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Teac 80-8

Discussion in 'Vintage Analog Gear' started by frosty55, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. frosty55

    frosty55 Active Member

    I have a Teac 80-8 that has developed a recording level problem. Whats happened when the recorded signal onto tape plays back showing a different level with the VU? Which level is correct?
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    We're gonna need more info to do anything else but guess, because it could be any number of problems.

    It may be something as simple as a meter calibration.

    It could be as involved as checking bias and alignment.

    You also didn't mention if the meter was hot or shy playing back, and you didn't mention if there was an audio level boost or drop.

    The more info provide, the more we can help.
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Does it sound correct, meaning that it could be just a metering problem? Is it the same on all channels? Do the meters show the correct envelope of amplitude but simply at a greater or lesser level on playback, or is there a sticking-point above which the meters will not go?
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    A few things you can do to help us help you more:

    Is it just one track, several tracks, odd tracks, even tracks or all tracks?

    print a 1k test tone to the track(s) effected, record at 0db

    playback, and check to see how far the meter(s) is off, either + or -

    listen for an audible difference in the volume... is it playing back softer or louder?

    listen for tonal differences... is the top end attenuated, muffled, etc.

    are you using new tape?

    are you noticing drop outs in recorded material?

    is the db change consistent? Does it always happen and if it does is it always to the same degree?
  5. frosty55

    frosty55 Active Member

    I have recently had the Teac serviced, so I wasnt expecting stuff like this. The Ampex 456 I have isnt the "sticky shed" type either. As far as I can tell , there are no dropouts.
    Also, where do I come by a 1k test tone?
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    You didn't mention what problems you had the deck serviced for... was it something specific like the issue you are having now? Was it just general maintenance?

    If these metering issues weren't happening before the servicing, I'd certainly get it back to the service tech who did the work.

    As far as your original post, You still haven't answered all the questions.

    Test tones - you can either pick up a tone generator ( they are relatively cheap) ...or, I'd find it hard to believe that you couldn't find a simple 1 k test tone on youtube.

    In any regard, again, the more info you can provide the more we can help you.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    That's a nice machine and it's built pretty much like a tank. Though a machine of that vintage will start to have electronics issues with the drying up of electrolytic capacitors. This machine is from the 1980s. The electrolytic capacitors are very similar to rechargeable batteries and they have a finite lifespan just like rechargeable batteries do.

    For those of us that enjoy this vintage stuff, it brings along with it, the need for technical knowledge so as to be able to maintain this old stuff. Much of the highly coveted recording equipment at major studios is of this vintage and earlier. But for proper and reliable studio operations, many hundreds of electrolytic capacitors have to be replaced, first and foremost as it is usually responsible for much of the electronic issues such as you've described without describing much LOL.

    You say you don't have any sticky tape of 456? But I think you do. It might not be as severe as it is for other similar vintage recording tape? But we know otherwise. It's beginning to shed. And that shedding may only be apparent when it gathers in the gap of the head and clogs a single channel. And that will cause gross record and playback level variations along with poor frequency response. And it's no easy task swabbing the head down with 91% isopropyl alcohol. It's good to take a lot more Q-tips and heavy handed swabbing. It's hard to remove that which has glued itself into the gap. And this could be happening on either record or playback heads if not both. It frequently rears its ugly face more on the edge tracks such as 1 & 8. Where after some regular use, edge damage also occurs even without the shedding problem. And because this has very narrow track widths, compared to a professional deck, it makes the problem all the more worse. So you can only use the tape over and over again, so many times. Of course we never did that with clients. It was always fresh tape for clients. You would never rerecord over any tape, for clients. You wanted your tape to be as virginal as possible. So maybe you're just wearing your role of 456 out? Fleetwood Mac actually had that problem on the Rumors album. They ran their 24 track, 2 inch tape to the point of wearing it out. It then had to be transferred to a second 24 track machine onto a fresh roll of 2 inch tape. Making that 24 track master, now a second-generation down, less high frequency response and more noise.

    I thought that album had a pleasant but somewhat diminutive mushy sound quality to it? I didn't know why it should sound that way until I found out many years later what had happened to them. Suffice it to say, I've never worn out any recording tape ever before myself. So in other words, they rewound and played it back obviously, more than 1000 times. And for a single album. Tape lasts a long time. But it doesn't last forever certainly not in professional release condition. And Boston's first album, in 1976, was tracked to a Scully, 1 inch 12 track. That was later taken to Westlake's studio in LA where it was then transferred to 2 inch 24 track. The drums were erased and replaced with new drum tracks recorded at Westlake, LA. So that held up a little better because the guitar tracks and the vocal tracks, didn't suffers greatly from ever being worn out, physically on the tape. And those don't have transient attacks that are more noticeable when they wear out and wipe off over time the little iron oxide particles.

    Adjustment trim controls within the guts of this machine do have a tendency to get an accumulation of airborne particulate based pollution. This gathers on the trimmer adjustments and they go intermittent. And then they will go to all or nothing without being in between where you want them LOL. And when it comes to analog tape, if your playback is not calibrated to a standard reference laboratory made calibration reference tape, all bets are off. And those ain't cheap. Probably will cost you almost as much to obtain as is the worth and resale value of your 80-8?

    And where it could be, that your heads are beginning to not only wear out but have developed grooves in the pathway of the tape? This is because heads have to be made from soft ferrous metals to be efficient. Which means they wear out easily and within a couple of thousand hours of use. And I think a machine of that age might likely be suffering from that? Luckily, sometimes this can be remedied preventing the need for replacement. And you literally take the heads off and grind them down, on a mirror with a piece of Emory cloth of varying grits, dry, not wet. And that's called re-lapping re-contouring the heads. They were designed for that. You can get away with doing that two or three times at least.

