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  #1  
Old 2008-12-14, 04:44 PM
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desiderus desiderus is offline
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tape transferring

Iíve been thinking about getting myself some gear for transferring cassettes. Lately people been helping me out transferring my tapes, but I really would like to get into transferring tapes myself. I was hoping some of you want to exchange some knowledge about transferring tapes.

At the moment Iím looking into getting a new cassette deck for doing my transfer, my old cassette deck sadly enough doesnít work any more. Anyone has some recommendations brands/models. Iíd like to get a good deck, but it has to be affordable at the same time.

I hope anyone has some tips about getting started and is willing to give me some advice getting things arranged.

Thanks!
Des
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  #2  
Old 2008-12-14, 05:14 PM
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Karst Karst is offline
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Re: tape transferring

I'm using a Maranz set up. It records on a CD-R straight from the tape (not through the amp). Then I take the disc and load it up on my comp.
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  #3  
Old 2008-12-14, 08:05 PM
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Audioarchivist Audioarchivist is offline
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Thumbs up Re: tape transferring

I can't stress this enough - adjusting the azimuth (tape head alignment) is critical for good sound!
I find many tapes need specific re-adjustment for proper transfer. It's not a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing!
Whatever brand of deck you get, make sure you have access to the screws that hold the playback head when the tape's playing. Whether there's a tiny hole in the door or the door can be removed or in a few cases I've heard of decks that have some kind of adjuster built-in (very rare!)...

Get a precision screwdriver and listen in mono. Turn one screw (usually left side one) back and forth maybe half a turn each way and listen to the music you wanna transfer. It'll "brighten up" when it's in alignment.

Also, a good soundcard is essential. Stock built-in computer sound is shite, but you should know that already!

Good luck and happy mastering!
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  #4  
Old 2008-12-15, 02:46 AM
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jamroom jamroom is offline
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Re: tape transferring

There was an article posted as a torrent on Dime giving help on azimuth adjustment, including sound samples and photos (by Lars Ekland) a while back. It is no longer up there, but I still have it and could seed it here if anyone is interested?

I will note that I was going to use it, but realised the few tapes I had were all out there already, so consigned them to to the recycle bin...
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  #5  
Old 2008-12-15, 03:21 AM
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Audioarchivist Audioarchivist is offline
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Re: tape transferring

Quote:
Originally Posted by jamroom View Post
There was an article posted as a torrent on Dime giving help on azimuth adjustment, including sound samples and photos (by Lars Ekland) a while back. It is no longer up there, but I still have it and could seed it here if anyone is interested?

I will note that I was going to use it, but realised the few tapes I had were all out there already, so consigned them to to the recycle bin...
I would say that yes you should post that - some essential info for anyone that's into doing any tape transfers with any kind of worth and listenable sound quality. I've heard some awful tape copies that could've so easily sounded 110% better. It's as simple as turning a screw and listening. It's hard to believe people transfer without doing that. Not doing anything about it is why cassettes get a bad reputation of being inferior to digital stuff when its simply not true!
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- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
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  #6  
Old 2008-12-15, 09:45 AM
mike1061 mike1061 is offline
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Re: tape transferring

There are a couple of Nakamici cassette decks with an external knob for playback head adjustment. I have a DR-1 and it's pretty easy, you really can hear the differance.
Thanks Mike
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  #7  
Old 2008-12-15, 10:28 AM
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Re: tape transferring

Thanks for the reactions so far! I might be able to get a Sony TC-K470 (link: http://www.jackvandijk.nl/stereo/sonycas.htm) from a friend of mine.

Would this deck be sufficient enough to use for a nice sounding transfer, or would you recommend me looking for something else?
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  #8  
Old 2008-12-15, 01:26 PM
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jamroom jamroom is offline
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Re: tape transferring

Quote:
Originally Posted by Audioarchivist View Post
I would say that yes you should post that - some essential info for anyone that's into doing any tape transfers with any kind of worth and listenable sound quality.
After reading through the comments posted on that torrent, I'm not sure I should post it now. Not that there was anything inherently wrong with the advice, but some folks thought there was more information out there on teh interweb. The info file was mainly about adjusting azimuth, though there were many torrent comment posts on various related aspects, including pc hardware, etc. There were also three photos showing the adjustment and two flac files (before and after).

