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First LPs, now cassettes? What happened to quality???

rammisframmis

Well-Known Member
#41
[QUOTE="JeffMackwood, post: 214242, member: 133"

"Record /playback responses (-3 dB limits), with Dolby C NR, using Nakamichi EXII tape: Dolby Lvl: 10.4 Hz and 20.5 kHz, -20 dB 10.4 Hz [/QUOTE]​

They say it right there...all measurements were taken at -20dB, and that says it all - and I noticed that even you missed highlighting it, fixating on the raw response number instead - just what manufacturers want people to miss. Mission accomplished for them. The problem is that the "-20dB" qualifier essentially disqualifies the whole measurement. It means the measurement was taken at a level that nobody would actually use in the real world.

Dolby or the lack of Dolby has nothing to do with the saturation limits of cassette tape, or any tape for that matter. The tape still cannot accept any frequencies above perhaps 5kHz at full operating level (0 VU on the meter on the front of the deck). All Dolby does is pack the dynamic range of the source somewhat within the limits of the tape, and expand it back on playback. That deck evidently had Dolby "C", which provided up to 20dB of "packing" and "unpacking". It lowered the noise by 20dB. The tape still has a native signal to noise ratio of around 45dB. Dolby C makes that 65 dB, but you still have to be extremely careful about overloading the cassette tape. It still won't record anything above around 5kHz at full level.

The lack of native dynamic range of cassettes is the crux of why cassettes are an extremely challenged medium compared to reel-to-reel tape, vinyl, elcaset, and especially digital. Dolby simply lowers the otherwise horrible noise of cassettes to something approaching passable.

The cell phone camera verses full frame DSLR issue we are seeing today is actually an good analogy. Cell phone manufacturers scream at the top of their lungs how great the on-board cameras are. That they are going to "replace" genuine DSLRs.

The tiny sensor on a cell phone camera verses the up to full frame (35mm film size) sensor of a DSLR are pretty good analogs of the available magnetic area available on cassette tape verses the much larger area available on open reel tape - the difference between their tape speeds increases this discrepancy.

Sure, cell phone cameras can take decent pictures which are OK for most people in most situations, but they do so with massive digital signal processing which takes the really crappy native dynamic range (to light) of the small sensor and processes the result into something passable.

A full frame DSLR doesn't need anywhere near this level of processing to produce an image with vastly wider dynamic range (the ratio of maximum darkness to maximum lightness). If you apply digital processing to that DSLR image, its performance is even better.

Nothing can change the laws of physics; a small camera sensor cannot possibly collect the number of photons which the much larger full frame sensor can. And thin, narrow cassette tape at 1.75 ips cannot possibly cram as much magnetic data onto itself as 1/4" or wider open reel tape running at 15ips. Signal processing helps, but its a band-aid at best. And in the end, consumers are misled, just as with cassettes.
 
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D

Deleted member 133

Guest
#42
From the review's table I pulled two (2) sets of results: one for "Dolby level" and the other for "-20 dB." You'll note in my original, complete, post, that the "-3 dB limit" was 23.7 kHz at "-20 db" and 20.5 kHz at "Dolby level." These are two separate results at what I now understand to be to different VU level settings: -20 dB and 0 dB. That the latter's -3 dB point is lower than the former's indicates that the latter was indeed done at a higher level, and is in keeping (generally) with what you are saying. That it is so good is what is amazing - and to your mind, not credible. That might be entirely so. Again I was just presenting test data as I found it. Sorry that my presentation was not clear enough to show that it was for two sets of results. I was not trying to mislead you or anyone else.

