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Thread: The Official 'Factory-Made' Reel to Reel Tape Thread

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Bristol, UK

    Posts: 9,872
    I'm Nick.

    Default The Official 'Factory-Made' Reel to Reel Tape Thread

    Ok, Ok, so this is just an excuse for me to share some of the officially released (rather than enthusiast recorded) reel to reel tapes I have. They aren't that common, so it may be interesting to some of you, and it'd certainly be great to hear from anyone who has their own factory duplicated reel to reel tapes. Please, take some pictures and post them here if you have any!

    All mine so far are 4-Track Stereo. That means you get 2 stereo tracks on one side of the tape and 2 on the other, corresponding usually to each side of the vinyl release. There are 2-Track Stereo official releases - the signal recorded across the full-width of the tape, in one direction only, and 2-Track Mono - bi-directional play, but a mono instead of stereo signal.

    Interesting variants of the standard are 2 Track 'Staggered Head' tapes designed to be played on machines that had two separate heads for the left and right channels, the heads being separated from each other. I've seen some jazz releases in this format from the early sixties. Played back on conventional two-track stereo heads there will be a playback delay between the left and right channels. These tapes aren't always clearly labelled so be careful!

    There are also the later Quadraphonic (Q4) tapes. These utilised 4 Tracks in one direction on the tape. Quad reel to reel tape is considered the highest fidelity and most 'discrete' of all the Quad formats. It ran at twice the speed and had an obviously higher dynamic range vs 8-Track. Vinyl formats relied upon carrier signals in the 30khz band, or matrixed phase tricks relying upon carefully set up decoders to get a decent result. Q4 just needed a 4-Track quad reel to reel player and a quad amplifier.

    By the late 60's most reel to reel releases were in 4-Track stereo, and ran at the higher 7 inch-per-second speed. As the decade turned, most releases moved to 3 ips - an attempt to save costs is my guess. 7 ips is great sounding. 3 ips is respectable, but when you've heard some nice high-speed releases, you wish they were all like that.

    It's useful to know though, whatever the playback speed, how the tapes were duplicated. The best way to explain this is by a quote from a thread on Audiokarma in 2007:

    Back in the day, I used to work for GRT (Blue Label Tape division of Chess/Janis records). All the working masters were on Ampex tape running at very high speed (240 IPS) in partial vacuum loose bin loaders. All the duplicating machines for R2R were Ampex slaves running 3000 ft pancakes of BASF 1/4 tape at 120 IPS. They maintained tension well, but the bulk tape was the cheapest we could get that would hold signal, tracking and linearity for 60 days.

    The marketing boys decided that new tape owners would play a new tape more during the first few weeks of ownership. As time went on, it would begin to warp and deteriorate, but the owner would think it was something they'd done. It was just the nature of the business. I don't think anything has changed 35 years later?
    Given this, it's almost surprising that the tapes I have, mostly NOS, a good number of them still having the leader seal-tape still present (before I unsealed them to have a listen, which it's all about) - sound as good as new And good they sound too. Especially those 7 ips ones

    I'm only collecting artists that I really like, and albums I rate. There's lots and lots of easy-listening stuff, classical and mawky-country out there but I'm focussed on quality stuff.

    A few things that I'm looking for and haven't got hold of yet are Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' on (well duplicated - apparently) 3 ips, any Roberta Flack - most of her classic albums were released on 7 ips reel by Atlantic, Byrds albums not pictured, most of which were rumoured to have had reel releases, but I've not come across any in 2 years looking, and the Daddy of them all... the only album by Pink Floyd to ever get an official reel to reel release. 'Atom Heart Mother', on the Japanese 'Odeon' label, 7 ips. Sold last year for around 1,200. A bit out of my price range

    Some pictures...













    Nick
    My system...


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  2. #2
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Cricklewood

    Posts: 9,081
    I'm ILOB.

