Transferring Cassettes to PC

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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

Yes, it was quite remarkable what they managed to get out of the cassette format, particularly through the 1980s and into the 90s.
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Tomás Mulcahy »

Tim Gillett wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:18 am Some cassette decks incorporated DBXII NR which from memory was around 80db S/N requiring more care when setting transfer levels.

Yea, so just do the math. That equates to 13 bits. My Yamaha MT4X running at double speed (which gives a 3dB improvement) and dbx engaged claims 85dB. Still only 14 bits :) I had so many tapes I decided it was worth my while doing them at 16 bit via a 24 bit converter. YMMV.

On the subject of cassette sound quality, that Yamaha is probably the second best cassette 4 track ever made. Apparently the Marantz was better. The Yammy was definitely a lot better sounding than my Tascam Porta Two. Amazing technology for the time.

I jumped to Cubase VST as soon as I could and never looked back :)
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Tim Gillett »

Tomás Mulcahy wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 4:50 pm Absolute best case for cassette with a top notch deck and NR engaged is around 60dB.

...

Tomás Mulcahy wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:40 pm ... My Yamaha MT4X running at double speed (which gives a 3dB improvement) and dbx engaged claims 85dB...

I said,
Tim Gillett wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:18 am Some cassette decks incorporated DBXII NR which from memory was around 80db S/N requiring more care when setting transfer levels.


I did not say, "therefore 16 bits is not sufficient to capture that." Rather, I agreed with you.
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Tomás Mulcahy »

To be clear Tim, one is a standard cassette deck, the other is a double speed four track. It's safe to assume OP is referring to a standard cassette deck, not to a four track.

Regardless, the maths is sound and is all that is required to comprehend the procedure.
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Tim Gillett »

Tomás Mulcahy wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 10:04 pm To be clear Tim, one is a standard cassette deck, the other is a double speed four track. It's safe to assume OP is referring to a standard cassette deck, not to a four track.


Tomas, you claimed,

Tomás Mulcahy wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 4:50 pm Absolute best case for cassette with a top notch deck and NR engaged is around 60dB.


FYI, a number of standard cassette decks (stereo, 1.875ips) had dbx built in. Teac and Technics ran such models. dbx was not peculiar to double speed and/or four track decks.

Tomás Mulcahy wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 10:04 pmRegardless, the maths is sound and (16 bits) is all that is required to comprehend the procedure.

You will notice that I did not say "and therefore 16 bits is inadequate to capture dbx cassette".
Rather I said,
Tim Gillett wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:18 am Some cassette decks incorporated DBXII NR which from memory was around 80db S/N ................requiring more care when setting transfer levels.

(my emphasis)
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

While there is nothing wrong with the sums I'm still struggling to see any practical benefit to recording the cassette transfer at anything less than 24 bit.

Why make the job harder than it needs to be? What realistic benefit is there to transferring at 16 bits? I can't see any.

By all means store the 're-mastered' audio at 16 bits if you want to save some storage space and/or format for CD archive.

But for transferring cassettes with widely varying levels, 24 bits make it so easy to capture the loudest tracks with plenty of headroom, without any compromising the noise floor of quieter tracks. Set once and forget.

And since some re-mastering is inevitable, even if only some realignment and optimisation of levels, the saved interim project will have an even longer wordlength anyway.
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Tomás Mulcahy »

Hugh, I agree. In my case for an archive it represented a 44% saving on storage. YMMV.

Again Tim, the maths trumps everything including pedantry :headbang:
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by BWC »

I don't think it's pedantry, you were off by 20 - 25dB in your, rather assertive, claim. That warrants correction. He never disagreed with the math, or the conclusion that 16b is enough. Both he and Hugh are just saying that while 16b might be sufficient, 24b makes it easy, and there's no good reason to be stingy, and I agree. It's been a very long time since I was worried about conserving data storage space. 44% of? Enough to worry about?
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Tomás Mulcahy »

As I said, I agree with Hugh. Was simply sharing my experience on a particular project. As I said YMMV. It makes no sense to qualify a general statement about average cassette decks to account for uncommon exceptions. OP knows how and why to proceed and can make an informed choice. Let's move on!
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by BWC »

It's only because you said, "absolute best case", not "average". But I agree, moving on...
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by Tim Gillett »

Kerb26 wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 4:09 pm ...The recordings that I’m transferring are very inconsistent in level which makes it difficult to set the gain properly. Obviously this would be easier in 24 bit, but the file sizes would be bigger...

I agree that how to set record levels is not always obvious. If it was, there wouldn't be so many recordings made, even using excellent gear at 24 bits, which are noisy or distorted, but usually distorted! The great thing about transfer of say cassette recordings is there is a limit to how high the level on any cassette recording can be. If we set our DAW record level a few db's above that maximum possible level on any cassette there's normally no need to alter it. James touched on aligning the cassette deck to the signal on each tape. That is the adjustment to be made for best results. It can't be fixed in the DAW, as James mentioned.
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Re: Transferring Cassettes to PC

Post by James Perrett »

If file size is an issue then you could use Flac files instead of .wav format files which will give you a 50% reduction in file size. Most of the software that I use can handle Flac files as easily as .wav files (my ancient copy of Adobe Audition is the main exception).

And I'll go along with Tim and repeat my suggestion to check the azimuth - using the correct azimuth for the tape is far more important than whether to use 16 or 24 bits.
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