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 Post subject: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Tue 28, 2019 1:04 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 20, 2011 5:18 am
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Location: Cottage Grove Oregon; 97424
Hello all,

I have a fairly nice Sony TC 640 Reel to Reel tape player that works fairly well sound good and functions on FF, play, Rec, and Rev just fine the tape counter is inop so a belt must be broken and need replacement. If any of you guys know where I can get a replacement please let me know.

So anyway, I inherited a ton of reel to reel tapes from my step father who used to have an old Gurndig and a Teac reel to reel some must have been 4 track though as I can hear other music while playing on my Sony as if I am picking up another track. So either I have to get another reel to reel that is a 4 track or get some new blank tapes and make all new recordings as well. I have heard good and bad regarding both 2 track or 4 track, a local recording studio guy said the only way to go was with a true 2 track machine and suggested a Revox B77. So what do you all suggest?


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Tue 28, 2019 2:43 am 
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Joined: Jan Tue 10, 2012 8:39 am
Posts: 486
He is right. 4 track compromises dynamic range.

I have a Revox A77 that I'd love to see get a good home. But I don't know if it works properly or its head configuration or speed. Excellent cosmetic condition.


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Tue 28, 2019 3:41 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
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Location: Boston, MA USA
2-track is better. Except it won't play 4-track tapes at all, if anything has been recorded on the other side. And not very well even if it hasn't. So what do you want to do -- make new recordings of live music, or listen to 4-track tapes?

-David


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Tue 28, 2019 5:20 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 20, 2011 5:18 am
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Location: Cottage Grove Oregon; 97424
That's just the thing....since all of the tapes I have found seem to have been recorded on 4 track, now they are not quality recordings and I think that some or most of the tape has seen better days.
Some I found is SO brittle it's not even funny.

So if I do find some blank tapes even old ones, what brand should I buy?


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Tue 28, 2019 6:41 am 
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Location: Tucson, Arizona U.S.A.
Quote:
since all of the tapes I have found seem to have been recorded on 4 track, now they are not quality recordings

Not true. Just because 2 track may be "better" doesn't mean 4 track is bad. It depends a lot on the quality of the machine. They came all the way from super cheap to excellent. A 2 track made on a cheap machine won't even come close to a 4 track made on a good machine.

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Tue 28, 2019 8:01 am 
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Joined: Sep Thu 23, 2010 6:37 am
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Location: Powell River BC Canada
When four track machines hit the markets in domestic recorders, the firm I was with
sold them. People traded in their two track machines.

Those people complained about drop out when making recordings using four track.

They knew because their two track tapes, played fine on the new four track machine.

That dance continued until the cassette era.

Some Grundigs used a frocked band to press the tape against the whole length
of the tape path.

Most of recorder servicing dealt with the tape tension prior to the
pinch roller.

Dynamic range* is defined in the published specs but in reality apart from
stodges like Ferrograph, comparisons really have more to do with better electronics
and gaps right up to the end of the vacuum tube era.

*After some time Grundig said forget about trying to achieve what the original
specs were in servicing.

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Tue 28, 2019 11:44 am 
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Joined: May Sat 14, 2011 5:42 am
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Location: Ft Worth TX
Profess'l studio machines put 24 tracks on 2 inches, which figures to 3 tracks per quarter inch. How much difference were you expecting?

Now, price quality blank audio tape and do that math (2trk = twice the price for the same minutes). It's a hobby, you can spend any amount you can get away with.

I have a 2trk Technics and I run it at 15ips, but I'm a nut. Rebut, my previous Teac 4trk @ 7.5 was a better sounding machine. The Technics has bumps, the Teac didn't.

The studio guy was 'right', but in a studio generation loss is an issue. At home it isn't.

If you're concerned about 'quality', do you have the equipment and skills to setup one of these machines? Hint, there are things the manual doesn't tell you.

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Wed 29, 2019 1:01 am 
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The statement that 2 track is better depends on the same technology being used on both the 2 track and 4 track machines. In consumer grade recorders this isn't true. 2 track is an older format that disappeared in the late '50s and early '60s in favor of 4 track. But technology continued to improve. So a good 4 track recording made on a high quality 1975 machine will be significantly better than a good 2 track recording made on a high quality 1957 recorder (even though that won't be bad). And, of course, recordings made on cheap recorders will sound like it no matter what the age or format.

Then there is the matter of recorder maintenance. A machine with dirty heads won't give its best performance with any format. Likewise a machine with magnetized heads or other parts (any format) will gradually erase the tape each time it is played. This results in loss of high frequencies and increased noise. The damage is cumulative each time the tape is played and isn't reparable. A frequently seen number is to demagnetize and clean the heads and tape path every 10 hours of operation. More often doesn't hurt. Good tape recorders are high maintenance items.

