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Tech: reel to reel tapes

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Fleadhman 04 Oct 03 - 08:47 AM
Bassic 04 Oct 03 - 09:01 AM
songs2play 04 Oct 03 - 09:16 AM
Bernard 04 Oct 03 - 09:23 AM
Bernard 04 Oct 03 - 09:30 AM
John MacKenzie 04 Oct 03 - 01:03 PM
GUEST,pdq 04 Oct 03 - 01:26 PM
Fleadhman 04 Oct 03 - 02:04 PM
GUEST,pdq 04 Oct 03 - 06:45 PM
smallpiper 04 Oct 03 - 07:23 PM
John MacKenzie 05 Oct 03 - 05:32 AM
smallpiper 05 Oct 03 - 05:58 AM
NicoleC 05 Oct 03 - 11:49 AM
Bernard 05 Oct 03 - 01:45 PM
Gray D 05 Oct 03 - 02:21 PM
Bernard 05 Oct 03 - 08:26 PM
AKS 06 Oct 03 - 09:11 AM
Bernard 06 Oct 03 - 09:15 PM
Fleadhman 07 Oct 03 - 05:44 PM
Bob Bolton 07 Oct 03 - 06:38 PM
Bernard 07 Oct 03 - 06:43 PM
Richard Bridge 09 Oct 03 - 11:42 AM
Vixen 09 Oct 03 - 11:47 AM
Steve Parkes 09 Oct 03 - 11:57 AM
Bernard 09 Oct 03 - 12:24 PM
Gray D 09 Oct 03 - 07:41 PM
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Subject: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Fleadhman
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 08:47 AM

I have recently received several 4 track reel to reel tapes and a Phillips tape recorder (4 track 2 speed). Where could I get the recorder repaired? Can I get these tapes transferred to CD ? And where would I go to find second hand 4 track 2 speed tape recorders so I could transfer these tapes onto my pc ?. All help would be thankfully received.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bassic
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 09:01 AM

Reel to Reel tapes were the best thing available for home use back in the 60`s for recording good quality "live" and record to tape sounds. The chances are your tapes will be decades old. Treat the tapes VERY carefully if they have anything on them you want to preserve. Especially , keep them away from magnetic influences. DONT stack them on your HI FI speakers or what ever remains of the delicate recordings could be ruined in a very short space of time. Sorry I cant help with the transfer issue but if you could tell us where you are in the world it would help those who do know how to best help you and point you in the direction of local (to you) resources. Appologies if I am preaching to the converted here about tape care but one they have gone they have gone for good. Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: songs2play
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 09:16 AM

I transfered directly from tape recorder to PC using a double "male" ended jackplug (plugged into the headphone socket of the tape recorder), and used Nero as the recording software on the pc. Getting the volume balance was tricky, to get the best recording with minimum distortion. Trial and error was best.
Tapes were very brittle (40years + old), and sound quality was worse than I remember it being, but I may be too used to CD's and digital radio quality for too long.
Used Cool-Edit to edit the tracks once recorded, and saved as a wav file rather than mp3.(don't ask me why, I don't know, my son told me to).


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bernard
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 09:23 AM

First of all, you have to understand there are different definitions of 'four track'

Domestic four track is really a monophonic arrangement whereby the signal is recorded in four 'stripes' down the length of the tape, whereas professional four track is literally four separate tracks capable of being played back simultaneously.

The domestic unit cannot play professional tapes properly, as two of the tracks would play backwards!

The other type is the domestic 'stereo' four track, which is essentially the same principle as the mono - it cannot play back professional tapes.

I suspect that yours is the domestic variant, and the good news is that you can use a professional four track to play back domestic four track, and they are more readily available and cheap, because no-one wants them in this digital age. The only slight drawback is that domestic machines usually run at 3.75 ips, the secon speed either being 7 ips (for better quality recording) or 1.875 ips (for 'speech quality). Professional machines usually run at 15 ips, sometimes with a 7 ips option.

