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Blank Cassette Tape All aspects of blank tape; quality, characteristics, experiences, use and storage.

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Old 02-07-2009, 07:22 PM
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Cassette Type 1, 2, 3, & 4 Strengths & Evaluations

I'd thought I'd start a thread on helping people choose what type of tape is best for certain recordings, and what each tape type's strengths and weakness are. Anyone hear with thoughts can help fill in here. Maybe sticky this thread?

We know there are four tape types, of which three are common. Type 1 is a ferro tape which is the original and most basic tape type. Then there is type 2 which can either be a true chrome tape or a cobalt doped tape with similar performance to pure chrome. Then there is type 3 (not common) which was a ferro-chrome tape mixed into one being a dual layer tape. I suspect that in place of pure chrome, they also used cobalt in type 3 tapes. Then finally there is type 4 metal tapes.

There are two levels of types 1, 2, and 4. There are the general versions and then there are the top flight versions. With some normal and chrome tapes- there also could be varying levels of performance.

Lets start with type 1. The most rounded tape that can be used just for voice recording, or some music. The better type 1s outperformed some chrome and metal tapes and had elevated treble response, plus they took more signal to record at higher levels. Some people use type 1 tapes to "color" the sound and give it a more pleasing playback. Type 1s had excellent bass response.

I'll quote Nakdoc for his response:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nakdoc View Post
All tape formulations involve compromise and balance between dynamic range, (noise, head room), noise, frequency response, retentivity, erase noise, and distortion. One principal reason type 2 tape was developed was to provide greater headroom for rock, since constantly crashing cymbals easily overload type 1 tapes. The guidelines I learned were that classical music and voice used type 1, rock and jazz type 2, and metal if you wanted it to last forever. While you can record at +7 Vu with metal on a Nak 1000ZXL and remain under 1% THD, most tape users are happy with type 2 performance that gives up only 3dB of dynamic range in comparison.
Next are chrome tapes which excelled at better treble response. Pure chrome tapes had better noise levels, but couldn't take as much signal as cobalt type 2 tapes. Chrome tapes were known for not having as good a bass response as type 1s. Pure chromes also tended to have a more natural treble sound compare to metal tapes.

Next are type 3 tapes which were to combine the bass response of type 1s with the treble response of type 2s. Probably the best tape to buy for a pleasing sound quality, but most decks aren't able to use these tapes and the tapes themselves are not common. Also some have complained about the top layer of the tape being scrubbed off after the first few plays.

Last is type 4 tapes. Metal tapes take the most signal, have less hiss then type 1 tapes, and have the best treble response with good low end like type 1s. Only thing is metal tapes had less natural treble (distortion?) quality. Metal tapes were known for lasting the longest. If you wanted to keep the recording for a long time, you used a metal tape. Metal tapes are also the hardest to erase.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Des-Lab View Post
In most cases, some of your finer metals (generally from about 1982-1993 a couple years) used on a good deck DO sound better than oxides. However, it can be argued that it's not a SIGNIFICANT improvement. In some ways, it could be considered an example of the 80/20 rule: In order to get 20% better sound, you have to spend 80% more. You know how it is with high end audio. The higher you get in terms of [perceived or actual] sonic improvements, the laws of diminishing returns get greater and greater. For smaller and smaller incremental improvement, you have to spend exponentially more. So yes, there is SOME merit to the better quality argument. How much though is subject to debate.

The problem is that no one tape type is perfect. All have strengths and weaknesses and assuming that the mechanisms are as good as can be (i.e. having minimum modulation noise and best head contact - a big "ask" indeed!) even the tapes themselves are often a trade-off between two factors; "hiss" and ability to take signal.

Type I tends to give you more hiss but good ones can potentailly can take high levels. Type IIs traditionally go for low hiss but only a handful can take high rec levels but MOLs and saturation are invariably behind Type Is.

Type IVs should give the best of both worlds but hiss is usually higher than Type IIs even when levels are pushed to the limit. So even here you have a compromise.

