Four into Four Will Go
Teczon Dub Multi 4x4
Currently the least expensive cassette multitracker to offer simultaneous recording on all four channels.
Meet the Teczon Dub Multi 4 X 4, a new competitor in the race to make home multitrack more affordable.
Although the Teczon Dub Multi 4x4 made its debut at the APRS show during the summer of 85, it's only now that it has become available. Immediately obvious from both its price tag (£429) and its general appearance is the fact that this is a budget 4-track device aimed at the beginners end of the market, offering slightly fewer facilities and costing less money than the majority of the competition. Nevertheless, even in this price range it is competing against several well established products of a similar nature, such as the Tascam Porta One, the new Vesta Fire MR10 and of course the Fostex X15. Where the Dub Multi 4x4 scores over these models is in the fact that all four tape tracks may be recorded simultaneously rather than just two at a time which is a common limitation found on budget machines.
Two power sources are available for the unit; eight batteries or an optional external mains adaptor. The model DM4x4D power supply recommended costs around £25 but at the current cost of batteries, it will pay for itself in no time.
In order to keep the tape noise low, Dolby C noise reduction is included though this may be switched out if not required and the tape transport runs at the standard cassette speed of 1⅞ips which means that you can play back your pre-recorded tapes or even add two further tracks to them.
Mic inputs (10K input impedance) are in the form of ¼" jack sockets and are situated on the front panel, whereas the line inputs are on the back panel are phono sockets. As for outputs, there is another ¼" jack socket on the front panel for headphone monitoring and two phono sockets on the rear panel for monitoring via a hi-fi system or for connecting to a stereo cassette recorder to accept your final mix. In addition, auxiliary outputs are provided for the connection of effects units or to feed the four tape tracks to another mixer. Two other sockets are also provided, one for the 12v DC mains converter and the other for an optional footswitch to control punching in and out.
One thing to watch out for is that you don't get into the habit of turning the machine off at the mains socket as then the batteries take over and expire quietly.
This serves two functions. The first is to process and direct signals being recorded onto tape and the second is to mix down tracks already recorded, either to produce a full stereo mix or an intermediate mix for bouncing down onto a spare track. If you're used to the layout of a conventional mixer, this one may appear to be a little convoluted.
The input gain control is not located at the top of the channel as you might expect but is right at the bottom where the channel fader usually lives. This sets the gain of either the Mic, Line or Tape input as selected by the nearby three way Input switch. The signal is then steered to the desired tape track by means of the Track Select switch which has four positions so you do not need to use the Pan control to perform any left/right routing.
"This is a budget 4-track device aimed at the beginners end of the market."
Above the Pan control is the Output level control which performs the same job as the more commonly used channel fader and this is used to set the level of the sound going onto tape and also to adjust the balance of a track in the mix.
Finally the EQ controls are to be found right at the top of the channel and these take the form of one bass and one treble control labelled Low and High respectively.
To the right of the four input Channels is a pair of faders which control the overall level of the stereo mix emerging from the master output on the rear panel and the level control for the headphones is situated directly above the faders.
To start with the transport controls; these are rather cumbersome, being of the mechanical piano key type rather than the soft touch controls that we have come to expect but they work well enough. However, use of this type of control precludes the usual method of dropping in, that is holding down the Play button whilst the tape is running and then pressing Record, so an alternative system has been devised. The machine is switched into ready to record mode by pressing Record and Play simultaneously but none of the channels will actually record anything until the red channel Rec/Punch In button is pressed. At this point, a red LED adjacent to the switch illuminates to let you know that that track is now recording. Alternatively you can put the transport in Record mode, depress the Pause switch and then push the Rec/Punch In buttons on the tracks you want to record. This way the red LEDs flash to indicate readiness and when the pause button is unlatched, the LEDs come on continuously to let you know that the tape is rolling in record mode. To get out of record mode you can either stop the tape or press the Master Rec/Punch In button situated below the master faders when all tracks will be reset to safe. Drop ins are performed in exactly the same way using these buttons and there is a rear panel socket which enables you to connect an optional punch in foot switch which is most useful if you are doing the job of session player and engineer at the same time.
"The tape transport runs at the standard cassette speed of 1⅞ips which means that you can play back your pre-recorded tapes or even add two further tracks to them."
The four non-illuminated moving coil meters monitor the signal level going onto tape during recording and coming off tape during mixdown.
The tape counter is mechanical and consequently should not be relied on for ultimate accuracy when executing drop ins but it is a useful guide and should be treated as such. The counter has an associated Reset button and next to this is the Cue/Normal monitor switch which is used when overdubbing or dropping in so that you can hear what is on tape already as well as hearing the instrument that is plugged into the machine when you enter record. The noise reduction In/Out switch affects all four channels simultaneously; there is no way to select noise reduction on some channels but not on others.
