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The Maxell Reel to Reel Tape Reference Guide

Discussion in 'Tape' started by Numistrek09, Apr 2, 2018.

  1. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    This guide is the culmination of years, of on again/off again interest on the subject. While there are other guides available on the internet, i have tried to make this one the most complete. I hope that it will serve as a permanent reference to Maxell's ever popular 1/4" open reel tapes.

    I have tried to ensure that everything seen and stated here is as accurate as possible. That said, some areas are still a mystery and mistakes likely exist. If anyone reading this has additional information; whether in the form of brochures, flyers or publications, let me know and I'll add/amend as needed. Pictures of tape boxes, reels, info/label cards and tape leaders are also welcome!



    History

    Maxell was spun out of the battery and magnetic tape divisions of Nitto Electric lndustrial Co., in 1961. In 1964 they changed their name to Hitachi Maxell, LTD. For the first few years, it seems that most of their production was only in the battery area. But by 1966, they were producing audio cassette tapes for the home market. This list takes that year as it's starting point.

    Note:

    For awhile you could find both Maxell and Hitachi branded tapes on the market. The model numbers were
    different, but both carried the same line name. IE Low Noise or Ultra Dynamic.



    Keys to understanding Maxell tape model designations

    Letters before the numbers are used to designate what the substraight of the tape is and what product it belongs to.

    A = Acetate based tape
    E = Polyester based tape
    St = Standard tape
    SS = Super Sound tape
    LN = Low Noise tape
    UD = Ultra Dynamic tape
    UD-XL = enhanced Ultra Dynamic tape
    XLI = XLI tape
    XLII = XLII Extra Efficiency tape

    In the early years, these letters were often combined. Such as LNE or LNA. However, with the abandoning
    of acetate based tapes, the A and E designations were dropped. Only letters related to the model lines
    continued to be used.


    Numbers

    The first number after the letters is the tape thickness. (measured in microns)

    18 micron = .50 mil tape
    25 micron = .75 mil tape
    35 micron = 1.00 mil tape
    50 micron = 1.50 mil tape

    The last number was the reel size in inches. Later this was changed to the number of minutes of recording
    time at 7.5 ips. (60, 90, 120 or 180 minutes)

    76 is a 3" reel
    3 is a 3.5" reel
    4 is a 4" reel
    5 is a 5" reel
    6 is a 6" reel
    7 is a 7" reel
    10 is a 10.5" reel


    Letters after the numbers

    L means it is on a large hub plastic reel.
    PR means it is a plastic reel instead of a metal one (10.5" tapes only)
    B means it is backcoated tape


    Some examples...

    A tape labeled: A50-7 is a acetate 1.5 mil tape on a 7" reel
    A tape labeled: E25-6 is a polyester .75 mil tape on a 6" reel
    A tape labeled: LNE35-7L is a Low Noise series polyester 1 mil tape on a large hub 7" reel
    A tape labeled: UD 35-90B is a Ultra Dynamic 1 mil 90 minute backcoated tape
    A tape labeled: UD 35-180PR is a Ultra Dynamic 1 mil 180 minute tape on a plastic 10.5" reel



    Additional info


    Run time

    In the early days, a tape's playing time was also shown on the box. There were four times shown.

    Standard - 100
    Long Play - 150
    Long Play - 200
    Long Play - 300

    These designations were also printed on the tape leaders. The number roughly broke down to a x value.
    Such as Standard run time x 1.5 or x 2, etc. So a Long Play 300 tape had 3 times as much recording time as a Standard 100 tape. This labeling system was dropped, shortly before the switch to showing the total run time in minutes at 7.5 ips. (see above)


    Tape length

    This number was usually printed somewhere on or in the box. In the early days, there were many different
    lengths due to the wide number of reel sizes and tape thicknesses. By the mid 70's, they had solidified
    into lengths of 1200, 1800, 2400 and 3600 feet.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018

     

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  2. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    Generation 1 1966 to 1969 (dates are a guess)

    Their first line up included three classes of tape, Standard, Low Noise and Super Sound. The Standard series was their bread and butter tape. It came in both acetate and polyester based substraights. Low Noise was their HIFI grade tape and seems to only have been on polyester. Super Sound was intended for professional results at very slow speeds.