There is yet another issue: source material. Even the best recorder can only record what is fed into it. To get good results, the source has to be top quality. Putting a cheap microphone (like the ones supplied with most recorders) near the speaker of a table radio is guaranteed to give poor quality.

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Wed 29, 2019 1:36 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 20, 2011 5:18 am
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Location: Cottage Grove Oregon; 97424
I agree with what you are saying, sounds logical. I wish I remembered what model of Teac he used to have other than it had 4 UV meters on it.
As to the stereo I have a Carver Amp and pre amp and the medium I was going to use is 100 plus old LP's that I also inherited as well like Herb Albert and the TJB.
As to the turn table I just have his old Bang and Olufson. I may look for a Duel.

I have Kef 104 speakers as well as B&O.

The Grundig Reel to Reel was an old tube model he had brought back form Germany.


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Wed 29, 2019 2:06 am 
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Location: Tucson, Arizona U.S.A.
Quote:
The Grundig Reel to Reel was an old tube model he had brought back form Germany.

That may add a new dimension to the problem. If that was an export model made for the U.S. market there should be no problem. But if it was made for the German market and he "adapted" it by using a voltage changing transformer there may be a speed issue. German power is 50 Hz but U.S. power is 60 Hz. If he ran the 50 Hz machine on 60 Hz power, it would run too fast. As long as he played the tapes on the same machine, he wouldn't notice the difference (except that the tape didn't play as long as the box said it would). But if you play the tapes on a machine that runs the correct speed, you will notice the difference. The easiest way to fix the problem would be to download the audio into your computer and use software to adjust it.

Perhaps he had the Grundig properly converted, probably with a smaller capstan. If so, you are in luck.

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Wed 29, 2019 2:58 am 
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Joined: Sep Thu 23, 2010 6:37 am
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Location: Powell River BC Canada
The bottom line is , and was, four track 1/4 inch tape had dropouts that the
half track did not. It was simply a mechanical impossibility to stop that
from happening, despite the best intentions of BASF and 3M.

Also, mylar stretched, so the thin tapes didn't help either.

Attachment:
Track Width.jpg
Track Width.jpg [ 373.82 KiB | Viewed 852 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Wed 29, 2019 5:50 pm 
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Not to discourage your RTR recording use at all, but as far as good fidelity with recording those albums you inherited in mono or stereo, you may be best off with a high -medium quality cassette deck which usually can be found at thrift stores for under $25 these days (usually only need head cleaning)...Plus the quality of tape cost/price is much better these days...
-Kent


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Thu 30, 2019 12:08 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 20, 2011 5:18 am
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Location: Cottage Grove Oregon; 97424
As far as cassette decks go I have two Akai GX-8's that sound just awesome. Well at least one does, and I think one needs new belts.

Speaking of new belts, where can I get new belts for my Sony TC 640 RTR and now that I remember it for my Akai GX-8 cassette deck as well?

Thanks, and God bless.


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: May Thu 30, 2019 1:37 am 
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I never owned a two track machine. Owned some 4 track jobs. If they are aligned right they make excellent transcriptions if operated properly. I had a bottom of the line Akai with glass heads at one time and it made quite good recordings. Then I got ahold of a Pioneer and it sounded wretched. But I had no way to test it. I eventually got a nice Sony with the ferrite heads I think. I think Akai was glass and Sony ferrite? Anyway I have a pair of Sony RTR alignment tapes and went thru that machine on the bench till it was right on and with good tape it made fantabulous recordings. Pretty faultless at 4 track 7 1/2 IPS. Never had much use for the half speed. I sold it when I got ahold of what I thought was a better Teac. That thing has been setting in the closet for many years with a set of new heads ready to be installed. Guy said he hardly used it but the wear belies that. It does take the large reels and I have a few of those. At 4 tracks you can get alot of music on one of those big ones.

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: Jun Mon 03, 2019 10:09 pm 
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Joined: Apr Thu 14, 2016 8:25 pm
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Location: pensacola fl
Hi everyone. I have several open reel machines. I have an Ampex 350 tube type 2 track machine that is not in service. It was capable of good performance in its day. Also I have 2 Scully 280B machines that are also 2 track one that is 3.75/7.5 ips and the other that is 7.5/15 ips. I also have mono plugin head stacks that are full track for these. Then there is the Otari MX5050 which has a a four head head stack with the usual 2 track erase, record, and play heads plus a switchable 4 track head for the ability to play either format correctly. Then there is the Teac A2340 4 channel machine that will play 2 channel quarter track or all four tracks together for quad or mixing and it will even play half track as well. All but the Teac are professional machines. These all are capable machines if kept up.


