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Author Topic: Analog machine and tape maintenance  (Read 10502 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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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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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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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2006, 09:37:34 am »

is there a certain style of music that you are likely to be doing a lot of? One thing you'll find is how forgiving this medium is. You don't have to sit on pins and needles hoping something doesn't all of a sudden hit red in your digital system, making that oh so pleasant digital clip. I've got tracks all the time that even frighten me they are so hot. Also, do you know what level your tech aligned the deck to? It'll be something like +6 or +3 (or +7,8,9, although my 1/2 won't get up there). I ask about the style of music only because recording rock and roll and classical music at 15 ips would deliver more or less noticeable amounts of noise.

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2006, 06:41:42 pm »

One SERIOUS caveat with Cotton Swabs:

If you SOAK the cotton swab with alcohol, when you first apply it to the machine, it "releases" a small amount of alcohol which runs down the head, and usually onto the deckplate. This as often as not goes nowhere before evaporating, but if you allow this to reach things like the capstan motor bearings, many machines' motors will die far more quickly as a result.

The alcohol is a phenomenally good solvent for the grease in the bearings of many machines' motors. Some Studer bearings will absolutely be destroyed in fairly short order if you regularly clean the capstan shaft with alcohol-soaked cotton buds.

ALWAYS wipe off a little of the alcohol. There is NO benefit in carrying a saturated cotton swab to the heads or any of the other path surfaces if much of it is going to be released on first contact. It will serve no good purpose, and only do harm.

ALWAYS "touch-off" excess alcohol, and -better yet- use a lint-free fabric such as "texwipe".

Keith
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2006, 09:45:37 pm »

Anyone use xylene to clean their tape heads?  I have 2 Ampex ATR800 1/4" machines.  When I bought them the seller gave me a bottle of xylene to use as head cleaner.  I have not had any problems but wonder if alcohol would be a safer choice?  Thanks,
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lek

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2006, 10:43:13 pm »

scottoliphant wrote on Wed, 11 January 2006 22:20

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.

Thanks! Actually my first three years of recording (starting in 1992) were on a cassette 4 track - I diligently cleaned and demagnetized the heads even! It is because of a comparison several months ago of my digital recordings to my early cassettes that I knew I had to get back into analog. I now use much higher level digital stuff (crane song a/d's, etc etc), so I think I'm in a good place with the hybrid system. Actually, I'd love to get an analog 16 channel multitrack (and probably will one day) but being a songwriter with lots of experimental ideas, etc etc it's easier to track digitally.
Quote:

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.  


Hi Ronny. Yes - I had been fast forwarding or rewinding to store. So I should let the tape play at normal speed until the end? (figured out what tail out means...)
-   will the sound of the tape degrade after many playings, rewindings, and fast-forwardings?
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2006, 10:52:18 pm »

Johnny B wrote on Thu, 12 January 2006 00:03

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.


Thanks!
how I'm doing is that I'm loving it. The edge and hardness is gone, as well as much added beef and glue. I do miss some of the high frequencies and clarity – should I be losing that much top end?

but it seems to be quickly added back – and sounds FAR better with eq than adding the same eq to my digital mix. I have a great river eq2nv, but I was just playing around with the Avalon 747’s eq, combined with a drawmer 1968 sounded ridiculously warm and rich off the tape (I’m almost thinking too rich – it’s richer than the cd song samples I compare to – have to go listen on a few different systems, the added 1968 tube compression might have been overkill)
LRRec wrote on Thu, 12 January 2006 01:41


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

Very Happy
Quote:


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,
Good luck.


thanks for the advice
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2006, 11:07:34 pm »

Ryan Moore wrote on Thu, 12 January 2006 05:14


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...


Yes, I have been on a continual reverse journey (even my amps keep getting older – from 68 plexi to 65 deluxe to a 62 b15n recently). I was about to say perhaps it's easier for me to go analog as I am a songwriter writing non-mainstream stuff, and not a commercial studio - but then I thought of the moderator of this great forum and realized...
Quote:


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


Oh yes I love hiss. One day I was perplexed as to why I wasn’t getting the same vibe from micing my guitar amp (68 plexi is the one I usually use). I realized the normal volume was down (I was plugged into the bright one). Raising the normal volume, gave it a background hiss and ‘air’ I was very much missing! Great glue. Thanks for your nice response
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2006, 11:19:54 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Thu, 12 January 2006 05:26


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.