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    Lovelly looking reels I would love to hear what a real player can do I heard some people say even better than LPs
    Loves anything from Pain of Salvation to Jeff Buckley to Django to Sarasate to Surinder Sandhu to Shawn Lane to Nick Drake to Rush to Beth Hart to Kate Bush to Rodrigo Y Gabriela to The Hellecasters to Dark Sanctury to Ben Harper to Karicus to Dream Theater to Zero Hour to Al DiMeola to Larry Carlton to Derek Trucks to Govt Mule to?

    Humour: One of the few things worth taking seriously

  3. #3
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Bristol, UK

    Posts: 9,872
    I'm Nick.

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    I wish I could show you! Apparently 'Stereophile' magazine had an article back in 1970 or something where they said that reel to reel at 7 ips was better than vinyl. I don't think my turntable setup qualifies me to state categorically whether this is true or not, but it does sound very nice, definitely preferable to CD in a lot of respects. I certainly find the sound more involving and dynamic...
    Nick
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  4. #4
    Join Date: Feb 2009

    Location: Oxford UK

    Posts: 67

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    Quote Originally Posted by John View Post
    Lovelly looking reels I would love to hear what a real player can do I heard some people say even better than LPs
    Hi John as an ex-Tascam service engineer and a small home studio owner I can only say that it really depends on the quality of the tape machine and the quality of the tape media, they vary sooooooo much, and if you only ever record from your own source then they are oonly as good as the original obviously, plus sometimes a bit of added hissss and flutter, but they are lovely to relax too and watch as you listen to your favourite tunes.
    Happy Days
    Paul

  5. #5
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Bristol, UK

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    I'm Nick.

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    I must admit I've had a couple of recent purchases, 'Killing Me Softly' by Roberta Flack and 'Bookends' by Simon & Garfunkel (both 7 ips) - and played back on my Pioneer they leap out of the speakers in a way which has literally shocked me (my transmission line speakers have made such a difference to my appreciation of music )... compared with my other sources the impact is quite distinct...
    Nick
    My system...


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  6. #6
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Cricklewood

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    How much do you end up paying for reels I imagine them being hard to come by but with the right recorded quality being as close to the master tape as you can get
    Loves anything from Pain of Salvation to Jeff Buckley to Django to Sarasate to Surinder Sandhu to Shawn Lane to Nick Drake to Rush to Beth Hart to Kate Bush to Rodrigo Y Gabriela to The Hellecasters to Dark Sanctury to Ben Harper to Karicus to Dream Theater to Zero Hour to Al DiMeola to Larry Carlton to Derek Trucks to Govt Mule to?

    Humour: One of the few things worth taking seriously

  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Bristol, UK

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    I'm Nick.

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    I've paid anywhere between 7 and 30 for these. The exchange rate is making these purchases somewhat painful of late I am however lucky that the artists I like aren't The Beatles, Led Zep and the like because their releases are prohibitively expensive - 50 or more... postage from the states is 7-10 so that has to be added on too.

    There is an audiophile label / project that is still releasing very high quality releases on reel to reel: The Tape Project. They do releases on 15ips, 1/4" 2 track stereo tape (aka half-track stereo). Their releases are duplicated in real time, so can probably claim to be the closest to the mastertape sound in the analogue world. Their releases are $200-$300 per album, but their obviously have a niche.
    Nick
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  8. #8
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Lancaster(-ish), UK

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    I'm ChrisB.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beechwoods View Post
    I am however lucky that the artists I like aren't The Beatles, Led Zep and the like because their releases are prohibitively expensive - 50 or more... postage from the states is 7-10 so that has to be added on too.
    When I was a tiny nipper my family lived in Pakistan in a community of mostly Americans & Brits. People used to often accumulate a lot of extra 'stuff' in their 3 - 5 year stays & had to jettison stuff when they left. Also people used to go to Japan or Hong Kong quite a bit on leave, so there developed quite a market in used hi-fi's, cameras and various other bits of techno-kit as they upgraded.

    One of the things my Dad bought from a departing Yank was a Sony R-R deck. It don't know what the model was, but we also got a box full of tapes. I came across this box once, years later in the loft at my folks house and looked through the tapes. I can only remember one, and that was a pre-recorded copy of 'Help!' by the Beatles - US release. Someone - and it may have been my Dad (he was a bit of a classical snob) had recorded over it & written in black felt tip on the box what the new recording was. I was only about 10 or 11 years old at the time, but I knew that there was something fundamentally really very, very wrong with this situation!!