    It's the grooves the tape wears into the heads that actually ends up damaging the edges of the tape. This provides poor response, it especially is noticeable in the high frequencies. That along with a wobbly continuous sound coming from the edge tracks. Once that happens, the tape is effectively destroyed. It'll never track properly again. And tape ain't cheap. It never has been. People complain about spending $150 for a 2 TB disk drive, that can hold a week's worth of continuous recording of 24 tracks without ever filling it up. 2 inch 24 track tape was $150 for 30 minutes of record time. 15 minutes if you wanted better quality at the higher speed. And so if you wanted to release an album of material how much would you need to spend on tape? And that usually exceeded the budget of the local bands. So they didn't have multiple takes they could simply composite together. They had one tape and you couldn't even get a whole album of material on one tape. So you would spend a minimum of $300 on tape just for one album. And where you couldn't spend more than $300 on studio time for the tracking and $300 for the mixing time. And that's what it cost most local bands just to release their vanity albums.

    You haven't even indicated in your dearth of information where in the world you might be? You can get a/build a oscillator with parts from and available from Radio Shaft here in the US. Otherwise, the local music stores that carry musical instruments, recording stuff equipment will either have them or can order them. Sometimes many consoles and mixers have been built in. It's essential in our work. But you'll also need 10 kHz and 100 Hz at the very least. So generally, you purchase a test bench, sine wave generator. You might even want a function generator that can deliver square waves to look at on your oscilloscope? Much I think is a little bit beyond your scope LOL? If you had a scope? It's not in your bathroom. And it's not on your tripod in your backyard, tilted up. Nor is it connected to your rifle. You're looking at it, right now. See? And you're also looking at your sine wave and square wave oscillator. What I was describing earlier is what we did before we had computers. Even shareware audio software frequently has the ability to generate different types of audio oscillations. Sine waves, square waves, triangle waves, sawtooth waves, modulated waves, sweep frequencies. And then Bobby Moog got this great idea! But he had problems concentrating with that dog always ARPing, next door.

    You should also know that TE-AC rubber pinch rollers also like any other machine, dry up. And when they do, it can cause tape to skew up and down on the heads so as to cause gross mis-tracking. So there is a myriad of possibilities of what could be wrong? Perhaps the holdback tape tension has sagged due to the aging of the reeling motors? And that will cause mistracking and poor head to tape contact making for less than adequate results?

    And you might possibly be using DBX noise reduction which will cause a twofold deterioration overall from a poorly adjusted and maintained, recorder. Making things four times as bad as they should be.

    So if you need technical assistance, it has to be more than " mommy I boo-booed ".
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    My understanding of this problem with the Ampex 456 and even some reports of the Quantegy 456 was one of sticky/shed no matter what the storage was like. even some 499 which was supposed to have a different binder than 456 or the BASF. The way its been explained to me was the EPA (government intrusive a---holes) would not let a particular type of chemical be used in the binder formula for certain tapes being manufactured during this time (late 80's-90's) and it has resulted in this gummy problem for ALL 456 formula based tape. An industry unto itself has been created just for replacing all the viable recordings made on this product onto better and unaffected product.

    I know this because I currently am restoring masters I made back in the day on 456. (I'M not doing it per se....having it done) The baking has begun! Long live the baking! I have a few 16track 1" multis to go also.Gotta finish up those projects that never got done due to all kinds of stuff.....
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Actually Dave, the problem began back in the 1970s. Almost immediately after the EPA was founded. I don't think that 206/406 stock has suffered as much as the 226/227/250 Scotch and Ampex 456 on. But hey, the same thing happened to Agfa and that was in Germany. Same crap with the tape. The only place it wasn't happening was in Japan. Just try to find some 1/2 inch-2 inch tape in Japan LOL. 1/4 inch no problem. Maxell good. Sony good. No flat black back coating on those.

    The flat black back coating was also carbon-based. It sheds also. It was found to add stiffness to the tape providing more consistent packing and travel across the heads. It was a stability factor. But that too spewed junk forth onto your heads that gathered upon the iron oxide side. These more environmentally friendly binders a.k.a. glue, were a urethane base. And it did go through rigorous torture tests that all of the tape manufacturers performed. We were told it would last 100 years. It didn't last 10. And that's theory vs. practice. It's sad that these PhD's screwed up as bad as they did LOL. They all screwed up. On both sides of the pond. From the greatest generation to the Third Reich... And all of us baby boomers have to clean up after our parents now. LOL. My mother couldn't even get me to clean my bedroom. And while my recordings will all be clean... my bedroom is still a mess.

    Sometimes things don't change over time LOL.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. frosty55

    frosty55 Active Member

    Wow! So much complexity. Maybe an option for me is to use the Teac to record and get that "sound", and go buy a decent digital 8 track recorder to directly bounce all the tracks onto from the Teac. Then I assume I could mix the tracks down to my hearts content without contending with all the problems the Teac might pose. What do you think? Is this a good option?
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    It's certainly an option but only if the machine is properly tweaked.

    The tweaking can be fudged. And here's what I might recommend. We're going to assume here that no one has opened the machine and screwed with the playback alignment adjustment potentiometers? Likely it has been tweaked in the past with a standard laboratory reference calibration tape. So we'll assume that if they play head is in good condition, you won't be tweaking anything in the playback electronics, no, don't do it. There is both playback head level and higher frequency equalizer adjustments. So we'll just assume playback is calibrated. (That's dangerous LOL)

    OK so playback is calibrated. This only leaves you to tweak record bias, level and higher frequency equalization. So we're going to tweak the machine to wherever the playback has been previously set right or wrong.

