Talk:Reel-to-reel audio tape recording

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Q. What are "NAB adaptors"? Bastie 11:02, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

See also related discussion at Talk:Compact audio cassette. Bastie 14:12, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I think: adapters for mounting 10-1/2 inch reels of tape which IIRC always had the large "NARTB" or "NAB" hubs on machines that had dual-purpose spindles, capable of accepting both the 10-1/2 reels and the smaller reels which always had, I dunno, maybe 5/16" holes and were identical in dimensions to 8 mm movie reels (as I can testify from experiment). Dpbsmith (talk) 20:35, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

Its an interesting contribution but original research If we could find a source and a more accurate figure than "I dunno, maybe...." We could include an explanation within the article. (talk) 13:53, 31 October 2015 (UTC)

The statement is correct and common knowledge, they could also be referred to as NAB hubs, they are used to adapt from the standard flange (for up to 7" reels) to the larger one used for professional tapes usually 10.5 inches. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:55, 13 January 2017 (UTC)

Once a common household object?[edit]

The caption for the nice picture of a Sony TC-630 tape recorder says it was "once a common household object."

I don't think so. Tape recorders never came anywhere near to being as common as photographs were before or cassette recorders were afterward.

They were not particularly rare. To be sure, my dad had a Wollensak reel-to-reel tape recorder--but I don't think he was typical as we also, at various times, owned a wire recorder, a Recordio disk recorder, and a huge vacuum-tube tape recorder with a "magic eye" level indicator that was so old that it said "Brush Development Corporation" on it.

But they were sort of a specialty item. The cheaper ones (like the Wollensak) were common enough in schools. Serious audiophiles had them, of course. In fact the TC-630 seems to me to be getting up to what would now be called the "prosumer" level.

In my entire life (so far), I have only met one single person who had a reel-to-reel tape recorder in his house for the purpose of playing prerecorded tapes. He had a collection of several hundred of them; that is, the tape recorder served the same purpose as a good phonograph did in many other houses. Dpbsmith (talk) 20:32, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

I would agree that the TC-630 is a little more upscale than most people would have. But lower-end open reel decks (e.g. the TC-250 or 155) were quite common consumer items in the late '50s through early '70s. Otherwise all of those factory recordings of pop albums would not have existed, for lack of market. —überRegenbogen 06:30, 13 May 2007 (UTC)

In the 60s, TC630 was widely used in household, school, hospital, etc, as an audio center with inputs for tuner, turntable, microphone, etc.For the bigger 10" reel capability, I used the Revox A77 with plug-in integrated amplifier.

Takima 00:29, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

"Common household product" is a bit of an exaggeration. They were more an early "consumer product for the enthusiast". When cassettes went mainstream in the 1970's their ownership proved to be far more widespread. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 14:02, 31 October 2015 (UTC)
Pretty common around 1970, I would say - I bought one that had been used to keep a family (split between UK and Australia) 'in touch' - think of Skype, but audio-only, with a two-week delay! Another had been used on a submarine, where vinyl would be impractical. Every school would have them for pupils to interview each other and old people for 'history', as well as for replaying BBC education programmes that were scheduled and broadcast overnight. Radio fans recorded 'fave progs' - great for 'lost episodes' turning-up in attics and garages. Every record shop would also sell music on reel tapes, 'compact cassettes' and [8-track tape] for the car.
It was a brief blip before the 'cassette' took over around 1974. Domestic machines were cheaply-made, obsolescent at birth and unreliable (rubber-bands!) so few survive today.
These were more commmon?
Maybe 'this tape player was as common at home as in the studio' rather than 'every home had one'?
-- (talk) 10:22, 11 December 2016 (UTC)

Frequency response[edit]

It would be nice if this article had a section on the frequency response for reel-to-reel tape. Of course, it would depend on speed. As recordings to magnetic tape capture analogue signals (like vinyl recordings), they don't suffer from the sampling and quantisation errors inherent in CD recordings. At 30 inches per second, it's no wonder that this was the top professional recording medium for so long.--ML5 15:17, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

But it does suffer from tape hiss... don't ignore tape hiss... I don't know about 30 ips but for some years I spent a fair amount of time at a campus radio station equipped with some Ampex 351's at 15 ips and hiss was clearly audible in the "silent" parts of any recording. You could tell at the start of any recording: the transition from unrecorded tape to "silent" recorded tape was obvious even to a casual listener.
When Dolby noise reduction was first introduced, the difference between LPs that had been mastered on Dolby-NR analog systems and those on non-Dolby systems was astonishing and dramatic. Dpbsmith (talk) 11:17, 13 May 2007 (UTC)
It not only depends on speed but the age/condition/quality of the equipment (and tape) used -not to mention associated equipment. An expensive tape recorder used with a cheap microphone wont produce good results. The skill/competence of the operator (in setting recording levels for example) also comes into play (talk) 14:58, 31 October 2015 (UTC)
Interestingly it is the [Fourier Transform] of the head gap width!
BBC job interview question, 1982!
-- (talk) 10:31, 11 December 2016 (UTC)

Head gap width and the wavelength of the recorded signal, which is dependant on frequency of the signal and speed of the tape. I have seen 3.75 ips tape that had no frequencies above 4 kHz and some that have had signals over 10kHz (though azimuth is highly unstable at this speed on most machines), it very much depends on the quality of the equipment in the chain. Also note frequency response is inherently non-linear on audio tape, hence the use of pre-emphasis. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:49, 13 January 2017 (UTC)

New image(s)[edit]

Ampex recorder internals.jpg

I thought these might be useful for the article, but it's getting a little image crowded. (One image now, but I'll upload a few more soon). --Gmaxwell 04:07, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Page title[edit]

Should this page be renamed Reel-to-reel tape recording because there are other applications than audio?--Tugjob 18:54, 8 July 2007 (UTC)


What about theses Swiss marvels of A77 and then B77?

