Need advice on the best cassette recorder for voice audio

Discussion in 'Tape Recorders' started by inquiring_mind4u, Oct 21, 2004.

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  1. Hello,

    First, I'm a recording newbie and humbly bow to the experts who will read this post. I'll probably use wrong terminology for some of this, so please bear with me.

    I'm trying to find the best tape recorder (cassette recorder) for recording voice audio (without breaking the bank!).

    We digitally record live voice audio (lectures) on a G5 MAC and then produce CD's and cassette tapes to send to our members.

    For years we've made the cassettes by feeding the output (after editing) from the MAC into a Marantz PMD201 Portable Cassette Recorder and then duplicating this "master tape" using a series of Sony 4-slot high-speed duplicators.

    Recently we've had a string of results where the final duplicated tapes had altered pitch - the pitch of the speaker was noticeably higher... as though he had sucked in a tiny bit of helium before speaking.

    Yesterday I spent the day testing tape recorders and players and found these results:

    1. Among standard tape players (home stereos, boom boxes, etc.), there can be a playback tolerance of about 2.5% fast (higher pitch) or slow (lower pitch).

    2. The portable Marantz recorder that we use can record 2.4% slow (raising final playback pitch accordingly)

    3. The Sony duplicators (per design) introduce a 0.5% increase in effective playback speed (and a corresponding pitch shift).

    Combining these factors can produce a final effective playback speed that is about 6% faster than the speed the material was delivered at. The pitch shift caused by this increased speed is just enough to make the ear go, "Hmm... that doesn't sound right."

    So, looking at the factors, it seems the only thing I can affect is the reliability of our recording unit (by replacing the Marantz recorder with something else). For such a "high dollar" unit - I was surprised that the Marantz could vary as much as it did.

    In any event, we're looking at buying a TASCAM 102 MKII Stereo Cassette to replace the Marantz:

    Do you think this will help? Am I looking at the right thing? Are there other factors that could be playing into this that I'm not considering? Can you think of a better recorder than this Tascam?

    Thanks a ton for your help.


    P.S. I posted this topic in the home "low budget" section, but found I needed a little more help.
  2. JeffreyMajeau

    JeffreyMajeau Active Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Before you replace anything, treat your decks to a good teching. Get an alignment cassette and set the playback speed and azimuth on all your decks. If they are all set up to that tape, they'll all match as well as can be expected. You're still dealing with cassette, which started off as a dictation recording format back in the 1960s. It's never going to be rock solid speed-wise.

    I do not know of any cassette decks with servo speed control, but there could be some out there.

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