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 ain't there!