Gateway's Sound Advice column
More readers' queries are answered by the expert teaching staff of London's Gateway School Of Recording & Music Technology.
The start of a regular column where members of the teaching staff of the Gateway School Of Recording & Music Technology answer readers' questions.
Q: For the last three years I have been the proud owner of a Nakamichi 582 cassette deck, using it mainly as a master mixdown recorder for the songs and jingles I write.
The Nakamichi performs beautifully, and with the separate record and playback heads that are essential for quality A/B comparisons, I often find it impossible to hear any difference between the input signal and the off-tape signal. But, no matter how wonderful it all sounds on my system, (Technics SUV2 amp, Chartwell PM 200 speakers), I can never seem to obtain comparable results when playing one of my tapes on another brand of cassette deck. And before you roll your eyes heavenward, yes my azimuth is correctly aligned!
I asked Music Labs in Euston about this, and what they told me was not music to my ears. Nakamichi, they said, use a different track width allocation from the norm, and I would never hear exactly what I recorded unless it was replayed on another Nakamichi machine. That, they said, was why you never find them in professional recording studios.
Well, is it true? Have I wasted my time, talent and spondoolicks on a non-compatible cassette system?
A: I spoke to a representative of Nakamichi in the UK about the anomalies in line-up procedure between Nakamichi cassette decks and other manufacturers' machines. It appears that indeed there is a difference in track width and azimuth but this does not have to cause immediate panic amongst Nakamichi owners. The differences are not only differences of format but also of 'line-up' procedure, and if a Nakamichi machine is 'lined-up' to Nakamichi standards, then there is a good chance that the tape will sound different when played on another machine. However, all these differences can be dealt with by adjusting the azimuth from a conventional test tape and lining the Nakamichi up like any ordinary machine.
At the Gateway Cassette Copying Plant, our colleagues have 50 Nakamichis that they use for high quality, real-time duplication. All these machines have been re-aligned and produce truly wonderful quality when played back on other machines.
Nakamichi themselves will only line up machines to their own standards. However, I have spoken to Roger Quested and he will be pleased to hear from anyone who wishes to have their Nakamichi re-aligned. He can be contacted on (Contact Details)
Q: I have an extremely large interest in synthesizers, effects, recording and mixing desks, and I would dearly like to know how it is possible to start a career involving these kinds of equipment - be it designing or making them.
I have nine 'O' level passes and am currently studying Physics, Maths and English at 'A' level together with piano lessons in my spare time. I have experience in the use of synthesizers and amplifiers and I usually spend a lot of time fiddling around with a soldering iron and various bits of wires.
A: This question is really about the two sides of the recording industry, ie. the studio and the manufacturing sections.
First of all, in terms of design and making of equipment, it is best for you to contact the various Personnel Departments of the equipment manufacturers and find out what qualifications they need for employment. There is also an excellent course in musical instrument technology which is run by Tim Orr at the London College of Furniture which may be of interest and you can contact them on (Contact Details).
In the world of sound recording there are not, and never have been, any official qualifications or recognised diplomas and this does not look as though it will change in the forseeable future. There are several places offering courses in sound recording (eg. Tonmeister Course at Surrey University. (Contact Details).) and indeed we run courses here at Gateway. However, a course can give you knowledge of sound recording but, as in any creative pursuit, there is no short-cut to learning from experience.
It is well known that there are very few careers in sound recording open each year and, unfortunately, the only way of getting in seems to be by consistently contacting all the studios.
Q: I recently bought a Sequential Drumtraks drum machine. Although the drum samples are excellent and the programmable tuning and volume superb, every time you use these functions memory gets chewed up like thin air. The drawback is the machine isn't letting me be as creative as I would like. Do you know of any memory expansion for it which increases its capacity by about 10 times, as the standard memory is just too small?
Also, a number of times I have lost all the memory contents on power-up and am getting totally peeved off loading cassettes into it! Could you answer these queries in your mag as no-one else seems interested in this machine anymore?
No address supplied
I have spoken to several people about the lack of memory in the Drumtraks and it appears that there has been no memory expansion available for this machine in the UK. The Drumtraks, of course, is now no longer produced although there have been several software updates in the past. However, there is a small firm in the USA called Computer Music Systems who sell a board that expands the Drumtraks memory by 4 times. It costs around 250 dollars though. You can phone them on (Contact Details)
The problem with memory loss on power-up has been sorted out by Ron Lebar of The Synthesizer Service Centre, (Contact Details). He should be contacted about any problems you have with the Drumtraks and, indeed, about any problems with drum machines and synthesizers generally.
Further information about the full range of Gateway courses can be obtained by writing to: (Contact Details)
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