Care and Maintenance of Cassette and Reel to Reel.

Discussion in 'Tape' started by Vintage TX, Nov 8, 2005.

  1. Vintage TX

    Vintage TX Analog forever

    Houston. Texas.
    What do I need to maintain my Cassette deck or reel to reel?

    For the most part, all you need to do is keep the heads and general tape path clean and free from magnetic fields both external and internally generated from usage.

    For cleaning the heads, guides, metal rolling tensioners, lifter arms and capstan you will need to get Isopropyl Alcohol in a 95% purity or higher. This will be applied with Qtips or any decent, lint free cotton swab by wetting the swab with the alcohol and rubbing off the oxide build up on the affected parts.

    The frequency of doing this procedure depends on the machine and the type and condition of the tape you are using at the time. Generally for cassette decks, every 10 - 30 hrs of actual play/recording time and after every major recording session to be safe. For open reel machines, every 6 to 10 hrs and even more depending what tape you are using, older tape can shed and create a big mess on both heads + travelpath.

    Keeping the tape path clean and free of tape oxide build up will ensure that your deck keeps running at peak efficiency and at it best frequency response.

    Isopropyl alcohol can be found at any drugstore or pharmacy and at most hardware stores too.

    For cleaning any and all rubber parts in the tape path such as pinch rollers and idler-wheels
    Parts Express sell both headcleaner and rubber cleaner.
    Don't use head-cleaner or Isopropyl alcohol on any rubber-parts.
    Some reel to reel models and cassette decks has a softer rubber and you will ruin your new deck with a gummy sticky mess, be careful. :)

    The key to doing it is when you see appreciable oxide build up on the rubber or if you notice any deviations in play speed or increases in wow and flutter. All of these symptoms are basically signs of a lack of grip of the rubber roller against the capstan which together pull the tape across the heads at a rated speed.
    A brown residue on the pinch-roller or tension rollers are a sign it's time to do some maintenance. :)

    Deagussing ( Demagnetizing )

    There are many ways to screw this part up, so please be careful.

    A little stray magnetism can become quite a big problem in tape recording.
    It only takes a small amount (.2 gauss) to cause trouble on the record head.
    Playing 10 cassettes will put about that much charge on the heads.
    A little more than (.7 gauss) will start erase high frequency signals on previously recorded tapes.

    If you try it with the electronics on, the current pulses produced by the degausser will look just like the audio signals to the heads.
    These pulses are around 10,000 gauss, and will seriously damage the electronics inside.

    So turn your deck of first:
    Be certain your demagnetizer has either a plastic cover or plastic tape covering the tip.
    Make sure that no metal ever touches the heads as it will scar and ruin them.

    Turn the demagntizer on at least 3 feet away from your deck,
    slowly move in to the tape path, move the degausser slowly back and fourth without touching the heads.
    Slowly move it away again to at least 3 feet ( 1 meter ) before releasing the button.

    Repeat this on the metal tape guides on each side of the heads (reel to reel)
    NEVER relaese the demagnetizer when close to the will put a permanent magnetic charge on them, that no degaussing will remove, so be sure to concentrate while you are doing this.

    A clean and properly demagnetized tape recorder will maintain it's performance without any other attention for quite a while.

    Good Luck, :)


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  2. Strawman

    Strawman Moderator

    Fraser, Mi.
    Great guidelines, (it's about time somebody did this one).
    Angry Possum likes this.
  3. john_w

    john_w Miscreant

    Englewood, Colorado
    Very good instructions. I was familiar with cassette maintenance procedures, but I didn't realize that R to R maintenance was nearly the same. Which makes sense, of course.

    From what I've been taught, it's good that your instructions followed the procedure for the "wand" type of degausser. You can get demagnetizers in the form of a cassette shell with some circuitry in it, that you just plug into the machine and "play". I've been told to NEVER bother with those, as they're never quite powerful enough to do the job and you can't back the degausser away from the head like you can with a wand. I've never tried one myself - I'm happy with the wand unit I've used for years.
  4. jcmjrt

    jcmjrt Addicted Member

    S.F. Bay
    Thanks. I'm just getting into R-t-R so I needed a little guidance. I'll definitely try to remember about being careful degaussing!
  5. jblmar

    jblmar JBL & marantz

    RIP 2016
    Not a bad idea to clean the heads after every pass of a full reel. Especially if you're using 10.5" reels.
    The highest % if IPA that i was able to find is 91%. The best cleaner was the TEAC Head & Rubber Cleaners. NLA from Teac. Dried fast and cleaned great.
  6. stereofisher

    stereofisher For the Love of the Music Subscriber

    Southeast NY
    Nice Post..from one of the best here!

    A good guide for all of us! Newbies and Long Termers a like. Great advise. Also look at Vintage TX Post here on reet to reel cleaning. A whole lot of good stuff there :) Got to get a demagnetizer myself.



