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Author Topic: Analog machine and tape maintenance  (Read 10507 times)

lek

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Analog machine and tape maintenance
« on: January 10, 2006, 07:54:24 am »

Some maintenance questions, just received my atr102 fixed up from atr services.
- ATR recommended I use isopropyl alcohol to clean the heads and everything else (instead of head cleaner on the heads). How do you feel about that?
- Do you use generic cotton swabs or the fancy ones they sell?
- should a machine (in my case the atr102) be kept on all the
 time / at least some of the time - if so, how often?
- for demagnetizer, which do you recommend, the Han D?
- How important is it to keep the unit covered from dust?
- should the flanges be kept perfectly clean - could they possibly have deleterious effects on the tape?
- am I supposed to keep tape stacked vertically?

- any other general care tips greatly appreciated. I'm anal about keeping this thing working great!

I ordered my first tape - arriving today will be 1/4" 456, pretty excited to try my first mix on high end analog!  Surprised

Lek
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RMoore

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2006, 09:30:03 am »

lek wrote on Tue, 10 January 2006 13:54

Some maintenance questions, just received my atr102 fixed up from atr services.
- ATR recommended I use isopropyl alcohol to clean the heads and everything else (instead of head cleaner on the heads). How do you feel about that?
- Do you use generic cotton swabs or the fancy ones they sell?
- should a machine (in my case the atr102) be kept on all the
 time / at least some of the time - if so, how often?
- for demagnetizer, which do you recommend, the Han D?
- How important is it to keep the unit covered from dust?
- should the flanges be kept perfectly clean - could they possibly have deleterious effects on the tape?
- am I supposed to keep tape stacked vertically?

- any other general care tips greatly appreciated. I'm anal about keeping this thing working great!

I ordered my first tape - arriving today will be 1/4" 456, pretty excited to try my first mix on high end analog!  Surprised

Lek


If I may: I would trust whatever ATR tells you Smile

I use generic cotton Qtip swabs from the drugstore (note all my analog decks were bought cheep and have low resale value eg: not $$ ATR102 machines) . Keeping heads clean will improve freq response but also increase life span of $$ heads due to less abrasive material wearing them down.

off or on - Don't know about ATR102's specifically but 2 schools of thought exist and both have their own merits as per leaving on or off 24-7..
personally I turn the gear off when I go home..
partly to save energy which is expensive in Europe but also if something happens while I'm not around like a short circuit - the results could be bad.
The keep on movement leave on mainly because the power cycling stresses the components with a jolt - just like how lightbulbs almost always blow right when you've turned them on.

Handy Mag is D best

You don't want dust getting between tape & heads - just think sandpaper.
Anyway dust and heat are just bad things for gear in general.

Tape best stacked vertically otherwise the sides get messed up,

Enjoy!
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Barry Hufker

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2006, 11:41:57 am »

More than keeping the flanges clean,which is important, keep them from warping.  When warped they constantly wear of the tape edges.

Use Isopropyl Alcohol but not the stuff you routinely find.  Stuff from a drug store is about 79% pure, which means the remaining 21% is crap that ends up on the machine.  Get the alcohol from a chemistry supply company -- and don't use it on the pinch roller!

Make sure your tapes are library wound or played through.  You may know this already, but it is important to keep the tapes "tails out" so they have to be rewound before they can be played.  This will reduce print-through.

Barry
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bobkatz

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2006, 12:34:17 pm »

lek wrote on Tue, 10 January 2006 07:54

Some maintenance questions, just received my atr102 fixed up from atr services.
- ATR recommended I use isopropyl alcohol to clean the heads and everything else (instead of head cleaner on the heads). How do you feel about that?





I can't remember the reason why they said so, but there's certainly no harm in using
91% or 99% Isopropyl and that may make the Ampex folks feel better  Smile

Quote:




- Do you use generic cotton swabs or the fancy ones they sell?