    There are two box styles during this period.

    Style 1 came in at least four different colors. Acetate based tapes came in either solid blue or red boxes, while polyester tapes came in either purple or green boxes. Super Sound tapes were also blue. The tapes often came with info cards that were usually in a mix of English and Japanese.

    Style 2 i have not yet seen enough of to be sure of the color scheme. Red was still used for acetate
    tapes, but blue now was being used on polyester tapes. Info cards are now usually all in English.

    Tape leaders were either solid green or blue and stated the playing time on the box, IE Standard Play or Long Play 150, etc. The tape tails were always solid red.

    Plastic reels were used for all sizes below 10 1/2" and came in two types. Type 1 were three spoke reels, with Maxell on one of the spokes and the reel size in MMs above it. Type 2 had two cut outs in the flanges, with Maxell in gold letters at the top. Their shape kinda resembled snow angels. I'm not sure if both were in use at the same time, or if one is older than the other.

    While 10.5" reels were made, i have no info on the product lines produced. Nor do i have a picture of one of the actual reels. From the box though, they appear to be much like the Scotch reels of the time, style wise.

    The line up for sub 10 1/2" reels (as taken from a card included with a tape) was as follows:

    Standard
    A50-7
    A50-6
    A50-5
    A50-4
    A50-3
    A50-76

    Long Play 150
    A35-7
    A35-6
    A35-5
    A35-4
    A35-3
    A35-76

    Long Play 300
    E25-7
    E25-6
    E25-5
    E25-4
    E25-3
    E25-76

    Long Play 300
    E20-3 (3 1/2" reel, unique tape thickness between .5 mils and .75 mils)

    Low Noise
    LNE35-7L

    Super Sound
    A35-5H
    A35-3H
     

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  3. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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  4. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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  5. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    Generation 2 1970 to 1971 (dates are a guess)

    In their second line up, Super Sound tape seems to have been dropped and a new product line called Ultra Dynamic was added. Another line simply called Professional also appears. It is a polyester based silicon lubricated tape. I am not exactly sure where it fits into the lineup, as i have no flyers or published material to say one way or another. It may be a separate line that died out. It could be what became of the Super Sound line, or it may just be a suped up version of the Standard tape series. It might not even belong to this generation of tapes!

    The wide array of reel sizes has also been pared down to just three. 5, 7 and 10 1/2". The Standard tape series has been dramatically cut down to just two products, while the Low Noise series has been expanded massively to become the new base line.

    The box style of this time looks much more like what most people will recognize as Maxell. The top half
    being black and the bottom being a striped section. With very few images of tapes from this era, i can't say much about the color codes used. But Red was still being used for acetate tapes, while Green for poly. Seems a teal color was used for acetate tapes made to a longer length. There was also a yellow boxed tape available, but i do not know what series it belonged to. The Professional tapes came in a black box with a red dual ring circular shape in the center.

    Tape leaders were still solid green or blue and stated the playing time. (100, 150, 200 or 300) The tape
    tails were still solid red.

    Plastic reels all seem to use the standard three spoke shape, with Maxell and the reel size in MMs embossed on them. I have no images of what 10.5" reels of this time looked like.

    The line up so far known (possibly incorrect, but with the best info i can find) was as follows:

    Standard
    A35-7
    E35-7
    A50-7

    Professional
    E35-7

    Low Noise
    LNE18-7
    LNE25-7
    LNE35-7L
    LNE35-7
    LNA50-7
    LNE50-7

    Ultra Dynamic
    UD35-7L
    UD35-7
    UD50-7
     

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  6. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    Generation 3 1972 to 1975 (dates are approximate)

    In their third line up, a variety of small changes were made. The three main tape series were still in production. Acetate tapes were beginning to be phased out, though many versions remained. The Professional tape series seems to have disappeared by this point though.

