Reel To Reel Audio Tape Transfer To Digital
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Affordable - Old Photo Movies
8624 N. 63rd St.
Brown Deer, WI 53223
Call Toll Free: 1-888-224-5966
Yes! We can transfer your old, audio, Reel to Reel tapes to digital format so you can listen to them on your computer or MP3 player.
The earliest reel-to-reel systems used metal wire as a medium (see wire recording), which is robust, but suffered from a number of problems – poor fidelity, required a strong current to imprint the signal onto the wire, editing inconvenience (needing physical cuts to effect an edit), and potential kinking or even tangling of the recording wire. The invention of cellulose acetate plastic tape coated with iron oxide solved these problems, opening up the use of tape recorders in studios.
The great advantage of tape for studios was twofold – it allowed a performance to be recorded without the 30 minute time limitation of a phonograph disc, and it permitted a recorded performance to be edited. For the first time, audio could be manipulated as a physical entity. Tape editing is performed simply by cutting the tape at the required point, and rejoining it to another section of tape using adhesive tape, or sometimes glue. This is called a splice. The splicing tape has to be very thin to avoid impeding the tape's motion, and the adhesive is carefully formulated to avoid leaving a sticky residue on the tape or deck. Usually, the cut is made at an angle across the tape so that any "click" or other noise introduced by the cut is spread across a few milliseconds of the recording. The use of reels to supply and collect the tape also made it very easy for editors to manually move the tape back and forth across the heads to find the exact point they wished to edit. Tape to be spliced was clamped in a special splicing block attached to the deck near the heads to hold the tape accurately while the edit was made. A skilled editor could make these edits very rapidly and accurately. A side effect of cutting the tape at an angle is that on stereo tapes the edit occurs on one channel a split-second before the other.
Reel-to-reel, open reel tape recording is the form of magnetic tape audio recording in which the recording medium is held on a reel, rather than being securely contained within a cassette.
In use, the supply reel or feed reel containing the tape is mounted on a spindle; the end of the tape is manually pulled out of the reel, threaded through mechanical guides and a tape head assembly, and attached by friction to the hub of a second, initially empty takeup reel. The arrangement is similar to that used for motion picture film.
The reel-to-reel format was used in the very earliest tape recorders, including the pioneering German Magnetophon machines of the 1930s. Originally, this format had no name, since all forms of magnetic tape recorders used it. The name arose only with the need to distinguish it from the several kinds of tape cartridges or cassettes which were introduced in the early 1960s. Thus, the term "reel-to-reel" is an example of a retronym.
Reel-to-reel tape was also used in early tape drives for data storage on mainframe computers, video tape machines, and later for high quality analog audio recorders as early as the late 1940s, up until modern day studios where it is still in use. Studer, Stellavox, Nagra, Denon and Otari currently manufacture analog reel-to-reel recorders.
The earliest machines produced distortion during the recording process which German engineers significantly reduced during the Nazi era by introducing a high-frequency bias current also used during playback. American audio engineer Jack Mullin was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. His unit was assigned to investigate German radio and electronics activities, and in the course of his duties, he acquired two Magnetophon recorders and 50 reels of I.G. Farben recording tape from a German radio station at Bad Nauheim (near Frankfurt). He had these shipped home. Over the next two years, he worked to develop the machines for commercial use, hoping to interest the Hollywood film studios in using magnetic tape for movie soundtrack recording.
Inexpensive reel-to-reel tape recorders were widely used for voice recording in the home and in schools before the Philips compact cassette, introduced in 1963, gradually took over. Cassettes eventually displaced reel-to-reel recorders for consumer use. However, the narrow tracks and slow recording speeds used in cassettes compromised fidelity.
Even today, some artists of all genres prefer analog tape's "musical", "natural" and especially "warm" sound. Due to harmonic distortion, bass can thicken up, creating the illusion of a fuller-sounding mix. In addition, high end can be slightly compressed, which is more natural to the human ear. It is common for artists to record to digital and re-record the tracks to analog reels for this effect of "natural" sound. In addition to all of these attributes of tape, tape saturation is a unique form of distortion that many rock and blues artists find very pleasing.
