Audio Tape to CD or Mp3 – Audio Cassette to CD or Mp3 – Audio Reels to CD – Reel to Reel to CD or Mp3
There are many formats of audio tape that have been developed over the years and many of these need transferring to CD or other formats before they deteriorate and becoming un-playable in the future.
Audio tape formats include Microcassettes, Mini Cassettes, both commonly used for dictation, note taking or covert recordings. Standard and long play audio cassette and 8-track Cartridges. In some instances video tapes have also been used to store audio, Sony PCM F1, 501 and 701 formats for example or regular video tapes such as Video8, 8mm, VHS, Beta and VHS-C (a compact video tape format) can all have the audio extracted for other uses.
Other “open reel” based tape formats include ¼ inch Reel to Reel tapes, These tapes can potentially be recorded in a number of formats and speeds. Early reels could be recorded at 15/16th 1 & 7/8th or 3 & 3/4 inches per second. As tape machines improved the tape speeds were increased to provide better frequency response and machine speeds increased to 7&1/2 ips, 15 ips in domestic situations and in recording studios, tape speeds could go as high as 30ips.
Tape formats also varied in the number of “tracks” that could be recorded on the reels and therefore allowed extra material to be recorded as more tracks were added. Early reel formats were “mono” * and would have 1 track available to record on, ( “Mono Full Track” was just a single pass recording in one direction) or two tracks (“Mono Half Track”) Half track tapes were turned over and recorded again on the unused section of the tape, therefore doubling the capacity of the reel of tape. It is possible to have 4 tracks of Mono material on some reel to reel tapes, and this technology later allowed the development of “Stereo” and multi-track recordings on tape. How much time could you get on one tape? I have transferred old 7 inch reels recorded 15/16th speed that have 16 hours of material on one tape, quite amazing!
Full track Stereo formats developed soon after and as magnetic tape head technology improved, (allowing smaller head gaps and track widths) some machines came out with Half track Stereo capability. Like mono half track, half track stereo usually required turning the tape over to record on the unused portion of the tape.
As tape machines improved and the speeds increased, the size of the reels they could handle increased. This was necessary to increase the amount of time that could be recorded on the reels as the tape moved across the heads faster. Tape reels can be as small as 3&1/2 inches in diameter on the early smaller domestic reel to reel recorders, 5 inch, 7 inch or 10 inch and in some professional recordings studios machines could handle reels of 14 inches in diameter.
High quality machines such as Studer Revox, Otari and Ampex had high powered motors to turn these heavy reels (upwards of 3-4kg) at speeds of 30 ips with a high degree of accuracy – no mean feat!
It’s no surprise then, that in order to get the best open reel transfer to CD or MP3 you have to carefully match the playback machine to the format of the recorded audio tape. Many of the older reel to reel machines are now consigned to the rubbish dumps of the world and it’s becoming more and more difficult to find machines and keep them maintained in good working order.
Fortunately at ProCopy we have a number of microcassettes, mini cassettes, cassette players and Reel to Reel players in our collection for transferring the many different formats of tapes that we work with on a weekly basis.
We would always recommend making the highest quality transfer practical (Such as Audio CD 16-Bit @ 44.1KHz) or Archive quality 24-Bit @ 48KHz or higher to start with, whether or not that is the final format needed.
It is a simple process then to convert the audio to an Mp3 for web use, portable player or computer. By doing this it means that you can go back to the high quality master and work on it when technology has improved further in years to come or you can make further listening copies if one gets damaged. It’s a good idea to keep the original master filed away and use safety copies for day to day listening.
Before we output the audio to CD our computer based technology and other hardware processing equipment allows us to improve the quality of the audio tape recordings so that you can enjoy those recordings made many years ago.
Audio tape recordings may exhibit many faults, some of them may include:
Broadband noise* such as hiss, a common problem in recordings that are too low in volume.
Background noise such as hum* (usually a consistent low frequency noise). Sometimes the old condenser microphones used to record the family events introduced these problems.
Distortion, caused by too high recording levels or overloading of the microphone during the recording process.
Speed changes – Many reels had problems with their power and speeds could vary from the beginning to the end of the tape. Sometimes the tape transport mechanism was poor and the also caused problems with tape speeds. In order to be a faithful copy of the original it’s a good idea to try and get the speed as accurate as possible.
In some instances the reel to reel tapes may exhibit “sticky tape syndrome” This usually results in the tape shedding a lot of oxide on the tape heads and in some cases the tape will stop moving binding it self to the tape heads. In these cases the tape will require baking prior to the transfer work being done. ( we find this common in higher speed tapes produced between the mid to late 70s and late 80s)
Each of these problems can be reduced in our sound editing studios and make the result much easier and convenient to listen to. If you have a library of old reels, standard audio cassettes or microcassettes that need transferring before its too late, call us and we’ll assess the recordings for you and give you an obligation free quote.