Oral histories -- a prime example of what I've been saying. The donor wants them to be "released"
from a dead medium (1/4" reels) that few can access. Good for him! And good for you for helping him.
He's more comfortable using a cassette player (or his only CD player is in his car, perhaps, or like
many of us, he prefers not to have to sit at his computer to listen to audio), so he wants cassette
Here's how I'd do it, which I think is an efficient way. First, know the time-length of his reels.
Are the 1200' at 3 3/4 IPS? If so, that's 60 minutes per direction (side). Are they 1800'? Then
that's 90 minutes per direction. Cut it in half for 7.5IPS recording speed, and know whether it's
2-direction (either quarter-track stereo or half-track mono) or single-direction (full-track mono or
Once you know what your primary media is, then you can select the best dub media. Go for C-60's or
C-90's. I agree with everything everyone has said about C-120's. Avoid them. That place that I think
Lou Judson linked has Maxell Duplicator Series cassettes. These are perfect for oral history audio
and they are very well-made and tough tape (I have some OTR dubs made on these types from the 80's
that playback perfectly today, and we have many conference recordings at work made on these types
that are still in very good shape, dating back to the early 80s). I think they are LN ("normal" bias
and EQ) tape put in a hearty shell. There may also be CRO2 tape in that series, but I don't think
you need it. If it were me, I'd use Dolby B NR for the dubs, don't mess with Dolby C because it's
not necessary and it's more prone to deck-to-deck tracking problems. Since oral histories tend to
have wide dynamics (mumbling all the way up to clipping distortion during loud laughs or punching
the table for emphasis), I would use NR to tame some of the ineviable background hiss.
Then, I would run the reels just once, and record to both cassette and computer at the same time.
This can easily be done with any mixer that has both a MAIN out (to the computer) and a TAPE out (to
the cassette recorder). For spoken word content, don't be overly conservative on VU meter levels --
a little bit of clipping when someone laughs loudly is better than important, contemplative,
softly-spoken words buried in tape hiss. On the computer end of things, this kind of content is
actually a very worthy candidate for high-resolution ingestion because it may need some fancy DSP
here and there to make words audible and DSP tends to work better when it has more information
For playback of the reels, this is once again a case where it's better to get the audio "unlocked"
rather than beat your head over having a chrome-plated nuclear-clock-accurate playback deck. Just
find something that sounds decent and plays the tapes at about the speed they were recorded (so the
voices sound normal pitch). You can be almost assured that the recording quality will not be
anywhere near a studio master -- if you get something where all the voices are clearly audible all
the time, it's an excellent oral history recording. If you get one that also has a low-ish level of
background noise, few scrapes and bumps on the recording microphone, no boomy resonance from a
microphone place in the middle of a sound-reflecting table, etc, then it's in the top 1% of oral
In any case, your donor's goal, unlocking this history so it's widely accessible, is highly
commendable, and I apologize for my flippant remark about the cassette dubs.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Grant, Tyra" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 11:26 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Seeking blank audiocassette recommendation
Reason is, a donor gave us oral history on 1/4" tapes and asked if we
could make him cassette copies because he would like to be able to listen
to the tapes on his
cassette player---it's what he has.
On 10/30/12 4:37 PM, "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>This is great! The very question I was too timid to ask.
>-- Tom Fine
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Dennis Rooney" <[log in to unmask]>
>To: <[log in to unmask]>
>Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 3:18 PM
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Seeking blank audiocassette recommendation
>> Have you first ascertained that the person making the request is in his
>> right mind?
>> On Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 2:32 PM, Grant, Tyra <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> We've been asked to transfer a collection of audio content to
>>> Is there a particular recommended cassette tape type I should try to
>>> order (assuming 60 min. tape length)?
>>> Tyra Grant
>>> University of Kansas Libraries
>> Dennis D. Rooney
>> 303 W. 66th Street, 9HE
>> New York, NY 10023