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Author Topic: First Things First  (Read 2335 times)


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First Things First
« on: January 22, 2008, 07:38:20 PM »
This is so fundamental, yet I do not know the answer.
You just obtained a used prerecorded RTR tape from an ebay dealer, or a yard sale.
It looks visually OK.
Do you just throw it on the hubs and take it for a spin?
Do you prep it in any way?  LAST or other treatment?
When do you know when and if to bake?  I know if the tape is oozing like the alien glop, bake; or don't buy.
Is drying ala LAST the same as baking?  Should every newly acquired tape go through a prep process?
Is there a photo of this sticky tape syndrome that people discuss?
What do you do for your own new acquisitions?


Offline ironbut

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Re: First Things First
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2008, 08:53:34 PM »
In general, when I open the box, I do a quick visual exam to judge the care that the previous owner took. Is it wound evenly, leader applied (this is sadly, kinda rare), tape end secured, presence of mold ( light colored, powdery blotches on the sides of the tape) and dust/dirt in the box ( luckily, this is pretty rare). If there's lots of dust on the reel and in the box, I rewind the tape using cleaning tissue that I got from US Recording Media. It looks remarkably like lens cleaning tissue but supposedly has some tape lubrication properties. I touch the tissue as lightly as I can on the oxide side. Then I play the tape all the way through. Listening to it is the best way to find out if it's a gem or a bust. If it's really bad,( splices, multiple drop outs, very rolled off highs) it may not be worth it to treat it with Last. If the tape squeals, it's probably got SSS. These are the ones that need to be baked (if you consider it valuable) or have Last do their drying treatment. You can be sure that it's SSS because the tape will have left sticky residue all the way through the tape path. This will require a good cleaning of guides and heads (don't forget any rollers) and exam with a magnifier of your choice. This is a perfect opportunity to try out those new swear words your kids have taught you. Here's a link about tape baking;
Most folks say that baking doesn't last very long. Archivists just need to get one or two good passes through the tape to copy it so long term fixes aren't as important for them. Hopefully, the Last service is a long term solution. My advice regarding their service is to compare the cost of the service with the replacement cost of the tape. If it's a pre recorded factory tape, odds are that you can find another one that's in better shape. There's a couple of tapes that I've bought 4 copies of ($15-25 each) before I found one that's in great shape. In each case, it took over a year so the cost didn't really enter into it (till this very moment when I can see that I paid nearly $100 for Dave Brubeck "Take Five"!).
Well, you see what I mean. Sending a tape off for treatment should be your last choice I think. Listen to all your tapes. You'll start to get a "feel" for tapes that are damaged but should sound great if the damage can be reversed. Some will never sound as good because the master didn't either. You'll end up with a stack of "one of these days" tapes that need work and a shelf of tapes that sounded great out of the box or just took a treatment with Last to sound good. It's taken me almost 4 years for my stack to turn into a box of future project tapes.
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