that were done at 7.5 ips for this reason.
    What are the specs like for the 30 ips speed as compared to the 15 ips speed?

    Oh SR is better than A. No Argument there.
    Yes, Dolby A can provide up to 10 - 15 db of NR. More than often 10 db. I always quote 10 db. Well up to 15 db of hiss reduction at 15 khz. What does Mclover say, "Bare minimum." The average 2 inch 24 track between 1973 - 1983 was 62 db unweighted. So with Dolby A ($1500 USD which is $10 000 today!) That would be 72 - 77 db uweighted. Dolby A was introduced in May of 1966. Many of the web articles get the date way off. Some say 1965 and some say 1967. The single units made Dolby A expensive. 8 units in 1969 would be $12 000.

    Ahhh the 850 hz Dolby 'A' blip tone!
    Unfortunately I find too many idiots (who got to the tape before I did) edited it out. I thread in a 2 inch 16 track Dolby A encoded tape from 1975 or whatever and the 20 second Dolby 'A' 850 hz blip tone is gone. Some smart person had snipped it off. They are work arounds as you know but crap!

    As you know you test tones didn't start appearing on 2 inch 16/24 track tapes until 1980. With the exception of the Dolby 850 hz blip tone. That is crazy! It is common practice to make a copy of a multitrack tape. Frequency tones allow me to set levels for copying. For 24 bit 0VU =
    - 18 dbfs RMS. Just 10 lousy seconds of a 1 khz test tone at the beginning of the tape would be nice. Asking too much? Well the lack of tones is another issue....:rant:Common for the last 60 years or more for quarter inch masters but for multitrack tapes they came late to the ball game.

    Nope. The history lesson will cost you $5.

    Yea, sorry about that I was thinking of DBX Type 1. But I have transfered tape copies that were made from a Dolby A master and the engineer didn't align/ calibrate his tape machine properly on playback when the dupe made the copy. Ahhh!

    Because of the shortage of usable Dolby A units many studios transfering Dolby A tapes are using the 363 plugin. Any thoughts on this? For a two track tape that is one thing but for a 46 track (2 24 track tapes) album it gets crazy.
  3. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    I have heard this argument in this forum. That leaving Dolby off “boosts” the treble. And my belief is that it is not adding treble where treble didn’t already exist. It’s merely allowing the listener to hear, unaltered, the full frequency and treble of the recording. I never use Dolby. And it’s not just an azimuth issue that needs corrected.

    I want to hear all of the sound. Not a Dolby altered version. Whether it was recorded with Dolby or not. The new cassette decks that I’ve bought didn’t have azimuth issues. And the music to me from prerecorded cassettes played on the new decks sounded better with the Dolby off. As it does on all of my decks.

    Leaving Dolby off lets me hear analog purity. If leaving Dolby off allows me to hear the full recording with all of the available treble and some want to call that “boosted” treble, that’s fine with me. I always keep the eq higher frequency dial on a mixer all the right to the right. When it comes to treble, I want to hear all of the treble, even if some declare that makes the recording too “bright”.

    I’ll take bright over dull/noise free... but others feel differently, I realize.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
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  4. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    One of the problems Ray Dolby ran into is that background hiss is often perceived as making the audio sound brighter. He did tests of playing the same recording twice, once unaltered and then again with hiss artificially added to it. Most listeners perceived the version with the added hiss as sounding brighter and the version without the hiss as sounding duller.

    So any noise reduction system is going to be accused of "muffling" the sound, no matter how faithful it is to the original recording, as long as people have the chance to compare it to hearing the same music with the hiss caused by playing it without noise reduction.
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  5. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    Not to quibble too much, but not sure if “artificial hiss” unnaturally added is comparable to naturally occurring hiss or background “noise”. The sound information some deem unacceptable and flawed. Unclean. Not saying that this introduction of artificial hiss makes his experiment totally flawed. Tainted, possibly.