Euphonic distortion and noise levels aside, high-quality analog tape currently outstrips the transparency of all but the best digital recording/playback systems: digital systems can suffer from (among other problems) clock jitter, inferior analog circuitry, inferior digital filter design, improper wordlength conversion, and/or lack of correct dithering. Dramatic improvements in the average quality of digital hardware design are narrowing the gap, though, and might soon eliminate the quality distinction altogether
The performance of tape recording is greatly affected by the width of the tracks used to record a signal, and the speed of the tape. The wider and faster the better, but of course this uses more tape. These factors lead directly to improved frequency response, signal-to-noise ratio, and high-frequency distortion figures. Tape can accommodate multiple parallel tracks, allowing not just stereo recordings, but multi-track recordings too. This gives the producer of the final edit much greater flexibility, allowing a performance to be remixed long after the performance was originally recorded. This innovation was a great driving force behind the explosion of popular music in the late 1950s and 1960s. The first multi-tracking recorders had four tracks, then eight, then sixteen, twenty-four, and so on. It was also discovered that new effects were possible using multi-tracking recorders, such as phasing and flanging, delays and echo, so these innovations appeared on pop recordings shortly after multi-tracking recorders were introduced.
For home use, simpler reel-to-reel recorders were available, and a number of track formats and tape speeds were standardised to permit interoperability and prerecorded music. (The first prerecorded reel-to-reel tapes were introduced by RCA Victor Record Co. in 1954.) Reel to reel was still popular through to the end of the 1970s, despite the ubiquitous cassette, mostly because of the superior quality of open reel recordings. Audiophiles are willing to accept the relative fiddliness of open reel tape to gain better quality reproduction. Reel-to-reel tape editing also gained cult-status when many used this technique on hit-singles in the 1980s.
In general, the faster the speed the better the sound quality. In addition to faithfully recording higher frequencies and increasing the magnetic signal strength and therefore the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N), higher tape speeds spread the signal longitudinally over more tape area, reducing the effects of defects in or damage to the medium. Slower speeds conserve tape and are useful in applications where sound quality is not critical.
* 15/16ths of an inch per second (in/s) or 2.38 cm/s — used for very long-duration recordings (e.g. recording a radio station's entire output in case of complaints, aka "logging")
* 1⅞ in/s or 4.76 cm/s — usually the slowest domestic speed, best for long duration speech recordings
* 3¾ in/s or 9.52 cm/s — common domestic speed, used on most single-speed domestic machines, reasonable quality for speech and off-air radio recordings
* 7½ in/s or 19.05 cm/s — highest domestic speed, also slowest professional; used by most radio stations for "dubs", copies of commercial announcements; Through the early-mid 90's many stations could not handle 15 IPS.
* 15 in/s or 38.1 cm/s — professional music recording and radio programming
* 30 in/s or 76.2 cm/s — used where the best possible treble response is demanded, e.g., many classical music recordings
Speed units of inches per second or in/s are also abbreviated IPS. 3¾ in/s and 7½ in/s are the speeds that were used for (the vast majority of) consumer market releases of commercial recordings on reel-to-reel tape. 3¾ in/s is also the speed used in 8-track cartridges. 1⅞ in/s is also the speed used in Compact cassettes.)
In some early prototype linear video tape recording systems developed in the early 1950s from companies such as Bing Crosby Enterprises, RCA, and the BBC's VERA, the reel speed was extremely high, over 200 in/s, to adequately capture the large amount of image information. The need for a high linear tape speed was made unnecessary with the introduction of the now-obsolete professional Quadruplex system from 1956, which segmented the fields of a television image by recording (and reproducing) several tracks at a high-speed across the width of the tape per field of video by way of a spinning headwheel with 4 separate video heads mounted on its edge (a technique called transverse scanning), allowing for the linear tape speed to be much slower. Transverse scanning was superseded by the later technology of helical scanning, which could record one whole field of video per helically-recorded track, recorded at an angle across the width of the tape.