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Thread: Restoring old casette tapes...

  1. #1
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    Default Restoring old casette tapes...

    I've been given quite the task.

    I'll spare you the mundane details, but I have a casette tape I need to put onto CD and, in the process, restore some audio quality. I am right now dubbing the original onto a clean casette so that I can spare the master as much wear as possible, at least while I get the Analog to Digital process down at the very least.

    The largest problem I have is that the audio is VERY quiet for most of the tape.

    I suppose it could be sent off for professional remastering, but how much can I do on my own, and what level of quality can I expect to achieve? We're not trying to restore deteriorating film for a remaster in theatre, just trying to take an old casette that's wearing out and get it on a CD with livable audio quality.

    Thanks y'all,

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    Flashaholic* LukeK's Avatar
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    I did this to restore some audio tapes that my grandfather had made years back. Any decent audio editing program (I hear Audacity is good, since you're on OSX) will have various filters to weed out the extra noise that will come after you bring the volume level up. I'm sure someone on CPF is more of a 'professional' at this and can give more specifics. All I can say is, with the little knowledge I had at the time, the result was very acceptable.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Not to go too far off topic [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    How about restoring old VHS tapes??? Anybody have any info on that?

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    I've done a fair amount of putting LP's and cassettes onto CD the last few years. One suggestion I'd have is to use the original, not the copy, to digitize the cassette. No matter how good your dubbing deck is, there will always be degredation dubbing from cassette to cassette.

    -Keith

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    I would have to agree. Use the original to copy it onto your machine. Once it's there you won't need it anymore. Now it's a matter of restoring what was lost or "enhancing" the material. If you use a PC, Cool Edit Pro is great but expensive. Audacity or Nero Wave editor should also work fine.

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    Flashaholic* Sub_Umbra's Avatar
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    The pads on the cassette may be dieing. In the last couple years I've digitally archived quite a few cassettes in the 14-18 year old range. That's a really long time in for a tape in SE Louisiana. All of the tapes that I've had REAL trouble with were Memorex and in ALL cases the tape itself was fine.

    EDIT: The signal is probably lower because the pad that presses the tape into the playback head has gotten so hard with age that only a tiny portion of the signal is being read -- so it sounds weak and probably hissy.

    In the old days when audio cassettes were everywhere you could buy a 'repair cassette' and just put the old tape in the new body and rock on. I looked at my old source, Rat Shack, and they no longer carry them. I looked on-line and could not find them there, either.

    Finally, in desperation, I found a solution. I went to RS and bought an audio 'head cleaning cassette'. Make sure it is held together with screws before you buy. Open it up, remove the pop-out retainers on the hubs and discard the original cleaning tape. Open the original cassette. If it unscrews, fine. Plop the tape into your new body. (If your head cleaner didn't come with Teflon 'slip sheets', use the ones from the original cassette.) If the old cassette is of the glued variety you can carefully 'break' it open. If you must preserve the original, no problem, just rewind and snip the leader as close to the end as possible. Lock that end into your new body. Chuck a pencil into a variable speed drill. If held through the hub at an angle, the pencil will grip the hub nicely. Now wind the old tape into the new body, snip, attach the lock and re-assemble. You should be good to go.

    I've done this with quite a few unique show tapes that we keep for reference and re-use. Some of them are actual performances and some are pre and post-show compilations used to 'tune up' an audience. This is a good trick when you must try everything to save a tape that can never be replaced.

    I agree absolutely with whoever said you must dupe from the original tape.

    When I do this I just dump out the old tape when I need to digitize another tape with dead pads, but obviously you can just keep the tape in the new body if this is just a one shot deal.

    Fight the urge to use an old cassette with screws for this operation, as IT may have dieing pads (or pad glue), also.

    If you don't want to rip into the old tape you can try this as a last resort after you've tried everything else -- but be aware that if it IS the pads, you could easily lose one in the dubbing process -- which could have a couple of undesirable side effects...

    The good news is it will only cost you $6-8 and if nothing else gives you the kind of results you are looking for, you won't have much to lose.

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    Flashaholic* LukeK's Avatar
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Great advice Sub.

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Warning, I am not a professional, so listen at your own risk. This process worked for me for some important tapes and video, but if the tapes are really valuable or irreplacable, then get it professionally done. But once you see how much they charge to restore, you'll be doing all the research to do it yourself just like I did.

    I've done both recopying old cassettes and old video tapes, but I'll agree with what was said above, always copy from the original. You'll have to play it at least once anyway, might as well copy it that first time. One thing you might want to do before is to cycle it once (FF and rewind the whole tape) to make sure the tape is moving smoothly. To digitize it, I used a stand alone CD recorder, not a computer sound card. It was just too much money to get a decent soundcard to record from, plus there are issues with noise from the other computer components affecting the recording. Once I had it digitized, I used either SoundForge, or CoolEdit and AudioLabs?, I cant remember exactly which programs, but I think I used a few of them. I basically made an original digital copy of the master, then made a duplicate digitial copy to do my editing on. The tape I was copying was mostly voices, so it was easier to clean it up without distorting the original sound. Music was harder to restore, so I did minimal filtering on it. Any type of filtering you apply will slightly change the sound a little bit, so use it sparingly.

