TSR-8 signal decreasing over time

Discussion in 'TASCAM Analog Forum' started by soul, Oct 23, 2021.

  1. BazzBass

    BazzBass Well-Known Member

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    a lot of trouble and expense for outdated technology, however romantic and nostalgic it may be hehe, tho I understand it's attraction

    I admire all of your dedication to tape.

    Is this more an obsession of engineers rather than musicians/home recordists? I ask this coz musicians have other crazy obsessions (THAT bass tone, pedals pedals pedals, multi fx units, pickups, guitars, basses, drums......)
  2. SkywaveTDR

    SkywaveTDR Well-Known Member

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    Plugin may be the best way if they are reliable. Tape use can be unpredictable depending on the tape and wear on it as well as condition of the machine. A two track machine will give you the sound you want without the drop outs and volume changes associated with edge tracks on a 8 track tape. I don't get why everyone wants to degrade their music for some reason.
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  3. BRDTS

    BRDTS New Member

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    much!
    In a large context, speaking only for myself (recording music via console and tape since 1959)......

    One pass of a pristine signal through a tape machine (a well specd, well operating machine) doesn't do much to a signal...at all.

    That's my opinion.

    There are plenty of guys who integrate a tape machine direct to a daw....do what you're doing...one pass....and ecstatically jump "eureka"..."glue"..."mojo"...

    Me....I don't hear it that way. Even if I push levels. One-pass stuff is...politely-still-clean.

    Where there's no console (ie: direct from daw to tape recorder and back)...more clean.

    At any rate, I use tape machines for a certain kind of sound. Which takes multiple bouncing between the tape machine and console....before one would send to daw.

    What kind of sound?

    If I'm doing a track that requires the sonics of say, "Hot Smoke/Sassafrass", "Out of Limits", Al Wilson's "Show & Tell", Cornelius Bros "It's Too Late", Cream's "White Room", Jefferson Airplane "Watch Her Ride", Beatles "Penny Lane"....or a host of others.....the only way I know historically to "do" those sounds is extensive....massive...bouncing. Which takes time as well as good gainstaging experience.

    Of course, no one really wants to do those types of sonics nowadays except me :)

    On top of everything else, you have to get a lathe involved. A lot of people check out on that alone.

    At any rate, one-pass tape sound may not be getting you where you want to go in your head.

    By the way, I edit in Cubase. Best invention since the razor blade. I tried Izotope's Trash and Vinyl a few times over the years..not very good imo.
  4. soul

    soul New Member

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    Ok, valid question. Let me explain how I got here and why I'm bothering with the tape.

    I'm a musician/songwriter (played in a band for years, still functioning and releasing new music). Lately, I've been working on a solo album of indie rock/folky/slacker/psych pop/other. It's informed by the 60s/70s but also incorporates some newer styles. Having a lofi sonic quality is part of the style. I'm using an Orban spring reverb unit, Roland space echo along with Juno synths, Rhodes, Wurli, electric guitars and bass, and acoustic drum kit. So there is a sort of commitment to mechanical and analog gear in the process. But I record in Pro Tools, this tape stuff is way too unreliable. I'm now at the end stage where I just want to run the tracks through for a little bit of character before mastering and releasing the album.

    I bought the TSR8 on eBay about 5 years ago. Turns out the seller was a rather well-known musician and iconic record label owner. This was the unit that he used to record some albums with. I feel like there is a bit of magic in the machine that I want to touch my music. Maybe stupid, but it's been good energy to use as I create. Does that make any sense? I've heard of successful producers running audio through vintage gear just to run through the circuitry. I think that's what I'm doing, though also adding a bit of tape warmth.

    I really appreciate everyone helping me through the process. I'm a noob at this deck but have been learning a lot along the way. I do have some nostalgia for tape so that's may also be some of the attraction. All of my songs in high school and college were written/recorded on a Vestax 4 track cassette recorder until I finally got an ADAT in the late nineties. Spent a few years with that machine, been on Pro Tools ever since. I do have some general electrical knowledge and troubleshooting skills, though none of the expertise on this recorder that's been shared by some of you. Big thanks!
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  5. BazzBass

    BazzBass Well-Known Member

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    @soul I totally understand.

    This new release of cassette tape may even get me to get our old portastudio 244s out of storage just for old time's sake.

    Young people don't know the agony of bouncing down on tiny cassette tape and losing all the bass guitar's clarity in one sweep lol.

