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Baking old reel-to-reel tapes from the 70's
Old 17th April 2013
  #1
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Michael Loomis's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Baking old reel-to-reel tapes from the 70's

OK, I was given an old TEAC 4-track ree-to-reel and I'm contemplating trying to play back some old tapes from the 70's in order to digitize them. These tapes are definitely not high-quality masters of commercial product or anything, but they do have have some personal value as the only surviving evidence of early attempts at recording my bands back then.

I'm aware of tape shed possibilities, so would it be foolish to just try playback without baking the tapes first to see the result, or is that asking for trouble? I've heard stores of old tapes that survived only one pass over the tape heads. Are all tapes from that era bound to have problems, or is it possible that some could be fine?

I have read several threads about baking tapes, so I have done some homework on this this.

Michael
Old 17th April 2013
  #2
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

I do not have any actual experience in this matter, but I can tell you a few things, nonetheless.

DO NOT bake tapes wound on plastic reels. I am sure you don't have to worry about melting, as you wouldn't bake the tapes at that hot a temp, but the plastic may deform/warp.

I believe the proper temp is around 130-140.

Convection ovens are preferrable over standard residential ovens.

I believe (and I could be wrong here) that after you bake, you have one good play available. So it's bake, cool, play, and that's it. I think.

Maybe someone else who has reel experience (get it? ) can chime in here.

Cheers.
Old 17th April 2013
  #3
Lives for food
 

Load a tape, hit "play" and if the tape gums up your lifters/rollers/heads five seconds later and the tape stops moving...... hey... time to head over to Walmart to buy a $50 American Harvest Food dehydrator to cut the plastic baskets out and bake the tapes for a couple of hours.

Or... if you play the tape and notice no immediate shed, but the high end dies out after 30 seconds or so.... same thing.

Couple of zillion other threads here on the topic.

I'm gonna guess that if you have circa 1971-1979 reels of 1/4", 1/2", 1", and/or 2" stuff (which is what I have), it's time to bake before transfer.

As I've mentioned in the other topics on this, I hate dried fruit. But the dehydrater comes in handy every ten years or so when I find myself transferring the tapes YET again to new, popular sample rates. My first transfers were in 1994... to that incredible NEW 16bit 44.1 "perfect-at-the-time" archive.

Then again in the later 90s to 24bit 48k and 96.

I'll be transferring the reels again (no doubt) in another five years when I get around to 192k.... because that's what good gearsluts do.

So even though I hate dried fruit and jerky, I keep the dehydrater around. If you have ten-twenty-fifty-200 reels of tapes from the 70's.... buy the dehydrater. It's only $50.
Old 17th April 2013
  #4
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Avast!'s Avatar
Tapes prior to 1975 won't need baking.

Professional back-coated tapes newer than that will almost certainly need it.

If it's shiny on both sides or the back, don't bake it (unless it just won't play). Backcoating is dull on the back (outside) of the tape, and tends to get the stickiest.

If you hold the reel up to light and can see through the wraps, it's acetate... baking will ruin it. Video/DAT/ADAT/cassette tapes... don't bake 'em.

If it's pro tape from '75 to late 90's, then bake it before playing it. Save yourself hours of cleaning and some tape damage. A well-baked tape (24 hours @135-140º and 24 hours to cool and cure) will play 'like new' for a long time.
Old 17th April 2013
  #5
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Sonic Citizen's Avatar
 

