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Nail Soup

4-Track Cassette Transfer - A Diary [**Paused**]

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(inspired by the 1/4 inch tape thread)

I have a drawer full of 4 track cassettes from way back when that was the main way to do home recording.

The 4 track machine doesn't work any more. I may or may not be able to fix it.

Any tips/comments/experince on getting them transferred to WAV files (Including how to sync them up in DAW.)? With and without a 4-track machine?

They are recorded (as most are I think) at double speed.

 

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8 minutes ago, Nail Soup said:

They are recorded (as most are I think) at double speed.

The Fostex X15 runs at normal speed.

What machine have you got?  Chances are that all it needs is a new set of belts.  The rubber perishes over time.

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To get the best transfer you really need to know which 4-track cassette machine they were recorded on as you will need to use the correct tape speed and noise reduction when playing them back. Almost every manufacturer of recording equipment had their own 4-track device all with different specs. Some work at double speed, others use normal 1 7/8 ips cassette speed. Noise reduction could be DBX, Dolby B, Dolby C or maybe Dolby S on later models. With the wrong noise reduction your recordings will sound strange.

Once you've tracked down a suitable machine getting the tracks transferred over is easy. You just need an audio interface with at least 4 line-level analogue inputs and software that supports recording 4 tracks simultaneously. Press play on the cassette machine and record on your computer. 

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Where are you? I still have my old Tascam 424 Portastudio (double speed). I don't have the means to transfer them, but it should play them. If you're near London, you might drop by with your laptop and we could try to copy them across.

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Thanks for all the replies!!

I just went to where it is stashed in the loft. It's a Fostek 460 - it's got  a 8 track mixer and four track recorder.

Sorry the pic is upside down. It is not working, but I think the tape mechanism is OK, and I think the issue lies quite near the end of the audio chain. So the individual 4 tracks are probably OK if I can access them. I'm not very technical but I'm hoping the four Buss outputs will relate to the four tracks on the tape. I should be able to try it at the weekend.

Would that be a suitable output to run to the audio interface (I have a presonus) where I plug my guitars into? And then use the DAW to record the 4 tracks to seperate tracks in the daw? Well.......I only have two tracks on the interface so I'd have some syncing up to do.

Or maybe buy a second hand four input interface and sell it afterwards?

IMG_2807[1].JPG

IMG_2808[1].JPG

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The ideal would be to record all four tracks in one go; there could be slight differences between passages if done in two passes. Not enough to mess up listening, but best avoided, if possible. Just sayin'; good luck with the transfer. B|

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☝️ Beg, borrow or steal a 4-input interface if you can. Not only can the playback speed vary, but that variation keeps changing over time. Trying to manually line up continually-shifting tracks is a massive pain in the derrière.

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If there is a signal at the Bus Output sockets and your interface has 4 separate line level inputs then you will be fine. As others has said you need to record all 4 tracks simultaneously to individual tracks on your computer so that they all line up and stay in sync for the duration of the tape.

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Thanks for the continued tips. I will try at the weekend to get some signal out of the Buss sockets to my existing audio interface DAW which has only two channels. I'll record two tracks to DAW as a kind of proof of concept.

But based on your advice, I won't do it in multiple takes. If it works, I'll obtain a (budget) four-channel audio interface and use that to do all four tracks at once.

It's been a long time since I used the recorder, the adiochain is broken somewhere (hopefully before the Buss outs) and I have never used the buss channels - so wish me luck!

 

 

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Good luck! If you've already got the gear to do two tracks at once, there's no harm in having a go at lining up 1+2 and 3+4 manually before you go spending any money. I just wouldn't get your hopes up 😄
Behringer UMC404HD is probably as cheap as you'll find for a new 4-input interface (~£100)

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Ok, really geting started on this now. Just for fun, and in case anyone is interested, and in case anyone can help along the way with tips, I'll  do a kind of diary in here. Lets see how it goes :)!!

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On ‎17‎/‎09‎/‎2020 at 19:25, Dan Dare said:

Where are you? I still have my old Tascam 424 Portastudio (double speed). I don't have the means to transfer them, but it should play them. If you're near London, you might drop by with your laptop and we could try to copy them across.

Wow thats a really kind offer!!!.... Im going to see if I can get the buss signals out of the (partly broken) original Fostex first...... but if that fails.........??

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Step 1 - leads

dug around and managed to find four channels worth of phono to jack lead. No purchase required, so good so far.

A3173573-8855-4295-8DC7-012B51B94CF2.jpeg

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Step 2 - power supply

More digging around in the loft, and I have the Fostex power supply.

Its pretty heavy, the power supply alone weighs a lot more than the Zoom 4 track device which superseded the Fostex!

