Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
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Larry Mal
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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:27 am

Also, Brad, you have "me" quoted as saying that "recording to tape always causes compression", but again, that's not what I wrote.

What I wrote was:

If you really want a tape "sound", some people record their whole album directly to tape these days. While that's great, you could instead just do your whole song down, get the mix in place, and then record that mix out to reel to reel.

Basically, all tape has a built in compression to it, and a "warmth" that comes from a few factors. But anyway, once you output your stereo mix to the reel to reel, then you can bounce your reel to reel back to digital, and there you have it- you now have the tape sound on your whole song.


And I will agree that should have been worded more clearly. In the context of what I was saying, which was ultimately uninteresting to you as you made your own point based on words I didn't say, I was talking about outputting a 24 bit recording to tape. That's a concept you have scorn for, and I don't recall saying that it was wonderful or anything only that you could do it and get some tape flavor.

But my point was regarding outputting a 24 bit recording to audio tape, which would in fact lead to compression of the material, but I should have said that more clearly, like along the lines of, "Basically, all tape has a built in compression compared to digital audio, less dynamic range..." and so on with my original point about bouncing digital mixes to tape. So thanks for letting me know my words were unclear.

Although I could still take a stand as saying that since cassette tapes have a dynamic range of 60 to 70 dB, and 24 bit audio has a theoretical dynamic range of 144 dB, that would in fact qualify as "compression". It's a more "compressed" medium inherently and so anything you record to cassette that had a greater dynamic range than 60 to 70 dB, would be "compressed". But that would really be me employing some legalese, the fact is, I did speak unclearly in my original wording.

And now I genuinely am done with this thread for the most part, and probably anything else like this for a while here. While I certainly have to accept responsibility for the way these things go around here, I will have to say that I am pretty stunned to see what I wrote being crudely parodied in order to make points based on things that I never said.

I always give people the courtesy on here of quoting their exact words when I disagree with them. I'm a little irritated, frankly, not to have been given that kind of respect.

Not a big deal or anything. This is yet another thread I never should have gotten involved in, a recurring theme on this site lately. Best of luck, all.
Last edited by Larry Mal on Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by øøøøøøø » Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:35 am

Larry--

My point in paraphrasing (rather than quoting) was to keep the focus on discussion of audio, rather than making it a debate between people about how well we were understanding one another.

I was hoping that by removing direct quotations, I would also remove the very human impulse to "defend" when one's point is being refuted. I do want to point out that it wasn't ONLY your points I was taking issue with-- it was the general level of discourse on this set of topics, which I felt reflected some of the most common misconceptions about both analog and digital audio and how they function.

If you feel there are issues with any of the audio-related points I've raised, I'd be most happy to engage. But I assure you, there's no need to defend yourself, because you were not being attacked. :)

On the audio-related topics you've raised (I'll use direct quotations this time, as it looks like my strategy for keeping the peace was a poor one!):
I would not have been able to write anything about the wider the spacing of the grooves on an analog disc because I don't even know if that's true sitting here right now.
It is! Groove spacing on an analog disc is called "pitch," and increasing low end or level both make for wider groove deflections, which require wider spacing.
Still I see no reason to accept a medium that allows for anything other than recording the full 20-20k... I want the medium I record to to be able to put down everything that any microphone I put in front of a sound source can capture. Why would I not?
That's fair-- but I suppose it means you don't enjoy many vinyl releases? That's a perfectly fair position, but I happen to enjoy vinyl records and think some of the tradeoffs vis a vis diameter loss are worth it!

I think top end extension is sometimes overrated with respect to whether a medium is enjoyable or not, but that's admittedly entirely subjective! :)
16 bit nature of "CD quality" has long been surpassed by 24 bit, which is better in every way I can think of
It's better in exactly one way--lower theoretical noise floor. It's also worse in exactly one way--data size/storage.

Whether a dithered 16 bit file's 120-ish dB of dynamic range is substantially worse than a 24 bit file's theoretical 144dB would be debatable... but the elephant in the room is that 24 bit converters almost always top out at about 20 bit performance "in the real world" due to practical concerns like thermal noise. 20 bit performance gets you... 120 dB of dynamic range.

So 24 bit as a delivery medium offers only tenuous advantages over well-dithered 16 bit, and takes up a LOT more disk space.
the CD as a format has been seeing plunging sales for quite some time now, I haven't double checked these figures but assuming they are correct, CD sales went from 943 million at the peak in 2000 or so, to less than 99 million less than a decade later. That's a tenth... that's a huge drop.

