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Author Topic: Tape Life  (Read 7263 times)

Offline motorbruce

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Tape Life
« on: March 01, 2007, 07:28:51 PM »
I'm completely new to this tape stuff, but it seems good so I'm jumping in with both feet.

I've started buying some tapes on eBay. Many of the things I'm interested in are 30+ years old. Does tape quality suffer over time? If so, what is a reasonable life expectation for recorded tapes?

Cheers,
Bruce
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Offline ironbut

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Re: Tape Life
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2007, 07:54:47 PM »
Considering the forum you posted this in, I guess your talking about prerecorded tape. Most of them has lost just a touch of extreme high frequency. At least, that's the general thought. I've had incredible luck with the tapes I've bought. If it sounded good in the first place, it sounds good now. Some will knock your socks off! I think most of us will agree that the way that the tape was treated by it's former owner/owners has way more to do with how well they can be enjoyed now. If the tape itself is pictured in the ad ( I almost never even look at ones that don't have a picture of at least the box) look closely to see if the tape wrap is even and the end is held down. Look at the box condition. Even if you could care less personally, it shows how carefully the owner stored and handled the tape itself. I seriously doubt that most of the major sellers of r2r tapes really listen to all of them. So, having a good return policy is important. Finally, there was a shocking number of these tapes recorded. If you want an idea of this, check out Stellavox's post regarding his listings of 1/2 track r2r over on Yahoo's reel to reel group. He has invested a hugh amount of his own time to bring a fantastic service to us all.
steve koto
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Offline U47

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Re: Tape Life-
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2007, 12:04:28 AM »
I have found that the 50s tapes, especially scotch 121-24 and 111 have held up remarkably well, if stored under normal conditions. Most of the two track factory pre-recorded tapes(1955-59) that I have auditioned sound pretty fine and the best are scary good. I have a couple of titles that I have duplicates and triplicates of and would be willing to set up a lending tape circle. If anyone wants to try this, I could send a couple out and only request that you send it to the next party interested. All this pending Doc's approval. I have duplicates of Soundcraft: Coleman Hawkins: "Sweet sounds of jazz in stereo" , recorded in 1958, and Stravinsky: Histoire du Soldat on westminster/sonotape. This was recorded in Carnegie Hall in 1956 and has many NYC all star classical players conducted by Mandel. Both tapes are two track for inline heads with NAB eq at 7 1/2 ips.

Rich Brown
Acoustic Arts
Portland, Oregon
« Last Edit: March 02, 2007, 03:35:22 AM by U47 »
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Offline stellavox

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Re: Tape Life
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2007, 07:24:59 AM »
Don't lend out the Stravinski - you'll never get it back.  From a sonic perspective it is the best 2-track stereo classical prerecord I've ever heard.

Offline slbender

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Re: Tape Life
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2007, 12:34:11 PM »

I find most tapes can be excellent, I have some old pre-recorded ones (acetate, you can see light through them sideways) which probably are as good as they were 40 years back. How long such tapes will last...Hmmm.  Anyone's guess, I'd think several hundreds plays if the tape transport treats the tape with even and constant tape tension - and add to that low tape tension.  They say acetate gets brittle, with age, but I've never seen that.  Sticky Shed Syndrome (SSS) I have seen; also instances where backcoated tapes have had the backcoating bleed to the edges and form clumps due to fast winding tension. Well sometimes Sh-t happens.

I also note that the Pioneer RT-909 as per factory spec, has tape tension set much higher (as I recall its over 30% to 40% higher) than most other high-end RTR's, so I would stay away from that set due to: faster head wear and high tension, if playing older acetate reels or very thin tapes like 1/2 mil. mylar are two of your uses for a machine.

The first thing I do with an older pre-recorded acetate reel, if it doesn't have leader tape (most don't), I put five to eight feet of paper or plastic leader on any reel I get.  Such old tapes should really never be played on a single motor consumer level machine. The tape tension and use of pressure pads can damage or ruin the tape by stretching and/or abrasing the oxide right off the backing. 

Also worn heads which have a groove cut in the surface can cause microscopic edge abrasions that ruin the edges of the tape and cause wow and flutter to be higher, and can lead to breaks and loss of oxide.  Lastly a clean tape path and clean heads are also necessary for the tape to remain intact and to retain proper channel balance. Gummy tape residue present on the guides will increase friction, which can lead to stretching, breakage, and cupping damage.

I think the best RTR players are those that feature dual-capstan transports, where both capstans are large in diameter, and rotate at slower speeds, and are located to the left and right of the tape path and all the heads.  On such transports, tape handling seems much better within the tape path, when compared to single capstan, 3 motor  sets, where a centrally located capstan, or offset (after the heads) capstan is present.  For me, only a few sets are like this and the list includes the servo-controlled motor, belt drive dual-capstan Akai's: The PRO-1000, GX-400D, GX-400D-PRO, GX-400D-ss, and GX-650D.  I own four of those five sets.  And also a couple of Sony's, the TC-558 or TC-756/758 in the 10.5 inch reel versions.

