Digitech Studio Quad Vs2 Malfunction, broken, displaying garbage FIX


How to fix your Digitech Studio Quad Vs2

digitech s quad

 

Has your screen started going mad, displaying every last pixel on the screen? Then it’s likely that your processor won’t boot up and you can’t get any sound out of it. If that’s the case, then this might help.

Years ago I bought one of these, an expense for me at the time, after only about 4 years of use it blew up, stopped working, the problem… gobbledygook, trash, poop, garbage being displayed and no sound, no reverb, no nothing coming out of it. So disappointed with it and the money spent I couldn’t bear to throw it away and thank goodness I didn’t.

I recently met a guy in the street by complete chance, namely Matty Dread of King B Sound System, based in Hastings on the UK. He appeared to be an obvious candidate for a lover of ‘Jamaican Music’ award, and I’m a devotee as you may or may not know. So I said hi and in the ensuing conversation discovered we both either were presently or had in the past made our own music. We also discovered that we had both owned a Studio Quad and had it malfunction in the same way, with trash being displayed on the screen. Matty told me that he had fixed his, a revelation! Matty revealed that they have an onboard button battery required for its boot up process and later internet trawling confirmed this. Though the manual and label on the unit states that is has no user serviceable parts I had nothing to lose… so…

So here’s what to do

Unscrew (being careful to seat the Phillips head screwdriver snugly. as they ae very tight) the four Phillips screws down the right and left sides that secure the lid, then with the correct hex key undo the top front and middle hex headed screw. Carefully lift off the cover and locate the 3v button/coin battery. Don’t throw it away but take it to somewhere that sells them and get one just like it. Then replace it. Carefully as the little clip needs to remain sprung and able to press firmly down to make contact with the battery.

Then you’ll need to reinitialize/reset the unit. It won’t boot up correctly unless you do so. There are some sites online that advise certain key patterns to get this to happen, but having tried their advice I think they may pertain to other models made by Digitech. They didn’t work for me, but I kept pursuing success and randomly pressing down buttons while switching on the unit. Eventually I hit the right combination, and here is what you do.

Hold down buttons 1 and 4 while turning on the unit, then once you have done so, let go of them and then hit the Program button, this should initialize the unit.

Good luck and I hope you have success. I did and was very happy to get my processor back. If you have anything to add please let me know, or if this works for you please also let me know. This help out is respectfully dedicated to Matty B and Dave Brown.

Reference Discs / Dubplates, One Offs


Limited to a Brighton production company.

Many moons ago, when the only people to have recording equipment were studios, end of the pier machine operators and definately not the general public, the only way to get a recording of yourself was to pay for an acetate to be created from your live performance. These are two pictures of the labels from just such acetates. The extra hole on the second picture was for locating the record when cutting it, preventing slippage. The hole on the other, is obsucred by the label, which has been placed over it.

Duo disc, apparently a well known supplier of acetates and equipment.

I WANT ONE OF THESE NOW!


Tommy Zooooom!

I want one of these now!

See bottom of review for update!!

http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/products/h2/

I’ll not bother to repeat information here, but you should really take a look at this.

No moving parts, no mechanicals, a 24bit 96khz PCM recorder with multiple file format and compression choices, an inbuilt guitar tuner, two second pre-roll on any recording made so you don’t miss a thing, up to 360 degree recording through 4 microphones with pattern choice for the mics. Even at the 360 degree setting on the four Mics it will record at 48kHz/24-bit resolution. Good enough to convert to 5.1 surround sound and over normal cd quality recordings!

I guess then that the final reckoning is going to end up being dependant on the 4 Microphones and the quality of their construction, and though the H2 was meant to be the poorer relation of the H4 it appears that they’ve used the same mics in both. The word is that it’s exceptional value for money.

This thing is a close to a portable recording device miracle as you can get!

F**k I want one now!

Here’s the first independent review to be blogged on it at Ron’s Tech Blog. Seems like for the money, you can’t fault the little bugger. Can it turn water into wine?

Update

I just got one of these and it’s everything it says on the tin, simple as, get one if you want some incredible results for the money!!

Perfecting Sound Forever ~ A Review


Perfecting Sound Forever – The story of recorded music by Greg Milner

A wonderful impossibility?

If you have even a passing interest in Sound, Recorded Sound, Music and the technologies developed to both record and play sound back to us then you may well be enthralled by this book, as I was.

