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Old 16th July 2012
Lives for gear
jmikeperkins's Avatar

I have a large number of ADAT tapes from the 1990's and I have never heard of anyone baking them to get them to play (but anything is possible). My experience with them has largely depended on the brand of tape I used back then. I have had EXCELLENT results with Maxell SVHS tape and I don't think I have ever had one go bad on me. The ADAT Maxell SVHS tapes recorded in 1991 sound and play as good today as the day the were recorded. The Ampex SVHS tapes were pretty good but I have had at least 1-2 of those go bad on me. TDK was not bad, but again I have had a few go bad on me. My results with Sony and Fuji SVHS tapes are not as good. The main danger is excessive drop outs which can clog the video heads and make transferring difficult as you have to stop the machine, clean the heads, and then play the tape some more hoping you can get a complete song before the heads clog up again. Also, a lot of it has to do with how the tapes were stored. They do pretty well in an air conditioned environment and not so well if stored in a hot humid garage.

If you have problems with the tape there are several things you can do. The first is to unpack the tape by fast forwarding and rewinding it and you can use any old VHS machine for that. If the machine is having problems with the tape tension you can wind the tape manually to see if you fix the problem. If that does not work, and the issue is tape tension or a problem with the cassette itself, then you can (carefully) take the SVHS tape cartridge apart and transfer the tape reels to a new cartridge that you know is good. You have to be careful when you do that, but that will often solve the problem. As a last resort you can try "cleaning" the tape, trying to remove the loose drop outs so they don't clog the heads. You need a VHS machine where you can open the cover and get to the tape in the transport. You then take a chamois (which has had most of the oil removed from it, like a chamois you would use to clean a video head), put some denatured alcohol on the chamois and hold it against the tape while it is playing (or fast forwarding or rewinding) in the VHS machine. Hopefully this will pick up some of the drop outs without damaging the tape. Obviously these techniques work on ADAT SVHS tapes. DAT tapes are so tiny, I don't think this work on them.