Thanks for all your help Bob. What does flat wound mean? And I’m not sure I understand your ‘cheating’ method either – stopping at any leader tape? I thought leader tape means only the tape at the beginning?

Alright, I know I’m hogging this thread (though I did start it  Smile ).
I’m thrilled to get all of these replies. I’m glad to be putting smiles on some people’s faces as well (is this getting too corny? – fade to scene in the movie airplane where everyone leans their head toward the center of the plane and smiles.
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2006, 11:30:26 pm »

scottoliphant wrote on Thu, 12 January 2006 09:37

is there a certain style of music that you are likely to be doing a lot of? One thing you'll find is how forgiving this medium is. You don't have to sit on pins and needles hoping something doesn't all of a sudden hit red in your digital system, making that oh so pleasant digital clip. I've got tracks all the time that even frighten me they are so hot. Also, do you know what level your tech aligned the deck to? It'll be something like +6 or +3 (or +7,8,9, although my 1/2 won't get up there). I ask about the style of music only because recording rock and roll and classical music at 15 ips would deliver more or less noticeable amounts of noise.

Hey there.
Guitar based stuff, occasional piano or other...
I got the deck setup (and fixed up by ATR - though not one of their complete 'restores' - they set it up for 456 at +6 (originally gp9, but after some thought I told them 456 - though I have no friggin clue as to the sound difference... yet!)
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #23 on: January 13, 2006, 08:35:06 am »

You know, Keith. That is an excellent point for a newbie! I was taught that. MCI went so far as to make a special non-alcohol sovent for their ceramic capstans that might also be safer to the motor bearings.

Since this point is so basic but should be mentioned in every book on tape machine care... I'd like to give you, Keith, credit for the reminder in the second edition of my book on mastering, where I'm going to have a chapter on analog tape restoration.

Yes, I knew it, of course I did, as any good technician does, but I internalized it for so long I forgot that it's a point you absolutely must teach to newbies. Frozen motor bearings, hah!

BK
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2006, 08:40:23 am »

lek wrote on Thu, 12 January 2006 23:19

bobkatz wrote on Thu, 12 January 2006 05:26


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.

Thanks for all your help Bob. What does flat wound mean? And I?m not sure I understand your ?cheating? method either ? stopping at any leader tape? I thought leader tape means only the tape at the beginning?

Alright, I know I?m hogging this thread (though I did start it  Smile ).
I?m thrilled to get all of these replies. I?m glad to be putting smiles on some people?s faces as well (is this getting too corny? ? fade to scene in the movie airplane where everyone leans their head toward the center of the plane and smiles.



Since I started it, I guess I'll have to finish it!

Lek, it's still wonderful watching you explore the world of analog for the first time. What I meant by cheating is that if you don't want to rewind to the head and then play out at slow speed, if you have an edited leader tape at the head of any song that's in the middle of the tape, you can stop there and then restart. We might not care if a piece of paper tape edge sticks out a little as long as it is not signal-containing audio. It is cheating though! And the library wind (constant tension) mode of the ATR 102 makes it so easy to just go back to the beginning and tail out that the issue is academic.

What I do on transports that don't have a library wind, if I'm in a hurrry, is to fast forward while holding back on the source reel to get more tension and slow things down. It's a skill developed over years of "cheating".

BK
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2006, 01:02:06 pm »

Beware that Xylene eats plastic and some kinds of heads. The fumes are also deadly.

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #26 on: January 13, 2006, 03:26:25 pm »

Quote:

should I be losing that much top end
I wouldn't expect the top end loss to be that noticeable on a properly aligned deck. throw an MRL tape on there and check your 10K+ tones, maybe something goofy happened during transporting it around. If you switch over to GP9 at any point, also be sure to rebias your machine. There are plenty places on the net to read about how to do this (or you could ask us here if you ever feel the need).

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #27 on: January 14, 2006, 11:58:43 am »

bobkatz wrote on Fri, 13 January 2006 13:35

Since this point is so basic but should be mentioned in every book on tape machine care... I'd like to give you, Keith, credit for the reminder in the second edition of my book on mastering, where I'm going to have a chapter on analog tape restoration.
I'm flattered... -Thanks!

-See you on Tuesday evening, perhaps?

Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #28 on: January 14, 2006, 02:48:04 pm »

ssltech wrote on Sat, 14 January 2006 11:58

bobkatz wrote on Fri, 13 January 2006 13:35

Since this point is so basic but should be mentioned in every book on tape machine care... I'd like to give you, Keith, credit for the reminder in the second edition of my book on mastering, where I'm going to have a chapter on analog tape restoration.
I'm flattered... -Thanks!