I'm not taking issue with anything you are saying. I don't disagree. I'm just making sure that we are at least in agreement (in terms of values, scales, results) on what it is we are discussing, which again is multiple sets of results culled from two test reports. You or I may or may not trust those results - that's a different discussion (which you have also touched on.) (Unlike just about any review that I see today, I had enough personal experience back in the day to trust reviews / data / results from the likes of Julian Hirsch and many of his contemporaries. As much as possible I collected reviews for every piece of gear that I owned, and spent time comparing my own impressions with those of the reviewers. Obviously I could not duplicate the actual technical testing, and our listening environments / gear were different, but general observations of agreement and/or disagreement were always possible. And again, there were a number of publications and reviewers that I found, over time, to be pretty trustworthy.)

The DSLR analogy is a great one by the way.

Jeff
 

rammisframmis

Well-Known Member
#43
From the review's table I pulled two (2) sets of results: one for "Dolby level" and the other for "-20 dB." You'll note in my original, complete, post, that the "-3 dB limit" was 23.7 kHz at "-20 db" and 20.5 kHz at "Dolby level." These are two separate results at what I now understand to be to different VU level settings: -20 dB and 0 dB. That the latter's -3 dB point is lower than the former's indicates that the latter was indeed done at a higher level, and is in keeping (generally) with what you are saying.
Tape saturation effects are worse as frequency increases, so it is indeed much easier to achieve a higher flux density at 20Hz than anything past 1kHz. As I mentioned, cassette reaches this saturation point at 0 VU at roughly 5kHz. 15ips tape does not reach this limit at all throughout the frequency range from 20Hz to 20kHz. 7 1/2 ips tape must be tested at minus 10dB to avoid saturation effects. Just as a point of reference, my Ampex 354, which is literally a studio machine has response which is within 1dB from 30Hz to 18kHz at operating level. There's still not enough dynamic range though to capture a CD without saturation effects, which are clearly audible if you know what that sounds like.

A salesman from my days at JBL always said that advertising is "controlled lying", and I think that is pretty accurate. At any rate, it is mistaken to take measurements in consumer publications as absolute accurate gospel. In the case of cassettes, things are set up just right so as not to embarrass the medium or the manufacturers, and their ad dollars. Some magazines were worse at that than others, but it is fair to say that all of them were guilty to some extent, and the pattern is mostly the same today. Of all the audio magazines, Stereophile seems to be the most honest in their objective tests, although of course the magazine in general spouts almost cringe worthy bullshit.

Just humble observations from someone inside the sausage factory who's trying to keep it real.
 

Flint

"Do you know who I am?"
Superstar
#44
This is one of those discussions. Enjoying music on any audio format is fine. Some, like me, get frustrated with people claim an deeply inferior format is technically just as good as a far superior format. Two different things, really. I find listening to old vaudeville or original cross-roads blues on 78 rpm shellacs to be very pleasing because that's how I first heard that kind of music and it brings up nostalgic memories. That doesn't mean those old brittle disks are better or as good as LPs or Reel to Reel.

Rammis is right on the money, though. Even with the best metal tapes on a well-maintained and perfectly-calibrated professional grade Studer cassette deck with Dolby-C noise reduction turned on and working correctly, cassette duplicates of my half-track reel to reel masters was frighteningly horrendous. Compared to other cassette recordings, those Studer made recordings were amazing, but compared to even the most average reel to reel, they were horrible.
 

MatthewB

Grandmaster Pimp Daddy
Famous
#45
Somewhere in my cost is a yellow Sony Walkman tape player with auto reverse that I used twenty five years ago to listen to when traveling from Phoenix to Tucsin to teach my karate class. I'd put Ina 90 minute mix tape hit play plug my in ear headphones and put my helmet on over those and listen while on the 90 minute trip. Loved the auto reverse which meant I didn't have to pull over to turn the tape over. Still have it somewhere along with about 30 cassette tapes of 80's music. I have a huge cd collection just collecting dust in my closet also. I've slowly converted them all to iTunes and refuse to sell them to second hand stores for a nickel a piece.
 

Deerhunter

Well-Known Member
#46
When you play those tapes in a top of the line Boes system, you just can not beat to the quality of the recording. It's like being their in person.