    The simple next step is to use your audio software to generate a 500 Hz or 1 kHz sine wave (not modulated). So now we're using the computer as the sine wave oscillator and as a kind of modern-day real-time broad range oscilscope. So your computer audio interface output will be feeding the recorder channels 1-8 inputs. The output channels of the machine will be reconnected back to the input of your computer audio interface device. Kind of like doing an overdub. But we are instead basically overdubbing sine waves that you will return to the computer and record on an adjacent track. In the computer.

    Our goal here on the machine is to make input equal output. You will put your tape on and place the machine into record and roll record. Now here is a hitch/monkeywrench in doing this. The output of your computer audio interface likely produces +4 DB at 1.23 V at 500-1 kHz. The machine does not want to see that high a level. It wasn't designed for standards studio +4 DB professional levels. It was designed to be fed from one of their lower output Pro-consumer mixers. And they created their own standard of which they had two that were not the same as what we were using in the United States and elsewhere around the world. This is the problem with this Asian built equipment. Their standard became .3 V for a zero VU input. Their other standard was 1 V for a zero VU input and output. And not the well-established 1.23 V for +4 or .775 V for actual zero. Which can make alignment on these machines all the more confusing.

    Again the goal is to have input match output. The 500 or 1 kHz reference sine wave establishes your input output and playback from tape operating levels. The meters have their own calibration adjustments. Don't touch those at all. (Not all machines have meter adjustments, although some do. I can't remember that machine specifically?) So whatever the output of your computer audio interface is will just be arbitrary to align machine.

    On the machine, while in record mode, you have the source monitor switch. You can monitor what is going in and you can monitor what is coming off the playback head barely 80 ms later. So, you might need to have an external potentiometer on the output of your computer audio interface when you generate these tones so as not to overload the inputs on your recorder. What we want to see when you are in input record monitor and is the meter at zero VU with 500 Hz or 1 kHz, either one of those. When you observe zero VU on the machine while monitoring the input source, you will switch the button on the machine to monitor the playback head tape source. You'll see the level change on the meter most likely. I might be higher? It might be lower than zero on the meter? This is where you will find the record level calibration adjustment. While monitoring playback source, you will change the record level trim control so that you are viewing zero VU from playback source off the playback head while rolling in record. You do this across all eight channels. So that when the input monitor meter indicates a zero, the playback monitor metering will indicate same at 500 Hz or 1 kHz. Now on to the bias adjustment.

    For the bias, there is a number of ways to do this. We will be using 10 kHz. So ya have to tell your computer to now generate a track full of nothing but a 10 kHz sine wave (not modulated), pure. You will then observe zero VU at 10 kHz input source monitor on the meters of the machine. Switch to playback monitor to observe the 10 kHz coming off of the play head. You then need to locate the bias adjustment potentiometer for that channel. While observing the 10 kHz at the input and watching the 10 kHz, From the playback head, you will begin to rock that bias adjustment counterclockwise and clockwise. What you are looking for is for a peak level of that 10 kHz Playing back. Reduce the bias too much and it will drop. Increase the bias too much and it will drop. Find the peak. The peak will likely be above or below the zero VU indication on the meter. That's OK but for convenience, you can readjust the record level control so that your peak at 10 kHz is sitting right at zero VU. Good. Now... slowly increase clockwise, the bias adjustment potentiometer. You want to 10 kHz to drop by 2 DB when you increase the bias, clockwise on the adjustment potentiometer. You have now properly set the bias level.

    Now you have to go back to 500 Hz or 1 kHz and make sure you have zero VU while in source input monitoring. Now switch to Playback source monitoring. Adjust your record level control to re-attaining 0 VU. Good. You are now recording at the proper operating level.

    Now switch again to 10 kHz. The upper level from your computer audio interface device must be consistent between the mid-frequency tones of 500 Hz or 1 kHz with reference to 10 kHz. They cannot be at different levels. You'll switch your machine from input source monitor at 1 kHz to playback source monitor off of the playback head, while the tape is still rolling in record. You'll adjust your record level trim control in the machine to get zero VU from the playback. When you switch to 10 kHz, you'll switch the machine back to input source monitor. Verify that the meter is still at zero VU. Then switch the machine again into tape source playback monitor while it is still rolling in record. 10 kHz should be at zero VU on playback. If not? You will not touch the bias control. You will find the high frequency record equalizer and either increase that or decrease that to obtain zero VU at 10 kHz on playback while still rolling in record mode. This is how you do real-time adjustments on analog machines that have three heads. All did except for the Scully 100, 2 inch 16 track machine. But that's the only one that didn't have three heads. More about that later.

    So now you've gotten the most important part of the machine tweaked zero VU at 500 Hz or 1 kHz will also be zero VU at 10 kHz. These of the frequencies we use for adjustment purposes of analog recorders. Now you can go ahead and make your audio software generate 100 Hz at zero VU. To be observed at zero VU with the machine in input source monitoring. Good. Now switch the machine again to playback source monitoring while you are still rolling in record mode. Look to see how close 100 Hz is to zero VU? It might be slightly higher it might be slightly lower? And I believe on that machine, you will find some low-frequency playback equalizers. They won't be on the record side. You'll adjust the playback low-frequency equalizers to get zero VU at 100 Hz just as you did at 1000 Hz and at 10,000 Hz. And this will ensure that your machine has as flatter response as can be reasonably expected from that machine.

