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Tape to Digital Transfers: Company recommendations
Old 31st May 2006
  #1
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Tape to Digital Transfers: Company recommendations

I'm looking to get my 15 ips master tapes from the 80s transferred to digital. I've found one company out of New Jersey called Sonicraft that looks pretty good.

http://www.sonicraft.com/a2dx/index.html

Anybody know of any other companies that do this?

[Warning: If you have tapes from 1971 to the year 2000, they may need a process called "baking". If you try to play the tapes without this process and they run sluggishly or squeal, you run the risk of ruining both the tape and your deck. Nobody told me about this, so that's why I'm telling you.]
Old 1st June 2006
  #2
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Nothing? I ran a search for tape transfers and tape restoration, but couldn't find one company listed here at gearslutz. I can't believe I'm the only one interested in this.

Then again, it wouldn't be the first time I was oldest guy at the club.

Jasper
Old 1st June 2006
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
Mark Cattano's Avatar
 

transfers...

Just saw you post. I met Steve from Sonicraft last week in Manhattan at a seminar at BMI. I don't know of any other guys, personally, that are doing what Steve is, but I can tell you he is one helluva nice guy and extremely knowledgable. He also has one crazy collection of tube tape machines from the '50's. Ampex 444's and 1200's and the like. I really don't think you can go wrong with Steve for this type of thing. Hope this helps...

Mark Cattano
Magneto Studios
www.heedmusic.com
www.myspace.com/markcattano
Old 1st June 2006
  #4
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John Strother at Penguin Recording in L. A. 323-259-8612 did a great job recently with some c.1983 8-track 1" tapes (and some 1/4" 4-track and half-track).
Old 1st June 2006
  #5
Gear Guru
 

West West Side Music in New Windsor NY does baking and transfers

http://www.westwestsidemusic.com/transfers.html
Old 1st June 2006
  #6
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
I found a couple of more places.

Mr. Toad's I found when I Googled analog-to-digital tape transfers:

http://www.mrtoads.com/html/audio_addserv_ad.shtml

And Terra Nova -- the biggest mastering studio in Austin, TX -- also does archiving and tape restoration:

http://www.terranovamastering.com/ma...g/archive.html

Here's an article on tape baking. "Baking" helps restore old reel-to-reel tapes.

http://www.tangible-technology.com/tape/baking1.html

Cool. We're getting some options here.

Jasper
Old 1st June 2006
  #7
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XSergeantD's Avatar
 

Any recording studio that has an analog machine and whatever format you want to x-fer to and has an electric oven that can maintian 130 degrees for hours can do this for you (amout of time depends on 1/2", 1" or 2"). It is a very simple process. You can even buy the oven yourself if they want to charge you a but load of $.
Here's the previous discussions on this topic:
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/showt...highlight=bake

So call around to your local studios and see who can lock an analog machine to a DAW for you
Old 2nd June 2006
  #8
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Thanks, for the link to a good discussion on tape baking, Brent.

I have a question about baking, though. I found this statement in the link to the article I provided earlier in this thread:

'The goal is to minimize "mechanical distortions" that can be impressed upon subsequent layers causing dropouts. The "wind" must be smooth as if played!!!'

Christ, my reel is heads out and not smooth at all. I've been warned not to play it, since I heard squealing when I tried. How dangerous is baking a reel of tape that isn't "smooth as if played."

Jasper
Old 2nd June 2006
  #9
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XSergeantD's Avatar
 

Heads out, where was this tape recorded. Sorry, I got off subject.
Sounds like they're talking about a pack on a small hub, like the oid plastic reels with almost no hub. One things you have going for you is the reel is heads out, so you don't have to worry about winding the tape, you can throw it right on the deck and hit play.. OK, because of the heads out, print-thru may be a factor if the backing formula was crap and it really was a tight pack, but thats all been 'damaged' by now.
What tape format is it? 1/2" what size hub, is it a pancake or does it have flanges on it...
?
?
Old 3rd June 2006
  #10
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
It's 1/4-inch, stereo on metal flanges, NAB hub and such.

But it's a very uneven wind.

Jasper
Old 3rd June 2006
  #11
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Found another company advertising tape restoration on the Web.

http://www.soundsaver.com

I'm hoping this thread will be definitive and list enough companies to give people a choice, not to mention do-it-yourself alternatives.

While there are a few studios that do reel-to-reel transfers to digital, very few specialize in it. As to the quality of that specialization, there seems to be two important variables:

1) The type of tape recorder used for playback.

2) The type of A/D converters used between the tape recorder and the DAW.

I suppose a third variable would be the type of DAW used, which might be important on multi-track transfers. It might also be important to those who think one DAW sounds better than another.

So far, Sonicraft seems like the best for this type of thing to me. A 1/4-inch transfer would be done on a Studer to Mytek converters to Nuendo. Steve also gives free estimates, while Terra Nova Mastering in Austin charges $75 an hour for this with a 1/2 hour minimum charge.

Sonicraft, however, does have a $250 minimum. I really don't have enough reel-to-reel projects to take advantage of this, although that could change, since more tapes have been turning up as I search through storage.

Anyway, I've decided to do the baking and transfer myself. I bought a Snackmaster FD-60 for the baking ($50 at Target) and borrowed a friend's Otari MX5050. From the Otari, it'll go to an Apogee PSX100SE to Pro Tools. Since I'm NOT digitizing Pink Floyd or The Beatles, this should work out fine.

