Hi Abhi and Richard,
Abhi, with your Lafayette tape recordings have you tried looking
at the recorded magnetic patterns using a suitable magnetic reader or
Richard, another machine, the Sony 521 had a small lever at the front
labelled "4 track/2 track" which altered (only) the head height to
allow a compromise playback of half track stereo tapes. Seemingly
like the Wollensak, it places the quarter track stereo head pole
pieces in the centre of the half track stereo position. Like the
Wollensak it didnt correspondingly alter erase head height so there
was potential to accidentally leave the lever in the wrong position
when making a recording.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List"
<[log in to unmask]>
To:<[log in to unmask]>
Sent:Mon, 22 Nov 2021 15:42:24 -0500
Subject:Re: [ARSCLIST] Brittle Acetate Tapes (was 220V/50Hz 1/4" Open
Reel Audio Playback Decks)
Hi, Corey and Abhi,
In late 1962 or early 1963 (I recorded hours of JFK's funeral audio
it 58 years ago this week), I bought a Wollensak T-1616-4. It was a
really odd duck, but worked reasonably well.
It had a quarter track stereo combo record/play head made by Shure. I
don't recall the erase head. It had one complete channel of
electronics from mic in to 10 W power amp. There was an add-in
chassis that was the head preamp which needed to feed a separate
amp-speaker combination. While there was a small power transformer,
10 W power amplifier was modeled after the AC/DC table radios and had
the whole power amp run directly off the mains.
This shows some pictures of the 1616-4
https://www.ebay.com/itm/313588550900 (not my auction)
and I've collected a few things that I have here:
The T-1515-4 manual shows at the end the track alignments, and the
photos above show the track wheel. Other manuals in the folder might
provide a better exploded view of the head assembly.
While there are differences between the 1500 and the 1600 it is
in the transport control. The 1600 was solenoid controlled for more
remote control and a lighter touch on the keys The 1600 could also
the help of 1/8-inch foil tape) do auto repeat.
The 1500 was introduced in 1959 and the 1600 in 1960
I started to go thru the math of the head height adjustment to see
it worked out. It does work. So if you want to get caught up with
(thousandths of an inch), have at it. Otherwise look at the pictures
the manual at the Dropbox link.
In the head assembly, there was an "elevator" arrangement (hence I
that was possible when I had John French make one for my APR-5000
an 8-track four-channel head). The Wollensak elevator was run by a
Delrin disk which protruded out of the side of the head assembly and
marked A 2TR B. In the A position, the quarter track R/P head (and
presumably the erase head) was positioned so that the left head
aligned with track 1 and the right head channel aligned with track 3.
2TR, the head was lowered slightly, presumably just enough so that
two quarter track head channels were completely on the professional 2
track tracks. This would probably have been adjusted for 75 mil
since Ampex sort of ruled the roost in that era.
One can check if this was even possible by looking at
Quarter track has 43 mil tracks and centre-to-centre of the 1/3
pair at 134 mils. That implies 24 mil guard bands...
Checking that math, 43x4+24x3 = 244 mils out to out.
Doing the same with the Ampex format, the two tracks are on 156 mil
centres and the track is 75 mils, so the guard band is 81 mils. This
gives an out-to-out dimension of 231 mils.
Normally, the top of the quarter track right channel head would be
mils from the top edge of a 250 mil tape, and the bottom of the left
channel would be 46 mils below the top of the tape.
The Ampex 2-track tape would have the bottom of the left channel 84.5
mils below the top of the tape and the top of the right channel 165.5
mils below the top of the tape.
So depressing the quarter track head assembly by 28.5 mils would just
put the top of the right head at the top of the Ampex two track right
This would put the bottom of the quarter track left channel at 74.5
below the top of the tape, which allows a 10 mil window, so the ideal
depression for the 2 TR position would be 33.5 mils.
Continuing on, in order to go to the B position, the full 134 mil
centre-to-centre spacing of the quarter track stereo pair would have
be covered, or the distance between 2 TR and B would be 100.5 mil
Roughly, the A-2TR is roughly 1/4 of the total depression and the
depression is 3/4 of the total which is in keeping with what I
recall--it was harder to go to B as you were fighting a spring.
The actual elevator mechanism was a ramp molded into the bottom face
the Delrin wheel and a small ball that ran in a cup at the top of a
on the head assembly.
Being a fully mechanical assembly, this would not reset on power on
you'd record in the position that it was left in, and I suspect that
this little assembly wasn't stable after many uses.
On 2021-11-22 2:31 p.m., CBAUDIO wrote:
> I have about 90 tapes in the studio that were recorded on a
> model 1500. That particular model was 1/2 track, mono.
> Corey Bailey Audio Engineering
> ------ Original Message ------
> From: "Abhimonyu Deb"
<[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: 11/22/2021 2:00:44 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Brittle Acetate Tapes (was 220V/50Hz 1/4"
> Reel Audio Playback Decks)
>> Hi Tim and Richard,
>> Tim, the Lafayette tapes were recorded on a Wollensak recorder.
