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
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 choose.
> 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.