Adventures In Audio

What's wrong with dbx?

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Robert:  Paul McCartney teaches us about DBX. Thanks Paul.

Prime Analog Gourmet:  Ive used dox units for 40 years and love them. Maybe it's because you bought the least expensive model! I have a 224(monitors 3 head deck) and also have a 3bx! Love them both! Have you ever heard any dox discs? They are wonderful and must be decoded though a 222 or 224 with a disc button! Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMSq-8-_Iks&t=241s

Levi Vasquez:  Okay, I've been humming that demo now for 5 months 😎

Burton Douglas:  Love the recording. The quintessential portrait of the foundation of the decades long,and ongoing, evolution of home studio development. @ 54 yrs of age,many things have escaped the grasp of my memories.However,carved in granite are recollections of sitting in front my Grandmother's beloved floor model RCA,AM/FM/8 Track/Phono console,clutching her Panasonic portable MONO cassette recorder, impatiently waiting for the distant FM rock n roll radio station to play my favorite tunes.With a fresh set of C cell Rayovacs and a crisp new Memorex or TDK blank cassette tape loaded
(Rec.+Play+Pause)and on the ready,I captured many hours of my guitar heroes and they,in essence became my guitar instructors.Nearly hAlf century later,with EVH,SRV, Hendrix,Rhoades,Clapton and Dimebag Darrell's stolen licks,leads and tones oozing from my fingers and broadcastimg from my vintage Fender Sratocastor and vintage Fender Tweed tube amp, I'm still amused by the look on my 4 sons(all grown and musicians) faces when they repeat in unison as I'm still proclaiming,"Son,back in my day we didn't need WiFi.WE HAD HI-FI!! Love the channel. I've learned so much.Thank you.🙏. 🤘🏻🤘🏻

Bag Man:  Dolby was switched on once for about one minute. I felt like I was wearing Gaffa tape covered cotton wool earmuffs.
Dolby - off (ever since)

I'll take a higher floor of noise, over a reduced quality of program any day.

In summary, I suppose Dolby was the "fix" for a problem I personally didn't have. 😉

carlingtonme:  🤦‍♀ What is that image at the end of the video??

Dolby HX pro was a massive help with the noise problem

John Marchington:  I'm going to ask the obvious question. When dbx was being developed, was modulation noise never experienced during all the testing etc? Maybe it wasn't considered serious enough to bother about?

David O'Banion:  I like the 'song'.

Scott Strang:  Hifi vcrs have that same modulation issue only instead of tape hiss it’s head switching noise.

Audio Masterclass replies to Scott Strang: This is true. In the early days of VHS Hi-Fi there were ads that claimed the sound was CD quality. Obviously this is not so and the ads were taken down. A useful system for its time though. DM

Len Imbery:  I had that identical Tuscan 244....great fun!

Len Imbery:  I always thought that people left the Dolby B switch off on playback because it left the extra bright sound which people equated with a more pleasing sound. You give great explanations to all things audio. Thank you

Polo:  Love the outro original...sounds great!

Good Time Johnny:  The music track reminds me of a Wurlitzer organ demo in the mall.

SO DIGITAL:  I had a dbx deck. Mindblowing!

laika25:  I enjoyed your composition very much

Cars:  dbx problems used to be called the picked fence or pumping of the sound. The same thing can happen with Dolby C if the tape bias is not spot on. Both dbx and Dolby C work fine on music with a constant level but they are horrible with piano or jazz music. If you were recording heavy metal or rock music noise reduction was not necessary if you were using quality tape.

Joe Jurneke:  Dbx is terrific, specifically 150 series. It works well with the exception of fast attack times like drums. One can DBX almost every other source without issues. Dbx supports about 120 db per second attack time. Achieving 30 to 40 db noise reduction can be achieved on open reel. With drums you can hear the compressor pumping…..

Tracy Blair:  Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” multitracks were recorded at -8 dB peak (IIRC) using dbx noise reduction. I know the engineer wanted zero tape compression, hence the low recording level.

Audio Masterclass replies to Tracy Blair: I can get that. Analogue tape is always a compromise between noise and distortion. Rumors sounds great to me and I seem to remember there's a 'Classic Albums' vid on the making-of. DM

Tori:  I used to work as an online video editor in the ‘80s. All the audio came in on 1/4” two track. The audio guys used dbx, but I don’t think the Otari MX 5050 2 track in the video suite was setup right and we had the weird pumping audio.

Audio Masterclass replies to Tori: This doesn't surprise me. DM

Timothy Stockman:  NPR's first satellite system used 3:1 dbx to clean up the 40 dB range satellite channels to give 120 dB range, in theory. They never go there in practice because the output of their studios was far less than 120 dB, and even the electronics in the satellite modulators and demodulators couldn't achieve 120 dB. A few years later I used dbx Type II to clean up a noisy stereo broadcast loop from the phone company from 60 dB to 120 dB (in theory). That seemed to work really well.

platterjockey:  The video seems to have been censored by YouTube at this moment, so I can't watch it, but, the problem with dbx NR in MY experience is the difficulty in calibration across decoders, and decoders can slip out of spec.

SPINNING MY WHEELS:  My DBX 162 stereo compressor is the secret ingredient for getting the best drum sound in multitrack recordings... :) . oh you're talking about cassettes? DBX is the cats meow. I never think of cassette as hi-fi - so I don't mind the beautiful boost it gives a cassette recording.. opposite of dolby - which is the sparkle reducer - sure takes away some noise but also some of the musical content. I know you said set up is everything.. marginal improvements when the boxes are checked.. You're accurate in this video but there's something wrong with cassette in general.

Audio Masterclass replies to SPINNING MY WHEELS: Just to be clear for anyone else reading this, the video is about dbx noise reduction, not dbx compressors. DM

Hamish Thecat:  VHS hi-fi video recorders used dbx to produce their quality audio. Just saying.