-See you on Tuesday evening, perhaps?

Keith




Would love to see you Tuesday, Keith. Hope they'll look the other way and let them put in some extra chairs. Or is the company totally paranoid about that absurd fire department rule of a maximum of 49 chairs?  (I'm giving a seminar at the Student AES section in Orlando in a superb room at Full Sail. A full size film mix theatre with excellent acoustics.)

BK
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #29 on: January 14, 2006, 05:39:36 pm »

Lek I am not sure if anyone told you this or not, but be sure to put your new tape on the take up side (the right side) "upside down" when you first get it and rewind it on the the supply side (the left side). After the tape has finished, then flip the reel so that you will get a true "tails out" recording. I didn't recall seeing this flipping through earlier posts.

Also, there are two speeds that the machine can be set to operate in the library wind mode. Most likely the ATR folks set it up for faster operation which runs I believe at 5 times playback speed. Also, how much of a rebuild did they do? I wouldn't worry about the machine blowing up if you leave it on all the time but according to them, the machine does not need much stabilizing time after you turn it on. This as compared to an older studer 2" - that should be left on all the time.

As a general practice, I leave mine on when I am doing a stretch of mix days and off when it won't be used for days. My electricity bill has shot up quite a bit over the past few months, so it helps with that if nothing else.

As someone said, never leave your masters on the machine unattended. The machine shouldn't ever freak but if it does you can have squid-fettuccine salad where you had music. My machine ate my MRL once before the transport cards were recapped and the power transistors had been replaced and upped. It ate my finger tip too while I watched in horror as it started to munch the tape. Its funny, intelligence would tell you not to try to stop the deck with your hands with something that goes that fast.  $300 says, "NOOOOO" and you do it anyway. Or you just do it once.

Have fun learning about tape. Once you get in the groove with it you will never be more happy than when you listen back to the repro heads of your mix. I just finished a remix session a few moments ago -> 15ips, IEC1, +6, 456. Damn good way to hear rock.

Best,
joshua

EDIT: Which heads do you have on your machine? Stock ferrite or Flux Magnetics Extended response heads? I ask becauase that is going to affect your bias. Make sure you know.


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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #30 on: January 14, 2006, 08:45:28 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Sat, 14 January 2006 14:48

Would love to see you Tuesday, Keith. Hope they'll look the other way and let them put in some extra chairs. Or is the company totally paranoid about that absurd fire department rule of a maximum of 49 chairs?

um... ahem...

I didn't hear you say anything about fire regulations, -did I? Wink

-Seriously, the room is the size of your usual multiplex theatre, and has three exits; 49 seems a little restrictive to me too.

-the installation is still not fully online, so we're not able to alter or break into the audio paths, hope that we have your understanding in that aspect, -but none the less, it's already promising to be a stunning room!!!

As far as pinch rollers go, you have to know the composition of the material -be it synthetic rubber, natural rubber or some other option- to know for sure what works, but frequent cleaning with distilled water will usually be fairly inert, though nowhere near as thorough as a strong solvent. -the trick is knowing what strong solvent won't also go to town on your pinch roller! Very Happy

Keith
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MDM (maxdimario) wrote on Fri, 16 November 2007 21:36

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #31 on: January 14, 2006, 09:53:57 pm »

[quote title=ssltech wrote on Sat, 14 January 2006 20:45

As far as pinch rollers go, you have to know the composition of the material -be it synthetic rubber, natural rubber or some other option- to know for sure what works, but frequent cleaning with distilled water will usually be fairly inert, though nowhere near as thorough as a strong solvent. -the trick is knowing what strong solvent won't also go to town on your pinch roller! Very Happy

Keith
[/quote]


I know you're supposed to know the composition... well, I've used 91% isopropyl for years on Studer, Ampex, you name it. I do seem to recall older Ampex pinch rollers going stiff. But the replacement pinch rollers made by ???? had no problems. The Technics are a miracle... 32 years with alcohol and NO problem. The synthetic pinch roller made for my Studer by JRF, alcohol, no problem, I checked. The moral of the story? I don't know. I've always used alcohol; either I've been lucky in the distribution of pinch rollers I've used and seen OR the potential degradation from alcohol has been greatly exagerrated.

