I agree with Richard in every point except I disagree with this:
"high quality music was never supposed to be recorded in a bidirectional manner and quarter track
was not a high quality music format."
There is a small subset in the sea of fast-duped quarter-track tapes that are high-fidelity and
sound very good to this day. And, I have heard plenty of homemade recordings, mostly made in the
late era of quarter-track reel decks, mostly made on high-quality Scotch or Maxell tape (good
slitting, smooth movement across the thin-track heads), which sound excellent. I've also transferred
amateur live recordings and "masters" of home-brew band recordings from quarter-track tapes, some of
my own and some made by others. When they were recorded well, they sounded very good. The
last-generation quarter-track decks, like the Technics 1700, the Pioneer RT-707 and RT-909 and the
Teac X1000, when combined with low-noise tape and not over-driven with too-hot levels, made quieter
recordings than Ampex 350 2-tracks in the age of brown-oxide tapes. I also made plenty good-sounding
quarter-track client dupes onto Revox A77 machines at Sigma Sound Studios NYC.
The problems with many fast-duped quarter-tracks: 1) the Ampex 3200 transport going at 30 or 60IPS,
combined with 1-mil tape (no matter how well it was slit) is just not a model of stable tape
handling. A stable tape path is key to quarter-track success. 2) at least in the early days, the
recordings were made on two heads on each duper slave. Very few duper employees kept those heads in
great azimuth alignment all the time. 3) even when recording was made on a single 4-track stack,
azimuth alignment depended on the care and skill of the duper operator. 4) many duped tapes suffered
from being several generations removed from the master tape, and this became more the case in the
quarter-track era because the goal with tape-duping was always lower costs and faster output. 4)
when duped tapes standardized to 3.75IPS playback speed in the late 60s, it was all over!
Many of the above problems also could apply to 2-track duped tapes, but in many cases, 2-tracks were
premium-priced niche products and a bit of care was taken in their manufacture.
One other note about 1/4-track 1/4-inch tapes -- I've transferred more than a handful of Quad
discrete-track tapes, and they tend to sound excellent, and the quadraphonic effects are always
better than matrix-decoded LPs (much better channel separation).
So, I conclude that while putting 4 tracks on a quarter-inch of tape is non-ideal, it's not
inherently low-fidelity. My experiences with tape tell me that tape speed and what tape type the
recordist chose to use are the biggest factors about fidelity with these machines, assuming they are
in good working order and the heads are properly aligned.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 1:19 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Tape dubbing backwards?
> On 2015-03-10 12:14 PM, DAVID BURNHAM wrote:
>> When I talked about phase reversal when a track is played backwards, it has nothing to do with
>> azimuth, I'm talking specifically about the polarity of the audio, which will be inverted whether
>> the azimuth is correct or not.
> Thanks for clarifying, David
> I was attempting to address several different concepts.
> - If made on well-slit tape on the same machine at roughly the same time, and assuming that both
> tracks of your premium repro head have precisely the same azimuth, the azimuth error coming off
> the forward and backward passes will be the same. Therefore adjusting for one will automatically
> adjust for the other.
> - For any tape that I would do this with, there will not be tones for precise azimuth alignment
> and none of the stereo tools will help as there is only one track (unless you have a split head
> like the Nakamichi Dragon's inner track heads) so you cannot compare. Therefore we are relying on
> peaking high-frequency energy from the program content as the sole means of adjusting azimuth.
> While that gets it close it is not as good as using tones.
> - I concur with Tom Fine and others, I pick what tapes I do this with. I would not do high
> quality, music that way, but high quality music was never supposed to be recorded in a
> bidirectional manner and quarter track was not a high quality music format. However, there are
> always exceptions to the rule. I do not reduce my charges because these tapes also often require
> more post processing and other fussiness so I can afford to do some if I capture in one pass.
> - If you do a reverse transfer the audio will require a polarity reversal in the software to match
> the forward channel.
> - There is no absolute polarity reference on a tape, so one cannot know which of the two tracks is
> correct. It is a toss up as to which is correct. You might do as well listening to see which
> sounds more in polarity and switch the other one. Or viewing the waveform is sometimes instructive
> (positive peaks are usually higher than negative peaks)
> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647 479 2800
> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.