Audio Masterclass replies to Hamish Thecat: I don't know of any VHS machines that used dbx but hi-fi VHS was similar. If you go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VHS and scroll down to 'Hi-Fi audio system' you can read all about it. DM

Chaotic System:  I really don't miss the hiss...

ƘÆMÏŜ:  Does the new DBX 266XS or DBX 166XS have the breathing pumping and other problems you described for the old units?

Currently looking for a budget compressor for vocals in mt home studio and it feels like sub 500, FMR audio & DBX are the only decent options. Im confused on which route to go.

Audio Masterclass replies to ƘÆMÏŜ: It is only dbx noise reduction systems that I'm referring to in the video, not compressors. All compressors can cause breathing and pumping, but careful setting of the attack and release controls will avoid these issues. DM

Michael Stow:  Great to hear your track at the end.

The KILLOGIC EFFECT:  Back when I was a teenager I had a pretty nice Yamaha four track we used to record with and learned the hard way about dbx / Dolby Noise Reduction

Midi Me:  Late to this one, but, if anyone is interested: hi-fi tape recording of CD or even Virgin vinyl through decent 90s stack, e.g. B&W, spkrs. + NAD amp VERSUS same sound source / album / recorded stream I.e. standard Spotify, Apple etc. on comparable Sonos set up, even at 24bit??? Also, considering source being ADD or DDD, AAD etc? Personally, I’ve found post Loudness Wars stuff is better reproduction in digital domain at any rubbish quality, whilst analogue recorded material always sounds better through older kit, irrespective of downsampling?. To be honest, older recordings and ‘re-masters’ sound harsh in any digital format even if no ‘up sampling’ has happened?…. I just trust my ears even though I know my 20KHz is now more 10 or less lol😢

Lee Kumiega:  The drum machine got rather monotonous after a while but other than that I liked your composition .

Audio Masterclass replies to Lee Kumiega: That's what drum machines were in those days. It didn't hold George Michael back https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8gmARGvPlI DM

Joseph Kosak:  I personally like dbx for what, when, and why it represented in the history of music recording. Yes, it was not perfect, but without it, you could never have something from the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's that was listenable. And if you bounced tracks or mixed 4 to stereo then sent it back to first 2 tracks on a 4 track machine - FORGET IT! I could only afford a Teac A-3440, so dbx type II was indispensable to me. I would never have made music with dolby and its measly 62 to 65 db range, or noise floor. Two passes of dolby would be like a wind tunnel.

Not perfect, but made a lot of music possible than otherwise wouldn't be...

rick cary:  My "Roxy Music" cd from the 80s always annoyed me. It had hiss on it like a type 1 cassette! I played different copies of it and they were all the same. What was that all about?? Poor mastering??

Audio Masterclass replies to rick cary: @MrAdopado Yes you're right - I'd completely forgotten about this. Of course, some might regard this as part of the texture of real life. DM

MrAdopado replies to rick cary: Many commercial CDs had small print with a warning that the CD format may allow the listener to hear noise that was from the original analogue recording master tape.

rick cary replies to rick cary: @Audio Masterclass Yeah, maybe. I listened on YT and it sounds clean. I don't have the disk anymore but I remember the silence and then obvious hiss before the tune started. Still a great album but I'll never forget that hiss. I think they cleaned it up later on. I record onto my Tascam 133 and I get almost CD quality playback , so perhaps that Roxy was just a crappy batch I happened upon.

Audio Masterclass replies to rick cary: @rick cary I don't hear any more noise than I expect on Spotify. But this album is from 1982, the first year of CD. It has been widely reported that in the rush to release material on CD, many CDs were mastered from tapes which were already copies or copies of copies. This could be an explanation for what you heard. DM

rick cary replies to rick cary: @Audio Masterclass Think it was Avalon. You can hear the background hiss as the track is cued in. I had a mid 80s cd. Always did my head in because I'd just bought my first cd player and was expecting better. 😄

Peter Davies:  If only you'd used a Les Paul instead, it'd all be so different for you. On topic though, I loved dbx on an SA90 but give it a few years and come back to them and the pumping is unbearable. I'm not privvy to the adjustments that can be made with a good servicing and I expect the mech consistancies of keeping the same deck in good order would have done but Technics would keep on bringing out new toys to entice a young man with a paycheck.

Paul Roberts:  At EMI Music we throw demo tapes in the bin on a regular basis, tip for people outside, don't come and play your music outside outside these offices, you have seen Simon cowle that's nothing,he's kind . Your tapes end up in landfill as unsolicited mail and we did that all the time in Hammersmith. 🐺

Muyeika Samurabi:  Love the song at the end. Great vid, very informative for this nerd. Edit, I had to listen to the song twice in a row. Subscribed.

Gary Randall:  Cool groove!!

Scott Grammer:  Compander noise reduction systems are often thrown for a loop by the nonlinearities of the tape decks involved. And the more noise reduction they aim for, the more problems they have. It's possible to align, say, Dolby B to be nearly transparent when a tape is played back on the same machine it was recorded on, but usually not when recording on one machine to play back on another. Today, working as a vintage audio service tech, I tend to align Dolby systems for best subjective results, not the best measurements, and my clients are usually amazed with the results. Of course, this is after aligning the tape deck in the usual manner without noise reduction.

In the early 80's, I engineered in a home studio that used a Teac 80-8 multitrack machine with its associated dbx noise reduction box. I quickly learned that even when I had the machine carefully aligned, it was better to record drum tracks with the dbx turned off. It just could not follow the transients of say, a snare drum by itself. It seemed that dbx did much better with a full mix, and definitely did better with continuous midrange tones, like strings or backup singers. Didn't work well on bass guitar, either.

Erwin Hooimeijer:  It all has to do with the slew rate of the amplification of the dbx system. It’s personal but with my Technics M255X the breathing was barely noticable and listening to those old 80’s tapes I’m surprised with the quality left on them.☺️ I used Maxell XL2 and XL2S tapes as the TDK tapes had too many drop-outs for my taste. (That was my main irritation!)