    Again, I know there are other valid points of view on this issue. Some of which, to some degree, comes down to individual preference. The “integrity” of a recording can be debated on both sides of the Dolby issue.
  6. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Forum Resident

    John writes:
    "What are the specs like for the 30 ips speed as compared to the 15 ips speed?"
    They are interesting because the bass for 15ips is so much better:
    15ips = 18-27k (+.5, -2)
    30ips = 42-29k (+.5, -2)
    So you correctly note there is a trade off. Am using my MX-5050 right now to record at 15ips w/ Dolby SR and the result is fine -- very acceptable. Without the dolby? It's 60 dB or so and you can hear a lot of hiss in the studio. This machine has been aligned and calibrated from the ground up and represents what a 5050 can do. The MTR-10 is in another league. My headstack is being redone now and will not have it back for several weeks so there is a pause for tests at 30ips.
    The 363 unit has a procedure for aligning the machine to tapes made in other studios AND it starts with the assumption that you have a playback tone-- either the A "screecher" or the SR multi-channel warble. YOU CAN, however, skip this test and use the AutoCompare mode to try and get an acceptable result and this is laid out in the manual. Have not tried any of this and suspect it will be a chore.
    What I am now interested in is the capabilities of lacquer cutting houses -- whether they still handle SR tapes and whether you can specify 30ips, IEC EQ, 320 Flux (=high) and that the tape starts with the SR warble then gets decoded. The folks I am talking with on Tapeheads do not know and so will be using Internet contacts to talk directly with the cutters when that time comes.
    john morris likes this.
  7. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    San Diego, CA
    Currently browsing Discogs for tapes and came across a cassette from The Cure that states it’s a reissue featuring Dolby HX Pro. I don’t believe my current deck supports that. My question is, will that cassette sound better than the original release? Does a cassette deck need to have Dolby HX Pro in order to hear the quality of a tape that is marked as Dolby HX Pro? Thanks!
  8. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    HX Pro does not require any special decoding. Its advantage can be enjoyed on any player.

    What is "Dolby HX Pro"? | Sweetwater
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  9. malagacoolers

    malagacoolers Active Member Thread Starter

    San Diego, CA
  10. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    Even as someone already answered the question, I did find the following link copied below. I have plenty of cassettes that have HX Pro and HX Pro overall definitely was an advance.

    Even as my original UK first issue paper label Beatles cassettes, without HX Pro, remain my favorite sounding Beatles cassettes. With the most variable dynamics, in my opinion.

    Here’s the link I found:
    HX-PRO recorded tape played on non HX-PRO deck? - Tapeheads Tape, Audio and Music Forums
  11. MusicNBeer

    MusicNBeer Forum Resident

    I just repaired my old Onkyo TA-2600 3-head Dolby B/C HX Pro deck. It needed a new belt, the original literally has disintegrated to mush. Adjusted azimuth also and it's as good as new.

    It was fun to get it back running, but now what? Back to the closet...
    doctor fuse likes this.
  12. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    I’m wondering why you put any effort into fixing it. Doesn’t sound like cassettes are your thing.
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  13. MusicNBeer

    MusicNBeer Forum Resident

    Haha. Yea I guess but I hated having it broken. I got it new in 9th grade 30+ years ago so it was neat getting it running. All caps look perfect. Balance pot is a bit scratchy but that's it. It's a neat piece of electrical/mechanical equipment. Soldering is top notch, I guess as expected made in Japan.
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  14. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    Good for you. A while back I bought 3 working Yamaha multitrack cassette recorders that I haven’t even used yet but unfortunately, knowingly, also bought some broken Fostex multitrack cassette recorders for cheap prices, thinking maybe I could fix at least one of them using the parts from another. Replacing the belts. I found this to be particularly difficult, with the belts very hard to get to.

    I saw a photo in this Forum in the last month of a circuit board that someone cut to fix a cassette deck and replace a belt. I didn’t even know you could do that without messing up the circuit board.

    These broken multitrack recorders almost “haunt” me, the more time passes. Unfinished business. Sometimes I feel like writing them off and just throwing them away.

    So congratulations on being able to repair what sounds like a very decent deck.

    I bought a used one of these in decent condition in 2018 for 60.00 plus 20.00 shipping. I still haven’t used it. Maybe someday:

    Yamaha MT4X Multitrack Cassette Tape Recorder Analog 4 Track - Includes Original | eBay
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2020
  15. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Toronto, Ontario

    Have used the auto compare feature. Not fun!
    I have gotten masters or copies where all the tones were cut out from the reel. No Dolby A tone, no 1khz tone for setting levels. Nothing!
    Not fun!

    If a cutting place can't handle 30 ips quarter inch tapes with Dolby SR IEC EQ or Dolby A go elsewhere. They are amateurs! Dolby A/SR is heavily in use. And lots of new vinyl today are old releases like Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Supertramp and Wet Wet (I remixed some album of theirs. I think.) And many of these tapes are Dolby A encoded. And anyone that uses analog tape today will use Dolby SR. Many studio users will mix down to half inch half track to avoid using any NR.

    Do you mean 60 db unweighted RMS, unweighted PEAK or 'A' weighted? For our readers who are mostly consumers I would prefer that we stick to the 'A' weighted.

    1. Because I am a control freak :D
    2. Most of the members here buy consumer products. The signal to noise figures are always listed as 'A' weighted because it looks better. Most of the people here who purchased cassette decks back in the day only know of the 'A' weighted figures and they are familiar with that. If I say 60 db 'A' weighted every knows it is a 3 head cassette deck, recording on a Type 1 tape with no NR. But just 60 db or 60 db unweighted will confuse many here.
  16. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Toronto, Ontario
    Well said. There was a Nad 3 head deck that had a manual azimuth height playback adjustment. It was big knob on the cassette deck. You put in the tape and moved the knob counter or counter clockwise until you heard maximum treble. Much better than auto adjustment because it didn't break down.
  17. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Berlin, Germany

    No. Dolby HXpro is completely different from Dolby B and C. HXpro is only applied during recording, it improves the performance without distorting it. During playback there is no special setting that you need to benefit from it so any deck is good.

    As opposed to Dolby B and C where the frequency response is intentionally "bent" during recording, so it has to be "bent back" during playback in the exact same manner; which is why the playback deck needs to have the same system on board as was used during recording. It is the "bending back" that reduces hiss.
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  18. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    A very important element of good analog sound is to have a recorded cassette that is not overly compressed and brick walled. That doesn’t push the meters right up to the red zone. One that has variable and lively dynamics. Otherwise, many of the advantages of analog are destroyed.
  19. john morris

    john morris Everybody's Favorite Quadron

    Toronto, Ontario
    I always thought everyone knew about Dolby HX pro and then my twin sister reminds me that, "John, you are super old.....You started school the same year America pulled their troops out of the Vietnam War....." I grew up with: 8 track cartridges, 70 mm 6 track films, black and white TVs, 11 cable channels and Lords Prayer in Public School. And a can of Coke with a 100 gram bag of Hottess chips for 50 cents. I lived Dolby B and C and HX pro. But a guy who is 30 or 24 hasn't. And why should he know anything?
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  20. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    Of course, some younger people know things that us older people (I was born in 1956) don’t know. And they will learn things in the coming decades that we will miss out on.
  21. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    You have a lot of knowledge and experience in sound recording and equipment. Even if I don’t always agree with you.
    MusicNBeer likes this.
  22. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    THIS is a multitrack that I REALLY would like. But it’s definitely not in my budget. And even if I somehow decided to put forth this much money to buy it, it might sit around for years like some of the other things I’ve bought in the last 5 years:
    TASCAM 238 Syncaset 90 Day Warranty Multitrack Cassette Recorder Pro Refurb TEAC | eBay
  23. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    Rule number 1: Avoid auto reverse machines. Just don't go there as these mean lots of unnecesary compromizes.

    Rule number 2: If you plan to record, then you need both a fine bias control and 3 heads. Fine bias gives you the ability to tune your deck to the tapes that you can actually find. And 3 Heads gives you the ability to monitory your recordings while they are in progress. There are a handful of superb 2 head machines, but only a handful, so why bother with one of these today?

    Rule Number 3: I also would not buy a deck with less than two motors. One motor machines have needlessly complex mechanism with lots of belts and rollers to fail. They also have much higher Wow and flutter.

    Form here it is all down to recommendations, rather than rules.

    Closed-loop designs do have the potential for significantly lower wow and flutter. But these also have more belts, and belts eventually fail. So if you care about having inaudible flutter, then a closed-loop transport is pretty much mandatory.

    Dolby HX is great if you plan to record, but it is useless if you don't. And Naks heads were so good that they didn't require it.

    If a machines has soft-touch controls, then it must be either a 3 motor machine, or it needs to be solenoid activated. Otherwise one of the drive motors is doing either double or triple duty by having the drive the mechanism as well. But if you rule out 2 head machines, then you will also rule out this issue, as I've never even heard of a 3 head machine with soft-touch controls that were not driven by either solenoids or a dedicated third motor.

    Low wear on the heads is pretty important too. But most people will not be able to judge this on a cassette deck. However as a general rule of thumb: Sendust, Ferrite, Amorphous, as well as Nakamichi's crystaloy heads all lasted much longer than did Permaloy heads.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  24. doctor fuse

    doctor fuse Forum Resident

    I know, right? I didn't fix my deck, but after setting it up, making some vinyl dubs and listening to them a couple of times, it has just.....sat there for 2 years.

    Still, the 70s teenager in me feels like a hifi system is not complete without a cassette deck.
    MusicNBeer and DRM like this.
  25. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    Any reasonably priced purchase suggestions?

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