And then you have the higher modulation noise inherent with the type of tape used regardlesss of mechanism. True Chromes have always had an advantage here, thus removing and jitter or grit from the high frequencies... and yet true chromes are weak when it comes to ability to record at high levels and have also lagged behind pseudo chromes, Type Is and Type IVs on transients. Another case of trade-offs...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mignun67 View Post
As Des-Lab has stated below, Metal tape never really sold in any great numbers - it was less than 1% of total blank tape sales in the UK market in 1987 - and only to a few dedicated audiophiles with deep enough pockets to pay a hefty premium over the best Type I and Type II tapes.

The problem was that you needed a really good tape deck to fully exploit Metal tape's capabilities. Even decks that had variable bias adjustment rarely extended this facility to Metal tape.

And even if you did have a TOTL deck then usually this was also able to squeeze the pips out of the best Type Is and IIs so that Metal had little or no advantage anyway.

So, the theoretical advantage of Metal tape was to provide a tape that would tape a very high record level with greater overload headroom and ability to take treble. The best Type Is could do this as well in most cases however their one disadvantage was higher hiss than Type IV (Metal) and in particular Type II.

The best Type IIs offered the lowest hiss but most couldn't take the same levels as Types I or IV and their treble saturation was also much lower. However, there were also some peculiar Type IIs that were actually made from Metal tape (TDK, Denon, That's all produced variants of this type) designed to take a huge amount of treble before saturation or self-erasure. However, they were very difficult to calibrate and if used on a non-calibrating deck would sound almost piercingly bright. If you used Dolby, the resulting errors would make a real mess of a recording.

On a deck such as a good Nakamichi with tape tuning, a top Type I "Super Ferric" tape IMHO gives you a recording that is all but indistinguishable to even the best Metal tape. Indeed, some respected UK reviewers felt that the best of the Type Is were the finest tapes ever made. Which rather makes Metal tape poor value for money, which may explain why it never really sold in great numbers. Then again, the top Type Is probably sold in even fewer numbers, so go figure....

true Metal could take a lot of treble without overload or saturation but it was never quite as smooth and pure as the best Type IIs, in particular true Chromes. These would often get better with repeated playing - sort of a polishing effect. They always recorded the lowest modulation distortion due to this smooth running and when combined with a good mechanism, this would result in very low scrape flutter too - the result: very pure clean treble.
Anyone want to fill in more details and add what kind of music you suggest for each type, add it here. And please stay on topic for this thread.
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Old 02-07-2009, 08:32 PM
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Braxus,
Here we go again, I agree with most of it, indeed some Type II are very good, and some metals are very bad, but the metals that are common like TDK, Sony, and Maxell, and Basf will outperform the best Type II. Here is where the 80/20 applies. And yes you can peg the meter al the way to the top with a metal, but that doesn't mean anything because I hapend to get great recordings at -5 to -10 db without any distortion and hardly any hiss. Also has to do how well your deck is able to perform, the calibration of the deck etc. Is your system able to capture and reproduce all the nuances. So as you see yes Type I does ...., Type II does .... and Type IV in a deck done right can outperforme the rest.
My 2 cents,
Angel
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Old 02-09-2009, 04:20 PM
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Anyone else have any input on this?
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Old 02-09-2009, 06:18 PM
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Whenever I record electronic, dance or trance music, I usually use type II. Either TDK SA, TDK CD Power or Maxell XLII. It sounds nice and clean, and I never seem to have any problem with bass reproduction.

As I said in another post, type I tape is pretty good for warming up CD audio.

I am not really familiar with type IV to make a judgement call on what sounds good. (although I did tape some tracks from Jewel's "Spirit" CD and it sounded extremely good)

I am not familiar with type III at all.
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Old 02-09-2009, 07:51 PM
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I prefer type I cassettes for recording easy listening instrumental music & 60's bossa nova music.
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Old 03-19-2009, 07:37 AM
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Bump for Kat.
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Old 10-23-2009, 11:06 AM
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Anyone have any comments to add to this thread on each tape type and its sound characteristics?
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  #8  
Old 10-25-2009, 12:26 AM
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I never found that a tape forumation "favors" a certain type of music. Just that "poor" tape characteristics don't perform well with demanding music.

For example, the worst combination is to record classical music, especially a passage with wide dymanics onto a low grade type I tape. Tape hiss would obscure the "panissimo" parts. And if the passage has prominent violin, flute or other high frequency organs, then their sound - especially during solos - would sound a bit muffled.