>> afraid I don't know much more than that. However, I suspect that
>> tracks 2 and 3 vs. tracks 1 and 4 issue is due to lack of
>> of the recorder during the 4 or 5 years that the recordings were
>> rather than any compatibility issue between different formats.
>> That's because the tracks issue isn't consistent across all of the
>> There's another factor that might be significant. Like I said, I
>> Indian origin. My uncle (father's brother) went to the U.S. as a
>> graduate student in 1958 and came back to India in 1960, bringing
>> Wollensak and 12 Lafayette blank tapes with him. At the time, it
>> almost as if he brought a spaceship from Mars!
>> My father says that they never demagnetized the heads. They did
>> the heads regularly but sometimes it was with aftershave lotion
>> (gasp!) or something similar.
>> The tapes are numbered 1 to 12 and were recorded mostly in that
>> If I had to find a pattern, it would be that the earlier recorded
>> tapes are generally better on track 1 and later tapes are
>> better on track 2.
>> Richard, I had read about your experience with the carbonyl iron
>> in one of your papers a year or two ago (or maybe on your blog?).
>> tried your solution myself more than once, also with varying
>> of success.
>> From my experience, I can't find any pattern to the cupping
>> Could it be a maintenance issue? There was no cupping problem at
>> with the EMI acetates in Gramophone Company of India's archive.
>> On the other hand, I have seen this problem consistently on tapes
>> other sources and of varying brands that were not well maintained.
>> Lafayette tapes have no cupping problem at all. They were just
>> a bookshelf (in their boxes) for the past 50 years.
>> The whole subject is really mysterious and so much fun!
>> Best wishes,
>> Abhimonyu DebAudio Consultant and Digitization
>> On Sunday, 21 November, 2021, 11:48:43 pm IST, Richard L.
>> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Hi, Abhi and Tim,
>> Great discussion. The cupping is a real issue, but so is edge
>> On the suggestion of Friedrich Engel (retired BASF Historian), I
>> reviewed the only carbonyl iron tape I've ever seen. This was one
>> first Magnetophon experimental tapes from circa 1935. It was so
>> cupped that it was like a carpenter's steel tape and could support
>> itself extending from the reel.
>> Hydration was Herr Engel's suggestion, I tried about 24 hours with
>> tape in a pancake form on a support over about an inch of water in
>> sealed container. It ran beautifully and was more like a satin
>> than a tape measure.
>> HOWEVER, I have repeated that once or twice since with far less
>> The hydration probably reduces the strength of the tape.
>> The worst over-hydration I've ever seen was a damp 1-inch Scotch
>> acetate tape. The acetate had swollen so much that the first half
>> at the hub had been deformed and the closest layers had been
>> through the slot of the hub, causing a bump. Of course it was
>> the track one side (which was recorded while only about five
>> been used) and the tape had been wound tails out so the pack was
>> and the first song of the album was most damaged!
>> I put a pressure pad hard against the head (while adding extra
>> to the pinch roller to keep the tape on speed). My hands were very
>> cramped a half hour later. Then Paul MacDonald from Cape Breton
>> Nova Scotia who is a musician and excellent recording/mastering
>> engineer, spent days with it picking out a similar piece of music
>> cover the bumps using Sound Blade software. It turned out
>> If the edges are wavy, then certainly tracks 2 and 3 would be a
>> choice, if the cupping is tamable.
>> It is such a difficult line to draw between doing no harm to the
>> original and capturing the best possible transfer which will
>> the last transfer made (unless you really miss the mark). If you
>> doing risky procedures, it is important to inform the clients
>> problems and risks before proceeding.
>> On 2021-11-21 4:55 a.m., Tim Gillett wrote:
>>> Hi Abhi,
>>> I suspect your experience with the old acetates is common. When
>>> brittle they can break easily but at least they break cleanly
>>> can be spliced back together again. The other issue which is
>>> is "cupping" on the oxide side. The top and bottom edges of the
>>> are OK on the tape head but the centre section doesnt want to
>>> so the sound is often muffled or weak. We can increase the tape
>>> tension across the head but it risks breaking the tape.
>>> a temporary felt pressure pad, or small artist's brush, or even
>>> fingertip as you did can be used to press the centre section
>>> the head.
>>> The problem you mentioned with the Lafayette acetates could be
>>> they were recorded on a Brush Soundmirror machine which only
>>> in the centre of the tape, leaving the top and bottom edges
>>> unrecorded. A "cupped" acetate tape is the worst for this as it
>>> that most important part of the tape off the head. The reason
>>> Studer machine didnt play them well is probably that it was an
>>> half track machine which would have missed the centre part of
>>> tape. You're right that tracks 2 and 3 of a quarter track
>>> would read it much better. Actually a very good playback
>>> obtained from a Soundmirror tape with a four track (four
>>> head using tracks 2 and 3.