I once saw one Otari pinch roller turn into dust, "sticky shed", disintegrate in the middle of a session!

BK
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #32 on: January 15, 2006, 09:39:56 am »

The Otari MTR-90 and similar rollers don't suffer from sticky shed, though it's a common supposition. The shed happens from the oxide face (the 'front') of the tape) and the rollers only see the BACK of the tape.

No, the problem with the Otari rollers appears to be some leeching into the material from the back of the tape. Under some non-scientific analysis, it appears to resemble some sort of carbon or graphite-like substance. This might make sense, since most manufacturers use some sort of dry light lubricant coating on the backing, to assist the pack in wind.

Anyhow, you're spot on in that when Otari rollers finally die, they go from being a functioning roller to something that's as useful as a chocolate teapot, stupendously fast! The replacement rollers like Athan corp products (and probably T-Reds and the like also) appear to be the sort of material that doesn't react with whatever the (presumed) lubricant is, and they can also be cleaned with alcohol without ANY deleterious effect that I've noticed.

There's a studio in Altamonte Springs right now that has a pair of A800s, one of which has a pinch roller that has dissolved in a very similar fashion: -Not something I see a lot of with Studers- and I have a replacement pinch roller here ready to go on it. -They never used alcohol in their rollers, and I'm actually wondering if the occasional alcohol cleaning wouldn't have done sone GOOD! -I mean, I suspect that a slight drying or de-oiling due to alcohol wouldn't have accelerated the problem, and might even have staved it off.

Keith
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #33 on: January 15, 2006, 09:46:01 am »

Oh yes, one hint to Otari pinch-rollerless owners: The RIGHT roller is the one that goes first, and the left one lasts several times longer. You can 'Rotate the tires' and even out the life. The right one does all the fast winding, play driving, accelleration and deceleration. -It is the brakes as well as the gas pedal, and it's the fast winding (or tather, the entry and exit to and from fast wind) that "stresses-n-stretches" the surface tread of the roller. The left roller is just the tape counter, and has no stress to speak of.

Swapping the rollers every few months evens out the life. Rotating the tires on a Front-Wheel-Drive car is a good analogy. in FWD, the front tires do 100% ofthe acceleration, 90% of the braking and take 75% of the turn lateral loading. Rotating the tires means that you change them all together, and you don;t get into solely age-related issues.

Keith
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #34 on: January 15, 2006, 12:34:07 pm »

The Athan rollers work very well.
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #35 on: January 17, 2006, 12:39:14 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Fri, 13 January 2006 08:40


if you have an edited leader tape at the head of any song that's in the middle of the tape, you can stop there and then restart. We might not care if a piece of paper tape edge sticks out a little as long as it is not signal-containing audio. It is cheating though! And the library wind (constant tension) mode of the ATR 102 makes it so easy to just go back to the beginning and tail out that the issue is academic.
BK

Hi again. So you're saying if I've spliced some leader tape in the middle of a tape at the beginning of a song? I could just go back to that leader tape and then 'library wind' to the end from that point. Sorry, but I don't understand why starting at leader tape in the middle would be any different than starting anywhere else. BTW, since I am a first grader... no, kindergartner with all of this, I assume 'library wind' means winding it for storage?
scottoliphant wrote on Fri, 13 January 2006 15:26

Quote:

should I be losing that much top end
I wouldn't expect the top end loss to be that noticeable on a properly aligned deck. throw an MRL tape on there and check your 10K+ tones, maybe something goofy happened during transporting it around. If you switch over to GP9 at any point, also be sure to rebias your machine. There are plenty places on the net to read about how to do this (or you could ask us here if you ever feel the need).

Hi, it was just aligned at ATR. I'll try recording to tape again and note differences. By the way, similar to another thread (but I think more geared toward individual tracks), how hot a level might I want to record to the ATR - I'm guessing too low and there will be too much hiss, too high and I might start getting into serious tape compression (which I already did experiment with and found I pushed it too hard) - so, common sense, to my own aesthic taste?
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #36 on: January 17, 2006, 12:43:37 pm »

bushwick wrote on Sat, 14 January 2006 17:39

Lek I am not sure if anyone told you this or not, but be sure to put your new tape on the take up side (the right side) "upside down" when you first get it and rewind it on the the supply side (the left side). After the tape has finished, then flip the reel so that you will get a true "tails out" recording. I didn't recall seeing this flipping through earlier posts.