    Provided you have done this well, you can go ahead and run a full broadband frequency response verification. Create a 50 Hz sine wave and check that. Check 250 Hz. Check 5 kHz. Check 10 kHz. Check 15 kHz. And don't freak out when you check 20 kHz it will be down probably around -3 on that machine? They used to indicate their frequencies response for their sheens as " +2/-3 20 Hz-20,000 Hz. And it is just that. The response goes up and down throughout the full range enough to get you seasick. Which is what made these things miserable sounding with DBX noise reduction. The DBX noise reduction would make the response of the machine +4/-6 from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Well that's awful! And it will drastically affect your mix and your sound. Though it is livable for pro-hobby enthusiast's because that's all you can expect. It won't be flat. You'll be lucky if it's flat. Some are. Most aren't. Though you might be pleasantly surprised?

    One does not need to always do Playback calibration alignments every time you do your record alignments. That's not necessary. It was only necessary for the big studios when 24 track tapes were going from one studio to another. And every professional engineer could start a recording session by printing 1 kHz at zero VU, 10 kHz at zero VU. And 100 Hz at zero VU. This allowed us to calibrate the machine to whatever the other previous studio had calibrated their machines to. This had to be done for professional consistency throughout an albums construction. Especially as it was passed from hit studio to the next hit studio, lather, rinse and repeat.

    So when everything is done in-house, in a single studio, your machine only needs to be tweaked every time you change tape brands and formulations. Which most home studios don't really know to do? Or not do?

    This is a hack away to calibrate a machine to itself. You have to do that if you don't have a reference laboratory playback calibration alignment tape. And we can only hope that the play head has not plain worn out or been misaligned? Another way to verify that you have done a good calibration is to simply remove the tape that you have recorded the tones on. Flip the tape over and play it backwards. Whatever the differences are you'll see by variations in the levels on playback. This may also aid you in discovering any terrible discrepancies that may have occurred due to the age of the machine?

    The hands have alignment screws on top of them which I would not recommend that you touch at all. Don't do it. Aligning heads is an art. And it's tricky as hell to get right. We have to jump through all sorts of other hoops to do that. You cannot do it without the reference laboratory calibration alignment tape. So don't even try.

    Head azimuth adjustment is generally the only adjustment that is ever touched during standard alignment procedures. The other adjustments are there for when you have to replace the head or re-lap a.k.a. re-contour the head. This is necessary to do, when you have observed that the heads have grooves cut into them by the tape. This groove will damage and destroy the tape. You've got to get rid of the groove in the head. And that means removing the entire head assembly and removing each head individually. Then ya have to remove the mu metal shield until you just have this little piece of crap in your hand. And that's where the mirror and the Emory cloth/cloths come in. But this is not for a beginner to even try. And if you were to try it, you should do it with a crappy worn out disposable head from a trashed machine. And I'm not going to go into the fine points of the procedure because I'm worn out already LOL. There's a lot of blather I've been blowing through. And head adjustments, replacement and restoration is only meant to be performed by a professional person who knows how to do so. Otherwise you will destroy your heads, guaranteed. It's boring and a laborious process. You get to watch the grass grow while doing it. If you don't smoke it all first LOL? God knows I have.

    Of course this is just a quick fast dirty way to do it at home. Certainly not what I would do on a professional level. But it is basically the way that we went about tweaking the 24 track machines prior to sessions for those hit recordings. When on the test bench, you would use third harmonic distortion analyzers, vacuum tube voltmeters, calibration tapes, a virgin tape. Spring loaded scales and special tension adjustment meters all sorts of stuff. And that was performed during the heavy duty maintenance and/or replacements of heads, motors, etc.. But in the studio control room, we would use oscillator and our calibration tapes and just do it from the machines VU meters. Close enough for rock 'n roll. You only needed to be ± .5 DB in, accuracy. And really the machine was considered flat if it was ± 2 DB from 50 to 15,000 Hz. Which is the accepted NAB standard in the US. But these machines were far better than that. They were pretty much ruler razor blade flat not like you're 80-8 LOL. Which allowed the engineer and producer to obtain what they wanted and not what the machine was going to deliver LOL. And that's what separated the men from the toys. But those toys can do a great job and they have. Just don't get upset if the frequency response is not flat. It's not going to be. Not on their machines. And they tell ya that. Especially for all you guys that listen with your eyes you might be grossly put off by what these machines deliver?

    One of the other very important aspects of any analog recorder is a propensity for the playback head to easily become magnetized. The record and the erase heads do not suffer from this as much because of the current being pumped through them, basically makes them self demagnetizing. Nothing is pumped through the playback head. So it is more highly susceptible to becoming magnetized. And if you travel with this machine in a north-south direction, wherever you are, it will magnetized the heads from the Earth's own magnetic field. This doesn't happen when you travel east or west with these machines. Nevertheless, the heads need to be occasionally de-magnetized. And there's a very specific procedure for that. Otherwise, you're going to do more harm than good. But this residual magnetization of the playback head and any of the heads will actually cause erasure of the high frequency response that you have already recorded upon the tape. And it will introduce additional noise. Blah!

    If you like further information and would like to talk to me about this, please feel free to give me a call at 202-239-7412 and leave a message for the best time for me to return your call. I will not pick up this phone as it is my answering service.

    This type of tweaking overall, takes a little while to get the hang of properly. It will greatly affect the way your analog machine will perform or not perform LOL.

    I'd like to be brief but this is not a subject that can be briefly expressed.