The book takes us through the main developments in recording and reproducing sound from Edison’s experiments with various formats of Cylinder and Disc, the equipment to record sound to them and that needed to reproduce the results for the public’s consumption. He guides us through the moment when the purely Acoustic model of Edison and the early pioneers gave way to Electric recording and reproduction, the invention of Magnetic tape, the development in studio of the use of tape and then multi-tracking. He takes us through the format wars of Long Player and Single, the competition between the Globo Conglomerates Columbia and RCA. All the time he somehow manages to keep this dry subject matter liquid and interesting, engaging and entertaining.

Throughout the book Milner assesses the various merits or failings in his and others eyes of formats and processes and the equipment used to reproduce sound. In fact, though the book traces all the temporal developments in sound technology throughout there is a deep discussion about what sound is to us human beings, how we perceive it, what it means, and so what makes for a successful recording.

For those of us who love to hear our music on records he dispels myth surrounding analog technologies and describes wonderfully the problems inherent with Cd audio, moving on finally to an assessment of compressed digital audio such as ACC and MP3. He takes us through studio technologies and practice, tape splicing/editing, the art of re-mixing and the art/science of mastering, and finally he describes the demise of the studio and the growth of what he calls ‘In The Box’ recording and editing, the relatively recent development of digital recoding via software like Logic and Pro Tools.

He answers questions that you may have, if you’re an obsessive like me, asked yourself for years. Like, why do I hear a quiet version of the intro to a song when I listen intently on my earphones to a vinyl record? It turns out that if the original cutting needle has too much energy in it’s lateral movement this can be transferred through the wall of the groove into the preceeding groove, thus creating an audible echo of what is ‘about’ to happen. Where else but a book like this would you get to hear about the natural harmonics of a valve and why when mixing desks converted to solid state circuitry the sound suffered through the lack of these natural elements of Analog recording.

Plain Speaking

He explains as plainly as anyone possibly could and in doing so has answered so many questions I had not managed to answer elsewhere before reading this book. Greg Milner is a ‘bit of a genius’ I think and the depth of work and effort he has put into this project, for it’s more than just a book, is obvious to all that read it.

The level of Technology vs. Storytelling within the book is set perfectly too. If you are already involved in the world of sound, it is interesting, entertaining and informative. I imagine that those who are not would find it accessible and relatively easy to understand given Greg Milner’s excellent powers of explanation, the text is clear as are his thoughts on the subject.

Reading this book was so enjoyable that I found myself delaying ending by finding something else to do rather than read it! Strange, but true.

I couldn’t praise it enough.

Thank you Mr. Milner

Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music (Hardcover)
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Granta Books (6 July 2009)
ISBN-10: 1862079420
ISBN-13: 978-1862079427

Available for between £10-£20 at many online Book Stores.

Dansette Days ~ The Dansette Record Player


Dansettes a potted history…

Forever associated with the bedrooms of a newly developing class of citizen in the U.K. ‘The Teenager’ the Dansette has come to represent a time and a style of living. The 1960s.

Manufactured from 1950/51 to 1970 over a Million were sold. With the advent of Stereo and the arrival of cheaper product from places like Japan the Dansette’s popularity decreased and the company ceased trading at the start of it’s third decade. One reason for this perhaps is that even at it’s peak of production the Dansette cost at the very least the weeks wages of a good middle class man’s job! Julie Lambert says that the Plus~A~Gram, the companies first model (first made in 1934), cost the equivalent of £800 in the year 1950-51. Dansettes continue to be very popular indeed amongst those wishing to play everything from 16-78rpm records, and also important to those that wish to emulate the height of modernity and style during this important era of Britain’s history, the moment when children grew up.

Format War

The popularity of the Dansette is inextricably linked with the battle between the companies RCA and Columbia for format domination in the late 1940s and 1950s. RCA wanted everyone to purchase their music on 45rpm discs, compiling their own playlist, or playing the passages from a classical piece in ordered succession. This was most definitely in the tradition of what a record album was originally, ie, a collection of discs closely themed or from a larger piece of music contained in something similar to the album the family would have kept their photographs in.

