Analog vs. Digital

Is it worth getting a 4 track cassette recorder, an acoustic guitar, an acoustic bass guitar, an harmonium and a drum machine, then copying the results to a PC?

There’s a lot of great, cheap digital gear out there now but I wonder if analog would add something.

I suppose it comes down to this: are there any cheap worthwhile analog recorders out there?

i am an analogue guy myself
but i dont use it anymore for recording
the short answer is not for me
but it could make sense for you
especially for certain instruments
which i do not play and do not listen to
but you may

i did buy a stereo cassette dual deck to replace my old one
but i am not using it to record anything serious
mostly to copy old tapes to digital cds

i still have my open reel deck but am not using it to record
as i am happy with the cheaper audio interface and the software etc that works with a pc for capture

what you may or may not lose in perceived quality with digital
you gain in time

ever fix a broken cassette?
ever splice open reel tape to insert a good take for a bad one
plus all the extra steps and handling
plus cassettes are limited in BW and SNR
could be fine for a rock band
less good for chamber music

The main thing that it will add is hiss.

Analogue 4 track recorders can be handy if you have them permanently set up so that you can start recording with no more fuss than switch on and press record, but other than that there are few if any advantages.

And since the question was of a four-track cassette recorder, then you also have to deal with cassette problems. Nobody considered cassette tape any better than dictaphone quality (from which the phrase “Red Tape” came) until Dolby noise reduction came along. And Dolby A, B, or C was only accurate as long as your recorder was in top quality and good repair. Cassette four-track is an odd format and you can’t send those tape to anybody else or play them on anything else. People will raise their hand and say you can play them on a conventional cassette machine, and then flip the tape over. No, you can’t. Two of the tracks will be going backwards.

If you’re considering open reel-to-reel, then remember they have to be tuned for the tape type and manufacturer. They’re not set and forget devices. I worked at WASH-FM in Washington DC and we were a Scotch 808 house. We had a deck set for other types of tape in case a client delivered something that didn’t sound right on our normal decks.

People forget what a pain in the butt those things were.


actually the term red tape came from the govt in the 1800s
when they tied up piles of documents with actual tape colored red
because they did not have the fancy folders and hanging file systems we have now

if you are striving for the maximum stereophile style golden ears perceived quality
for average folks good enough was plenty good enough
and it was very good

i had 3 different manufacturers decks and used whatever tape i could buy at the saxiton tape store in adams morgan or perhaps lafayette

the two laffy decks beat the ampex we had at work hands down
i also had a portable 4 speed open reel machine,
and finally at home i ended up with teac - still works great but hard to find tape for it’s 7" reels

to my ears the teac dual cassette deck that just died still sounded better than todays mp3s and almost as good as vinyl

Even my Nakamichi cassette deck (BX-2) I had tuned for a particular tape - in my case TDK-SA (Super Avilyn) and that’s mostly all that ever went in there apart from the odd tape or two that other folk sent my way.

The deck has both Dolby-B and Dolby-C, but I preferred to run it without the Dolby as the SA was a pretty good tape and gave fairly hissless recordings even without the Dolby.


Yes, I suppose any ‘warmth’ you might get from old analog equipment would be negated by hiss and the equipment’s idiosyncracies.


So, are there any worthwhile, standalone, inexpensive, (second hand) multichannel digital recorders out there that give pro results? I think an 8 track would do me. Or is it all PC-based these days?

you get what you buy
make sure what you buy works
and does what you need it to do

is there used stuff cheap out there on ebay and craigslist etc
you betcha

would i buy it ?
only if it was local and i could test it hands on
and i really needed/wanted that item
old gear has a way of being a time and money suck real soon after you start using it

want “pro” results then put a few million into a good sounding studio with several racks of top end gear plus a mixing board that would fill my living room and also a ton of mikes

want really good results at home then
what is wrong with a pc ?
that would blow away pro quality of 20 years ago
$1000 gets you a really great recording studio at home
which will be better than your room sounds
and that is including the pc

remember you were starting with a cassette deck initially
how did we get to needing pro gear now?
what is it that you want to do and achieve ???

if you get a working tape deck with dolby the hiss is not apparent unless you insist on trying to capture too much dynamic range
you can apply some noise removal if there is any hiss
but compression usually will fix the problem so you dont see it
remember that that is the gear we used to use to make vinyl and cds
was that “pro” quality or not ?

It depends what you mean by “inexpensive”. For an 8 channel digital recorder you are likely to be looking at a few hundred dollars, even second hand.
Multichannel hard disk recorders are still made and sold. They have the advantage over PCs that they should be virtually silent in operation (though fans and hard drives can become noisy with age). They will often also include a range of built in hardware effects, such as compressors, tone controls, reverbs … which would cost quite a lot if bought separately. The down-side is that editing can be quite tricky on a small LCD screen, so it is a big advantage if the recorder supports some method of transfering WAV data to a PC so that it can be edited on a PC.

An example of the type of thing is this Yamaha AW16G
To transfer WAV data from the AW16G requires burning the data to a CD, then importing it into the computer from the CD (a bit awkward, but not too bad).
Each time you start a new project on the AW16G the inputs are automatically configured with compressors and effects suited to recording from a vocal microphone + DI guitar, which is convenient if that is what you want to do, but a bit of a pain if you need to configure it differently. I’ve used one of these and I could find no way to set the default set-up to be “straight through” from input to disk with no effects. When the AW16G was first released it had a list price of over £600 GBP.

Koz will probably recommend the Peavey mixers :slight_smile:

why not behringer or yamaha?
is peavey that much better for the price ?

Well, I wanted standalone for the reason a previous poster mentioned: equiment noise. And another reason: simplicity of operation.

But the bugbear is then getting the music out of the box, so to speak. Hey ho. Thanks for the considered replies.

As in the other forum sections, it’s the one I can vouch for. I can also vouch for that broken, fifteen year old Tascam, but nobody is likely to go out and buy one of those.

I can specifically not recommend the two Shure products – the X2U and the FP24. They’re too noisy with not enough gain for what they do. They’re claim to fame is they’re small. I know people who make good use of that talent.


you cant beat first hand experience

looked at pv art and beheringer again

on paper behringer looks somewhat better
pv looks very close second on paper
and art looks terrible

so are all the specs worthless or do some just lie better than others