About metal tape...

Discussion in 'Tape' started by Waterland, Jan 31, 2010.

  1. Waterland

    Waterland Member

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    What exactly do they mean when they call it "metal" tape? Don't all tapes have some sort of metal coating on them whether it's a chrome dioxide, or iron oxide? Does metal tape mean the actual tape itself is a strip of solid metal? What sort of metal are we talking about? I was trying to explain the different tape types to someone and having never seen nor owned any metal tapes, I couldn't explain it to them. I didn't even know different cassette tape types existed before I joined this forum, I just though cassettes were cassettes. I was also naive in thinking that cassette was an inferior format, but I just never had the right gear to get to fully utilize cassette.
     

     

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  2. jan_stevns

    jan_stevns Super Member

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  3. PacificStereo

    PacificStereo Super Member

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    It's been a long time, but...

    Metal tape was revolutionary because all previous particles used for tape formulation were oxides. The problem with using a non-oxide particle was that it was difficult to find a way to protect the particles from the atmosphere and to keep them from literally flashing and burning up when exposed. The tape manufacturers worked for years on this, because they knew that the higher retentivity and significantly higher saturation levels would make for a big improvement in cassette tape sonics.

    The solution ended up being a polymer coating that sealed each particle from the atmosphere.

    Another issue with metal tape was being able to record on it. Metal tape has a significantly higher coercivity, and it requires a lot more bias to get into its linear range than oxide formulations do. More bias means more current through erase and record heads. Heads had to be redesigned to accommodate the higher current, and thus "metal capable" decks started to be introduced to take advantage of the new formulation.
     
  4. 2fives

    2fives Active Member

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    Also to put in in terms I understood, one day some professor was sitting around and said oxide, that's oxygen, WTF are all these oxygen particles doing hogging room where metal particles could be on my tape. So he cam up with a pure metal particle tape.
     
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  5. Waterland

    Waterland Member

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    Ok, so metal tape is not an oxide coating but rather a metal coating. What exactly kind of metal coating is it? Chrome? Gold? Silver? Platinum? Aluminum? Molybdenum?
     
  6. BlazeES

    BlazeES Active Member

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    The recipe to which the tape manufacturers used is a cocktail (alloy blend) of the better ferromagnetic materials available; Iron, nickel, cobalt are just a few of what the big boys had at their disposal - with Cobalt being a prime component of many formulations. The beauty of these concoctions is that they are proprietary, like Grandmas secret recipes. Hopefully this gives you some insight into a few types of ferromagnetic metals that were portioned into the various formulas of Metal Tapes. There are some more unique rare-earth materials that possess even better ferromagnetic properties than those mentioned, that could have been used in small portion, but I've yet to read any specific documentation that defines the actual formulations employed. I believe early renditions of Metal Tape employed pure and fine iron particles but proved pretty hard to layer with sufficient lubricants to prevent undue headwear and any change in molecular composition over time. The use of iron bonded with advanced ceramics is a more recent innovation that helped to improve particle stability and robustness.
    Hope this helps...
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2010

     

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  7. koltrast

    koltrast Active Member

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    A slight exaggeration to say ferrous metals (Iron etc) flash and burn on exposure to air.
     
  8. PacificStereo

    PacificStereo Super Member

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    No, Koltrast, it's not an exaggeration in the least.
     
  9. perryinva

    perryinva IS it vintage????

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    PS is technically correct. The approximate definition of burning is reduction by oxidation, which is what has happened to all oxidized metals. It's the degrees that we are talking about here, and which PS took some liberties. I was not aware that the coated particles is what protected the metals. I had assumed they were non-reactive alloys with magnetic traits. So metal tapes can, theoretically wear then if the coating wears off? Or is that so unlikely as to be unheard of? I knw the early metals were plagued with issues, so that jives with what was said.
     
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  10. PacificStereo

    PacificStereo Super Member

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    Argh. I took no liberties whatsoever. The original stumbling block with the idea of formulating a metal-particle tape was that the particles (presumably due to their surface area) were very unstable and would indeed flash and burn. I probably still have the white paper TDK wrote about this very subject in a box somewhere, but I'm really not interested in trying to figure out where it is and dig it out.

    Believe whatever you wish.
     
  11. BlazeES

    BlazeES Active Member

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    Perry, in addition to the particle coatings, don't forget the addition of lubricants/sealers on top of the base metal dispersion layer. It's highly unlikely the particle coating would wear through over the rated useful life of the tape. Not saying it can't eventually happen, just that it's more likely that a head would wear out long before any coated microscopic particle elements would - and how often do you see (cassette deck) heads wear out from normal use?

