I forgot to mention that I found a "good" reel to reel machine for
continuing my mastering and checked out its capstan speed using an
optical strobe disk wheel that I borrowed from my brother.
Rod Stephens wrote:
> In all this discussion of playing back various forms of magnetic
> recordings using older used decks, I wonder if very many people ran into
> my problem?
> At my company's location in Hollywood, they originally had an Ampex reel
> to reel recorder/reproducer (a 350, I think), but gave it away before I
> came to work as their archivist. By the way, an excellent web site
> showing many generations and manufacturers of such decks is:
> Anyway, in order to digitize their radio broadcast library for mastering
> to CD, I had to find a replacement deck that could handle 10 1/2" reels
> at 15 IPS. I found a Scully 280 with plugin head stacks (1/2" four
> track and 1/4" two track) at a small local studio, and had it checked
> out by an audio firm who said it recorded and reproduced perfectly.
> So, I started on my merry way, digitizing away with excellent audio
> coming out on my system sounding clean and as if the tapes (direct feed
> KHJ radio masters) and the shows had been recorded yesterday (actually,
> they were recorded from 1952 to 1967). By chance, I did some A/B
> comparisons with some shows that were reruns made from transcriptions,
> and when I tried to edit some music from one version to the other, the
> pitches didn't match. I finally realized that the Scully was running
> slow compared to the original transcription which I knew was "on" by the
> strobe on the side of the turntable. Unless a person has perfect pitch
> (I don't, although I read music and have sung, professionally), you can
> be fooled by what sounds to be an accurate reproduction. The speed
> dropped the pitch about a half-step, and over a half-hour show added
> about twenty seconds.to the running time.
> The overall problem is a common one, I would guess, since many of the
> machines used for archiving today are not in their first youths, and
> wear of the various transport parts will cause changes in speed. I
> thought this should give others food for thought in checking out their
> analog decks, and I hope my experience will be of help to others.
> The irony here is that I'm sure the vendor from whom I purchased the
> Scully wasn't aware of any problem, since he was doing "in house"
> recordings, and, as long as the recordings were played back on the same
> deck, they would be relatively "perfect", playing at the same speed they
> were recorded.
> I have gone back and remastered the offending recordings. I have also
> in some cases used my digital software to resample the .wav files using
> the "time/pitch" tools in Cool Edit Pro, since I have now found that
> some of the library's 1/4" tape masters were not recorded perfectly on
> pitch, either, due to the machines they were using back in the '50's and
> So, the moral of the story is: "Nothing Is Perfect".
> Rod Stephens, Archivist
> Family Theater Productions, Hollywood