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noob at mastering... need tape advice (age of tape, signal chain, etc)
Old 9th September 2011
  #1
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davemccall's Avatar
noob at mastering... need tape advice (age of tape, signal chain, etc)

I am a noob at mastering and have a akai 1/4" reel to reel tape machine. I was wanting to incorporate it into my mastering chain.

I found some sealed boxes of 1/4" tape of an unknown age (probably at least 15 years old). Does tape age ok, or does it go bad after a certain amount of time? Should I be buying new tape to use on the recorder?

What do the two speeds effectively do?

Advice for a noob is appreciated. Thanks.
Old 9th September 2011
  #2
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wado1942's Avatar
 

It depends on the formula of tape you have. Some of them are fine, but others absorb moisture from the air and get sticky. It's not always obvious that there's a problem at first, but it starts to drag in the transport and junk builds up in the tape path, diminishing quality and possibly damaging the machine. The buildup of stuff can in turn damage the tape. In such cases, I've never not been able to get a clean transfer from such tapes after a proper bake, but I'd never record on such tapes. In fact, I don't record on any tape where I don't know the exact history of it. No used tape, no 2nd hand tape of any kind.

You didn't say what model tape recorder it is. If it's a quarter-track stereo deck, it probably won't be of much use as it's an inexpensive consumer device and will be noisier, with less headroom than a pro quality, half-track device. As for tape speed, I don't know what you have available, but expect 3.75 I/S to be distorted & dull. 7.5 I/S can be good, if the machine is well calibrated and in great shape, but the top end still sags, especially on louder passages. 15 I/S is generally very even throughout the spectrum and is usually my first choice of speeds. 30 I/S is very clean in the high end, but unless you have extended range heads, you'll lose the bottom octave of the music.

As for incorporating it into your mastering chain, I can only speak for myself. I would not ever record audio to a tape recorder, just to dump it back to digital. It always sounds like digital to me, but with added noise & distortion. Don't get me wrong, I love working with analogue gear, I can take projects from original recording all the way to the master without ever touching digital, even for effects or surround mixing. I can also do projects completely in the digital domain without ever touching analogue and everywhere in between. It's just that, the idea of intentionally degrading a recording through extra generations seems very strange to me. It seems analogue tape has become the new "magic box" that everybody wants. That said, if somebody asked me to make a backup copy of their digital master on tape, I would certainly do it, because analogue tape has the longest shelf life of all re-recordable media and I've had plenty digital masters go bad after a few years. So for preservation sake, it makes sense.

For the record, most of my in-studio projects are ADD, but more are going AAD. I have yet to do an AAA project, but probably will in the next year for a special client.

Don't forget, clean before every session, degauss every ten hours & align monthly.
Old 10th September 2011
  #3
Gear Nut
 
davemccall's Avatar
Thanks. Good info there.

It is an Akai GX-270D. Stereo 1/4". Top speed is 7.5 ips

I won't view it as a magic box. I'll definitely A/B it with an all digital chain the first time. I primarily just didn't want to ruin anything with junk tape (if that can happen). You've indicated that this is a real risk, so thanks for answering my question so well.
Old 10th September 2011
  #4
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Jerry Tubb's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Use the higher speed. Try the NOS tape, see if it works.

If they don't have sticky shed syndrome, might be useable.

Akai was a decent consumer deck back in the day.

I had one in the early '70s. Enjoyed using the simul-sync feature.

Not really a mastering quality machine,

but you could certainly have some fun experimenting with it.

Enjoy, JT

P.s. Be sure and use denatured alcohol to clean the heads.
Old 10th September 2011
  #5
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wado1942's Avatar
 

Yes, use 99% alcohol or better if possible.

I still have an old TEAC quarter-track deck, similar to your Akai. I used to record jam sessions with my band on it. It's a consumer medium, so it won't have the big, fat, clean, quiet sound (noise I mean) of say an AMPEX, but there's no reason you can't have fun with it.
Old 10th September 2011
  #6
Gear Addict
 

I've got shelves full of 1/4" (technics 1500) and 1/2 (tascam80-8) " reels , all 15 ~ 20 year-old ampex 456.
Whenever i dig up an old recording its very labor intensive.

First run it thru fast forward / rewind a couple of times to shake out the loose stuff.

