Snare and cymbal in separate channels

About a year ago I found a 1970s reel-to-reel tape recording of my high school band. I’ve imported the music into Audacity, and I’m cleaning it up, to make a CD for myself and my band mates. I don’t remember too much about the recording: stereo vs mono, what tape deck, etc. I’m assuming it was stereo. Because the tape was so old, and it seems that the recording heads of the original tape deck were not aligned with the one I used to play it back, I exported each channel separately; with a reasonable outcome. I have noticed, though that the snare and cymbal seem to be played through separate speakers. Since I KNOW that this was no where near a professional set up to record the band, I don’t expect that much of a separation. I thought that there was a way to center the drums using Audacity, by setting each channel as ‘mono’, and panning them off center. Is this the best way to center the drums? Anyone have any other ideas?

BTW I’m using the approach suggested by trev ( in this forum. I have a way to go, but his approach seems to be pretty good.


The left & right tracks will not be truly in-sync if you didn’t digitally-record both tracks of the tape at the same time. The lack of sync can cause instruments to be perceived as moving about in the stereo-field, e.g. …

The only solution I think of is to capture the tape recording again , both* channels at the same time, to maintain synchronisation.

[ * assuming the original was actually stereo , btw if it wasn’t you can fake-it with pseudo-stereo ].

If you are saying that the two tracks are coming off the deck “out of sync” that would imply a significant azimuth adjustment error in either record deck or the playback deck. That same error will cause significant losses of the higher frequencies as well. The best solution (and it will take some trial and error) is to adjust the azimuth of your playback deck to minimize the problem before attempting to do a new transfer.

My interpretation of that was DobroDood had played the tape twice, capturing the left and right channels separately.
Combining those two takes into a stereo-pair they will not be in sync , the difference may be slight, but 1/1000th of a second deviation is enough to give the illusion the sound is coming from one side, rather than centrally.

That was my guess as well, but not quite what he said. It’s also possible to the ~1mS delays with a badly adjusted azimuth, particularly if it’s an 3.75 ips tape.

Also if DobroDood transferred the tracks separately then the speed variations of the tape deck (it’s wow & flutter) will make for varying track-to-track delays, probably yielding all sorts of odd stereo effects.

I’d like to thank you all for your responses. Based on your replies, I did not explain the problem clearly. However, your replies led me to rethink the problem. I decided that the tape was not, in fact, recorded in stereo, but in mono. And, the alignment of the tape heads in my tape deck (stereo tracks 1-3/2-4; as well as 1-4 and 2-3), are not the same as that likely used for the mono (I’m guessing it would be tracks 1-2 and 3-4 on my deck). The observation that the snare and cymbal seemed to come out of different channels was (I’m guessing) due to my use of paulstretch to align the tracks; paulstretch changes the sonic character of the output somewhat.

I decided to use only one of the tracks, since I thought it unlikely that the mono deck used for recording had the capability to differentiate frequency response across the tape head. The one track sounds better than the two combined. I’m going to make the recording a pseudo-stereo recording (thanks Trebor!) then use the process I used before to clean up the recording.

Thanks again for the ideas and help. My problem is solved.

If you are going to “clean up” the mono track, you should do that before making a pseudo-stereo version.
Steve’s pseudo-stereo effect has delay which gives a good 3D [spatial] effect ,
but that delay will multiply any defects [e.g. clicks] that you’ll have to clean-up.