Alan MusicMan replies to Erwin Hooimeijer: BASF cassette tapes for me always. Agree about TDK - quality was very variable from batch to batch.

Erwin Hooimeijer replies to Erwin Hooimeijer: Ow and so using a separate dbx2 unit is asking for trouble☺️(cables introduce more side affects where build-in units have short signal paths)

Anonymous Coward:  Consumer grade equipment get consumer grade components...to do the things that dbx has to do well i.e. eliminate things like breathing, you need high slew rate op-amps, precision voltage references, etc. which are prohibitively expensive for the home “prosumer” use case.

analogkid455:  I had a Yamaha MT100 with DBX in the 80s as well. I recorded mostly my band but a few other bands along the way until I upgraded to ADAT machines.

Colloidal Silver Water 15 ppm:  Well, I've made COMPANDER, which is same thing as dbx. It was revelation in those days, because on my Pioneer deck was only dolby B and C.

the great destroyer:  not afordable to most of the people ,all companies had to change the way they recorded in vinyl and new cartridges were to be used , after bspending a lot of money one could hear the Police regatta de blanc with a perfect sound, but not much more than that, their professional equipment sold to studios is very good ,i have an equalizer that is so long that i don´t even remenber how much frequencies they have but also works as a noidse reducer, which in my opinion is much more perfect than Dolby

RetroVideo:  I've never used dbx noise reduction with cassettes. dbx type II was developed for cassettes but also open reel machines running at 7.5 and 3.75ips, so type II was always considered the domestic version of dbx. Type I was used mostly on open reel recorders running at 15ips, though you could get good results at 7.5ips if the machine was electronically and mechanically aligned correctly. At 15ips, type I was a revelation. I could never really notice any noise pumping issues, but the criteria was always flatness of frequency response and a properly aligned machine. If you could hear obvious noise issues with dbx on an open reel at 15ips, usually the problem was the machine, not the noise reduction unit.

Not Insane:  I still have a dozen or so dbx vinyl records as well as a matching DBX decoder. They were a nice stop gap before CDs came out.

zumazmusic:  I dig your instrumental! 😎🤘🎶🍻

Doberman guy:  I have a Yamaha 3head cassette deck with dbx I'm very happy with it one thing you failed to mention sir dbx came out a lot later after Dolby did and by the time dbx started getting a little popular cassette decks started to fade out but cassette decks an hour coming back but it's a fact dbx came out after Dolby on cassette decks

Audio Masterclass replies to Doberman guy: Dolby definitely had a head-start advantage but I'd also say that Dolby was better at licensing. It has happened elsewhere that the format that was more widely licensed (VHS) was the one that won (Betamax). DM

J tavegia:  A little bit late to have this discussion.

Audio Masterclass replies to J tavegia: You could say that, but there's so much old technology still in use or being revived I wouldn't rule out a return. DM

Scott Lowell:  I had a DBX "Compander" in the 80's. DBX NR was pretty extreme. It didn't always sound better.

Rune Pedersen:  I have some old cassette-recordings from the start of the 80's, the non-dolby ones sound quite good, the dolby ones sound muffled.
As mentioned in this video, it's tracking errors - lower output from the tape makes the dolby circuit reduce the treble level more than they should be.

It would be nice with a variable gain between the playback-head and the dolby circuits, restoring the correct playback level, without having to re-adjust the trimmers in the deck, only to adjust them back to their former position, once finished listening to the old tapes.

Some NAD decks had "Play Trim" knobs - don't know if that took care of this problem - AFAIK it was more a treble adjustment than a gain control.

Pickersgill:  Like listening to my granny over-explaining something incredibly simple.

Al Rude:  From the 80's through the mid 90's my studio had a 1" 16 track Tascam 85-16B with dbx. Did a few releases for JSP and a few other labels. I was always VERY careful to maintain that machine. The results were quite acceptable, we were always reviewed against 24 track studios with much better gear.

rEdf196:  In the early 1980's I always heard a lot of complaints about DBX mostly due to compatibility and the poor sound quality on conventional stereos . Unlike Dolby NR , which was everywhere, there were just not enough DBX players, or the will, by me or others to commit to this rather obscure format, unlike the "all new" emerging digital new compact disc which the general public was very exited about back then and did take off in popularity. I put DBX alongside quadraphonic vinyl, Edison disc, Elcasset, CED video, Beta, Lased disc, and other failed formats.

Bob Withrow:  If a cassette starts at 45db SNR, dbx type II will improve SNR by 30db hence yielding a total SNR or 75db. It's known as noise modulation not modulation noise. IMHO, the best reel to reel format is 2 track 15IPS with IEC/CCIR EQ.

Bob Withrow replies to Bob Withrow: I worked for Julius Konins at Cassette Productions in New Jersey in the 80s. We made high end chrome Dolby B 0:26 classical music cassettes utilizing type I 120us premephasis instead of the usual type II setting of 70us. Julius told Ray Dolby that Dolby B produced noise modulation on certain percussion instruments. We had to have golden ears to serve the customers we had

Audio Masterclass replies to Bob Withrow: I don't mind you calling it noise modulation, but other people have it differently https://www.google.com/search?q=noise%20modulation+site:aes.org DM

Phil Shifley:  Pop music has become as simple and shallow as the majority of people who make it their audio diet. Junk food for the ears that is written by a few for overconsumption by the masses.

MrGhostown81:  When you mentioned about how the CD was mastered. I have two commercial albums I bought on CD where the cassette version sounds better. Anthrax's "Armed and Dangerous" and Megadeth's original version of "Killing Is My Business...". Especially with the Anthrax CD. It sounds like it was mastered through a soup can.

