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Re: [midatlanticretro] Semi-OT: Preserve old cassette tape?

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  • Mr Ian Primus
    ... Check the little felt pad that goes behind the tape that presses it against the head. It s glued onto a springy piece of metal. On really old tapes, I ve
    Message 1 of 25 , Feb 23, 2013
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      --- On Sat, 2/23/13, evan@... <evan@...> wrote:

      > The tape is from 1976. I don't know when it was last
      > played.
      >
      > What should I do to ensure its integrity before playing it?
      > I would freak out if I started playing it and it got "eaten"
      > or otherwise damaged.

      Check the little felt pad that goes behind the tape that presses it against the head. It's glued onto a springy piece of metal. On really old tapes, I've frequently had this fall off, leaving only the springy bit of metal. The tape will sound horribly muddy, since there won't be the correct amount of pressure, and the tape can potentially scrape against the metal. Check that the pad is present, and poke at it sideways gently with a toothpick or something, make sure the glue is still holding it solid. If it *has* fallen off, best bet would be to simply swap the tape into a better shell for playback.

      When playing the tape, use a good quality tape deck, as opposed to a Walkman, boom box or other cheap deck. Not only will you get a much better capture recording, but things like "end of tape" detection are far more gentle. Also, it goes without saying that you want a good, solid tape machine - not a random used deck that's been sitting for years. When the belts start to go bad, the take-up reel doesn't run at the correct speed to keep up with the capstan, and that's where you get eaten tapes.

      I have known good, high quality, well maintained machines and can play the tape if you're willing to wait until next MARCH event, and I can bring one. But, I'm sure someone closer also has similar equipment.

      -Ian
    • ekoblentz
      ... Coming to Trenton?
      Message 2 of 25 , Feb 23, 2013
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        >> if you're willing to wait until next MARCH event, and I can bring one.

        Coming to Trenton?
      • B Degnan
        ... I have done the work before. Find a professional grade tape deck -recently de-magnetized and with the heads cleaned. Record into protools or similar
        Message 3 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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          evan@... wrote:

          >Guys,
          >
          >One of the items I got from Stephen Gray's daughter last weekend is an
          >audio tape of Stephen giving a lecture. I want to be sure the tape's in
          >good condition before I dare to play it. (When I do play it, I'll make
          >a recording at the same time.)
          >
          >The tape is from 1976. I don't know when it was last played.
          >
          >What should I do to ensure its integrity before playing it? I would
          >freak out if I started playing it and it got "eaten" or otherwise
          >damaged.
          >
          >
          >
          >------------------------------------
          >
          >Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
          I have done the work before. Find a professional grade tape deck -recently de-magnetized and with the heads cleaned. Record into protools or similar software so you can mix the input signal and "master" the raw recording into a finished product.
          --
          Sent from my PDP 8/e.
        • Brian Schenkenberger, VAXman-
          ... If it s a typical era cassette tape (not metal or CrO2) using only FeO3 and this tape has been sitting for a long while, you re likely to encounter quite
          Message 4 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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            B Degnan <billdeg@...> writes:

            >evan@... wrote:
            >
            >>Guys,
            >>
            >>One of the items I got from Stephen Gray's daughter last weekend is an
            >>audio tape of Stephen giving a lecture. I want to be sure the tape's in
            >>good condition before I dare to play it. (When I do play it, I'll make
            >>a recording at the same time.)
            >>
            >>The tape is from 1976. I don't know when it was last played.
            >>
            >>What should I do to ensure its integrity before playing it? I would
            >>freak out if I started playing it and it got "eaten" or otherwise
            >>damaged.
            >>
            >>
            >>
            >>------------------------------------
            >>
            >>Yahoo! Groups Links
            >>
            >>
            >>
            >I have done the work before. Find a professional grade tape deck -recently=
            > de-magnetized and with the heads cleaned. Record into protools or simila=
            >r software so you can mix the input signal and "master" the raw recording i=
            >nto a finished product.