Though other formats had come and gone and long playing ‘reference discs’ had been available as far back as the 1920s Columbia wanted to sell the 33rpm Long Player, the L.P., what many would now call an ‘Album’ to the public. Though this format had a worse quality of sound it was the one that since it’s first public outing in 1948 would come to dominate. The 7″ single or 7″ E.P. just wasn’t convenient enough, though it’s deeper groove and relatively longer play time allowed for a better quality of reproduction and loudness. I believe in the end popularity of the successful format came down to the inconvenience of getting up to change the record. With Lps at least you could sit down for more than 4 minutes before getting up to change the side, or the record.

With it’s multichanger function the Dansette was an ideal machine to play singles on, an ideal machine for RCA therefore and an ideal machine for teenagers who could afford a single once in a while, but had to save up for more expensive Lps. Up to five singles could be placed on the automatic changer, giving you at least 15 minutes listening. Later on if you made certain that you used the single releases with the serrated rim around the label designed for the purpose you could be sure to get them to bind properly as they dropped; which avoided the inherent disappointment of scratching the hell out of your record collection!

Dead as a Dodo?

As the album, not as format, but more so as vehicle increased in popularity towards the end of the 1960s and particularly into the 1970s listeners were looking for a fuller aural experience, turning of course to Stereo and equipment of the ‘Hi-Fidelty’ type for that purpose. The Dansette was subsequently sidelined and it appears for once that instead of setting new fashion the company failed to keep pace with new market trends. Dansette did incorporate Radio, Stereo and line inputs / outputs into their record players, also producing  Reel to Reel player / recorders such as the Cadet (pictured left), perhaps in an effort to increase their products’ appeal. It does seem in retrospect that they were trying desperately to keep abreast of new demands. What caused the demise of the company? Were they unwilling to break away from the section of the market that they had for so long successfully inhabited, that of the portable player.

Perhaps the brand was too closely associated in the public’s mind with portability and not with the by word of the day ‘Hi-Fi’. Perhaps with the spread Stereo requires for the listener to hear it fully the static speakers fixed on the front of a portable player were never going to have a wide enough sound image. As far as I’m currently aware Dansette never produced a Stereo player with removable speakers.

Surely a listeners enjoyment of music is mainly about a physical and emotional reaction to rhythm, melody and lyric and a tinny transitor radio is perfectly capable of getting the musical message across, so therefore also, is a Dansette. One wonders then where the impetus and energy behind the company went and why they ceased to trade in the early 1970s. Perhaps Mums and Dads were getting hip enough to the new scene to let their children dig their music on the family Radiogram in the front room and no longer were children and teenagers required to be un-seen and dimly heard listening to records in their bedrooms.

Just to note ~ Hi-Fi is  a construct, a word that trys to describe a system capable of producing a high level of fidelity to the original performance and performance space, what is often refered to as presence, and yet in reality it describes nothing tangible, except perhaps (in my opinion) man’s gullibility and stupidity. Too often I’ve seen speaker cable in the back of some ‘Hi-Fi’ buffs system that is likely of a better quality than the cabling used at the recording and mastering studios where the music he’s listening to on his super expensive system was originally created. Any musician will tell you that the system of reproducing sound doesn’t have to be that great in order that those listening to music via it can interact with that music in a meaningful and engaged way. We are much more tolerant of poor sound that we are poor vision. Think of watching a movie, you are much more likely to switch off the TV if the picture gets distorted than if the sound does.

Dansette Dawn

A family called Margolin were behind the Dansette, originally an immigrant to the U.K. from Russia, Morris Margolin set up as a Cabinet Maker in London. He also imported musical instruments and so perhaps it was this general interest in music that led him to produce the  first electric record player made in the U.K. the ‘Plus-A-Gram’ in 1934. The first Radiograms had been available for a decade when Margolin combined his cabinet making skills and musical interests to produce a turntable that could be plugged into the back of some radios to utilise their speaker and amplification, in effect inventing the first ‘Hi-Fi’ separates! Up until this point Radiograms were incredibly bulky and expensive to the point of excluding anyone from ownership but the most wealthy. Margolin’s inventiveness made what was in effect a Radiogram of two parts, though still expensive by anyone’s standards the Plus-A-Gram was now at least within the reach of a growing middle class. Within six years it would be the only thing they would make in their workshop.