Use a food dehydrator not an oven. 15-30 mins on metal reels. I've done this many times with sensitive archival material. Won't work for all tapes. It's hit and miss.
Old 17th April 2013
  #6
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Time Tech's Avatar
 

tape baking

well what a terrifying amount of incorrect advice/ information.
i don't know where to start, so how about the beginning.
NEVER put a unknown tape on a machine and play or rewind or FF. unless you like to buy new tape heads.
1. by hand spool off 3 to 6 feet to see if the tape sticks to its self.
2. yes acetate tape is translucent, but not all types are translucent
3. acetate tape can/will stick to itself, but not because of sticky shed
4. only proper lab grade mechanical convection ovens should be used to bake
5. 51c or 130f baking temperature not above
6. plastic reels can be baked if the tape wind/pack is not too bad.
7. bake times .25 4hrs .50 6hrs 1" 8hrs 2" 10-12hrs based on reel size
8. cool down time equals bake time
9. tapes should be transferred asap
10. acetate tapes should never be baked.

dependent on degree of stickiness tapes can be dry wiped by wrapping pellon cloth on all "static non rolling surfaces" tape guides and heads. if a play speed of 17/8 or 3 3/4 available it should be used the slower the better.
Many tape formulations from 1971 forward can suffer from SSS, binder break down or loss of lubrication.

please understand that just about every bit of information on tape baking on the internet is outdated or just plain wrong.

Im a trained professional, please don't try this at home.
Old 17th April 2013
  #7
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wirenut's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic Citizen View Post
Use a food dehydrator not an oven. 15-30 mins on metal reels. I've done this many times with sensitive archival material. Won't work for all tapes. It's hit and miss.
+1

This very true with the old 456 tapes. However I recommend a longer baking time.

Over time, the glue that binds the oxide to the plastic will absorb moisture and "break down." The symptoms of "binder breakdown" are immediately obvious even when rewinding. Tearing sounds and sluggish behavior are clues to quit before the oxide comes off.

A lot of my business is 1/4" and 1/2" tape transfers. I have had great success using a Snack master dehydrator. About 75% successful.

I bake a quarter inch tape at 135°F — for two hours — flipping every half-hour. You will find that cooking time varies with tape width, type, brand, condition and the number of reels being baked. Ampex tape from the seventies might require twice as much time as 3M tape from the eighties.
Old 17th April 2013
  #8
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vernier's Avatar
Don't bake unless tape is wet. It's either wet or dry, and you'll know right away because your machine will stop, it won't be able to turn and move tape.

If it's wet (like molasses) put in a fruit-dryer for 6 hrs at around 100 degrees (or whatever, been a while since I've baked), then transfer in one pass, because it won't handle much more, if any.
.
.
.
Old 17th April 2013
  #9
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crosscutred's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Time Tech View Post
well what a terrifying amount of incorrect advice/ information.
i don't know where to start, so how about the beginning.
NEVER put a unknown tape on a machine and play or rewind or FF. unless you like to buy new tape heads.
1. by hand spool off 3 to 6 feet to see if the tape sticks to its self.
2. yes acetate tape is translucent, but not all types are translucent
3. acetate tape can/will stick to itself, but not because of sticky shed
4. only proper lab grade mechanical convection ovens should be used to bake
5. 51c or 130f baking temperature not above
6. plastic reels can be baked if the tape wind/pack is not too bad.
7. bake times .25 4hrs .50 6hrs 1" 8hrs 2" 10-12hrs based on reel size
8. cool down time equals bake time
9. tapes should be transferred asap
10. acetate tapes should never be baked.

dependent on degree of stickiness tapes can be dry wiped by wrapping pellon cloth on all "static non rolling surfaces" tape guides and heads. if a play speed of 17/8 or 3 3/4 available it should be used the slower the better.
Many tape formulations from 1971 forward can suffer from SSS, binder break down or loss of lubrication.

please understand that just about every bit of information on tape baking on the internet is outdated or just plain wrong.

Im a trained professional, please don't try this at home.
What damage will be done to the heads from an unknown tape?

Sent from my HTC One X+
Old 17th April 2013
  #10
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TTatman's Avatar
 

Old 17th April 2013
  #12
Gear Head
 
Sonic Citizen's Avatar
 

Old 17th April 2013
  #13
Gear Addict
 
Time Tech's Avatar
 

tape head question

it is possible to clog the tape heads by the oxide build up. deep cleaning or wet demag may not remove the clog.
Old 17th April 2013
  #14
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Michael Loomis's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Thanks for all the posts, everyone. I've located a food dehydrator, and plan to give this process a shot. Yes, I AM going to try this at home.

