A few years ago, I transferred a couple of 3" & some 5" reel-to-reel
tapes that had me really chasing my tail. The tapes were used as mailers
for communication between a soldier & his parents during the Viet Nam
era. All of the recording was done consertively at 3-3/4 IPS so, it was
impossible to read with a magnetic viewer. Turns out that the soldier
bought a deck overseas that was 1/4 track & his parents had a deck that
was half track mono. So, the tapes had both formats recorded on them.
Corey Bailey Audio Engineering
------ Original Message ------
From: "Tim Gillett" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: 11/22/2021 4:20:53 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Brittle Acetate Tapes (was 220V/50Hz 1/4" Open
Reel Audio Playback Decks)
>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.
> > Best,
> > CB
> > Corey Bailey Audio Engineering
> > www.baileyzone.net
> > ------ 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,
> >> Abhi
> >> --------------------------------------------
> >> Abhimonyu DebAudio Consultant and Digitization
> >> Specialisthttps://www.linkedin.com/in/abhimonyudeb
> >> 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.
> >> Cheers,
> >> Richard
> >> 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]>
> >>> Cc:
> >>> 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
> >>> 1965.
> >>> 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
> >>> playing.
> >>> 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
> >>> Specialisthttps://www.linkedin.com/in/abhimonyudeb
> >>> 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
> >>> my
> >>> A80s, I used them for acetate tapes on a regular basis. I
> >>> used
> >>> an A807 for a long time (as I preferred the A810 over the A807
> >>> many
> >>> reasons, and the A80 over the A810).
> >>> In many respects, I think that the Sony APR-5000 is the
> >>> the
> >>> list I posted. On the other hand, I had no bad feedback from
> >>> two
> >>> 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
> >>> made
> >>> with power supply voltage selection).
> >>> However, to answer Tim Gillette's rephrasing of the question,
> >>> might
> >>> consider machines that start the capstan motor when going into
> >>> so
> >>> you are not banging the stopped tape into the full-speed
> >>> Sony APR-5000 works that way and mutes the audio for a short
> >>> of
> >>> time at startup.
> >>> You weren't missing something and it is good that you posted.
> >>> I
> >>> didn't provide enough weight to that criteria.
> >>> I'd be interested in hearing more about the fragile acetate
> >>> that
> >>> 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
> >>> broke
> >>> 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.
> >>> Cheers,
> >>> Richard
> >>> 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
> >>> http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
> >>> 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
> >> http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
> >> 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