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Old 12-06-2018, 01:35 PM   #1
inertia
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Default Fixing cassette recorings with one channel louder than other

Can anyone recommend a way to automatically bring the volume level up of a channel to match the other channel?

I am arching some cassettes but a few of them seem to have a channel lower in volume than the other.

It's a bit cumbersome to split the audio and manually adjust then render it again. Must be an easier way.

Would have to do some kind of average difference I guess and raise the volume accordingly?
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Old 12-06-2018, 02:04 PM   #2
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This could be done by exploding the stereo file into two mono files and using the normalize button in the item properties.

Here the steps: right click the audio item -> item processing -> explode multi channel ...

then select both of them, press f2 to open the item properties and insert a value to raise the max gain to. -2db for example. Both files should be adjusted to a max gain to minus 2db.

Should work. But your ears are more important than values.
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Old 12-06-2018, 03:06 PM   #3
domzy
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just pan the stereo file to even it out
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Old 12-06-2018, 03:19 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by domzy View Post
just pan the stereo file to even it out
That will work but will also change the stereo image originally recorded.



Easiest way imo would be to use a plugin to change the volume on one channel, import all the cassette recordings to this track (assuming they are all off by the same amount?) and render each item to a new take.
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Old 12-06-2018, 03:44 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fergler View Post
That will work but will also change the stereo image originally recorded.
No, I don't think so.

In the original recording, both channels should have the same volume level.

Your cassettes did not have proper gain settings when recorded, or one of the tracks got weaker
over time. This means that currently the stereo image is off center.

If you set the pan control properly (i.e. both channels have same volume), the original
stereo image will be restored.
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Old 12-06-2018, 05:00 PM   #6
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Select the items, press F2, pan there, apply > OK > Done. This is better IMHO because it can't easily get changed like a pan knob on the track and it will change the waveform in the item so that it looks like it sounds. I agree this should fix not harm the stereo image and should be fixing it.

I have to do this all the time when I say record rehearsal or other stereo source and one side ends up a tad low due to slightly differing gains on the preamps.
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Old 12-06-2018, 05:00 PM   #7
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Probably the most likely problem was a head failure of the cassette deck or a problem of the cassette tape. Which causes loss of higher frequencies in one channel. This might be perceived as volume loss, but is due to the loss of higher frequencies. So best would be as Eliseat said: explode to two separate tracks so you can correct the loss of high frequency by EQ and if still necessary add some volume.
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Old 12-06-2018, 05:14 PM   #8
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If you're actually interested in preserving a cassette recording, the more pressing thing to spend time on initially is dialing in the head azimuth to the tape. You can't eq back the high end attenuation form azimuth error after the fact. (You can try. You might improve it but not like capturing it properly in the first place.) Goes without saying that a professional grade deck is a good idea as well as quality AD converters. Capture at 24 bit. HD is also a good idea.

Mastering duties like proper channel levels usually need at least a moment of attention.

If this is SO quick and dirty a project that spending even a moment on proper channel levels is too much work... then don't sweat any other details. Otherwise the time consuming parts are head alignment up front and then careful attention to detail in final mastering if the goal was preserving the tape contents to the highest level.
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Old 12-06-2018, 05:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by domzy View Post
just pan the stereo file to even it out
With default Pan Mode this works fine. It will just attenuate the channel that you're panning away from. Depending on Pan Law, both channels might get a little louder at the same time, but I'd imagine you'll probably need some makeup gain on both channels once you get them leveled.


It's not really an automatic way to do it, though. The thing with exploding them to two tracks is better for a number of reasons, but honestly that begs the question: Why are you recording them as a stereo file to begin with. Set up a track for each channel input and record them separately.
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Old 12-06-2018, 07:59 PM   #10
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With the time (real-time tape passes and all) and effort it takes to transfer a tape no matter how good of a job you do it seems like not very much more effort to pay attention to head alignment up front and then levels on the digital master.

Not to get too snobby about it but you kind of owe it to yourself to spend that little extra after investing in the transfer time to begin with.

Set the output of the tape deck to full (unity) and set the digital AD input to match. The lowest levels will be well within a good bit depth with a 24 bit recording and the highest levels possible on a tape will hit up to zero. Don't worry about readjusting the level to a tape with too low levels. That can be your time saver. You still have good resolution on the lowest levels on any tape no matter if peaks reach up to zero or not.
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Old 12-06-2018, 10:39 PM   #11
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Wow I can't believe I never noticed that panning is changing the volumes, not bleeding channels as well. Just tested with tone generators at different pitches on L and R, and yeah it has no L pitch if you pan all the way R.

Switching to Stereo Pan gives the behaviour I was expecting. Old (relative) dog, new tricks. ;p
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Old 12-07-2018, 12:24 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fergler View Post
Wow I can't believe I never noticed that panning is changing the volumes, not bleeding channels as well. Just tested with tone generators at different pitches on L and R, and yeah it has no L pitch if you pan all the way R.

Switching to Stereo Pan gives the behaviour I was expecting. Old (relative) dog, new tricks. ;p
Even default pan mode has a Width knob in the I/O panel.
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Old 12-07-2018, 02:32 AM   #13
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I have been looking into azimuth alignment but haven't delved so much into how to fix this on the actual cassette deck.

I have only started collecting tapes again and have no experience with this and am now realising it's trickier than I previously thought.

I have also noticed that after playing some older tapes I need to clean the heads before playing back another cassette. It's almost like a tape can infect the head somehow.

The digitilisation isn't a serious project, but for the kind of music I am transferring I like the saturation effect of the tape and wish to preserve this digitally.