    I like how you describe your music,I'm intrigued,would love to hear some of it.

    And,if I'm not too nosey,who did you buy it from? DM me if it's more appropriate.
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  6. soul

    soul New Member

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    I hear you and maybe I'm caught up in something that's all in my head. But I'm pretty sure the drums instantly sound better through the tape machine, especially the snare. I feel like it gives a nice rounding out to the vocals too, takes some of the attack off, and of course some high end. as they say... warms it up.

    I don't think the plugins feel the same at all, as I mentioned I also have some reasons for incorporating this tape machine into my album. (Not sure I'd do it again, but I'm here at the finish line on this album, so moving forward). I bought the Nu Finish btw. Coasted the heads (and the NOS 456). Not nearly as much oxide, but the tape is still problematic. I'm going t0 buy new tape today.

    @BRDTS and @SkywaveTDR Where is the best place to purchase SM911? Do you see any problem with buying a pancake on a hub and transferring it to one of my reels (to save money)? Or should I just buy the reel?
  7. soul

    soul New Member

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    Today, I bought a hub of SM911 from Full Compass and got in touch with the seller on eBay. I'm returning the unopened reels of Ampex 456 minus a restocking fee. I'll revisit this when the new tape arrives
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  8. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

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    @soul, studios normally only buy pancake and exchange flanges as needed, with only current projects being flanged. The exception to that was 2" tape.
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  9. soul

    soul New Member

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    Checking in to report what a big difference SM911 tape made! Clean recordings, consistent speed. I should've used it from the start, sure wasted a bunch of time and money with the old 456 reels. Thanks for the guidance!
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2022
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  10. SkywaveTDR

    SkywaveTDR Well-Known Member

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    Great- use of tape that is known to be good is required as some tape can gum up heads real fast and it also squeals or make skidding noise which is what sticky tape is known for. That is why I suggest a tape be wound through not to loosen it up but to see if the lifters are covered in black residue as this will tell you if the tape has that sticky binder problem.
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  11. soul

    soul New Member

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    @SkywaveTDR what do you use to clean the pinch roller wheel? I mistakenly used alcohol to clean off some oxide residue the other day. Now the wheel is very sticky! I spent a few minutes cleaning with soap and water, but still sticky. Do I have to buy a new one? Does NuFinish work on these??
  12. SkywaveTDR

    SkywaveTDR Well-Known Member

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    People get the idea that alcohol causes the sticky condition which is just decayed rubber that must be replaced. When I say replaced it does not mean those push on rubber things as a customer brought me yesterday. I told him no good technician will use that garbage.
    The new rubber needs to be put on and bonded then machined on a lathe. Terry is the foremost person to do that and the cost of rubber has gone up so a new roller will cost like $58. This is where all professionals get their rollers done- see http://www.terrysrubberrollers.com/

    So the alcohol and I use denatured, removes the oxide from the roller and then as you get down to rubber the stuff is sticky- it was sticky all along but just covered in a layer of oxide which does not belong there. Nu Finish is for tape and head surface not rubber. Reconditioning of rubber can be done with Naphtha. Soap and water only removes oxide by friction as water has no way to dissolve the oxide contaminants. I did a 38 roller the other day and the same thing happened. Good thing I stock Terry's rebuilt rollers here so I do not have to wait for them- also notice if the tachometer rubber is also getting soft as this too is a item that needs to go in and get new rubber on it. Terry is in Sparta MI in the US near Chicago.
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  13. soul

    soul New Member

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    thanks @SkywaveTDR Not the news I wanted to hear, but the news I needed
  14. SkywaveTDR

    SkywaveTDR Well-Known Member

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    Well a lot of people do not like what I tell them but I try and be accurate and give them the correct ways to do things rather than do stupid thing like that push on rubber item. I find that the whole time I have tested those push on none of them did well and it is a joke to think that they would ever work. I put warnings on my web site but people just love to throw their money away on those.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2022
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  15. JonHunt

    JonHunt New Member

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    Hi Soul. I have a suggestion you may want to try out on your recordings.

    I’ve always been intrigued by why my mixes sound great with very little EQing coming straight off my TSR-8, but I spend hours trying to get the right sound mixing in the box. This is especially true of bass. Intuitively I know it’s tape compression, etc., but what exactly is it doing to my music? And is there a way to get a similar feel using plugins? And by the way, none of the tape simulation plugins will give you the effect you’re looking for. It’s not about adding noise or saturation and throwing fidelity away. It’s about something the tape does to the *music* you hear that’s different and recognizable.

