Discussion in 'Tape' started by weegee, Feb 12, 2018.
Are the old reels going to lose their audio? Has anyone determined how long they can last?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
This is impossible to answer with a simple statement. It depends on the quality of materials, storage conditions, and frequency of use.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Good question. What happened was that the local paper had a done a piece on my collecting of old radio shows and the widow of the gent who recorded these tapes called me and asked if her husband's tapes had any value since she was downsizing for a move to a retirement home. I went to look at them and ended up making an offer. She called her son who accepted the offer on the condition that I also take the old tape recorders at $50 each (which unknowingly at the time included a near pristine Brush BK-401 and a wire recorder). I told them of my intent to release what was on the tapes on a web site. They were uncomfortable with that happening depending on what might be on some of the tapes. I told them I'd only release the "public" recordings and would digitize the family recordings for them, which I did.
The widow passed away about a year ago at age 101. What hasn't been released includes an oral history with his mother who came out to Montana in the late-1800s, and a bunch of stuff he recorded at the local Shrine, of which he was a member. This included some drinking/card parties and a kangaroo-court prosecuting the local sheriff for letting wives know where they'd be drinking. There are also kid birthday parties and other things that one might find in a collection like this. I think one of the issues they had is that there had been a divorce in the family and some of the recordings contained pre-divorce people and that was uncomfortable.
That said, since I agreed not to release "family" material, I might release the non-family local recordings at some point.
On a related note, I bought over 500 reels at an actual estate sale about 12 years ago and have been going through those since last May. About 200 reels were recorded by a guy who had a barbershop and recorded the talk in his shop, sometimes without the customers' knowledge. He recorded many church services he attended and meeting of clubs he was involved with, some of them political. He also recorded hours and hours of religious/political content off the air. This is mostly from the late-1950-s and early 1960s. When he passed away in 1990 all his tapes ended up in a thrift shop. Another guy bought them as a cheap source of tape. He passed away a dozen years ago and I bought them from his estate sale. I found out about it since I worked with his son-in-law. I consider what is on those tape in the public domain since the original recordist's family put them out there. I have found and contacted his daughter and gave her copies of things with her dad on them (a whole other story that conversation was) but didn't mention that I've been putting this stuff online. This collection is here:
The first 200 reels or so are, mostly, from the barber, with the rest being a mish-mash, primary copies of records. I have about 100 reels left to go through and about half of those are factory recorded albums. Of course, I am not putting copyrighted material on my site but I did put up sound samples.
I haven't publicized this, but planned to, so this is my first announcement.
And, to keep this on topic, the tapes are a wild collection of everything EXCEPT paper tapes. Lots of acetate and all have held up very well.
What is also interesting is the number of tape brands included. I photograph every box and reel and include those on the site for those who might be interested in that aspect. However, many/most reels and tapes do not match the box I have found them in. After all the years and multiple owners that is not surprising.
Vince, in VERY snowy Montana
You've got quite the project going.
Very cool idea! That is wonderful that you are preserving this oral history.
I have often regretted not recording my grandfather when he got to talking about his experiences. He worked across Canada, but especially in the North. He’s had a logging company, been a trapper, owned a Pop Shoppe, Hotels, motels, bowling alley, etc. He used to talk a lot about the Sioux gatherings he had been to. He had a lot of respect for the Sioux. I missed all the details because I didn’t record it.
Thanks for the info. Shed syndrome looks like vinegar syndrome we get with acetate movie film. Baking wont help our film. We have to freeze it to halt decay, but it wont fix it.
My family got a reel to reel and made one or two reels back in the 50's Tape was still good. I had it put on CD.
Yes, sorry you didn't get it. I've missed out on tons of things like that myself. In my 60's they occur to me now. Back then, never had a clue to archive. Then one day the person is gone and it is too late.
If you got some interesting audio, put it on the Internet Archive.
Wow! That is fantastic you are preserving this material. And what a project! Liked the Earl Nightengale audio. Outstanding work.
I buy lots of 'pig in a poke' 16mm films on ebay. But never thought about buying pig in a poke audio. I'd like to come across old Jazz recordings. But my film work is keeping me busy.
Copyright is not an issue to me. (Although, YouTube banned me from copyright and content issues.) Copyright or not, if I like it, I put it up on the Internet Archive. If someone does not want it there, let them work to get it off. But I'm a street photog and do not work by normal societal conventions.
If I want the shot I take it...candid.
Yes, must be like acetate film and VS
Mylar is polyester I think? It is very archival. But it seems to attract more dust than acetate.
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