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Discussion: Retrospective look at commercial reel tape releases

Well, now that I'm up to my ears in restoring all sorts of tapes, I was motivated to install a Nortronics 1/4-track stereo head in the record nest of my Sony APR-5003V recorder. My brand-new MRL test tape tells me that I'm getting +/- 2dB from 32Hz to 16kHz. The machine is darned quiet without tape running.

I had previously gone to the trouble of setting up a Teac AN180 Dolby B processor with my Tandberg 3400X (another quiet machine, but without the transport finesse of the Sony--the latter costing about 15X more when new) On that combination, I transferred to DAT a Vanguard tape VAN D 10016 of Leroy Anderson "Fiddle Faddle and 14 other Anderson Favorites." This tape was from 1977, duplicated at 8x real time by Barclay Crocker and impressed me that if you had $1000 to spend then on the Tandberg and the Teac AN180, that you had almost CD-quality reproduction.

Now I just pulled out a Deutsche Grammophone recording of Die Zauberflote (Mozart) duplicated by Ampex and while the response is there (as far as I can hear, piccolos and all) the noise is horrid. Even though I'm now having trouble hearing 16kHz (12 I do fine), this is close to unlistenable to me. I found a used copy of the same recording on CD at Amazon's Z-shops for $12 and just ordered it.

I would be curious as to people's impressions of commercial reel quality?

In general I think with a few exceptions the level of hiss makes most of them an inferior listening experience to LPs, although the absence of other annoyances does weigh in their favor. It's easy to see why this format didn't catch on considering cost of media, cost of equipment, bulk, and hassle of threading. I think the Dolby reels were pretty much audiophile only.

Did non-Dolby reels ever make it into mainstream or was that audiophile only as well?

Anyone have thoughts on commercial (mostly 1/4 track) tape releases?



Richard L. Hess richard@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Glendale, CA USA http://www.richardhess.com/ Web page: folk and church music, photography, and broadcast engineering

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