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Author Topic: Frequency response of a tape recorder.  (Read 1055 times)

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Offline Modulo3

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Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« on: September 19, 2016, 01:05:57 PM »
I'm looking to maximize the frequency response of a cassette tape recorder. The model in question is a Sony TCM-3 portable cassette recorder (not much info. online about this basic model from about 1983), but I'm sure this applies to a broad spectrum of different recorders as well.
The specs state the frequency response as 100—9000Hz. I'm unclear if that range is limited by just the internal microphone or if there might be other factors like limitations inherent to the write mechanism. I bought the item at a yard sale, and the specs are much better than most consumer-level recorders of later vintage. Still I'm hoping to capture sounds as low as 65 Hz on magnetic tape (it only handles Type 1 as far as I know). Should I consider an external mic with a broader frequency response in the low end for my TCM-3, or would it make any difference at all?
« Last Edit: September 19, 2016, 01:49:58 PM by Modulo3 »

Offline DATBRAD

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2016, 01:31:08 PM »
Cassette tape type has a small impact on frequency range, with Metal being the best. The range of response of the recorder is limited by a variety of factors, but generally they follow the price point. Nakamichi and Harmon Kardon made their top line home decks in the '80s able to record full range (20hz-20khz) but few portables made had that quality. The Sony TCD5M, a recorder I used from '84 to '92, gave 20hz-19khz as it's best possible response. That was a professional level portable. Unfortunately, even using the best TDK or Maxell metal formulation tape, the model you referenced can't even get close to the range of a D5. Sorry..


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Offline Modulo3

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2016, 05:04:33 PM »
That's alright, I wouldn't expect it to come anywhere near that anyway... I thought about an external mic as a way of boosting its frequency response, but I'll be satisfied with what I've got :)
I'll be looking out for a TCM5M in the meantime. It looks to be just what I have in mind. Thanks.

Offline ~Jon Stoppable

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2016, 06:12:22 PM »
1/2" decks struggled to manage 20Hz - 20kHz response, defined as -3dB at 0VU.  Usually you have to compromise one end or the other with tape speed.  I doubt a cassette could do the same.  The TCD5M manual specs 20Hz-19kHz, but with no tolerance or level.  Its spec for -3dB and 0VU (below that you start giving up dynamic range, and you probably only have 50-60dB to start with) is 30Hz to 13kHz.  I have a Tascam CDA-500 that manages 15kHz, above that it drops like a rock.  Its spec is 50Hz-15kHz at -3dB, no level spec but I recall I tested it at 0VU to that spec.

You can do a bit better if you get a double-speed deck; many of the four-track recorders could do that.  I have a 424mkII that is spec'ed at 40-16kHz, -3dB, at double-speed, but I can't verify that because I have the deck in pieces :(

Any reasonable small omni mic will manage 20Hz-20kHz without too much trouble.

Offline Modulo3

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2016, 10:47:10 AM »
1/2" decks struggled to manage 20Hz - 20kHz response, defined as -3dB at 0VU.  Usually you have to compromise one end or the other with tape speed.  I doubt a cassette could do the same.  The TCD5M manual specs 20Hz-19kHz, but with no tolerance or level.  Its spec for -3dB and 0VU (below that you start giving up dynamic range, and you probably only have 50-60dB to start with) is 30Hz to 13kHz.  I have a Tascam CDA-500 that manages 15kHz, above that it drops like a rock.  Its spec is 50Hz-15kHz at -3dB, no level spec but I recall I tested it at 0VU to that spec.

You can do a bit better if you get a double-speed deck; many of the four-track recorders could do that.  I have a 424mkII that is spec'ed at 40-16kHz, -3dB, at double-speed, but I can't verify that because I have the deck in pieces :(

Any reasonable small omni mic will manage 20Hz-20kHz without too much trouble.

As I'm mostly interested in spoken word, I'll try and find a Marantz PMD101 on the used market since they're quite common, using my TCM-3 and digital dictaphone as secondary recorders. The added range of a Marantz will be useful when recording industrial samples. It seems the more I look for a digital solution, the more I find the intuitive simplicity of tape appealing -- but finding the right portable cassette recorder can be a monumental task nowadays!

Offline ~Jon Stoppable

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2016, 11:00:16 AM »
I'm not sure what is too complicated about a Tascam DR-05, but whatever suits you I guess.

Offline DATBRAD

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2016, 01:03:12 PM »
For me as I moved along with the technologies over the last 32 years of taping, when I first moved to a portable DAT deck it was much easier than using cassettes. Making perfectly timed flips was no longer a skill needed, for example. Today's digital file based recorders are even easier to use than DAT decks. You need to get over whatever reservations you have and get a Sony M10 or similar unit. You won't regret it. Good luck!
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Offline Modulo3

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2016, 02:18:30 PM »
I'm not sure what is too complicated about a Tascam DR-05, but whatever suits you I guess.

