Import audio from 4-track tape recorder

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by stevemgrimes, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. stevemgrimes macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2009
    #1
    I have an old 4-track tape recorder with 4 outputs, which I would like to connect to a Mac and import all 4 tracks at once to GarageBand for editing. I've seen USB adapters that have two RCA inputs, and am thinking that if I purchased and connected 2 of these adapters, I would be able to run them simultaneously.

    Anyone know if this works?


    Thanks for any help!
     
  2. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #2
    RE: Import audio from 4-track tape recorder

    stevengrimes wrote:
    "I have an old 4-track tape recorder with 4 outputs, which I would like to connect to a Mac and import all 4 tracks at once to GarageBand for editing. I've seen USB adapters that have two RCA inputs, and am thinking that if I purchased and connected 2 of these adapters, I would be able to run them simultaneously.
    Anyone know if this works?"

    That's an interesting question. In some ways it's related more to how USB works, rather than the intricacies of audio.

    Before going further, you mean a 4 CHANNEL tape recorder, and not just 4 "tracks", is that correct? I still have an old 4-track stereo reel-to-reel, but it records and plays back only 2 tracks (channels) at a time.

    Perhaps the only way you may actually find out is to buy 2 of the adapters and give it a try. How much apiece are they? The downside is you might plug 2 of them in, only to find that the Mac will "recognize" just one, or perhaps none at all (due to the devices conflicting with each other).

    The other option - of course - is to get an audio interface (USB or Firewire) that has 4 discrete line-level inputs, and import the four channels that way.

    For example, the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra has the requisite number of line level inputs. It's USB 2.0 and I believe you need USB 2.0 (NOT USB 1.1) to utilize all the inputs simulatneously.

    Another option might be to digitize the tracks "two at a time", or even individually, converting them into .aif files. Then, import the files into GarageBand (or another digital audio app), and "re-align" them for editing. Probably much less difficult than it sounds.

    There are other pro-audio forums on which you also should investigate. There are even some pro-audio services that can do this for you (and provide high-quality output), for a fee. Depends on how valuable the material is and how much you wish to spend.

    - John
     
  3. stevemgrimes thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2009
    #3
    It's actually a 4-track recorder, which lets you record / play back all 4 tracks simultaneously. It's basically a souped-up cassette player, which has a dual-sided head. You don't flip the tape over - it plays what would normally be both sides at the same time. I have the masters we used many years ago when I was in a band, and am looking to remix and preserve the audio digitally.

    The tape unit has 4 discrete outputs.

    The audio adapters I was looking at are $30 each. It looks like the unit you stated might do the job, but it's way more than I'd like to pay. I only have 8-10 masters that I'm going to import, then I won't need this equipment anymore - everything will be digitized.

    Thanks
     
  4. mchalebk macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2008
    #4
    I don't think you can use multiple I/O devices in an application like GB. I believe your two choices are to either get a 4-input I/O device or import 2 tracks at a time and manually sync them up.

    The 2-at-a-time route really shouldn't take that long or be that difficult. If you don't have the funds for a 4-input I/O device, I'd suggest this route.
     
  5. Rychdom macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2009
    #5
    The manual import option is no good. I have just tried this option and, because of the nature of analog tape, the tracks cannot be lined up and they are out of tune with each other. Even if you did two at a time, the results would not be adequate. The tape will never run at EXACTLY the same speed, meaning the four-at-a-time import is the only option. Is there any confirmation as to whether this is possible with GB?
     
  6. mchalebk macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2008
    #6
    You can most certainly record four tracks at the same time with GB, but I'm pretty certain you need a single I/O device with four inputs. I've used my Presonus Firebox to record four channels at a time into GB. (I believe GB can handle 8 channels at a time with the right interface.)
     
  7. mashmarlow macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2012
    #7
    help

    i have a different problem with trying to digitize my 4-track tapes. i have a tascam portastudio 414 and two shoeboxes filled with tapes that i want to digitize with garageband. i'm using my stereo out to my firebox interface into my mac, but garage band will only register one side. its not in mono, just literally only acknowledges a signal on the right side. i need to know what i gotta do to make it recognize both sides so i can get a move on with my tapes. please help.
     
  8. BrianBaughn macrumors 603

    BrianBaughn

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Location:
    Baltimore, Maryland
    #8
    Expanding on what Fishrrman suggested, on the 4-track you could put a "blip" on all four tracks at the same time, then transfer two tracks at a time and line up the blips in your digital editor. However, the nature of the mechanical 4-track would probably result in some "drift" between the two passes resulting in sync problems and probably phasing.

    I don't know if you could run two USB devices as you described, creating a single "aggregate device" from the two.

    I agree that you should look into getting a device capable of four simultaneous inputs.
     

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