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[ARSCLIST] Tape problems, was Re: [ARSCLIST] Collection for sale

But London allowed itself to get into 4-track tape because they were impressed by the operations at United Stereo Tapes (Ampex's duping division). It says so right on the back ad in a 1959 High Fidelity issue (I've been going through a ton of these lately). It's in print, it must be true..heh heh.

Duped tape disasters weren't limited to 4-track consumer product. I remember the Cleveland Orchestra coming in on ten-inch reels with horrible sound and on more than one occasion, an entire channel missing. This was in the early 90s.


carlstephen koto wrote:
Tom, I agree completely regarding the dismal sound found on most factory produced r2r tapes. It's a real shame since the few that were produced following the items you've listed, reveal a texture (particularly with orchestral recording) to the sound that's absent on most lp's. I've got a number of Mercury 1/2 tracks and a few RCAs that are spectacular. Some of the Verve 1/4 track jazz titles are really something to hear also. BTW I almost never buy tapes from online auctions. That's a sure formula for disappointment!
On Feb 23, 2008, at 3:43 AM, Tom Fine wrote:

The craziest thing in all of this is, mass-duped tapes generally are TERRIBLE, I mean awful. If you understand anything about how they were made, you'd understand why they generally sound terrible. A few specifics:

1. 4x to 8x and later 16x duplication speeds. Generally on Ampex 3200-type transports, which were hardly stable at 60IPS or later 120IPS.

2. duper masters generally made by low-skill personnel from many-generations-removed copies sent to the duper plants. The duper plants would get a 15IPS safety (second generation from master, which could be a generation or more from the session tapes, particularly in the multi-track era), it would be a safety that close to the master if they were lucky because one common practice was the keep the safety at a studio and run series of duper masters from it for popular titles. Then this 15IPS tape would be reduced and combined to make a 4-track usually 7.5IPS dupe master. If someone decided to make a 15IPS dupe master that meant the duper's playback transport would be running twice as fast as the record transports, adding still more variables to the system. This all got even worse with 8-track carts and 3.75IPS duped reels. Those formats are such dog-doo, I won't even discuss them.

3. the tape stock used by dupers varied and was usually lousy. By the mid to late 60's, Ampex in Illinois was the biggest duper. I think even then RCA and CBS did their own duping (generally with better results). Ampex used their own tape, which is notoriously bad. They never perfected slitting so the tape "country lanes" and at high speed duping that leads to severe azimuth instability. Plus, the Ampex tape is notorious for warping, so most of those 40+ year-old tapes on eBay are badly curled or warped and full of left-channel dropouts. Any acetate tape will warp with the way most of these were stored by consumers, so I probably shouldn't single out Ampex.

4. Azimuth varies widely from tape to tape and even on parts of the same reel (and sometimes different sides of the same reel since some dupers used different record heads for each side of a quarter-track reel -- the heads were offset and would run at the same time but early 3200 systems didn't accomodate 4 tracks on one record head). Unless you check azimuth with a scope for each side of each tape (sometimes difficult since of course there are no alignment tones on these tapes), you're only somewhere in the neighborhood (and often outside the ballpark).

5. maintenance of the duper equipment varied from day to day, line to line and worker to worker. Sometimes there's hum in a channel. Sometimes level is all wrong. Sometimes channels are reversed. And remember that this junk sold at a premium to LPs.

6. finally, the hiss and wow/flutter level on most duped tapes I've heard is unacceptable. Unless you like digital artifacts better than hiss, there is no digifilter that satisfactorally cleans this up. I don't even think something like Plangent that locks to bias would help since the wow and flutter could date back any generation between the studio tapes and the duped tape and the bias recovered would only be the duper bias on the final duped tape.

Meanwhile, in contrast, a properly done LP was mastered right from the master tape and if it was mastered and pressed properly, it is much closer to the source than a duped reel. Also, I should mention that some dupers were better than others. Ampex was particularly bad in my experience. So was Bel-Canto. And early 2-track duped tapes are a whole other matter and often sound better than the early stereo LPs, if you can find one that's not completely worn out from age nowadays.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- From: "carlstephen koto" <cskoto@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2008 1:11 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Collection for sale

Speaking of crazy,.. I collect reel to reel tapes (in a minor way) and an auction of one came to my attention a couple of weeks ago. It was a Japanese 7" 7.5 ips 1/4 track issue of Pink Floyd's "Adam Heart Mother". The reason this auction attracted the interest of several tape collectors was that it had already reached a bid of over $400 with two days left. By the next day, it was over $700. At that point, I speculated that it would go for over $1k. I guess that's why I usually lose bidding wars. The final price was over $1800! We were flabbergasted. Luckily, I suggested some reasons why a single 7" tape could be worth that much to someone when one of the regular posters let us know that he'd bid $1600 on the tape.
BTW reel to reel tapes have had a dramatic upswing in prices the last year or so. But nothing like that!
Steve Koto
On Feb 22, 2008, at 7:55 PM, Roger and Allison Kulp wrote:

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