Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

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Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Lavender Thief »

Hello

I recently got the idea of using cassette tape as an effect.
With that I mean, not to put the whole mix through it, but only specific tracks.

I only have access to a two head cassette deck and a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface.
I don't know if there is a way to still use it as an effect in that way.
Also, won't there be phase issues?
(Considering the fact that there will always be some fluctuations with an analog medium like cassette/tape. And that I'd like to mix in both dry and wet tracks, rather then only the wet tracks.)

Would plainly recording a track to cassette, and then recording it back to digital work?
Has anyone tried it already? Maybe also with VHS tape?
I guess I will experiment a bit by myself too, but at this exact moment I don't have my cassette deck with me.

I would love to hear from you
Regards
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

If you want the effect of tape distortions with a two-head cassette machine, you'll obviously need to record your track elements onto the cassette, then rewind and replay the cassette into the DAW, and finally manually re-align the cassette version with the original. However, there may well be speed inconsistencies so the timing may well drift resulting in phasing and comb-filtering effects if you mix the dry and processed versions at similar levels. Longer takes will be far more problematical than shorter ones.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Arpangel »

As Hugh says, lots of issues with syncing, there’s no easy answer.
It depends how important an exact replica of cassette tape is important to you, there are a few pedals out now, like the Fairfield Circuits Shallow Water, that replicate tape degradation very well, you can dial in a few parameters, like wow and flutter, EQ, etc, Chase Bliss do various ones too.
I have Shallow Water, and I also have a cassette deck and portastudio, I only use the portastudio four recording multiple tracks, I tend to use the pedals for the sound, it’s just less hassle, and more immediate, and TBH, I find unless you really overdrive tape, quite radically, the effect is very subtle.
There’s a great plug in by Interrupter called Wow and Flutter, it’s one of the best IMO, and no syncing issues!
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Nazard »

If your is a decent cassette deck, rather than, say, the original battery powered Philips ones, they record and playback very well, so the effects will be quite subtle. Unless you radically alter the tape bias and/or overmodulate the tape. Similarly, VHS records audio very well, so very little effects there.

But, I would try your cassette deck and see what happens; you have nothing to lose!
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by RichardT »

It’s a lot of hassle - why not look for a plugin?
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by MOF »

It’s a lot of hassle - why not look for a plugin?

Agreed, that way you decide how much hiss, wow and flutter etc you want.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by S.Crow »

There are a few free ones and I have seen Chow Tape recommended:
https://chowdsp.com/products.html
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by forumuser641699 »

RichardT wrote: Wed Sep 28, 2022 3:07 pm It’s a lot of hassle - why not look for a plugin?

There was a time when being creative was fun not a hassle. I say go for it OP, you'll get far more out of the experience than loading up another plugin.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by sonics »

forumuser641699 wrote: Wed Sep 28, 2022 4:41 pm
RichardT wrote: Wed Sep 28, 2022 3:07 pm It’s a lot of hassle - why not look for a plugin?

There was a time when being creative was fun not a hassle. I say go for it OP, you'll get far more out of the experience than loading up another plugin.

Both fine points.

I say to the OP. Give it a go. Record some sections to cassette and play with them. See if you like the effort and the result. If the comb-filtering and inconsistency drives you crazy, then try plugins. I do this a lot with individual tracks, using a combination of various saturation tools and effects, but then overall I'm very glad to have left physical tape behind, in all it's forms.

(...still trying to find a working DAT machine at a fair price...!)
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by James Perrett »

It is probably worth a go. Syncing up isn't hard in something like Reaper provided you aren't looking for sample accurate sync. Just adjust the overall speed so that the start and end match and then use stretch markers to adjust for small variations.

Cassette will probably soften the transients quite a bit while recording on the linear VHS tracks will reduce the bandwidth and add noise. Recording on the VHS Hifi tracks should give you results close to digital if you have a decent machine.

And Sonics - I've seen a few Tascam DA20s for sale around £100-150 in the UK and bought a £100 one for a friend of mine who seems happy with it.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by muzines »

James Perrett wrote: Wed Sep 28, 2022 9:50 pm And Sonics - I've seen a few Tascam DA20s for sale around £100-150 in the UK and bought a £100 one for a friend of mine who seems happy with it.

I still have a boxed one that's more or less immaculate... I'm surprised they go for that much these days, there can't be that many people who want a DAT machine, and of the few that still have a requirement for supporting DATs, they probably already have machines...
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Arpangel »

Nazard wrote: Wed Sep 28, 2022 2:09 pm If your is a decent cassette deck, rather than, say, the original battery powered Philips ones, they record and playback very well, so the effects will be quite subtle. Unless you radically alter the tape bias and/or overmodulate the tape. Similarly, VHS records audio very well, so very little effects there.

An important point to bare in mind, our memories of how old mediums sound, is often exaggerated over time, and like film sound effects, often you have to exaggerate things to achieve the desired impression.
A great way to do this is to use a variac to slow a machine down, and the low voltage will affect everything on the machine.