The development of an autochanger by BSR a British, Birmingham based company, meant that the Margolins would create and offer their first Dansette branded player, the Senior in 1950/51. It proved incredibly popular and the company developed into one with a staff of hundreds and a very healthy turnover; exploiting the market for a cheaper alternative to the large furniture based Radiogram style systems of companies like HMV, Blaupunkt and Bush. The product exceeded everyone’s expectations and the workforce had to be re-housed in a larger factory in Stanmore, Middlesex, around 1962. The roster of products continued to grow over the years, a Car Radio, Reel To Reel players and recorders, more record player models offered in a dazzling myriad of styles and options, some with Stereo and line outputs. But as solid state technology came in, the days of the valve based Dansette were numbered.

The company folded in 1970, a victim of cheap Japanese imports and changing tastes and fashions.

What to do if you’d like to revisit those Dansette days

If you like that warmer valve sound and want to experience what it is like playing and listening to music on a Dansette there are a number of things you can do to get one. However they are a sought after item, and just as they were relatively expensive in the past, they still are, even as a second hand item. You can expect to pay £200-£250 for one of the superior models in good condition, more even if it has been exceptionally well looked after and comes restored and over-hauled. You will count yourself lucky to get a mid range model, overhauled /checked and in a reasonable condition for under £100-£150. I myself recently purchased a Tempo model Dansette that has faded on the outside, but is entirely un-used as of it’s manufacture in around 1961. I consider it a small miracle to have done so for £73. Though it wasn’t overhauled, it hadn’t been played and I considered it a risk worth taking on this eBay purchase.

You of course could continue to search for one in your local jumble sales, boot fairs and even Auntie’s attic, but good luck, they are getting more and more scarce. If you do find one you will most likely want to have it looked over and fixed up if necessary by someone who knows what they’re doing. You could also get a line out wired in so you can record from your player, which is useful particularly if you collect 78rpm records. Be aware of what model you are purchasing and what speeds and formats it will support and of course if it is Mono or Stereo. There are many circuit diagrams and instructions for the models available online so if you fancy having a go fixing one up yourself, you can!

Dad’s Favourite ~ To sum up

I can’t imagine that the popularity of Dansettes will continue for ever, surely it’s only the children of those who grew up in the early 1960s who could possibly have a nostalgia for a faded old portable record player. Our Children of the Revolution listen to compressed audio on small earphones, an insular experience. The kids don’t collect singles to stack five apiece on their autochanger anymore of course; instead they move 500 tunes a time from one folder to another. There is very little real  intimacy in their experience of playing music and listening to it, this present generation has a very different and I believe lesser relationship with music, and I pity them.

Instead of sitting reading the sleeve notes to an album, or knowing that they particularly like the music that comes out on a specific record label, files are moved en mass, musicians, producers, labels are unknown and the process of purchasing, placing and playing that music is one step removed from anything at all tangible, warm, responsive and real.

Perhaps it’s high time that parents bought their teenage sons or daughters a Dansette for their bedroom again!

Mike Murphy – February 2010


Epilogue

Late February, 2010 and I’ve just received my very own Dansette Tempo, I am at this very moment listening to the 78rpm of Marie Bryant’s – ‘Water Melon’ which was backed with ‘Don’t Touch Me Nylons’, a toned down and commercial ‘version’ of ‘Don’t Touch Me Tomato’, a riblad Jamaican and Caribbean tune that has almost made it to Folk Tradition status.

The manner of construction could be adequately described as Fablon and Wallpaper over Chipboard with a dash of Mecano. The sound reproduction could be described as ‘ severely lacking tonal width’, though the results vary greatly, dependant on the quality of mastering of the records, particularly on the 78rpm records I have played on it.

The Tone dial which should give a varying Bass to Treble tone only seems to take the sound from a muddy Mid-Range to a fairly clear Treble tone. It seems to have the ability to take a short bandwidth of frequency and shift it like a sweepable EQ. Rather like a very poor version of the Tubby’esque sound produced by Osbourne Rudduck’s home-made board. It isn’t what anyone with half an ounce of sense would call true tone, as once you’ve chosen the treble tone, you have no bass in the ‘mix’ and if you were to choose Bass, the Treble is non-existant.

The overall quality of manufacture is really rather low considering the cost of purchasing one new in 1961! It’s solid enough, but there are no frills, nothing of true quality, though at least the turntable looks rugged enough. The stylus weight is adjusted by means of shortening or lengthening a spring which only acts as a lever to pull the stylus down onto the record.

