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Project Notes: Crosstalk on a cassette

Filed under: cassettes,project notes,reels — 2006-03-23 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2006-03-26 by

I received a cassette from a client and he complained that the previous recording was audible as well as the new recording.

There are several ways this can happen:

  • The erase head can be dirty—this usually leads to high frequencies being erased and lower frequencies still audible
  • The erase head can be misaligned—this often provides a partial erasure, but careful use of track selection can find a section of track with less crosstalk.
  • A similar problem occurred on quarter-track reels with misaligned record heads where recordings from the opposite direction would invade the tracks for the forward directions. Again, a specially adjustable narrow head usually solves this.
  • A completely non-functioning erase system—this is what we suspect happened with the current project. There were no track dissimilarities nor any other way we could find, including looking at the tape with the 8-track cassette recorder to separate the underlying, unwanted recording from the wanted one.
  • A totally unrelated mechanism that may sound the same is if the microphone or tape recorder picks up a broadcast or other radiated signal and records that along with the desired signal.

We opted not to proceed with any noise gating as it would not improve the overall audio quality for listening and may actually impede transcrption.

While not a success, we were able to confirm to the client that there was no way that could preserve the fidelity of the desired sound and remove the undesired sound. The desired interview was completely intelligible and could be transcribed. It was just distracting to listen to.

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