Better Cassette Copies
An unbiased view
I thought I would reprint this article from our previous
newsletters because there is such a great misunderstanding on
what it takes to make a cassette sound great.
As a producer, songwriter or anyone that uses cassettes to show off
your latest endeavor it's critical to have a cassettes copy be the
best possible representation of your work. If you've been having
problems getting good cassette copies hereare some things to keep
in mind. The copy can only be as good as your master. If your master
is dull and funky sounding, then don't expect more from your cassette.
This seems fairly obvious but is overlooked by some people. Try to EQ
the master through a graphic EQ or an "enhancer" to brighten and punch
it up. If you have a DAT or VHS Stereo Hi Fi make a copy to that and
make it your new master. It will save you having to re-EQ each time.
Also, make sure you use a good quality cassette, at least a chrome
cassette with a good quality shell. If the shell is of poor quality
you'll open a whole can of worms that will be blamed on the tape.
Remember, when you buy bulk loaded tapes, there is one manufacturer
of the shell and another for the tape. These are purchased by a company
which loads the tape into the shells at various lengths. If the shell
is cheap then the tolerances are very loose and the tape will not sit
in the deck accurately leading to misalignment of the tape with the
head, with the tape so narrow and the speed so slow there's not much
room to be sloppy. Also, the tape could be prevented from traveling
properly leading to wow and flutter. This is also assuming that
your tape deck is also up to spec and the heads have been cleaned
and demagnetized regularly.
Motor speed is another thing that drives me crazy! Most consumer decks
have motor speeds that are not very stable. How many times have you
thought:"That's not the tempo I recorded this at!" Try to get a better
quality deck to assure a more accurate motor speed. If you really want
to get into it, get a cassette test tape and a frequency counter and
take these on your cassette deck shopping excursion. Really drive
those salespeople crazy! I do, and it's worth the extra effort. There
is a way on most decks to adjust motor speed but none of this stuff is
for the faint of heart!
Another very critical step is to make sure that the machine you use
is properly biased for the tape you use. This is probably the single
most important reason for lousy cassette copies and the most overlooked.
If you have a bias adjustment ( I do not mean a switch for chrome/normal
setting) you can easily get to and a 3 head machine, here is a quick and
dirty way to get the bias close. First, set your tape monitor switch to
input, then feed a 1k tone into the deck and set it around -5db. Insert
a blank tape of the kind you'll be using. Put the machine into record.
Set the monitor switch from input to tape so you'll be seeing and hearing
the 1k tone as it's being recorded. Now turn the bias screw to the
left and on the meter you'll see the level drop. Turn it to the
right again and keep turning to the right until the meter peaks. If
you turn too far to the right the meter will start to drop to the
left. What you want is for the 1k tone to peak. Make sure you do
each channel this way. That should put you in the ballpark. The
next thing to do is set your monitor switch to input again and set
your 1k tone for zero on the meter. Set your output level to about
2:00. Switch to tape again, record and make sure that it still
reads 0. If not, adjust the record level so the meters read 0 VU.
You want the same level coming out as going in.
I'm not a real tech, so I would suggest if you have any doubts about
your ability and don't feel comfortable doing this that you have your
machine serviced by a competent tech. The bottom line is- Why spend
so much time and money on your music and not have the best cassette
copies possible? Oh yeah...... last but not least don't get too hung
up on this stuff because no one is going to buy anything if the song