Searchiemusic:  what's wrong with dbx? someone didn't calibrate the machine, that's what

Thom Osburn:  I really loved your instrumental!
Great video here, the one thing you didn't address is that if you bought once deck and recorded music (with built-in dbx)
and then tried to play the tape on a different built-in dbx deck, the signal would pump up and down like crazy.
So you had to pray that your cassette deck wouldn't die.

Manky Frilla:  Loved this one.. 👍🏽

Börli Bär:  And what's wrong with HiCom 🤔

Audio Masterclass replies to Börli Bär: I have no experience, but the information at Wikipedia under the heading 'Impact' offers some information on the possible problems. It may however just be the case that Dolby got in first and were better at licensing. DM

Tucson Analog Workshop:  Well you avoided the biggest issue with Dolby and that is the differing alignment of tape heads, even when these decks were new. Let alone between brands of decks, the problem exists within the same brand or even model. The alignment tolerances for a mass-produced cassette deck could never be good enough for Dolby. (Only Nakamichi addressed the issue with their auto azimuth). For the vast majority of cassette users, a Dolby recording more often than not, only sounded good on the same deck it was recorded on. That's the problem. Not head cleaning or 'using the right tape'. You also glossed over the great improvements in circuitry in the 80s-90s among most deck manufacturers, and the addition of HX Pro, to the point where by the mid-late 80s, Dolby was no longer needed, but just included because of tradition. This is my experience. Dolby should always be off, whether playback or recording. Who listens to music at such ear damaging volume that tape hiss becomes obtrusive? Dolby was a theoretically great idea that should never have seen the light of day in consumer or even pro-sumer decks. If you can't stand a little noise in this day and age, you really shouldn't be playing with analog formats anyway.

Tucson Analog Workshop replies to Tucson Analog Workshop: @MacXpert74 So true!

MacXpert74 replies to Tucson Analog Workshop: Besides everything you've mentioned, it should also be noted that the quality of the tape cassettes themself was significantly improved from the late 60 to the early 90s, with constant development of new tape formulas, that allowed for lower noise and higher recording levels, increasing the dynamic range to a decent level without using any noise reduction.

John Wright:  While dbx is more annoyingly obtrusive on overall mixes with multiple instruments and voices mixed, it wasn't quite so bad on individual tracks of single instruments... 🤔

macronencer:  I had a Portastudio (or was it a Porta One?) in the 1990s. A few years ago I bought a Yamaha MT120S with dbx so I could archive the tapes digitally. It was a nightmare! I had often used whatever tape was lying about, sometimes recording in the middle of another recording, and sometimes even on the wrong side of the cassette so that time was reversed - and in addition, I didn't always remember to switch on the dbx... so I had a right mess in Cubase when I'd finished. For some of the tapes I decided to run them right through, once with dbx and once without, then sort out which version was the right one later on in Cubase (not to mention reversing the reversed sections...) And THEN I started to wonder whether using dbx on a dbx recording that was playing backwards would actually work OK. I mean, it's a companding effect, right? So it has attack and release... oh dear. In the end I decided not to worry about it because the music wasn't exactly stellar :) These archiving projects can end up stealing half your life if you're not careful.

Audio Masterclass replies to macronencer: Even the world's greatest philosophers can't answer the question, "When to archive, when to move on?" DM

basspig:  The challenge with dbx noise reduction is that you have to have extremely well-known characteristics of the tape transfer characteristic and dynamic level compression otherwise you get tracking errors. The more aggressive a noise reduction system is the worst the tracking errors can be and the requirement for a perfect tracking is even more critical. Another often overlooked problem is transient response of dbx. I had dealt with a recording that had pops and ticks in it and noticed that the dvx gate didn't close down quickly enough and you could hear at the end of the pop just a little trailing edge of tape hiss. It only lasted about a millisecond or two but it was definitely an artifact.

Keith Spillett:  That closing demo doesn't actually sound too bad, but, as with all things, it IS a demonstration of an 'audio pro' using non pro kit, which probably notches things up a gear anyway 😀. I was senior engineer in a London studio complex that specialised in audio for video and visitor attractions. We used a mixture of Dolby A and SR, as well as dbx type 1. We even ended up using Dolby C on Fostex 1/2 inch 16 track machines for onsite replay at visitor attractions like the Lands End visitor centre in the mid 80s. dbx 1 sounded surprisingly good at first generation level, but second generation copies REALLY began to exhibit the pumping effects dbx was famous for!

David Morley:  I use DBX on my Tascam 388. People love to hit tape hard but in my experience if you record with conservative levels and DBX (as they recommend) it works extremely well on most stuff. No noise and few side effects. So if used properly and carefully, it can be excellent. But I don't do solo piano! Subscribed!

David Morley replies to David Morley: I can't see it happening either! @Steve Ennever

Steve Ennever replies to David Morley: Awesome machine & yes, the dbx noise reduction worked well in combination. UAD could do well to copy the EQ & signal to tape path of that wonderful device for their collection - that would mean them dropping their pretentious attitude for a while though. Can't see that happening. ;-)

Remy David:  Oh really? You use your DBX Type II noise reduction on a common cassette deck? My God man! Of course you can hear modulation noise!

Unlike your misinformation. DBX is highly affected by, non-flat, frequency response bandwidth. Whatever it is? It's twice as bad with DBX! So if you are down 2 DB at say, 2 kHz? It's going to be down 4 DB. It gives you automatic Equalization at frequencies you don't want, automatically! Free of charge! Everything you don't want where you don't want it.

Which is why DBX noise reduction. Should never be used on any recorder. That does not have a razor flat response from 50-15,000 Hz plus or minus, one quarter,, DB. And that would be acceptable. Sort of. But nobody's going to have a cassette there so finely tweaked like that. Other than possibly myself?

