Why no new 4-track cassette recorders..?

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Panason
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Post by Panason » Tue May 21, 2019 2:58 pm

My first ever tape was 8-track, you kids.
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Post by electricfence » Tue May 21, 2019 3:46 pm

Panason wrote:My first ever tape was 8-track, you kids.
Image
I like that this 8-track was also your first digital photo -- at least it looks that way from the timestamp.

It reminds me of the time I watched a man use a pocket knife to sharpen a carpenter's pencil, so that he could mark where to mount a hand-cranked pencil sharpener. Once he was finished, he pulled out an ipad so that he could complete the virtual work order and get on with his next assignment.

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Post by Hyberus » Tue May 21, 2019 3:55 pm

When I was a lad, in the 1980s, 4 track cassette was the second best that we could afford, unless we could borrow/hire/afford the tape for a 4 track reel to reel.

I'm glad we've moved on from that, to be honest
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Post by dubonaire » Tue May 21, 2019 4:31 pm

lilakmonoke wrote:you guy are a bunch of whiners! go sit in an old mercedes from the 90s that has a high end soundsystem and put on a cassette with a home made mix of 80s hits that includes "like a virgin". crank the bass and cruise down the road, see if you like cassettes then.

its not only about sound quality, its the whole cassette music experience that counts. its one of the most ingenius music formats ever because it combines, low cost, DIY spirit, longevity and awesome sound in a small plastic package. anybody remembers walking down the road with a walkman for the first time? no cassette, no walkman!
I'm not criticising you at all, you are free to use whatever medium you want, and I understand the desire to be nondigital. But it was never DIY spirit, it was the only portable medium and the only way to listen to music in cars. Walkmans were bulky, the batteries ran flat all the time - you were lucky if you could listen through a whole album, and the headphones were terrible. Storage of cassettes in cars took up a lot of space and it was impossible to keep them clean. I lived near the beach and all of my cassettes got sand in them, as did the cassette player in the car. Cassettes routinely got tape caught in the mechanism and spat their tape everywhere effectively ending the cassette's life, so you had to record in real time all over again, making sure you got everything right. Cassette tape flying around in the wind was not an uncommon sight. You used to have to wind the spool with a pencil to tighten it because if it wasn't tight audible wow and flutter would be the result. Compared to digital storage cassettes were not cheap at all. The whole experience was an endless quest to reduce tape hiss and noise. When cars were first able to play digital recordings it was a revelation.

Now I have a high res camera, a fantastic sounding 'walkman' with massive capacity, an ability to communicate visually in real time, and applications at my finger tips to do almost anything, all in a phone I can keep in my pocket. Now that is amazing.
Last edited by dubonaire on Tue May 21, 2019 4:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by hairbow » Tue May 21, 2019 4:35 pm

yeah, what "DIY" spirit involves hundreds of machined parts designed by corporate entities, using limited-use tape created from chemical processes, and further requires money any time you want to record?

I never knew DIY meant paying a corporation to record per-minute.

If you want it as part of your production sound, go for it, but electronic music is built around industrial process and the people who beat on the drum that they're DIY or creative for using an old tape player just sound like the suburban mall punks who claim to be an individual but dress and look exactly like every other suburban mall punk.

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Post by lilakmonoke » Tue May 21, 2019 6:13 pm

Panason wrote:My first ever tape was 8-track, you kids.
Image
i love the fact this one is called "ultimate disco", how can you go wrong with that :-) but that is some amazing jedi level mechanics! how do you account for the fact that at the same rotation speed the radius of both spools are totally different? if that works millions of cassettes were a waste of half of the space they took to store. am i making sense?
who claim to be an individual but dress and look exactly like every other suburban mall punk
hmm "suburban mall punk" sounds like an interesting concept for music but im not sure what they should look like. the earliest cassette based diy punks i think was the cold wave music of the 80s which was mostly recorded on 4 track portastudios. there you go, no cassette, no coldwave in places like greece and that would seriously upset me.

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[video][/video]
Last edited by lilakmonoke on Wed May 22, 2019 1:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by GrantB » Tue May 21, 2019 11:20 pm

hairbow wrote:yeah, what "DIY" spirit involves hundreds of machined parts designed by corporate entities, using limited-use tape created from chemical processes, and further requires money any time you want to record?

I never knew DIY meant paying a corporation to record per-minute.

