I promised to post something about the Fostex X-26 multitrack recorder previously. So far I haven’t done so but today I’ve been “mixing” (well, that’s a big word for panning and setting the volume levels) a demo I’ve recorded with it previously. Since I’ve got the new ‘studio’ set up now, I thought this would be a good moment to ‘mix’ the track and transfer it to my laptop. And also a good moment to tell a little more about it.
Back in the 80s I had a friend who owned a TEAC 4-track recording machine. Not the cassette 4-track but a real tape recorder. With the big tapes. So anyway, since that time I’ve been interested in recording and worked with simple stereo cassette recorders untill I started using computers for it almost a decade later. Somehow I got interested in recording on tape again. Probably because I wanted to ‘go back to the basics’. I started searching on youtube and noticed many people still use 4track cassette recorders. And what’s more, they were available on Ebay and sites like that.
In the Netherlands and Germany they’re still expensive, but I managed to secure one on Ebay from the USA. After buying a power converter (we have 220 ~ 230 volts here) I started fooling around with it. I still don’t know everything about it, but I did manage to record two tracks around Christmas. And I will probably do some more in the future. Because I like it’s simplicity and the fact it can be used as a portable “studio” so easily.
The audio quality is, of course, less. There’s hiss. There’s less “power” in the recordings (you can’t use compressors and stuff like that during mixing unless you use outboard gear). But on the other side: it’s pure, raw, honest music.
The Fostex has 4 inputs so you could record multiple musicians at the same time. Or, record a song track by track by rewinding the tape, select another channel, add the instrument and so on and when all 4 tracks are occupied you can mix it. Or, you can record up to two tracks, “bounce them” and add additional instruments, “bounce” them, add more and so on. This will, however, effect the quality of the recording. The more you do ‘bounces’, the more hiss you’ll get.
The recordings I made in december 2014 were done using a ‘standard’ tape. Later on I found out you will need better quality tapes like the TDK SA’s. I went online and found someone selling 20 tapes, still sealed, for less than 40 euro’s including shipment. Decided to buy them all. This means I can record up to 15 hours (equal to about 300 songs) of material before I will need to re-use a tape.. I don’t think that day will come anytime soon.
So here’s my last song I recorded using the fostex. It’s a song I’ve recorded in one take (guitar and vocals) on two separate channels allowing me to adjust volume and panning afterwards. After transferring it to my computer I’ve added a little compression and reverb. That’s all. Didn’t remove hiss, no overdubs, no autotune …
Some about the song, before you click on “play”
The song tells the story of a man who takes his life after an unhappy marriage and a legal battle following afterwards over the children’s custody. After years of legal battles and facing bankruptcy because of that he decides to take his life. This song was based on his farewell letter.
There’s a lot more to tell about this, but this basically summarises it.