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Author Topic: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?  (Read 10828 times)

Offline TomR

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Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« on: January 05, 2009, 04:39:42 PM »
I'm listening to the B-C release of the Schumann symphonies, led by Masur, as I write. I have roughly 25 B-C tapes, mostly acquired directly from B-C quite a few years ago, augmented by a few other sources over the years. In fact, most of my prerecorded tapes were purchased from B-C, starting when they were a distributor for others. The quality of the B-C releases is, by and large, simply higher than most of the other tapes I own, and none have been afflicted with sticky shed syndrome.

So The Tape Project has kicked off new interest in RTR tapes, but it is not for everyone (well, for that matter, neither is RTR). The tapes are high end, meaning expensive, and require for most the acquisition of a new deck. Furthermore, while I have no insight, I can't imagine the release schedule is going to support more than a few a year, and probably not of things like opera.

Does anyone think there would be interest in high quality 4 track 7.5 ips prerecorded tapes (with NAB equalization), which just about every owner of RTR decks can play? If so, would noise reduction be required? To me, the latter is problematic. My first deck, a Tandberg, had an on board Dolby circuit, but those are pretty rare, and I wasn't able to replace it when it died. I have owned two off board Dolby units, and have not gotten either to work. I would prefer to pay more for closer to real time replication, if that would help the noise issue, as that is a more universal solution, and I believe Dolby and other noise reduction products may be adding distortions to the sound as well.

OK, I am not taking anything away from The Tape Project....in fact, increased availability of other software is going to help The Tape Project. But I am just curious to hear from others.
Thomas Ream

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Offline ironbut

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2009, 07:24:27 PM »
Tom, that idea has been kicked around here from time to time and like you said, I don't think that it would take anything away from the Tape Project since it would be an entirely different sort of "audiophile dollar". If anything, I think it might bring the eBay tape prices a little closer to reality. That said, I think it would depend a lot on what the kind of capital it would take to start something like that. You'd really be talking about a product that would depend much more on volume I think since the material costs alone would start to push it out of the price range that most audiophiles are used to paying for high end vinyl (less than $50 an album). I think it could be done only as a labor of love as the TP is.
Regarding NR, that's a big negative as far as I'm concerned. I think that modern tapes are pretty quiet and I'd certainly prefer hearing a little hiss in the quiet passages to what happens to the rest of the music with noise reduction.
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Offline Ben

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2009, 10:35:51 PM »
Unless you can find a source of reels overseas, I think any idea
for tapes are quite bleak.
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Offline X-Factor

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2009, 05:45:21 AM »
It doesn't seem right that that the subject question should be answered by another question, but isn't the Tape project a modern day Barclay-Crocker? They seem to have much in common, both being small owner operated outfits trying to establish a niche market (a different format) against the entrenched dominance and status quo of the the compact disc by producing a superior sounding product.
The idea behind both companies was to produce the best commercial tape recordings using the best source material with regard to performance and quality master tapes utilizing current state of the art hardware and low speed duplication. Both companies have issued their releases in library style packaging to reduce overhead to keep their product marketable. Both companies have to face the digital juggernaut. Barclay-Crocker attempted to stay current with the times and confronted the rise of "the dreaded CDs" (or did Dr. Ruth say "the dreaded disease"?) by releasing uni-directional tapes and an alternate technology "dbx" to stay in business. The alternate technology in the Tape Project's case is the use of tube technology to create a better sounding product.
Both companies face almost universal indifference from the masses who support digital media (the CD and it's derivatives and MP3s) and the audio publications/ media who have given token space in their space because they know that there is a very small market for pre-recorded tapes and the pre-recorded tape and reel to reel manufactures will not be taking out four colour full page ads in the majors. The editors pursue a course that they feel best represents "it's" interest and will give space in their publications to where they believe the market/consumer has an interest. They have that right and have duties to shareholders and subscribers. In the hundreds of audio magazines I have bought since I was in my mid teens I don't think I could collect fifty pages together on articles on pre recorded reel to reel tapes and tape decks.
In general, the consumer analog reel to reel market is not growing rapidly now and did not when B-C was in business. I'm guessing that now just as in the early '80s when B-C was struggling that more reel decks are being scraped than are being made or refurbished.
Can the Tape Project succeed? I believe that there is hope. The side effect of the Tape Project's initial success for recognition at the CES's has led to other manufactures of competing (for market's dollars- there is only so much to go around) products using analog pre-recorded reel to reel tape to show their product's potential. A ripple effect has reached eBay where the price and availability of all those rare Technics machines multiplied. I have been buying reel tapes on eBay for @ 10 years and firmly believe that the abundance of two track tapes and "audiophile" RCA and Mercury classical issues increase in the last year or two on the site was the result of interest generated by the Tape Project's reel tapes and tape decks and most importantly that there is acknowledgment by the public that there is a superior format to the LP and it's not the dreaded CDs.
It seems to me that the audiophile market is being saturated by the rapid introduction of 180 gram, 200 gram re-issues as well as the 45 RPM versions of the same recording by different re-issue labels. This most likely has to with the resurgence of vinyl, but will this bubble burst? When we buy everything on 78 RPM half speed mastered LPs will we finally admit we just should have bough the reel tape version in the first place?
The common problem will always be the ultimate financial cost to the individual. As stated elsewhere on this forum it's a lot cheaper to buy 45 RPM LP releases than the TP reels.
Barclay-Crocker and the Tape Project both have had the hurdle of getting across the message that superior sound quality leads to a superior listening experience. The experience is cerebral and emotional, when the mind and heart connect it always leads to a more satisfied individual. Both companies do not have tons of money to throw into promotion. The references to the TP tapes in the audio media is encouraging however the reel to reel tape format needs more support. Michael Fremer's Stereophile review regarding the VPI Scoutmaster turntable mentioned 15 IPS second generation half track tapes. Mmmm.
Influential support is always a plus however I feel that a modern Barclay-Crocker will only survive by grassroots support. Tell your friends about the TP issues, or better still make them listen!

