Is there an expiration date for tape?

Discussion in 'Tape' started by weegee, Feb 12, 2018 at 9:14 AM.

  1. Are the old reels going to lose their audio? Has anyone determined how long they can last?

    Thanks
     
  2. oldvinyldude

    oldvinyldude AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I hear of old 50's era tapes playing as well now as back then. I have 70's era tapes that play and record just fine. Most high quality tapes of decades gone by, when stored away from extremes of heat and high humidity, are going to perform quite well today.

    "Losing" audio, may occur if the tape is exposed to stray magnetic fields, such as leaving them on speaker cabs, power supplies of gear, etc.

    On the other hand, many budget tapes, especially thinner tapes, will have lost some signal, and have dropouts that make them sound less than ideal.
     
  3. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Depends on how they are stored. Heat, cold, light, and moisture do affect tape as does ozone and stretching. Yes, they will eventually breakdown. This is what SONY saw with their Master's collection, so they went about storing the masters in DSD format (digital). Hence why DSD was originally designed.
     
  4. RobRoy

    RobRoy It's just stuff - but fun

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    Cassettes seem to be fine. Old open reel (OR) seem to be fine. It's the "high quality" OR tapes from the 70's that seem to be the problem. I had a few hundred OR tapes I got with a Teac deck from a guy whos dad was in VietNam and worked at the armed forces radio station. He dumped on tape pretty much every album the station had. Those tapes all played just fine. However, the newer stuff from the 70's, especially high quality tapes with backing, absolutely shreded on my OR decks. They were useless.

    Although that problem can be mitigated by "baking" tapes in your oven as a temporary fix, it ruined OR for me. When I moved to KY I sold all three of my OR decks and all tapes and never looked back. For me, it is interesting like wax cylinders are interesting, but not a practical medium.

    BTW, you can thank the "evolutionist" consciousness for the tape shedding. The "environmentally friendly" binder seems to have been a big part of the problem

    There is a rundown of the whole thing here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sticky-shed_syndrome
     
  5. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    UHH the 70's was the start of it not when this was done. Also many older tapes were cellophane that that will oxidize.

    You do realize that Wiki can be wrong? In this case it is.
     
  6. RobRoy

    RobRoy It's just stuff - but fun

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    Honestly, I didn't know the Wiki article discussed it at all. I just threw it in as a starting point for the OP.

    The whole thing is a very interesting story. I was really into it about nine years ago when I noticed some of my tapes shedding. I did a LOT of research, made a decision, and never looked back. My post is from memory.
     
  7. Poinzy

    Poinzy Super Member

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    This is impossible to answer with a simple statement. It depends on the quality of materials, storage conditions, and frequency of use.
     
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  8. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Well, it has to do with how the tapes were stored more than anything else. Oxidation, ozone, ight, heat all affect it. So does moisture hence why Master tapes are often stored in vaults and they still degrade over time. Then there is the stretching of the tape. Over time this is another cause of damage.
     
  9. 1tumbleweed

    1tumbleweed Kozmik Kowboy Subscriber

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    It was cellulose, not cellophane (cellulose acetate, to be exact). And those tapes would be really REALLY old. All manufacturers had switched to mylar by the late '50s, AFAIK.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018 at 11:50 AM
  10. VinceInMT

    VinceInMT New Member

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    I suppose that someone could employ physics to show whether some audio is lost over time but, in my experience, even really OLD tapes hold their content quite well.

    Back in 2000 I acquired about 200 reels of tape from a "pre-estate" sale. They were all recorded in the late 40s and early 50s. All of them were paper-based tapes. All of them played just fine. You can take a listen on my web site:

    http://www.otrannex.com/papertapes/

    Vince
     
  11. 1tumbleweed

    1tumbleweed Kozmik Kowboy Subscriber

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    Ironically, paper-backed tapes might hold up better in the long run than others. Cellulose acetate can just dissolve on its own under poor storage conditions, and old mylar-backed tapes have a tendency to curl as the backing shrinks. Paper, OTOH, under the right conditions could last a lot longer, despite being a more fragile choice.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2018 at 1:33 PM
  12. sol7

    sol7 Super Member

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    Not to derail the OP thread, but why didn't you post the family recordings online? Obviously the family (if there was any) didn't care about the tapes and/or privacy if they went up for sale.

    Oh, welcome to AK.
     

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