PS, GAK have a DA20 DAT in stock at the mo.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by jaminem »

Having come from the world of 4 track cassette 'demo's' all I remember is noise, inconvenience, no transients, overblown flabby bass, and no treble.
...and when you finally finished your 'masterpiece', the car stereo eating your master tape...but that was pretty much as good as it got for the home recordist!

You (OP) may have missed out on all of that, so go for it, see what you can get out of it, you never know it may be just the thing you were looking for.

Sadly for me it wasn't, and I progressed to minidisc multitracking/mastering as soon as possible. That sounded crap too, but in a harder, more trashy ATRAC'y digital way. One day that may be the (old) new retro thing, then someone will be recommending some subtle bit crushing plug in.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Arpangel »

jaminem wrote: Thu Sep 29, 2022 9:42 am Sadly for me it wasn't, and I progressed to minidisc multitracking/mastering as soon as possible. That sounded crap too, but in a harder, more trashy ATRAC'y digital way. One day that may be the (old) new retro thing, then someone will be recommending some subtle bit crushing plug in.

I was playing in an improv group back then, we recorded to a Fostex four track, we thought we’d "upgrade" to a Yamaha four track minidisc, it was actually noisier and sounded worse than the Fostex!
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by sonics »

James Perrett wrote: Wed Sep 28, 2022 9:50 pm And Sonics - I've seen a few Tascam DA20s for sale around £100-150 in the UK and bought a £100 one for a friend of mine who seems happy with it.

Thanks James. I'm in Canada, and want to find a reliable seller. I'll keep looking. So much old gear (and boy is there a lot of it now!) is sold broken or with no hint of a warranty. I have some sessions that I'd really like to hear again.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by DC-Choppah »

You can experiment with your tape deck. Put your finger on the rubber wheel to slow it down while recording the wet track. That's how the flanger came about!

Or get some magnets and bring them near the heads.

Our use a cassette tape with defects and stuff.

Much more fun than a plugin and you won't sound like anybody else.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Kwackman »

DC-Choppah wrote: Sun Oct 02, 2022 10:30 pm Put your finger on the rubber wheel to slow it down while recording the wet track. That's how the flanger came about!

I thought it was caused by putting finger pressure on the outer flange of the feed reel on a open reel tape machine, to slow it down a bit? And that's why it was called Flanger? Could be an urban myth though!
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Arpangel »

DC-Choppah wrote: Sun Oct 02, 2022 10:30 pm You can experiment with your tape deck. Put your finger on the rubber wheel to slow it down while recording the wet track. That's how the flanger came about!

Or get some magnets and bring them near the heads.

Our use a cassette tape with defects and stuff.

Much more fun than a plugin and you won't sound like anybody else.

Trouble with all this stuff, is it’s such a PITA to do, all of it, it’s interesting sure, and when I had no alternative it was great, you just accepted it, but now with pedals and software, it’s all so much easier, and sonically just as interesting, and different, I’ve still got tape, cassettes, portastudio's etc, but they hardly get used these days.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Lavender Thief »

I'm sorry for my late response.

RichardT wrote: Wed Sep 28, 2022 3:07 pm It’s a lot of hassle - why not look for a plugin?

It's the hands on approach, having something to experiment with for a bit.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Tim Gillett »

A "three head" cassette deck set to "tape" mode could be used upstream of your input chain. No sync issues that way.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by James Perrett »

Tim Gillett wrote: Wed Oct 05, 2022 9:22 pm A "three head" cassette deck set to "tape" mode could be used upstream of your input chain. No sync issues that way.

Though there would be a short delay as the tape passes from the record head to the play head if it were to be used on individual tracks. This would be of the same order as the latency for some interfaces so could probably be compensated for automatically by using an insert plug-in with the appropriate delay compensation.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Lavender Thief »

I recorded my shakuhachi (Japanese end blown flute) on to a crappy type 1 cassette:
https://youtu.be/H95L5ykguDU

I noticed the usual: noise (there already was noise coming from my laptop though, but the cassette added), less transients in the waveform.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Exalted Wombat »

Whatever was good about vintage music, it wasn't the crappy recording quality. But if you want to emulate it for some reason, there are easier ways than hooking up an actual cassette deck.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Arpangel »

Lavender Thief wrote: Sat Oct 08, 2022 11:15 am I recorded my shakuhachi (Japanese end blown flute) on to a crappy type 1 cassette:
https://youtu.be/H95L5ykguDU

I noticed the usual: noise (there already was noise coming from my laptop though, but the cassette added), less transients in the waveform.


That’s nice, but I’m not sure how much the vintage film effects are adding to it :)

Exalted Wombat wrote: Sat Oct 08, 2022 1:20 pm Whatever was good about vintage music, it wasn't the crappy recording quality.

It was both, the music, and the sound.
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Re: Using cassette tape as an effect on individual tracks

Post by Zukan »

I think dabbling with all formats of tape is a great way to learn but I, for one, am glad I don't have to deal with tape, cassette or even DAT. I am kinda fond of having all my digits intact and even more happy that I don't have to deal with such limited formats.

Learn away and enjoy the experience and if you want something a little better behaved and as a plugin then Ferox by Toneboosters, J37 by Waves, Kramer etc for tape and for cassette, Cassette by Wavesfactory would be a good starting point.
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