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Hardbopjazz

Is tape really making a comeback?

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I've seen a number of these recently. What exactly is this tape? It doesn't look like reel to reel.

 

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No reason NOT to consider it reel-to-reel, that's exactly what it is. It's just a bigger hub to make it look fancier and also like there's more tape on it than there really is.

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Well, also that the wider hub will stretch the tape less over time, possibly. Wider radius and all that stuff.

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Most "pre-recorded" commercial, reel to reel tapes ran at half speed to save tape. The large hubs were to mask the tiny amount of tape used.

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I never got into reel-to-reel and never will at this point in my life. From the limited interaction I had with someone who had one that he played regularly, they were much more of a pain to use & maintain than a record player and I didn't hear that much improvement over LP playback to make the commitment. Also, those reel-to-reel decks took up tons of shelf space, space that was already taken by the turntable.

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Back in the day, a goor R2R playing a good tape @ 7 1/2 IPS through a good home system was a GREAT sound. But head maintenance was/is a pain, tape degradation is a real concern, and, geez, a lot of improvements have happened in the last 60 or so years. I can't see them having any value today except as a fun thing. They DO make for cool objects, still.

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13 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Back in the day, a goor R2R playing a good tape @ 7 1/2 IPS through a good home system was a GREAT sound. But head maintenance was/is a pain, tape degradation is a real concern, and, geez, a lot of improvements have happened in the last 60 or so years. I can't see them having any value today except as a fun thing. They DO make for cool objects, still.

Yeah, they are cool to look at for sure and there is some ceremony to the playback process akin to LP playback. I don't remember great sound. I remember very good & clean sound. Yeah, it didn't have the surface noise of an LP but it did have hiss, crosstalk and warble. Warble was a bitch if you didn't stay on top of the maintenance.

I remember one time when I was over my friend's house and he was playing a reel-to-reel tape when we started noticing a bad warble. He jumped up and ran over to the deck - too late - it crunched up the tape in seconds. The tape was toast. He had to clean and align that thing all the time. Maybe he had a bad deck?

The fear that your precious tape could get destroyed by a second of inattention... nah... not for me, at least back then when I was young and unwilling to commit to that much maintenance work and it became moot once the cassette tape came out. Cassette tape killed reel-to-reel more than anything else.

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Cassette never sounded as good as a perfect reel system. but a perfect reel system was one of those things that tended to exist far more easily in theory than in reality.

I mean, I still have one of the 70s models Sonys that you could do track-to-track overdubbing on, bouncing the tracks.. Used it a lot back then to learn with Beach Boys harmonies and stuff like that, even did a three man "big band" like that (it sucked, of course, no headphones, no click track, and...NOTHING other than three people with 2 mikes and a deck dicking around one afternoon). And going for slow/slower speeds, you could load up a BUTTLOAD of LPs onto both sides of 10" reel.

But damn, that was then, this is now, and I don't see ANY reason to entertain the notion of the technology today, at least not for home use.

I did have a chance to pull the Sony out of the closet a few years ago to show a younger tech-geek, who was AMAZED at how SIMPLE the whole thing was, like, TOTALLY analog (duh!). I plugged it in, turned it on, it still worked. But the either the tapes ahd stretched and/or the belts had stretched, because the music was running waaaaay slow.

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Posted (edited)

When I started my job as broadcasting video editor I managed lots of one inches ampex, because most of archival stuff was on that format, it was fun 35 years ago, unless you discovered that the head of the tape was too short to use the whole content. In videotapes degradation was a serious issue until they started to archive on D2, the first digital standard over here. I wouldn't find fun playing reels nowaday

Edited by porcy62

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I would love to find a decently-priced stereo reel-to-reel machine.  In my teens, I had one for about a year.  I didn't have a lot of money in those days and tapes were expensive, and this was before I got a real stereo.  I would record off the radio, using the microphone that came with the machine.  Because it was all mono, I recorded as four separate mono tracks (rather than two stereo tracks).  I still have the tapes, and would love to hear them again.

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Posted (edited)

IMO many of the critical remarks from the postings above seem to come from people with  no or only a minimum of exprience with this piece  of equipment.

