Adventures In Audio
Hands on Multitracks - Fostex G24S and Tascam MSR-24S (part 3)

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.

Thursday January 1, 2004

Crosstalk. The recordings you make on multitrack tape don’t just sit there quietly until you command them to speak. They chatter amongst themselves, spreading the latest gossip from track to track. “Want to know what’s going on on track 14?”, says the crosstalk messenger. “There’s a hihat that’ll tell you all about it”. The first rule of crosstalk avoidance is to use noise reduction. The second is not to put anything bassy or percussive next to the track you use for SMPTE timecode. The third is to consider not putting anything light and delicate next to something loud and thrashing. Crosstalk can also cause a problem if you try to copy one track onto an adjacent track (this can happen when you mix - or bounce - tracks together to make extra room on the tape). Since the record signal in the head can be as much as 40dB louder than the playback signal, it’s not unreasonable to assume that it can leak into the adjacent element of the head. This circular path can create howlround which may be cured by not bouncing onto adjacent tracks, or by reducing the record level.

Edge tracks. The performance of the edge tracks on a multitrack tape is not as good as the other tracks because of head wear, poor head to tape contact or damage to the tape. The remedy is simple: don’t put anything important on the edge tracks.

Tascam MSR-24S

The Tascam MSR series recorders are all impressively chunky. They give you a feeling of confidence that your tape will be in good hands, so to speak. Once upon a time Tascam hamstrung themselves, in my opinion, by insisting on incorporating only the dbx noise reduction system in their equipment. Over the years I have found it difficult to be polite to dbx because, although it’s usually better than no noise reduction at all, it is markedly inferior to any of the Dolby noise reduction systems (apart from the most crude test where the noise level is measured with no signal present). But now Tascam are offering their 24-track pride and joy with Dolby S which puts it electronically on a par with Fostex, and allows Tascam’s proponents to claim that it might even have the edge.

Let’s suppose you are confronted with a Tascam MSR-24S, either in a studio or as a piece of equipment on hire. Even if you know tape recorders, you need to know the precise details of its operation, and the advantages it can offer. Step 1 is to know that the recorder itself must not be mounted on top of the separate power supply. Unfortunately there are two clashing ‘obviouses’ here - ‘obviously’ the two units match and ‘should’ be racked together and obviously the power supply will create a hum field that will be picked up to a certain extent by the heads. The latter is the more important. On the back of the machine, you might be inclined to check the Input Link switches. These can parallel the inputs to tracks 1-8 to 9-16 and 17-23. Unless internally modified, track 24 is left independent for timecode. The next step is to load a fresh reel of one inch tape.

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