TE-2 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
( Extensive discussion and Q&A here )
What kind of cassettes do you recommend buying?
The two readily available and great sounding tapes that we recommend are the TDK SA and the MAXELL XL II. Go with either of those and you'll have a great tape. They have a wide frequency response and provide a strong level of sound well above the noise floor. They also saturate very smoothly and musically as you drive the tape harder. With all cassette tapes there is generally some caution you should have when buying the longest lengths, such as 120 minutes, since sometimes the companies need to alter their chemcical formulation just slightly in order to achieve a more compact layer on the tape so that more tape can physically fit in the shell. We can't answer specific questions about this matter, but we have spoken with enough experts to know that, in both of these forumlations above, all lengths up to 100 minutes give the same performance. It may be that 120 is also the same, we just don't know for sure. The costs you should expect to pay for one of these new unwrapped tapes on the used market is around 6 dollars. You can buy packages to get deals.
What do the filters sound like?
The voltage controlled OTA based 4 pole low pass filter is extremely similar to the classic Roland filters of the 1970's modular/synth world. It is worth noting that it is very low noise however, and also very low idle distortion. We experimented by ear with a lot of classic filter topologies and this design has a very transparent idle peformance, i.e. nothing is happening to the sound when the knob is turned "off". That was surprisingly difficult to achieve using some of those old filter concepts. Another note is that it was equally difficult to get it so that when it was driven hard during filter "use" (with the knob actually doing something) that it would have a nice non-clippy drive. We're proud of the technical performance all around. The actual musicality is pretty self explanatory if you are at all familiar with this kind of filter in use, as it does all of the great classic cutoff and resonance behaviors you'd want it to. We also feel that we set up the feedback path gain to allow for an overall ideal general interrelationship with itself so that signal is present in the right amount when que'ing up resonance.
The high pass filter is also a 4 pole voltage controlled filter that is based on OTA circuits, so it is "vintage" in personality. It has a terrific sense around the cutoff point as you pull it from sub frequencies up through the mids up into highs. Using a signal source that is wide frequency such as a full band playing, it's really quite fun to scoop it upwards. From a tech standpoint, it's also just as transparent and and nice behaving when driven. As completely opposed to the LPF, we actually got it on the first try with the HPF. The core of its signal path is rather datasheet based for the LM13700. The control is not though.
Back to back, the HPF and LPF provide a concise and precise musical toolkit that is surprisingly not offered very much by anyone given it's usablity.
Can I use a TE-2 for my guitar or with my guitar pedals
Yes, it has proper guitar connections IN and OUT, and additionally for INSERT. Not only can you put your TE-2 into your guitar setup, you can also use your other pedals "inside" of the TE-2's internal echo feedback path, opening up all sorts of horizons for altering the sound of your TE-2.
Is there a manual?
The TE-2 page above is the home of the manual. As of 6/15/2020, the chapters are still being populated.
What can the TE-2 do that the TE-1 couldn’t do?
The TE-2 introduces a set of musical features that build upon the possibilities of a tape machine that haven't been explored very much other than in DIY experiments. The motor speed is at our disposal as well as an array of tone shaping, all armed with various "control" options for these parameters. Imposing this stuff onto moving mechanical parts opens up results that probably haven't been heard much.
What is the voltage standard for CV controls?
-5 to +5, "BiPolar" standard
Is the TE-2 durable? What is the overall “build quality”?
We consider the build quality of the TE-2 to be "boutique.' It is very solid, with all electromechanical hardware being of high quality and being properly mounted to the faceplate when applicable. The faceplate and enclosure themselves are made of lasercut 1.6mm H32 5052 Aluminum that is powder coated and screen printed in traditional methods. Many know this to be the most durable type of graphics application possible. The custom knobs on the TE-2 are aluminum, not plastic, and they are mounted via perfectly centered knurled shafts onto the custom pots which are themselves the best we've ever felt in the 9mm format. The pots feel just like smooth firmly rotating full size pots. They really do, and they handle like larger knobs because of this resistance. The faders were also carefully selected, and one of the factors also was stability of motion. They slide with firm smoothness just like the pots turn. The wood ends are 1/2" thick Teak, made in house. Teak is a hard wood and have proven to be one of the most druable woods out there, even through lots of rainy seasons. We do ask that you please don't place your TE-2 on the ground in the pathway of a tornado.