If you want it as part of your production sound, go for it, but electronic music is built around industrial process and the people who beat on the drum that they're DIY or creative for using an old tape player just sound like the suburban mall punks who claim to be an individual but dress and look exactly like every other suburban mall punk.
First, cassettes have a history of being associated with DIY recording since they were the cheapest option for both DIY multitracking and distribution. For the first time ever, you didn't need a large budget or a deal with a record label to do those things, thus DIY. This is pretty basic stuff, but maybe you weren't in it back then?

Second, cassette today is even more DIY because you're pretty much on your own when it comes to sourcing machines and keeping them running. The large commercial and industrial infrastructure which once supported this format is almost completely gone. Very few people use any kind of audio tape anymore and I find the proposed association with some sort of conformity very strange indeed. Industry has completely abandoned cassette, and therefore it's more niche and DIY than ever before.

Third, what format do you propose for DIY recording and distribution without purchasing from big bad industry? I thought so. By the standards of your argument, DIY recording and distro are impossible.

It's funny, but where I live, this attitude of extreme DIY purism and rejection of industry is found mostly with.. I'm not sure what to call them but I know when I see them. Faux hobos perhaps? Anyway they seem to be this generations version of the hippie/punk/metalhead suburban dropout, and they're the very picture of non-conforming conformism.

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Post by dubonaire » Tue May 21, 2019 11:25 pm

lilakmonoke wrote:but that is some amazing jedi level mechanics! how do you account for the fact that at the same rotation speed the radius of both spools are totally different? if that works millions of cassettes were a waste of half of the space they took to store. am i making sense?
There is only one spool and the tape is endless. The tape leaves the centre of the spool and returns to the outside of the spool.

They were famous for having problems and the 8 narrow tracks (four stereo programs) would often get out of alignment with the head causing crosstalk.

Here is a video of one working:

[video][/video]

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Post by oranginafiend » Tue May 21, 2019 11:39 pm

hairbow wrote:yeah, what "DIY" spirit involves hundreds of machined parts designed by corporate entities, using limited-use tape created from chemical processes, and further requires money any time you want to record?

I never knew DIY meant paying a corporation to record per-minute.

If you want it as part of your production sound, go for it, but electronic music is built around industrial process and the people who beat on the drum that they're DIY or creative for using an old tape player just sound like the suburban mall punks who claim to be an individual but dress and look exactly like every other suburban mall punk.
you're the one who sounds like a faux-intellectual-im-less-mainstream-than-you hippie. are punk diy scenes not diy enough for you unless the drums and guitars are pieced together from scrap wood and the amps hand-soldered with parts from the local junkyard and the show put on in a lean-to? give me a break.

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Post by hairbow » Wed May 22, 2019 1:43 am

GrantB wrote:
hairbow wrote:yeah, what "DIY" spirit involves hundreds of machined parts designed by corporate entities, using limited-use tape created from chemical processes, and further requires money any time you want to record?

I never knew DIY meant paying a corporation to record per-minute.

If you want it as part of your production sound, go for it, but electronic music is built around industrial process and the people who beat on the drum that they're DIY or creative for using an old tape player just sound like the suburban mall punks who claim to be an individual but dress and look exactly like every other suburban mall punk.
First, cassettes have a history of being associated with DIY recording since they were the cheapest option for both DIY multitracking and distribution. For the first time ever, you didn't need a large budget or a deal with a record label to do those things, thus DIY. This is pretty basic stuff, but maybe you weren't in it back then?

Second, cassette today is even more DIY because you're pretty much on your own when it comes to sourcing machines and keeping them running. The large commercial and industrial infrastructure which once supported this format is almost completely gone. Very few people use any kind of audio tape anymore and I find the proposed association with some sort of conformity very strange indeed. Industry has completely abandoned cassette, and therefore it's more niche and DIY than ever before.

Third, what format do you propose for DIY recording and distribution without purchasing from big bad industry? I thought so. By the standards of your argument, DIY recording and distro are impossible.

It's funny, but where I live, this attitude of extreme DIY purism and rejection of industry is found mostly with.. I'm not sure what to call them but I know when I see them. Faux hobos perhaps? Anyway they seem to be this generations version of the hippie/punk/metalhead suburban dropout, and they're the very picture of non-conforming conformism.
If you look at so many music scenes across the world right now, it’s all people using cracked software on cheap outdated laptops that people share as a community resource. There are people in Shanghai making the most bonkers techno imaginable all from running computers 24/7 to steal Ableton through the Great Firewall. Or in South Africa where people are combining industrial with hip hop and traditional South African music. I’ve met DJ LAG from that scene and he’s using a beat to shit Lenovo that was made in 2008 and an oooold copy of Fruity Loops. He is traveling the world making music that truly sounds alien and unique. Or look at the Sahel where people trade low bitrate MP3 files with Bluetooth transfer on burner $5 cellphones. Or immigrant communities in Portugal where, after working day laborer jobs, they all meet at one of four people’s house and take turns using a home desktop PC to make music, getting an hour a day if that before someone else gets their turn. But that stuff is blowing up and making waves.