I have some foam swabs, they don't leave any cotton residue. But when you have some oxide stubbornly attached to some side of some guide, there's no substitute for scrubbing with a good ol' fashioned q-tip. The foam swabs are too "gentle" for that application. Just look out for cotton threads. Otherwise you're fine.

Quote:



- should a machine (in my case the atr102) be kept on all the
 time / at least some of the time - if so, how often?




There should be no harm in keeping it on 24 hours a day. Maybe work better... Just don't leave it threaded and "armed".

Quote:



- for demagnetizer, which do you recommend, the Han D?





The Han-D-mag is the ONLY effective demagnetizer I've ever seen or used. All the rest are either toys or junk or worse, could be ineffective or conceivably leave residual magnetism

Quote:



- How important is it to keep the unit covered from dust?




If you leave it on, it makes heat, and so a dust cover would cause it to overheat. That's a catch-22. But if you leave it off, long term storage with a dust cover may reduce issues of dust bunnies over longer term.

Quote:



- should the flanges be kept perfectly clean - could they possibly have deleterious effects on the tape?




???   The flanges should never even touch the edges of the tape at all. No rubbing allowed, so "dirty" flanges seems an irrelevant issue.

Quote:



- am I supposed to keep tape stacked vertically?




For long term storage, yes, with library wind (smooth wind mode of the Ampex).


Quote

Enjoy your ATR! Sounds like you're in for fun.


BK
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craig boychuk

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2006, 02:29:35 pm »

Ryan Moore wrote on Tue, 10 January 2006 08:30


I use generic cotton Qtip swabs from the drugstore



An experienced tech friend of mine warned against using your average cotton swab because they glue the cotton to the plastic stick. When you dip it in alcohol, it acts as a solvent and you may get glue residue on your headstack.

With "fancy" swabs (the kind you get at the electronics store, or ones with a wooden stick) the cotton is just tightly wound onto the  stick part, without glue.


However, I've never really tested the theory, I just get the glueless swabs.

Perhaps something worth considering.

-craig
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vernier

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2006, 05:42:59 pm »

Nothing special here ...RadioShack swab/alcohol, and after a session, turn off and cover.
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cdr-1

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2006, 09:46:34 am »

While we're on the subject,

I've heard a lot of conflicting opinions on when to de magnetize. My friends who went to recording school said it should be clean, de-mag, and calibrate before every session.

I've also heard that de magnetizing every time you use the machine can do more harm than good, but I have no idea why that would be a problem.

any thoughts?

thanks,
Adam
CDR
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lek

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2006, 12:43:40 pm »

Thanks to everyone so far.
Barry Hufker wrote on Tue, 10 January 2006 11:41


Make sure your tapes are library wound or played through.  You may know this already, but it is important to keep the tapes "tails out" so they have to be rewound before they can be played.  This will reduce print-through.
Barry

What do you mean library wound? You're saying I should store them so that the tape is played to the end - every time? And every time I intend to use it, rewind to the beggining?
Quote:


??? The flanges should never even touch the edges of the tape at all. No rubbing allowed, so "dirty" flanges seems an irrelevant issue. - Bob Katz


I had a leftover to use as the takeup reel and it wasn't that clean - perhaps I'm being anal, but I was thinking the new tape will thread onto that reel - perhaps the takeup reel flange's dust/residue/crap/whatever may make its way onto the tape, via, air, through time, or maybe capillary action?  Smile

Some other thoughts after 1 day of playing this machine
- I assume it's normal for the tape, at various parts, to be sticking out horizontally (as opposed to the perfect flatness of new tape) - and I assume this is why we store it vertically?

- am I to completely cut off the beginning of the tape where the paper/serial code is - will this cause any problems as tape winds over it (it got a little crumpled, and seems thicker than the actual tape?)

- is it normal to hear slight warbles as I fast forward or rewind?