Then clean the heads and especially the guides that make first contact after EVERY play .

so far no major failures (never tried the baking trick)
Old 10th September 2011
  #7
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Verified Member
Baking tape is something that I know how to do in theory, but I wouldn't attempt it in real life, cause if its done wrong the master is gone forever there is no getting it back. I would probably outsource that to someone who had a lot of experience doing that sort of stuff, cause I won't want to screw it up. Especially if that is the last and original master tape.
Old 11th September 2011
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davemccall View Post
I am a noob at mastering and have a akai 1/4" reel to reel tape machine. I was wanting to incorporate it into my mastering chain.

I found some sealed boxes of 1/4" tape of an unknown age (probably at least 15 years old). Does tape age ok, or does it go bad after a certain amount of time? Should I be buying new tape to use on the recorder?

What do the two speeds effectively do?

Advice for a noob is appreciated. Thanks.
buy new tape
too risky to use old tape
if the glue is leaking that holds the oxide to teh plastic then you will muck up more than you can save

what two speeds? 7.5 and 3.75?
usually one goes faster than the other
faster is slightly better quality
slower will record longer on same amount of tape
its a tradeoff - your choice

match the speed setting to the tape speed on playback
or it will sound funny
Old 11th September 2011
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
It depends on the formula of tape you have. Some of them are fine, but others absorb moisture from the air and get sticky. It's not always obvious that there's a problem at first, but it starts to drag in the transport and junk builds up in the tape path, diminishing quality and possibly damaging the machine. The buildup of stuff can in turn damage the tape. In such cases, I've never not been able to get a clean transfer from such tapes after a proper bake, but I'd never record on such tapes. In fact, I don't record on any tape where I don't know the exact history of it. No used tape, no 2nd hand tape of any kind.

You didn't say what model tape recorder it is. If it's a quarter-track stereo deck, it probably won't be of much use as it's an inexpensive consumer device and will be noisier, with less headroom than a pro quality, half-track device. As for tape speed, I don't know what you have available, but expect 3.75 I/S to be distorted & dull. 7.5 I/S can be good, if the machine is well calibrated and in great shape, but the top end still sags, especially on louder passages. 15 I/S is generally very even throughout the spectrum and is usually my first choice of speeds. 30 I/S is very clean in the high end, but unless you have extended range heads, you'll lose the bottom octave of the music.

As for incorporating it into your mastering chain, I can only speak for myself. I would not ever record audio to a tape recorder, just to dump it back to digital. It always sounds like digital to me, but with added noise & distortion. Don't get me wrong, I love working with analogue gear, I can take projects from original recording all the way to the master without ever touching digital, even for effects or surround mixing. I can also do projects completely in the digital domain without ever touching analogue and everywhere in between. It's just that, the idea of intentionally degrading a recording through extra generations seems very strange to me. It seems analogue tape has become the new "magic box" that everybody wants. That said, if somebody asked me to make a backup copy of their digital master on tape, I would certainly do it, because analogue tape has the longest shelf life of all re-recordable media and I've had plenty digital masters go bad after a few years. So for preservation sake, it makes sense.

For the record, most of my in-studio projects are ADD, but more are going AAD. I have yet to do an AAA project, but probably will in the next year for a special client.

Don't forget, clean before every session, degauss every ten hours & align monthly.
my experience differs
akai is not teac but 7.5 recordings can be quite good
and the noise is not noticeable at all if you are reasonably careful to keep the gain up

3.75 is NOT distorted. WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????
you do lose some highs but for much content that is not an issue and slower speeds are not distorted just a little lower fi due to slightly smaller BW.
Old 11th September 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
Yes, use 99% alcohol or better if possible.

I still have an old TEAC quarter-track deck, similar to your Akai. I used to record jam sessions with my band on it. It's a consumer medium, so it won't have the big, fat, clean, quiet sound (noise I mean) of say an AMPEX, but there's no reason you can't have fun with it.
the pro ampex we had at work was built solid but had more noise than my teac at home.

the teac was quiet with no noise and sounded great. limitation was the mikes not the deck.

the OP can certainly have a lot of fun using it and comparing to his digital kit.
Old 11th September 2011
  #11
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wado1942's Avatar
 

Quote:
Baking tape is something that I know how to do in theory, but I wouldn't attempt it in real life, cause if its done wrong the master is gone forever there is no getting it back.
I do it all the time. The trick is making sure the temperature stays within a 5 degree window.


Quote:
akai is not teac but 7.5 recordings can be quite good
and the noise is not noticeable at all if you are reasonably careful to keep the gain up

3.75 is NOT distorted. WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????
A bit sensitive are we? Have you heard all the interference from the bias at 3 3/4? NASTY! I also never said 7 1/2 couldn't be good.


Quote:
the pro ampex we had at work was built solid but had more noise than my teac at home.
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