There is also the other issue of reel sizes - some domestic units cannot accept reels larger than 5.75 inches diameter, but others can accept up to 7 inch reels. Professional machines usually use '10 inch NAB' reels, but can also accept the domestic reels.

Getting your Phillips unit repaired depends upon what the fault is - and valve-based units aren't worth the enormous expense involved. Transistorised ones are easier to repair, but parts may not be readily available, particularly if it's the record/playback head that is faulty.

My four track is a professional Teac 3440, which runs at 7 and 15 ips; you can always play your tapes into the PC and use software to 'slow down' the recording afterwards - the different in speed equates to exactly one octave in pitch. It is a great machine to work with - very easy to use for multi-tracking - and they can be obtained quite cheaply.

However, the problem with all types of machine is worn heads - replacement heads for a 3440 are in excess of 300 quid! So be sure you've seen it record and play back on all four tracks before you part with your cash!

I would guess that you are in the UK, so I may be able to help you - a friend of mine is a reliable repair man, or maybe I could transcribe the tapes for you.

E-mail me if you think I can help in any way.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bernard
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 09:30 AM

The reason for saving as a WAv rather than an MP3 is that an MP3 is compressed, thus losing a little quality. However, I suspect that the quality of your tapes won't be that good to start with!!

'Print through' occurs on all tapes, including cassette and video, if their are stored too long without being spooled through regularly. In simple terms, the magnetism passes through from one tape layer to the next, making the recording degrade in quality very seriously.

Another problem is deterioration of the tape stock itself - you may only get one chance to retrieve the recordings!


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 01:03 PM

I've got a 4 track player that works, and I have a full reel of old Carter Family stuff that I want to transfer, if it still plays. Still haven't figured out how to do it though.
Giok


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: GUEST,pdq
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 01:26 PM

At one time I knew several people who worked at Ampex, and each had a magnificent professional open real machine at home. They also knew how to maintain them. That aside, the open real format never was right for the average person who just wanted to listen to music. They need oscillator and asmuth adjustments on a regular basis. Heads wear and pinch rollers get hard (rubber). There is a following for the A-77 Revox and a few quality units, but there is little point in repairing the average recorder.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Fleadhman
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 02:04 PM

I am indebted to you all for the information and helpful tips. I am in Grays, Essex. in the UK but have transport and would be willing to travel where necessary.
Again thank you all very much.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: GUEST,pdq
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 06:45 PM

No one can make the decision for you, but , It seems to me that you could pick a few tapes that are not replaceable and have a professional shop dub them onto CDs. Once transfered they will obviously work with your PC. Cost of transfer is not cheap, but repairing an old recorder is a poor investment. Tape machines have numerous belts which are all suspect after about 8-10 years. There are usually no replacements available.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: smallpiper
Date: 04 Oct 03 - 07:23 PM

It cost me £20 to have a tape transferred to CD at a proffesional recoring studio the engineer even cleaned it up for me. Worth every penny.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 05:32 AM

Names Smallpiper, we need names, and phone numbers too. PLEASE
I assume it was a reel to reel tape?
Giok


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: smallpiper
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 05:58 AM

yep Giok - it was an open reel with only four traks on it. Fairview studios near Hull visit their website here


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: NicoleC
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 11:49 AM

I'd recommend a pro do the transfer. If the tapes are that old, they may not survive more than one playback, or may need to be "baked" to get that far. Even if the tapes are in good shape, the RTR will likely need many adjustments at this point to play them properly.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bernard
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 01:45 PM

I'm in the Manchester area - quite a long trek! - but I do have experience in copying old tapes, and access to suitable equipment.

By day I'm a public address engineer, and we still have a range of reel to reel machines in our hire inventory. Maybe we could arrange something over the Christmas break?

The Revox A77 isn't suitable, as it is a two track machine (we still have three of those!), but we also have an Akai GX400DSS which is a strange beast - it's four track auto-reverse!! Weird to watch the reels going the 'wrong' way! It is three speed - 3.75, 7 and 15 ips, and is a semi-domestic machine which will accept domestic tapes and 10 inch NABs.