I own beside an analogue Hi-Fi-set and a digital CD-player/recorder also  6 open reel machines (top brand as Uher Royal de Luxe / BRAUN TG 1000 & 1020 -  4 track & 2 track -  and a big Revox A). Using BASF tape (back coated) and Maxell or TDK. I never had any trouble winding and rewinding  reels. The only problem which can arise is when extensively listening to music via tapes that the playback heads will deteriorade within times and have to be replaced. If you cannot get a replacement the machine is useless. During playback you have to fix the reel hub ofcourse. If not the reel can loosen itself and the tape gets crunched. That has nothing to do with the machine itself.

There were many good other brands available as Tandberg & Akai.

Have dgigitized many great   radiobroadcasts to CD-R but non of my tapes has ever lost istsd quality. No playback noise as vinyls after many years of use. OR was the only  possibility to get a complete liveconcert  recorded. These broadcast were never treissued on vinyl up to 95 %. So my treasure chest beside the official recordings is a real  greast stock of music noone will every hear (US artists touring Europe).

Same situation with cassette tapes. I'm using the Nakamicht Dragon and ZX-9.  The plyback sound holds every vinyl / CD on a brand n ame Hi-Fi set.

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Edited by jazzcorner

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I had a Webcor stereo reel-to-reel with detachable speakers in my room as a teen that beat the sound of the family Admiral console in the living room all to hell.

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2 hours ago, riddlemay said:

I had a Webcor stereo reel-to-reel with detachable speakers in my room as a teen that beat the sound of the family Admiral console in the living room all to hell.

Not hard to beat an old Admiral console for sound! :) :) :)

But you could stack as many as 6 records on that changer! Number 7... or was it 8... always seemed to catch the needle when it swung over to play it.

You know, I knew someone was likely to come into this thread to defend the format. It has its fans. I had to chuckle when jazzcorner came to the format's defense but then added qualifiers to allow you get the best out of it and then swung the discussion right over to a cassette set up. Point proven.

And I almost joined the reel-to-reel crowd in the mid-80s, when their fan base was probably at its peak. It was (is?) considered "audiophile" by many people and back then I was always willing to try "audiophile" anything. But as Jim mentions, they are not very convenient and other formats came along that were much more convenient with satisfactory sound. Convenience matters.

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8 hours ago, jazzcorner said:

Have dgigitized many great   radiobroadcasts to CD-R but non of my tapes has ever lost istsd quality. No playback noise as vinyls after many years of use.

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You must clean your heads religiously, or not play any one tape more than a few times, or never rewind a reel after playing it, and/or all of the above?

b/c otherwise you WILL get a combination of hiss and/or high-end dropoff that is nothing personal, it's just how the science of that shit works.

Now if you do do all those things, kudos to you for treating your archive like a true archive, seriously.

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Posted (edited)

6 hours ago, JSngry said:

You must clean your heads religiously, or not play any one tape more than a few times, or never rewind a reel after playing it, and/or all of the above?

b/c otherwise you WILL get a combination of hiss and/or high-end dropoff that is nothing personal, it's just how the science of that shit works.

Now if you do do all those things, kudos to you for treating your archive like a true archive, seriously.

Its like the companies do it. They have their original of that time on reels and dont listen to them every day. They press a vinyl and then have a medium to listen to. Same here . As soon as I have made me a CD-R the tape willbe not touched again. Probably they loose some magnetism in the course of time ( aa cassette tapes might also do). Thats all theory. If you dont have that experience with reel recordings and have no stock you really do not know what happens.

Times are changing and the technique of today ist different.

Thanks for you explanations.

 

Edited by jazzcorner

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12 hours ago, bresna said:

You know, I knew someone was likely to come into this thread to defend the format. It has its fans. I had to chuckle when jazzcorner came to the format's defense but then added qualifiers to allow you get the best out of it and then swung the discussion right over to a cassette set up. Point proven.

My agrgument was not that  today OR technique is the ultimate ratio.  We had the very early telephone and have smartfones today. I had as first PC AMIGA 500 & Comodore C64 and use today a PC with all the gadgets  & software needed. Today you can download streaming music in excellent quality and lets see what comes next. Its a constant change and having such discussing groups here at Orhanissimo and others is also not too old.

My arguments were that the OR technique at their peak time was a fine instrument for the collectors at a time when good jazz music was available in the radio which was not supplied by the companies because they do business means money by selling whatever someone likes.

I am glad to have a great stock of unissued and widely unknown jazz from name artists in good quality and can burn CD-Rs as I want. The german radio stations  do allow such briadcasts and offer a software called "radio recorder" today for digital recording of the broadcasts.  In the analogue times we had the reels and cassettes. So what.