I guess I could post the original text file in a thread here if anyone would like to discuss it further?
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  #9  
Old 2008-12-15, 08:43 PM
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Re: tape transferring

a simple way to start out without buying much:
plug the tape deck into the mic jack
with an RCA-1/8 inch Y adapter
and use EAC to record the playback
then Nero WAV Editor to split your tracks
as well as basic fades and edits, etc.
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  #10  
Old 2008-12-15, 10:44 PM
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Audioarchivist Audioarchivist is offline
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Re: tape transferring

Quote:
Originally Posted by rocknroll View Post
a simple way to start out without buying much:
plug the tape deck into the mic jack
with an RCA-1/8 inch Y adapter
and use EAC to record the playback
then Nero WAV Editor to split your tracks
as well as basic fades and edits, etc.
Not into the mic jack, the line in jack! Mic in expects a totally different level signal, and is usually mono in.
Does EAC do recording? I don't think so...
Try Audacity to record in and split tracks. It's free.
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- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
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  #11  
Old 2008-12-16, 03:16 AM
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desiderus desiderus is offline
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Re: tape transferring

I might be able to get a soundcard for a decent price, it's the VSL2020 Steinberg.

Specs:

32 ADAT channels - 2 optical ADAT I/O with S/MUX support
S/PDIF I/O - supports AES/EBU and consumer S/PDIF
Analog I/O - unbalanced (-10dBV) Stereo RCA I/O
SuperClock (FS 256) and WordClock I/O with BNC connector
Standard MIDI 5-pole I/O
24 Bit with 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96 kHz



I guess this one shouls be good enough to make decent transfers? I'd really like to start this project with some proper gear. I've been looking for some other sollutions as well, like working with the line in jack, but I think I 'll be able to get a much better quality using a soundcard mentioned above.

ps: jamroom, I'd like to see that txt file
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  #12  
Old 2008-12-16, 03:57 AM
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Audioarchivist Audioarchivist is offline
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Re: tape transferring

Unless you're going to hook up to some adat 8 track digital stuff, that soundcard is, well its nice, but how much? You're still going to go in line in from a cassette deck's line out. All that other stuff is cool if you're going to use your computer for multitrack studio recording with an adat or something, but, well, I dunno.

That cassette deck you linked to is alright as long as it's not too worn out already, and of course make sure you can remove the door to get access to the tape head to adjust the azimuth while the tape plays.

I would bet there's better alternatives for sound cards than that one. I'd look into an external stereo sound usb interface of some kind.
__________________
"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."
- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
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  #13  
Old 2008-12-16, 10:00 AM
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desiderus desiderus is offline
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Re: tape transferring

Quote:
Originally Posted by Audioarchivist View Post
Unless you're going to hook up to some adat 8 track digital stuff, that soundcard is, well its nice, but how much? You're still going to go in line in from a cassette deck's line out. All that other stuff is cool if you're going to use your computer for multitrack studio recording with an adat or something, but, well, I dunno.
I can get the soundcard for 40,- euro from an friend who bought a new one because this on doesn't work with windows vista, that why I thought it might be an interesting card to buy.
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  #14  
Old 2008-12-16, 01:08 PM
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jamroom jamroom is offline
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Re: tape transferring

Right-o! Here goes. For what it's worth, the following was a text file in a small torrent that was posted on Dime back in May 2006. There was much debate on the thread, especially on the computer interface (quality of soundcard, noise, etc). Feel free to have another debate here.
*********************************************************************************************

TUNE IN YOUR TAPES PRIOR TO DIGITZATION!!
A Play
By Lars A Ekland

There are at least three things you have to know if you want to commit your analog cassette tapes to a digital medium with an intent to share. Well, maybe like four, or five - I dunno, six, seven, ALRIGHT there are too many to mention. So I'll only talk about the most important ones. Yes and the unimportant ones too. Alright settle in the show is about to start:

50 year old Man with ENORMOUS tape collection walks through the front door with his new audio software in one hand and his to-do list in another:

#1. Install audio software on your home computer (like SoundForge, Cool Edit, Adobe etc. Even Nero has one now - i think)

#2. Hook the tape deck up to your computer
a.find the sound mixer
b.get good levels and
c.test test test test test!!

#3. Playback with Dolby OFF and bias to normal (regardless of the type - just do it.)

#4. DON'T THROW AWAY YOUR ANALOG TAPES ONCE YOU COMMIT THEM TO A DIGITAL MEDIUM!

#5. _________

OUR MAN IS PACING THE FLOOR - WHILE THINKING, HE PUTS ON A TAPE TO CALM HIS NERVES:

oh gee, am I forgetting anything. Hmm, I dunno. Why does the tape sound so muddy though. boy if I only know what I was doing. I'm such a wannabe. HEY, WH...

WHAT'S THIS? It looks like the door comes off the deck pretty easy, then goes back on just as easy.