I also have a Tascam TRS8 (Tascam is Teac's professional division), which is 8 track, but on half-inch tape, with built-in DBX noise reduction. I still prefer to do initial recording on open reels, converting to digital when mastering. I'm not convinced that you 'can't hear' the losses in digital sampling!! There is a 'warmth' to analogue recordings... honest!

BBC GMR (Manchester) are in the process of modernising their studios at the moment - I'm hoping that some of their old Studer machines on trolleys will be up for grabs... (Revox is to Studer as Teac is to Tascam, BTW).

Older tape recorders aren't usually belt driven, and drive belts for those that have them can usually be found quite easily - I keep a box of 'em! Belts for Teac/Tascam machines are certainly still available - I've just replaced the capstan drive belt on my 3440 with a genuine spare.

Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Gray D
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 02:21 PM

Spooky! Just a week or two ago I dug out my much-loved Akai 4000 (so old it doesn't even have Dolby!) to do the same kind of thing, but the transport has locked and I don't have a small enough allen key to get the front off to investigate. D*mned irritating.

I'll just have to live on the memories unless anyone knows . . . ?

I wholly agree about the sound quality by the way. Analogue recordings sound more open and they . . . er . . . "breathe". I believe that Ry Cooder subscribes to this view as well.

Gray D


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bernard
Date: 05 Oct 03 - 08:26 PM

A common problem with the Akai machines is motor run capacitor failure - easy enough to replace, provided you can find a suitable matching replacement. Symptoms are a 'lazy' motor - no torque (power) and running far too slowly. Usually there are three motors, one for the capstan, and one for each of the spool spindles. Often the spindles are directly driven from the motor, but the capstan is either belt or wheel driven for stability of speed.

It is also normal for the 'feed' spool to try to run gently in the opposite direction to the take-up spool when in play/record mode - the bias is there to keep the tape in contact with the heads. There is also bias on rewind/fast forward to stop the tape spilling off the reels.

Don't think I've ever come across the transport 'locking' as such... maybe either the lubrication on the bearings has gone sticky, or the brakes may not be releasing. Can't be a big problem... they are mechanically very simple and reliable.

Few open reel machines ever had Dolby (though DBX is often found on later 'pro' machines) - it is essential on cassette machines because of the slow tape speed (1.875 ips) and narrow tracks - four tracks (stereo left and right x 2) over a mere eighth of an inch of tape! Quarter-inch 3.75 ips (or faster) is nowhere near as noisy!

I tend to record at 15 ips, as the frequency response is much better - and keeping the heads clean is vital!

It is surprising how many people don't understand the track layout of a domestic stereo tape - they think that side 'B' is literally on the other side of the tape, where in reality both 'sides' are on the same side. Think of the tape as a dual carriageway with two lanes per carriageway - side 'A' is the northbound carriageway, and side 'B' is the southbound carriageway. The two 'lanes' are the left and right tracks.

Okay... sermon over!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: AKS
Date: 06 Oct 03 - 09:11 AM

And to make the driver a bit more confused: the right lane of the northbound carriageway is between the left and right lanes of the southbound one:
Al>
Br<
Ar>
Bl<

AKS


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bernard
Date: 06 Oct 03 - 09:15 PM

Yup! Didn't mention that 'cos I thought it had got confusing enough already!! ;o)

They didn't adopt that track format for cassettes, though (tape head technology had improved drastically by then), so that a mono machine could also be used to play back a stereo recording. But in mono, of course...! And a stereo machine could play back a mono recording. But still in mono, sadly - unless you had a graphic EQ to cheat it...

The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Fleadhman
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 05:44 PM

Bernard, I will contact you by email. I visit Manchester fairly regularly to visit relatives in Didsbury, Chorlton and Rusham.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 06:38 PM

G'day,

NicoleC says above:

If the tapes are that old, they may not survive more than one playback, or may need to be "baked" to get that far...

