The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Why the hate for "narrow format"? Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 17th December 2010
Lives for gear
softwareguy's Avatar

I spent significant amounts of time working on Tascam, Otari and Studer decks in various contexts in the old days. The reasoning for using a cheaper deck was always and only budget related and after you had a certain amount of experience with all of these machines you knew exactly what you were in for. The difference in the electronics between the Tascams and the Otaris was just enormous, to my ears. And working on a Studer or comparable deck was a comparable step up from there for me (although the 1" Otari 8 tracks sounded pretty damn great). Even at the time I considered it a serious impediment to any hope of a good session to be working on a Tascam, and this is even with trying all the various voodoo biasing strategies to try to get a good sound out of them, even if it was less flat technically. I kept praying that I could find a way to make them sound like a better machine, dreaming the impossible dream, wanting to be the one guy who could make magical recordings with them. They just sucked the life and soul out of everything.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you've put in the hours on a variety of these machines, it becomes very clear which ones are going to give back to you the energy that you're putting into them, and which ones are just going to bring you down. And it's not snobbery, it's just what you're stuck with. Or not.
Old 17th December 2010
Lives for gear

To round out some of the list:

2"/16, 1"/8 and .5"/4 have .070" track width and .057" track gaps.

1/4" 2-tracks have several formats: .075" is Ampex, 3M, etc. with a .084" guard band; .082" is NAB (originally half-track mono and later both mono and stereo) and .100 is European stereo.

1/2" 2-tracks have .200" tracks, or at least 3M machines in that format do.


Old 17th December 2010
Lives for gear
stagefright13's Avatar

Didn't seem like the track width was so much as a concern as were the electronics. Software guy is right. The Tascams had no where near the OOMPFF of the Otaris. The bottom end on them would be a tell tail sign. An in your face difference.

But over all the entire frequency spectrum was better. Used to know people that made the Studer decks personally. But never used one.

Old 17th December 2010
Motown legend
Bob Olhsson's Avatar

At least some of us thought 2" 24 track was a giant step down from 2" 16 track.

The narrow-gauge consumer multi-tracks had the same problem as a lot of today's digital converters. Wimpy sound from insufficient line stage headroom caused by tiny cheap power supplies. They also wore out very quickly from a mechanical standpoint.
Old 17th December 2010
Lives for gear
stagefright13's Avatar

Tape width was at a premium. And track counts went way up in the 80's. So the medium went 2 inch 24 track and mega electronics to compensate.

I went digital on An Amiga using a 16 bit sound card at that time. But the Otari's sounded better. My first taste of digital. Then they came out with DAT. Dropped lots of mixes to DAT. But the best ones are on half track. But I have to bake the Ampex 456...

Old 17th December 2010
Gear Nut
nate_dennis's Avatar

Originally Posted by joeq View Post
You seem to be taking away just what you want to take away........Nobody chose those decks because they were "fine" with a 'lower-fi' record....... I detect in your posts a form of reverse snobbery about low-fi. Reverse snobbery is still snobbery, when you come right down to it.........Further, I would wager that 90% of the qualities you perceive as "Fi" are achieved by instrumentation, microphone selection/placement and mixing techniques, not recording medium. I wonder how many of the recordings you admire were actually made on a Tascam or similar? Probably zero. I wonder when you get your Tascam how long it will take you to realize it's not giving you the 'sound' you thought it would?
First off: in order to want to take something away from a thread I would have to be searching for a specific answer. I am not. I was interested to see what kind of discussion could be had on this topic. I am admittedly unversed. I know that many people on other boards really love their Tascams and other "****" gear. So I was interested to see why people on this board don't.

Second: When I talk about people chosing decks because of the sound, I am speaking in todays market. Not yesterdays.

Third: any "reverse snobbery" you sense in my posts is most certainly read in. I love music. I love music recorded in pristine digital, dirty analog, and anything in between. I have grown tired of todays cookie-cutter music market and the production values that go with it. But this is not gear-snobbery. It is a love of art and music that means something.

Fourth: I am fully aware that instrumentation, mic placement, mixing, technique, room, etc all factor as heavily (if not more) than the medium. You mistake my lack of access to tape decks for a lack of experience with music, recording, production, etc.

Fifth: I don't give a **** what decks my favorite recordings were made on.

Originally Posted by softwareguy View Post
I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you've put in the hours on a variety of these machines, it becomes very clear which ones are going to give back to you the energy that you're putting into them, and which ones are just going to bring you down. And it's not snobbery, it's just what you're stuck with. Or not.
Awesome! Thank you for the information. I'd love to hear more about your work with various decks and what you learned. Someday I'll be able to afford a studer. But not any time soon!heh So until then, I'll pinch my pennies and get the best I can afford, treat my room, and place my mics carefully.
Old 18th December 2010
Lives for gear
glenn Taylor's Avatar

Originally Posted by analogpajamas View Post
I run a 2" JH-16 with new 16 track heads, and I still love my Otari MX5050mk3. Great machine!
+1 on that set up . In the 80's I used a Soundcraft 760 2" 16 track and mixed to a Otari 5050. I always wonder what it would have sounded like if I had a 1/2" 30ips mixdown deck? All this size and width matters talk can't help but remind me of my cousins last boyfriend up in Georgia truck. They broke up and she bought a bumper sticker.
Attached Thumbnails
Why the hate for "narrow format"?-3948970512_67592b198f_z.jpg  
Old 18th December 2010
It's real simple find a Otari or Tascam 1/2 8 track and a 2" 24 track. Record the same thing on both, and play them back. That should tell you why the smaller format is not happening.
Old 18th December 2010
Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
Nope, sorry. It doesn't. Actually, 1/4" 4-track has exactly the same track with of .043" as 2" 24 track. 1/2" 8-track is either .039" or .040" for most machines, which is at most 9% less. The guard bands, as I noted, are signifcantly narrower at .025" vs. .041".


Hmm... yes I did forget the guard band issue... I'll defer to your apparently much better grasp of the particulars here.

Good thing I prefaced my post with this proviso:
I can't answer for everyone -- but it was always my thought that 24/2" was, indeed, a bit of a compromise.
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.

Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread Starter / Forum
chrisg. / Gearslutz Secondhand Gear Classifieds
PlayRadioPlay / So much gear, so little time
rallycapmusic / Rap + Hip Hop engineering and production

Forum Jump
Forum Jump