Leslie






Leslie

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2009, 10:29:37 AM »
Leslie, I think your B and C analogy vis a vis the tape project can only go so far.  B and C might have been a high quality alternative to the commercially made reel to reels of the day, but they were "in the day" and they stuck with 7 1/2 ips.  The tape project came along at a time when for all practical purposes, reel to reel use for home consumers was basically dead.  And, the tape project has done something that I don't think was ever done before, and that was/is to make available 15 ips two track tapes to consumers.

You will continue to see scant mention in any audiophile rag of the reel to reel format.  Subscribers to mags such as Stereophile and TAS are basically having their subscriptions subsidized by the magazines for the sole intentions of boosting their subscriber base in order to inflate their advertising costs to the manufacturers who really pay for the magazine.  Truth be told, TAS and specially Stereophile would probably give the magazines away free in exchange for a much increased boost in "subscriber" numbers.  I think I pay around $11-12 per year for Stereophile.  Does anyone really think that they can produce that rag and send it to my door for $1 per issue?  My point to this is that the audiopile rags are dependent on their advertising dollars to keep them afloat, not subscription dollars and therefore, they are only going to discuss gear which is commercially available. Unless reel to reel machines go back into production by a number of manufacturers, don't hold your breath expecting to see much discussion about the format in the audiophile rags.

Offline docb

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2009, 02:02:09 PM »
Regarding the print magazines, we would of course appreciate their support of our efforts. The response at shows from various well known writers has been very positive. Part of the reason there haven't been reviews is that keeping up with demand has kept us from having an entire setup of tapes and machines to send off to do the rounds with the reviewers. At this point only one reviewer I can think of has bitten the bullet, subscribed to TP and acquired a machine. Now obviously this is an informed reviewer with excellent taste. He is just now getting the setup pulled together and his online review will be coming in the future. Will TP go under without the support of the audio print publications? Well, we've been making and selling Bottlehead gear for 15 years without any more than one or two print reviews (also from reviewers who actually purchased the product). That's not because we don't get asked for review gear, but because I just decided at one point not to send gear out for review. And we're still around while guys I knew who were, shall we say, offering incentives to certain reviewers aren't.

Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline TomR

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2009, 07:53:49 PM »
I appreciate the considered responses in this thread. I don't think of The Tape Project as a modern day Barclay Crocker, for a couple of reasons. Barclay Crocker was in fact more consumer oriented than The Tape Project - 7.5 ips/4Tr/NAB/Dolby B - all broadly based consumer technologies, while The Tape Project has adopted a higher end, and extremely limited production model. Secondly, TPP's business model is essentially a "take it or leave" subscription based one, while BC was a pick and choose model. So my question was really whether a successful business could be built today on 7.5ips/4Tr, perhaps with higher quality tape and duplicated at a lower speed - I agree with Steve's assertion that it would be better to avoid noise reduction technology .