            If it's a typical 'era' cassette tape (not metal or CrO2) using only FeO3 and
            this tape has been sitting for a long while, you're likely to encounter quite
            a bit of print-through when played. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Print-through
            If you have old cassette or reel-to-reel or, gawd forbid, 8-track, these tapes
            need to be periodically rewound or played which causes the overlayed media to
            shift slightly as a way to combat the print-through. There are some digital
            processing programs to minimize or mask the print-through but it can never be
            eliminated.

            --
            VAXman- A Bored Certified VMS Kernel Mode Hacker VAXman(at)TMESIS(dot)ORG

            Well I speak to machines with the voice of humanity.
          • ekoblentz
            ... Yes, looks identical to the cheap tapes we teens of the 80s used.
            Message 5 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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              >> If it's a typical 'era' cassette tape

              Yes, looks identical to the cheap tapes we teens of the 80s used.
            • Wesley Furr
              Basically...be sure to practice with another tape of some sort beforehand. The biggest thing you want to do is have enough volume level coming in, but not TOO
              Message 6 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                Basically...be sure to practice with another tape of some sort beforehand.
                The biggest thing you want to do is have enough volume level coming in, but
                not TOO much. You want it as loud as possible, but absolutely do not want
                it to hit 0db...when you do, the audio will clip and sound bad. I liken it
                to playing the price is right...you want it as high as possible, but you
                don't want to go over. Of course that can be difficult with a dynamic
                medium like a spoken voice...it will change through the course of the
                recording, especially if the mic is moved closer or further from the
                speaker...

                My personal choice for recording is Cool Edit 96...an old shareware program.
                It's been abandoned, and I hear you can find a registration code
                online...but it will work fine in trial mode. It has a good level meter at
                the bottom so you can monitor levels and make sure it's not too loud or
                quiet. Of course once you have it recorded, you can do tweaking of the
                audio if needed to help it sound better.

                Wesley


                -----Original Message-----

                (When the time comes to make a computer recording, I assume it's as simple
                as connecting the tape player's headphone jack into my computer sound card's
                input, and then using any recording software. Right?)
              • Dan Roganti
                ... Aside from all the necessary preparations regarding the tape and sound equipment described so far - and these steps are really needed - you also need to
                Message 7 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                  On Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 11:04 PM, <evan@...> wrote:
                  Guys,

                  One of the items I got from Stephen Gray's daughter last weekend is an audio tape of Stephen giving a lecture. I want to be sure the tape's in good condition before I dare to play it. (When I do play it, I'll make a recording at the same time.)

                  The tape is from 1976. I don't know when it was last played.

                  What should I do to ensure its integrity before playing it? I would freak out if I started playing it and it got "eaten" or otherwise damaged.


                  Aside from all the necessary preparations regarding the tape and sound equipment described so far - and these steps are really needed - you also need to worry about delamination on such a cheap cassette tape. No amount of preparation from the other steps will prevent this. Because of age, quality of the product, the conditions of storage, the iron oxide film can literally peel off the polyester backing during playback from the friction or tensile stress created by the capstan motor.  In worse conditions it can happen simply by spinning the cassette reels just with your pencil. You just don't know where in the middle of the tape it can happen. Once that happens, it's almost a lost cause.

                  Dan

                • B. Degnan
                  ... program. ... at ... I agree, for basic simple stuff Cool Edit is adequate. I used to use 95 version bd
                  Message 8 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                    >
                    > My personal choice for recording is Cool Edit 96...an old shareware
                    program.
                    > It's been abandoned, and I hear you can find a registration code
                    > online...but it will work fine in trial mode. It has a good level meter
                    at
                    > the bottom so you can monitor levels and make sure it's not too loud or
                    > quiet. Of course once you have it recorded, you can do tweaking of the
                    > audio if needed to help it sound better.
                    >

                    I agree, for basic simple stuff Cool Edit is adequate. I used to use '95
                    version
                    bd
                  • Dave Wade
                    Personally I find the base quality of cassettes is so poor that it s not worth doing slot of tweaking. As for a free modern recording program audacity is
                    Message 9 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                      Personally I find the base quality of cassettes is so poor that it's not worth doing slot of tweaking. As for a free modern recording program audacity is pretty good.