    So when you want to use this machine, in combination with your mostly digital production ITB, one can just track your basic tracks of drums, guitar, keyboards, vocals to the machine. You can of course then rewind the machine to be able to transfer it, all eight tracks at the same time, into your computer. However, doing it this way I do not feel to be the most ideal way to go about this? It really depends on whether you are the band or you have a bad?

    Let's say, you've got the band set up? The machine has the tape loaded and is ready to go. Your digital recorder is set up and ready to go. Here is what ya do. Assign the drums to four tracks. Bass guitar on five. Lead guitar on six. Single keyboard feed on seven or seven and eight. Roll the analog machine in record. Switch the machine to the playback head tape monitor position and roll your digital multitrack machine. So as the band plays the tracks are recorded and 80 ms after they are recorded they are transferred to the digital machine for your basic rhythm tracking session. This will cut your wow & flutter in half. And you will get no what is referred to as " print through ". Because print through, you've heard on a famous old Led Zeppelin record LOL. Because the tape as these magnetic particles already aligned when you records, as the tape tax on to itself, those magnetic particles on one strip of tape will print through to the next layer of tape both before and after. Creating pre-echoes and post-echoes that you will here cut through the background tape noise quite easily. And the hotter you record the worse it gets. But it's the whole point of recording a hot signal that creates that desirable saturation sound especially on drum transients and even when the bass guitar player pops a string. When a singer sings loud. All that stuff. And you can't get rid of it once it's there.

    So by recording on the machine and playing back simultaneously from the machine while transferring it to the digital machine avoids that.

    When you want to do your overdubs the procedure will be different. The analog machine cannot/will not hold synchronization with your digital stuff. Not even close. And you can use the above real-time technique, only a few have a monitoring situation that is not normal. You can't let any singer or any other musician hear themselves coming off the analog machine playback head. It'll be about 80 ms too late LOL. So whoever is doing the overdubbing can only monitor themselves directly from the console or mixer. Then when once printed to the digital recorder, you are going to need to transfer that track and all the rest, into the software. It's in the software where you will be able to that 80 ms timing differential to be back in sync with everything else. And in doing it that way, the analog machine will always remain synchronous to the track in the computer. You can't do it by recording rewinding and playing back. Not possible. Not with that machine at any rate. It was with the $36,000 variety machines where external synchronizers and SMPTE timecode was utilized. And that was another $5000. And you're not going there LOL. Not yet. Not with that machine. And basically what that recently released CLASP system was designed to do in conjunction with your ProTools. And that was another $5000 and it required something like a Studer 24 track or Ampex or MCI or 3M. All with highly sophisticated DC servo controlled capstan motors and sophisticated logic controlled tape transport functions. Not something you find on a 80-8. But you can really still do the same thing with the technique that I have described and achieve the same results as something that cost over $40,000 to do. Well today you might be able to get away at $15,000 LOL? Right. You're not going to go there. Not until after ya get your first hit and have signed your contract with the producer and the record label.

    See it's easy?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I should charge for this? I do charge for this LOL. I was an authorized, factory trained, service technician for Ampex, 3M, MCI/Sony and I was Scully's Quality Control Manager 1979/80. And I still have the same phone number I've had since 1981 that ends in REEL (7335) a custom phone number I requested a long time ago LOL. And then now resides on my cell phone and is no longer my landline. Because this is what I did for many years. I worked on everything. The Stephens was one of the most bizarre, complicated machines but it was oh so sweet and easy on the tape. A beautiful transport and fabulous electronics John Stephens designed. And he's another extremely sad story. He recently passed on.

    I'm actually a world authority on analog magnetic tape recording. I was truly fascinated by analog tape recording by the time I was seven. And I've been working on them for the past 50 years. I'm 57. OMG! My goodness. I actually had to correct J. McKnight who manufactured the world's best standard reference laboratory calibration alignment tapes LOL.

    While I was working for Scully, we used his calibration tapes. We had special tapes that he made for us. They're not like the kinds I normally sells to studios. And he made one small change in a batch of tapes he had shipped us. (This is how important and critical these tapes are). The new batch indicated that none of our brand-new 280 B, stereo machines, which at the time were $2500 new without a cabinet. Suddenly, none of the new machines could pass specifications? How could this be??? OMG? What's happening? I had to figure this out! I did. It wasn't our machines. The old worn-out tapes (we would regularly change them out every couple of months) indicated the machine was up to specifications from the worn-out tape. Put on the new tape and high-frequency response was down as much as 6 DB or more? WTF? It had to be his tapes. So I called him up and told him. I indicated that I saw the change that he had made in the specialized calibration tapes. I told him it was wrong. What happened next blew my mind!

    He proceeded to call me all sorts of nasty things LOL. And told me I didn't know what the F I was talking about! And he slammed the phone and hung up on me. The next day, the front office told me I had a phone call. The only person who knew I was working at Scully at the time was my mother. She was taking care of her elderly mother and I just knew that grandma had died. It was J. McKnight LOL. He was profusely apologetic to me. He had expressed that he had made this change but did not think it would affect our test procedures? He said I'd been absolutely right. He shipped us brand-new tapes and no more problems. Not every day a high school dropout can trump the world authority on laboratory reference calibration alignment tapes ya know?

    It's all in the cards.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    It doesn't matter what you start or end with, if the Teac isn't working properly.

    Yes. Tape decks require maintenance, of this there is no doubt. Bias, alignment, cleaning, degaussing, pinch roller and capstans, motors...that's the nature of that beastie... or anything with moving parts or electronics that heat up.