Because I thought it likely that I would not have access to a tape machine ever again, I was half expecting to never again be able to hear the recorded material I'm now trying to recover. If this works, I'll consider it a bonus. If not, well I guess I'll just fall back to my original expectation.

Fingers crossed,

Michael
Old 13th June 2013
  #15
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ianbryn11's Avatar
 

i just got a few tapes off ebay. tried one and it was sticking to the machine. wouldn't rewind. wish i saw this thread first... A few questions. is bakeing a tape going to allow me to record on the tape? some people in this thread say it will only be good for one pass, some say it will be good for many passes. with my tapes that are in good condition, i can just re use them over and over again with no artifacts or drop outs or anything. Will baked tape allow me to do this as well? the seller said that the tapes where used, but able to be wiped clean and used like new. if this isnt true, i would like to get a refund. It is 1 inch ampex 456 by the way, and the spools look very evenly wound, and in great physical condition.
Old 13th June 2013
  #16
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Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ianbryn11 View Post
i just got a few tapes off ebay. tried one and it was sticking to the machine. wouldn't rewind. wish i saw this thread first... A few questions. is bakeing a tape going to allow me to record on the tape? some people in this thread say it will only be good for one pass, some say it will be good for many passes. with my tapes that are in good condition, i can just re use them over and over again with no artifacts or drop outs or anything. Will baked tape allow me to do this as well? the seller said that the tapes where used, but able to be wiped clean and used like new. if this isnt true, i would like to get a refund. It is 1 inch ampex 456 by the way, and the spools look very evenly wound, and in great physical condition.
I would get my money back. My experience is once a tape gets sticky it will return to this condition after dehydrating. The length of time before it returns is variable so you will be recording on a ticking time bomb. Then there are the issues of oxide damage while playing the tape while it is sticky.......why deal with this?
Old 13th June 2013
  #17
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
We seem to have gone from the era of rescuing decayed media for (one-pass) transcription to modern media (i.e. converting into a digital format), to a "revival" of analog mag tape as a production method.

It seems unlikely that random old tapes from our parents' era is a good value for a medium to continue to do production with. I don't think I would buy used tapes with the hopes of using them for ongoing production.

Baking (and related tricks) is a RESCUE technique, not a RESTORATION method.

Analog tape appears to be attractive only to those who didn't have to use it back in the day.
Old 13th June 2013
  #18
Agreed, send the sticky tape back and request a refund. In my experience, tape baking is a temporary "fix" that will hopefully allow one to get one or two good plays from a recording. Beware, sticking tape can mean binder separation which can lead to gummed-up heads very quickly.

Recently transferred 50 hours of 55 year old masters to digital, careful baking and gentle handling allowed all audio to be captured, although a few physical splices were required. Amazed that anyone still makes audio splicing tape, but it is available.
Old 13th June 2013
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley;9131010 [...
Analog tape appears to be attractive only to those who didn't have to use it back in the day.
A BIG ditto! Having had to align Ampex 350s and 600s, and having to splice together complicated performances, I for one am happy to see those days long gone.
Old 13th June 2013
  #20
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ianbryn11's Avatar
 

thank you Rick, Richard and Lotus. that is what i suspected.
Old 13th June 2013
  #21
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ianbryn11's Avatar
 

on another note, yes, tape can be a bit more of a gamble than digital, but it sounds very pleasant to my ears.
Old 13th June 2013
  #22
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
It should not be that difficult to characterize the distortion people associate with analog tape and make a digital plug-in filter for it. You can add some pink noise for hiss, and even some frequency-modulation to simulate wow and flutter if that is what you like.
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