What do the 1-8 Buttons do? What are all of those faders for? How does the set system work?
It's best to consider the TE-2 as having "positions". There are 8 of them. Then we use positions either stably or in motion.
When you power up the TE-2, you're automatically in position #1. It will stay in position #1 forever unless you change that. Similarly, you can put the TE-2 in one of the other positions #2-#8 by pressing the #button. The machine will stay in that position forever unless you change that. Or turn the TE-2 off.
But backing up...
When you power up the TE-2, you can just focus on the main knobs at the bottom as if the whole thing was just that itself.. A tape echo with just those knobs. This is position #1. You can ignore the upper stuff completely. You also don't need to patch anything.
If you select a parameter with the White toggle switch, and turn on that set with its button so that its LED is on, then every time you move to a different position #2-#8 you are then controlling said selected parameter with your #'d fader.
Example: Put the White toggle in "TM" (TIME), and turn on that set with the button so the LED is illuminated. Now your White set is on, but the other two sets are still off. Now look at all white faders.. so that's #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 and #8, White faders only. Assuming you're starting from position #1, press #5 and instantly your White fader in the "5" column controls TIME as if it were the main knob and you ignore the main knob now. So if you' were coming from #1 and your main TIME knob was around the middle (12 o'clock) but your #5 White fader is around 3/4 up, when you jump over to #5 (by pressing the #5 button) you will increase your TIME setting a bunch.. by 1/4 turn. From 1/2 to 3/4. It will then stay there forever in position #5 until you switch to another position. So back to starting from power up and already in position #1... If you press #5, #1, #5, #1 back and forth over and over by hand pressing the buttons, your TIME (delay length) setting will go back and forth between the main TIME knob setting (#1) and the #5 White fader setting.
In one way, you can think of this as if they are presets in a plugin. In the above example, the White faders can be considered as 7 alternate settings for the TIME parameter. You could go to #2, send in some snare drums into the TE-2 and get the delay TIME setting you want using the #2 White fader and leave it there, then later in the day go to #3 and send in some pre recorded vocals and get the delay TIME setting you want for it using the #3 White fader and leave it there, then perhaps the next day send in some mono synth and set up White fader #4 for the delay setting you want and leave it here, so on and so forth with all the White faders. You have up to 8 positions to consider as TIME presets. The main knob, then #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8 White faders can be left in place for instant recall.
You can also switch the White toggle to RS (LPF Resonance) or MA (Modulation Amount) and treat the White faders in the above "8 presets" approach but for that parameter instead.
You also have Grey faders, which can control FB (Feedback), MS (Modulation Speed) or LP (LPF Cutoff), and can be arranged in the same manner as above. And then you have the Black faders, which can control TP (Tape level), DR (Dry Level) and HP (HPF Cutoff) and used as above.
The White set, Grey set, and Black set can each be turned on or off independently. So by having just the White set turned on, only your selected White parameter will change when you press different #'s by hand. But if you also have the Grey set and Black set turned on, you'll have three parameters changing positions and thus changing settings.
So all of that can be considered as "presets" and don't require motion to be usable. In the plug-in "storage" approach, you could for example have Resonance, Low Pass Cutoff, and Tape Level all be pre arranged in 8 different configurations that are recallable by pressing the # button that you want to hear.
You can start to of course use this in the context of "playing" the machine.. If you focus on just one set, perhaps just the Grey set with LP selected, turn it on and keep the Black set and White set off, have a bunch of Resonance turned up fully or mostly fully so that your LPF cutoff is either self oscillating or at least nice and apparent, then have 8 different settings in place for the cutoff with your Grey faders since that's what it's controlling, you could use your left hand at the 1-8 buttons to flip around between 8 different cutoff frequencies of the filter however you want. You could use it for making hard changes per measure of a song in a live electronic set, or you could change it for whole long segments of music that have sensitively established cutoff points that aren't that easy to dial in quickly on the fly. You'd know they were there, perhaps while on stage, and could engage the cutoff point by pressing the button # you wanted. That's a it of a crude example since dialing in a cutoff point might not be that hard really, but you get the idea.