    Textured gold or silver boxes were now used for 5 and 7" reels, while plain white boxes were used for 10.5" reels. The tape brand and info was a label adhered to the box. The top half of the label was still black and the bottom a striped color matching the tape type/length. Adhesive reel stickers seem to have been added to the packaging at this time. The color of the sticker was matched to the box label color.

    The box colors were as follows:

    Standard received Red for acetate and Green for polyester. Low Noise was silver on 18 micron tape, teal for 25 micron, blue for 35 micron and pink for 50 micron. Ultra Dynamic was gold for 35 micron tapes and silver for 50 micron. Both LN and UD tapes would go to all silver or gold labeled boxes towards the end of this time. There was also a high end version of UD available. It came in a plastic covered presentation box and was all black. It had a molded plastic cradle for the reel to sit in. The included info booklets were still gold colored though.

    Two types of tape leaders were used.

    The early versions still used solid green or blue and stated the playing time. LNE18-7 tapes had a silver forward leader. While i cannot directly confirm, this may mean that LNE25-7 tapes had a teal forward leader. The tape tails were still solid red. Despite the LN series having color coded leader tapes, i have not yet seen any of the UD tapes with this trait. Perhaps a UD with a gold or silver leader will turn up eventually.

    The later version was a whiteish head cleaning leader, with red timing marks. The leader stated the tape type and classic playing time number in front of each timing mark. UD tapes used green letters and LN used light blue. While not confirmed, i believe Standard tapes used no special lettering, just yellow numbers showing the play time. (100 or 150) The tail leader was the same type of material as the forward leader, but with only red timing marks.

    Plastic reels had switched to a solid flange design, with a slit down to the hub for threading the tape. The top half of the flange was smooth and flat for the label to be applied, the rest was finely textured. 10 1/2" reels had three hole flanges, with no silk screened labeling. A sticker was applied that had the name Maxell, side # and lines to write addition notes.

    The line up was as follows (this is the first time i have a complete list of the lineup)

    Standard
    A50-5
    E35-5
    A50-7
    E35-7
    A50-10
    E35-10

    Low Noise
    LNE18-5
    LNE18-7
    LNE25-5
    LNE25-7
    LNE35-5
    LNE35-7
    LNE35-7L
    LNE35-10
    LNE50-5
    LNE50-7
    LNA50-10
    LNE50-10

    Ultra Dynamic
    UD35-7
    UD35-7L
    UD35-7VP
    UD35-10
    UD50-7
    UD50-7VP
    UD50-10
     

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  7. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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  8. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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  9. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    Numistrek09 Super Member

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  11. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    Generation 4 1975 to 1976 (dates are approximate)

    In their 4th lineup, it appears they dropped their 5" reels. (Though that may be just because i haven't
    found any yet.) It also seems they discontinued acetate based tapes during this time. And they added a new version of UD with a carbon backcoating.

    Box styles were finally simplified. All LN tapes were now in textured silver boxes and all UD were in gold ones. The labels applied were also now either silver or gold. The only remnants of the older colored labels, was in the tape model numbers. Each tape thickness received a different printed color. The model numbering system was also changed during this generation. No longer was the reel size printed in the model, but the play time in minutes at 7.5 ips.The stickers included in the box were silver for LN, gold for UD and black for backcoated UD. Standard tapes received green boxes and green label stickers.

    Tape leaders from the end of the last generation were carried over. A whiteish head cleaning leader, with red timing marks and the tape type/playing time in front of each mark. UD and UDB tapes used green letters, Low Noise used light blue. While not yet confirmed, i believe Standard had no special lettering, just yellow play time numbers in front of the timing marks. The tail leader was also the same as introduced at the end of the last generation.

    Plastic reels remained the same from the last gen. But 10 1/2" reels now had Maxell silk screened on each side.