People talk about “limitations inspire creativity” but people on forums like this conveniently leave out spending as little money as possible and using cheap computers out could find at a Goodwill. That often the “limitations” is thousands and thousands of dollars of niche equipment. An entire genre of music, Grime, was based around a single cheap PlayStation 1 video game and people selling their music on home burned DVD discs. The limitation of not using a $10,000 modular or trendy in the moment cassette machine seems to bypass the art movements that are truly limited. You talk about DIY independent music transfer? There are millions of independent music scenes all over the world, but they’re not spending money to press tapes, sell them, build a website with a PR campaign to promote it, etc etc. They just trade files in person on equipment people would turn their nose up at.

Use tape if you like it. I use tape. It sounds cool. But it’s not some interesting subversion of modern trends, it’s people throwing disposable income away on equipment and calling it a hobby, or worse acting like it’s an artistic identity in itself. A cheap used audio interface you get off eBay is more subversive than a minor money pit at this point.

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Post by hairbow » Wed May 22, 2019 1:47 am

..doublepost

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Post by lilakmonoke » Wed May 22, 2019 2:14 am

There is only one spool and the tape is endless. The tape leaves the centre of the spool and returns to the outside of the spool.
now i get it! but whatever comes out of the center is still less than what goes on the outside spool if the thing is based on rotation but i guess its just pulled out of the middle and rotated back on. pretty cool stuff if it worked!
If you look at so many music scenes across the world right now, it’s all people using cracked software on cheap outdated laptops
thats all very true but frankly nothing is subversive nowadays its just people doing shit and if its different out of necessity it gets totally blown out of proportion by the evil mechanics of "social networking".

in north africa using DAWs to make music seems to be taking a really bad turn. ive been following the label sahel sounds for a while and now they program their traditional rhythms into cubase and autotune all vocals and it sounds strange enough but is actually tragically awful as it has nothing to do with their live music based culture - one of the last on the planet by the way that is not yet streamlined by robots. eventually that will happen too and anything on planet earth will sound the same just like kraftwerk predicted it and the germans finally win :-)

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Post by GrantB » Wed May 22, 2019 10:46 am

hairbow wrote: If you look at so many music scenes across the world right now, it’s all people using cracked software on cheap outdated laptops that people share as a community resource. There are people in Shanghai making the most bonkers techno imaginable all from running computers 24/7 to steal Ableton through the Great Firewall. Or in South Africa where people are combining industrial with hip hop and traditional South African music. I’ve met DJ LAG from that scene and he’s using a beat to shit Lenovo that was made in 2008 and an oooold copy of Fruity Loops. He is traveling the world making music that truly sounds alien and unique. Or look at the Sahel where people trade low bitrate MP3 files with Bluetooth transfer on burner $5 cellphones. Or immigrant communities in Portugal where, after working day laborer jobs, they all meet at one of four people’s house and take turns using a home desktop PC to make music, getting an hour a day if that before someone else gets their turn. But that stuff is blowing up and making waves.

People talk about “limitations inspire creativity” but people on forums like this conveniently leave out spending as little money as possible and using cheap computers out could find at a Goodwill. That often the “limitations” is thousands and thousands of dollars of niche equipment. An entire genre of music, Grime, was based around a single cheap PlayStation 1 video game and people selling their music on home burned DVD discs. The limitation of not using a $10,000 modular or trendy in the moment cassette machine seems to bypass the art movements that are truly limited. You talk about DIY independent music transfer? There are millions of independent music scenes all over the world, but they’re not spending money to press tapes, sell them, build a website with a PR campaign to promote it, etc etc. They just trade files in person on equipment people would turn their nose up at.

Use tape if you like it. I use tape. It sounds cool. But it’s not some interesting subversion of modern trends, it’s people throwing disposable income away on equipment and calling it a hobby, or worse acting like it’s an artistic identity in itself. A cheap used audio interface you get off eBay is more subversive than a minor money pit at this point.
The point was that none of the digital stuff you're talking about is any different than cassette in regards to the involvement of industry. It doesn't get built without industry and files don't get transferred without industry. RAM, while somewhat more durable, is made mostly of plastic and is reusable and eventually disposable just like a cassette. Internet access costs someone money, even if we steal it (or tapes) from somewhere.