Now I have had a lot of, high-end, studio, cassette decks. By Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer and Knock Amici. Which is an Italian cassette deck made in Japan. Because it sounds Italian. Yes. Good enough for operatic and symphonic recording playbacks. As they are unlike in the other professional cassette deck ever made. Including Studer. Including TASCAM. All pale in comparison to never, Knock A Miche! They just can't be beat in sound quality. Take it from a real analog tape recorder manufacturing and maintenance genius. No other cassette that compares to, knock amici. Printed as it is pronounced. Not as it is written. I mean how many Japanese guys have Italian names? And made cassette decks? That sound great! That sound almost as good as one of my studio Scully's. And no other cassette deck sounds like that. None! Nada!

Only on one of those finely adjusted and tweaked Knock's. Might I have tried DBX tape noise reduction? But I have forever hated and despised the sound of the analog Compact Cassette. They are just plain, awful. And no reason to go back to them. None!

And so today. If you want quieter cassette tape playbacks? Don't use any, Dolby or DBX noise reduction. No.

Simply transfer it into your computer. Via really anybody's, USB soundcard interface. Pick up a copy of, Adobe, Audition. Any version. Or the earlier Cool Edit, free shareware program from 1996. And the noise reduction program within. For free. Is virtually the same and every bit as good. As some of these other specialized noise reduction programs costing upwards of $1500. And Cool Edit/Adobe Audition has that built in. And it's really superb. I have been using it since 1996. It's a lifesaver. A miracle worker. A magician. And don't over abuse it. If you never want to hear it work. You Golightly. You only need lightly. Unless it's a recovery and restoration. And that's different. Those are harder. A lot harder. To bring back broken crappy audio, from the dead.

So today I prefer to do my noisy duction in software. As there is no hardware. That can do a good or better job than software. Nothing. And so it's great! If you don't use your Dolby or DBX. Lots will already be encoded. That you go to playback. And most of that is going to sound like mud. And so for that. You need software. To make it sound real and alive and recorded yesterday. And then you take out the noise that's objectionable. Et Voilà! Acceptable sounding audio recovered from a compact analog audio cassette. From a Knock and Amici cassette deck.

It's very funny and I'm 100% serious. All the other cassette decks sound like mud. Knock''s, don't. And that's the only analog audio cassette deck. I will used to archived to digital. Because they sound as wonderful as very costly. As analog studio tape recorders costing many thousands of dollars each. As much as my 1978 Toyota Corolla did. For a stereo recorder. And that's what I made. Lots of.

So I got the real information here. But it might not be your cup of tea? Oh well. That's the way it is.
RemyRAD

Remy David:  And so this is what it looks like when you get to be an old British guy. Forlorn, disenchanted, disenfranchised, disheartened in disarray. We get it. I'm right there also. Nobody told us old age would be like this. Where are the rock shows? Everybody's dead!

I mean we are baby boomers! And they said we would live forever! In some rock 'n' roll song? And so what went wrong? Nonreturnable soda pop bottles? Yes! The plastic bottles have destroyed our minds. And there's no going back. We are all going extinct. Just like Neanderthal and those before them. All gone. All dead. All extinct. Why should we be any different? We are just as stupid. We all breed from within our own ethnicities. That wasn't the plan. As no one actually knew or realized the plan. It was better to fight amongst ourselves. Who had the better God. Who were the superior people that should kill the inferior ones? And decided to make it their life's effort, to do so. Yeah that didn't fly. They all went to live with Satan for all eternity to come. And some just returned. We didn't expect. Yes. Donnie Trump is still very much, alive. Unfortunately. And his spawn. This is why God created abortion. Now we have to do it retroactively. Because it wasn't done a few weeks after conception and we got Junior and Eric and Eyevonkkka. And the world comes to an end. If, they have anything to do with it.

I don't know why Eyevonkkka has to be so dastardly? As her father's new wife. I mean it's not like she's in competition with, Melanoma Trump.. But she is starting to look kind of tired and old. So Donnie will then marry Eyevonkkka to himself. Some have even referred to Eyevonkkka as Mrs. Donald Trump. And so what do they know we don't know? We've always known he's got the hots for his daughter Eyevonkkka. Tiffany not so much. He doesn't want to hop in the sack with daughter Tiffany. But Eyevonkkka? That's different. They look great as a couple together. And it makes him look so much younger. Don't you think? Eyevonkkka and Donald make the perfect couple. And Jared can drive the family car. As he now looks old enough to drive. Without getting stopped by the cops. But only barely.

They will have to declare a holiday. When Donnie keels over with a massive heart attack. From eating KFC and McDonald's at the same meal. Who knew they were poisonous together? And we will declare it a holiday! A day of peace and tranquility. Without any drama. We are all looking forward to that holiday.

Who will get Junior and Eric out of trouble after daddy dies? The JDL? I think not.
RemyRAD

Remy David:  Oh no no no my British brother. If you've got dirty heads misaligned tape path, warped tape. DBX Type II Analog Tape Noise Reduction. Mangles the audio, terribly. Much worse than Dolby B, C or, S. Not so much S.. And C simply miserable.

I mean you are mostly on track with everything else. For the most part. I say this. As I'm the last Quality Control Manager and Final Test Engineer and overall Troubleshooter.. For the legendary and famed, Scully Recording Instruments. And I was trained by all the other American ones like Ampex, 3M, MCI. I've also built my own when younger.

It's really hard to beat the sound of, barefoot, No Noise Reduction, Analog Tape. With no process. That gargles and colors the sound. When I needed some analog tape noise reduction. I would use a gentle downward expander carefully set. Nobody would ever hear working. And it did not influence nor color the sound. And I can play some of my recordings that are, 8 generations down. And you'd never know it. All recorded on Scully and MCI recorders. I fully tweak myself. As no one knows how to do it better.

So from an old codger like me. Who's been in the recording and broadcast industry for over 50 years. All the way back to Motown Studios in Detroit. When they still existed in the early 1960s. When my father played violin tracks for them. And started taking me down to the studio when I was 7 years old. Yup. And then to find myself working at Scully at 23. How did this happen? Who is responsible for this!? Oh? I am.