    As opposed to a DAW, where you pretty much just simply open a new project file, insert and assign new tracks, set your sampling/bit rate, check your gain chain and hit "R".

    Tape can be very nice in its treatment of audio... and you certainly wouldn't be the first to implement tape as a part of their production chain to get the desired results that tape can offer.

    However, the rub here is that the tape machine has to be working properly.

    If you've got biasing, alignment or electronics problems on that deck, then you're not going to get what you want, regardless of whether you start with tape and end with digital... or vice versa.

  14. frosty55

    frosty55 Active Member

    So if I had the Teac working properly, which digital 8 track would you recommend I buy?. Its not really intended for professional use, just demos really, for my band.
  15. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    My suggestion is that you look for an Alesis HD24XR or a JoeCo Black Box unit where you can record all your channels digitally, but also T-off 8 of them to go into the Teac. You would take the replay head outputs to 8 more channels on the digital recorder. When you run the tape, the sound goes on to tape via the record head and comes off again a few tens of milliseconds later via the replay head, and you record it all on the digital recorder. It's a simple matter to shift those 8 tracks forward in time in a workstation to line up with the direct tracks. You would then have both direct and via-tape versions of your tracks, and you choose what sonics you like at mixdown.
  16. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Boswell is describing the way I do it. And that's the premium way to do it. What he was also saying is that through a series of signal routing, you would have eight Digital Master tracks and eight analog tracks, transferred in real time, simultaneously to eight additional digital tracks. Because this is done in real time, without rewinding the tape and playing it back in, the analog tracks will be in tight lock step synchronization to the digital tracks. But because of the distance between the record and the play head on the machine, those analog tracks will be approximately 80 ms late. But because they were recorded simultaneously to the digital recorder along with the digital tracks coming off of the mixer, you find some noticeable percussive drum peak smack, to use as a synchronization point. And then you just take those digital tracks of the analog machine and simply match them to the direct digital track peak. This requires you to zoom in to the waveforms in your software, right down to the sample level of one 48,000 th, of the second zoom. And you'll be golden. You'll be cooking with gas. You'll be cuttin' the rug.

    Unfortunately, that prescribed manner of doing it will likely set you back $1500-$3500 for that multitrack, hard disk-based digital recorder. Doesn't sound like you have that kind of budget? So if not? Here are your other alternatives.

    The first and easiest would be to find a used ALESIS ADAT, VHS-based digital recorder. Lots of these on eBay. Mostly around the $250 budget. You can expect repairers, failures, dropouts and perhaps a very short life? It will also require not just any VHS tape. IT MUST BE S-VHS tapes. Which you won't find any longer at your average store and never did to begin with. Generally, you had to order these. And they're virtually impossible to find today. And not cheap.

    Second possibility? The TA-SCAM DA-38/88/98's. These used metal particle Hi 8 tapes. Which you can still find at the big box stores and drugstores, elsewhere. (Not to be confused with the Hi 8, " metal evaporated ", tapes. Don't use those.) And you will find scads of these also on eBay. They also hover around that $250 price. Again though, I've had those machines since 1993. And those can be just as awful as you could possibly imagine? And all but the 98 are 16-bit, not 24 bit. And then you need yet more special tapes that are no longer available are almost impossible to find, to have 24-bit. Otherwise it defaults back to 16-bit with only the other tapes not made by Fuji. So that's a can of worms. And I have found those heads to fail with around 850 hours of use. That's about 3000 hours less than you get from an analog machine. Repairs cost upwards of $600 to replace them. Same for the ALESIS.

    So the most economical way to go would be with something like a Pre-Sonus Fire Studio, FireWire-based, computer audio interface that can accept 8 simultaneous XLR microphones or, 8 1/4 inch line level inputs that you would need to use from your analog machine to the computer audio interface. It is also supplied with an absolutely phenomenal and incredible 600-$1000 software bundle that blows so many others away. And those devices cost around $500 brand-new at your local music stores. If you are using a desktop computer without a FireWire card? You can purchase a FireWire card some of which are as little as $15 up. And you just plug it in to the computer. If you're using a laptop? Older laptops had, some of them, FireWire ports albeit 4 pin rather than the standard larger 6 pin connector. Adapter cables are available at your computer store or online. And if you want to do the simultaneous direct digital capture along with the simultaneous analog to digital capture, you could purchase two of those devices as FireWire ports generally have between 2-4 input ports on the plug-in cards for the desktop machines. With my laptop, it has the internal four pin FireWire connector. Plus I was also able to plug in a PCM-CIA card that allowed me two additional FireWire inputs. Unfortunately, new laptops today don't have either of those features. A company called Pinnacle/Avid, made a device that would allow you to plug in your FireWire camcorder to a USB 2.0 input on your computer. And I believe that device is still available at some computer stores or online? I haven't tried this myself but I bet it would work in an audio application? Because it's still FireWire. I can't be certain because I haven't tried. I don't need to spend the money for the gizmo since I have computers that still have FireWire ports both laptop and desktop machines. But this is really the only choices you have in regards to these external 8 input, computer audio interface devices. There are others, by other manufacturers, and rely upon the USB 2.0 protocol. And any modern computer can deal with that. I'm really not sure which one is are made by which manufacturers because I've had no personal need for that. So it's not something I've looked deeply into. Nevertheless, those too, are out there. Some even have the ability to accommodate more than 8 simultaneous inputs.They'll generally have 8 combo XLR/1/4 inch microphone inputs and additional 1/4 inch inputs. USB 2.0 can handle 16 channel simultaneous capture. In fact it can handle more than that. And so can a FireWire. USB 3.0 and the new Apple Thunderbolt devices can handle nearly 10 times more than that. But that's yet so new that there are really no affordable interfaces to your computer as yet.