Hi there. No, no one told me this - is everyone else doing this as well? What is the reason for "tails out" recording?
bushwick wrote on Sat, 14 January 2006 17:39


Which heads do you have on your machine? Stock ferrite or Flux Magnetics Extended response heads? I ask becauase that is going to affect your bias. Make sure you know.


I had them take off the ferrite heads, and put on relapped metal Ampex heads, not the Flux Magnetics. Thanks
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #37 on: January 17, 2006, 02:03:38 pm »

Flipping the pancake and rewinding? Yes everyone using tape machines is doing this. You will walk into any studio and see the empty reel on the left - the supply side.

As for heads, the metal heads sound better than the ferrite heads or so the wisdom has been passed down to me. And your standard overbias chart listing the overbias figures will be correct. I asked because you might find something listing ATR machine heads with overbias figures but if you have Flux heads that will be incorrect. (The flux heads have a different gap and therefore a different bias headroom. I am not sure about the EMC heads but my guess would be yes.) 456 and GP9 bias differently so even though ATR set up yer machine for one, it will not be correctly set up for the other.

My suggestion is to get someone you know who uses that machine to come over and give you the run through on caling the machine and using your MRL tape. Even paying an engineer from somewhere nearby in Jersey is a very good idea. All of these questions you have will be answered and you will have some confidence that you are doing things correctly and most importantly, getting the most out of that beautiful machine. For example, it is important to watch someone who knows how, demag heads so you'll do that properly. Do it wrong, and you will magnetize them and screw up your masters.

Start yourself out right on the thing and then down the road you will be able to play with it and expand how much you can get out of printing to tape.

Best,
j
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #38 on: January 17, 2006, 05:07:37 pm »

Oh and you might be wondering:

456 is a +6 tape (over 185 nwb/m)
499 is a +9 tape (over 185 nwb/m)
GP9 is a +9 tape (over 185 nwb/m)

456 and 499 have the same oxide formulation, just that 499 has more of it and can handle more flux (more magnetism). GP9 is a totally different formulation and to my understanding, which could be flat wrong, its the same formulation as EMTEC 911. Anyone out there with info to speak to that?

At any rate GP9 sounds quite a bit different than the other two listed here and to my ears is quieter. I also find that it can handle even hotter signals than +9 pretty well, at least better than 499 - perhaps more of a tracking issue. Though for a project I recently did that was very acoustic (IEC1, 15ips, 499) we found that for some songs hitting the tape pretty hard helped the songs. Roughly speaking the sound closed up some causing the song to come across more focused and it gave some texture to the songs in question that certainly was not there before.

To my ears 456 has the smoothest knee when it starts to give and after only using 499 or gp9 for a long time I was really taken aback at how great it sounded to me - perhaps better than 499? Not sure. Maybe there is too much subjectivity to make any claims.

Hope thats helpful.

josh

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #39 on: January 18, 2006, 07:56:57 am »

I thought that GP9 was the successor to 3M 996 - made after Ampex acquired 3M's tape business.

Cheers

James.
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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #40 on: January 18, 2006, 12:56:58 pm »

jamesp wrote on Wed, 18 January 2006 06:56

I thought that GP9 was the successor to 3M 996 - made after Ampex acquired 3M's tape business.

Cheers

James.



Yessir!!
You are correct--although the formula is not exactly as 996 was. Quantegy  used the formulations and the different tape technology "know-how" acquired from 3M.

GP9  is an outstanding tape as is EMTEC 900.

We are awaiting the news that RMGI has new EMTEC 900 tape stock in their USA distribution channels.


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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #41 on: January 18, 2006, 06:24:20 pm »

lek wrote on Tue, 17 January 2006 12:39

bobkatz wrote on Fri, 13 January 2006 08:40


if you have an edited leader tape at the head of any song that's in the middle of the tape, you can stop there and then restart. We might not care if a piece of paper tape edge sticks out a little as long as it is not signal-containing audio. It is cheating though! And the library wind (constant tension) mode of the ATR 102 makes it so easy to just go back to the beginning and tail out that the issue is academic.
BK

Hi again. So you're saying if I've spliced some leader tape in the middle of a tape at the beginning of a song? I could just go back to that leader tape and then 'library wind' to the end from that point. Sorry, but I don't understand why starting at leader tape in the middle would be any different than starting anywhere else. BTW, since I am a first grader... no, kindergartner with all of this, I assume 'library wind' means winding it for storage?