That need for "baking" is a specific problem of "Studio Quality" ("Mastering") tapes of the late '70s - mid '80s. Ampex apparently developed a beaut new, super flexible, really smooth substrate for its tapes - to handle the open reel professional video recording needs of the day - and several other manufacturers used the same formulation. Unfortunately, they did not realise that it quickly hydrolised!

After a few years in non-air-conditioned storage (or 2 weeks in the New Guinea jungle!) the coating becomes sticky and starts to adhere to the next layer ... or wipe off onto the recording/playback heads.

"Baking" dries it out enough to get a good transcription ... once! I had studio tapes recorded in Sydney (1985) baked and transferred to CD for editing and remastering to a CD release and archical storage ... the local firm Archival Revival charged Aust$68 per CD of material. Original 10" reels of tape are sealed and stored ... but there is no guarantee that they can ever be used again.

Older studio grade tapes can be in much better condition - I know that the National Library of Australia was able to to get very good copies from mid 1950s tapes of the Wattle Recording Company ... and I know these tapes had not been stored in the archival conditions originally intended. (They started out in air-conditioned storage at Sydney University, but eventually got shuffled off and tossed in a broom cupboard when nobody remembered what they were!)

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bernard
Date: 07 Oct 03 - 06:43 PM

Aaah... the Rusholme curries...!!

I'm over the other side (Bolton), but it's not very far away, really! I'll put the kettle on!

See you soon, maybe?


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 09 Oct 03 - 11:42 AM

But it should be possible to do it yourself, if you have a reel-to-reel machine (record on my Akai 4000D is not right, but playback is fair, I think I need a new switch or head) and the tape is not going to disintegrate - simply run one track at a time into a wav file, (phono-to-minijack lead needed) then use something like cooledit or audacity to clean it up and remove hum (haven't tried, but in theory it should work, according to info I got on other threads)and then burn to CD - Nero will let you burn one track at a time until you have a full CD. Then finalise.

I will be trying this theory soon-ish. Watch this space.


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Vixen
Date: 09 Oct 03 - 11:47 AM

All right, all right, all right, I CAN'T RESIST!!!!!!

Has anyone got any ideas about jig to reel and reel to jig tapes????

V (running for cover before the tomatoes start to fly...)


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 09 Oct 03 - 11:57 AM

Vixen, there's a big incompatibility problem between the open reel (4-track) and the jig/slip-jig/double-jig jobs (6, 8, 12 track) to begin with; and if you start messing with 8-some or 16-some reels, you've got even bigger trouble. Proably the least troublesome way to deal with this is to get the original bands to come back and re-record all the tracks straight to CD, which is what a lot of the Music Industry has been doing. Tough if you're a Beatles fan ...

Steve


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Bernard
Date: 09 Oct 03 - 12:24 PM

There is a program specifically for this purpose... it is called Reel2Jig Converter Pro, and is available here...!!

THREAD CREEP ALERT...


If I'm stuck for a waltz to play at a Ceilidh, I often use a jig (or even a hornpipe) slowed right down - it works really well (you have to 'stretch' some of the notes of a hornpipe!). 'Kesh Jig' and 'Steamboat' done as a waltz sound as if they were written that way...

Sorry... nearly time to go home, and I'm bored!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: reel to reel tapes
From: Gray D
Date: 09 Oct 03 - 07:41 PM

Bernard,

Just managed to get back onto the thread (lost it many times obviously).

Now, your Akai machines got noise reduction of some kind added just shortly after I bought mine, and I could have sworn it was Dolby of some kind . . . wasn't it? I remember being quite cross that they hadn't announced it until just before the event.

Whatever, if you think you could fix the "locked" transport, I'll get in touch.

One last thing on the subject of sound quality - the only time I made it into a professional recording studio the boss was giving us a grand tour and demonstrated his expensive new noise reduction which, to my ears, killed the cymbals and other high frequency sound stone dead. Shortly after saying the tapes sounded better with the NR switched off we were back outside. Some people can get SO defensive of their technology.

Gray D


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