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Author Topic: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?  (Read 7123 times)

Offline mikel

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How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« on: August 25, 2007, 08:18:59 AM »
Hello everyone,

I am a tape newbie; sucked in by 'The Tape Project'. I did the charter subscription thing (mid-30's number) and am in the final stages of purchasing a tape recorder. Although i have heard master tapes played at Audio Shows from time to time and have read and heard a few things about tape i am just guessing about what tapes i should focus on.

I have a very good vinyl set-up (Rockport Sirius III with 7000 Lps) so i am not really intersted in tapes that are going to give me less performance than my Lps.

My impression so far is that the cut-off point where prerecorded tapes might equal or better my vinyl is likely the 50's and early 60's 2-track 7 1/2ips 2-track. Will 4-track tapes give me any more performance than my vinyl? i see lots of attractive 4-track tapes on ebay but so far have passed.

the Tape machines i am considering have 1/4" and 1/2" capabilities; but not 4-track......is that something i should worry about?

i am very excited about getting into tape and appreciate any words of wisdom.

thanks,

mikel
Mike Lavigne

Offline ironbut

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2007, 09:48:56 AM »
Hey Mikel. Welcome to the forum. I've seen pic's of your system several times and have been duly impressed. Very nice room! As far as 4 track tapes, some will certainly better reissued vinyl. If they're better than original issues is another question altogether. I do find that even abused and noisy 1/4 track 7ips tapes have qualities that are unique to tape. It's difficult to find used tapes that are 100% perfect end to end but, personally, I'm able to overlook some things. It is a fact that the extra width of the 1/2 track tapes will not show these imperfections as easily if at all. The 15ips tapes you'll get from your sub. are a couple of levels above anything that you would likely be able to find anywhere ( including safety copies which are often sold as masters ). I think it would be wise to get a machine capable of playing 1/4 track. I have an RS1500 that I'm very happy with ( owned for a couple of years and played daily). There are better machines out there? No doubt. But for the small footprint and ease of interfacing with consumer gear, I don't think it can be beaten. Having Doc set one up  for you would be my first choice. I would guess that size isn't an issue with you considering your Rockport, and any pro deck can be set up with as many heads as you like ( although the fewer the better, less friction). I think that it would be best to let Doc,Paul or Michael comment on what could be gained on these.

steve koto
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Offline Danny Kaey

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2007, 11:50:59 AM »
I have found many 71/2ips 1/4 track tapes to be superior to even the finest vinyl.

I think it's premature if not silly to limit yourself to only 2 track 71/2ips pre-recorded tapes...


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Offline mikel

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2007, 01:06:33 PM »
Steve and Danny,

thanks for the insights. i am trying to figure out both the hardware and software issues here with zero listening experience; i suppose i need to be open-minded as to what level of performance 4-track/7 1/2ips can achieve. i will get a few where i have the vinyl and compare.

as i continue with my research it looks like the best approach might be to get a 'pro-sumer' 4-track machine of some sort for the 4-tracks and not bother with 4-track head assembly for my main machine. if i like the 4-tracks i can always add the 4-track capability later.

it does look like there are plenty of the 4-track/7 1/2ips prerecorded tapes to choose from.
Mike Lavigne

Offline Dan Robertson

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2007, 01:36:11 PM »
Mike,

My experience on ebay is that it's a shot in the dark. Sometimes you end up with magic, other times junk. I haven't found a way to tell until you actually get the tape in your hands. There are some great 4 track tapes out there, it's just finding them.

As Rich Brown told me when I started, "welcome to the reel world!" You're going to love it.

Dan

Offline docb

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2007, 03:15:29 PM »
This is a really good point. The LP guys have had a grading system like forever. Why don't we come up with some sort of grading system that we use for our own prerecords, and maybe we can get the greater community to adopt it? It will be tougher to do because it will actually require taking the time to listen to the music on the tape. That is without a doubt at the very bottom of some gearhead's and collector's priority lists, based on the junk that is often sold.

