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Fostex R8 Mixdowns Equalisers (HW)
Old 26th December 2010
Here for the gear

Fostex R8 Mixdowns

I'm trying to remix and remaster my 17-20 year old Ampex 456 tapes on my working Fostex R8 to my DAT recorder. Is it possible for these tapes to just degrade on their own? After about 30 seconds of playback, the sound muffles up and the tape heads are filthy. This was never a problem 17 years ago while mixing down to cassette. Tapes have been stored in plastic bags in their boxes in a climate-controlled area. Is my original signal going, going, gone? Is there any way to restore clarity and sizzle to the recordings? Are the machine tape heads a concern?
Old 26th December 2010
Lives for gear
wado1942's Avatar

They have a condition called "hydrolysis". You can save them, but read up on it here first.

Tape Baking

You must be very careful and precise about it or you can ruin them. After you've reconditioned the tapes, I HIGHLY recommend dumping the raw tracks directly to digital and working from that to save wear on the tapes and machine.
Old 26th December 2010
Lives for gear

From what I understand about reel to reels, if your heads are filthy, you will get a filthy sound. Get some alcohol 90% or better I believe and dip some q-tips in it and clean the heads. I suggest looking up a video on how to do it correctly though before trying. That could be all thats wrong, but I think tape also can lose some audio over time. I think there are things you can do like baking it, but again I would do more research on how to do both correcty before attempting. Also your heads could need to be demagntized. Those would probably be the first things to try that you can likely do yourself, and if that doesn't work, maybe take it for service.
Old 27th December 2010
Gear Addict
Time Tech's Avatar

Ampex 456

Hello Alfred,
Sounds very much like your tapes are suffering from sticky shed. The problem is caused by the original chemicals used in the manufacture of 456, and not your storage of the tapes.

You should not try to play the tapes on your machine. It will remove the oxide from the tape (where the sound is recorded), as well as the possibility of permanently clogging up your tape heads beyond repair.

The best course of action is to have the tapes professionally cleaned and baked, then transfered to high resolution digital files.

Another side note, DAT tapes are falling apart at a rate quicker than analog tapes. If you have the option you may want to try to record your mixes back to the R8 with some new clean ATR tape.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions you may have.
Old 27th December 2010
Lives for gear
wado1942's Avatar

I agree that DAT is a horrid format that needs to go away. Even in its heyday, the life expectancy was only about 5 years or so and it was very common for tapes to only play in the machine that made them. Not to mention that I've never heard a DAT that wasn't crunchy and grainy sounding.

Please don't try to use ATR tape on the R8 though. It doesn't have nearly the headroom or bias current to record on it properly.

If you're not comfortable baking and transferring the tapes yourself, or don't have the equipment (which is somewhat specialized), it's a good idea to consider having a pro do it for you. I don't have an R8 myself but I do enough restoration projects like this to know that you don't want to take chances on first generation archives.
Old 27th December 2010
Gear Addict
Time Tech's Avatar

ATR Tape

The Fostex R8 is capable of running tape levels of 355 nWb/m (+6). The ATR tape could be aligned for +6 and with the on deck NR system should work fine. I have a couple of R8's at our transfer lab. I can get some ATR from Mike and set it up to test. The only down side is that the normal tape used on a R8 (Q457) is 1mil and a 1.5mil tape would offer a shorter recording time.
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