That, of course, cannot be a generalization as I've tried certain "Type I" tapes that exceed the performance of "poorer" Type II tapes. For example, TDK AR-X, used on a good deck with HX Pro, sounds much much better than, say, a vintage BASF CrO2 tape - I've never been happy with these.

In contrast, I doubt there would be a point on recording heavy metal music on a Type IV tape.

If budget - and availability - were not an issue, then I can't think of any kind of music that would sound bad on Type IV tapes or not sound better in Type II tape compared to Type I tape - bearing in mind that some Type I tapes might perform actually better than Type II tapes.
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Old 10-25-2009, 02:56 AM
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I don't want to dilute this thread but I have to insert my

One thing you need to take into account is how fussy you wish to be at any given time. I remember reading a TDK blank cassette brochure back in 1991 and, not knowing that much about the types of tapes, I figured that the MA-XG was the top of the line tape, so it must be the one you want to put your extra special, hard to replace recordings on.

Now that I know the difference between the types of tape, I have to say that I really don't care that much. I like chromes - specifically BASF chromes which, I have been told, are among the few genuine chrome tapes out there - because they have a lower hiss level. However, to me, a chrome also reproduces every frequency well.

There are, in MY OPINION (and I cannot stress enough that this is my opinion), three types of type I tape: Voice grade, Music Grade and Really Good Music Grade. Basically, a Voice Grade tape to me is anything that drowns the music in hiss. G-Tape is a prime example of this, BASF SK also. However, I have heard no real difference between a TDK B, a TDK D and a TDK AD. Although not as good as a TDK, I am also happy with the current Sony EF. I cannot comment on many other brands/models of tapes, though, as I haven't used many lately.

I've had the most experience with chrome tapes from BASF and Fuji. Recently I have also used some Maxell ones too. So far so good. My experience with metal tapes has not been good, but I only have a couple and no intention to buy any more unless somebody is able to offer me a deal similar to DesLab's Blackwatch 404 deal. So metals don't really matter to me.

The chrome tapes I've used have so far captured everything to my liking, whether I've recorded on a portable stereo, one piece or component system. I have generally only ever used "basic" chromes: BASF Chrome Extra, Fuji Z, BASF 353 Chrome Studio. I have recently used a BASF Chrome Plus: I would trade all my NOS tapes for these if I could. On playback, I heard no hiss between songs (source: CD) unless I jacked the amplifier to over 75%. I recorded with an average level of 0db.

I guarantee there will be people out there who will say that there are better tapes out there than the ones I have listed here. But to tell the truth, I really don't care. As long as the tape reproduces the sound with most of the frequencies intact and little hiss, I am happy. I could probably squeeze better performance out of the tapes I currently own, but that would require a better tape deck. I really don't see the point. If I wanted better than what I have, I'd get it. However, I am happy with the equipment that we have.

As for what type of music best suits what tape, I say for current pop and 1990's techno, go for a ferric. For everything else, go for a chrome. Classical? Stick to the LP or CD.
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Old 05-20-2010, 10:25 AM
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Good discussion.I rarely use type 1s,but the better ones can easily be as good as the basic chromes.
When using chrome(mostly my preferred choice)i use Maxell XL-11s or Sony UX-Pro, these can better Metals in most respects, they have great bass and treble detail and way less bias noise.
For the Metals you need a true high end deck to reach their full potential, and the cost is not worth the small increase in performance.
It is a pity Ferri-chromes did not last, i love the sound they produce, i use them on my Nakamichi in the Ferric position....
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Old 05-20-2010, 10:39 AM
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This is a good discussion to recussitate. A lot of new members might find it informative and useful. Thanks Brax for digging it up.
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Old 05-20-2010, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LesX55 View Post
Good discussion.I rarely use type 1s,but the better ones can easily be as good as the basic chromes.
At one time I would have dismissed type 1 cassettes. In fact for many years I neither purchased or used them. Recently I have had to revise my opinion. A really good type 1 (like a TDK AR-X) can be capable of outstanding performance and in my experience, will surpass many chrome tapes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LesX55 View Post
When using chrome(mostly my preferred choice)i use Maxell XL-11s or Sony UX-Pro, these can better Metals in most respects, they have great bass and treble detail and way less bias noise.
For the Metals you need a true high end deck to reach their full potential, and the cost is not worth the small increase in performance.
A high end deck that has been properly set up should deliver the sonic goods with any decent tape.

