Hi Dan:

Before you start experimenting with audio plugin's, etc, to enhance the 
audio to make it more intelligible, I'd recommend experimenting with the 
azimuth adjustment on the playback head of the used micro cassette 
player you just bought. You'll get a much better end result if you start 
with a properly adjusted playback head and most of the time, it's well 
worth the short time it takes.

Micro cassette players were banged around a lot, most were cheaply made 
and not well calibrated from the factory. For these reasons there can be 
quite a difference between the original record head azimuth that laid 
down the recording on your tape and the playback head azimuth on the 
used unit you just acquired. The difference between dialing in on that 
original record head azimuth and not, can sometimes be substantial and 
you can really open up the higher mid-ranges and treble by making the 

Most micro cassette recorders - even the cheep ones, have a small hole 
through the plastic case near the playback head. When the head is 
engaged into the tape, you can get to the screw that adjusts the azimuth 
with a small jewelers type screwdriver - better yet an electronics 
screwdriver. Make sure the screwdriver is not magnetized. Slowly turn 
the screw 2 revolutions or so in one direction. If you don't hear a 
difference, go back to null and try the other way. Don't push down as 
you make the adjustment, as the screw/head assembly can be on a pressure 
spring and pressure will effect the azimuth as well. Keep adjusting 
until you hear the mids/highs open up. Hopefully you'll hear quite a 
difference between being dialed into the original record head azimuth 
and not. If you have a hardware phase scope or software phase scope with 
your capture software, watch the visual representation of the audio as 
you make the adjustment. The audio pattern on the scope will tighten up 
as you "come into" azimuth. This in many cases, will make a bigger 
difference than any digital post processing you can apply later.

A lot of people are scared to make this adjustment. If you don't plan to 
record using your micro cassette unit, there's no harm in doing this 
(unless you turn the screw in too many times and strip it or screw it 
out from the threads in the base). I don't have a single tape deck in 
any format here that is properly calibrated for "factory" azimuth 
because I don't record on tape here - I'm just getting content off tape 
- which means I'm always changing the azimuth adjustment no-matter the 
format, to match the original record head. I still kick myself for 
spending all that money on MRL alignment tapes when I first started out 
- I've never used a one!

All this said, be sure to inspect the payback head, make sure it does 
not have too much wear (most don't) and that the heads and tape path is 
nice and clean. There will be posters on this list recommending to 
rehouse the tape in standard sized cassette shells and transfer with a 
matching standard cassette deck. Even still, azimuth adjustment will be 
important with either method. I'd try using the player you have first 
and judge from the results if its worth taking the next step.

Kind Regards,

John Schroth


Media Transfer Service, LLC
High Quality Conversion Of:
Video - Audio - Motion Picture - Still Image
Phone: 585-248-4908
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On 6/20/2018 5:49 PM, Dan Gediman wrote:
> Oh great hive-mind of ARSC,
> I need your wisdom again. I had previously mentioned that I have to digitally dub some micro cassettes. Today I got a GE model from Ebay and have started messing around with these interview tapes that were recorded by a journalist colleague some years ago. I have access to IZotope RX5 and have started applying its various modules to try and make the audio more intelligible (my goal is to be able to broadcast excerpts from the results in a radio documentary). I am using it in stand-alone mode. Do you have any suggestions for which RX modules to use, in what order, and with what settings? I have so far experimented with the De-Noise and Corrective EQ modules, but there are many presets and other variables in each. I’m hardly a power user so I would appreciate any tricks of the trade any of you would be willing to impart.
> With enormous gratitude,
> Dan
> Dan Gediman • Executive Director • This I Believe, Inc.
> 502 259-9889 • 502 259-9890 fax
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