                      On Feb 24, 2013 4:19 PM, "B. Degnan" <billdeg@...> wrote:

                      >
                      > My personal choice for recording is Cool Edit 96...an old shareware
                      program.
                      > It's been abandoned, and I hear you can find a registration code
                      > online...but it will work fine in trial mode.  It has a good level meter
                      at
                      > the bottom so you can monitor levels and make sure it's not too loud or
                      > quiet.  Of course once you have it recorded, you can do tweaking of the
                      > audio if needed to help it sound better.
                      >

                      I agree, for basic simple stuff Cool Edit is adequate.  I used to use '95
                      version
                      bd



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                    • RonK
                      ... All the suggestions are good. If you can find a variable speed player to start out the tape slowly, and run it through until the end, without the pinch
                      Message 10 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                        --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, Dan Roganti <ragooman@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > On Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 11:04 PM, <evan@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > > Guys,
                        > >
                        > > One of the items I got from Stephen Gray's daughter last weekend is an
                        > > audio tape of Stephen giving a lecture. I want to be sure the tape's in
                        > > good condition before I dare to play it. (When I do play it, I'll make a
                        > > recording at the same time.)
                        > >
                        > > The tape is from 1976. I don't know when it was last played.
                        > >
                        > > What should I do to ensure its integrity before playing it? I would freak
                        > > out if I started playing it and it got "eaten" or otherwise damaged.
                        > >
                        >
                        >
                        > Aside from all the necessary preparations regarding the tape and sound
                        > equipment described so far - and these steps are really needed - you also
                        > need to worry about delamination on such a cheap cassette tape. No amount
                        > of preparation from the other steps will prevent this. Because of age,
                        > quality of the product, the conditions of storage, the iron oxide film can
                        > literally peel off the polyester backing during playback from the friction
                        > or tensile stress created by the capstan motor. In worse conditions it can
                        > happen simply by spinning the cassette reels just with your pencil. You
                        > just don't know where in the middle of the tape it can happen. Once that
                        > happens, it's almost a lost cause.
                        >
                        > Dan
                        >

                        All the suggestions are good. If you can find a variable speed player to start out the tape slowly, and run it through until the end, without the pinch roller engaged, that would be a smart idea. Shuffling the tape that way will allow it to "breathe", repack and adjust to the new machine. Also, look for any tape curling(it should be flat). You may also check to see if there is any mold present on the tape, which sometimes happens. As mentioned, the adhesive on the pressure pad may dry out. It can be replaced, or if your are careful, the cassette reels and tape, can be removed and placed into a new plastic cassette. This can be tricky, though.

                        The great part of magnetic tape is that it lasts a long time. I've copied reel-to-reel tapes that I recorded in the 1950's. Boy, Am I old!

                        Ron K
                      • PhillipP
                        I don t consider myself an expert by any means on this topic, but assuming that the tape is playable, wouldn t it be smarter to make a tape-to-tape copy to
                        Message 11 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                          I don't consider myself an expert by any means on this topic, but assuming that the tape is playable, wouldn't it be smarter to make a tape-to-tape copy to allow for more precise digitization of that copy?