So to surmise, the tone is awful, the construction embodies the worst of all that is British and a bit lack lustre, and yet….. I love it, it’s fantastic, you would love it too, it’s quirky and most importantly, it will play the two speeds of records you don’t see very often these days, 78rpm and 16rpm.

Close up of my very own Dansette Tempo

Resources

REPLACEMENT STYLUS –

78rpm replacement... but original... stylus!

Do you need a replacement stylus for your Dansette, I did and found this shop online – http://www.turntablestylus.co.uk/index.htm Hayley who runs the show there was  wonderfully helpful, sending me an example photograph of what she thought I needed to replace my 78 and 45rpm Styli, though it wasn’t right, I then sent a photo of the customised cartridge it turns out my set had, she identified the styli I needed and sent two for 33 and 45rpm play and one for 78rpm play for a total, including VAT and postage of £9. I thought this kind of service and pricing had died out in the Victorian era. Truly, give them a go.

Here’s a link to the excellent article on the history of Dansettes at http://www.dansettes.co.ukhttp://www.dansettes.co.uk/history.htm put together by Julie Lambert, who along with her boyfriend ‘John’ have collected a hill of Dansettes and other turntables of a similar ilk.

Julie appears to be the thing every man needs in his life, a woman who likes to collect, and not only collect, but collect record players, records and other toys more often associated with the male gender and his natural obsessions.

There are many people repairing Dansettes as a business, they also often have them to sell, restored. I won’t put any specific sites here for you to visit, but instead here’s a Google search for renovators – Search for Repair, Renovation.

eBay – sadly eBay is a good place for finding one, I really dislike eBay, but if you’re desperate, you might find it here – Dansettes on eBay it’s a good place to find some spares also.

Dansettes on Google

The history of recorded sound, a book called ‘Perfecting Sound Forever‘ by – Greg Milner, provides an excellent explanation of the history and development of recorded sound, from Edison’s Blue Amberol right up to iPods and MP3s. I’ll be reviewing it here at Musical Traces soon, in the meantime I can heartily recommend it.

The Lost Art Of Tape Compilation


The Lost Art Of Tape Compilation

It seems like too many years ago now that amateur compilers enjoyed the vagaries of the Tape Cassette. Introduced in 1963 it became a popular way to record and store recordings from the early ’70s onwards. In a moment of daydream, thinking about how things have moved on and how we now compile to iPod, other MP3 players or to CDR I thought it would be interesting (probably only to me) to re-visit the moment when any musically mad bedroom dweller could be the next best thing to a real record compiler, offering to his or her friends small glittering gifts of musical knowledge, taste and inheritance.

Recorded Memories

I think I saw my first tape cassette, along with it’s player in about 1973-’74, when as a young kid growing up on Pennington Bend, Nashville Tennessee I recall spending long hours facinated by how I could talk, or shout (more accurately) into a small microphone attached by a spavined lead to an even more decrepit recorder, one of those that you had to depress the play and record buttons with a loud ‘Kerrchunk’ before it would creakingly deign to come alive and record my squeeky, and later, very American sounding voice. The voice of a kid, the voice that I listened to 20 years later and then never again as the tape stretched, slowed in that, I just can’t get there quickly enough to press stop way, bust and refused to be repaired. That was the thing about cassettes, once they went, that was it, few had the tape editing knowledge or equipment, to open the blighter and repair the damage with a splice or three.

As we all grew up, tape cassettes became a way to prepare for adulthood, to record our own voices, a way to pretend to DJ radio shows (in my case) or to record for all posterity our supreme taste, our genius like knowledge of music and to enhance, by their dissemination our un-assailable place upon the podium of ‘Most Knowledgable Musical Mind’ at the yearly, I’m just a kid in my bedroom awards!

Compiling Music for others pleasure

The process of creating a Tape for a friend should never be entered into lightly, there were many reasons for creating one. Here are just some reasons why you might want to spend the time and effort in the first place.

1. To impress a girl (or boy), to share your inner most soul by some unspoken shared ‘musical language’, hoping that the baring of your soul, expressed by the selection of tunes on the tape would unlock some hidden majical connection between you both and she (or he) wouldn’t be able to resist the power of that mutual recognition. This provided any shy young boy or girl an ideal way to make contact with the frightening, yet promising opposite sex, without the horrific terror of having to actually express what you felt, verbally, and in the moment. Just why I once truly felt that ‘The Prisoner’ by Iron Maiden, or ‘Breast Cancer’ by Peter and the Test Tube Babies was going to cement a long term relationship that included the electrifying and urgent possibility of real live sex, is now beyond me.

