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 Post subject: Defective Reel to reel recordings?
PostPosted: Oct Sun 29, 2017 5:36 pm 
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I recently bought a few tapes off of E-bay they were all jazz and easy listening... one tape in particular made by Pickwick out of New York was so bad I thought there was something terribly wrong with my pioneer 707... the wow and flutter was overwhelming , reading the back cover it said it was recorded on a high speed ampex machine at 60 ips for best frequency response .... obviously there was something wrong with that machine while copying this tape. It got me to wondering, on how often this stuff occurs.... obviously the record companies do not test each copy they make. So I ask all you reel to reel fans, ever get a bad copy of a pre-recorded tape?


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 Post subject: Re: Defective Reel to reel recordings?
PostPosted: Oct Mon 30, 2017 9:50 pm 
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Bones007 wrote:
Bad copies of reel tapes? Made by Pickwick, duplicated on high speed Ampex machines at 60 ips for best frequency response
On budget reels especially it's more common than people think for some or all of the reasons discussed below.

I'd be willing to bet you a dollar to a donut that the offending tape was duplicated for 3-3/4 playback, is housed in a flimsy box, wound onto a chintzy reel and/or has other obvious signs of being the low-quality tape it was originally sold as.

You also have to remember that 99% of the offerings from any number of budget labels can be had from better sources - the same as record-club albums vs commercial releases - so unless you intend to collect that 1% or so of ``in house'' material (usually unknown performers and orchestras from the former Eastern Bloc - the same ones that used to record for e.g. National Wired Music or Muzak) - I'd say stick with the major labels.

Now if the material is not AVAILABLE anyplace else then you have to tolerate it - but otherwise I would steer clear of budget offerings in the future for these and other endemic reasons.

Presumably being 3-3/4 IPS tape and being thin (1-mil vs 1.5) I would just blank it out (bulk-erase it) - wind it off onto a smaller 5-inch NAB hub reel and use it at a higher speed on wider (e.g. half) track mono (vs quarter track stereo) for voice recording or something else - save the 7-inch takeup for an extra in case the one you have breaks (or sell it to a guy on here looking for one) and toss the box since it's probably worn out anyway.

Or - since it's 3-3/4 (or 1-7/8) anyway and 1-mil besides - it would fit into an old 1958 stereo RCA Sound Magazine cartridge - so you could wind off the album onto an empty shell and enjoy it on that since those players have horrible wow and flutter anyway - it might be reverse enough to where it could be at least somewhat enjoyable.

Of course you already know 90% of the prerecorded reels from the classic era never ran faster than 30 IPS for a 7-1/2 IPS playback - and those are rare. Most are 2:1 i.e. 7-1/2 dubbed at 15.

Now the 3-3/4 versions of the 70's had a L O T of problems. Apart from being ran off at 30 IPS for a 3-3/4 IPS playback - by the mid `70s they were starting to use edge-cut/white-box tape i.e. major mfgers but far away from the center cuts used for mastering tape for the recording studios.

And don't EVEN get me started on the 6-hour 1-7/8 IPS and 12-hour 15/16 IPS budget-label tapes that were around in the 60s for three and a half seconds - just long enough so producers could prove they could get ``accepatable sound'' off such crappy tape dubbed at such a high ratio to playback at such a low speed.

Those are only worth something as a format oddity to periodically play for people - like the 16 RPM for 16 RPM playback LP discs of the late 50s and early 60's - some of which were even stereophonic. I have them all (I think) that I inherited from guys who couldn't play `em - but when I went to transfer them - I sourced the tracks from decent sources and after seeking permission - kept the tape or disc for what it is - a format oddity - not for the content.

But I cheat sometimes especially with newbies. On this one Roberts/Akai demo tape dubbed for 1-7/8 playback - I took a 10-1/2 inch reel of BASF EE LPR 35 CR tape - mastered all the songs in 2-track stereo at 7-1/2 off their CDs and then dubbed the ensuing ``masters'' onto a 7- inch reel of the same tape and wound it onto the Roberts reel to play back on the Roberts all-tube 770 deck it was given away with.

Which had also been gone through and modded up and... (snigger).

``Disciples'' go on eBay and buy the decks and then search high and low for copies of the ltd edn 1-7/8 demo tape and then come over whining and complaining why they can't get their tape (or player) to sound like mine.

I distract' em and redirect so they think their player is playing their tape they brought over through my system and they take it home and it still sounds like crap and etc. This goes on for maybe the rest of the weekend or vacation time - then I let em in on the gag.