I primarily record digitally but I fool around with tape sometimes. All my tape machines and blank tapes are cheap cast-off stuff from surplus and thrift stores, with the exception of one dirty old 4 track that I bought on ebay. Even a nice 3 head deck is cheaper now that when they were new. I don't see how this is different from an old Lenovo or PS1 or shitty phone.

I think the ideas that using cassettes is somehow expensive or wasteful or trendy and that people who use them are trying to appear subversive are both very strange.

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Post by 1986Bowler » Sat May 25, 2019 9:45 am

I started with my parents' hand me down Soundesign stereo system, which I understand they got from a Texaco after a fill up! It had an 8-track, which I got the cassette adapter from Radio Shack which allowed for plaf/ffw.

Had a lot of crummy tape decks that ate a lot of tapes. I still have a few tapes floating around that I fixed with scotch tape.

Yeah, carrying a Walkman meant you had to pick what tapes you were going to take, and you better make sure those batteries are fresh and you've got extra.

When I was in school we used Portasounds for our soundtracks for our Super8 films. Once you started pinging stuff down, it got gritty real fast.

I picked up a 4 track Teac reel-to-reel, but I really haven't found a way to integrate it into the workflow. Looks mighty cool, tho!

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Post by Monotremata » Sat May 25, 2019 1:43 pm

Thanks you guys. Tascam actually posted about this on FB yesterday and asked if there was any demand for a new one.

Does anyone even make cassettes anymore? And the metal ones at that?

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Post by ersatzplanet » Sun May 26, 2019 12:18 am

Panason wrote:My first ever tape was 8-track, you kids.
I used to buy 8-track cartages from RadioShack to modify and use in the pair of Echoplex I had. Saw the front off the cartridge, slice out the metal foil track changer bit and mount it in the modified plex. The standard 2-minute Plex loops were super expensive and the Radio Shack tapes were over 10 minutes long. I still have one -

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Post by chachi » Sun May 26, 2019 3:05 am

i have had and loved many cassette four and eight tracks and the vibey grungy je ne s’ais quoi they give recordings. remembering those days fondly, when a repair guy showed up on craigslist, i thought it might be a fun way to do some recordings again. on my first recording project i tried a used XLII, trying to be thrifty and was immediately plagued with tape dropouts. got a fresh XLII and did a stereo bounce to H4 to clear some tracks cause four tracks is not that many in 2019. damn i only gained two more tracks. filled those immediately, stereo tracks killing me, guess i’ll do another H4 bounce. many bounces later, i wondered why i wasn’t tracking everything on the H4. finally finished the recording but the 7 or so H4 bounces to get more track space degraded the sound substantially. oh well, it’s vibey, right?? start to work on another four track song, the new belt starts slipping and accordions the tape a little. arghh! H4 is looking pretty good.

james, that is freekin genius.

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Post by lud » Sun May 26, 2019 4:27 am

Monotremata wrote:Thanks you guys. Tascam actually posted about this on FB yesterday and asked if there was any demand for a new one.

Does anyone even make cassettes anymore? And the metal ones at that?
Demand for a new 4 track?!?

Think there's a company making new cassettes now and there's plenty of old new stock around cheap.

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Post by unclebastard » Sun May 26, 2019 5:21 am

lilakmonoke wrote:... go sit in an old mercedes from the 90s that has a high end soundsystem and put on a cassette with a home made mix of 80s hits that includes "like a virgin". crank the bass and cruise down the road...
Well, that's never going to happen to most people, either with or without terrible pop music.
its not only about sound quality, its the whole cassette music experience that counts. its one of the most ingenius music formats ever because it combines, low cost, DIY spirit, longevity and awesome sound in a small plastic package. anybody remembers walking down the road with a walkman for the first time? no cassette, no walkman!
Longevity? Awesome sound? I remember it very differently. Fragile, susceptible to heat, magnetic force, dirt, prone to warping, getting chewed up by equally temperamental machinery and snapping without warning. The sound quality was mediocre at best and only deteriorated over the short life of the tape. Nothing awesome about that experience.
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Post by JimY » Sun May 26, 2019 8:48 am

The music industry used to berate its customers for recording their own cassette tapes "home taping is killing music"...
...well, killing profits anyway.
However, if they thought you ought to buy pre-recorded cassettes, even if you owned the vinyl, they should have made them decent quality. The pre-recorded cassettes I remember were utter garbage. Cheapo glued together shells that warped at every temperature change (fatal when used in car players) and the stick on labels that fell off and jammed your player. There were crappy blanks tapes too of course, but those like TDK were reliable and dependable without being stupidly expensive. I was never a hi-fi snob, the TDK D90 did the job for me and they still do.