To take things to more musical refinement... There are Drift (slew) pots for each set. The White set, Grey set, and Black set each have a slew pot. The slew is directly after the output of the Set CV and is in line before it hits the selected parameter. In the above example of using the Grey set to shift between 8 different positions/settings of LPF cutoff and with some resonance turned up on main RES knob, you could turn up some slew for Grey set and there would no longer be hard changes between different LPF cutoff settings. There would instead be some slew/drift between them. You can turn the Drift up just a little bit to smooth the transition, or you could turn it up pretty high and have say 6 seconds of time that it takes to reach the position's setting you just pressed. Make sense? So... if you're sitting in #1, your LPF cutoff is sitting in a certain spot, and you press #5 to go to #5 Grey fader's LPF cutoff setting, and you have the Drift up say 3/4 for the Grey set, it will take several seconds for the transition to occur. Since the resonance is up high, it'll sound just like a classic filter sweep that takes several seconds to transition between the two settings.
This is all still just using the positions in a stable context. When you have all three sets active, it can get very complex but it can also just be more musically usable. You can use the TE-2 as a cassette synthesizer by playing back a pre recorded pitch on tape... Have the White set on Time (pitch), the Grey set on Low Pass Filter, and the Black set on Tape Level, and have 8 different positions to "play" by hand using the 1-8 buttons. In that arrangement, that's having "pitch, tone, and volume" available making for a dynamic playable situation using buttons #1-#8. Then, if you introduce different amounts of Drift on each pitch, tone, and volume, you can get some organic transition between 8 positions, and they don't need to be the same.
When you run the Cycle, it constantly moves to the next step just like any basic sequencer. In the context of the TE-2 it changes the position of the machine just like pressing a #1-#8 button. There is a rate knob which allows for very slow stepping at minimum (many seconds), and very fast stepping at maximum (audio rate motion). There is a rotary knob that selects what the last step will be, so that you can limit it to being a #1-#2 trade off back and forth, a full #1-#8 cycle, or anywhere in between such as #1-#6. You can think of the Cycle as modulation. If you for example have your LPF cutoff chosen for your Grey set, and your resonance is self oscillating, you could crank the rate up so that you have some pretty rapid change.. you'll have essentially a square wave of LPF cutoff change. But if you introduce some Drift to that Grey set, you'll get tailorable smooth CV changes.
What are the basic physical specs of the TE-2? What’s the HP?
The TE-2, including the wood ends, is 355 MM long, 135 MM deep/wide, and 59 MM tall. It is a 64HP enclosure/module.
Does the TE-2 have a banana jack version?
Yes, and as of now the price for this optinal banana jack version is 75 USD. All of the 16 small jacks get converted to banana jacks.
Can the TE-2 be used in stereo? Does the TE-2 have multiple tracks?
It is a mono machine. The cassette heads actually have two "tracks" on them to begin with but those two tracks are double-wired/together become one for double the tape fidelity of standard cassette sound. This is a part of why the space case (TE-1 as well) sounds very good. Other reasons relate to electronics design/quality. Also, separating the heads to be two tracks (in a push towards stereo capability) would require doubling nearly the entire physical circuitboard, and also adding new requirements such as how to handle perfectly symmetrical performance of CV controlled pathways (ie. do want want our resonant LPF to sound like it's at a different frequency on the left than the right?), and bias/phase performance being more difficult for end users to navigate down the road and thus requiring designing and adding some more hardware and circuits for that. All together this would pricing things significantly higher. And also make for even tighter / doubly difficult physical spacing fitment than it already is. And losing 50% of the fidelity for each track.
Can tapes be played in reverse?