I'm on my third or fourth generation now and newbies still buy it til I let em off the hook (or my ex trainees who they ran into first let em off the hook or the trainees THEY studied under who were MY trainees once upon a time etc. etc.)

When the 16:1 decks came out same thing - the ``trash'' houses that would do anything for a buck took on all these budget products that even the 8:1 houses didn't want to deal with. Of course later when they all converted to cassette and even went up to 64:1 or 128:1 it was a moot point.

Add in the fact that repro heads and dupe heads are forever getting out of alignment and that a normal dupe house would realign at least everyday with the premium houses doing it at least once a SHIFT - where the budget houses might only do it a couple three times a WEEK - then yes a lot of factors can contribute to a crappy budget label tape.

Master-quality tape from the recording studios - whether blank or already containing a recording are selected from the center point of the roll from left-to-right. High-performance consumer grade tape might be just to the left or right of the center cut (TDK Maxell Ampex etc) mid-grade would be just to the left or right of that - and Dollar Bin Tape would be the nearest to the edges as you could get without having oxide and binder problems.

Usually the last 1/2" to 3/4" on either side would be discarded or wound onto hubs for donations to e.g. schools and churches to get the tax write offs.

Another reason to stay away from the budget labels besides all the above is the fact that at least for the commercially licensed material - the budget labels often get the worst possible source for the material - like the record and tape clubs - which may already be five or even six generations down from the mixdown master - where a normal dupe house usually works off second-generation safety-masters.

So if you are buying budget-label tape - it could have been duplicated on a misalighed dirty dubber from an inferior-quality master that was itself recorded from ANOTHER dupe that was ITSELF substandard and so on and so on.

Between the fact that the recording was dubbed at 8X speed and dubbed onto what amounted to voice-grade tape - these budget labels were trying to cut costs anyway they could.

Same with machine maintenance. Dupe houses that catered to low-end clients like that began to pop up when the ``major label'' dupe houses got tired of being whined at about quality monitoring when nobody at the budget label cared about it.

They would have had considerably less budget allocated to tape path cleaning and head/roller replacement and machine lubing and etc. and were also the first to get the 3-3/4>30 IPS dubbers before they were even officially perfected - because they figured with all these Dollar Bin Tapes duplicated on this crap Dollar Bin Blank Stock - like today's MP3 - they figured nobody would care.

Remember this is WELL into the 8-track and even the cassette era. People were enjoying Chrome cassettes as early as 1971 but EE tape for reel didn't come around til a decade later by which time open reel even for audiophiles was all but dead.

Since it was only good for speeds of 3-3/4 and below - but cost over twice what normal Fe tape was selling for - there was zero market for the Cr02 reel to reel in the early 80s EXCEPT for the last few years of the background music tape formats.

The last of the auto reverse BGM reel decks that could handle EE was in 1986 - and those ran - and houses duplicated onto - EE tape at 4:1 from a half-inch 4-track master at 35uS EQ (remember chrome cassetes use 70 and normal is 120).

Endless Loop Cartridge decks were similar - the same EE coating was laid onto loop/lube tape and the original playback was 3-3/4. By 1982 they halved it to 1-7/8 and by the end of the format they had halved it again to 15/16 before going to special-format CDs and later FM (SCA) or satellite downlinks.

I used to cheat on the newbies that way too - playing them an 8-track bulk-erased and re-recorded with this leftover EE BGM loop tape and reloaded into the old shell - sometimes recorded at 7-1/2 IPS instead of 3-3/4 and played back on e.g. a Technics 858 quad deck which had a Fast Forward speed on it - which was 7-1/2 which I disconnected the MUTE circuit.

That gag's had legs for 40 years too.

So - like I said - unless the material cannot be had elsewhere - I'd steer clear of the budget tapes from now on if I was you.

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2 kinds of men/tape. Low Noise/Wide Range.
LN=kind. WR=abrasive. Engineers=same thing.


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 Post subject: Re: Defective Reel to reel recordings?
PostPosted: Nov Tue 07, 2017 2:14 pm 
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I would say you were pretty much right on in your assessment, except the speed on these tapes were all 7 1/2 ips. this particular tape made by pickwick claimed all their tape was Red seal RCA tape? Don't know if that was a good tape or had a better reputation at the time over other tapes or not. the reel it was supplied with seems decent. I have bought regular recording tapes that had lots of drop outs and cheaply made where you could see the ripples in the tape , (I.E. Realistic Supertape) but I never came across a manufactured pre-recorded tape that was this bad before ...I thought it might be a rarity, but after reading your post , It sounds like this was common I guess I have been lucky to not have got one like this before.
Thanks


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 Post subject: Re: Defective Reel to reel recordings?
PostPosted: Nov Tue 07, 2017 6:18 pm 
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Location: Gold Country, (Stanislaus National Forest) California 95235
Bones007 wrote:
This particular tape was 7 1/2 ips and made by Pickwick who claimed all their tape was Red Seal RCA tape. Don't know if that was a good tape or had a better reputation at the time over other tapes or not.
Yes and no.