- I do hear hiss, and I remember Mr. Katz recommended using dolby sr at 15ips, is this still sold anywhere? I have heard however that some people don't like what dolby does to the top end

- overall, sounds great
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scottoliphant

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2006, 10:20:30 pm »

hey there! welcome to the wonderful world of analog. Yes to the tail out. A lot of folks store their tape "played through" and then  rewing it when they want to use it. I don't usually do this to tape that I'm a frequently using (for example if I'm working a lot with one band) until we finish tracking and it's goign to sit on the shelf for a long time. I'm sure you'll get different answers depending on who you ask. The "horizontal" parts sticking out are due to the flange wobbling slightly as you run the tape on the machine. It'll probably never look as pristine as it does when you first open the box, although the heavier tape machines (my otari mx70 16 track for example, which weighs about 200 pounds) does less than my older otari  1/2 8 track. You can cut off the little tag at the beginning. People used to cut tape all the time before computers! There is probably even a little splicing area built into your ATR =) The warbles when you fast forward and rewind (if they are what I'm thinking of) are normal. If it's in play, and you hit Fast Forward, you are going to hear the play repro head playing back as it speeds up / slows down. I personally don't like dolby noise reduction. Even with 456 at 15 ips (which i used for the past few years on my mx5050 8 track), you can record fairly hot and get rid of most of the hiss (on a well calibrated deck). It's not going to totally eliminate it, but I suppose it's part of the charm. Once you get up to 30 ips, tape noise becomes even less of an issue. Buy an MRL tape and learn how to use it. have fun! don't be afraid to ask questions, people here seem to very cool to those with all level of experience.

Ronny

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2006, 11:32:06 pm »

lek wrote on Wed, 11 January 2006 12:43

Thanks to everyone so far.
Barry Hufker wrote on Tue, 10 January 2006 11:41


Make sure your tapes are library wound or played through.  You may know this already, but it is important to keep the tapes "tails out" so they have to be rewound before they can be played.  This will reduce print-through.
Barry

What do you mean library wound? You're saying I should store them so that the tape is played to the end - every time? And every time I intend to use it, rewind to the beggining?
Quote:


??? The flanges should never even touch the edges of the tape at all. No rubbing allowed, so "dirty" flanges seems an irrelevant issue. - Bob Katz


I had a leftover to use as the takeup reel and it wasn't that clean - perhaps I'm being anal, but I was thinking the new tape will thread onto that reel - perhaps the takeup reel flange's dust/residue/crap/whatever may make its way onto the tape, via, air, through time, or maybe capillary action?  Smile

Some other thoughts after 1 day of playing this machine
- I assume it's normal for the tape, at various parts, to be sticking out horizontally (as opposed to the perfect flatness of new tape) - and I assume this is why we store it vertically?

- am I to completely cut off the beginning of the tape where the paper/serial code is - will this cause any problems as tape winds over it (it got a little crumpled, and seems thicker than the actual tape?)

- is it normal to hear slight warbles as I fast forward or rewind?

- I do hear hiss, and I remember Mr. Katz recommended using dolby sr at 15ips, is this still sold anywhere? I have heard however that some people don't like what dolby does to the top end

- overall, sounds great



One reason you may be seeing the tape sticking out at different spots is because it was rewound or fast forwarded before storing. When the tape is played through and stored with the tail out, the packing on the reel is better, but if you fast forward it to the end, you are liable to get as bad a packing as rewinding it. It defeats the purpose of playing through for the packing if you FF it to the end, but some people store tail out for the protection that it gives to the beginning of the tape. Typically there is less dead air at the start than at the end. If you aren't getting a good clean packing when playing back all the way through, than it could be a number of mechanical reasons why the tape isn't going down in line, worn or loose capstan roller, or a slightly bent spindle on the take up reel. It could also be the reel rubbing one side of the tape in one spot, if it's a cheap plastic reel. They can get slightly skewed over time, even when storing them book style.