Technically, you can accomplish things like this with the TE-2. However, it depends on hand action, either your hand alone or your hand in tandeem with CV control. These transports are made for sending the thin ribbon of tape in one direction only. Sending the ribbon of tape the other direction would work for oh about 0.25 seconds before the unit would start "eating the tape" essentially. No damage would be done to the tape ribbon, but you'd have to open it up and wind it back into the shell and proceed in the forward moving world only. The way to get the TE-2 to play tapes backwards, is through experimenting with pressing transport buttons. There are a couple ways to do this without it being risky or totally out of control sounding. Remember that the motor will be spinning at whatever speed we have it spinning at, and that can be a result of CV control. So, by using the Rewind function, and having the Time/speed set quite low, we can get reverse playback. Various things about the transport's built in electronic self-muting functions have been eliminated for the TE-2, specifically to allow for experimenting with the transport buttons and getting to hear all of this happening. Half pressing transport buttons can do things that are going to sound neat. And pressing buttons that normally would have a moment, or entire press-duration, fully muted are now exposed. Hand playback is much more fun on the TE-2 than the TE-1 (or marantz machines) because it is a rock solid start of audio to your fingertips. Even on most professional or non professional tape machines there is always some kind of moment of silence. But with the TE-2 it's fun to hit the go button and get an actual attack of sound as you press it. This is because the muting circuitry has been altered. And because we've rearranged power to be always active despite the transport, so your hot audio electronics are sitting there waiting for transport action. So in summary, one way to get CV control during reverse playback is to hold down or press the rewind button and have the motor at a very slow speed and then add whatever CV stuff you want to the equation. Yes you could CV control the speed. But, as much as this is going to give you backwards sound, your Wow&Flutter specs may end up through the roof. This depends on too many factors to give specs on. Just know the this isn't going to be clinically reverse music. The true answer to getting stock perfect reverse playback on the TE-2 is all about the transport head placements. One thing that's a very remote possibility is us installing a method/switch for actually physically lowering the head (with good alignment still) and then switching it back to normal. What this does is move the tape path on the tape itself, but not by moving the tape but by moving the head. Remember that we are in the world of consumer cassettes, so side A was on one stripe of one side of the tape, taking up 50% of it, and side B was on the same side just the other half of the same tape. So if we reposition the head, we can hear the other material but if it was recorded with the head in the normal position we would now be hearing the material exactly backwards and you'd have all of your normal TE-2 operations to use on top of this reverse playback. Now, I am not making any promise that this will ever be built into the transports of the TE-2. But that's the way I'd do it. And if it does get built into the TE-2, it would 75% chance be possible to ship just small transports back to us and we install it into the transport. This method doesn't have anything to do with the circuit or rest of the machine. And, we already have designed the mounting layout of the TE-2 so that the end user can remove the transport with just four simple screws and with the disconnection of some basic connectors. This was important for us to achieve so that it would be easy for someone to pop a transport in the mail for repair if something came up with it. So there's a 75% chance that the backbone is there for us to achieve this feature if it can be designed. The other possibility is that we need to make a modification to the faceplate also. But we have a hole in place in the transport section already that may receive functions instead of a screw. it still may be possible that we can send out a piece that you can add under the faceplate with just your screw driver. And if it does happen, it 100% will not happen any time soon.
How long does a tape last?
Even with choosing one of the two recommended tape types, it still depends on a lot of factors... from how hard you are hitting the tape with sound, to what kind of frequencies you're sending in heavily, to how the tape is cared for in different temperature / environments. However, it'll last a very long time. One substantial difference of the context of using a tape in a Space Case TE-1/TE-2 versus using tape in classic multitrack/recording tape machines in general is that there is a lot of tone adjustment meant to be used creatively on the Space Case. On traditional tape machines, there is audio alignment which is more or less set to a standard and left in place for long periods of time. After some heavy use of a single tape for many recording sessions on a traditional machine, perhaps you'll end up getting some readings of a dB or two less on certain frequences measureed during audio alignment and you'll conclude that this tape is now scrap. But with tape echo / delay / creative environment using on board tone controls, you're very rarely (ok never) going to put in a tape and leave the unit's tone settings the same for a few months. Now we're down to pure theory since this would be excessively difficult to test, but IF there was any kind of frequency loss or shift or bump in certain ranges, chances are you'll never think anything of it or notice it because your tone/filter adjustments on the Space Case are so much more severe of tone differences than anything you'd ever hear from a single tape shfiting gradually in frequency performance over time. Again, this is all hypothetical and not a selling point of the Space Case, but rather just a reality of the context, but usually you are going to put in a tape, set up your musical situation, get a sound with the controls, and make music. That third step of "getting sound with the controls" will negate anything that you may be thinking is shifting over time regarding the tape's capabilites. Now, if you use the same tape 10 hrs daily for months and months and months, maybe just put in a new tape and compare. We haven't made the time and space to do that test. I'd be curoius to see when a TDK SA or MAXELL XL II starts to noticably lose its high frequencies vs a fresh tape and keeping all machine settings the same.