I'm guessing this particular Pickwick tape had material mostly or completely licensed by RCA - like Hugo Montenegro or Henry Mancini - because I have seen Pickwich tapes where the material was mostly Columbia - like Johnny Cash - duplicated onto Sonotape - which for awhile was a subsidiary of Columbia Records.

I've also seen Pickwick tapes that were mostly Capitol releases (Nat King Cole or Wayne Newton) duplicated onto Audiotape which along with it's disc counterpart Audiodiscs was a part of Capitol Magnetics for awhile.

The big blank tape labels in those days were of course Scotch, Audiotape and Ampex.

RCA Red Seal was a midline quasi-off brand product from the late 50s when it was introduced to maybe the early 70s when it became a REAL off-brand before it ceased production entirely.

One of the only reasons it came to be ``popular'' (but not in a real high-quality sense) was because by the mid `60s - RCA reel decks were starting to supplant the usual and quasi-ubiquitous Wollensaks and Magnavoxes that the schools were using.

When a school bought more than four at a time - like in a Language Lab that used a lot of tape anyway - they got a free PALLET of tape for it - all of it RCA RS branded.

In the early days you could always tell who made the midline and off-brand tape by the color - those who subcontracted to Ampex got tape that looked and behaved just like Ampex and the same for Scotch and Audiotape.

Later on when they were farming it out to custom houses that had templates for everybody's formulae you couldn't tell who was who anymore - that's when the quality really started hitting the skids.

The other reason RCA tape was around a lot from the late 50s to the late 60s is - they had SO MUCH custom tape made for their proprietary format cassette player in 1958 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBwRSxTmdWw that it was leftover for YEARS afterward.

They wanted to cut the tape use for 2-track stereo 7-1/2 IPS in half by coming up with 4-track quarter inch - which really hadn't had too much development before 1957 - and also wanted to cut the tape use in half AGAIN by coming up with a formulation that would sound at least acceptable for music at 3-3/4.

This is right around the same time that all those 1-7/8 and 3-3/4 single-tape equivalents for multi-disc LP box sets were coming out for easy listening and jazz - first as demo tapes that would be given away or sold very inexpensively along with a player purchase - and then later as commercial or quasi-commercial (mail order) material.

The selling point was the time - 3 hours for 3-3/4 both sides - or double that amount for 1-7/8 - meaning you could have a whole afternoon's worth of commercial-free music while housekeeping or a full evening's worth while entertaining without having to change a record every 20 minutes or a tape every half-hour or 45 mins.

Of course they failed on both the quarter-track as well as the half-speed counts to begin with - but three years later in 1961 the `Bi-Sonic' 4-track interlaced stereo tape system was born - for 7-1/2 only - so they only got to half their goal to begin with. And really they only got to less of their goal than that because the head configurations weren't that much improved from their 2-track counterparts from the late 50s.

The people that weren't paying attention and bought these ``half-price, half-speed half-quality and half-baked (quarter-track) tapes by accident - broight em home and found out they couldn't play them on their 7-1/2-only decks - were usually the same people that bought all the other failed formats when they came out.

My great uncle had a whole raft of these - and a very small handful of the 1-7/8 IPS demo-tape versions mentioned above - that he bought in Chicago at the duplicator's office (Ampex, GRT ITC and American Stereotape all had centers in the North Shore) as unboxed overruns for half-off the half-off retail price they were going for in the Music Mart - and a ton of unloaded Sound Magazine cartridges in the same fashion.

Since the reels had no labels on `em - just a record catalog number written in grease pencil - long before I was born he'd started winding these off onto all these unloaded SM cartridges - wrote what it was in grease pencil on the face of the tape - and tossed em in in a box unplayed with the SMC player to be discovered by me 15 years later while in middle school with the grease pencil worn off and the masking tape losing its adhesion.