The cost/performance issue will always divide people. I think the trouble with type IV cassettes is that the very best ones are (rightfully) the most expensive to procure whilst the rest can be bettered by a number of top chrome tapes.
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Old 05-20-2010, 03:04 PM
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Hello everybody on this forum!

Neither do I want to dilute the thread (especially given this is my first post here), but I have to get this question out and hope to add something useful as well further down.
Quote:
Originally Posted by KatCassidy View Post
I have recently used a BASF Chrome Plus: I would trade all my NOS tapes for these if I could. On playback, I heard no hiss between songs (source: CD) unless I jacked the amplifier to over 75%. I recorded with an average level of 0db.
I wonder which cassette you mean. I know BASF cassettes quite well, given that I come from the country BASF is located (Germany), and they were possibly the most widespread tapes here. But I never heard of "Chrome Plus". Could you possibly upload a picture?
All they had here in all those years I remember were "Chromdioxid II" (later renamed "Chrom(e) Extra", in the end "CE") "Chromdioxid Super II" (later renamed "Chrome Super", in the end "CS") and Chrome Maxima (introduced in 1982 as "Chromdioxid Maxima II" in a really weird shell, and in the end called "CM"). The lineup you can see on vintagecassettes.com.
To save the integrity of the thread, you may as well send the picture via PM.

Back on topic: There are some substantial differences between the different type IIs, the "real chromes" on one side and the cobalt-doped ferrics (= chrome substitutes) on the other, that I haven't seen mentioned here. From my experience the real chromes are really nice quiet tapes, especially the dual-layer types from BASF. They won't take as high peak levels as good TDKs or Maxells, but not much less. Their overall dynamic, given the low noise floor, is excellent. I couldn't find much difference in the high frequency sound between chromes and cobalt-ferrics. Overall, I found the dual-layer chromes exellent-sounding. Single-layer chromes are weaker in the high frequencies, especially many of the cheap simple chromes you could find everywhere around here in the 80s and 90s. I can't really give a statement for the bass sound, as that's distorted quite a bit by the cassette deck itself, and I didn't find bass sound much different between types.

But then I never used many good ferrics, as the BASF Chrome Super was my bread-and-butter cassette in the 80s, until I completely switched to Metal types for home use (when the quite good Fuji FR Metal and TDK MA from the end-80s finally made them affordable, especially when bought in boxes of 10) and simple cobalt-doped ferrics for car use.

My reason for the switch? Mainly, the longevity of magnetism on Metal tapes (there are those two terms, "coercivity" and "remanence", which I keep mixing up, one of which indicates how well the magnetism will last). With my use of those Chrome tapes, I had noticed two effects, which made the biggest difference to those cobalt-ferrics in my experience:
(1) There was noticably more copy-through on chrome tapes, especially when combined with another effect, which is (2) chrome tapes can't take a lot of heat, like when you leave them in your car for a while. Please note that later BASF chromes were much better in respect to effect (1), equal to good chrome substitutes. BASF obviously changed their formulation. However, effect (2) remained. They still lost high frequencies drastically when left in a hot environment for a while.
Another reason for the switch was better headroom for high frequencies, which metals clearly have.

As for my experiences with the metals: Overall, they lived up to my expectations. Never had to worry about setting recording levels too high, great highs, and sound lasted much better than on the chromes before. But when I recently rediscovered cassettes and cassette decks, I went back to chromes, as Metals have become unaffordable (again). And the last BASF chromes are quite nice cassettes. A pity they aren't made any more. I don't need cassettes in the car ATM (although I'm thinking of re-adding a cassette receiver...).

--
Alex

P.S.: Sorry for not having written an introductory post. Wanted to produce a really nice one, but never got around to it. Hopefully I'll deliver it over the next few days.
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Old 05-21-2010, 12:02 PM
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I'm not sure if BASF sold Chrome Plus was widely distributed as a shrinkwrapped consumer cassette. From what I can gather, it was mostly used for commercial release chrome cassettes and duplicators. It is a cobalt doped chrome. Not a "cobalt" type II which is typically cobalt doped Fe.