HEY, WHAT'S THIS.. Looks like a playback head (big silver thing in the middle that touches the tape when it plays) and a record head (black thing that touches the tape too but is off to the left)

AND LOOK, SCREWS HOLD THE BLOODY THING IN!!! Say, I ONCE HEARD that if I turn the screw just on the playback head while the tape is in motion, Magic would come out of the speakers. Wonder if there's really anything TO that...

This thing sounds pretty crappy anyway, why not give it a shot... Where's that Precision Screwdriver. Got it. Okay, well there's 2 screws on the thing. Oh theres a spring behind the screw on the left. Better try that one first. turning, turning, wow, it's like .... WOW ... I can hear all the frequencies when I turn it to .. right about ...... THERE. GOD, it's a revelation! IT IS MAGIC.

Why didn't I know about this before? This crappy muddy tape that I was going to throw away has turned to GOLD in my hands. SOMEBODY was trying to tell me about something called, "Azimuth," just yesterday... I wonder if that's what I just discovered..?? Boy who ever figured this out is a genius. So IF no two decks' playback heads are aligned, or, calibrated to the same standard, then every tape transfer I DO going forward must be done this way!!!

Good God man, why my entire tape collection will breathe new life!!! Oh thank you God of Analog tape, thank you, thank you...... (fade to black)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


in an effort to achieve the highest quality possible with regard to mastering/transferring recorded music from magnetic tape to digital mediums, I have found that many don't know that every cassette tape has its own unique NODE - SORT OF AN ANALOG ADDRESS, if you will. And when a cassette is being played in a different machine from where it was recorded from, the output is going to suffer (99% of the time) until that tape is, "tuned in," to the machine it is being played on. The only answer is to tweak the playback head until it finds the tapes' true node, or embedded "azimuth" setting..

I wish to share my knowledge with the community in hopes that we can all benefit from knowing a technique called, "azimuth calibration." How do I know what I'm talking about?? I have for years found that every cassette tape must be "tuned in" to the machine playing back the recorded information. Because no two machines are calibrated to the same standard. What would sound fine in deck 1 plays back sounding like mud thru a phase shifter in deck 2. WHY?

In the mass production of cassette machines throughout history, the industry has reduced playback and recording head Calibration to a visual level peak, and not a sonic one. In other words, There's no listening involved in the calibrating. The result is a mass of uniquely calibrated machines that have been wrongly trusted by the masses who own(ed) them to play back music that was recorded elsewhere from other wrongly calibrated machines. Why is this a bad thing? WELL, there's good news, and it's just a fix away.

It's much like the way your computer has an IP address, a unique node that lets information find your computer and not someone else's. Cassette tapes with information stored on them are similar in that they will deliver their information CORRECTLY AND WITHOUT ANY LOSS when played back in a machine that has been locked into the address of the information stored. It is easily done with a precision screwdriver, and a good pair of headphones. Headphones increase the accuracy of the calibration.

Some decks have an Azimuth Adjuster. Some Nakamichi decks do. Some have holes in the door allowing a precision screwdriver in while the tape is in play. In the old days, I preferred to simply take the door off. Now I take the door off once, measure the distance from the edge of the door openings to the one screw I'll need access to, go out to the shed, get out my drill and a 15/16" drill bit and put a hole where one should rightly be.

Beginners, I'd suggest simply taking the door off and putting it back when done. Mind, both sides of the tape need adjusting, not just side one.

Once the door is off, put in a tape and press play til there's a full ensemble going. You want a section of music where there are cymbals aplenty. Any early tape of THE WHO has Keith Moon bashing away at the zildjians from moment one. Just Press Play. if the door itself holds the cassette in place (old world equipment) then you might have to tilt the machine up to keep the cassette from coming out of the deck. Most newer machines aren't like this. Most now have just a plastic cover that pops off and on easily.

Play the cassette, listen for cymbals, then take a precision (small small small) Philips head screwdriver to the screw on the left side of the playback head. It's the one on the left if the heads are on the bottom going up as you push play. If they're on the Top going Down as you push play - then the screw you want to turn is on the right. The latter is also old world equipment.

As you turn, listen. If the sound gets muddy, turn back until the sound becomes as clear as it can get. Be careful, this screw can come off so don't turn it SO much in one direction. There's enough thread on the screw where you can exact some pretty liberal turns. But what you want is clarity, and that's not going to be far from where you began. When you do find the most clear and hiss filled position, stop and you're ready to make your digital copy.

You will find that it's kinda like an old analog radio dial. You tune the station in by moving the dial back and forth until you're satisfied the best signal is achieved. If the signal isn't perfect, you can still hear something, but you hear a dull muted muffled something. Same rules apply to turning the screw attached to the bottom of the playback head as a tape is in play. The object is to match the tapes', "azimuth," that was created upon making the recording.