At the moment, I am using an old deck I found at a second hand that is in good condition but I am wondering if there is any benefit and investing in a new machine to do the archiving.

https://www.kjell.com/se/sortiment/l...spelare-p33208

This is the only thing I can pick up locally but it's hardly serious hi-fi gear but maybe will do the job? Has analogue outputs as well.
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Old 12-07-2018, 02:36 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by domzy View Post
just pan the stereo file to even it out
Sounds the simplest solution! duh!
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Old 12-08-2018, 08:31 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inertia View Post
I have been looking into azimuth alignment but haven't delved so much into how to fix this on the actual cassette deck.

I have only started collecting tapes again and have no experience with this and am now realising it's trickier than I previously thought.

I have also noticed that after playing some older tapes I need to clean the heads before playing back another cassette. It's almost like a tape can infect the head somehow.

The digitilisation isn't a serious project, but for the kind of music I am transferring I like the saturation effect of the tape and wish to preserve this digitally.

At the moment, I am using an old deck I found at a second hand that is in good condition but I am wondering if there is any benefit and investing in a new machine to do the archiving.

https://www.kjell.com/se/sortiment/l...spelare-p33208

This is the only thing I can pick up locally but it's hardly serious hi-fi gear but maybe will do the job? Has analogue outputs as well.


If you are not absolutely sure of head adjustments it's better not to tinker with them. Only bad things can result. (Assuming the deck even *has* adjustments for the tape head. Many don't.)

At a minimum, if you are not experienced at this, you need an alignment tape made on a reference machine and the service manual for the deck.
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Old 12-08-2018, 08:38 AM   #16
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Quote:
I have been looking into azimuth alignment but haven't delved so much into how to fix this on the actual cassette deck.
It's just one of the axes (plural of axis). The only way to do it (that I remember) is with a calibration tape and a meter or oscilloscope. If it is truly out of whack, you really have no choice but to insert a known good commercial cassette and twist the screws until it sounds the best it can because...

It's a cassette for goodness sake, not a reel-to-reel, there will likely be zero resources for calibrating it because its a consumer medium so it's turn the screws or live with what you have. But again, it's a cassette and they were plagued with the same issues when they were all the rage as they are now. You can always twist the adjustment a known amount (like a quarter turn), listen and put it back where it was if needed, rinse/repeat.

I picked up a used Onkyo last year, I didn't really worry about any of this, I just popped in the cassettes and recorded to reaper because... they are cassettes and they sounded as crappy last year as they did in the 80s LOL.

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Old 12-08-2018, 10:31 AM   #17
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I have a USB cassette player that cost like $15. It works fine.
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Old 12-08-2018, 11:09 AM   #18
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I picked up the player in the link and it was shit. Worse than my Onkyo and had even more pronounced Azimuth problem lol

The problem isn't actually just the volume, the eq is different in one channel.

We have a guy in town who fixes electronics. I might see if he can tune it up for me. The Onkyo is playing slighter slower than it should also.
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Old 12-08-2018, 03:14 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
It's just one of the axes (plural of axis). The only way to do it (that I remember) is with a calibration tape and a meter or oscilloscope. If it is truly out of whack, you really have no choice but to insert a known good commercial cassette and twist the screws until it sounds the best it can because...

It's a cassette for goodness sake, not a reel-to-reel, there will likely be zero resources for calibrating it because its a consumer medium so it's turn the screws or live with what you have. But again, it's a cassette and they were plagued with the same issues when they were all the rage as they are now. You can always twist the adjustment a known amount (like a quarter turn), listen and put it back where it was if needed, rinse/repeat.

I picked up a used Onkyo last year, I didn't really worry about any of this, I just popped in the cassettes and recorded to reaper because... they are cassettes and they sounded as crappy last year as they did in the 80s LOL.

Very true. The few times I've aligned heads on consumer cassette decks there were no screws. Instead it involved gentle careful twists to the metal bracket holding the head. There is lots of potential to screw it up permanently. That's why I advised caution.
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Old 12-09-2018, 09:10 AM   #20
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Any deck without an adjustment on the head azimuth and that forces you to bend metal to align... is a toy. There was some pretty crude stuff sold alright! Should be a little adjustment screw. Some of them have detents even. A deck calibrated to spec is great... as long as the tape in question was recorded on such a calibrated deck! When you get one that wasn't, you want to dial the head in to match that tape. It's not a big deal. Put headphones on and listen for max high frequency response on both channels.

I'll hit record on the computer and dial in the speed and azimuth as side 1 of the tape starts to roll in. Then roll in side 2. Then roll in side 1 again. Least amount of back and forth. Least wear for the tape (no stopping and rewinding).

Aside, I think the lowly cassette would have been a much higher quality format for the masses if tape decks sold at the very least did just two things: Set the speed and align the head. Just grossly blowing off those two things with most "consumer" decks sold really reduced the format to a toy for a lot of people.

Take a look on Ebay though. Professional decks that sold for $1000 - $2000 can be sniped for $100 on a good day. I sniped a Nak MR-1 for $80 with shipping about 8 years ago myself. You can find high end Tascam and Teak decks for pennies on the dollar too.

If you are even the least bit serious and have a recording you would like to preserve to it's fullest quality (however much of the fidelity is actually baked into the tape), get a real tape deck.

Again, it's just as time consuming to make a shitty transfer as it is to do it right!

If this is just for kicks or as an effect to run a track through, then do as you will and don't sweat the details.

Speaking of cheapness:
Those USB cassette decks and USB turntables. Rattiest uncalibrated tape deck or turntable/cartridge you're ever likely to find. Straight up child's toy quality. And then with the crudest AD converters built-in. One of the kind of products where you swear you're just being trolled.

Cassette recordings can range from "What the hell is that noise?!" sound quality to better than CD (the crude 'volume war' and treble hyped examples at any rate). Depending on what you have on tape, you may want to take this seriously.
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