You'll get it, Lek! What i meant to say is that if the edge of a piece of leader tape sticks out from the pack because you restarted a wind there, it won't be the worst tragedy if the edge of the leader tape gets damaged slightly from pressure. Library wind also means 'flat wound', no edges showing. You will see the first time you stop and then fast forward a tape that the first layer or two of wind might not pack smoothly.

I see in the rest of your post you said, "it was just aligned at ATR". Well, maybe it's just me, but I don't trust a machine's alignment that has traveled and shipped in a packing case.

BK
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lek

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #42 on: January 18, 2006, 07:27:05 pm »

bobkatz wrote on Wed, 18 January 2006 18:24



I see in the rest of your post you said, "it was just aligned at ATR". Well, maybe it's just me, but I don't trust a machine's alignment that has traveled and shipped in a packing case.

BK

Actually, I, along with the help of some guy (actually my father), drove to ATR, loaded the mother in the back of my car and drove it back here - perhaps though I still need to realign it, twas a smooth ride, but obviously not free of friction and bumps.

Some other funky questions that have since bloomed forth -
actually, I'll save it for another thread...and I've experimented a bit more
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bobkatz

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #43 on: January 18, 2006, 08:58:07 pm »

lek wrote on Wed, 18 January 2006 19:27

bobkatz wrote on Wed, 18 January 2006 18:24



I see in the rest of your post you said, "it was just aligned at ATR". Well, maybe it's just me, but I don't trust a machine's alignment that has traveled and shipped in a packing case.

BK

Actually, I, along with the help of some guy (actually my father), drove to ATR, loaded the mother in the back of my car and drove it back here - perhaps though I still need to realign it, twas a smooth ride, but obviously not free of friction and bumps.

Some other funky questions that have since bloomed forth -
actually, I'll save it for another thread...and I've experimented a bit more



BTW, after a tape machine travels through lots of lines of the earth's magnetic field, the heads and guides should be demagged with the Han-D-Mag. Don't forget that the most residual, tiny amounts of magnetic field change are magnified by those preamplifiers, and so the machine is very sensitive, and equally so are the tapes you don't want to see self-erased.

Again, maybe it's just me, but that's the advice I give to people. If a machine travels, it should be demagnetized before playing.

BK
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Dominick Costanzo

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #44 on: January 18, 2006, 10:48:16 pm »

You'll notice that every reel of tape has a batch code on it. Quantegy codes show the year and the day of the year (eg. 2006017 = Jan. 17, 2006)
The best reason for rewinding a new reel of tape, then winding and storing it (tails out of course) on the reel it came on is to keep that batch code information with the tape in case of some problem down the road. This has come in handy more than once when I've had to return poorly slitted batches back to a manufacturer.
They always appreciate your help in identifying problem batches.
Studios using different stock on different projects also gain the security that tape on a Quantegy 456 reel IS 456, not EMTEC 900 or whatever.
Some may argue that rewinding the tape across the guides gets it "used to" the machine,  "preening" it so to speak. I've never seen any difference in tape performance whether it gets printed directly off the reel it was delivered or has been rewound.
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lek

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #45 on: February 08, 2006, 11:53:00 am »

What would you say you spend yearly (even if averaged over several years) - in order to maintain a 2"?

Is there a typical list of things maintenance-wise a tape machine should undergo ever year - what other things besides alignments?
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James Perrett

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #46 on: February 09, 2006, 07:17:26 am »

My old MTR90 has cost me around $700 in parts (most of that was for 2 new rollers) in the 8 years that I've had it. Mind you, it doesn't get very much use now and the heads are fairly worn. I also do all the servicing myself.

Cheers

James.
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vernier

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #47 on: February 10, 2006, 07:54:22 pm »

Quote:

 What would you say you spend yearly (even if averaged over several years) - in order to maintain a 2"?

Is there a typical list of things maintenance-wise a tape machine should undergo ever year - what other things besides alignments?


Been a dozen years, haven't spent one dime (mine's 1" eight track Stephens). Hasn't needed alignment yet either.
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scottoliphant

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Re: Analog machine and tape maintenance
« Reply #48 on: February 13, 2006, 02:27:15 pm »

Quote:

To my ears 456 has the smoothest knee when it starts to give and after only using 499 or gp9 for a long time

going from gp9 to 456, does anyone else feel like gp9 almost sounds a little "plastic-y", can't quite put my finger on it. even though it may be a little noiser, 456 still sounds incredible to me
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