Once upon a time….
In the 80’s only a limited number of possibilities were available to mix and then ‘print’ your songs in a professional way. In the beginning when I recorded on 4 tracks (cassette) there was only the option to mix down the final mix to another cassette. But later in the 80’s I became aware of another method to mixing and printing the music and that was by using a HiFi VHS recorder using a high quality VHS tape. This required a special recorder that was able to record the music with a high signal-ratio level. Yet the mixing process could be quite troublesome. You had to leave some space on the tape before you actually started to record to get the best quality and there could be random drop outs, crackles and noise bursts.
Through 1987 until 1989 it would be my preferred method of mixing down music. Recently I acquired a HiFi VHS recorder that enabled me to listen back to these old mixes. I was glad to find that they actually quite well stood the test of time. although in some cases there were the above mentioned anomalies. The other surprise was that I rediscovered music that I considered to be lost or simply forget about. For example I knew I recorded a tune called Bewildered in Fantasy around 1986 and on one of the VHS tapes I found it.
This song was originally recorded on a 4-track Fostex X-15 recorder, that produced a real compressed (nice, I think) sound. The amount of music I found back on these VHS tapes is quite overwhelming (ca. 2 hours of music).
In a later period, when I already had started working with a computer (Atari ST) and had acquired a number of external synths I mixed down the music directly from the mixing desk to VHS tape. An example of this is the song Seagull For a Day that most likely was recorded in 1989. The quality I quite astonishing for a tape that was not used for over 25 years.
Around 1990 the ‘VHS era’ ended when I switched to DAT tape. That enabled me to mix (and later on master) the music to CD quality (44.1 KHz sample rate) and most of all, the recordings on tape were very reliable. The songs on DAT tapes were automatically recognised so you could jump from track to track or search directly for a certain track. It was in the second half of the 90’s that I would start a technique called ‘bouncing’ which basically means that the music ‘stays’ in the computer: the mix or master is directly becoming an audio file and this technique I still use until today.
The most interesting tracks that I found on VHS tape I will remix and master. Because of the impressive number of tracks it will keep me busy for some time to come and I will post regularly the results on SoundCloud.
For more information on VHS mixing and mastering I suggest you reading this: