I suspect your experience with the old acetates is common. When
brittle they can break easily but at least they break cleanly and
can be spliced back together again. The other issue which is common
is "cupping" on the oxide side. The top and bottom edges of the tape
are OK on the tape head but the centre section doesnt want to sit flat
so the sound is often muffled or weak. We can increase the tape
tension across the head but it risks breaking the tape. Sometimes
a temporary felt pressure pad, or small artist's brush, or even a
fingertip as you did can be used to press the centre section against
The problem you mentioned with the Lafayette acetates could be that
they were recorded on a Brush Soundmirror machine which only recorded
in the centre of the tape, leaving the top and bottom edges
unrecorded. A "cupped" acetate tape is the worst for this as it keeps
that most important part of the tape off the head. The reason the
Studer machine didnt play them well is probably that it was an NAB
half track machine which would have missed the centre part of the
tape. You're right that tracks 2 and 3 of a quarter track machine
would read it much better. Actually a very good playback can be
obtained from a Soundmirror tape with a four track (four channel) 1/4"
head using tracks 2 and 3.
Perth, Western Australia
----- Original Message -----
From: "Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List"
<[log in to unmask]>
To:<[log in to unmask]>
Sent:Sun, 21 Nov 2021 04:58:17 +0000
Subject:Re: [ARSCLIST] 220V/50Hz 1/4" Open Reel Audio Playback Decks
Wow! You have no idea what it means for a little guy like me to
contribute to this forum!
First, just a very quick background. Although I was born and brought
up in the U.S., I spent all of my adult and professional life in India
(I am of Indian origin).
I used to work in the recording studio of the Gramophone Company of
India. It used to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the GC of UK. Later
it became independent.
GC of India has a tape archive with acetates starting from around
1955. They are almost entirely EMI tapes and are in excellent
condition. There’s no problem of brittleness and they play fine on
A80’s and 807’s.
Now I work independently, usually with smaller archives or individual
collections. The name brand tapes that I get, e.g. Scotch 111 or
141, usually play fine on my A807. However, given the tropical
climate in India and the lack of maintenance of the tapes, warping is
a frequent problem.
A few years ago, I inherited a dozen Lafayette brand tapes from my
uncle. The tapes were purchased in 1960 and recorded between 1961 to
These tapes are mostly brittle. Instead of A807, for most of these
tapes I had to use an Akai GX-4000D quarter track deck to play half
track recordings. Yes, I know I broke every rule in the book but I
couldn't think of any other way.
Interestingly, for some of these tapes played on the Akai, I got a
better playback from tracks 2 and 3 compared to tracks 1 and 4. Of
course, I had to reverse them on my DAW.
A few years ago I got an acetate similar to your Vermont tape. I
actually had to unwind several hundred feet of tape from the reel,
somehow thread the tape onto my Akai without any reels on either side,
and hold my index finger softly against the playback head while
So, basically, the brittle acetates that I've encountered are due to
lack of maintenance or a cheap brand of tape.
Coming back to Dave's original post, I was thinking to myself when I
first read it that it might be nearly impossible to find a machine
that can satisfy all of his conditions. But, then, I don't have any
experience with the ATR 100 or APR-5000.
Abhi (short for Abhimonyu)
Abhimonyu DebAudio Consultant and Digitization
On Saturday, 20 November, 2021, 09:53:59 pm IST, Richard L. Hess
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
This issue comes up in regard to many different machines. When I had
A80s, I used them for acetate tapes on a regular basis. I haven't
an A807 for a long time (as I preferred the A810 over the A807 for
reasons, and the A80 over the A810).
In many respects, I think that the Sony APR-5000 is the gentlest of
list I posted. On the other hand, I had no bad feedback from the
A807s (refurbished by Roger Ginsley) that were sold into an archiving
project in Pakistan to use alongside their Tascam BR-20s (which I did
not suggest for the current project because many versions were not
with power supply voltage selection).
However, to answer Tim Gillette's rephrasing of the question, we
consider machines that start the capstan motor when going into play
you are not banging the stopped tape into the full-speed capstan. The
Sony APR-5000 works that way and mutes the audio for a short period
time at startup.
You weren't missing something and it is good that you posted. Perhaps
didn't provide enough weight to that criteria.
I'd be interested in hearing more about the fragile acetate tapes
you encounter as I've been surprised at how well the Scotch 111 and
Audio Devices acetate tapes have held up. I've even been pleased with
the paper tapes I've transferred as well. The only really fragile
acetate tape I've come across was one that sat behind a wood stove
through several Vermont winters. One face was welded together and
on ever rotation of the supply reel.
The one thing that seems to fail for me are splices onto paper
have to remake all those splices after baking in many instances, but
that's with back-coated polyester tapes.
On 2021-11-19 8:41 p.m., Abhimonyu Deb wrote:
> Given the notable list of people who have replied so far, normally
I would keep my mouth shut.
> However, I do think everyone is missing an important point.
> Dave mentions that the machine should be able to play fragile
acetate tapes. The A80’s, 807’s and Otari 5050’s that I’ve
worked with would fail miserably here unless I’m missing something.
> Abhimonyu Debhttp://linkedin.com/in/abhimonyudeb
> On Saturday, November 20, 2021, 6:42 AM, James Perrett
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On Sat, 20 Nov 2021 at 00:55, Richard L. Hess
<[log in to unmask]>
>> Long ago, a company I think called
>> "DarkLab" in Germany made EIA to DIN adapters out of plastic.
> They still make them and sell them on Ebay. I bought some a few
> but haven't used them yet.
Richard L. Hess email:
[log in to unmask]
Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647
Track Format - Speed - Equalization - Azimuth - Noise Reduction
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.
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