I don't have figures to tell me what CD player sales are, I'll imagine they have also fallen. There is no Apple computer currently made that has a CD or DVD player built into it, Dell is following suit, and I'll suggest that in five more years pretty much almost all computers one can buy will not have a CD/DVD drive built into them.

So yes, the CD is obsolete. It has been long surpassed in performance and is a fading medium that will not be well known in twenty years.
The CD has been largely replaced by streaming, the lead driver of which is Spotify, which streams at something equivalent to a decent .mp3

In light of this, I'm not sure how we can blame the CD's decline on insufficient fidelity!
What is in between two samples of audio at 44.1k? Nothing. It wasn't recorded.


What almost everyone seems to misunderstand--and it's understandable why-- is that this is literally the exact same question as asking "what happens to the audio that's above 22.05kHz?"

And it's the same as if the mechanism were a microphone whose diaphragm couldn't vibrate above 22khz, or a transformer that couldn't pass audio that high due to a bessel lowpass filtering effect, or any other mechanism that restricts frequency.

The answer is that it's not recorded. But it's also not of interest. And it's literally no different than a microphone that simply doesn't extend high enough to record 22kHz (i.e. "most of them.")

If I can sample a waveform twice at a given frequency, then I can record it. Period. Again, the graphic is problematic in what it implies, because it leads us to visualize samples as "recorded slices of time," as though there are "tiny gaps in the recording" and our brains are relied upon to "fill in the blanks," as though in a pixellated image. But that's not how PCM digital audio works, and not how it's rendered.

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by UlricvonCatalyst » Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:13 am

In the interest of diverting attention from those who would turn this thread into a discussion that might be more at home on the 'What Hi-fi?' forum (if such a thing exists), a German "indie-pop" enthusiast, who was instrumental in getting a posthumous vinyl release for some old Tascam 4-track demos I recorded a million years ago, told me that my newer - i.e. digital - recordings were "too slick-sounding".

Different strokes for different folks. Just sayin'....

I stand by my surmise that the OP's enquiry is all about the lo-fi, until I hear otherwise.

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by UlricvonCatalyst » Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:16 am

P.S. I, and a whole generation of my contemporaries, spent a substantial chunk of my youth and young manhood listening to a Walkman as often as not, and I (we?) barely noticed the alleged massive sonic compromise. It all comes down to how good the song is in the end.

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:22 am

Actually, Brad, I do enjoy listening to vinyl. Not as much now as I used to, but I used to enjoy listening to 78's on the machines of the day, usually portable record players but sometimes larger home units. I like listening to the music of the day on the technology of the day. It's like, living history.

But I am only talking about recording here, not listening. I haven't really touched on listening of music at all.

You mention, regarding CD quality,

"It's better in exactly one way--lower theoretical noise floor. It's also worse in exactly one way--data size/storage.

Whether a dithered 16 bit file's 120-ish dB of dynamic range is substantially worse than a 24 bit file's theoretical 144dB would be debatable... but the elephant in the room is that 24 bit converters almost always top out at about 20 bit performance "in the real world" due to practical concerns like thermal noise. 20 bit performance gets you... 120 dB of dynamic range.

So 24 bit as a delivery medium offers only tenuous advantages over well-dithered 16 bit, and takes up a LOT more disk space. "


Again, I just don't see how lower noise floor is not a thing that one should strive for. The people that recorded all those 78s that I used to certainly thought so, they worked tirelessly to make audio recording more realistic in various ways and to lower the noise floor at every level.

You can always add noise, for artistic effect, if you want it. You can never take it away (without making other negative changes).

I am completely unconcerned with disk space. This isn't 2006. Cloud storage, disk space, what expense is that? Compared to every other factor that goes into making a good recording, we are talking about disk space?

I know you do a lot of professional recording and I haven't in years, so I'm asking, is disk space a subject that engineers bring up with you?

"Hey, Brad, great playing. We're gonna have to go 8 bit on this one, though... disk space, man. Sorry."

Your point about dynamic range is taken, but the threshold of pain is like 130dB, so that 144dB dynamic range that 24 bit offers is overkill anyway (which I know goes contrary to some of my absolutist statements).

Also, you write (sorry, you made a lot of points):

What almost everyone seems to misunderstand--and it's understandable why-- is that this is literally the exact same question as asking "what happens to the audio that's above 22.05kHz?"

Well, right. But if you record at 48k, then 22.06kHz is not truncated or folded back, right? If you record at 96k, it's also not truncated, either- you get a lot more headroom. So since disk space isn't an issue to me, I see no reason not to record at higher sampling rates, and to get the anti aliasing filter out of the way as much as possible.