Cut off the old leader and splice some new plastic type on there if you feel you need to. It would depend on how much pre-roll I  have before the audio or tones start, before I'd worry about replacing the leader, if you have plenty of tape at the start and you aren't going to use the tape much, I personally wouldn't worry about it, but I'd get the old crumpled leader off before I played it again.  
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Johnny B

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2006, 12:03:38 am »

Perhaps some of the information here will be helpful in some fashion.


http://home.flash.net/~mrltapes/



Keep us informed of how you are doing with your new machine.



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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2006, 01:41:45 am »

lek wrote on Tue, 10 January 2006 12:54

Some maintenance questions, just received my atr102 fixed up from atr services.
- ATR recommended I use isopropyl alcohol to clean the heads and everything else (instead of head cleaner on the heads). How do you feel about that?
- Do you use generic cotton swabs or the fancy ones they sell?
- should a machine (in my case the atr102) be kept on all the
 time / at least some of the time - if so, how often?
- for demagnetizer, which do you recommend, the Han D?
- How important is it to keep the unit covered from dust?
- should the flanges be kept perfectly clean - could they possibly have deleterious effects on the tape?
- am I supposed to keep tape stacked vertically?

Lek



Lek, you ask a lot of questions for someone from New Jersey.

Personally, I would not leave the tape machine on 24/7 unattended. There are a lot of tantalum caps in there that are used for power rail bypassing and when they fail, they can possibly short and BURN! This may or may not be a problem depending on the state of your bank account. (You do know that any tape machine should NEVER be on when you demagnetize it?)

I would also recommend that you go through the archives of the Ampex Mailing List at Recordist.com, there are a lot of ex-Ampex employees there that have forgotten more than most people will ever know about analog recording. There has been some discussion there in the past about how often tape recorders should be demagnetized and if my memory is correct, the general consensus was that is shouldn't be done that often.

I could be wrong about all of this but I would definitely listen to what Mike Spitz tells you.

Good luck.
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bobkatz

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2006, 05:10:20 am »

cdr-1 wrote on Wed, 11 January 2006 09:46

While we're on the subject,

I've heard a lot of conflicting opinions on when to de magnetize. My friends who went to recording school said it should be clean, de-mag, and calibrate before every session.

I've also heard that de magnetizing every time you use the machine can do more harm than good, but I have no idea why that would be a problem.

any thoughts?

thanks,
Adam
CDR


Any machine that records needs regular demagnetizing. I always made it a rule to demagnetize before putting on the MRL. That made it "frequent enough".

But a machine that reproduces only and is not moved around in the earth's magnetic field much does not need regular demagnetizing. For comfort's sake I demag my reproduce only machines whenever I feel like it, maybe once in six months or a year but it probably doesn't even need that.

BK
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RMoore

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2006, 05:14:29 am »

lek wrote on Wed, 11 January 2006 18:43

 
Some other thoughts after 1 day of playing this machine
- I assume it's normal for the tape, at various parts, to be sticking out horizontally (as opposed to the perfect flatness of new tape) - and I assume this is why we store it vertically?

- am I to completely cut off the beginning of the tape where the paper/serial code is - will this cause any problems as tape winds over it (it got a little crumpled, and seems thicker than the actual tape?)

- I do hear hiss, and I remember Mr. Katz recommended using dolby sr at 15ips, is this still sold anywhere? I have heard however that some people don't like what dolby does to the top end

- overall, sounds great


Its happily dawned on me we are probably seeing someone moving from digital to analog recording and is dealing with those issues instead of how many of us older folks moved from analog to digital, with all the issues of thereof - anyway, its funny (in a good way) contemplating making this 'reverse' journey and imagining what that must be like...

Recording tails out is mainly for the issue of print through (more a long term storage thing) where its less noticable on a tails out tape as the 'echo' is coming <after> the events as opposed to before,

------------------------------------------------------------ -
Print-through
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Print-through (sometimes referred to as bleed-through) is a generally undesirable effect that arises in the use of magnetic tape for storing analogue information, in particular music.