2. As a simple introduction to someone new. If music is really important to you, and it’s very important to me, then a tape was a great way to say who you think you were and define yourself for all the world to see. Somehow, sending someone to your Last Fm profile to see just who you’re currently listening to seems to me at least, much less significant. For a start you have to make a tape, and as you’ll see later, that’s no mean feat.

3. To excuse laziness. Compiling a tape gave you an excuse to stay in your Bedroom, or Lounge if you were a bit older, and travel through the musical world, looking for new tunes, playing old ones. An excuse to spend time doing what you really liked to do, listen to music, but to listen with some sort of purpose separate from pure laziness and indulgence. Though indulgence is probably exactly what wasting too much time compiling a tape really was, it certainly made you feel a little better if you were riddled like a wood boring worm be-speckled timber from the ship wreck of the Mary Rose by Protestant Work Ethics.

4. To Pretend. When you were compiling your tape, you could pretend you were putting together the next most important record release on the face of the planet. A carefully compiled tape cassette could rival any professionally produced double Lp set, and as Cassettes ranged in length, you could choose the ideally suited C90, with ninety minutes of recording time, it was perfect for recording what would have amounted to two Lps, one for each side of the cassette. Alternatively the C60 was slightly less perfect for a full Lp, one imagined side for each side of the tape cassette. But more of choosing your ideal length later (oh Missus!).

5. Yes I could go on, but you get the idea . . .

Selection

The first step in producing your tape was to have some idea of what should go on it, you could go by theme, genre of music, favourite tunes, new tunes, whatever floated your boat at that moment. Most important though was to to design that particular ‘release’ for it’s intended listener, to avoid your own ego and to think about what they would prefer, what they would respond to. For example I recall putting together a compilation, doing so at a time later than the tape cassettes heyday, actually, in the heady days of Minidisc compiling (but we’ll avoid that chestnut shall we?) for a friend called Mike. Like myself both in name and musical taste Mike loved Jamaican music and more than I, Soul. The selection I eventually chose included a hearty grab at a few tunes on the record Darker Than Blue put out by Blood and Fire records and others I found laying around the place/ it remains, probably, the best compilation I’ve ever done, and I wish I had a bloody copy!

Quality

Initially there was only the normal Ferric Oxide to use for your craft, however later cassettes could be compiled and then recorded on Chrome Oxide, producing a much more responsive recorded frequency range to the signal you supplied it when recording and also less background noise.

To Dolby or not to Dolby

Dolby noise reduction, as far as I’m aware was invented to help tone down the background hiss (noise floor) of Ferric Oxide tape. It was considerably noisier than Chrome. There was initially only one option, on or off, but later we were offered a confusing three types of Dolby noise reduction on our tape recorders. A,B and un-remarkably – C. I never quite understood what they did, they seemed to cut down background hiss when used, and yet they really badly affected the frequency response, dulling the recording and muddying it’s sound. I never understood if I should use Dolby at the recording stage, the playback stage, or at both stages. Thus I finally decided after experimenting that I would not use it at all, but instead I’d spend the extra few pence on Chrome cassettes, I’m guessing this is what everyone did!

Manuals never seemed to explain, so even the most anally retentive of tape compilers, and I’m proud to say I think I’m one, never quite got it!

Running Time

Timing was also an important element of the selection process to consider, ideally you wanted to have a selection as close to your cassette’s capacity available for inclusion. Remembering that though a C90’s length should be at least 45 minutes on each side, often it was quite a bit longer, allowing for the risky business of overrunning on purpose, however this was a thing to be considered by the ‘pro’ compilers only, beginners be wary.

Because of the average running time of the Vinyl Lp some tape cassettes were timed to provide the perfect partner for a bootleg recording of said Lps. This links the cassette indelibly with another dinosaur of a lost aural world, the 33rpm record, an object so completely fetishised that many online music sites offering electronic downloads represent the download link with a picture of you guessed it …. a record. Long dead Vinyl is still the very embodiment of what music means to us, and by us, I mean our future, the kids, the iPod generation. Sheeesh.

Flipping the Tape, where to stop and where to begin again?