Check this out, I found this Googling the keywords, "Azimuth" and "Cassette:"

from http://audio-restoration.com/cassette.php

"Two major cassette problems were the uniformity of alignment, of the cassette tape path, and head azimuth from machine to machine. To a large degree, the problem of tape path alignment was solved, fairly early in the evolution of cassette tape equipment, by a pair of fixed guides installed on the record/play head during manufacture. This caused the tape to follow a more-or-less fixed path across the surface of the head, keeping the tracks within a reasonable position on the tape being recorded, and ensuring that a tape being played back would also follow the same path.

The problem of head azimuth remains, and although it is largely corrected by more precise manufacturing techniques, and alignment of the head azimuth at the factory, the earlier problems still plague the archivist and anyone trying to transfer original recordings made on the older cassette mechanisms.

This problem will likely never be noticed if the recordings are played back on the machine that made them originally, since cassette recorders, with a few notable (and expensive) exceptions, use the same head for playback as they do for recording. In some cases, there are optimised playback and record heads within the same head casing, but these also suffer the problem of the single record/playback head... mis-alignment will not likely be noticed when a tape is played on the same machine that did the recording.

Results of mis-alignment of this nature, when played on other cassette machines, vary from high frequencies that "weave" in and out, to a generally muffled loss of most high frequency content. In the case of speech recordings, all the fricative sounds (the "K", "F", "S" and such sounds) are lost or severely attenuated, which drastically reduces the intelligibility of speech. A musical recording sounds predominantly bassy with all the treble range missing. Once transfers of this nature have been made, the resulting poor recordings can never be fully compensated for, and return to the original recordings is mandatory to produce an acceptable result."


The following is a bit wordy, but please, this IS supposed to be technical! However, I WILL try to make it... fun!

i was 15 when i figured out how to calibrate azimuth with nothing but my ears. I used a crappy combo unit with turntable, am/fm receiver, and cassette deck all in one - you know the kind, plastic, flimsy, and inexpensive. It was on its way out and my Birthday was coming so I figured what the hey, maybe mom would get me a newer better one. Well, she did. Oh and don't worry, I took the cassette door off of that one too.

I had already figured out how to get the cassette door off, but I didn't yet fully realize what I could do with it off. Sure I watched stuff go round and round as it played and wondered how tape and magnetics worked together. But When i discovered the benefits of turning this tiny screw located on the playback head while a tape was in motion, OHH-LA-LA!!! I would put in my favorite tapes and I'd turn the screw til the sound got muddy, then I turned it til it got clear. (at this time, listen to the tracks included in this folder.) Then I noticed that not every tape in my collection was suited for the last known good alignment. AHA!, I thought. Then I realized that SOMETIMES even a single tape with its 2 sides needed its own separate azimuth calibration setting. WOW!, I thought.


You can HEAR bad head alignment in the playback of so many poorly mastered digital captures (and it's embedded within so many cassette generations of certain 'well known' recordings as well).

SO lets recap what was learned; A. No two tape decks will record information/music/whatever with any sort of universal standard with regard to azimuth calibration, and B even a single cassette can have 2 different azimuth calibrations.

Gee, wonder why that is? Well, that's one of those, "who/where/what/how/why is GOD?" questions isn't it. Yes it is. But sky of blue and sea of green, darn it, that's just how cassette tapes and their parent decks are made - Imperfect from machine to machine, from A side to B side, manufacturer to manufacturer.

SO it's up to us, the tape trading community, to pass along the best of the best quality digital transfers we can possibly turn out. Start by taking the worst sounding tape you own, give the screw a tweak, and listen how water turns to wine (i didn't say WHINE). Listen how Night turns to Day, hear how a flood of mud can be washed away by the brightness of the light that you will clearly sense when you gloriously find that evasive pre-recorded azimuth there embedded in your cassette tape collection. AND remember...

NO TWO TAPES (created in different decks) are aligned to the same azimuth setting.

Have fun rediscovering your collection from just tweaking that little screw (see pictures I've created for help) and I'll see you a happier & healthier in the community of cassette-to-wav traders.

-Eeklair
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  #15  
Old 2008-12-17, 06:06 PM
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desiderus desiderus is offline
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Re: tape transferring

Thanks for posting that information jamroom!

I picked my Sony TC-K470 up today. The tape deck is still in a very good shape and it even has little manufactured holes spared out for azimuth adjusting. I’ll get my sound card in on Saturday, still looking for a good cable though, but I’ll be able to find something good I guess.

Still have a few questions before get things started:
1) Do I need to use an amplifier while transferring?
2) What sort of settings are preferable on the cassette deck for transferring?
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