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What's the perfect tape for recording in a boombox?

Discussion in 'Tech talk' started by walkman archive, Jan 29, 2017.

  1. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    I love to do recordings, and I always do them in one of my decks (see my collection in this video). Using a good deck and proper guidelines (as explained in my guide to make good recordings) does end up in a very good quality. Much more than many people think a cassette can hold.

    Recordings can be done with boombox and even with some walkmans, although the quality is not as good as with an excellent deck. Though there are some excepcions, like the Super-D6C.

    In this case I've doing some test with the latest boombox that came home, a Panasonic RX-DS45. I gave it to my oldest son (8-yr old) and he's delighted with it. He loves it!

    I normally record his tapes in one of my decks, mainly my SONY K909ES, but we talked aobut recording in the very same DS45. I warned him that the sound quality wouldn't be the same as with the deck, so I decided to investigate which tape suits best.

    So I opened my RTA software and generated pink noise (which a noise that has the same energy distributed in all the frequencies). I connected the Line out of my sound card to the Line IN of the DS45 (thanks that it has one). Right without recording I connected the output from the DS45 to the Line In of my card, and without XBS at all this was the result:

    Panasonic RX-DS45 - direct sound.png

    I had to adjust the treble to -50% because at zero there was simply too much treble. So, you see: it has a not so flat response. So if I can reach this response with a particular cassette, that would be nice in this case.

    So first I tested a simple TDK D from 1992 and recorded the pink noise at -20 dB (which is the standard volume for these tests, to avoid distortion at higher levels). Pretty plain, huh?

    Panasonic RX-DS45 - TDK D '92.png

    From 100 Hz on, the response is more or less flat, with a deviation of +/-2 dB until around 17kHz, which is not that bad for a boombox. The bass is weak under 100Hz with a heavy fall off which goes up to 20 dB from the highest level at 500 Hz. Reason why it includes the XBS system...

    Then I put a TDK CDIng II from 1990, a basic chrome tape. I have lots of this particular one, that I used to bought back then. Chrome tapes need much more bias and, if not properly biased during recording, the highs rise up noticeably. As this case:

    Panasonic RX-DS45 - CDing '90.png

    So with this tape the sound will clearly suffer and will become much more brighter. As much as 6-7 dB, which is not small...

    Conclusion: avoid using chrome tapes in a boombox. They are simply not prepared for them (as always, there are exceptions), and the resulting recording will be heavily underbiased, thus ending up in a very bright recording.

    As a reference, this is how it performs a reference deck: my Technics RS-B965, highly improved by ANT Audio. This time using a high performance tape: the TDK SA-X from 1995, accurately calibrated.

    Technics RS-B965 - TDK SA-X '95 -20dB.png

    I think nothing is left to say...

    Read the original article in my blog.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
    Mystic Traveller and retro like this.
  2. T-ster

    T-ster Moderator Staff Member S2G Supporter

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    Thanks Hugo, I like these articles and i am always learning more and more about the intricacies of recording cassettes and the various types. Very interesting.
     
  3. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    I'm glad you liked it. I know it's not the most liked type of article but for boombox lovers it's a must to be aware of IMHO.
     
  4. Jorge

    Jorge Member

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    @walkman archive: Great article and real nice videos! Please keep them coming!!!
    I would like to see an article on PROFESSIONAL restoration of a cassette deck. You did mention that 3-head (and especially discreet head) decks must be serviced by professionals, not tinkerers. I think this point should be "reinforced" :wtf:
    Reading through Nakamichi service manual (while restoring my LX-3) I realized that without proper tools it is Absolutely Impossible to adjust heads, roller pressure, pickup tension,.... If you have these special cassettes, then calibrating cassette deck is fun (my-guess), but if you don't, that's it!!!
    I see a lot of decks being sold as being "professionally restored". Here in the US, however, there is only two places, Willy Hermann (willyhermannservices.com) and Electronics Service Labs (eslabs.com) where folks have all the necessary tools, not just will, to do the job. After servicing a deck they put a sticker who and when did the job. I do not see any stickers on most "eBay-serviced" decks.
     
  5. walkman archive

    walkman archive Administrator Staff Member

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    Absolutely. If you look for factory specs (or better) you either become an expert aficionado or take it to a pro.
    I know there are much more techs in US but I live in Spain so not sure. At Tapeheads you can find some: skywave, Pacific stereo..

    http://www.tapeheads.net/forumdisplay.php?f=129
     
  6. Boodokhan

    Boodokhan Active Member S2G Supporter

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    Thanks Hugo
    Your articles are always helpful
     
  7. Jorge

    Jorge Member

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    Pacific Stereo... you are right, it pops up pretty often at tapeheads. Someday I will get enough courage to buy this: http://www.tapeheads.net/showthread.php?t=32263
    But how do I know if they (well, he) have (has) all those specialized alignment tools? I know that Willy Hermann has them all, presume he uses them :)
    Posing serviced deck next to two-channel oscilloscope with cine-waves of equal amplitude, or having Leader W&F meter plus laptop running RealtimeAnalyser as the background (well, that was my listing:wink:) does not mean that "professional" service was done professionally. A video of, say, Alex of ANT Audio using "Back Tension Gauge, Nakamichi Cat.No. DA09056A) cannot harm his business because these are "unobtanium" but would show even to the newbies that his service is way above the average.
     

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