The next most important thing was to remember that your tape was going to need to be turned over for the B side approximately 45 minutes after you started it. Thus you had to consider making certain that there was a suitable gap in your playlist, where side A’s recording could be finished and side B’s begun. So you might have 10 tunes for side A, the last of which finishes at a total time of … say… 49 minutes, the tune before it would take the total time to only 40 minutes, there were always some difficult decisions to be made in this instance! You could replace the last tune for something that timed better, but shouldn’t ever have for-gone the playlist’s coherence just to make your tape time better! Alternatively you could risk the overrun, or finish early. If you stopped the tape early though what happened was that you had to FF (that’s Fast Forward to non tape’ees) to the end of the cassette, then flip it. This was an inconvenience to be avoided if you wanted to be considered amongst the best of the amateur set of cassette creators. So what other options did you have? Well, you could flip the cassette just as soon as the end of the tune that was running a bit short of the tape’s end and then rewind a couple of inches of the cassette on the side you were about to record on, put it back in the deck, press record and pause and get going again.

Tricks of the trade

If you’d got this far it’s likely that you’ll have encountered a few of the tape cassettes jolly little traits along the way, such as, Jamming, Tightening Up, Breaking and Twisting. < Have you noticed that those few words of description are all either styles of Dance, or references to Reggae songs!

Jamming – Jamming was most normally caused by tightening up inside the case, if you had this happen I found that, three sharp bangs on a flat surface and then twisting the cassette by gripping the two opposite ends and rotating in opposite directions works well. Alternatively fast forward and then rewind the entire tape. If it continues to be a problem, throw it in the bin. If it continues to be a problem and it was once amongst your favourite cassettes, cry and then throw it in the bin.

Tightening Up – See Above

Breaking – If the tape snaps, you were generally done for, but you could if you were really determined, repair it. This was done by drawing the two opposites sides of the break carefully out of the cassette, then gently sandwiching the two between the thinnest sellotape you could find, splicing the bits together and then praying to your chosen deity to keep them together while you made a back up copy of your precious recording. A ghetto blaster recorded bootleg of ‘Hawkwind live at Stonehenge‘, where a bloke nearly gets knifed right next to a mate of mine called Chris by an Hells Angel, was saved in just this manner. Obviously you don’t want to do this too much as I’m certain the abrasive qualities of sticky sellotape are not appreciated by your tape deck’s playing head.

Twisting – Twisting was truly the most frustrating of all the fault peculiarities of the tape cassette. It looked like an easy problem to fix, nothing about it suggested the hours of tortuous ‘fixing’ you were going to have to go through in order to finally give up and throw in binwards. Twisting happens when the thin magnetic tape of the cassette somehow, it’s a bloody mystery how, falls through the moulding of the body shell of the actual ‘cassette’. It then becomes (in my case) permanently twisted inside the cassette. If this happens to you, believe me, GIVE UP trying to repair it, cry, hit walls, whatever it takes to get over your loss, and throw it … urm… binwards… again.

The Insert Card

The insert card opens out for the artistic amongst us a gamut of possibilities. Generally you could plumb for two approaches,

1 – The detailed approach, Tracks / Artiste, where they were gleaned from, how long they were, what time they could be found at on the tape, that sort of thing. 2 – The artistic approach, giving free range to those of us, who not only thought we were the next best thing to a real record compiler, but also those of us who thought we’d be the next Rothko, or Keinholz, Robert Crumb or Bridget Riley.

And finally..

Somehow I just can’t imagine that compiling a list of tunes for a 60 minute CDR, burned to Red Book format in audio, or throwing unlimited amounts of tunes on an iPod means as much as the well chosen tape compilation once did. Somehow the process encouraged detailed thought, well considered choices, timing and choices over the quality offered. Now I wonder if I should encode at 128kbps or 192, and if the CDR I’ve just burnt should have a crappy jewel case, or and even crappier plastic sleeve. Either way my CDR compilations are already ignored, getting scratched and laying in piles with no sleeves at all and, even though I have nothing to play them on currently, my Tape Cassettes are in the Attic, in their cases, replete with liner notes, stored thoughtfully, away from strong electro magnetic sources.

Putting a tape together was a real joy, an art, an indulgence and a great way to meet chicks (not!)

post script – if you want to manually rewind your tape cassette you will find and average sized hexagonal pencil absolutely perfect for the job!