    The line up was as follows:

    Standard
    St 35-90
    St 50-60

    Low Noise
    LN 18-180
    LN 25-120
    LN 35-90
    LN 35-180
    LN 50-60
    LN 50-120

    Ultra Dynamic
    UD 35-90
    UD 35-90B
    UD 35-180
    UD 35-180B
    UD 50-60
    UD 50-60B
    UD 50-120
    UD 50-120B
     

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  14. GYMusic

    GYMusic Compression is your friend Subscriber

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    This is an admirable list you've got here. I transfer a lot of tapes from the 40's to current formulations. I must say that Maxell tapes hold up very well over the years - maybe the best.
     
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  15. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    Generation 5 1977 to 1980 (dates are approximate)

    During the 5th generation, the Standard series was finally dropped. The LN series was improved in some way towards the end of the period. These improved tapes display a red label across the bottom corner stating New and Improved. Despite this, the line wasn't carried over into the next generation. The UD series was expanded and, for a short time at least, still came in both backcoated and non backcoated versions. The backcoated version was soon improved and released as it's own line, called UD-XL Professional.

    Box styles changed again. No longer was the product info a label adhered to the boxes. Instead, all information was now printed directly on the box. Standard tapes came in matte green boxes and LN came in metallic silver ones. UD came in metallic gold boxes and UD-XL came in gloss black ones.

    Tape leaders used color schemes that were now similar to the box color. The only known exception was on the dying Standard line. It continued to use the red timing marks and yellow play time numbers. LN now used grey timing marks, with the tape thickness in microns proceeding it. UD used orange marks and numbers and UD-XL used black marks and numbers. The tail leaders for all still used the white cleaning leader with red timing marks.

    Plastic reels changed slightly, with Maxell now being embossed on each side. The adhesive labels were color matched to the boxes and curved to fit along a side of the reel. The 10 1/2" reels now received the classic Maxell double M logo and two hole cut out flanges.

    Note:
    There is a variation on this design from a box of this period. The Lot # of the box is very low. So it may be a early version of the new style that ultimately was abandoned. (see pics)


    The line up was as follows:

    Standard
    St 35-90

    Low Noise
    LN 18-180
    LN 25-120
    LN 35-90
    LN 35-180
    LN 50-60
    LN 50-120

    Ultra Dynamic
    UD 18-180
    UD 25-120
    UD 35-90
    UD 35-90B
    UD 35-180
    UD 35-180B
    UD 50-60
    UD 50-60B
    UD 50-120
    UD 50-120B

    UD-XL Professional
    UD-XL 35-90B
    UD-XL 35-180B
    UD-XL 50-60B
    UD-XL 50-120B
     

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    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    Numistrek09 Super Member

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  18. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    The odd double M reel is in this group. The box lot # is C1991
     

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    Numistrek09 Super Member

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  20. Numistrek09

    Numistrek09 Super Member

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    Generation 6 1980 to 1983 (dates are approximate)

    During the 6th generation, the UD series became the base of the tape family. The UD-XL line was rebranded as XLI and a new formulation was introduced called XLII Extra Efficiency. EE tapes were an attempt to make a reel to reel version of Type 2 cassette tape. It could only be used on decks that were designed for it and carried the EE logo.

    Box styles now had an all black top section, and the bottom was color matched to the tape line. UD was white, XLI was silver and XLII was gold. A "ribbon" of info about the tape and it's performance, was also added to the back of the box. It was user removable and color coded to the tape line. Blue for UD, grey for XLI and orange for XLII.

    UD now used blue timing marks and numbers on it's forward leader, XLI used grey and XLII used brown. Tail leaders for all still used red timing marks.

    Plastic and metal reels were unchanged from the proceeding generation. However you could now get a 7" metal reel that looked like a miniature version of the 10 1/2" reels. You could also get a large hub 7"
    plastic reel. The style was similar to the regular 7" reels. I believe there was also a 5" plastic reel
    available during this time, though i have not yet seen one.


    The line up was as follows:

    Ultra Dynamic
    UD 18-180
    UD 25-120
    UD 35-90
    UD 35-180
    UD 50-60
    UD 50-120

    XLI
    XLI 35-90B
    XLI 35-180B
    XLI 50-60B
    XLI 50-120B

    XLII EE
    XLII 35-90
    XLII 35-180
     

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