And so as great as analog recording used to be. I walked away from it 30 years ago. There is just no reason for it anymore. I mean I do like some analog tape saturation on Bass Drums, Snare Drums and Tom's. Cool on some Bass and Guitars. Useful on brass. Just the right zip on a vocal. While delivering smoothness. But is that smoothness we no longer really need. We want articulation now! No more hiding the sound under grunge.

Great recordings can be had with virtually any well working gear. There is no magic beans nor fairy dust. There are those pieces that have, characteristic tonalities to them. Neve, API, SSL, Sphere, MCI, Auditronics, Op Amp Labs, Phillips, Neumann and others. But in the end to most folks. It all sounds the same. It does not. But since nobody can really tell? No one really cares anymore. It's nothing to care about anymore. Nothing that needs to be cared about anymore. Because nobody is really making any kind of, Technological Breakthroughs nor Statements anymore. It's over. The fun and all the discovery is, over. It has been taken to its absolute, physics, limits. And so now time to worry about important issues. At not about the right tone on some fuzzy guitar. Which means nothing in life. It's just entertainment. Strictly, entertainment. And has no bearing on real life situations and circumstances. Though important to those youngsters at the time. But then so are the keys to the car that night.. But mom! But but but but ugh.

And thus will always be such for most raised well.
RemyRAD

METKO PROJECT – Where Have You Been replies to Remy David: Bravo

duncan rmi:  "dolby" & "gave" in the same sentence.... 😂 his entire business model was *licensing*.

Sound On Sound magazine:  Thanks for the magazine plug, David. 🙏👍

Alex:  dbx can be thought of as an exchange: improved noise floor for a reduction in resolution. For a 15ips 2 track that makes sense. There's an abundance of resolution, so trading some of it away for improved noise floor is a good trade off. Especially if it's the same unit recording and playing back.

Meanwhile, Compact Cassette has almost no resolution to spare. 1 7/8th's ips is absurdly slow and it's a technological feat that it worked as well as it did. Losing more resolution from dbx is going to sound bad even in the best case scenario, and it did sound bad.

It's notable that the 4 track cassette portastudios of the 80's and 90's often had dbx, but they had the option to run at normal or double speed with dbx. At double speed dbx was passable. At normal speed it was unusable.

Editing SECRETS revealed!:  Let me be the tenth fan of your nice song from back in the day! Interesting changes of tone, and an overall relaxing feel. Reminds me of the gently flowing Seeburg licensed background music that someone is putting online now, but with 80s synth tones instead of an orchestra.
Companding was an engineering shortcut in the early samplers - Fairlight I & II, Emulator I & II, Ensoniq Mirage, Synclavier - until CD quality i/o became the standard with Fairlight III, Emulator III, Ensoniq ASR. Along with the anti-alias tracking filters that opened and closed up and down the keyboard range, a not completely realistic but very musically compelling, thick and gritty transformation of whatever was played through the system.

Audio Masterclass replies to Editing SECRETS revealed!: I had, and still have, a liking for the gritty sound of some samplers of old. DM

Floppi J:  You should cover Dolby C and HX-pro. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about them.

lespaul667 replies to Floppi J: @Audio Masterclass This looks very interesting. Maybe a kind or type of 32 but float?

Floppi J replies to Floppi J: @lespaul667  yes that's what I meant whoops!

Audio Masterclass replies to Floppi J: Here's a link mentioning HDR audio - https://www.audiokinetic.com/en/library/edge/?source=Help&id=understanding_hdr I might look into this in future. DM

lespaul667 replies to Floppi J: What’s HDR? Do you mean HX Pro?

John Smith:  Reading all the comments leaves me thinking I must be living in a parallel universe. I use dbx all the time and love it. I have several 224x units that I use mainly with my cr7e or whatever other deck I choose to swap in. I must be deaf as I have never encountered any pumping or breathing artifacts, and that is with any type of music, folk, rock, pop etc. I push my levels hard and find that I can swap decks for playback with no issues. My Onkyo Ta 2900 or Technics RS B965 with built in dbx also have no issues with tapes recorded with dbx on other decks. Compatibility these days I find not so much of an issue, as it's really only me who will be listening to my recordings on my units. The only slight difference I find is a very slight loss of high end treble on the recordings, easily compensated for with a tiny tweak of the treble knob on my amp. As someone else quoted, "silence has more noise that dbx". OK a slight push, but I love cassettes, hate intrusive hiss so adore dbx. Yes I also love digital and streaming. I'm not someone who thinks digital is soulless, but no way I'm I consigning all theses beautiful vintage cassette decks to the dump. They were designed and manufactured in an age when tech companies took pride in what they made and were clearly competing to be the best. No money to be made now in these things, so that is all a thing of the past. Wait and see how your new tech stands the test of time.

Bruce Ramsay:  Have a dbx 2bx expander. It wasn't cheap but worked to a degree with my cassette player.

Shirley Márquez Dúlcey:  Another problem with dbx was that it was incompatible with listening without dbx processing. Listening to a Dolby B tape without Dolby B processing isn't ideal but it's at least tolerable. By the time Dolby C was introduced nearly everybody at least had Dolby B; much like listening to a Dolby B tape without any processing, listening to a Dolby C tape with Dolby B processing was tolerable.

In contrast, listening to a tape recorded with dbx noise reduction without the proper playback processing was just about unlistenable. That made dbx a non-starter for prerecorded tapes, aside from a handful that were made specifically for audiophiles, and it also meant that you couldn't use dbx processing if you were making a tape for somebody else since few listeners had dbx.