I suppose it depends where you are in the world but the price of blank tapes included a home recording levy that was meant to be distributed by the PRS. I used to grind my teeth knowing that the tapes I was buying for my own humble home recording was helping out those poor suffering artists like Sting and Phil Collins.
When recordable CD appeared, we were meant to use special audio blank disks that were the only ones the audio CD recorders would accept - and they too had the home recording levy. Some digital multitrackers had a CD-R output option that of course, only accepted Audio CD-R. There was a rumour that the levy on Audio CD-R actually never had a distribution mechanism and nobody knew where the money went. I managed to avoid those audio CD-Rs and went straight to standard computer CD-R in a PC.

Anyway, I wonder if blank tapes sold now still have the home recording levy added in the price?

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Post by astrosound » Sun May 26, 2019 12:26 pm

About ten years ago when I first started recording and had little money, a used 4-track and a box of unbranded high bias tapes was still cheaper than a comparable digital machine with a few memory cards. A lot of folks must have been under the false assumption that they could make their record sound like Sgt Pepper if they record on a portastudio (look through old tapeop threads) because the prices shot up a couple years later. The inflated prices are kind of annoying, but I'm of the opinion that those who really "need" them to make their art will gladly scrape together the $$$ to buy one. Maybe it seems expensive to those who want it for the novelty or hype, but in my opinion $250-$350 for a decent, functional 4 track is not a lot of money when you lump it in with all the other gear in your setup.

4 track cassette has some advantages, but "the tape sound" is not a big one for me. Hiss loses its charm quickly. Love the saturation but it's not always predictable and easy to overdo. Tape stretches after repeated plays which means retuning synths/strings and adjusting echo times, or chasing the varispeed knob. If you don't pre-eq everything before taping, kiss everything above 10kHz goodbye. I continue to use my 4-track machines primarily for these reasons:
  • Varispeed. It's vari-important to me. As far as I know, no non-daw digital recorder to date has varispeed without some stupid limitation like playback-only. Let alone on a dedicated knob.

    Instant power-up. Rip the tape out and pop in a new one in seconds. Song names/dates/descriptions are quickly written in pen on the tape itself, not entered letter by letter with a goddamn data wheel on a tiny ass screen and 8 character limit.

    Tape/Direct outputs for each channel.

    Flanging.
To date all digital multitrack machines have utterly failed to meet my needs in some way or another. The lack of direct outputs is particularly inexcusable in my opinion. The one digital machine I owned that did (korg d888) sucked horribly in other ways. I don't want or need a new cassette 4 track. I want a digital multitrack with a varispeed knob, direct outs and an interface that doesn't suck. Don't need built in effects, parametric EQs etc. Just the basic stuff that used to come with a mid-tier 4 track cassette recorder. Is that a whole lot to ask?

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Post by JimY » Mon May 27, 2019 3:16 pm

astrosound wrote:
To date all digital multitrack machines have utterly failed to meet my needs in some way or another. The lack of direct outputs is particularly inexcusable in my opinion. The one digital machine I owned that did (korg d888) sucked horribly in other ways. I don't want or need a new cassette 4 track. I want a digital multitrack with a varispeed knob, direct outs and an interface that doesn't suck. Don't need built in effects, parametric EQs etc. Just the basic stuff that used to come with a mid-tier 4 track cassette recorder. Is that a whole lot to ask?
I can entirely agree with these sentiments. It isn't necessarily a particular sound quality that musicians miss about the old tape machines, it's the human-friendly workflow.

As it happens, I do know an old digital machine with many of these features. A Roland Vs-840 has 4 inputs and an extra auxiliary output pair that can be routed from 2 tracks and the vari-speed actually changes the sample rate. The downside is that this particular machine couldn't record uncompressed audio data because it was designed for the slow & clunky old zip disc,s so Roland created their own proprietary compression format called R-DAC. With a modern machine, data compression should not be necessary and memory cards can be cheap enough to use one per project - but most are too small to write on!

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Post by E Baxter Put » Tue May 28, 2019 12:21 am

Tascam da88 has a dedicated varispeed knob and can record or playback at different speeds.

It has individual, high quality outputs as well.

Instant boot up and you write on the digital tapes.

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