How deep is the case for Eurorack modules?
There is 42 mm down from the underside of the faceplate, of total and cleared space in all directions. However, there is also a lot of space in some of the center cross plane that allows for another 5-10mm of depth, so you will likely discover that you can fit modules that have headers or other components going below the 42mm mark that is our minimum depth garuantee.
Is the eurorack enclosure available separately from the TE-2?
Yes it will become available, as unpowered and as powered
Does the TE-2 module come with the enclosure or can I buy the module without the enclosure?
We long ago made the decision to ship the TE-2 as a complete instrument. There are two primary reasons, and a multitude of other perks that can be thought of as nicities. The first main reason is that we wanted to have a known home base for power and isolation that we know the module will perform well in, and the other is that we wanted to create a unit that is embraceable and identified by all musicians as a standalone instrument as opposed to just a eurorack module. The eurorack module ability was something added after the concept of the TE-2 was already built. We took a standalone design and carved a eurorack formula into the equation, for the benefit of the eurorack community.
Do you offer a warranty?
Yes, a 5 year warranty. Buyer pays shipping to and from the facility unless it is something that cropped up soon after arrival and in those cases we cover round trip shipping to immediately remedy the situation. That happened one time with the TE-1 (you know who you are!)
Is the TE-1 still available?
Not for now. There's a fair chance I will be open to making a few at a time, like three, for special legacy orders, once in a while in the future after the TE-2 is steadily in production.
Are there CV outputs? Can I use the TE-2 to control other equipment?
Yes, there are CV ouputs. Each of the three "sets" has it's own -5 to +5 ranging output that is determined by the relevant main knob and relevant 7 slider positions, making 8 positions in total. There is also a a CV output of the cycle step pulses when it is running.
Can I control the TE-2 with my drum machine?
One conventional method of having your drum machine control the TE-2 is by way of the jack in the Cycle section. When the Cycle is NOT running, the jack can receive triggers that actively "step along" the position that the TE-2 is in. In other words, if the unit is currently in Step 3, if you send in a single trigger into the Cycle jack it will bring the TE-2 into Step 4. If you continually send in triggers, at any pace/speed/pattern you like, it will step along the TE-2 through its steps just like the internal Cycle function would. Specifications about the trigger/gate signal type will be in the manual. Conversions may be necessary depending on your source equipment.
How does the sound quality of the TE-2 compare to the quality of a Roland Space Echo or Echoplex?
There are factors that bring the TE-2 above the quaity of "cassette" as we used to know it. One factor is that the heads are double wired so that the left and right channel of cassette are actually combined into one head path. This already doubles the sound quality in terms of amount tape used per sound. But, another factor in all tape machines that often got skimped by product design budgets and engineers is simply the quality of the circuitry around the tape path itself. And also the heads. These are good heads on the TE-1/TE-2. They are inrecibdly durable too and i have not really seen any bad ones. But the electronics around them are also well designed. The fact of the matter is that if you hooked up a great gain stage (proper bias situation assumed) to a cheap cassette player head you would hear that there is more good sound there at the head than you would expect. Additionally, in regards to the TE-2, better gain staging and components were designed that do significantly improve the overall sound quality. So, yes, the TE-2 does sound bigger and deeper and more open than the TE-1. Now, comparing all of this to an old classic tape echo is difficult. The TE-1 was already in a similar musical playing field as those machines and has become the echo axe of some popular producers/engineers/mixers, so we'll see how the TE-2 goes along side them in studios.
Is the TE-2 balanced or unbalanced?
The TE-2 receives and sends balanced signals when balanced TRS cables are connected to either the input or output, when the switchable line settings are used. When an unblanced cable is connected, the signal simply becomes unbalanced.