                          -Phillip



                          --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, evan@... wrote:
                          >
                          > Guys,
                          >
                          > One of the items I got from Stephen Gray's daughter last weekend is an audio tape of Stephen giving a lecture. I want to be sure the tape's in good condition before I dare to play it. (When I do play it, I'll make a recording at the same time.)
                          >
                          > The tape is from 1976. I don't know when it was last played.
                          >
                          > What should I do to ensure its integrity before playing it? I would freak out if I started playing it and it got "eaten" or otherwise damaged.
                          >
                        • Brian Schenkenberger, VAXman-
                          ... More noise! -- VAXman- A Bored Certified VMS Kernel Mode Hacker VAXman(at)TMESIS(dot)ORG Well I speak to machines with the voice of humanity.
                          Message 12 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                            "PhillipP" <cooldude166861@...> writes:

                            >I don't consider myself an expert by any means on this topic, but assuming =
                            >that the tape is playable, wouldn't it be smarter to make a tape-to-tape co=
                            >py to allow for more precise digitization of that copy?

                            More noise!

                            --
                            VAXman- A Bored Certified VMS Kernel Mode Hacker VAXman(at)TMESIS(dot)ORG

                            Well I speak to machines with the voice of humanity.
                          • Matt Patoray
                            Direct to digital with a high quality cassette deck is best. Using an external ADC is also a good idea as most sound cards and mother board sound chips have a
                            Message 13 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                              Direct to digital with a high quality cassette deck is best. Using an external ADC is also a good idea as most sound cards and mother board sound chips have a lot of noise. 

                              Is there any indication if the tape was recorded with Dolby NR? 

                              What brand is the tape? Any markings like "Normal" "Chrome", "Type I" "Type II" or "Type III"?

                              A cassette to cassette copy would lower the S/N by at least 3 dB and add wow and flutter to the copy.

                              Matt

                              Sent from my iPhone

                              On Feb 24, 2013, at 7:19 PM, "PhillipP" <cooldude166861@...> wrote:

                               

                              I don't consider myself an expert by any means on this topic, but assuming that the tape is playable, wouldn't it be smarter to make a tape-to-tape copy to allow for more precise digitization of that copy?

                              -Phillip

                              --- In midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com, evan@... wrote:
                              >
                              > Guys,
                              >
                              > One of the items I got from Stephen Gray's daughter last weekend is an audio tape of Stephen giving a lecture. I want to be sure the tape's in good condition before I dare to play it. (When I do play it, I'll make a recording at the same time.)
                              >
                              > The tape is from 1976. I don't know when it was last played.
                              >
                              > What should I do to ensure its integrity before playing it? I would freak out if I started playing it and it got "eaten" or otherwise damaged.
                              >

                            • ekoblentz
                              Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. Cory Sickles ( Burning Image ) is going to digitize the tape for us.
                              Message 14 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                                Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. Cory Sickles ("Burning Image") is going to digitize the tape for us.
                              • Jeff Jonas
                                ... I remember that effect on most of my tapes: Maxell or TDK. I d hear the next song softly in the blank spot between tracks. That sure burst my bubble when I
                                Message 15 of 25 , Feb 24, 2013
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                                  > If it's a typical 'era' cassette tape (not metal or CrO2)
                                  > using only FeO3 and this tape has been
                                  > sitting for a long while, you're likely to encounter
                                  > quite a bit of print-through when played
                                  > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Print-through

                                  I remember that effect on most of my tapes: Maxell or TDK. I'd hear the next song softly in the blank spot between tracks. That sure burst my bubble when I realized that my memory was NOT really so perfect!

                                  I probably still have several blank TDK audio cassettes: silver and gold.

                                  For 1970s authenticity, we ought to use a Kor/Sonic audio cassette from E.J. Korvettes, but I suspect my bar-mitzvah lessons are still on it! That would match Evans' Apple ][ being such a gift!

                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._J._Korvette
                                  http://www.snopes.com/business/names/ejkorvette.asp
                                • Brian Schenkenberger, VAXman-
                                  ... Like my Apogee Duet or Symphony? ... I asked previously and I don t believe there was an answer. Being a tape lecture, I d wager it was recorded on a
                                  Message 16 of 25 , Feb 25, 2013
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                                    Matt Patoray <mspproductions@...> writes:

                                    >Direct to digital with a high quality cassette deck is best. Using an
                                    >external ADC is also a good idea as most sound cards and mother board
                                    >sound chips have a lot of noise.