There is too much variability in formulations and characteristics between different cassettes in the same type number category to make general statements about what kind of music suits what type. The type category just defined by what bias range the tape is set to record with.

If you compare a TDK D, a Fuji FR-1s, and a TDK AR, they all have a very different sound, despite all being type I.


An another note, while I know a fair bit about the formulations of various type I and type 2s, I've not seen much information out there on what metals and what formulation differences were in type 4 cassettes. Were they typically pure Fe particles, or pure Cr, Co, a mixture of each? What about particle size?

Has anybody ever doped tape with Neodymium?
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Old 05-21-2010, 08:47 PM
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my 2 cents spelling grammar factual errors and all

i have currently been using the TDK AMs (type i) in the car and I use Maxell MX-S (type iv) for studio work. Over the years, in addition to MX-S, I have used mainly Maxell XLII, XLII-S, Denon MG-X, TDK SA, TDK SA-X, Sony UX-Pro, and Sony SR. As soon as I get the material transferred off of these older tapes I plan to do more recording/listening comparisons. I have been reusing my older MX-S tape and keeping the NOS tape I buy sealed (especially the metals) because it seems like the right thing to do (the TDK AM i am using sparingly only because I got 100+ of these cheap). Anyway. Here is my story (the short version) -

My first tape deck as a teenager was an Akai GX-F31 with which I recorded lps onto Maxell XLI-S (probably version i) in the early 80s. These recordings were great. Not soon after, we got a Technics SL-P2 CD player when it came out (86?) so the tapes kind of went by the wayside. I did not have many records and compact disc seemed like a good thing. In the early 90s while I was in college, I bought a Yamaha KX-1200 at a pawn shop for $75. I followed an artist around and recorded her singing/playing guitar on this deck using Maxell MX-S with DBX (as well as HX PRO). I had some very high quality condenser microphones and a good mic preamp and got amazing quality recordings. The MX-S and the DBX allowed me to peak the tape out at +18db on the meter of the KX-1200 with no noticeable distortion. This was a very short lived hobby - I made the mistake of moving to DAT and not getting as good results. Of course, at the time I did not realize this - it was more the magic was gone and everyone had moved onto other things. I was experimenting with reel to reel recordings, tubes, dat, minidisc and cd transfers etc and did not have the clear picture that cassette was the best for me hindsight being 20/20. I was also torn between being a visual artist, a recording technician, and finishing college. The other day I counted 23 Maxell MX-S and 7 Denon MG-X that I recorded on once during my brief flirting with the format - or was that the girl?

I tried to transfer my 5 important MX-S tapes of the girl with the guitar in the late 90s/early 2000s - (no concept of time). My Yamaha KX-1200 crapped out on me at the hi fi store I was working at - you see - we had just gotten a Pioneer Elite PDR-99 stable platter cd recorder and my plan was to get these tapes onto that wonderful cdr machine I could not afford. Luckily, in the pile of used equipment, we had a Nakamichi ZX-7 which i used in conjunction with an outboard dbx unit to transfer the tapes to cd. But wait, the dynamic range was too much for the cdr so I ended up making the cds with the dbx un-encoded and playing the recorded cds back through dbx unit. You could really record the un-encoded dbx tracks loud on the cdr. And then when you expanded it on cd. Talk about a signal to noise ratio - these recordings were silent when I got done. of course, I had cds that could only be played properly through a dbx decoder. I later took these new cdr masters and limited the problem frequencies with some sony studio parametric eqs to get this to a universal format. But theres way more to that story and I have gotten somewhat off topic.

And yes, the Nak ZX-7 was nothing but first rate. I could have bought it for $400 but I did not have $400. I was a poor hi fi retail employee just out of college.