>>> Best wishes,
>>> Tim Gillett
>>> 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
>>> Hi Richard,
>>> Wow! You have no idea what it means for a little guy like me
>>> contribute to this forum!
>>> First, just a very quick background. Although I was born and
>>> up in the U.S., I spent all of my adult and professional life
>>> (I am of Indian origin).
>>> I used to work in the recording studio of the Gramophone
>>> India. It used to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the GC of UK.
>>> it became independent.
>>> GC of India has a tape archive with acetates starting from
>>> 1955. They are almost entirely EMI tapes and are in excellent
>>> condition. There’s no problem of brittleness and they play
>>> A80’s and 807’s.
>>> Now I work independently, usually with smaller archives or
>>> collections. The name brand tapes that I get, e.g. Scotch 111
>>> 141, usually play fine on my A807. However, given the tropical
>>> climate in India and the lack of maintenance of the tapes,
>>> a frequent problem.
>>> A few years ago, I inherited a dozen Lafayette brand tapes
>>> uncle. The tapes were purchased in 1960 and recorded between
>>> These tapes are mostly brittle. Instead of A807, for most of
>>> tapes I had to use an Akai GX-4000D quarter track deck to play
>>> track recordings. Yes, I know I broke every rule in the book
>>> couldn't think of any other way.
>>> Interestingly, for some of these tapes played on the Akai, I
>>> better playback from tracks 2 and 3 compared to tracks 1 and 4.
>>> course, I had to reverse them on my DAW.
>>> A few years ago I got an acetate similar to your Vermont tape.
>>> actually had to unwind several hundred feet of tape from the
>>> somehow thread the tape onto my Akai without any reels on
>>> and hold my index finger softly against the playback head while
>>> So, basically, the brittle acetates that I've encountered are
>>> lack of maintenance or a cheap brand of tape.
>>> Coming back to Dave's original post, I was thinking to myself
>>> first read it that it might be nearly impossible to find a
>>> that can satisfy all of his conditions. But, then, I don't have
>>> experience with the ATR 100 or APR-5000.
>>> Best wishes,
>>> Abhi (short for Abhimonyu)
>>> Abhimonyu DebAudio Consultant and Digitization
>>> On Saturday, 20 November, 2021, 09:53:59 pm IST, Richard L.
>>> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> Hi, Abbimonyu,
>>> This issue comes up in regard to many different machines. When
>>> A80s, I used them for acetate tapes on a regular basis. I
>>> an A807 for a long time (as I preferred the A810 over the A807
>>> reasons, and the A80 over the A810).
>>> In many respects, I think that the Sony APR-5000 is the
>>> list I posted. On the other hand, I had no bad feedback from
>>> A807s (refurbished by Roger Ginsley) that were sold into an
>>> project in Pakistan to use alongside their Tascam BR-20s
(which I did
>>> not suggest for the current project because many versions were
>>> with power supply voltage selection).
>>> However, to answer Tim Gillette's rephrasing of the question,
>>> consider machines that start the capstan motor when going into
>>> you are not banging the stopped tape into the full-speed
>>> Sony APR-5000 works that way and mutes the audio for a short
>>> time at startup.
>>> You weren't missing something and it is good that you posted.
>>> didn't provide enough weight to that criteria.
>>> I'd be interested in hearing more about the fragile acetate
>>> you encounter as I've been surprised at how well the Scotch
>>> Audio Devices acetate tapes have held up. I've even been
>>> the paper tapes I've transferred as well. The only really
>>> acetate tape I've come across was one that sat behind a wood
>>> through several Vermont winters. One face was welded together
>>> on ever rotation of the supply reel.
>>> The one thing that seems to fail for me are splices onto paper
>>> leader. I
>>> have to remake all those splices after baking in many
>>> 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,
>>> 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
>>> acetate tapes. The A80’s, 807’s and Otari 5050’s that
>>> worked with would fail miserably here unless I’m missing
>>> > 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]>
>>> > wrote:
>>> >> Long ago, a company I think called
>>> >> "DarkLab" in Germany made EIA to DIN adapters out of
>>> > They still make them and sell them on Ebay. I bought some a
>>> months ago
>>> > but haven't used them yet.
>>> > James.
>>> Richard L. Hess email:
>>> [log in to unmask]
>>> Aurora, Ontario,
>>> 479 2800
>>> Track Format - Speed - Equalization - Azimuth - Noise
>>> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.
>>> Email sent using Optus Webmail
>> Richard L. Hess email:
[log in to unmask]
>> Aurora, Ontario,
Canada 647 479
>> Track Format - Speed - Equalization - Azimuth - Noise Reduction
>> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.
Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647 479 2800
Track Format - Speed - Equalization - Azimuth - Noise Reduction
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.
Email sent using Optus Webmail