                                    Like my Apogee Duet or Symphony?



                                    >Is there any indication if the tape was recorded with Dolby NR?=20
                                    >
                                    >What brand is the tape? Any markings like "Normal" "Chrome", "Type I"
                                    >"Type II" or "Type III"?

                                    I asked previously and I don't believe there was an answer. Being a tape
                                    lecture, I'd wager it was recorded on a low-quality Fe2O3 tape. There's
                                    likely to be print-through, dropout (from both print-through and adhesion
                                    losses) and curl.



                                    >A cassette to cassette copy would lower the S/N by at least 3 dB and
                                    >add wow and flutter to the copy.

                                    At least!
                                    --
                                    VAXman- A Bored Certified VMS Kernel Mode Hacker VAXman(at)TMESIS(dot)ORG

                                    Well I speak to machines with the voice of humanity.
                                  • Dave Wade
                                    ... He is going to get it done elsewhere... ... I have had virtually no success in getting any thing that s even half listen-able too off cassette tapes, even
                                    Message 17 of 25 , Feb 25, 2013
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                                      On 25/02/2013 11:58, Brian Schenkenberger, VAXman- wrote:
                                      > Matt Patoray <mspproductions@...> writes:
                                      >
                                      >> Direct to digital with a high quality cassette deck is best. Using an
                                      >> external ADC is also a good idea as most sound cards and mother board
                                      >> sound chips have a lot of noise.
                                      > Like my Apogee Duet or Symphony?
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >> Is there any indication if the tape was recorded with Dolby NR?=20
                                      >>
                                      >> What brand is the tape? Any markings like "Normal" "Chrome", "Type I"
                                      >> "Type II" or "Type III"?
                                      > I asked previously and I don't believe there was an answer.
                                      He is going to get it done elsewhere...

                                      > Being a tape
                                      > lecture, I'd wager it was recorded on a low-quality Fe2O3 tape. There's
                                      > likely to be print-through, dropout (from both print-through and adhesion
                                      > losses) and curl.
                                      >

                                      I have had virtually no success in getting any thing that's even half
                                      listen-able too off cassette tapes, even pro Dolby tapes. I have tried
                                      reasonable quality tape players (there is a Sharp RT-100 connected into
                                      this computer at the moment) and also dedicated external USB connected
                                      dedicated archival devices. Frankly the quality I difference is so
                                      dependant on the original material I don't think you could tell the
                                      difference between my best efforts and for mono at least, playing the
                                      sound back and recording into the Microphone built into my old M700
                                      laptop. The degradation is minimal compared to the garbage that comes
                                      off the tape. In fact the more you try and enhance them, often the worse
                                      they sound. In this modern age of loss-less, noise free digital copying
                                      we have forgotten how utterly appalling the quality of the "Compact
                                      Cassette" was...

                                      >
                                      >> A cassette to cassette copy would lower the S/N by at least 3 dB and
                                      >> add wow and flutter to the copy.
                                      > At least!


                                      --
                                      Dave Wade G4UGM
                                      Illegitimi Non Carborundum
                                    • Ray Sills
                                      ... In almost all cases, it s best to be able to digitize the original tape, not an analog dub. No dub is an exact clone in the analog world, so there will be
                                      Message 18 of 25 , Feb 25, 2013
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                                        On Feb 24, 2013, at 7:19 PM, PhillipP wrote:

                                        > I don't consider myself an expert by any means on this topic, but
                                        > assuming that the tape is playable, wouldn't it be smarter to make a
                                        > tape-to-tape copy to allow for more precise digitization of that copy?
                                        >
                                        > -Phillip
                                        >

                                        In almost all cases, it's best to be able to digitize the original
                                        tape, not an analog dub. No dub is an exact clone in the analog
                                        world, so there will be some form of degradation with the dubbed
                                        copy. High quality copying equipment can minimize the problems, but
                                        the copy -will- be not as good as the original, other than being
                                        recorded on new tape stock. Sometimes, that trade-off is the better
                                        choice, but usually not. If the original is able to be played to make
                                        an analog copy, then it can be played to make a digitized copy.