:drinkingbeer:

But you must down a few six packs to really appreciate the audio Bliss:drunk:
 

rammisframmis

Well-Known Member
#49
The big disadvantage with any noise reduction system is that frequency response errors were doubled, especially with the DBX system which had a 2:1 ratio of compression. This is a huge consideration which not too many people were aware of. There are unavoidable tradeoffs with any technology, and tape struggles at such low speeds.
 

TKoP

Well-Known Member
#50
Bump...

I haven't seen it since... i couldn't tell you when, but was on Amazon and saw that a band's 2018 release was available for streaming, CD, MP3 download, vinyl and cassette... Link.
 

Flint

"Do you know who I am?"
Superstar
#52
To be fair, cassettes were once an amazingly portable format with far better stereo separation than LPs with no pops, clicks, or skips.
 

Dentman

Well-Known Member
#53
To be fair, cassettes were once an amazingly portable format with far better stereo separation than LPs with no pops, clicks, or skips.
The best sound I ever got back in the day was reel to reel. After that was LP. With that said a good quality deck, tape, along with a 3db expander offered some very good sounding copies. Cassettes were not all bad. Not much use for them today but they could sound damn good.
 

Flint

"Do you know who I am?"
Superstar
#54
The best sound I ever got back in the day was reel to reel. After that was LP. With that said a good quality deck, tape, along with a 3db expander offered some very good sounding copies. Cassettes were not all bad. Not much use for them today but they could sound damn good.
I would buy an LP, clean it very well then make a cassette copy of it on my cleaned and calibrated cassette deck then listen to the cassette most of the time until it wore out when I'd make another cassette copy.

I've never heard a prerecorded cassette that sounded good.
 
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mzpro5

Well-Known Member
Famous
#55
I would buy an LP, clean it very well then make a cassette copy of it on my cleaned and calibrated cassette deck then listen to the cassette most of the time until it wore out when I'd make another cassette copy.

I've never heard a prerecorded cassette that sounded good.
Gr4eat minds think alike.

For severeal years back in the early 80's my best friend and I would go to the record store on Fridays andd spend Friday night recording the LP's we bought on his Nakamichi deck. Would put the LP's back in their sleeves and regularly listen to the cassette to "save" the LP.
 

Dentman

Well-Known Member
#56
I would buy an LP, clean it very well then make a cassette copy of it on my cleaned and calibrated cassette deck then listen to the cassette most of the time until it wore out when I'd make another cassette copy.

I've never heard a prerecorded cassette that sounded good.
Yes, 99% of all my tapes were copies LP's. The prerecorded tapes nearly always sucked. I always found that to a point you needed to use quality tapes. Studios were never going to do that for mass market recordings.
There was a tape produced by memorex that I recall being among my favorites. You may remember it. It had a blue section to the case that opened differently then all other cassette cases. TDK also made some good offerings.
 

Flint

"Do you know who I am?"
Superstar
#58
Yes, 99% of all my tapes were copies LP's. The prerecorded tapes nearly always sucked. I always found that to a point you needed to use quality tapes. Studios were never going to do that for mass market recordings.
There was a tape produced by memorex that I recall being among my favorites. You may remember it. It had a blue section to the case that opened differently then all other cassette cases. TDK also made some good offerings.
I was a Maxell guy until Sony released their pure metal formulation blank tapes, then I used those pretty exclusively. Because of backing thicknesses, 60 minute tapes sounded better in the treble than 90 minute tapes, and 120 minute tapes were crap. Type-I tapes had better bass while Type-II had better treble, but metal (Type-IV) has the lowest noise and distortion.

Man, I still remember all that crap!!! It was so important to me to get the best t.f sound I could.

I even had a few test tapes to calibrate the azimuth regularly, which was necessary about four to six times a year, and I calibrated the bias for the tape formulation I was buying, so I stuck to the same brand and model of tape for as long as I could.
 
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