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Author Topic: Tape width vs. Tape speed...........  (Read 3255 times)

Offline Red Grant

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Tape width vs. Tape speed...........
« on: July 01, 2011, 06:41:34 PM »
Which one is more important for sound quality?

...and how much 'better' 1/2" or 1" or 2" tapes are compared to 1/4"?

Assuming the same speed, either 7 1/2ips or 15ips and  2 track?
Hyok (Tony) Kim,  yes, this is my real name.

Btw.  How do you know it's my real name?  Just because I say so?

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Offline High and Outside

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Re: Tape width vs. Tape speed...........
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2011, 10:39:59 AM »
Red,

I'm going to start with an engineering answer, rather than an audiophile answer. Audiophiles tend to believe there is always one "best," and everything else must therefore be crap. Engineers know that there are always tradeoffs.

To summarize the speed tradeoffs: faster gives you lower noise and better transient response, or better HF response if you hear it that way. Slower gives you better LF response. There's also the obvious difference in tape cost, but let's stay focused on the performance differences.

To  summarize the width tradeoffs: most things get better as you go wider, except that maintaining azimuth gets more challenging. This is not trivial. With wider tracks any edge damage waver becomes proportionally less compared to the signal. If there are minute dropouts they also are lower in proportion to the signal.  The noise is reduced. And for some reason, which I can't explain from theory but I have observed, the head bumps become more manageable. However, unless your tape path is spot on you get azimuth wander, which leads to image wander. Ask Mike Spitz some time about all the work he had to do on tape guidance to get the ATR 1" to meet his (admittedly high) standards.

Here I will acknowledge that there are some, largely in the LA studio world, who prefer the sound of 1/4" over 1/2". Fine, everybody gets to like what they like. But since most of these guys aren't even mixing to analog any more, rather they are just mixing back into their Protools rigs like everybody else, I wonder if there might not be some retro nostalgia involved.

OK, now to summarize how I hear it: 7-1/2 IPS just sounds soggy to me, the reduced HF and transient information loss is more than I'm willing to put up with. Although I hear the HF extension and transient snap of 30 IPS, I also hear the lack of weight. With the right combination of transport, heads and electronics the HF and transients of 15 IPS are just fine. I think 15 IPS is the sweet spot. Not only have we chosen it for the Tape Project--both for our release tapes and for our running masters--it's what I choose for all my work. And what I bring home. Maybe you've never thought about this, but obviously I could make myself 30 IPS copies of the TP masters if I wanted, as well as other projects I work on, but I choose 15.

As far as width goes, I'm an unabashed fan of wider. I just hear more solidity, more depth, more "there" there. Except that when listening to 1" tape, it's only a matter of seconds before I quit listening to the details of sound quality and just get lost in the music. My shoulders relax, my eyes close, and I'm somewhere else.   
Paul Stubblebine
Managing Director, The TapeProject

Offline mikel

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Re: Tape width vs. Tape speed...........
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2011, 12:42:53 PM »
Paul,

thank you for the primer on tape speed and tape width; it's exactly what i needed to hear too. i've heard great things about 30ips; but isn't there also a head EQ and head length issue to play 30ips ideally? if the heads are optimized for 30ips does that fix some of the trade-offs?...or minimize them at least?

i just fell into a Studer A820 1/2" machine. i'm hopeing that you find the opportunity (soon?) to make me a couple of 1/2" Tape Project titles. Dan said it would be awhile until it would work out for a few logistical reasons.

i'm mulling over which 2 titles to choose (and if i fall in love which additional 2. :))
« Last Edit: July 02, 2011, 12:48:16 PM by mikel »
Mike Lavigne

Offline docb

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Re: Tape width vs. Tape speed...........
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2011, 03:24:08 PM »
There was once a discussion I was present at about 20 ips possibly being the perfect tape speed...or was it 22.5 ips? So don't wear yourself out over these things, guys. As soon you as you decide on best, someone will come up with an even bester-best. We spent a lot of time discussing the optimal format we could release TP tapes on and it involved a lot of theory, Paul's vast experience, and in the end, a whole lotta settin' and a listenin'. Try to listen to the various formats yourself to find which you like best. We'll have 1/2" tape at 15 ips playing at the California Audio Show this month.

My choice? Paul got me hooked years ago. I'm putting together a 1" 2 track that will run at 15 ips to play demos with.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline c1ferrari

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Re: Tape width vs. Tape speed...........
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2011, 05:32:43 PM »
Red,

I'm going to start with an engineering answer, rather than an audiophile answer. Audiophiles tend to believe there is always one "best," and everything else must therefore be crap. Engineers know that there are always tradeoffs.

Red -- thanks for the post.
Paul -- thanks for the elucidation and your personal observations.
Mike -- I also have an interest in 1/2" TP media...I was originally contemplating 30 ips with tones --now, perhaps 15 ips with tones ;-)
           "...i just fell into a Studer A820 1/2"  Yeah, I wouldn't mind that kind of fall, again, too -- haha. :-)

Vbr,
Sam
Sam Lucero
SPQCV
:-)

Offline High and Outside

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Re: Tape width vs. Tape speed...........
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2011, 11:06:14 AM »
but isn't there also a head EQ and head length issue to play 30ips ideally? if the heads are optimized for 30ips does that fix some of the trade-offs?...or minimize them at least?

Mike,
Yes, I glossed over the technical discussion here because it's kinda complicated, but generally it would be possible to make 30 IPS have better LF response if it were possible to make the head core wide enough, and the tape contact patch equally wide. You just run into practical limitations when you try to do it.

I'm going to ask Greg Orton (owner of Flux Magnetics) to write us a quick description of the issues for us here on the forum.

Quote
i'm hoping that you find the opportunity (soon?) to make me a couple of 1/2" Tape Project titles. Dan said it would be awhile until it would work out for a few logistical reasons.

Yes, I've just been duping some 1/2" for our 1/2" customers. Sorry, but I just didn't have enough tape stock to add a couple for you. We'll have more in a few weeks.

It just occurred  to me that Dan might come back from the Cal Audio Show with three reels of 1/2"--maybe you can tempt him over for a visit.
Paul Stubblebine
Managing Director, The TapeProject