Here's a little article I was consulting regarding my reply here.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming to have golden ears here. I'm also quite willing to accept that if you sat me down and played me 16 and 24 bit recordings I would guess about as well as I would flips of a coin. Still, if the technology and the knowledge are there, I see little reason not to make the best possible capture of audio that you can.

You can make any changes you want later. You talk about a pixelated image, and that's a good concept... you might use a very small picture for whatever reason. Still, you never know, so why not capture the best and most beautiful image you can while you are taking the picture?
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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by øøøøøøø » Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:36 am

Larry Mal wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:22 am

Again, I just don't see how lower noise floor is not a thing that one should strive for. The people that recorded all those 78s that I used to certainly thought so, they worked tirelessly to make audio recording more realistic in various ways and to lower the noise floor at every level.

You can always add noise, for artistic effect, if you want it. You can never take it away (without making other negative changes).
I totally agree, in principle! But in practical terms, we're talking about noise floor that's already below the level that any human could perceive in an anechoic chamber with the loudest parts of the dynamic range well above the threshold of pain.
I am completely unconcerned with disk space. This isn't 2006. Cloud storage, disk space, what expense is that? Compared to every other factor that goes into making a good recording, we are talking about disk space?

I know you do a lot of professional recording and I haven't in years, so I'm asking, is disk space a subject that engineers bring up with you?

"Hey, Brad, great playing. We're gonna have to go 8 bit on this one, though... disk space, man. Sorry."

Your point about dynamic range is taken, but the threshold of pain is like 130dB, so that 144dB dynamic range that 24 bit offers is overkill anyway (which I know goes contrary to some of my absolutist statements).
Completely right-- I don't give a fuck about disk space when recording, either. But for delivery, I sometimes do-- like, when talking about a library of thousands of songs on my phone (so I can listen on the plane offline), it's a different story. There's a different set of priorities between recording (where I see 16 bit as woefully inadequate) and final delivery (where I see it as perfectly adequate).
So since disk space isn't an issue to me, I see no reason not to record at higher sampling rates, and to get the anti aliasing filter out of the way as much as possible.

Here's a little article I was consulting regarding my reply here.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming to have golden ears here. I'm also quite willing to accept that if you sat me down and played me 16 and 24 bit recordings I would guess about as well as I would flips of a coin. Still, if the technology and the knowledge are there, I see little reason not to make the best possible capture of audio that you can.
That's all fair enough-- the one caveat, though, is that all of this is theoretical. When we're dealing primarily in the theoretical, we become very susceptible to "just enough knowledge to be dangerous to ourselves."

For instance, one popular high-end converter sounds noticably better to my ear at 48k than it does at 96k, rather consistently. I'm not sure why this is, but I attribute it to something in the implementation, most likely. The point is, use your ears always. Resist the urge to get enticed by high numbers and impressive specs. They will lead us astray very, very, very often. Like, disturbingly often.

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:52 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:36 am

Completely right-- I don't give a fuck about disk space when recording, either. But for delivery, I sometimes do-- like, when talking about a library of thousands of songs on my phone (so I can listen on the plane offline), it's a different story. There's a different set of priorities between recording (where I see 16 bit as woefully inadequate) and final delivery (where I see it as perfectly adequate).
You make a good point there, I would love to see the end of the Mp3, which I also don't like, but I have to admit, when I record a piece of music, and want to send it to someone?

There is still a disconnect between the medium and the delivery and the format. The CD sucked, but it was better than the Mp3, but the Mp3 will live on past the CD to a degree. The cassette sucked more than the LP, but you could play it in your car.

Also, you mention that a really good 48k converter is better than a poor 96k one, that might seem obvious but it's something I have to remind myself of sometimes, I can get wrapped up in specs and numbers (you may have noticed).

Really, the best thing you can do is have experience with your machine and setup. No matter what technology you hand me, at any cost, I still won't make as good a recording as a real professional who knows his room, his mics, his board and so on.

But to answer why I'm talking about digital, I have been recommending that the OP skip the whole cassette thing entirely, and I've made the point that he already has much better tools and if he wants what analog has to offer there are much better ways to get it than cassette.

I don't know how to discuss that without comparing it to what the better tools are, though, and why they are better.
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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by øøøøøøø » Tue Oct 23, 2018 12:14 pm

Well, in the case I mentioned, it was the SAME converter that sounded better when set at 48k than it did at 96k!

