1/4 inch open-reel tapes come in many formats but generally fall into two categories: “domestic tape” and “studio” tape. Both types can have a variety of playing speeds and tape lengths, giving a range of playing times as indicated in the table:
Reel to Reel Tape Playing Times (hr:min)
|Reel Size ||Length ||Speed (ips) |
|(inch) ||(cm) ||(ft) ||1 7/8 ||3 3/4 ||7 1/2 ||15 |
|3 1/4 ||8 ||400 ||0:45 ||0:22 ||0:11 || |
|5 ||12 ||600 ||0:60 ||0:32 ||0:16 || |
|5 ||12 ||900 ||1:36 ||0:48 ||0:24 ||0:12 |
|5 or 7 ||12 or 18 ||1200 ||2:08 ||1:04 ||0:32 ||0:16 |
|7 ||18 ||1800 ||3:12 ||1:36 ||0:48 ||0:24 |
|7 or 10.5 ||18 or 26.5 ||2500 ||4:24 ||2:12 ||1:06 ||0:33 |
|10.5 ||26.5 ||3600 ||6:24 ||3:12 ||1:35 ||0:48 |
Sony TC377 Tape Deck
Domestic reels: Typical spool diameters are 3.25 inch, 4 inch, 5 inch, 6 inch and 7 inch. Usually the recording speeds are either 1 7/8 ips (inches per second), 3 3/4 ips or 7 1/2 ips and they are often quarter-track (4 track) mono or stereo.
Domestic reels are transcribed using either a Revox B77 deck or a Sony TC-377 deck for tapes running at 1 7/8 ips.
Occasionally we receive tapes running at 15/32 ips or 15/16 ips – these are speed-adjusted using software designed for the purpose.
Revox B77 Mk.II
Studio reels: Typical spool diameters are 7 inch and 10.5 inch, and they are usually half-track (2 track) stereo recordings running at 15 ips or 30 ips.
1/4 inch Studio tape to CD transfer is performed using one of a pair of Revox B77 professional decks, catering for all speeds from 3 3/4 ips and above in both quarter- and half- track format.
Often, tapes are sent to us that are encoded for dbx type 1 noise reduction – these are decoded using an outboard dbx 150 type 1 NR unit.
PricesSticky Shed Syndrome (Baking Tapes)Reel-to-Reel facts
|Domestic reel-to-reel tape (up to 7 inch) ||£20 / hour / reel |
|n.b. Short recordings (<1 hour from e.g. 3 inch reels) ||£15 / reel |
|Studio reel-to-reel tape (up to 10.5 inch) ||£25 / reel |
|Baking of reel-to-reel tape ||£8 / reel |
|n.b. Reels found to be blank (or content not required) are chargeable ||£10 / hour / reel |
Sticky Shed Syndrome (SSS) and Tape Baking
Most reel-to-reel tapes that we receive for transfer to CD are found to be in perfectly good condition. Sometimes though, reels will arrive exhibiting signs of SSS – a noticeable ‘squealing’ sound as the tape is played, which is often accompanied by excessive wow and flutter and the shedding of sticky iron oxide particles on the record / playback heads and pinch roller. This is commonly due to the reels having been stored in less than ideal conditions (possibly extremes of temperature /dampness etc.) where the magnetic tape absorbs moisture from the air causing the break-down of the binder used to hold the magnetic particles onto the base film.
At Audio Restored, we use a ‘Carbolite’ laboratory oven supplied with the latest ‘type 301’ controller which is fitted with an over-temperature safety cut-out, to bake tapes suffering with SSS at a carefully controlled 55 degrees C for 24 hours. This technique drives out the moisture in a slow and controlled way, allowing us to retrieve and digitise the recorded content.
Be advised – never attempt to play any tapes exhibiting SSS – it may well destroy the tape and its recorded content. Contact us to discuss a solution.
- The Reel-to-reel tape format (also known as ‘open-reel’) was initiated in the late 1920s with the Anglo-German ‘Blattnerphone’, which was based on magnetisable steel wire passing across the heads from the supply spool to the take-up spool.
- This led on to the development in the 1930s of the ‘Magnetophon’, which was introduced by the German AEG company, and employed magnetic tape rather than wire.
- Early recordings tended to be disappointing, but considerable progress was made over the next 20 – 30 years in the formulation of the magnetic coating, which significantly improving the quality of the recordings.
Contact us to discuss your requirements fully.