Perhaps the visual grading could be based on stickiness and edge condition (presumably we would all be conscientious enough put a proper pack on the tape), and the audible grading could include stretched sections, HF loss, and complete drop outs, with some kind of scale for each.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
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Offline Danny Kaey

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2007, 10:20:17 PM »
good point Dan, one I have been pondering for some time... here are some problems I have identified:

1. hardly anyone selling these tapes actually listens to them
2. "near mint" "appears unplayed" - next thing you know I get a tape full of mold!!!
3. sometimes, one side appears mint, while the other is utterly useless
4. I have even bought tapes where something else has been taped over the original recording (no doubt refunds were issued, but still)
5. there appear only a handful of "reliable" tape handlers on eBay, those are the ones I usually stick to...
6. I typically stay way from dubious claims such as "master tape dubs" - quite frankly I am (almost) sick and tired of hearing that bullcrap, present company excluded of course! :)
7. pre-recorded tapes fluctuate in quality in general much more so then vinyl, in my experience

just a few points... also, I have noticed prices to have gone up considerably on some titles, as the "tape" boom continues or gets more focus or what have you...


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Offline Dan Robertson

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2007, 01:46:40 PM »
Danny,

You've pretty much summed up my experience on ebay. Several times I've picked up what seemed to be a real gem, only to discover that some genius decided to record a test tone or their own "test one, two, three" halfway through the best song on the reel.

I like Doc's idea of a grading system, but like you said, most sellers don't listen to the tapes, and many don't even own the equipment to do so. Visual grading helps some, but as is the case with vinyl, a good looking tape is no guarantee. Still, it would be better than what we have now - nada.

Here is a link to a page I found while perusing AudioKarma. It's what a collector uses to show sellers what he is looking for in tape condition:

http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/album/71153726xFfolO

Dan

Offline docb

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2007, 03:18:37 PM »
Those are good pics. Hopefully folks here will not only look for tapes with a flat pack, but do everything they can to make sure they put a flat pack on their own tapes when they play them. Probably the most important ingredient in getting a flat tape pack is to run the tape all the way through at play speed rather than fast wind, not stopping during the process. This should always be done before putting a tape away. If the tape path is out of whack any packing issues will only be made worse at fast wind speeds.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline ironbut

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2007, 08:04:59 PM »
If I buy tapes on Ebay, I know I'm taking my chances. That's why I won't bid very high unless it's a very rare tape that I know should have great music and sonics. Lately, I've been dusted on most of the BC tapes I've bid on. For the most part, I prefer to check for sellers who that are not known for selling tapes and have purchased a large collection . This way, I can buy a couple and preview the actual condition. If it's pretty much flawless, I buy all I can afford. Sure, even if the previous owner was careful and knew what he/she was doing, there can be one that had an accident and I might discount the entire collection, but I don't think that happens very often. The only tapes that I've paid over $50 for have been 1/2 track Mercury Living Presence and that was with a satisfaction return policy. I think that the prices of tapes has gone up, but not nearly as much as some of the guys are paying on Ebay the last few months.
steve koto
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Offline docb

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Re: How do various pre-recorded tape formats compare to vinyl?
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2007, 01:20:13 PM »
Amen brother! Never, ever bid high on e-bay stuff. It's always a crap shoot. When I sell stuff on e-bay I encourage folks to keep that in mind when bidding, with a suggestion to - "bid accordingly". I have bought all of one or two tapes on e-bay, for less than $5 each. So at least it's you guys and not me who has to take the heat for driving prices up on prerecorded tapes... ;^)>

As for grading, it's natural that no one listens to tapes before selling them right now. The only reason LP sellers do listen and talk about surface noise is because it's expected these days. The guys who don't go into detail about the sonic condition get less money for their product. That's how a grading system gets started. If people start listing tapes including commentary that they have listened to them and found them clean and dry, flat packed, free of stretch and with no top end roll off, everyone will have to follow suit to get top dollar. When you guys take some initiative on this I bet you will find that you have more influence than you might think.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project