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ARSCLIST  August 2013

ARSCLIST August 2013

Subject:

Tascam PortaStudio recycled as a sound effects device

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 29 Aug 2013 06:56:41 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (37 lines)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPF7-nwRRlg

Preservation Sound's Chris Sanchez is now doing videos occasionally. This guy he's spotlighting is 
cool. Not my musical taste but I really respect his creativity.

Here's something I found out from dubbing many cassettes over the years -- that medium is the 
cheapest and easiest way to get tape "slam" that people like for vocals and guitars. Those Tascam 
decks offer many "flavors" because they have NR and two speeds, so you have four different deck 
parameters plus many different tape stock parameters. The comments made about the Porta02 are 
correct, in my experiences years ago. It has input stages that clip before the tape saturates, which 
produces the "brittle" sound described. The better cassette 4-tracks had good input stages that 
could handle levels that would saturate tape, especially without NR at the lower speed.

In my high school metal band days, we'd get a drum sound that didn't deserve to come out of a tight 
basement by using old EV666 mics into an Ampex MX-35 mixer, so some transformer and tube distortion 
from the get-go, then into 2 tracks of various Tascam and Yamaha cassette 4-tracks. I always ran 
dbxII NR on the basic tracks, and we actually didn't shoot for tape crunch, but it ended up 
happening anyway. We'd run the output of the MX-35 thru a Fisher spring reverb, which had a knob for 
dry-passthrough/wet-spring balance. We must have accidentally figured it out from the get-go because 
there are no spring plinks from loud drum hits. The guitars and bass would be mixed to the other two 
tracks on the first pass-through, with a DI on the bass and the guitarists using their amps for all 
the reverb, crunch and distortion they desired. I think we used Shure SM57 mics on the amps. Drums, 
bass and guitar would record rhythm tracks together, so plenty of leakage in a small overloaded 
room -- it sounded LOUD right off the bat. We'd then mix these 4 tracks down to 2 tracks on a second 
cassette machine, ideally always running at 3.75IPS. Then on the second machine we'd add guitar 
solos and fills and vocals. Then the final thing would be mixed, usually adding at least some more 
spring reverb for the vocals, down to a 1/4" reel master (that was the best format we had). The 
result was surprisingly good for that kind of music. Would I recommend this for a classical string 
quartet or a band like the Cowboy Junkies? No! But it worked great for hard rock/metal, where a 
somewhat muddy and crunched sound is desired but everyone still wants to hear all the guitar licks 
and drum fills, so it's a balancing act like all recording.

My point in telling the story is, those old cassette 4-tracks were capable of some interesting 
things -- super-crisp, clean recording of many tracks not being one of them.

-- Tom Fine

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