You can drive in a 1940 Ford or a 2020 Mercedes. So make your choice.

Thanks

 

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there is a sound to tape you just dont get w/ vinyl- was listening to those kmart muzak tapes on the archive and on some of the reel tapes its very distinct

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On 08/05/2020 at 3:30 PM, bresna said:

too late - it crunched up the tape in seconds

My father had a Revox when I was growing up and I also remember that wrinkled tape that sometimes was the result of some misoperation.

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18 hours ago, Bluesnik said:

My father had a Revox when I was growing up and I also remember that wrinkled tape that sometimes was the result of some misoperation.

I think there were several things that could cause wrinkled tape. A dirty head or capstan could easily kill a tape but crunching it up. Also, you had to wind the tape carefully onto the feeder reel. Too tight and it would bind up. Tape stretch or crunched tape could follow. Too loose and it "snapped", which was where the tape relaxed off the feed reel and snapped tight as the loose section played back. This could also cause tape cause tape stretch, snapped tape or a crunched tape as well as a pulsing sound. Most experienced users were well aware of these problems and took care to avoid them.

FWIW, cassette tape only did a better job of masking these reel to reel problems but it couldn't get rid of them Tape is tape.. The cassette shell helped keep the tape wound onto the reels properly and the head/capstan area was smaller, making it less likely, but not impossible, to get a tape crunched in there. I know it was possible because I had it happen to a couple of cassettes. With cassettes, all you really had to do was make sure the heads & capstan were clean and you were pretty much all set. Oh - and buy good blanks and hope that any prerecorded tapes you bought used a decent blank supplier.

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I love tape, but my repair guy died about 10 years ago, and finding someone good to do maintenance is too much of a pain.

To this day (and last time I said something like this here I was accused of being a flat-earther) I truly believe that tape, properly maintained and at the right speed and without noise reduction, has a greater depth-of-field than digital, though this is much less of a problem than, digitally-speaking, it used to be.

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Tape is analog. It captures a continuous vibration, which is closer to a "real" soundwave traveling through the air than is a digital sampling of one. Whatever else is involved, that particular truth remains.

That's just science.

But tape is tape, and digital has gotten exponentially better and reliable. And practical.

That's just reality.

 

9 hours ago, bresna said:

FWIW, cassette tape only did a better job of masking these reel to reel problems but it couldn't get rid of them Tape is tape.. The cassette shell helped keep the tape wound onto the reels properly and the head/capstan area was smaller, making it less likely, but not impossible, to get a tape crunched in there. I know it was possible because I had it happen to a couple of cassettes. With cassettes, all you really had to do was make sure the heads & capstan were clean and you were pretty much all set. Oh - and buy good blanks and hope that any prerecorded tapes you bought used a decent blank supplier.

But...all things being otherwise equal (which is a BIG if...) a wider tape at a faster speed is always going to sound measurably better, because...wider tape and higher speed.

So, again, all things being otherwise equal, any "normal" analog tape format will sound better than a cassette.

All things being otherwise equal. Which IS a big "if".

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Tape does not capture sound vibrations. A microphone captures those vibrations and converts them to a signal that's electronically encoded to magnetic tape. There is "conversion" here too. The ability of that magnetic tape to capture those wavefroms is also limited by the tape medium. It cannot capture all frequencies equally, which is why they tweaked the format over the years, adding things like high bias tape and the use of noise reduction to mask those weaknesses.

And again, if you create a digital file with a high enough sampling rate, then the analog waveform can be perfectly replicated. There's no "closer". It can be the exact same. You can say that you heard a before and after with a standard 16/44.1 "CD quality" digital conversion, but it's likely whatever was fed to the analog to digital converter wasn't that good.

As for cassette tape vs. reel to reel, I didn't mean to imply that cassette was a better playback medium, just that it was designed to minimize a lot of the mechanical problems inherent with its big brother.

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Sigh.

13 minutes ago, bresna said:

 

As for cassette tape vs. reel to reel, I didn't mean to imply that cassette was a better playback medium, just that it was designed to minimize a lot of the mechanical problems inherent with its big brother.

It was designed to minimize the amount of tape needed to extract $8 from the kids. It brought its own mechanical problems, not as easily fixed as reel tapes.

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