The close proximity of layers of tape on the spools of a cassette or reel to reel tape causes a weak imprint of magnetic information to be transferred to adjacent layers, effectively shifting a copy of the signal backwards and forwards along the tape. This can sometimes be heard as pre- or post-echo. Thinner tapes are more prone to the effect than thicker tapes, and tapes held in storage for a long period or exposed to a weak magnetic field can show pronounced print-through. Digital tapes are not affected in the same manner as the imprint is generally too weak to change the state of bits recorded on adjacent layers of the tape.

--------------------------------------------------------

If you let it play out to the end you get a more even pack, personally I just FF, but for long term storage I should really be letting it play out to the end but so much to do so little time..
I think all machines will have some uneveness in the tape pack which is why you want to store vertical.
The only machine I ever saw that had a perfect even pack, even with FF was an old tube Studer J37 'Beatles' style 2 trk, that was pretty neat to see...

Hiss - welcome to the World of analog Smile
I view that as part of the sonic glue which holds things together..
You could try recording at a hotter level,
Hotter level = less hiss
Lower level = more hiss
Thats when you get into the art of analog tape eg: how hard to hit the tape,
its like a rubber band...
Personally I don't hit the levels too hard, but not too quiet either.
If the hiss issue becomes a problem you could always try NR but that can effect the sound so its a tradeoff..

Good luck!

RM
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bobkatz

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2006, 05:26:16 am »

lek wrote on Wed, 11 January 2006 12:43

Thanks to everyone so far.
Barry Hufker wrote on Tue, 10 January 2006 11:41


Make sure your tapes are library wound or played through.  You may know this already, but it is important to keep the tapes "tails out" so they have to be rewound before they can be played.  This will reduce print-through.
Barry

What do you mean library wound? You're saying I should store them so that the tape is played to the end - every time? And every time I intend to use it, rewind to the beggining?




This is all about preventing edge damage when the tape is transported and dropped six feet by the UPS guys. There's a special medium-fast wind under tension mode of the Ampex ATR that i think can be engaged by hitting fast forward twice in succession. But I don't have an ATR in hand so check it. Any tape that's going into long term storage should be flat wound, in either library wind or play mode, continuously from beginning to end. If you get lazy (as I often do) you can cheat by stopping at any leader tape and restarting, but the chances you're going to create a layer that sticks out and can be potentially edge damaged. There's FAR less chance of this happening with BASF or AGFA than Ampex. The Americans never learned how to slit tape right. You can fast forward an AGFA or BASF reel without flanges most times and it will look like it was flat wound at play speed!

Quote:



Some other thoughts after 1 day of playing this machine
- I assume it's normal for the tape, at various parts, to be sticking out horizontally (as opposed to the perfect flatness of new tape) - and I assume this is why we store it vertically?




Yes, but when shipped it's going to be possibly edge damaged. The best thing that Ampex or Quantegy ever did for us was make those wonderful cushioned shipping boxes.

Quote:



- am I to completely cut off the beginning of the tape where the paper/serial code is

- will this cause any problems as tape winds over it (it got a little crumpled, and seems thicker than the actual tape?)




My, you're quite intuitive! Sometimes I had to teach interns to do this and it was always intuitive to me. Cut off the first foot because the little piece of tape leaves a bit of goo from the glue.

Quote:



- is it normal to hear slight warbles as I fast forward or rewind?




I'm loving watching you discover tape for the first time! This is fun. Yes, that's perfectly normal.

Quote:



- I do hear hiss, and I remember Mr. Katz recommended using dolby sr at 15ips, is this still sold anywhere? I have heard however that some people don't like what dolby does to the top end

- overall, sounds great


You're correct. It's controversial. SR is a very euphonic system, fortunately. If you have to use it, use it. If not, then don't  Smile. The slower the speed, the more tracks, and the narrower the track width,the more likely you will want to use noise reduction.

BK
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