Takima 00:32, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

Article needed[edit]

Article on Wollensak needed. (Is that the right spelling?) Badagnani (talk) 21:56, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

Spelling now correct. Spyglasses 06:01, 20 February 2016 (UTC)

As a musical instrument[edit]

Two famous applications of reel-2-reel as an musical instrument can't be missing here:

1. In a wider meaning of the word instrument, the "Frippertronics" of Robert Fripp. He was using 2 (A77) R2R machines to create long tape loops and stack sounds. Pretty similar to modern digital looper pedals.

2. The "Projectron" of Alan Parson. It was basicaly a standard 24-track tape recorder combined with a keyboard to unmute and mute its output tracks, resembling a sophisticated version of a mellotron/novatron. Sounds like choirs could be "sampled" in a very high quality and played in realtime, making the tape recorder a real musical instrument. Famous too, it can be heard on every Alan Parsons album of the late 70s/early 80s. (talk) 23:51, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Brush Soundmirror[edit]

For American History don't forget Brush Soundmirror, 1946 BK-401, recording medium is paper tape called Magnetic Ribbon.

Don't refer to it't not a neutral scientific source.

rroth, juli 31 2009 (talk) 09:54, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Tape Editing Re-direct[edit]

I was diverted here while searching tape-editing and this doesn't appear to have any appropriate info.

I was expecting something on splicing vs drop-editing but found nothing...and i would equally love to know if there were any other ways of editing tape. Also I'm not sure tape editing should re-direct here as tape editing can also be done with cassettes119.15.65.1 (talk) 04:02, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

A previous WP:RFD ended in a vote for retargeting Tape editing to this article. You can create a new Tape editing article yourself or request to have the redirect deleted or retargeted to another page. - Meewam (talk) 16:33, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

First line's citation tag?[edit]

Does the first line really need a citation? It's pretty obvious that the reels aren't encased in a plastic housing. (talk) 03:15, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Some Wikipedia editors really like to overdo it with citation tags. If a statement is blindingly obvious or there is no real reason to question it they still demand proof that someone (other than a Wikipedia editor) somewhere said it. Otherwise it can't be true ! (talk) 14:52, 31 October 2015 (UTC)

Tape transport mechanics[edit]

This whole article only addresses (without saying so) reel to reel tapes recorded on 'capstan drive' machines - ie where the tape is pulled past the head by being pinched between a drive and a rubber idler wheel, thus giving a constant speed. There is another (much cheaper) type of reel to reel tape recorder, the 'rim drive'. Here the tape is pulled past the head by powering the take up spool (by a drive bearing on its edge or rim). Because the diameter of the take-up increases as the tape is wound on to it, the tape speed past the head varies, getting continuously quicker. Thus the two types of recorder produce mutually incompatible recordings on apparently the same tape. A capstan tape cannot be played at a constant speed on a rim drive machine and vice-versa. I have for instance a 1963 'Star-lite' taking 3" diameter reels of 1/4" tape. The tape speed varies from 4.8 IPS at the beginning to 7.4 IPS at the end, giving a playing time of 4 minutes per track. (talk) 22:57, 15 December 2012 (UTC)

Interesting stuff but would need citations to go into the article. Mind you the overwhelming majority of machines did use capstan drive (or some variation thereof) pretty much because anything else was pretty dreadful ! (talk) 15:05, 31 October 2015 (UTC)


A one suffered for a long time under soviet occupation: why do the reel lists not contain soviet tape recorders? These were the only instruments for recording, listening to and spreading of free world music. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:57, 19 April 2013 (UTC)

List ? There's a whole article about it :-) (talk) 14:48, 31 October 2015 (UTC)

Accidental discovery of AC bias -True ?[edit]

In 1939 one machine was found to make consistently better recordings that other ostensibly identical models, and when it was taken apart a minor flaw was noticed. This was introducing an AC signal to the tape, and this was quickly adapted to new models using a high-frequency AC bias This "accidental discovery" story has no citation and doesn't match accounts in "AC bias" article (dates also don't match) and doesn't explain how the machine generated an ultrasonic AC signal without the necessary circuitry. I'm tagging it as dubious until someone can come up with a citation (or more likely correction) (talk) 15:09, 31 October 2015 (UTC)

The story of how AC Bias was discovered by accident is fairly widespread and probably true. However the account given here leaves a lot to be desired. I do remember reading that the 'minor malfunction' that resulted in this discovery was that the vacuum tube amplifier feeding the recording head was found to be oscillating at a high frequency. It might only take the failure of one 'bypass' capacitor to allow the amplifier to oscillate and this again is entirely plausible. Therefore this account is lacking in detail and references but the broad outline of the discovery is probably true. Spyglasses 05:48, 20 February 2016 (UTC)

The story goes the record preamplifier was self oscillating at a frequency above the audio range, it is fairly common for an amplifier fault to cause self oscillation. Of course this is exactly how AC bias works now, with the addition of a bias trap in the playback amplifier. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:37, 13 January 2017 (UTC)

Small point[edit]

The phrase "less complicated cassette tapes" is misleading. Yes, cassettes were less complicated to use, but that's only because they incorporated extremely complex internal mechanisms so users didn't have to bother with issues like lacing up the tape!Lee M (talk) 00:08, 8 September 2018 (UTC)