Next best would be centrally located single capstans, within an auto- reversing mirror image head lineup, as seen in the Akai GX-636, GX-635D, and Akai GX-266 MKII, GX-267D, GX-266D, Kenwood KW-8077; and Technics RS-1500, RS-1700, and the rarely seen RS-1800 series.

Slightly less best would be the offset capstan type, which can still treat tape well, if relay or logic is imposed with delays as seen in the Akai GX-630D, GX-625, GX-620, GX-255, and the Sansui SD-7000, and Tandberg 20A, 10XD, and 9000 series; Revox B-77, A-77, etc.


Steven L. Bender, Designer of Vintage Audio Equipment


Considering the forum you posted this in, I guess your talking about prerecorded tape. Most of them has lost just a touch of extreme high frequency. At least, that's the general thought. I've had incredible luck with the tapes I've bought. If it sounded good in the first place, it sounds good now. Some will knock your socks off! I think most of us will agree that the way that the tape was treated by it's former owner/owners has way more to do with how well they can be enjoyed now. If the tape itself is pictured in the ad ( I almost never even look at ones that don't have a picture of at least the box) look closely to see if the tape wrap is even and the end is held down. Look at the box condition. Even if you could care less personally, it shows how carefully the owner stored and handled the tape itself. I seriously doubt that most of the major sellers of r2r tapes really listen to all of them. So, having a good return policy is important. Finally, there was a shocking number of these tapes recorded. If you want an idea of this, check out Stellavox's post regarding his listings of 1/2 track r2r over on Yahoo's reel to reel group. He has invested a hugh amount of his own time to bring a fantastic service to us all.

Offline heideana

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Re: Tape Life
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2007, 06:40:31 PM »
I've also found from experience that sometimes an old pre-recorded tape I've purchased on e-bay that doesn't sound ok will sometime "bloom" and start to come to life after a few plays or rewinds.  I don't know if there's anything scientific about this...sometimes it seems like the tape needs to "breathe" abit...Hopkins
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Offline TommyTunes

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Re: Tape Life
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2007, 06:30:29 AM »
I bought many tapes over the last couple of years.  IMO it's more a matter of how they were treated and stored versus the age.  Several months ago I aquired a still sealed in the baggie copy of the 2 track Jazz Party in Stereo by Ellington.  I can't imagine it sounding much better than if it was made yesterday.  I'm been fortunate to aquire many still sealed tapes and they sound great.  When buying on Ebay the only advice I can offer is look at the pictures carefully.  Although there is no sure way to tell, when I see boxes that are worn or tapes that are not properly secured it generally will indicate that what you will get is a well used tape.
Just my opinion.
Thomas Caselli

Offline ironbut

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Re: Tape Life
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2007, 04:44:05 PM »
The number of times that a good tape can be played and will continue to sound as it did new is a question that I've been asked many times. I just so happens that I have the same demo tape that Paul kindly lent me a few months ago to play at the Headfi International Meet.  It's true that I have made several improvements to my system since then ( repo amp!) but these only make the playback much more revealing. I don't know how many plays it had in the TAD room in NY but I know that I had played it somewhere around 40 times. I have the demo tape for another local event where I would say it was played at least 30 times. So, if you discount the number of times it was played at CES before I ever heard it and the NY Stereophile show after the first time I had it, that's at least 70 plays. I can't hear any degrading of the sonics at all. You may well think that my ears might have gotten used to the loss of frequency response/soundstage etc. as it slowly changed. But these were headphone shows where I didn't have to hear the tape as it was played over and over and over,..The first show I used it, I cleaned the heads a couple of times with no residue on the Q tip I used. This time I didn't clean them at all until I got it home,with the same results. Maybe you pros are yucking it up right now, but I'm used to playing 30+ year old tapes and after 10 plays, there is enough oxide to just barely see especially off the erase head. This tape is recorded on the same formula/format 468 tape that the regular releases will be on.
So, how many plays will the projects tapes live through? I don't know. But I know that it's more than 70.
BTW lots of the listeners just listened to the same 2 cuts so if there was degradation it would be obvious on those two.
steve koto
 Sony scd 777es(R. Kern mods)> Vpi Aires>Dynavector XX-2mkll>Bent mu>CAT ultimate>CJ premeir 140>Magnepan 1.6qr(Jensen xover)Headphone Eddie Current Zana Deux>AT ad2000,HD800 ,Metric Halo ULN-2 (battery powered),
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