Thomas Ream

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Offline mikel

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2009, 09:46:52 PM »
I don't think that the BC business/marketing model would make sense today on any large scale. I do believe that 'The Tape Project' business model is viable. My reason for this perspective is based on the quality of vinyl performance easily accessable today to the audiophile. Even the percieved quality of the hi-rez downloads (which so far fail to really impress me) would have a significant effect.

20-30 years ago vinyl playback performance was certainly good but not nearly at the level of today. TT's, arms, cartridges, phono stages, and most other pieces of the reproduction chain have all improved; but tape dubbing capabilities have not. I'm not knocking vintage gear here; there are plenty of high quality pieces which do hold up.....but in total today's vinyl user has higher performance and lots more very high end choices.....and then there are the hundreds of millions of Lps already out there.

The 7 and 1/2 ips 4-track tapes i have heard are good; but at best they are similar (if a bit different) than good quality vinyl playback. The highest level of vinyl with the best recordings are maybe better. The target customers for a current day Barclay-Crocker would be exactly the people with high end vinyl playback systems. Essentially equal performace would not be sufficient motivation to support the level of interest to justify the license fees, tape and reel costs, dubbing machines and effort. If you went with 7 1/2 ips 2-track you would likely exceed most vinyl performance by a bit if done very well; but that level of quality boosts your costs near the realm of 'The Tape Project'.

In today's enviroment there will always be a demand for something that simply sounds better than anything else. When you buy it, it is taking you to another level. you pay a premium because it is that good.

i do believe that on a small scale a 7 and 1/2 ips 4-track effort could be sustained and sold to 'tape heads' which simply prefer tape; but there are not enough of them (and they are typically a bit too frugal) to justify a full commercial effort.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2009, 10:11:12 PM by mikel »
Mike Lavigne

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2009, 10:43:28 AM »
Tom-I pretty much agree with MikeL's comments.  As for your direct question with regards to whether or not someone could be "successful" in bringing 4 track, 7 1/2 ips tapes to market, I guess it would depend on your idea of what "success" is.  The only way that I think you can make a "success" from this is by selling large numbers of tapes per year at a decent profit per tape.  How are you going to do this if you are making small quantity batches at low speed duplication?

You really need to perform a business case analysis for your business model.  How many releases per year and how many of each release are you going to license, manufacture, and sell?  How many duplicating machines will you need?  How much will the master machine and duplicating machines cost you to purchase and maintain on a monthly basis?  Where are you going to set this business up and what will your overhead expenses be?  How many shifts will you need to run in order to maintain production at a level that you can make a profit?  How much will you have to sell each tape for in order to make a profit and will the 4 track 7 1/2 ips market bear that cost?  That may be the trickest question yet that would need some market research performed in order to know if you could ever have a viable business model.  A fast SWAG on what you would have to charge for a single 4 track 7 1/2 ips tape would be at least $75 and probably closer to $100.  If you are not selling the Beatles catalog, I don't know who would be willing to spend that type of money for 4 track 7 1/2 ips tapes of so-so artists.  Like MikeL said, there is so much great vinyl for sale at a price that new tape just can't touch, unless you are bringing something extraordinary to the table, I don't know how you can compete and be successful.  And for all of their virtues, 4 track 7 1/2 ips aren't extraordinary.  I am going to get rid of the few 4 track tapes I have collected because I can't stand the noise that goes on between tracks and during quiet passages from the music on the reverse side.


ceved

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2009, 11:34:32 AM »
In the absence of 'in production' rtr machines at different price points/capabilites (no offense to the fine folks at Otari), the short answer in my opinion is a regrettable 'no'.