  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: Belfast/Northern Ireland/UK

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    I'm Neil.

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    I can hear Nick crying.....



    Regards Neil
    Regards Neil

    System 1 (Living Room) : Vinyl: AMG Giro Turntable, AMG 9W2 Tonearm, AMG Reference Armcable, Air Tight PC3 MC Cartridge PhonoStage: Passlabs Xono Digital: Esoteric P5 SACD Transport and Esoteric P 5 DAC, Sony HAP Z1es Digital File Player + Audioquest Jitter Bug, Computer Audio: Veracity Audio Mystra DAC + HP laptop + iFi Audio i Power, Wireworld Starlight USB + Audioquest Jitter Bug Tuner:Kenwood KT 7020 + Magnum Dynalab Signal Sleuth FM Amplifier Cassette Tape: Nakamichi CR5e Integrated Amplifier: Balanced Audio Technology VK300se Speakers: Anthony Gallo Reference 3.1 Audio Cabling: Signal - Atlas Mavros, Audience AU24 Speaker - Atlas Mavros. Mains Cabling: Audience AU24, Analysis Plus, TCI. Mains Distribution: Mark Grant Distribution Blocks, Mark Grant DC Blocker Equipment Tables: Target Audio B series + Track Audio Isolation Spikes Isolation/ Platforms: Bright Star Audio Isonodes, BASE 01, SSC Platforms.

    System 2 (Music Room) : Vinyl: Turntable 1 Loricraft Garrard 401 Turntable + SME 5 Tonearm, Graham IC70 Tonearm Cable + VDH MC10 cartridge Turntable 2 Modified Technics 1200 turntable + Triplannar 7 Tonearm + VDH Frog Gold Cartridge + Paul Hynes SR7 PSU Turntable 3 SME Model 20 Turntable + Graham Phantom Tonearm + Graham IC70 Tonearm Cable, Ortofon MC5200 Cartridge PhonoStage: Balanced Audio Technology VK10se Digital: Moon Andromeda CD Player, Toshiba 9500 DVD Audio Player Computer Audio: AMR DP777 DAC + Dell Laptop + iFi Audio i Power + JKenny JKSPIDIF + Wireworld Starlight USB Tuners: Kenwood 8300 Tuner, Revox B760 Tuner, Leak Troughline Tuner + EAR Stereo Decoder ReelToReel Tape: Revox B77 mk 2, Revox A77 mk3, Sony TC-377 Cassette Tape: Nakamichi DR10 Headphone: Audio Valve RKV2 OTL Valve Headphone Amp, Headphones Grado GS 1000, Sennheiser 560 Ovation2, Sennheiser 410SL Pre-Amplifier: Balanced Audio Technology VK52se Power-Amplifier: Music Reference RM200 mk1 Speakers: Anthony Gallo Reference 3.5 Audio Cabling: Signal - Audience AU24, Kimber KCAG, Audio Note ANVs, Barry Hunt Cables Speaker - XLO Type 6. Mains Cabling: Audience AU24, TCI. Mains Distribution: Mark Grant and Russ Andrews Equipment Tables: Clear Light Audio Aspekt Tacks Isolation/Platform: SSC, Bright Star Audio Isonodes, Naim Frame Record Cleaner: Hanns Audio

  10. #10
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Bristol, UK

    Posts: 9,872
    I'm Nick.

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    That is almost as sad as the reel to reel I bought off eBay for 50p which had off-air recordings of Top Of The Pops from 1967 and 1968. I'd bid hoping that by some miracle Pink Floyd's appearance from June 1967 was included. As I started to listen and did my research I realised there were about 3 hours of material on the tape, chronological, starting from September 1967! It seemed like whoever it was had recorded everything, too. Now either there's an earlier reel out there, or the person recording it only bought their recorder in September It was a little disappointing, but for 50p I don't suppose I can feel too bad about it!
    Nick
    My system...


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