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  7. Sansui Louie

    Sansui Louie Curmudgeon

    I'm assuming that RtoR's need cleaning more frequently because of the wider tape and more of it moving across the heads and guides at a higher rate of speed = more crap buildup?
  8. Jedo

    Jedo New Member

    RT 707 adjustments

    I just picked up a Pioneer RT 707 yesterday...Excellent cosmetic condition and appears to work fine...came with about 40 tapes, about 5 of them in sealed boxes...mostly recordings from the 70' know J.J. Cale, Spyrogyra (remember them?) appears that most of it was pulled off of FM not vinyl...too bad...paid $125.00...I thought that was an excellent price. I hate to tease ya all with this but at a garage sale this summer...sitting in the driveway on the ground I found a TEAC X10 in perfect condition...$25.00!! Anyway...I bought the RT so I could move music from the X10 in the office to the RT in the Liv Rm...lo and behold they are different is up with that? No matter I am still happy but it seems an odd thing for pioneer to do. It did not come with a manual and I am noticing that the highs on the left channel are not as 'bright' as those on the right...yes I have cleaned it, no I don't have a de-mag thingee yet but will soon. I see there are some 'azim' adjust screws on the front...can someone tell me how one uses/adjusts those or whether one should leave that to a highly paid 'professional'.
    palanci likes this.
  9. soundoc03

    soundoc03 Super Member

    Spokane, WA
    I have a demagnetizer made by Discwasher that has a magnet of some sort in a cassette shell that is run during FF/Rew functions for a couple of passes. Does anyone know whether or not this device is useless or worse harmful?
  10. john_w

    john_w Miscreant

    Englewood, Colorado
    Discwasher is a reputable company. It's most likely not harmful, and probably not completely useless, but very probably not as effective as it should be. If you're serious about maintaining the best sound you can get out of your cassettes, get a good wand.
  11. macaltec

    macaltec Metal Master

    Bear Creek, NC
    How much time should you spend sweeping around the tape path? Do you just move in slowly from a distance, make a pass of the path and parts and move back out slowly? Thanks.



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  12. markdi

    markdi Natural born thread killer Subscriber

    portland oregon
    I live in portland oregon and

    fred meyers sells 99% ipa.
  13. melofelo

    melofelo Addicted Member

    london, uk
    cassette maintenance

    i've used a maxell cassette type head demagnetizer for several years and it seems to work fine...also the alsop 3 or alsop 4 tape path cleaner is pretty good and works for both auto reverse and uniderectional transport mechanisms..although you do have to clean the erase head of unidirectional transports separately with a q-tip and fluid...
    i prefer the cassette type demagnetizers as there is less chance of me magnetizing the heads permanently and used once a month seems to keep the heads sounding fine right across the frequency spectrum...
    works great in the car too...always seems to restore the high end response on my alpine unit when i've neglected it for a few weeks...
    the Alsop cleaner is the only thing that will clean the transport mechanism effectively of my in car tape player short of me dismantling the deck...
    price is not too bad on the wallet either...
    the maxell demagnetiser might not be so easy to track down in these digital days...the model # is :
    Maxell Head Demagnetizer HE-44
    Angry Possum likes this.
  14. john_w

    john_w Miscreant

    Englewood, Colorado
    macaltec -

    Sorry about the late reply - I was going to see if there were other responses (not my thread, and I don't really intend to take it over) and then maybe reply but then I lost track of the thread. "My bad". :sigh:

    What you're saying is generally right, although I personally sweep back and forth really close to the playback head about a dozen times, going across the full width and slowly working my way down the head. This may be overkill, although it's not like it takes forever to do.

    Regarding Maxell, they are definitely a good company. Their demag may certainly be adequate.

    I've been told I should demag about once per every 27 or so plays of 90 minute tapes. That seems about right in practice. It sounds like somebody did their research on this, anyhow.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2006

    SANSUI_MASTER New Member

    Mr. Vintage TX:

    Does a bottle of 99% pure isopropyl retain its strength indefinitely? In other words, I would like to know if the 1 pint size bottle I bought several years ago and kept stored away from sunlight, can still be safely used now and can still efectively clean the tape heads (on my A-3440). I did not notice any kind of expiration date on the bottle, and when I took the cap off and had a whiff of the stuff, it still had the scent of being very potent.

    Its not that I cant afford to buy a new bottle, but the local hardware store may not have it (or not have it in 95%+ form), and I would like to use my A3440 later tonight, so rather than order the isopropyl Online and wait a few days for it to arrive in the mail, I was thinking to clean the heads with the "old"? bottle I have now in the meantime.


    'The Sansui Master' :smoke:
  16. Vintage TX

    Vintage TX Analog forever

    Houston. Texas.
    I think you are safe using that old bottle.


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  17. sorenj07

    sorenj07 Super Member

    Boston, MA
    does anyone know any good models of wand degausser? also, i take it that those wands aren't safe around a computer monitor, right? edit: or computer?
  18. john_w

    john_w Miscreant

    Englewood, Colorado
    Mine was made by Nortronics, and I think it's supposed to be one of the better ones. I don't think it's produced anymore - but Google shows some used ones for sale.

    I've never had mine on around a computer and/or monitor. I don't have a clue about that one.
  19. superdeez

    superdeez Member

    If you put a degausser near a picture tube of any sort (monitor, TV, etc.), you'll magnetize the phosophor grid in that particular spot, causing at least moderate discolouration, and probably some blurring of the image because the grid doesn't have the right electromagnetic properties for the electron beam to hit it right anymore. (Believe it or not, just running an electric pencil sharpener or fan close to the screen can do it!) If you're lucky, and the device has an internal degausser (like late model computer CRTs), then you can just use that feature, and fix it. Otherwise, you would have to go through a procedure similar to degaussing a tape recorder.

    Putting a degausser near a computer would have a slight effect on ths chips inside, it could possibly magnetize them and render them useless, or could just interfere with their operation when on. It also has the potential to ruin the permenant magnet inside DC motors and render them useless.

    The main risk, however, with a degausser near a computer is that you could either degauss the HDD or screw it up with outside magnetic fields. The only time I would recomment using a degausser or a strong magnet on a HDD is if you plan on throwing it out, as this would scramble/destroy the data on the disk and render it useless. I would still recommend disassembling the drive and destroying the platters after that just as an extra precaution.

    But in any event, keep the degausser a safe distance away from the TV or computer.
  20. geauxldmember

    geauxldmember Member

    So any special procedures to cleaning an auto-reverse tape deck?


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