Tom - several of the ideas you have suggested were researched in some
detail as part of a European Project called PrestoSpace. The results
can be seen at www.prestospace.org and there are many different things
on this web site that I believe will be of significant interest to
members of this listserve. Some of the items pursued included the
actual development of a MO head device that can play back audio tape
as you suggested. There was also a great deal of work done on
algorithms for WOW. This was a several year long research project and
we were proud to be one of the partners of the project (there were
many others). I recommend an in-depth look at this site and some of
the papers made public on it.
You might find this to be of interest as well.
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On Jul 28, 2008, at 7:40 AM, Tom Fine wrote:
> I was thinking further about this. There's a big money opportunity
> in here, if someone runs with this and finds it, buy me a steak
> dinner sometime ;)!
> For the commercial copyright owners, it seems to me that this
> concept may offer an excellent and highly-accurate way to once and
> for all migrate their tape libraries off of the deteriorating
> original media. Even under archival storage, many tapes are nearing
> the end of their functional lives, and some masters have been played
> enough times as to be badly deteriorated already.
> Here would be one system I could see as being viable and very
> sensible for a large music company:
> 1. a super-precise tape transport with excellent-quality magnetic
> heads is used to transfer the raw signal off the tape. The transfer
> should probably be to both DSD (read on, there's sense to this) and
> high-resolution PCM. Much testing should be done to make sure that
> the digital system is as precise and accurate as is possible for the
> formats (which, if the resolution is high enough, should
> theoretically mean that just about every bit of meaningful
> information should be transferred from the magnetic tape).
> 2. the standard operating MO from here would be to have these
> digital files live in a very robust archive with as fail-safe as
> possible replication, migration and backup. This is more in the
> realm of an IT expert than a music company and I would suggest there
> is an outsourcing model that makes some sense here.
> 3. for run-of-the-mill reissues (ie stuff with budget and time
> constraints), the remastering could be done all DSP, probably all or
> mostly automated. I would expect a middling but not terrible net
> quality level here, and over-aggressive use of DSP extras like
> dynamics control and hiss-reduction would probably degrade the net
> result, but tasteful application of the usual mastering tools (which
> would run up the budget since human hands and skills would be
> required) could improve the average quality substantially.
> 4. here's where the DSD transfer could come in. Perhaps the record
> company itself, or a specialty mastering house, would rig up an
> interface between a DSD stream and a rack of different tape
> electronics (it's a simple level and impedence matching thing -- and
> the intial input stage can be bypassed on some tape electronics with
> 10 minutes of solder time). These "deluxe" remasters would be
> "played back" to gain the desired euphonic results. Meanwhile, the
> tapes would not have to be played again and the "warm analogue
> sound" from the tape electronics could be gained in any combination
> or tweak desired. The further benefit is no need to maintain a
> precise mechanical transport, just more-simple electronics
> maintenance. But the big win here is, the master tapes don't get
> played and transported in their fragile condition. Assuming the
> transfer at the source was done properly (ie azimuth was correct and
> the A>>D chain was superb), this would be audibly identical to
> playing back the actual tape using the heads used at the source.
> 5. indeed, there may be an audiophile market in selling the raw
> digital transfer and letting the audiophile play it back thru the
> tape electronics of his choice. Never before could a listener be so
> close to the actual master tape. Again, the weak link here is that
> the source transfer needs to be azimuth-perfect and the A>>D chain
> needs to be superb.
> 6. a final benefit to the copyright owner is, he now has in his
> archive an unprocessed, uncolored and un-EQ'd version of the source,
> a digital "clone" of what is falling apart on the reel in the box.
> As technology, especially DSP, improves, he can hope to achieve
> better and better results even with the run-of-the-mill releases and
> can get out of the expensive business of analog expertise as the
> tapes crumble to dust.
> More morning musings. I have no idea how much of this is already
> being done and what is totally impractical about what I'm
> suggesting. And, as I said before, I have no dog in the fight --
> except as a collector and fan desiring better reissues than are the
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2008 1:37 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Playback on contemporary machines (was Send
> me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!
>> Along these lines ...
>> As DSP improves and higher-resolution and even DSD transfers become
>> the norm, I'm wondering if it's time to start thinking about
>> eliminating the analog electronics altogether for non-NR tapes. To
>> wit -- a tape head connected directly, with proper impedence-
>> matching, to a high-resolution A-D converter, perhaps with one
>> stage of gain between the head and the converter. The EQ curve and
>> level-normalling is then performed in the digital realm via DSP.
>> The main advantages I could see to this would be: 1) perhaps more
>> accurate EQ curve than can be achieved with analog components, but
>> this may or may not be the case at the present state of the arts.
>> 2) elimination of all noises and distortions from analog components
>> -- now it's a whole can o' worms whether the DSP would just add
>> less-euphonic distortions of its own. 3) perhaps less cost due to
>> no need to maintain and/or repair old analog electronics (even the
>> solid-state stuff will wear out eventually). 4) the creation of a
>> market for digital-realm expertise in analog issues like EQ curves
>> and magnetic head interfaces, thus leading perhaps to some new and
>> innovative audio-cleanup/restoration tools and better analog-to-
>> digital interfaces.
>> I have no dog in this fight, just doing some Sunday musings on an
>> interesting topic.
>> One other point. As the world's fleet of tape machines get older, I
>> think more and more are falling permanently out of spec. I think
>> it's a great stretch to expect a 50-year-old Ampex 350 to sound
>> anything close to original unless you are a restoration expert and
>> have done an expert restoration on the machine or have paid plenty
>> of $$$ to have it done by someone else. The same can be said of
>> just about any machine ever made that has more than a few hundred
>> hours on it and/or has not been stored in an ideal environment its
>> whole life. And some machines have built-in manufacturing or design
>> weaknesses that cripple them over time no matter what. Belts
>> stretch and fall apart, for instance, even if the machine isn't
>> used. Some of the connectors used on MCI machines corrode, no
>> matter what. Etc. etc.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask]
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2008 1:06 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Playback on contemporary machines (was Send
>> me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!
>>> Hello, Mark and Jim and Shiffy,
>>> I think it's important that we reinforce the lesson of playing
>>> magnetic media on the best available equipment. While there are
>>> times when playing a tape on the machine that recorded it will
>>> provide the sound that the producer originally heard and intended,
>>> in most instances, playing a magnetic recording on a high-end,
>>> late-model (but not necessarily last-model) machine will provide
>>> superior results. This means that Shiffy's one-off device is
>>> probably the best device to reproduce a wire, and it means a small
>>> handful of the best tape machine models should be chosen and
>>> preserved for playing tapes. I won't bother enumerating those
>>> models here, as I think that list is well-known.
>>> The philosophical approach that works for me, and I suggest that
>>> everyone consider, is that machine perturbations are additive.
>>> Play deficiencies/perturbations rarely if ever "cancel out" record
>>> deficiencies/perturbations that are already recorded on the
>>> magnetic record. Therefore, the machine that adds the fewest
>>> deficiencies/perturbations that is compatible with the speed and
>>> track format (or can be made compatible) is generally the one to
>>> There are usually other competing factors driving the selection of
>>> the reproducer, but having a machine to play the magnetic records
>>> with performance better than the record machine is generally the
>>> best way in my opinion/experience.
>>> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
>>> Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
>>> Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
>>> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.