There's nothing compilcated about it! In fact, I've used it for recording forest sounds and it performs very well to my tinny ears. Specifically, the biggest drawback to digital recorders compared with their analogue counterparts is that they are filesystem-based. This means I can't cut into a point on the tape and overwrite a specific length of recording (at least not on the sub- $400 Tascams and Zooms I've looked at). I was merely pointing out a limitation in the "digital way of doing things" that I've alreay encountered, not exalting one medium over the other. I would recommend the Tascam DR-05 to anyone looking for a simple yet full-featured portable audio recorder that won't break the bank. As someone starting out, I was shocked (I guess I shouldn't have been after all) at how different, in some respects, a digital device is to a traditional tape recorder. They both the job for me (I'm just an amateur), but there's still room to appreciate the strengths of each.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2016, 02:20:37 PM by Modulo3 »

Offline down2earthlandscaper

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2016, 02:23:31 PM »
For me as I moved along with the technologies over the last 32 years of taping, when I first moved to a portable DAT deck it was much easier than using cassettes. Making perfectly timed flips was no longer a skill needed, for example. Today's digital file based recorders are even easier to use than DAT decks. You need to get over whatever reservations you have and get a Sony M10 or similar unit. You won't regret it. Good luck!

My vote is for the Sony M10. Incredibly intuitive and simple to operate. A $12 32gb micro SD card gives me 14 hours of recording time at 24/96 (way higher resolution than necessary for spoken word) Very small and portable, and battery life is unparalleled.

That being said, I still search for quality vintage tape decks because I have a collection of thousands of cassettes that I don't want to retire! :headphones:
Mics: CA-14(cards & omnis) and CA-11(cards & omnis) ; AT853's(cards, hypers, mini shotguns); Busman BSC-1 (cards, hypers, omnis)
Nakamichi CM300's (CP-1,2,3,4) Nakamichi CM700's (cards, omnis)
Tascam PE-120's (cards, omnis) Peluso CEMC-6 (cards and subcards)
DPA 4061's DPA 4022's
Preamps: CA-9100; Naiant Tinybox (12v/48v + PIP 8V); Naiant Littlebox;
DPA MPS6030; Sound Device Mix Pre-D
Decks: Sony PCM M10; Edirol R-4; Zoom H6; Marantz PMD-661; Sound Devices 722

Offline Modulo3

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2016, 02:29:55 PM »
For me as I moved along with the technologies over the last 32 years of taping, when I first moved to a portable DAT deck it was much easier than using cassettes. Making perfectly timed flips was no longer a skill needed, for example. Today's digital file based recorders are even easier to use than DAT decks. You need to get over whatever reservations you have and get a Sony M10 or similar unit. You won't regret it. Good luck!

I know I wouldn't  :D I've been looking at that Sony M10 and resolved to myself that, once I feel confident in my recordings, I'm going for it. Until then I guess I really shouldn't be too concerened over things like frequency response given the things I (am not able to) do right now. For me, it's probably about time to get more acquainted with Audacity and find out what I can make of it.

Offline ~Jon Stoppable

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2016, 03:00:03 PM »
This means I can't cut into a point on the tape and overwrite a specific length of recording (at least not on the sub- $400 Tascams and Zooms I've looked at).

Sure you can.  The DR-05 also has a nondestructive overdub function; they don't describe it well in the manual, but they give an example on their site:

http://tascam.com/product/dr-05/

Offline Modulo3

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Re: Frequency response of a tape recorder.
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2016, 03:54:10 PM »
This means I can't cut into a point on the tape and overwrite a specific length of recording (at least not on the sub- $400 Tascams and Zooms I've looked at).

Sure you can.  The DR-05 also has a nondestructive overdub function; they don't describe it well in the manual, but they give an example on their site:

http://tascam.com/product/dr-05/

If I'm not way off the mark here, this looks to me like I can get close to what I want to do without resorting to an external DAW. (BTW, My manual has nothing specifically about non-destructive overdubbing even though I've got the DR-05 Mk2.) Using the overdub feature as described starting on page 44 of the manual, I've managed to overdub a track with a new recording, but still the original recording is audible even when the PB level is set to 0 (although barely). Ideally, the first recording wouldn't be heard at all -- kinda like adding a voice note to a previous recording on tape. Just completely overwrite a segment of the recording. But there's a good chance I don't fully understand what I'm doing here.
By the way, the reason I want this feature is because the Tascam is lightweight and ideal as a dictaphone. I simply can't get it to do this one thing! Nevertheless, thanks for the pointer. as I'm sure it's me who isn't getting it.

 

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