Yes, the recommended storage for back-coated tapes (since many of them seem to have SSS problems) is
cold and dry. My contention, which I stand by having dealt with MANY acetate-backed tapes, including
tapes stored under such conditions, is that this is not optimal for acetate, that acetate tapes
don't want it dry (cold seems to be fine in either case, probably better for both, especially if
it's a cold and mold-free environment). Polyester non-back-coated tapes seem not to care, in fact
many of these types seem to be the most durable (although we've had reports from Richard and others
of polyester/no-back-coat types that get a very insidious kind of stiction problem, requiring slow
playback under very cold conditions or constant lubrication through the playback cycle).
My experience, owning many acetate-backed tapes for many years, and those tapes always having been
stored in ambient NY indoors condition, is that they want it relatively cool (ie not on the top
shelves of a non-air-conditioned room, or yeas in an attic) and more humid (but not humid enough for
mold to grow), and then they don't get wrinkled, edge-curled, etc. I haven't had too many develop
vinegar syndrome, because most of them are Audiotape (the only tape brands I've had develop vinegar
syndrome are acetate-backed Kodak [all tapes I've ever had hands on], Scotch 111 [only a few reels
out of many I've had hands on], and Reeves Soundcraft [about half of the few reels I've had hands
I keep saying that more research should be done whether it's really a good idea to store acetate and
polyester tapes under the same vault conditions. I also keep saying that I haven't seen any science
showing that dry conditions have any effect on staving off SSS or prolonging playability of treated
tapes. So my contention has been, until it's proven that very-dry conditions actually benefit
polyester tapes, I wouldn't keep it so dry as to damage acetate tapes, if both types are in the same
vault. Also, as a general rule, were I in charge of a vault, I would make it a priority to do very
high quality transfers of my acetate tapes because they are by now ancient in almost all cases and
it's unreasonably optimistic to think they will remain playable indefinitely.
By the way, recent datapoint. I just went through about 30 yard-sale tapes, about half of them
Scotch and Audiotape acetate-backed. I found a receipt for some of the Audiotape reels, indicating
they were bought in the Cleveland area, so I'm guessing they migrated from the Midwest to middle NJ
and spent most or all of their time in ambient environments. None of the Audiotape reels are warped,
curled or vinegary. One Scotch 111 reel was badly warped and curled, but none of the thinner Scotch
150 and Scoth 190 were warped or curled. Go figure! All of the Scotch tape was from that era where
the 3M company orchestra is pictured on the box, I think that's mid-50's. The Audiotape packaging
and the sales receipt indicated same time period. All of those were half-track 7.5IPS and 3.75IPS
amateur recordings of LP records, and not all that good quality. It's worth saying that all of the
acetate tapes were somewhat brittle (ie they snapped pretty easily when bent or pulled). The same
person (based on the box handwriting) must have taken a long break from reel tapes and then got back
into it in the 70s. In that batch, we have sticky Ampex 407, a few reels of Columbia-branded tape,
which I assume was made in the old Reeves Soundcraft plant in Danbury CT, and early Maxell UD tape.
The Maxell and Columbia tapes are in fine shape. Since I didn't like any of the music on them, I
tested one of each on one of my Technics 1520 machines, which have front-panel recording bias and
EQ. Using an external oscillator and watching the phase on a scope, I found both tapes to be
mechanically stable and able to set up with rock-solid meter readings (meaning the tape wasn't
screwed up so the bias was effecting every next bit differently from the previous bit -- I've seen
this with very old and very damaged Scotch 206 tape and definitely with old acetate tape, which may
have not been going through the transport smoothly with that low tension around the heads). The
Maxell tape, in particular, was well preserved; the guy had kept it in its plastic bags within the
boxes. The bags smelled a little bit and were somewhat "greasy," so I threw them out and replaced
the tape boxes as well.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Haley" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, January 31, 2016 12:57 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Baking times for Ampex 456 increasing? How Much? Why?
> Since the culprit for SS is hydrolysis, which results from the addition of
> moisture, and we bake a tape to desiccate it, shouldn't we assume that
> moist storage is bad for tapes that get SS, and dry storage is good, as a
> general proposition?
> How about temperature extremes?
> My experience is that for most tapes made prior to the SS era, tapes are
> not that picky about storage conditions, within reason. I.e., in general,
> they seem to have held up well through a big variety of storage conditions.
> This discussion has dealt largely with troubled tapes. What are the
> lessons learned applicable for regular tapes, if any?
> John Haley
> On Sat, Jan 30, 2016 at 10:09 PM, Richard L. Hess <[log in to unmask]>
>> Hi, Tom,
>> Steve Smolian's comment makes me think it doesn't have to be a separate
>> plant, but perhaps a separate formula? Of course, shipping as discussed
>> does come into play.
>> I wonder what the different climates are that Marie's tapes have been
>> stored in...
>> I know many of the tapes I receive from Canada have been stored in very
>> humid locations. I rescued some tapes from a Toronto basement sixteen years
>> ago or so where I practically slipped on my rear in the slick mud on the
>> floor. My wife's office is in an old house where the basement gets wet with
>> each rain. It's an historic old house and she works for the Historical
>> Society that owns it.
>> On 1/29/2016 3:52 PM, Tom Fine wrote:
>>> Richard, your theory about different formulas for Commonwealth
>>> Ampex-branded tapes may well be true, but you'd need to suss out for
>>> sure where all that tape was manufactured. I'm not aware of any Ampex
>>> plant except Opelika AL (formerly Orradio Industries). For that matter,
>>> did 3M have tape-making plants other than in Minnesota? I always thought
>>> that Ampex and 3M tapes were made in USA; Sony, Maxell, TDK and maybe
>>> Memorex were made in Japan; BASF was made in Germany and Agfa was made
>>> in Germany and Holland. As I understand it, there was a Russian tape
>>> manufacturer in the Cold War era, but Soviet and Eastern Bloc recordists
>>> also bought a lot of Agfa and BASF tape.
>> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
>> Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647 479 2800
>> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.