There are probably highly-written protocols out there, but here are rules of thumb I'd observe:
1. PLAYBACK -- make sure you have excellent, calibrated analog equipment. If there are tones on the
tape, make sure your level and azimuth are adjusted to match the tones. Make sure all 4 head gaps
are clean and in excellent operating condition. Monitor ALL 4 CHANNELS to make sure the electronics
are behaving. And of course don't use a mechanically damaged or suspect tape machine, treat a tape
2. MEDIA -- did the tape need baking? Did you bake it properly? Is the tape an older acetate or
non-backcoat polyester tape? Are the edges warped or curled? Take all of this into consideration
3. TRANSFER -- use an excellent A-D chain, make sure you captured all 4 tracks properly. Treat the
transfer as if that's the last time that tape will play properly, because it might indeed be that.
4. FILES -- When I transfer multi-track (greater than 2 channels) sources, I save each track to its
own WAV file, but I do not edit or process tracks unless they are together in a single file. The
reason for that is, I want everything kept bit-perfect time-aligned. This was linear media, after
all. CLEARLY NAME EACH TRACK, and DOUBLE-CHECK your file-naming.
5. METADATA -- For each track, make sure to enter somewhere (in file metadata or as part of the file
name) what is on the track, any information about when the tape was recorded, how many tracks total,
and possibly he file names of related tracks although that might be time-consuming overkill.
I say this to all archive/institution folks who ask these kinds of questions but I'll say it again.
If you are not sure of your analog playback equipment, your skills as a transfer engineer, and your
A-D chain, I highly recommend you outsource the transfer to a professional audio engineer with
top-notch playback equipment. In the end, it will save you money and heartache.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nick J. Patterson" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, November 08, 2013 1:03 PM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Standards or best practices for preservation digitization of multi-track tape
> Dear list,
> Can anyone give me a quick pointer to any guidelines, standards, or best practices for the
> preservation digitization of multi-track tape?
> The item under consideration is a 1/2" four-channel tape, with one instrument on each channel....
> but I'd like to know general principles re: multi-track audio, if there are any out there...
> Thanks in advance for any suggestions, /Nick
> Nick Patterson
> Music & Arts Library
> Columbia University
> 701 Dodge
> 212-854-8523 (voice)
> 212-854-4748 (fax)