Curt Gozaydin:  Oh this is an excellent video with excellent exclamations I’ll give you a quick little story about the Harmon-Kardon tape deck in about either 1982 or 83 that I really loved and I would have it connected to a techniques receiver techniques turntable with a nice AT (AudioTechnica) cartridge attached and I would have a clean and I mean really cleaned and De-stat with a static gun thing, an album I could make pristine recordings under that Harman Cardin tape deck with either DolbyC used or with “DBX” NR used (sorry my spellchecker just want to be right there any other way). Anyway I also had a fairly early generation of 1984 techniques CD player and whether I was recording on turntable or from CD player or from a clean De-stat’d album LP I found it difficult to tell the difference in those DBX recorded cassette tapes. I can vouch for how good DBX noise reduction worked!

Curt Gozaydin replies to Curt Gozaydin: I think I Kind of remeber stuff - it had DBX HX-Pro setting. I’ve been googling just now until the cows come home and I just can’t be sure of the exact model number of it when you look at CD 91 CD 101 cd 20 one cd 401 model number is a kind of all look similar to what I had.From HK (Harmon Kardon). Great sounding tape deck!

Curt Gozaydin replies to Curt Gozaydin: Hey folks, sorry for me being foggy on details because I no longer have this equipment and having for many years but I’m pretty sure the Harmon Cardin tape deck of purchased in the 1983 time frame had a special version of DBX noise reduction when I can’t remember is what it was called like DBXHE like high extension or DBXHD or DBXHX anyway, it implied that it had a better compounding expansion design than the previous DBX II did. Everything else I’m saying is the same I just was amazed at how good either doll BC NR was or this DBXHX or whatever it was but of course you had to have used it when recording the tape and as well as playback and it’s just, I mean it made my turntable sound quieter. It just had really good quality recordings from a clean record on that techniques turntable with AT cartridge. Loved it!

Mix Our Band:  Back in the early 80's my first studio recorder was a Fostex A-8 and a Mackie 8 ch mixer. And the SMPTE tone laid on ch-8 from my Alesis sequencer and HR16-B drum computer. I made a lot of money back then when producers and musicians where like Gods.

Mix Our Band replies to Mix Our Band: @Audio Masterclass I hear ya. SMPTE was the only way to lock my Poly-800 and Korg-M1 keyboards to the tape. It worked well once you get the SMPTE tone level right.

Audio Masterclass replies to Mix Our Band: I doubt if many producers and home recordists have much nostalgia for SMPTE timecode. But who knows? If I make a video on it I might learn differently. DM

Todd Sauve:  I used to own a very good Aiwa cassette deck with Dolby B and C and HX-Pro. It was a beautiful machine and could, more or less, make a recording of a CD just as enjoyable as the original. What drove me up the wall was that Aiwa did not produce a decent fast forward or rewind mechanical assembly. It would make the cassettes rattle and shake like no one's business! I wonder if other people had similar experiences with Aiwa cassette decks? The top of the line cassette decks were always Nakamichi and their "Dragon" decks, the most coveted around the globe! One of those with Dolby SR would be the bee's knees! If, of course, you can find cassettes somewhere. 🤔🤷‍♂😉💘

Todd Sauve replies to Todd Sauve: @Paul Dionne Mine was the Aiwa AD-S40. The only thing it lacked was Dolby S, but Dolby C is extremely quiet anyway. Digital has eclipsed cassettes, however, and I enjoy how much faster it is to make a playlist on my PC, and even transfer it to my cell phone to listen to when I take a walk.

Paul Dionne replies to Todd Sauve: I still have my AD-F810. It still rocks. Got rid of more expensive decks to hold onto this one.

TeeKay:  Having used dbx on reel to reel tapes a long time ago, the problem with it is that if you don't have a processor to decode it, the audio is unlistenable. I still have the tapes, but the dbx failed two decades ago.

doublebass5y:  Hey can't believe your tascam 244 sounds that good still. Cool tune. There can't be be a lot of head wear on that beauty. I had the Fostex equivalent back in the 80,s and i wore it out with all the overdubs.. bounces etc. Thanks for a wonderful video. off to make another compilation mix on my Pioneer TR 909 with no Dolby. Sounds lush.

Paul:  I had plenty of Q-tips and alcohol. My cassette deck head was clean. Still, I would rather listen to noise than any form of Dolby. To my ears, Dolby turned everything to mud.

herbertmathews:  Do you have any docs or advice on calibrating my dbx 222?. Cant find a service manual anywhere.

herbertmathews replies to herbertmathews: @Audio Masterclass Thanks, I use it on an x10r it works but im sure a calibration would help, excessive chuffing, I know its a symptom of dbx but my cassette deck is way better in that area. There are 12 pots on the circuit board, i have looked at other schematics but they are not close enough to be of any use.

Audio Masterclass replies to herbertmathews: No. The best I can suggest is a) keep looking, or b) possibly another dbx model has similar internals and its service manual might be of use. DM

Emmanuel Gutierrez:  I got a used dbx NR unit. My recordings sounded thin. I sure my tape deck had clean heads, did not matter.

The Chuckster:  DBX is king! If you align the machine and the DBX correctly, the results are stunning!

494ihi replies to The Chuckster: a "pumped" sound could be heard as on dolby C but i had 20 year old ears then - now..

John Martins:  What's your thoughts on Telefunkens and via license Nakamichi HighCom and HighComII ?

watching watches:  That's would make a great outra for your videos

Johns Clinton music and more:  nice tune i like your videos but i leave a like but no comment

Solo Performer:  I am guessing you are, at the very least, sponsored by Nagra as you never seem to make mention of Studer when referring to good professional equipment.

jagmarc:  I found dbx a pain in the arse prefer the noise

Diane Carone:  Speaking about dolby, Way back in' 77 I had a Teac 1/4in two track 15ips machine and as part of some testing of my deck and two or three others I discovered my machine had a full 1mv (unweighted) output noise.It didn't mater what speed or type of tape was used or no tape this was pure playback amp noise. Other machines measured only slightly better(including a 3M 8 track machine). I was used to line amps, phono amps with outputs of 20-30uv. So I did a cheap and non destructive experiment, I took an off the shelf chip (LM381) whipped a tape playback amp together and running on the piece of crap power supply of the Teac the noise was reduced to 100uv. A full 20db improvement.(Also recorded test signals had several tenth's % less THD). This improved the S/N from ruffly 45 to 65db. This could easily have been reduced another 10db with better P.S. and even better preamp. Since then I've thought Dolby was pure unnessary bullshit. If anyone using tape machines had 75db back in those days (or now apparently) then they would have been amazed. Am I missing something here? If the playback amp sucks your stuck with it. Never mind if the fucking heads are aligned or you have the perfect tape formulation. Unless I'm missing something the recording,mixing,mastering studio is truly a chamber of horrors. Dennis C.

