As others have pointed out, the low-speed machines used to make such recordings have their limitations and are probably not suitable for playing "geriatric" tapes. A good studio deck is gentler and at 3.75 ips may actually have double the bandwidth of such machines!
Quite often oral histories are long and generate large digital files. Using audio software to convert the sample rate can impact on your workflow, especially for a large collection. It can also introduce digital artefacts.
One trick is to double your preferred sample rate during capture while playing back at double speed (eg 1 7/8 ips at 3.75 ips). Then use a text editor to change the sample rate (and the Average Bytes Per Sec) in the WAV header to match those of your preferred sample rate. With a good text editor, this takes a fraction a few seconds!
The drawbacks with this method are:
1. It's only suitable for low-bandwidth material (ie speech and not music)
2. You can't monitor the audio effectively (unless you're one of those cartoon chipmunks).
3. You may not be able to match the original EQ. However, many recordings at speeds below 3.75 ips have indeterminate EQ.
Not best practice archival technique I admit but when needs must....
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Stephen Bolech
Sent: Saturday, 14 April 2012 6:58 a.m.
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Slow Reel-to-reels
Hi everyone, I'm hoping some of you could give me recommendations for good options to play back 1 7/8 ips and even the occasional 15/16 tapes. We have a large oral history collection, and though the majority are at 3.75 ips, there are some at these slower speeds. What are you guys using for these speeds, and what do you recommend?