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: Jun Tue 04, 2019 5:09 am 
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Location: Gold Country, (Stanislaus National Forest) California 95235
RE: track size and configuration
2-track tapes had three track widths -

the early Ampex from the 50s was 75 mils (which is why you could have stereo cart machines for radio stations later bec it allowed for a third track in the middle)

2-track mono (2 sided tape like a mono LP) was 82 mils

European standard (like your e.g. Revox 77 series) was 100 mils meaning the guardband was very narrow between left and right.

4-track tape on the other hand was only 43 mils and it went down from there for 8-track and cassette and reel to reel and cassette multitrack portastudio and etc etc etc. So if you played an e.g. 100 mil track on a 75 mil head it would sound too strong. Doing the reverse would pick up all kinds of guardband noise, making the playback sound hissy.
radiotechnician wrote:
They knew because their two track tapes, played fine on the new four track machine.
But you have to remember though - in the case of 2-track tapes - the larger concentration of the recording is in the bottom half of the track - so the early 4-track recorders had a dial that would compensate for this by lowering the position of the head to the location of roughly where tracks 2 and 4 would be (or Side 2 of a 4-track tape).

People who bought later 4-track players without this feature would talk about the anemic sound of 2-track tapes - until such time as they played them on a 4-channel inline/quadraphonic deck and chose the Rear channels (tracks 2 and 4) in order to play back their old 2-track tapes from the 50s - or found one of the aforementioned 4-track players with a 2-track azimuth setting.

RE: Aligning a tape recorder
In addition to demagnetizing and cleaning the heads rollers and guides in the tape path, there are also five head planes to align. Rack wrap height azimuth and zenith, and since you can Google those yourself for explanations and directions, I'm not going to cover them here.
mjohansson2 wrote:
Some tapes I found are SO brittle it's not even funny.
If you want to save them and find out what is on them - leave them alone until you perform the following:

1 get some 8MM film cans (or 16MM if you have half inch)
2 get some Handi Wipes wet them with distilled water and wring out until nearly dry
3 Place moistened Handi Wipes into film can folded over in half to be square
4 Lay reel on top
5 Close can with lid
6 Place in closet or in sunny window ledge for about a week.
7 Remove from can and wash Handi Wipe in Woolite and distilled water and hang dry
8 Set tape on supply reel and next larger size reel on takeup (5 for 7, 7 for 10, 10 for 14 etc)
9 Thread tape directly through to other reel without going through mechanism
10 Set player to PLAY and be there in case of snags or sticks.
(The tape will go from one reel to the next in a very low torque format allowing for space between the revolutions which you need for the next step.)
11. Set the now larger reel into its box and set aside for a few days or a week.
12. Reverse the reels on the player and thread through mechanism
13 Set player at slowest speed available and watch that the reverse torque on the supply reel does not tighten up the tape and cause it to accordion or kink.

The tape is now re-hydrated as well as library wound evening out the edges. Set it in its box to rest for a few days and then try playing it again to transfer into the computer.
ampstamp88 wrote:
Not to discourage your RTR recording use at all, but as far as good fidelity with recording those albums you inherited in mono or stereo, you may be best off with a high-to-medium quality cassette deck which usually can be found at thrift stores for under $25 these days (usually only need head cleaning)...Plus the quality of tape cost/price is much better these days...
Especially if you get a 2-speed Marantz or BIC. The Marantz can do both Chrome/Type II as well as Metal/Type IV tape (stronger signal needed in recording and harder heads needed to survive the sandpaper masquerading as tape. Must run in the family here. [ROFL]) in addition to having Dolby NR.

If you ever found yourself with a 4-track cassette portastudio like a Tascam 424 using the Chrome or Metal tape and marveled at the sound - this is the same thing but set up for a standard-cassette configuration although you can't play one on the other due to track spacing differences.

Meaning if you're one of those oddball guys (that populate a lot of this and plenty of other related forums) - then you could be one of those men that goes and gets a 2-speed car cassette player to put in your vehicle - or find one that has a replaceable motor - find the 2-speed version of the same thing - swap out and add an extra button for the high speed tapes.

8-tracks same way (read in another thread about that).
radiotechnician wrote:
People complained about drop out when making recordings using four track.
Which is why in the 70's they invented EE tape - the equivalent of CrO2 for reel to reel (less than normal pre-emphasis). Between that and the new ability to pack particles in a tighter density was supposed to overcome that - which it only did partially.