My point I am getting to is - back in the day - I adjusted the bias by ear on every cassette deck i ever owned. The bias knob was a mysterious and misunderstood creature. I just got back into this hobby at the beginning of 2010. I have a Tascam 122 MKiii with 400hz and 12k test signals built in and i must say now that I am not biasing in the dark I can now make real observations about the characteristics of the different tapes. Proper bias is everything. And having reference level playback gear is the other key. The higher quality type I tapes like the TDK AM properly biased are great for recording cd and lp music for playback in the car as well as in the discriminating home two channel system. I reserve my NOS metal tapes like MX-S solely for original music and studio work where I need the extra headroom. I personally think it is a waste to record cds and lps on these metal tapes. But then again that is simply a personal opinion I hold and my experience is not your experience.

Strangely, I would probably be using type ii for everything non-studio if i hadn't found a really good type i tape that echoed my early experience with Maxell XLI-S. I still haven't figured out where type ii tape fits in to my current scheme. nostalgia perhaps. most of my mixed tapes ended up on Maxell XLII or TDK SA just because those were the most common tapes available to me.

From some thrift store tapes I picked up - I do like the early 80s Maxell XLII epitaxial - very nice treble. hummm. a vintage mixed tape is in order. but right now i have to get up early so i am going to sleep.

Stephenhero
(feeling old)
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Old 05-22-2010, 06:06 AM
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So do you still have the dbx encoded cds of the girl/guitar? I have a PDR-99 and external dbx unit. I'd LOVE to have a go at experimenting with a live recording like that. If I sent you some blank cd's could I get a copy or 2? It would be a real good test of dynamics and quiet discrimination for a test tape I'm thinking of making.
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Old 05-22-2010, 08:54 AM
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Since CDs are so quiet already- at least 95db if not more, I wonder if the DBX unit would not improve on that? The electronics may not be able to output any quieter then the CD. Granted you'd get more dynamic range, but again would it improve upon what the CD is capable of?
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Old 05-22-2010, 04:07 PM
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more rehashing the same stuff:

-"cost" is also the cost of hardware. So while I might be able to spend $1,000 on a deck that makes a type II sound like a type IV, you can still just buy normal range quality type IV tape for $2-15 (starting with used). Then find a $50 deck and be really happy regardless of what anyone else tells you.

-type III is almost as obscure is using another type of magnetic tape other than the compact cassette. (which is of course still awesome)

-to me it is not so much about what kind of music, as it is what do you want to do. If you are trying to backup / archive something type IV is simply the best. If you are trying to have fun and "color" the sound for what ever reason, then anything goes.

-when it comes to coloring music by bringing lower tape grades into the picture, yes very much different kinds of music will yield very different results.

-in my opinion, if you are archiving vinyl, type IV is wonderful. and if you are going to spend 10 to 100 to lord knows what on a rare album, then spending $7-20 on a tape for it is logical. Generally speaking, the lower grades simply "sound like tape" (which again might be what you want).

-long live tape
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Old 05-22-2010, 06:36 PM
Stephenhero Stephenhero is offline
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tapes

Quote:
Originally Posted by perry View Post
So do you still have the dbx encoded cds of the girl/guitar? I have a PDR-99 and external dbx unit. I'd LOVE to have a go at experimenting with a live recording like that. If I sent you some blank cd's could I get a copy or 2? It would be a real good test of dynamics and quiet discrimination for a test tape I'm thinking of making.
i still have the tapes. i don't really have permission to let them go (right now). she is actually up and coming. this is early unreleased material. she is published now (so to speak) - later material. not that i am trying to make a buck on future fame. i would have to get her permission. i feel i am simply a keeper of these tapes. sorry. perhaps at a later date. but check this out -

http://www.amazon.com/Luminous-Jennifer-Niceley/dp/B000VWNZ9/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1274576335&sr=8-2

this was recorded in nashville and is absolutely first rate.
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  #20  
Old 05-22-2010, 06:40 PM
Stephenhero Stephenhero is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Knoxville TN
Posts: 44
dbx

Quote:
Originally Posted by braxus View Post
Since CDs are so quiet already- at least 95db if not more, I wonder if the DBX unit would not improve on that? The electronics may not be able to output any quieter then the CD. Granted you'd get more dynamic range, but again would it improve upon what the CD is capable of?
yes. the dbx unit on cd. thats what i am talking about. more dynamic range. more signal to noise ratio. pushing the limit of the format even further. a noble concept.
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