Using your steor tape deck instead : LUSENET : To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us : One Thread

I've read the book and have found it most interesting and wanted to, as James exhorts, "get started as soon as possible." To that end I used the first thing available: an Aiwa "walkman" with a small clip-on stero mike that I used to think was pretty good until I heard it reproduce my piano playing! The results were horrifying. Terrible wow and flutter and in general a totally crazy balance of dynamics. My (very good) piano sounded like a cheap guitar being drummed on with a wooden spoon, and the only thing that seemed accurately reproduced was the squeek of my floor boards as I walked over them. . .

So my question actually has three parts: 1) Assuming I were to merely buy one of the recommended mikes with it's own power supply, could I just unplug the tape deck from my stero system and bring it into the piano room and monitor it with head phones, and expect good results?

2) Assuming I were to buy a two-mike setup and try a stero recording, would I still get stereo effect from said deck with only one input?

3) Assuming said deck were getting long in the tooth, how does an equipment Luddite such as myself shop for a good quality 3-head deck to replace it with?

I have other comments and observations I'd love to make eventually about other aspects of the book, but would like to attend to these practical matters first. Many thanks!

George Gilliland Amateur Classical Pianist, Piano Technology Enthusiast

-- George Gilliland (, February 24, 1999


Sorry for not checking my typing before submitting that previous post. I obviously meant -stereo- cassette deck, as in stereo component. I hope my butchery of that word doesn't result in confusion. . .

stereo, stereo, stereo. . .

I think I've got it now. George

-- George Gilliland (, February 24, 1999.

To continue my one-person dialog, I have since noticed that my deck actually -does- have a right and left imput, rather than a single jack as I mistakenly asserted. Also, I have noticed that connecting the walkman to it's wall transformer rather than using batteries eliminates most of the wow and flutter, although listening to the tape on my stereo deck results in a pitch that's an entire semitone sharp! Yuk.

This may have been addressed in the book, but does the Sony TCD-D5 have pitch adjustment? And maybe someone out there knows of a quality stereo tape deck with pitch adjustment (I'm already thinking cheap Blumlein pair recording in my own living room). Based on my own shopping in the past, "quality tape deck" would seem to be an oxymoron.

Removing the "oxy" from the "moron," I remain. . . George Gilliland

-- George Gilliland (, February 25, 1999.

Glad you're trying the techniques. Note that lots of things can be done even with lousy equipment. Be sure you just go ahead and do them!

If your deck can work with a mike of its own, it will probably work OK with most high-output external mikes. These will be of the type called "electret condensers" or, if more expensive, just plain "condensers." However, check the manual or with the mfr. to be sure that it doesn't have some weird thing restricting it to certain kinds of mikes.

Many good mikes have lower output, and these will require a mike preamp as described in the book.

You won't do true "Blumlein" technique because there aren't any inexpensive (or even moderately-priced) good-quality figure-8 microphones. I haven't found even any good so-called "M-S" microphones either (the other kind of 'single-point' stereo mike). Sony has a model 957 for $300 list that's not too bad.

The TCD-D5 I recommend is a 2-head deck. Wish it were three, but I don't know a recommendable 3-head that's as useful otherwise (for a portable deck).

I don't know about pitch control. You shouldn't need it. The disparity between your two decks simply means their relative speed is off by 6% (1/2-tone). If you record & play on same deck, doesn't matter; only matters if record on one & play on the other.

TCD-D5 deck plus Beyer M260 killer combination for very reasonable price. Get two mikes if you must have a sort of stereo; in that case, also get the Beyer "stereo bar" to mount them. And get a shock mount for The Entire Assembly, so that the two mikes stay in same place relative to each other.

Good luck!

-- James Boyk (, February 25, 1999.

James, excuse me for browbeating you for more technical answers, and I will certainly attempt to desist shortly, but in my search for a deck, two names that continually surface at the better audio outlets are (portable) Marantz, and (not portable) Tascam.

My needs are do not require portability and the Tascam units in particular would seem attractive for the dual purposes of recording my playing, and replacing my crummy Onkyo tape deck as a play-back component in my stereo system. Their technical descriptions would indicate a quality transport mechinism (something that always seems to be lacking in tape decks), and low distortion.

Do you have an opinion on these products?

I will certainly defer to your miking suggestions! Thanks,

George Gilliland Amateur Classical Pianist

-- George Gilliland (, March 02, 1999.