At the top right hand corner of the front panel is the mains switch and a very useful vari-speed control offering around ±15% variation in speed.
Despite the rather unorthodox control topography, the layout is clear and you should have absolutely no trouble in getting to grips with the thing. With the Output control set to its shaded area (about 2 o'clock), the Input may be adjusted to give a sensible meter deflection and a good starting point is to have the meter just going into the red on the loud sections. I say starting point because the level you can get away with depends to a large extent on the type of sound being recorded, cymbals or any other high frequency source need to be recorded at a much lower level than say vocals or they will sound distorted. Likewise you need to exercise care when recording drums as the meters cannot respond fast enough to indicate the true peak value. You really need to do a few experiments and let your ears be the final judge. On the other hand, don't record at too low a level otherwise tape hiss will become a problem, even with noise reduction.
Once you've set up the signal level, you can alter the tone using the EQ section and check the result of this using either headphones or an external monitor system such as a hi-fi set up. If you change the EQ drastically you may need to reset the Input gain control. Finally route the channel to the tape track of your choice using the Track Select switch and you're ready to go. If you want to record two or more instruments simultaneously, set up the next channel (or channels) in the same way and either route it to the same tape track as the first channel (in which case the sounds will be mixed together) or route it to a separate tape track so that you can alter the balance later.
If you want to bounce down you must leave at least one spare tape track to bounce onto and then the Input Select switches on the already recorded tracks are set to Tape. These tracks are then routed to the spare track using the Track Select switch. Again the level going onto tape is checked using the meters and the relative balance between the instruments is set using the Output controls. Then the tape is set to record on the spare channel and, if all has gone well, you should have a good mix which means that you can now record new instruments over the first three tracks. Remember too that a new instrument can be added live as you are bouncing down by plugging it into the spare input channel and then routing it to the same tape track as the other channels.
When all the tracks are full you can balance them with the existing submix and then record the mixed result onto a stereo machine. Normally the submix track would be panned to the centre and the three new tracks panned to any artistically viable position. If you want to fade out a track, you can use the master faders which are conveniently close together for this purpose.
By planning your track layout carefully you can bounce down several times but every time you do so the sound quality deteriorates noticeably. From this it can be be seen that there are two obvious rules: if you need to do a lot of bouncing then bounce the sounds that are least important in the mix and don't bounce more than you have to.
"This is the least expensive cassette based multitracker/mixer package to offer simultaneous recording on all four channels."
In order to assess this unit fairly I decided to feed it with the type of sounds commonly used by cassette multitrack owners which, if our readers tapes are anything to go by, consist largely of synths and drum machines. The first thing that became apparent is that the machine is quite easy to overload so you need to set the levels such that the meters register a few dBs below the red on the peaks rather than reading into the red as is more commonly the case. No tape type was specified so I tried both chrome and standard types and the standard seemed to offer a better margin of overload. Though the recorded sound loses a little of its top end clarity, there are no nasty side effects to the noise reduction such as pumping or transient overload and the noise performance is more than adequate. In my opinion the choice of Dolby C for use with cassette tapes is a good one. Even without the noise reduction switched in the results are not unduly noisy. However, when you start to bounce tracks down the quality starts to deteriorate and distortion becomes a problem before noise does. This is true to some extent of all analogue tape recorders and so the best plan is to map out your session so that the least bouncing is required.
Dropping in and out of record caused no noticeable clicks, and the way that the record buttons are organised make it virtually impossible for you to leave the wrong channel in record by mistake.
The control layout means that you can add EQ both at the recording and mixing stages allowing you to boost the top end when recording to partially offset the treble loss that seems to occur with so many cassette based systems.
One shortcoming is the lack of any dedicated effects send system so you can't add reverb to all the tracks without using an external mixer which is rather limiting. You can however add effects to individual tracks using the line in and out sockets on the rear panel but this is fiddly and relies on you having effects units with output level controls fitted. One very welcome feature is the inclusion of the four line outputs so that you can use an external mixer to do your final mix if you have access to one.
This is the least expensive cassette based multitracker/mixer package to offer simultaneous recording on all four channels, but at £429, it can't be considered exactly cheap. Bearing that in mind, it's probably reasonable to point out that the sound quality is not up to the standard of hi-fi cassette decks though it's more than adequate for demos. As a tool for the songwriter or arranger however, this machine is fine and the compromises in sound quality will only become a serious problem if you want to produce finished recordings to the highest possible technical standard or bounce down a lot of tracks. Again if you are really serious about quality you will probably opt for an open reel system.
If you need to have a machine that will record four tracks in one go and you are desperately trying to stretch your budget, then the Dub Multi 4x4 has got to be near the top of your list.
The Teczon Dub Multi 4x4 costs £429 and the power supply is a further £25.
Details are available from: John Hornby Skewes, (Contact Details).
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!