If you want to really test your deck you should use reference type IV metal tape: Maxell Vertex or TDK MA-XG. Two best type II tapes that I tried were Nakamichi SX and Maxell XLII-S.
On my Nak 682ZX Vertex is clearly superior to everything else.
Nakamichi tape was re-branded TDK, supposedly "center cut". It is true that metal tape will perform slightly better at the frequency extremes, but I usually preferred the chrome tapes, which sounded more uniform and "musical" to me, and less expensive. The slight loss you heard is a limitation of cassette tape. It could never quite match a high-end vinyl rig. I wouldn't worry about it. The only way to come really close to vinyl is with a very fine, well adjusted, reel-to-reel; but the fact is, no copy can be as good as the origianl medium. BTW, even a "mint" Dragon almost certainly needs some attention at this point; it is pretty old, and they are very complex. I sent mine to Willy Herman, who did fine work at a very reasonable price.
Thank You Inna and Lloydc, Lloydc, me and my deck did pay a visit to Willy two weeks ago, he did a very fine job on it, he said the deck performed to spec, just was curious if the slight loss of fidelity was normal with tape media.As always you were very helpful.
I sent mine to Willy Hermann too.
Reference metal tape is better in every respect. Some do think that best type I tape can go a little lower in bass. Not in my experience.
Inna, thanks for the info, it's getting real hard to find TDK and Maxell Type IV tapes at reasonable prices. The Maxell Metal Vertex's asking price is about $120 a piece, MA-XG's are a bit reasonable. I have quite a few TDK SA-X Type II tapes and a couple of TDK MA and Sony Metal SRs. But will keep looking for the vertex's and MA-XGs.
Yeah,sealed Vertex goes for at least $75 and MA-XG for $40. Old MAs are better than newer ones. Maxell MX-S is quite good, usually $12-$15 a piece. Sony Metal Master and That's Suono just don't sound good on my deck, and Vertex and MA-XG are mechanically better. MA-R is good too but newest MA-XG with green shell is a little above it. Older MA-XG is the same as MA-R. Denon MG-X is OK too, a bit bright but clear and dynamic.
This is all with my deck. With your deck it may be somewhat different.
Even when they were new,this was a characteristic.I ended up making tapes for in the car only.
I had no idea metal tape cost so much now. I have not used my Dragon for recording in several decades. But Inna, with all due respect, back in the day I really did prefer the sound of chrome tape. Metal always sounded a bit harsh to me, better specs notwithstanding. I was not the only one who came to that conclusion. Metal "superiority" was analogous to the way solid state gear sounded in the 70's and 80's during the "spec wars". So, Livin, you might just experiment, with an open mind.
cassettes are so limited in the high frequencies, that when archiving a cassette to digital now, I usually play it back without Dolby decoding, then e.q. They sound pretty dull, otherwise.
Yeah, why not experiment with different types and brands? Just don't push the recording level too far; I use 5 for type II and 7 for type IV.
When it comes to Vertex and TDK MA-R and MA-XG it is not only the tape itself that counts, it is the anti-resonant case. It make a lot of a difference. As far as I know, the tape in TDK MA and MA-R (MA-XG) is the same.
Unlike Vertex. It is not the same tape as Maxell MX and MX-S. Though many who pay up to $100 for Vertex are collectors, some are audiophiles. I don't pay $100 a piece but for $50 I would buy a few pounds. There is a reason for that. And no there is no harshness whatsoever.
Thanks HifiHvn,Lloydc & Inna. I'm going to try the TDK MA tapes this weekend.I'm also planning on bumping up Bias levels during calibration bu about 0.5dB. Will let you know the results.
Thanks for all the great advice.
Livin,if I remember right,you should be able to adjust the bias while your recording,to see what sounds the best.I don't know if this is how you've been doing it,but its the best way to do it IMO.
I also seem to remember that chrome tape was more enjoyable to me also.The metal may have measured better,but did seem to have a harshness or grain about it.Specs aren't always everything.Our ears still could out do the best measuring equipment.This is just my personal experience.I think TDK was my first choice, (more cleaner,and detail),then Maxell.The SA series was good,and its too long to remember the others.
Thank you for the tip HiFiHvn, but I don't think the Dragon lets you calibrate the bias while recording is in progress. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
If its the 3 head,maybe the monitor/record button?I can't seem to find a manual.I think most 3 heads let you do this on the fly while recording.I think it did it through the speakers also,I don't remember whether the headphone would let you monitor the bias change during recording.I hope someone else chimes in that has one.[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakamichi] [http://forums.cnet.com/7723-7808_102-312487.html] [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49jC_vauAvU&feature=related]
Maybe I'm thinking of one of the reel to reels I had.Could be one of those senior moments.