But it just underscores that there are no constants. We have to use our ears all the time, every time.

I'm like you in that I don't see much utility in cassette four track for general use.

Is there validity in the format? Yes. Could someone make "uniquely-cassette-four-track" records that rely on the medium as part of the aesthetic? Yes. Is it possible that those recordings would be better artistically than if they had been made on a "better" medium? Unquestionably.

But since the OP asked:
I wanna get into analog recording but have no experience!
I do think we're justified in telling our friend that their vision of what "analog recording" connotes might not be as well-aligned with the cassette four-track medium as they may have imagined.

I remember when I got my first minidisc recorder and small stereo microphone. I remember reading on old Rudy Van Gelder Blue Note records that they were recorded direct to two-track.

And in my youthful inexperience, I took that to mean that I could make recordings that were just as good, because my minidisc was also "direct to two-track."

Not quite. :)

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by DeathJag » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:04 pm

Awesome discourse!! All television and movie dialog is BUTCHERED during the final mixing stage. They throw away everything below 800Hz and above 3kHz.

And yet we use Schoeps mics and jensen preamps to record it.

It is my opinion that unless you’re recording a flea orgy, you don’t need to record above 15kHz, but I will!

I have a Portastudio 464 and it was AWESOME. Metal tapes sounded fucking incredible! Plus mine had three speeds, and “high speed” sounded a lot better.

I also have a Tascam 38 and I used it with 4x DBX 160A units, and it sang. Man, those recordings were pretty.

But I’ve since graduated to a Presonus Studiolive 16, and life is much better. Maybe someday I’ll drag out the Tascam 38 for mastering or something, but for now, 16 tracks digital!

I should add that I’m recording ultra-trashy, mid-fi, reverb-drenched surf. So that craptastic Portastudio would be great, but I’m loving the 16 tracks...

Image
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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by DeathJag » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:07 pm

Oops

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by tdbajus » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:14 pm

God, I love this thread.

Brad, thanks for all the knowledge bombs. Larry, I can see what you are saying, but I think Brad paraphrased the questions in a way that made them answer a lot more than what you specifically mentioned, which I appreciated. I didn't feel like you were being straw-manned at any point.

Glad I tuned in today- been worth it. Thanks guys.

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by DeathJag » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:31 pm

Ooooops

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by marqueemoon » Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:17 pm

I do like 4 track cassette for the process, and some of the sonic characteristics but I wouldn’t pay a “vintage” price for one at this point.

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by shadowplay » Wed Oct 24, 2018 4:58 am

UlricvonCatalyst wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 11:16 am
P.S. I, and a whole generation of my contemporaries, spent a substantial chunk of my youth and young manhood listening to a Walkman as often as not, and I (we?) barely noticed the alleged massive sonic compromise. It all comes down to how good the song is in the end.
I agree and I'd also say I've spent a fair bit of my life buying records recorded on shite equipment in kitchens, and tape only releases and I'll happily listen to a flexidisc. I just bought a great wee elpee byCouteau Latex , that was recorded on a 4-track and I think it suits it and gives it that fanzine cover sheen. Obviously grey and numb sounding with hiss to spare when piped through the big speakas but that was the original style and it suits it and IMO sometimes getting an 'adult' in can push some music in the wrong direction.

D
I like that old time rock 'n' roll, don't try to take me to a disco.

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Re: Anyone have recs on a cassette 4 track?

Post by øøøøøøø » Wed Oct 24, 2018 6:02 am

...and that's basically the crux. We need to understand what's driving our OP.

If they've learned of four-track cassette and are fascinated by it--whether by the process, or the lo-fi character, or even the look--then I'd encourage them to take that inspiration and run with it.

Make whatever you can make. Let it be unapologetically "four-track cassette." It's a medium for art, just like watercolor or photography or collage, and if it's the medium that interests you and encourages you to make cool shit, go for it. But understand the medium.

Conversely, if they heard a beautiful-sounding recording made on professional analog equipment and, upon learning that it was "analog," thought "I want to make recordings that sound like this," then I might encourage them to go a different direction. They'd get closer to their ideal with a modern digital rig than they would with a cassette four track.

To me, it's exactly like: If someone has grown up with only iPhone cameras, and then they see a beautiful Cornell Capa print, and they think "I want to get a film camera, like a Polaroid!" It would be fair to advise them that they might, in fact, be looking for something else--and may even be happier with a modest but nicer-than-average digital DSLR camera. It doesn't mean Polaroid isn't a totally valid medium. I've seen really cool shit done with a Polaroid. But it's different.

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