    Bottom line, really, the only place this analog machine is going to shine, if it shines at all, is on the drum tracks. The bass guitar will likely be loaded with " bias rocks " which sounds like the bass guitar is being dragged through gravel. Vocals, which are generally the lead, will be noisy and mushy sounding. Electric guitar? Not so horrible. Because really the only reason to do the analog thing, is for that SATURATION, that you get from drums, when you go to analog tape. And that's really the only advantage that you will be able to glean from that machine. Professional wider track format machines don't suffer quite as badly as that 80-8. And they have much flatter responses. Much lower noise.

    And really, when I've done similar things, I don't want my vocal on the analog machine. I don't want my bass guitar on the analog machine. Because it really makes them substandard. Though you can still have fun with it. You'll find out for yourself.

    Good luck with your endeavor.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  17. frosty55

    frosty55 Active Member

    These recorders surely are for the pro market arent they? I need something cheap and straightforward, if theres such a thing.
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    You actually got 850 hours out of a DA 88? Lucky you, ;) I think I managed 680... once.

    Back to the topic...

    Personally I think your best bet is to look at a dedicated DAW. If you have a computer (obviously you do) and it's fairly recent in processor/speed/power/etc., all you'll need, as Remy mentioned, is an Audio I/O of some kind with good mic pre's, and a production/recording platform - Pro Tools, Sonar, Cubase, Reaper, etc.

    The nice thing about having a computer-based platform is that you have:

    1. Limitless numbers of tracks * (*dependant on processor, ram, HD storage capacity, etc.)
    2. The ability to edit, shuffle, slip, slide, tweak, twist, or watusi those tracks imported or layed-over from an analog source - like your Teac.
    3. Most - if not all - of these programs come with stock digital effects and processors bundled in (reverbs, delays, compressors, etc).
    4. The option to add/buy more processors and effects, as well as virtual instruments/soft synths including drums, synths, pads, stabs, and virtual amps like Amplitube
    5. While I don't use it, you can get pitch correction software, like Melodyne or Antares
    6. With the right midi I/O or audio I/O that includes a sync I/0, you could also sync your tape machine to your PC via SMPTE - if you don't mind burning a track on your deck for the code. This could prove helpful in laying over those analog tracks to your PC/DAW

    I'm not saying that the Alesis HD deck suggested by Boswell is a bad thing, to the contrary, it's a very nice piece. I've been seriously considering one for live remote work.

    But... if you want to edit or slip those tracks into alignment, you'll need some kind of editing software in which to do this, and being that the DAW programs do so much more than that, you might as well look into a program that will let you multi track recording and production from start to finish - and assuming you already have a computer that is current or powerful enough to handle digital audio recording, then you're already halfway there. All you need to do is to add a good multi-input USB audio I/O, choose your production program, and you're off and running.

    IMHO, of course.
  19. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    No, those recorders were not intended for the pro-market. They were intended for your market, the consumer home studio market. While people released and pressed their own vinyl records, those are what we call " Vanity Albums ". It's not on any record label other than your own i.e. Frosty55 records.And so, in that respect, they could be considered professional recorders even though they aren't. I've had a 38 years ago, FOSTEX 16 half-inch. And in comparison to an actual professional recorder such as an Ampex, Scully, 3M, MCI, Studer, it sounds like total CRAP. But you work with what you have the best you can. And you squeeze every little db you can out of that sucker. Which is why the alignment is so important. And if you do not know how to align and analog machine be it consumer like yours or pro like mine (Scully etc.), it won't matter how good the machine is. So if you want that machine to sound the best it can, you're going to have to spend a few dollars and purchase that reference laboratory calibration alignment tape because there isn't any other option. And that head demagnetizer. And an accurate laboratory style voltmeter. Third octave distortion analyzer or THD distortion analyzer. Spectrum analyzer. And a few years under your belt doing it. Otherwise it's just a toy to play with. Perfectly fine for the average basement recording enthusiast to have fun and learn with. Not saying it cannot be used professionally, they have been used professionally when they have been professionally maintained. You're not there yet. But you're getting close.

    So try some of those tweaking suggestions I've provided for you. Bottom line criteria is that whatever is going in should sound the same way coming out and all at the same volume level. And you can hear that difference without any test equipment at all. You can even tune these things when you get to know what you're doing, virtually by ear. And I have. And I do, because there is yet another technique that relies upon just that. And which you cannot do unless you have a certain kind of scientific laboratory function generator, capable of delivering different types of extremely low distortion waveforms of different types. Because the frequency that is required is below 20 Hz. It's 10 Hz. And audio equipment does not pass 10 Hz. And it's its inability to pass that 10 Hz that allows you to tweak the machine by ear, with headphones on, not through speakers. And to get the cleanest sounding low-end you'll ever hear come off of an analog machine. And few people know how to do this. But you still need that playback reference calibration tape first. To make certain that the machine is performing up to snuff.

    Do not feel bad by what I have talked about here. I am a maintenance technician as well as an incredible audio engineer. However... most recording engineers are not maintenance engineers. And most maintenance engineers are not recording engineers. I'm just one of those folks that happens to highly exceed at both. In fact I know a lot of recording engineers that can hardly wire their own three connection microphone cables without screwing it up. So don't be hard on yourself regarding this 80-8. It's still a great machine. And you'll make lovely recordings with it that sound like they came from the 1970s and early 1980s. It just won't have the same kind of flat response, low noise, low wow & flutter, distortion specifications and the wide open sound that you get from the wider track widths of professional machines and wider tapes. It cannot deliver that sound. It does however still deliver that analog sound with that magical saturation for drum tracks. And it's actually required of you to over record the level of the drums to get that saturation. At least the saturation amount that you want. Too little and it's not there. Too much and it's unlistenable.