    For old video tape, it's pretty much a similar process, make digital master copy onto MiniDV, then another digital copy to edit on. The sound could probably be restored with the same audio programs, but the video you'll probably need to use VirtualDub or TMpeg (One of those has a pretty good set of filters, I can't remember which). There are a few programs that would even steady a shaky video, but I didn't like the results so I chose not to use them.

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    Flashaholic* Zackerty's Avatar
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    I have once cleaned a VHS tape of visible fungus, by modding an old VHS machine so that I could pull the tape out, and using a microfibre cloth wet with iso propol alcohol. It took about 10 hours for a 3 hour tape, and the loop out of the cassette was 4 foot long, so that the tape could dry off before going back into the cassette again.
    It worked well, and apart from blank spots of about 1-3 seconds, near the end, it was a 50% improvement in sound and visual quality. I then made another copy immediately.

    I would probably never do it again, as I back up everything I tape of value... kids growing up, etc. as the alcohol fumes were, to say the least, interesting...

    Stu

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    I should have been more specific, the main reason I duped it was for a BACKUP, so that -- worst case scinareo -- I would have a backup of the original if I somehow hosed the original. Transfering the 30 year old, Hong Kong generic casette tape stock into a brand new Maxell casette right now. (There are casettes in the house, no tape cleaners. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Saaby, that is what I was going to suggest. Buy/use a high quality cassette that has screws holding the halves together and carefully transplant the old cassette ribbon into the new shell. I've done this numerous times when the old shell broke or deteriorated.

    I'm not sure if it is still available but Pioneer used to make several cassette decks with built in A/D and D/A convertors. The one I have converts it to digital internally and cleans it up before spitting it back out via analog outputs. The next model up from the one I have had a digital output for the cleanest possible signal. Might be overkill for your application though, although I've put mine to good use over the years.

    -Keith

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    I have a digital compact cassette recorder
    it is a failed format but it plays analog cassettes-converts the analog signal to digital optical output.
    the optical out can be plugged right in to my home cd recorder.

    the head used to read the tape is better than super hi end analog cassette deck heads-so they say.

    some one beat me to the defective pressure pad issue.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Well it was a mild success.

    Used an Amplify effect in the computer to bring up the quiet parts, left the louder parts alone. Took out the pops but didn't try to filter much. Fortunately there's a lot of noise, but not so bad that your ears make a better filter than the computer (At this price point anyway). Just talking anyway so...

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Just a question here, are they legit artist cassettes? My thought would be that if you legally own the original, then its free to download an MP3 of it (essentially downloading an archival purpose of the tape). If I'm wrong put me in my spot.

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Depending how heavy duty you want to go, one of the original audio restoration systems is CEDAR:

    http://www.cedar-audio.com

    At slightly less, but still heavy duty is DART:

    http://www.dartpro.com

    Nero features some filtering which is a subset from CoolEdit, as alwys use a good soundcard, listen to playback through good headphones or decent speakers this will give you a much better idea what is happening when you apply the filters.

    If you have ever heard Dolby A noise reduction you`ll realise that getting rid of tape hiss became an advancing art. Dolby A sounds like a severe high cut filter by the time Dolby C came around things had improved a lot.

    Take your time and try a few passes on the digitised sample to hear what sounds best to you, on as good playback gear as you have available.

    Adam

  16. #16

    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    what the hell isa cassete tape?do they even make em any more?

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    Flashaholic* turbodog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    [ QUOTE ]
    raggie33 said:
    what the hell isa cassete tape?do they even make em any more?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    You can see them in the Smithsonian Museum.

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    Flashaholic* Steve K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    yeah, it's a very mature technology, and pretty retro in this digital age.

    Still, I find it quite convenient for automated recording of radio programs. I wouldn't mind switching to something more modern, if I could find an appropriate technology. Is there anything that can start recording when power is applied, like my tape deck can? It would also have to be portable, so I can listen while doing tasks in various rooms or when driving.

    And in a slightly similar vein, can Real Audio or other streaming audio be converted into a mp3 file??

    thanks,
    Steve K.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Steve, for your second question you might like this thread.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    Steve, how about stepping into the 21st century with a MP3 player and a Griffin RadioShark

  21. #21
    Flashaholic* Steve K's Avatar
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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    thanks for the suggestions guys!

    I think I saw the thread on storing streaming audio to the hard drive. I'll have to check into that. In some regards, it's not too important to save it to disk, since it's usually kept on archive (mostly interested in NPR programs). It would be nice to transfer to mp3 and listen later, tho.

    Saaby, the RadioShark does sound like what I'm after! It's even cheaper than a decent tape deck (although I just bought a good Tascam(?) deck within the last year, and stocked up on blank tapes....) The RadioShark sounds like the perfect item to suggest to family to get me for my birthday or such.

    ....and now we return to the thread that I so rudely hijacked.... [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]


    Steve K.

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    Default Re: Restoring old casette tapes...

    No problem Steve, if I might hijack my thread for a moment longer...

    If you DO get the RadioShark and you end up with an iPod for the MP3 player part, give me a ring (Er..eMail) and I'll show you how you can trick the iPod into thinking your radio shows are audiobooks so you can speed them up/slow them down and also have bookmarks from the computer/MP3 player.

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