By the time DAT's came out (or their DDS 4MM computer storage tape counterparts) - enterprising young boys could rescue all manner of tapes out of the garbage of their Dad's job and - with a little bit of work and almost no expenditure (getting leftover shells from duplicators) and winding their own into standard cassette shells on an adapted cart winder leftover from a radio station) could save all kinds of money on tape.

No they weren't as good as the real specifically-mfgd chrome or metal tape since it was set up for digital and helical scanning and not longitudinal analog recording - but it was a sight better than the 99-cent tape you could get in the e.g. Highland Music, Camelot Records or Pacific Stereo shops. In addition - the other way to get
ampstamp88 wrote:
good fidelity with those albums you inherited
is to find them all on either pre-recorded 4-track tape from the labels (will have the aforementioned dropouts but interesting to hear how much better than an LP certain tapes could sound on the right gear).

This of course does NOT count in the e.g. record club or other editions recorded at 3-3/4 on what must have been voice-grade tape instead of at 7-1/2 on what was then music grade tape.

North American Reel Society was dubbing from 2-track 15 IPS masters onto EE tape and charging $28 a reel (when LPs and cassettes were still 9.95 and Chrome tapes were $10.95 - and CD's were 14.98) as late as the early 90s as they went out of business in 1992.

Now - the sons and grandsons of all those NARS guys have started putting them out again - but this time on a 1:1 dub right back onto 2-track 15 IPS on high energy tape (911, 996 etc) and charging $498 a tape which means a double album is a thousand dollars.

If you want one that's a half a generation closer than that - you can lay out 750 a reel for titles that have been bumped up to one-inch 2-track 30 IPS (because of no EQ curve at 30 IPS) and then bumped back real-time to your original 2-track 15 IPS.

And then you have the El-Caset which is the aforementioned Marantz 2-speed cassette deck on steroids bec it uses quarter inch chrome tape and also runs at 3-3/4.

Or you could get the Nakamichi normal speed and half-speed deck and use the 15/16 IPS like the MUZAK providers used to use between when they migrated out of reel to reel and 4-track NAB cartridge onto cassette before they migrated out onto digital disc (like a CD but proprietary format) - use the aforementioned Metal tape and - since the Metal tape has half over again the fidelity as Normal tape - get twice the music time at regular fidelity at half the speed.

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: Jun Fri 07, 2019 2:07 am 
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The best option would be to get a deck who can record in 2-track mode (for the best possible sound quality) and replay both 2-track and 4-track recordings. I know OTARI made such decks with an extra head and 2/4 tracks PB switching option. Some old AMPEX decks (960, 1260 series...) have a lever to mechanically shift the PB head to read either 2 or 4 track recordings. There are very likely some japanese consumer decks (TEAC, SONY,AKAI, ...) with similar features.


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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: Jun Fri 07, 2019 4:42 am 
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Joined: Sep Thu 23, 2010 6:37 am
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Location: Powell River BC Canada
Tubologic wrote:
The best option would be to get a deck who can record in 2-track mode (for the best possible sound quality) and replay both 2-track and 4-track recordings. I know OTARI made such decks with an extra head and 2/4 tracks PB switching option. Some old AMPEX decks (960, 1260 series...) have a lever to mechanically shift the PB head to read either 2 or 4 track recordings. There are very likely some japanese consumer decks (TEAC, SONY,AKAI, ...) with similar features.


There is another layer of complexity. When stereo prerecorded music came out, for a time
there were tapes using machines two staggered half track tape heads.

Some dual (record and Play head separate) stereo machines featured echo special effects,
using the record head as the echo pickup.

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: Jun Fri 07, 2019 6:02 pm 
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radiotechnician wrote:
There is another layer of complexity. When stereo prerecorded music came out, for a time
there were tapes using machines two staggered half track tape heads.

Some dual (record and Play head separate) stereo machines featured echo special effects,
using the record head as the echo pickup.


I am old enough to absolutely remember all of the above. I remember that Dad's first tape recorder was a Voice of Music 710, mono. Then they came out with staggered and then stacked and he eventually got a model 720. I still have it here somewhere...

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 Post subject: Re: Two track or 4 track witch is better and why?
PostPosted: Jun Sat 08, 2019 2:01 pm 
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I have an old tube type Dokorder "portable" in the garage that must weight a gawdawful 80 lbs. Just for that reason alone it is impractical and bulky. I am looking to part it out here. Very little money invested in it. If it was a vintage US or Euro pro or semi pro recorder I might give it a second look but I am sure I could not even give it away, to anyone that wants to avoid a hernia. Let alone struggle to refurb it.

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