I want this forum to focus on music and the learning techniques in the book, rather than audio equipment. (I've got a separate forum for that.) I spent lots of time over a period of years evaluating just about everything in the market -- in or near the price range I've chosen -- so that my readers won't have to do it! So the recommendations in the book and the Update stand. Just go ahead & follow them; I don't think you'll be disappointed. (If you don't have the update, send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope marked Update in one corner & I'll send you a copy. Mail to me at Music Lab, 102-31 Caltech, Pasadena, CA 91125.)

Just as an example, the four Marantz machines I evaluated -- two of one model, then a third of the same model years later, after they said they'd changed its performance; and one of another model at the later time -- all had bad wow & flutter; they were certainly not recommendable. I do mention the Tascam DA-P1, an expensive DAT deck, in the Update; but I don't think it actually does so well sonically as the Sony cassette deck.

I did all that work so that we wouldn't need to have these conversations. If you want to get some other tape deck, I'm sure there are many good ones available; the problem is that the wow & flutter spec is just about meaningless. Just this week, for example, I'm evaluating a machine with bad flutter -- ruinous for clarinet, e.g. -- yet it measures fantastically well. So you need a machine with low Audible wow & flutter -- and then you'll need an outboard mike preamp. Why not just get the machine I recommend, which has good W&F and a built-in preamp?

Please -- don't let these issues stand in the way of actually getting started! Just borrow something if you're unsure about what to buy or if you don't trust my recommendations!

-- James Boyk (, March 02, 1999.

Respectfully noted, and thank-you. . . I wasn't aware of your technical forum, and will desist. My apologies.


-- George Gilliland (, March 02, 1999.

No need to desist! I'm just trying to say that I have *done* all the work for you already; no need to repeat it.

If, on the other hand, audio as a subject in itself interests you, then by all means post to my audio forum...

First, however, do read my article "The Perfectly Complete, Completely Perfect, Thinking Person's Guide to Stereos," which was a finalist in the Nat'l Magazine Awards. It and other of my pieces are linked from

In all honesty, though, it is ==>very difficult to choose audio gear in any rational way unless you have special knowledge and facilities.

-- James Boyk (, March 02, 1999.

James, it's great that you've done all this work to sort out and recommend equipment. You say you've evaluated almost everything on the market -- it would be helpful if you were able to post the equipment that you have tried and rejected in addition to the stuff you recommend. Maybe you have already done so in your technical forum, which I will look at next...


-- Alec Kercheval (, July 07, 2000.

I meant that I'd evaluated just about all the portable tape decks. (There are far too many microphones to evaluate.) It occurred to me to publish my reviews of the units I *don't* recommend, but I decided against it because this always seems to invite further discussion, whereas the point of this forum is to encourage not discussion of audio but discussion of music-learning techniques.

-- James Boyk (, July 07, 2000.

Mr. Boyk, I see that you have come close to withdrawing your recommendation of the Beyer M260 (according to the guitar mike question). What are your thoughts about that microphone at present? I'm also a bit confused by the fact that Beyer Dynamic seems to call their ribbon mikes dynamic mikes; and I thought the physics was different on a ribbon mike. I'd like to get right to the music... but after listening to my own tape deck; I'm going to have to go and buy some equipment. I'd love it if you could include revised recommendations for mikes and pre-amps on your password-protected page at some point. Thanks, Jean

-- Jean (, January 30, 2002.

All ribbons are dynamics, but not all dynamics are ribbons. When a professional refers to a "dynamic mike," one does not expect that he or she means a ribbon.

You're right that I'm less enthusiastic now about the Beyer 260, while still recognizing that it's a fine professional mike. Regretfully, I don't think I'll have time for "revised recommendations for mikes and pre-amps," because my practicing, teaching & writing--and engineering "The Musician's Ear" microphone--don't leave me enough the very large amounts of time necessary for the kind of careful evaluations I do.

-- james boyk (, February 06, 2002.

The Beyer M260 is a hypercardioid single ribbon mic, a true classic. Ribbons in general combine the advantages of dynamic and condenser mics. The ribbon sounds very smooth and has the nicest off axis response of all microphones, so bleed from other instruments (when playing together) will sound a whole lot nicer than bleed into a SM57 for example. You can't overload a ribbon with hi tones, like many condensers will sound very shrill when overloading with the high content of a tamborine. That makes the ribbon very special. The only disadvantage is the low output, so you better use a very good pre amp.

Hope this helps.

-- Han Swagerman (, October 23, 2004.

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