Offline ironbut

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2009, 07:53:07 PM »
I agree that MikeL stated the case very well. And as mep stated, unless the end product is extraordinary, there simply wouldn't be enough reason for folks to go through the trouble of getting into reel to reel. It might have a market with current users of tape but I'm not sure if it would be enough to make a consistently profitable enterprise. So here again, it would need to be a "labor of love" and if that's the case, why would you produce something which falls short of the best you could make?
I still have hopes for my 1/4 track tapes and I'm actually right in the middle of a 2 month listening marathon (so far) of my Barclay-Crockers. Even though they can't touch the sound of the Tape Projects releases, I still enjoy them a great deal and will work to get the most out of them. I'm sure that somewhere in there, there's an element of collectors enthusiasm and personal bias that makes it easier to overlook some warts but the same could have been said about used vinyl before the flood of great reissues began.
So I guess that's about where I stand regarding old 1/4 tracks. It occupies the same level that my used records do. The best sound great, but the worst are just fantastic performances of music that makes it easy to ignore any sonic deficits.
steve koto
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2009, 10:58:13 PM »

So I guess that's about where I stand regarding old 1/4 tracks. It occupies the same level that my used records do. The best sound great, but the worst are just fantastic performances of music that makes it easy to ignore any sonic deficits.

That...as they say... is a whole 'nother topic! For instance,
I love listening to some 78 discs I have. I will even go so far as to say that I like certain aspects of their sound. It is true of almost any type of media that they all have their good points and bad points. The really amazing thing is that you can even hear some of these things, good or bad, through another media with a different "signature". If I am really into what I am listening to, somehow my mind filters out the deficiencies of the media and leaves only the good parts.
I can listen to a punchy dynamic perfect mono mix where you can hear everything clearly on some 78 and not really notice the fact that it rolls off above 6KHz and is a bit speed unstable.
And some issues disturb some people while others bother other people. I can listen to music through a lot of issues I grew up with like wow and flutter, high frequency distortion, record surface noise, tape hiss and the like but the "swishy" sound of low bitrate digital through tiny laptop speakers drives me crazy, but 20 somethings don't notice. 
So while it is nice to hear things as good as possible as with Tape Project Tapes, for me at least, it is not always necessary to have that level of sonics to enjoy music. And even excellent sonics will bore you quickly if there is no good quality to the music to keep your attention.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2009, 11:01:15 PM by steveidosound »
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Offline High and Outside

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2009, 11:00:30 PM »
I do believe that 'The Tape Project' business model is viable.


From your lips to God's ears!

More to the point of the original question, we took a look at what it would cost to do 7-1/2 ips 1/4 track, and the selling price would have had to be pretty high--so high that there wasn't really much room between that and the price of our 15 ips tapes. It didn't seem likely to us that even the existing hard core base would routinely pay what it would take.
Paul Stubblebine
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Offline babyjdrums

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2009, 08:14:20 PM »
I know this is going to sound stupid...but in launching my re-issue label this year(lp/cd/reel???), I'm going to try for the 1/4 track 7" real time dup'ed tapes...I don't know what titles I'll be able to afford from licensing, but I have my eye on a few.  I think that it's a labor of love and I would hate to see the whole thing die due to everyone looking for the same tapes and then realizing their not "all that".  I'll keep anyone posted as to when I start this, but if my goal is right, by the end of the year I'll have something ready.  Call me crazy, but I think the model would work.  I think it's just a matter of not worrying about hitting a home run every title.  If you build it, they will come.  The RTR deck market is only soft at the moment because of the economy/mentality.  It's buzzing hard!  Coming from someone who sells used reels at least once a month, it's not slowing at all.  I think the cost issue is going to have to be in the tape itself...tape like RMG LPR35 would make AMAZING one to one dubs at 7.5 ips...after that, using tape that's above +4 negates itself.  The slower speed simply can't capture all the goodies!  Just some thoughts as I duck behind my shield!

Offline ironbut

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Re: Would a modern day Barclay-Crocker succeed?
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2009, 10:50:09 AM »
Hi BJ (we use our names here BTW), welcome to the forum. Except during hard times (such as we're experiencing right now) I don't think that a format like you've proposed, would be fighting for the same audio dollar. In fact, I think that a larger media base would attract more people to reel to reel in general.  I'm not sure how much experience you have with magnetic tape but using a thinner tape base, especially for 1/4 track, to maximize the recording levels, increasing S/N and retaining the natural dynamics of a recording is a sure formula for problems with print through. Here's a link to one of the excellent papers that 3M did on the subject of print through;
http://www.aes.org/aeshc/docs/3mtape/printthrough.pdf
Print through is the bane of 1/4 track and there's no cure. I know that there are some tape collectors that have stopped collecting 1/4 tracks for this very reason. And any experienced tape collector will balk at buying your tapes unless you do your best to avoid it.
steve koto
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