Mr. Linder’s post inspires a few comments from me. I am a manufacturer of
analog audio tape reproducing hardware.
The matter of sorting and ranking what is to be preserved is indeed a
difficult and challenging one. I can mainly offer only sympathy.
However, on the matter of how recorded sound archive format domain
conversion is often times being carried out today, I have some observations
Mr. Linder writes (I have selected and edited key phrases):
"not one had any experience with Analog tape . . . largely academics,
interns, and hobbyists using a paltry amount of unsupportable decks"
I would add that even with those who do have experience with analog tape,
such experience does not necessarily equate to any deep knowledge in the
field. I would argue that archive administrators should consider the
retrieval of information from analog tape as a technical specialty in its
We too often see job announcements from the recorded sound archive
preservation community emphasizing only digital audio (and digital content
archival storage system) knowledge and skills, which might tacitly convey
that the acquisition of any needed analog tape information retrieval
knowledge might be easily acquired by self-study or reading tape recorder
While I am indeed happy to make and sell my hardware, I confess that I am
sometimes greatly concerned when a purchaser declines to accept our included
operator training with the sale.
"The problems are really much deeper then there not being any Studer parts
around any more."
The recent history of the Studer analog tape machine spare parts collections
(under Harman International ownership) includes some unfortunate missteps.
However, as I see it, a larger problem for the preservation community has
been in the selection of sub-optimal reproducing platforms.
Studer produced a wide range of tape machines that were sold into different
markets. Only certain models, in my opinion, lend themselves to adaptation
for long-term, high-throughput professional use in audio preservation.
After an exhaustive, maker-agnostic survey (included were the AEG
Magnetophon M20, the Ampex ATR-102, the Otari MTR-20 and others) that we
conducted over 20 years ago, we identified the Studer A820 and A80
transports as being easily the most suitable for delivering uncompromising
performance in continuous duty professional work.
Hence, my company (ATAE) builds its Audio Transfer Laboratory (ATL) Series
Model One and Model Two SHR (Single-Head, Reproduce-only) machines based on
these no-compromise Studer A820 and A80 transport platforms, only.
As for any spare parts shortages, in addition to maintaining the largest
surviving original N.O.S. spare parts collection for these models in North
America, we also manufacture, right here in California, whatever else is
required for our products.
I am aware that even our lower-cost, A80-based Model Two can be prohibitive
to many recordings archives. I can only point out that we are building this
hardware to the highest performance standards we know how to. This approach
is based on our understanding of the transfer functions of analog magnetic
audio recording and reproducing, from which we have concluded (for one
example) that any truly optimum reproducing platform should have flutter
that is much lower (perhaps lower by one order of magnitude) than that of
the original recorder.
Yet many audio mythologies unfortunately persist. Others make a business out
of re-selling light-weight table-top broadcast market Studer models such as
the B67, A810 or A807 into your industry. While these were all extraordinary
machines when new, most examples today are worn-out or abused. Importantly,
they were never designed for continuous professional duty beyond their
intended lifespan. Neither do they lend to cost-effective remanufacturing or
The notion (championed by persons whom I would characterize as being
mis-informed) that archival audio transfer technicians might now collect a
number of such worn-out machines for spare parts, in order to re-assemble
enough working units to go forward with the transfer work, is one I find
preposterous if any (even bare minimum) technical standards are to be met.
I apologize to those who might read this only as an advertisement for my
products. Yet I feel a need to speak up when it is being reported that
properly working audio tape reproducing hardware is becoming scarce and is
in danger of disappearing. As possibly the world’s only exclusive
manufacturer of analog audio tape reproducers, ATAE would like to trumpet
our commitment to serving this field for many more years to come.
A. F. (Fred) Thal
Adolph Thal Audio Engineering / Audio Transfer Laboratory
[log in to unmask]