If I had more serious material, I think I'd want to know more about the playback quality of various tape machines. That would be a project in itself, and at some point, it would be wise to take the advice of someone who's already made those tests, such as Steve at Sonicraft or Jerry at Terra Nova.

But since I'm only going for better-than-the-cassette-version-I-made-from-the-reel-to-reel-master quality, the Otari to Apogee to Pro Tools chain should do just fine. If it turns out I don't like the do-it-yourself results, I can always have someone else do it later on down the road, since every source I can find tells me it's okay to bake tape more than once.

And there you have it.

Jasper
Old 3rd June 2006
  #12
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jebjerome's Avatar
 

I once worked at Mr. Toad's. They have excellent machines and have done many thousands of hours of this.
Old 3rd June 2006
  #13
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GYMusic's Avatar
What you purchased for baking is a dehydrator... not a convection oven. Make sure you have a device for monitoring your baking temperature before you proceed or you could render your tapes useless.
Old 3rd June 2006
  #14
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jebjerome
I once worked at Mr. Toad's. They have excellent machines and have done many thousands of hours of this.
Cool. I didn't really talk to anybody at Mr. Toad's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GYMusic
What you purchased for baking is a dehydrator... not a convection oven. Make sure you have a device for monitoring your baking temperature before you proceed or you could render your tapes useless.
Yeah, I know. Check out this link:

http://www.tangible-technology.com/tape/baking1.html

It's the item in Figure Two. If anything, it's safer than a convection oven.

Jasper
Old 3rd June 2006
  #15
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Here's another company doing transfers and advertising on the web:

http://www.accessaudioservices.com/transfer.html

I guess we have enough companies listed to give people a resonable choice now.

Jasper
Old 5th June 2006
  #16
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XSergeantD's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Jasper
Yeah, I know. Check out this link:

http://www.tangible-technology.com/tape/baking1.html

It's the item in Figure Two. If anything, it's safer than a convection oven.

Jasper
I would not recomment this unit at all. Is there temp control? how are you reading the actual temperature inside?
Look for something like this: http://www.hamiltonbeach.com/kitchen...ntertop_ovens/
with a temperature guage you can control and a window you can see thru to read the candy thermometer you leave inside with the tape so you know the exact temp you're at. This is not the oven I usually use, but I can't go check the model right now. I did a quick search on the web and found this, so you'll have to go look at it to check the temp dial.
Old 5th June 2006
  #17
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HudHudson's Avatar
 

www.cupsnstrings.com

Bruce Maddocks is the go-to guy for digital archiving from analog tape in SoCal. Former chief engineer at the Record Plant & Capitol Studios, he's digitally archived entire catalogs for Steely Dan, REM, and others. And a helluva nice guy.
Old 5th June 2006
  #18
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by XSergeantD
I would not recommend this unit at all. Is there temp control? how are you reading the actual temperature inside?
Thanks for the input. Others do recommend the dehydrator, and some even report positive results just using a hair dryer, a cardboard box and a candy thermometer.

If you use the dehydrator conservatively, it's definitely safe. I guess I shouldn't have said that the dehydrator is safer than the convection oven, but since it maxes at 155 degrees, it seemed safer to me.

Here's how I used it: I started out by setting it just below 125 degrees, then checked the temperature every half hour using a candy thermometer. When that appeared to be too low, I raised it to 130 degrees (halfway between the 125 and 135 marking on the unit). That seemed to work out fine, since I was shooting for 130 degrees for four hours.

The unit (the FD-50 Snackmaster from American Harvest by Nesco) has a fan, so that helps provide even heat. I've used it with two tapes now, and it seems to be working fine, now that I've tweaked it to find the right temperature.

From everything I've read, temperatures should not exceed 150 degrees. I've heard ideal temperature recommendations from 121 to 140 degrees. I've read that tape should be baked as long as 8 hours (for quarter-inch) to as little as 1 hour (again, for quarter-inch tape).

I didn't come up with the idea of using the dehydrator on my own. Here are some links to people recommending it:

Eddie Ciletti: http://www.tangible-technology.com/tape/baking1.html

Wendy Carlos: http://www.wendycarlos.com/bake%20a%.../baketape.html (same article, somewhat edited and at Wendy's website)

Radio Magazine: http://beradio.com/notebook/radio_ba...c_recording_2/

For the record -- I'm not recommending any dehydrator, any convection oven, or any company. I'm just reporting what I've found and what I've decided to do. For me, that's baking with the FD-60 (new version of FD-50), playing back on an Otari MX5050, connecting to an Apogee PSX100SE and then into Pro Tools.

Sonicraft uses an industrial baker, then plays back from a Studer A80RC, to Mytek converters to Nuendo. He uses Mogami cable, I use Monster.

My point? There are a lot of variables and all I recommend is you check this out for yourself.

Jasper
PS -- They only thing I've found on the subject of tape baking that everyone seems to agree with is this: Do not use your home oven. Ever.
Old 6th June 2006
  #19
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Okay, there is a big downside to using the dehydrator. You have to use NAB 10.5-inch reels. It won't take plastic reels because of the hub size. I just ran out of NAB reels and I'm having a hard time finding any for sale.

With the convectioner's oven, that's not a problem.

Jasper
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