Diane Carone replies to Diane Carone: @Editing SECRETS revealed! I hope you are correct. I admit the 3M machine I measured was probably from the late 60's. I should look for specs of newer tape machines. Noise in audio has always been an obsession with me. Dennis C.

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to Diane Carone: My guess is that engineers of the day knew that was possible - big studio reel to reels had those kind of specs - but for the target market the bill of materials had to be kept within a certain cost limit and higher quality components like that would have blown out the manufacturing budget.

Diane Carone replies to Diane Carone: @Audio Masterclass Thank You for commenting. I enjoy your videos. My Teac measured 45db(1mv), A Sony using "LOW NOISE FETS" measured 50db, A 3M Studio 8 track the size of a Mini Cooper measured 59db. I achieved 65db(100uv). I don't believe your "POSSIBLE". <30uv output noise was possible in 1973. Tape did not increase the noise on my deck with my preamp. "Tape Hiss" must be below 20uv if it exists. Since 1977 a deck with well designed record & playback amp should be capable of 80db. No black boxes needed. D.C.

Audio Masterclass replies to Diane Carone: I remember Teac reel to reels as being excessively noisy. The later Tascam (same company) stereo and 8-track were about as good as is possible with analogue tape. DM

Andrew Dewar:  I think you are cool and I only just started watching you. I would like to know more about your background.

Andrew Dewar replies to Andrew Dewar: @Audio Masterclass Awesome ! I read it with interest. My brother has loads of synthesizers. I used to play guitar (clasical/acoustic) but it triggers the neighbour.

Audio Masterclass replies to Andrew Dewar: You can find a brief bio at https://www.audiomasterclass.com/about-us DM

Sergio Iturbide L:  Nice composition!!!

Eric Block:  Talking about dbx in 2023 is wild. Pro tip for video, put the shotgun over head just out of frame for a clean picture.

lespaul667:  DBX worked pretty good on the 1/2” 8 track machines of the 80’s, but any smaller formats suffered from a lot of modulation noise.

Search what happened to steely Dan when they used DBX on the multi track machines for ‘Katy Lied’. 😅

Stephen Wise:  I used dbx a lot with cassette. At the time, I was in the organ business and listened to a lot of organ music. The combination of huge dynamic range and slow volume changes made dbx ideal here.

Sacto1654:  Two issues: 1) undecoded dbx audio sounds terrible and 2) dbx processing introduces some not-pleasant audio side effects. No wonder everyone got on board the digital audio bandwagon.

video99.co.uk:  8:50 I have the very similar Akai 1721L. They're OK but don't have very good back tension control, so don't play very small "message tape" reels properly.

Audio Masterclass replies to video99.co.uk: This isn't unexpected. In the old days you could get 7--inch spools with larger centres so they held less tape but would play more reliably. DM

Nikolaki A:  Getting me all nostalgic again over my Proton 740 cassette deck! Factory calibrated to XL-IS and XL-II-S tape. Recordings on the latter were awesome. B,C and dbx.

The dbx on it was revelational. Great for rock, pop and most jazz. Not great for solo piano.

It was the only way I got to hear a dbx vinyl I bought. Jaw dropping back in the 80s.

Scott Wolf:  In 1975 bought the dbx 119, for my Teac 360 cassette deck. A totally discrete, separate enclosure, model with adjustable gain and, "Compander", pots. So the compression and expansion varied from 1:1 to 2:1. There may have been an Infinity setting too. I still have the pamphlet somewhere but sold the unit decades ago. The auditory," Breathing", introduced made the use unfeasible.

Audio Masterclass replies to Scott Wolf: I had a demo of one of these. It was an interesting idea but in practice I didn't like it. Opinions may vary. DM

Mikexception:  The logarythmic scale is widely misuderstood The difference between 50 dB noise measurement and 59 dB is "only" 9dB but perceived noise for first value is about 8x (800%) bigger then for 59dB. That is why every dB counts so much. Only many times cascade cppying of analodg signal to analog may require more than 70 dB noise gap. In popular case already 50 dB makes no issue. . Digital to digital is not affected by noise at all.

. Typical noise level in analog tape recording is about 52- 60 dB and it means that in compare to usable audio 1V l there is only 1mv - 2,5 mV measured noise. I think it is not fair to say that analog tapes are "noisy" Yes, noise level is supposed to be matter of consideration in accordance to fairy used volume level - not like in digital storage where it is technicaly removed . . In analog reproduction users often amplify noise by aplaying heavy amplification to sopranos when they were damped by other issues. As result of this action will appear noise in background

Mikexception replies to Mikexception: @Ralf Schmoll You probably are right - Actualy I did not check it myself. But it does not input to explanation of all confuses.

People forget that they are never listening to "0dB" but to natural surrounding them "floor noise". in my quite silent flat that measured by industrial unit noise is 30 dB (with tiny l peaks from two clocks) . It means that any tape noise will overlay that room noise when it will reach loudness 31 dB . With even -50dB noise level in tape recording it's max music peak will be at 81 dB hardly making any chance to spot tape (or equal room) noise

Ralf Schmoll replies to Mikexception: Sorry, but I think you are wrong. It is not the percepted noise that is 8x times bigger but the absolute electrical values. Perception is logarithmic to the absolute values and that is one of the reasons for db as a logarithmic measure.

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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