    Now if the tape was stationary, and say the head was rotating on that stationary location - friction & accelerated wear would come into play and pretty much kill the tape's long term application life...
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010

     

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  12. Waterland

    Waterland Member

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    Wow, thanks for all the info everyone. Now I'll have a better time figuring out how to explain the different tape types to people. So what's a good brand of metal tape? Do they still make metal tape?
     
  13. Bigerik

    Bigerik AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Great post!

    Welcome to AK, Blaze. Glad to have your expertise in the tape forum!
     
  14. goldear

    goldear Certifiable Audio Junkie

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    PS is completely correct. It is amazing all of the normally stable materials that become incredibly flamable when particulated down to very tiny sizes. I've even heard stories of grain silohs exploding due to this effect.

    I remember hearing stories of explosions in the laboratories while the engineers were attempting to formulate metal particle tapes.

    Unfortunately it is all academinc now since you can't buy this stuff anymore unless you are willing to be gang-raped for the pleasure of buying some of it off of Epay.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2010
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  15. BlazeES

    BlazeES Active Member

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    Thanks Bigerik.
    Much appreciated.

    Goldear, with all due respect, I can empathize with you on the overly priced Metals on eBoy, BUT, another way to look at it is this - Pundits that claim eBoy is way out of line on pricing need to consider the following facts:

    Even though quality tapes of any grade have ceased production, there are still plenty of good deals to had if you're patient and informed. There's also no shortage of NOS available in the "recirculation market", contrary to what many would have you believe. No one ever said buying NOS was easy, it just pays to stay clear of the hype factor, stay clear of the "usual suspects" on eBoy who prop up those artificially high prices by selling "one-sies" and who then infiltrate enthusiast/hobby sites to manipulate market perception - but I won't mention names...

    Conventional wisdom might suggest that, say, 20 bucks might be TOO TOO much to pay for a premium or "super" C-90 Metal tape - such as TDK MA-XG, Sony Metal Master or Denon MG-X, but if you swing on over to the Gov'ts Inflation Calculator and modernize the old retail price to today's dollar value, you'll find that 20 bucks is actually a fair shake - for what some folks have characterized as "collector items". Personally, I use first, collect second and I'm here to state for the record that if the average Joe spends a little focused effort each week searching eBoy, CL and thrift stores - sealed NOS (new old stock) can be found at great present day value. Top of the line Metal tapes sold for between 14 and 20 bucks retail between the years of 1988 and 1994. Run the numbers through that calculator and see what I mean...you'll gain a whole new perspective on pricing. (20 bucks was only postulated for example sake btw, quality Metal type tape can still be had for much less than that - it's just not going to fall into your lap.)

    One last assumption is that NOS is too old to be of any good use. Completely false. Sealed stock of just about any of the major brands perform just as well today as they did even 25 years ago - assuming they weren't subjected to adverse temperature extremes, cyclic and rapid temperature swings, high humidity or direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Magnetic tape is a wonderful invention and the evolution of the Compact Cassette produced some marvel products that should last a good 20 to 30 years (after being opened and properly cared for).

    Now I do agree that anything over 50 bucks for a single tape is pretty outrageous, even after taking into account inflationary/present day dollar values; one example of this has been a real run-up on the "going price" of Maxell's Metal Vertex on eBoy as of late - with tapes going for in excess of 100 bucks a piece - and I'm one to honestly say there's no reason on Earth for such astronomical pricing. But that said, it IS an auction environment, and some people DO have money to burn and eBoy sellers know it... Learn what's out there, connect with folks that have hordes of tape kitty and enjoy the format without taking out a 2nd mortgage.

    :thmbsp:

    BTW: I had no intention of poo poo-ing Type I or Type II tapes, I just wanted to focus on Metals as they are the best performing tapes with higher-end machines and the original pinning of this thread. I can say from first hand experience, that quality normal bias and high bias tapes are also abundantly available in the recirculation market and are not to be ignored. I've scored quite a few sealed Type I & II's below the 8 to 10 dollar mark, just within the past 12 months.

    I can't stress this enough folks, quality NOS is out there and "usual suspects" on eBoy are just adding a convenience/finders fee premium to their offerings. If you want a fast score, have at it, but if you want to save some coin - invest some time & energy and get informed.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
  16. Bigerik

    Bigerik AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'm liking this thread. Maybe sticky it for a while?
     

     

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  17. BlazeES

    BlazeES Active Member

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    Cool!
     
  18. jsixis

    jsixis Nothing sounds better

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    A slight exaggeration to say ferrous metals (Iron etc) flash and burn on exposure to air.


    ya never put a match to steel wool have you?
     
  19. Jonny Ramone

    Jonny Ramone Super Member

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    I believe powdered metal is a rocket fuel. Not sure how many different types they used.
     
  20. koltrast

    koltrast Active Member

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    That was my very point. Yes Iron powder or wool will burn if exposed to a flame, but spontaneously at normal temperatures?
     

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