16B1C1EF-6CF9-40F3-A085-0A6D3EB4FE80.jpeg

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(Dog walked, back to cassette activity!)

Step 3 - choose a cassette 

This looks like a good one, bringing back memories!

ED8F53A0-0509-47E0-8107-E91845551E66.jpeg

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Step 4 - power up / tape transport 

Good news :Powered up ok👍 !

Bad news: tape mechanism not working well. 😟. I put the tape in and tried to rewind....... it rewound pretty slow, got slower and stopped. The sprocket (?) goes round ok without the tape there. When I rewind the tape with a pencil it seems loose  enough.

Cannot play... the heads go to the tape, but there is just a horrible eerrrrrrrrrrr noise.

 

any ideas?

F2E024B0-8D1F-4CE6-981F-35467EE2862D.jpeg

Edited by Nail Soup
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On 17/09/2020 at 16:42, Nail Soup said:

(inspired by the 1/4 inch tape thread)

I have a drawer full of 4 track cassettes from way back when that was the main way to do home recording.

The 4 track machine doesn't work any more. I may or may not be able to fix it.

Any tips/comments/experince on getting them transferred to WAV files (Including how to sync them up in DAW.)? With and without a 4-track machine?

They are recorded (as most are I think) at double speed.

 

Could you not get your 4-track repaired? Or maybe do what I did and buy a restored vintage Tascam 244 off ebay to transfer my old tapes. I planned to sell the 244 after doing the transfers, but I couldn't resist having a dabble with recording some new tunes on it and I was hooked again. D'oh! For recording certain things (drums for instance) it's great. But buying a refurbed one, doing your transfers, then punting it back on afterwards wouldn't be so bad, no?

 

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1 hour ago, Nail Soup said:

Step 4 - power up / tape transport 

Good news :Powered up ok👍 !

Bad news: tape mechanism not working well. 😟. I put the tape in and tried to rewind....... it rewound pretty slow, got slower and stopped. The sprocket (?) goes round ok without the tape there. When I rewind the tape with a pencil it seems loose  enough.

Cannot play... the heads go to the tape, but there is just a horrible eerrrrrrrrrrr noise.

 

any ideas?

 

Loose drive belt?

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2 hours ago, Nail Soup said:

Step 4 - power up / tape transport 

Good news :Powered up ok👍 !...

STOP EVERYTHING..! NOW..! PLEASE..! :facepalm:

Get this working with any old duff cassette FIRST, before even considering playing one of the four-track tapes. If it's going to 'eat' tapes, better that it be a duff one..! OK, it doesn't have to be a duff tape, just not one of the precious ones. An ornery stereo tape will do, just to get the transport sorted. Only play your 'good' tapes once it's sorted. B|

Edited by Dad3353
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Once the machine is actually playing tapes why not play them into your Zoom 4 track rather than buying a new audio interface?

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If you are going to buy a replacement machine ideally you need to get one of the same model. At the very least make sure that it plays at the same speed and has the EXACTLY the same noise reduction system.

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17 minutes ago, Dankology said:

Once the machine is actually playing tapes why not play them into your Zoom 4 track rather than buying a new audio interface?

The Zoom model I have can only take 2 inputs at a time, otherwise that would have worked pretty well!

 

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1 hour ago, Dad3353 said:

STOP EVERYTHING..! NOW..! PLEASE..! :facepalm:

Get this working with any old duff cassette FIRST, before even considering playing one of the four-track tapes. If it's going to 'eat' tapes, better that it be a duff one..! OK, it doesn't have to be a duff tape, just not one of the precious ones. An ornery stereo tape will do, just to get the transport sorted. Only play your 'good' tapes once it's sorted. B|

Oops being a bit silly there- thanks for the warning. I’ll find an old tape !!!

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5 hours ago, Nail Soup said:

any ideas?

The belts are knackered.  They can usually be replaced.

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I'm going to 'press pause' while i figure out what to do next... thanks to you guys I have some options to consider including:

- Repair the tape transport (I may not have the skills for doing that myself, but I'll try) so might need to pay

- Buy a 4-track off e.g. e-bay and sell it after. 

- Get Fostex repaired professionally (the transport and the original audio output problem), and then sell it afterwards to re-coop the repair fees (Fostex is part-owned with my brother, so I'll split the proceeds with him. He lives abroad now and has probably assumed it has been disposed of by now!)

- Kind offer to utilize a Basschatter's 4-track (but my DAW is tied to a desktop PC)

- Have the tapes transferred professionally (Maybe sell the broken Fostex for spares to fund it?)

Most of the option mean i'd need to upgrade my audio interface to 4 channels at least temporarily.

 

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