    So a few months ago I came up with a way to quantify exactly what my TSR-8 is doing with the signal I give it. I made a recording of test tones starting at 20Hz and ascending to 20kHz with an interval for each musical semitone. Each tone has (I recall) a 5 second duration and plays at 0dB. The cool thing is that by separating the tones temporally, you effectively get a picture of the EQ curve in protools. From protools, out the interface and back to protools, the curve is flat as you would expect. From protools to the TSR-8 back to protools, you see a very distinctive curve. It’s responsive from 20 to 20k as the manual says, but there’s a characteristic low cutoff, bump in the bass frequencies, and cut in the “sibilance” frequencies. Thus why my bass and vocals sound good with little modification.
  16. JonHunt

    JonHunt New Member

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    As for the tape compression, I used the same set of test tones, but this time they increased in amplitude from -infty up to 0dB. Similarly to before, by separating the amplitudes in time, we effectively see a compression curve. In protools each tone looks like a right triangle. After passing through the TSR-8, you see a gentle rounding off as the amplitude increases. Here’s the really interesting part: it’s not the same compression for every frequency. There’s almost no compression in the lows, and by the time you get to 20kHz, there’s a lot of compression.

    Next I worked with plugins until I made the set of test tones inside protools look exactly like the tones coming back from the TSR-8. What I came up with was this: For tape compression, I use a 10 band EQ to linearly boost the high frequencies and cut the lows, then make exactly the opposite EQ to correct the signal back to flat. (You can get away with this with plugins; not sure it would work right with hardware EQs and their associated tiny phase differences, but I digress) you can check that these two perfectly cancel each other out by applying them to the test tones. They should look flat. Then you sandwich a compressor in between the two EQs. Use a very fast digital compressor (not analog modeled, this isn’t for color really), brick wall ratio but threshold all the way up, and a considerable knee. What’s happening here is the high frequencies have more gain and are compressed more, then the signal is “put back” to flat after the fact. Note that this is fundamentally different than a multiband Compressor. For the frequency response, I simply looped each tone and used a fixed multiband EQ to match the output of the digital signal to the analog signal. After testing each tone, I got a perfect EQ curve.

    Now before I mix, I can apply this chain of plugins to each track and commit them (saving a dry copy) before adding plugins for color. It’s a nice harmonious sound right out the gate, and whatever you do after that is icing on the cake. I get better mixes that way, and it certainly sounds a lot like my TSR-8. Sorry for the long reply.
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  17. soul

    soul New Member

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    Hey all, hope your new year's off to a nice start. I'm checking in to report that I got my pinch roller back from Terry as recommended by @SkywaveTDR so I'm back up and running thanks to some solid advice in this thread. In hindsight, I should have just bought one from him instead of sending mine for repair, as the price with shipping was about the same. oh well, moving on
  18. SkywaveTDR

    SkywaveTDR Well-Known Member

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    There is never a good way to use the tracks of a TSR8 to gain tape sound characteristic. Thin track formats like these are very questionable and it is not a good idea to do it. I would do the mix and then transfer the audio to a Tascam 42 or 52 to get the tape sound. These machines will not mess up the sound at all. It is kind of like asking why don't you put the work on a the cassette deck? Somebody might say it will sound like junk. Well? Why are you putting audio on tape at all get the plug in or use a 1/2 track.
  19. JonHunt

    JonHunt New Member

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    The TSR-8 is not a narrow track format. The track width is on par with most of the classic 24 track 2 inch machines, and actually wider than some of them. The main difference is in the separation between tracks, which is why it is more susceptible to crosstalk than the 2 inch machines. But in using a single track, or with two tracks separated across the 1/2 inch tape, that’s not a problem either. You can argue that the higher end machines have a better sound due to higher quality machining, 30 ips speed, or a hotter operating level, but it’s not because it’s a “narrow format machine.” I have used the very best of the tape simulation plugins and they can’t touch the TSR-8
  20. SkywaveTDR

    SkywaveTDR Well-Known Member

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    In the unit I was working with it did the same before and after the lapping so lapping is not the solution but there does not seem to be a sharp edge on the head causing this so it is very likely another cause. Track 5 is the one that lost audio on this machine with this kind of build up- upload_2022-5-2_13-21-45.png