                                        In the digital world, there are processes that can be used to improve
                                        a not-so-good recording, like noise removal, and even peak distortion.

                                        73 de Ray
                                      • Mr Ian Primus
                                        ... You must be doing something wrong. I mean, sure, I ve run across a few bad recordings and damaged tapes, but by and large, cassettes sound quite good. I
                                        Message 19 of 25 , Feb 25, 2013
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                                          --- On Mon, 2/25/13, Dave Wade <dave.g4ugm@...> wrote:

                                          > I have had virtually no success in getting any thing that's
                                          > even half
                                          > listen-able too off cassette tapes, even pro Dolby tapes.

                                          You must be doing something wrong. I mean, sure, I've run across a few bad recordings and damaged tapes, but by and large, cassettes sound quite good. I use them regularly. A good recording on good tape can really sound fantastic. Are you sure your cassette player is aligned properly? Do you live near a massive power transformer or other source of magnetic interference? Indian burial ground?

                                          > In this modern age of loss-less, noise free
                                          > digital copying
                                          > we have forgotten how utterly appalling the quality of the
                                          > "Compact
                                          > Cassette" was...

                                          Some low grade tape is truly bad. But, again, cassettes can sound very, very good - don't dismiss the format entirely. It's not digital, no, but it's not 8-track either.

                                          -Ian
                                        • Dave
                                          ... Nope the nearest thing is the local trams which are about 300yds (two blocks) away. http://www.altrincham.org.uk/PublicTransport.asp I have tried a
                                          Message 20 of 25 , Feb 25, 2013
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                                            On 25/02/2013 15:16, Mr Ian Primus wrote:
                                            > --- On Mon, 2/25/13, Dave Wade <dave.g4ugm@...> wrote:
                                            >
                                            >> I have had virtually no success in getting any thing that's
                                            >> even half
                                            >> listen-able too off cassette tapes, even pro Dolby tapes.
                                            > You must be doing something wrong. I mean, sure, I've run across a few bad recordings and damaged tapes, but by and large, cassettes sound quite good. I use them regularly. A good recording on good tape can really sound fantastic. Are you sure your cassette player is aligned properly? Do you live near a massive power transformer or other source of magnetic interference? Indian burial ground?
                                            Nope the nearest thing is the local trams which are about 300yds (two
                                            blocks) away.

                                            http://www.altrincham.org.uk/PublicTransport.asp

                                            I have tried a selection of cassette players, a selection of sound
                                            cards, and it always sounds naff when I play back the resulting audio,
                                            be it in the car, on a computer or via my Android phone....
                                            >> In this modern age of loss-less, noise free
                                            >> digital copying
                                            >> we have forgotten how utterly appalling the quality of the
                                            >> "Compact
                                            >> Cassette" was...
                                            > Some low grade tape is truly bad. But, again, cassettes can sound very, very good - don't dismiss the format entirely. It's not digital, no, but it's not 8-track either.

                                            No but compare to any reel to reel how can 1/16" tracks on 1/4" wide
                                            tape at 1.75ips ever sound "good". There were some less worse devices
                                            that worked at double speed, but I still don't think they are/were
                                            brilliant.

                                            >
                                            > -Ian
                                            >
                                            >
                                            > ttp://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                                            >
                                            Dave
                                            G4UGM
                                          • William Donzelli
                                            ... OK, Mr. Albini. -- Will
                                            Message 21 of 25 , Feb 25, 2013
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                                              > Some low grade tape is truly bad. But, again, cassettes can sound very,
                                              > very good - don't dismiss the format entirely.

                                              OK, Mr. Albini.

                                              --
                                              Will
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