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How to easily edit out some low level analog artifacts

Discussion in 'Recording' started by macwriter, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. macwriter

    macwriter Active Member

    Hi, I have an audio cassette that I am going to transfer to digital.

    1. Is there an adapter I can run from the cassette player out to my presonus interface (VSL 22) that would let me do the analog to digital conversion? Or should I just mic it up old school off the cassette deck and capture it that way?
    2. The audio cassette has some low level noise which we believe to be the flip side track of the cassette bleeding through due to bad tape head alignment - would the best way to edit that out be to monitor the level and set a limiter on the track in my workstation to create a noise gate on those levels?

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Don't use a microphone for this job unless you want it to sound like a really bad stage effect. Instead, use a 3.5mm TRS plug to 2x 1/4" TS plug breakout lead (a.k.a. an insert cable) such as this one to go from the headphone output of your cassette player to the two instrument inputs of the VSL22. These are the centre jacks of the combo input connectors, and the plug labelled "send" or "tip" should go to the left channel.

    You could try a noise gate to reduce the feedthrough from the other tracks, but my guess is that it will be better left as is.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    My first suggestion is,
    If the songs are really important, you might consider sending this off to a mastering house. They can remove unwanted stuff and get it sounding pretty good for you for not much money in comparison to all the fuss you'll be having. They'll have better conversion as well.

    Are you able to adjust the head of the cassette player to get it to playback better?
    I'm not sure why you mention a limiter for this? I wouldn't be using one for this purpose.

    To remove unwanted noise like rumble and hiss, you can use a spectral restoration process.

    I wouldn't use a mic to transfer it unless thats the only way for you. Keep it as close to a straight wire as possible for transferring to digital.
  4. macwriter

    macwriter Active Member

    Well, actually it's spoken audio - a woman telling a narrative story. But yes, I thought about adjusting the playback head or trying another tape deck.

    But I thought the noise gate effect of the limiter could put the clamp down on those low level bleedthrough/backtracking sounds.

    Wasn't as concerned about the hiss but thought I might EQ out some of that.
  5. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    1. The typical way to do this would be start with a decent, reasonably well-maintained cassette deck. (not a boombox)
    Take the RCA cables from the unbalanced -10dB Left / Right outputs on the tape player into something like this RCA - ¼" adapter (or a cable that accomplishes the same thing). Plug the ¼" into two channels of your VSL22 and away you go.

    Any portable will probably be comparably lo-fi. If a boombox or other portable is your only option then you will be much better served coming out of the headphone jack than you will micing it - compounding the lo-fi problem. If the boombox is stereo get the appropriate ⅛" TRS to RCA cable AND the RCA - ¼" adapters above. At this point you're in it for less than $3.

    If you're using some ancient mono portable you need a corresponding mono ⅛" to ¼" cable into one channel of the VSL.

    2. The best way to eliminate your tracking artifacts - physically fix the playback head alignment. If it was tracked out of alignment, and your current player is good, mark the starting point on your deck and temporarily realign for this one time playback then tweak it back to the mark. The only tool required is a small philips head screwdriver and ears. There's usually a drop of loktite or similar, but it's not brain surgery. You can use nailpolish to lock set screw after you've returned it to your mark. If you're using a portable, chances are better those heads are out. Ordinarily I might not suggest tweaking the head alignment, but let's face it cassette is a dead technology. So unless you've got a library of tapes to digitize, you've got nothing to lose fixing it at the source.

    Good luck.

    ED: I was about to post when I got a couple long phone calls… Meanwhile Boswell and audiokid got you covered with good advice, carry on.

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