Can I use multiple inputs and outputs at the same time?
Yes, you can do that exactly as it appears to be spelled out on the machine. Use a modular input along with a 1/4"input of your chosen level. However, there are no level adjusments for each input so if you have a need for adjusting the mix/balance/levels of different input signals you will need to make those adjustments extrnally first.
What does the insert function do?
The insert function allows us to put external equipment into the feedback path of the TE-2. The feedback path is how we create an echo to begin with. If we put things in series inside of this path, we can dramatically alter the sound of the tape echoes.
What does the footswitch do?
The footswitch is a small low profile angled/sloped piece that sits separately from the unit and is connected via a "special" TRRS type cable going to the back of the TE-2. It has three soft touch stomp buttons, friendly for both feet or hands. The functions are Bypass, Tap, and Step. Step is the method of remote "cueing" the next step in line that's active. So if you're sitting in step 2, hitting/pressing the button will bring you to step 3 and you can keep stepping along until you get to the one you want. This'll be nice for live situations recalling some settings by way of Sets/faders. It will also end up being musically something to play since it obviously has a musical performance in and of itself if you have sound going through it.
Can I use Loop Tape in the TE-2?
Yes, as long as it is designed to work for standard cassette player mechanisms. Some loop tapes are desgned for relatively obscrure cassettte recorders/players and answering machines.
Is there sound on sound?
Yes. The button with a hollow circle below it disables the erase head and engages an alternative biasing circuit to compensate for the lack of erase head biasing. This allows for sound on sound. There is some fidelity degradation with each pass of sound on sound recording. It's colorful!
Do I need to turn the tape over when it hits the end?
Yes. However it's worth noting that a side of a tape can last a whole lot longer than you might expect. For example, in recording sessions using the Space Case at the mixing desk as an echo send on a vocalist, you may have your echo time dialed in to a moderate delay amount, not necessarily a quick slap back. Even if you delay time is just a bit longer musically speaking, rememeber that if it's twice as long of delay your tape will indeed last twice as long because it is going half the speed. So if you don't like the speed of a 60ms echo and dial it down some and end up around 120ms, you're still talking about a relatively slap back type echo and your tape side will last twice as long. If you end up in the moderate zone of say 240ms, suddently your tape will in fact last FOUR times as long as a 60ms slap back echo would last. I've personally done plenty of tracking sessions where the tape just spun for a few hours. For any engineer at all comfortable with using old tape machines, they're already used to getting up and hitting start and stop all the time. So having to monitor and then at some point get up and flip a cassette a couple hours later is not at all as much of a big deal or a burden as you might imagine.
Does the TE-2 saturate or does it have a lot of character of sound?
Yes, you can saturate the tape itself by setting your Tape In level high (with a strong enough original signal) and hitting the tape itself hard, and you can also just operate with generally very hot signal going into the TE-2 and get to experience all sorts of subtle saturation and mild overdrive from a few different gain stages within the TE-2. This is all in addition to the distortion circuit that is built into the TE-2 which is at the tail end of the signal flow and can be used to add a lot of saturatin/drive effect to all sound coming out of the unit.
Can I play and record like a normal cassette?
Yes. All functions are present. There are special things about the TE-2's transport that allows us to get creative.. We have exposed some of the "moment when things occur" for the playback, record, rewind, stop, pause, etc. We've made the transport electronics of the TE-2 expose all of the precise physical moments that you press buttons, so by lighty pressing or partially pressing transport functions you can get to hear the tape move for a moment in experimentally awkward jerky or jolty or murky or slushy ways. However, all of this said, unit performs admirably as a record and playback machine. It is mono however. There are time/speed tricks you can experiment with too that you would never be able to do on most tape recording machines, such as recording at one very specific speed and then rewinding and playing it back at any other very specific speed you like. The sky is the limit in that regard.
Is there MIDI on the TE-2?
To be added at a later date via expander module
Is there USB on the TE-2?
To be added at a later date via expander module.
Do you offer infinite loop cassettes?
Not yet but we have an original one roughly designed. It'll be a project to start next year.