    Back in the day, the professional machines, could have their meters banging to the right and it would sound out of this world. When you did that on drum tracks. But you'd also want to monitor while recording, from the playback head (without passing that out to their headphones) to dial in just the right amount of overload saturation. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. As a generally also pertains to the genre of the song and music. You don't do it on everything. You do it on some things. And that's what all the big time engineers still want, still get and why so many recordings today, and the big luxurious million-dollar studios, are still recording on 24 track, 2 inch analog tape. And a lot of those machines also have noise reduction such as Dolby SR. Which certainly ain't Dolby S. And it's not A either. And where also, few folks used DBX I, on their 24 track machines. They all used Dolby A, until finally, we got SR. Because while A worked well, it also affected the sound that nobody appreciated. And people jumped through hoops with other equipment to undo what the Dolby A did to their sound. And that was called the APHEX Aural Exciter. A lowly technical mistake that made everything better. It would add the right kind of distortion enhancing upper harmonic content that wasn't cutting through the Dolby A. So they added distortion to make it sound better. And we don't really need that thing anymore though it still has its place when you use it on certain things very very sparingly. Goofballs like yourself turn the thing up way too much making things sound really nasty, really really nasty. I mean who would think of turning the knob up only to one half of 1? Out of 10. You want to get your moneys worth and make things sound like those hit recordings. So ya turn the gizmo up. WRONG.

    So this discussion we are having now is both about audio engineering, tips and tricks and maintenance. This is a lot to cover and it doesn't come from just a couple of posts on a website. It takes years to get good and proficient at anything. It takes years to become a doctor. It takes years to become a lawyer. It takes years to become a good musician. And it takes years to become a competent and informed professional of any kind. There is nothing natural about making natural sounding recordings when it comes to pop music. In fact it's just the opposite. You do all sorts of unnatural things (not in front of youngsters) with all sorts of goofy things... just to make the recordings sound... natural. This is not necessarily the case when, say, you are recording an entire Symphony Orchestra, with a choir and solo operatic singers. We don't screw around with that type of recording.

    Those types of recordings really do require a very different process than that of pop music, obviously. With pop music, I've even used crazy things like one dollar Radio Shaft suction cup telephone pickups. Piezoelectric buzzers as acoustic guitar pickups, drum triggers, contact microphones. And I've even used Radio Shaft microphones, costing only $40, right next to my $3300 German condenser microphones. So in the hands of professionals, we can do all sorts of amazing things that would be considered quite unconventional to others. But it's not. It's audio engineering at its best. However, put a scalpel in the hands of a 10-year-old and what do you think is going to happen? Or an audio oscillator? Or a voltmeter? Do you have that important 600 ohm resistor you're going to need? I can tell you, you won't find it at Radio Shaft. You will find 620. But you won't find 600. Go check it out. And a lot of our equipment has to be referenced across that 600 ohm resistor. Some recorders actually have them built in. Most don't but you need to use it in order to get the proper readings on your test equipment. So we can't possibly discuss things like that here at your current level of understanding and capabilities on a professional level. It goes beyond your scope. And I'm not talking about the test gizmo scope LOL. You'll also need that to verify that you have a clean 100 kHz + bias frequencies sine wave. (The 3M machines use 235 kHz). And it's that bias frequency and bias level adjustment that ensures the best recordings possible from the tape formulation you have adjusted for. And it's different for different tape formulations. So it's really quite a bit more complex than ya can possibly imagine.

    And I have not even really mentioned anything about those all so important heads and how to accurately position them down to the micron level of accuracy. No walk in the park there fursure fursure. And so it doesn't matter if you adjusted playback alignment and record alignment if your head is out of whack. And you've got three of those that must be matched together identically. And I mean identically. Height. Wrap. Zenith. Azimuth. That's for things that can go terribly wrong with each head. And screwing one up will screw the others up by make unit tape ride up or down. So they all interact. Which means you have more than 12 chances to really screw up good. Not for the faint of heart. And we also have to use lots of grease pencils to get it right. LOL. And you don't draw anything with those. Though you may accidentally stick it where the sun don't shine? Don't do that... it hurts... I've done it. Not intentionally. I thought it was a tampon? It wasn't.

    You put the lime in the coconut and use smear the heads with grease pencil.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  20. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Geez? Stupid me? I forgot to tell you about how to adjust tape tension on the supply side. Tape tension on the take-up side. How to measure how much pressure the pinch roller is exerting on the capstan shaft. And the brake adjustments and replacements. All of this affects speed, wow, flutter and the amount of wear to the heads. And if it's not correct, it's a nightmare. And which, all of which is easy for a person like me to take care of it in 10 minutes. I mean, to align everything on a 24 track machine, 10 minutes. And I mean everything. Because that's all the time ya had between sessions. So you had to do it right and you had to do it fast. No excuses for anything.

    As I have said earlier, there are full-blown alignments which must be performed on these machines from time to time. For the home studio, it's much easier. People aren't spending $30,000 + + + for an album which is under contract with a record label and millions of dollars are riding on your capabilities. That's pressure my friend big pressure. You've got all the time in the world to get this right. And you can start now. (Click)

    The clock is rolling.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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