By then the Phonlog had a lot better ability to be cross-referenced - so with the tons of unlabeled 3-3/4 IPS reel to reels that hadn't been loaded into empty carts yet - I must have spent everyday all through summer vacation at the Music Mart poring over the mostly-unused Catalog Number Reverse Directory section where you could look up a catalog number and it would tell you what the record or tape was.

At night after dinner and homework - I would wind them onto empty carts, put the carts back together - write the title on MASKING TAPE instead of grease pencil and put them away in the same box.

20 years later the masking tape has disintegrated and the grease pencil has worn away so I'm back to looking up record catalog numbers - in seconds on the Web instead of over days in the Phonolog.

By the time I was done I must have had 1500 tapes and an equal number of empty 7-inch NAB-hub reels that I sold to the local radio station for 3/4 what they were paying for `em new.

I kept a few as takeups and for 5-inch reels I inherited where the tape was falling off the edge - and kept the few regular-hub 7-inch for all the leftover pancake tape I would get on a hub from the duplicators - and everybody went home happy.

The other odd thing was - Uher was real famous in the ENG world of radio because it had a better sound than cassette which was still a new technology in 1965 - and had more speeds than a normal recorder - up to 7-1/2 and down to 15/16 on some models.

But since they only carried 5-inch reels instead of the normal 7-inch - they experimented with 6x play tape - quarter-mil and 3600 feet on a 5 inch reel when the normal was 600 ft which would give 15 minutes at 7-1/2. Divide out for the ridiculous amount of time you'd get per side at 15/16. Enough to put e.g. whole conferences or seminars on one tape.

I had a handful of copies of the Uher demo tape so I decided to sacrifice one and see if it would hold up at the higher speeds (7-1/2) Nope- too thin. Plus the wind and rewind was just hell on the tape stretching it all out and making it unuseable.

So I wound one into an SMC since it was dubbed for 1-7/8 playback and the SMC player had both speeds - meaning I got my 6 hours on a side without having to lug a huge 7-inch player out and set it up and thread it and etc etc etc.

But people bought the reel to reel versions of the quarter-track 7-1/2 IPS in 1961 because the earliest 4-track players could also play the original 7-1/2 IPS 2-track stereo with a flip of a dial that moved the head down by a handful of mils so that it would pick up the strongest part of the 2-track signal which was always in the lower part of the track - not something you could safely do with stereo LPs on a mono player of the period.

Meaning all this early ITC and American/Stereotape and GRT and Greentree and all these dubbing houses - all this leftover RCA Red Seal tape that was intended to have been made for the Sound Magazine got bought up by the pallet full by all these off-brand dubbing houses to run off all these 3-3/4 and the odd 1-7/8 IPS prerecorded reel titles.

Now granted when the first batch of Sound Magazine tape was being sold off yeh it was pretty good because even tho the tape was 4 yrs old it had been specially designed to have ACCEPTABLE - not TERIFFIC - sound at 3-3/4 - meaning if you used it at 7-1/2 - the top end would be better than conventional tape by being able to survive the 4X dubbing process and still have a decent high end to it.

So a lot of those early-to-mid-60s 4-track RCA-made (or using RCA product) stereo tapes might actually sound pretty good on a modern player - almost as good as the 2-track version.

But later on after that first overrun ran out - RCA RS tape became just another Budget Tape the same as the Shamrock was for Ampex or etc etc etc,
Bones007 wrote:
I have bought regular recording tapes that had lots of drop outs and cheaply made where you could see the ripples in the tape , (I.E. Realistic Supertape).
Well remember a lot of that was as they say rejects from the major labels. The white and pink boxes especially were near-to-edge cuts of whatever major manufacturer happened to have the next batch ready to sell. meaning some months your Supertape might be TDK off-runs, another month it might be Ampex another month it might be Scotchor whoever.

But it was always the off-runs and rejects from the major labels - only a hair-width better than the Dollar Tape you get in the white box.
Bones007 wrote:
I never came across a manufactured pre-recorded tape that was this bad before ...I thought it might be a rarity, but after reading your post , It sounds like this was common.
Common like I said especially on the budget-label tapes. Stick to the major labels - or tapes made before 1966 - and you should be alright.
Bones007 wrote:
I guess I have been lucky to not have got one like this before.
(LOL) Like I said - since the album is not worth anything on reel - spool it off onto a 5-inch NAB hub reel - blank it out and use it for a half-track mono or 2-track stereo recording and tell me if it's really a bad tape or just a bad dub. Be interesting to know.

_________________
2 kinds of men/tape. Low Noise/Wide Range.
LN=kind. WR=abrasive. Engineers=same thing.


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