Tom - several of the ideas you have suggested were researched in some  
detail as part of a European Project called PrestoSpace. The results  
can be seen at and there are many different things  
on this web site that I believe will be of significant interest to  
members of this listserve. Some of the items pursued included the  
actual development of a MO head device that can play back audio tape  
as you suggested. There was also a great deal of work done on  
algorithms for WOW. This was a several year long research project and  
we were proud to be one of the partners of the project (there were  
many others). I recommend an in-depth look at this site and some of  
the papers made public on it.

You might find this to be of interest as well.

Jim Lindner

Email: [log in to unmask]

   Media Matters LLC.
   SAMMA Systems Inc.
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   New York, N.Y. 10001

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and access practices.

On Jul 28, 2008, at 7:40 AM, Tom Fine wrote:

> I was thinking further about this. There's a big money opportunity  
> in here, if someone runs with this and finds it, buy me a steak  
> dinner sometime ;)!
> For the commercial copyright owners, it seems to me that this  
> concept may offer an excellent and highly-accurate way to once and  
> for all migrate their tape libraries off of the deteriorating  
> original media. Even under archival storage, many tapes are nearing  
> the end of their functional lives, and some masters have been played  
> enough times as to be badly deteriorated already.
> Here would be one system I could see as being viable and very  
> sensible for a large music company:
> 1. a super-precise tape transport with excellent-quality magnetic  
> heads is used to transfer the raw signal off the tape. The transfer  
> should probably be to both DSD (read on, there's sense to this) and  
> high-resolution PCM. Much testing should be done to make sure that  
> the digital system is as precise and accurate as is possible for the  
> formats (which, if the resolution is high enough, should  
> theoretically mean that just about every bit of meaningful  
> information should be transferred from the magnetic tape).
> 2. the standard operating MO from here would be to have these  
> digital files live in a very robust archive with as fail-safe as  
> possible replication, migration and backup. This is more in the  
> realm of an IT expert than a music company and I would suggest there  
> is an outsourcing model that makes some sense here.
> 3. for run-of-the-mill reissues (ie stuff with budget and time  
> constraints), the remastering could be done all DSP, probably all or  
> mostly automated. I would expect a middling but not terrible net  
> quality level here, and over-aggressive use of DSP extras like  
> dynamics control and hiss-reduction would probably degrade the net  
> result, but tasteful application of the usual mastering tools (which  
> would run up the budget since human hands and skills would be  
> required) could improve the average quality substantially.
> 4. here's where the DSD transfer could come in. Perhaps the record  
> company itself, or a specialty mastering house, would rig up an  
> interface between a DSD stream and a rack of different tape  
> electronics (it's a simple level and impedence matching thing -- and  
> the intial input stage can be bypassed on some tape electronics with  
> 10 minutes of solder time). These "deluxe" remasters would be  
> "played back" to gain the desired euphonic results. Meanwhile, the  
> tapes would not have to be played again and the "warm analogue  
> sound" from the tape electronics could be gained in any combination  
> or tweak desired. The further benefit is no need to maintain a  
> precise mechanical transport, just more-simple electronics  
> maintenance. But the big win here is, the master tapes don't get  
> played and transported in their fragile condition. Assuming the  
> transfer at the source was done properly (ie azimuth was correct and  
> the A>>D chain was superb), this would be audibly identical to  
> playing back the actual tape using the heads used at the source.
> 5. indeed, there may be an audiophile market in selling the raw  
> digital transfer and letting the audiophile play it back thru the  
> tape electronics of his choice. Never before could a listener be so  
> close to the actual master tape. Again, the weak link here is that  
> the source transfer needs to be azimuth-perfect and the A>>D chain  
> needs to be superb.
> 6. a final benefit to the copyright owner is, he now has in his  
> archive an unprocessed, uncolored and un-EQ'd version of the source,  
> a digital "clone" of what is  falling apart on the reel in the box.  
> As technology, especially DSP, improves, he can hope to achieve  
> better and better results even with the run-of-the-mill releases and  
> can get out of the expensive business of analog expertise as the  
> tapes crumble to dust.
> More morning musings. I have no idea how much of this is already  
> being done and what is totally impractical about what I'm  
> suggesting. And, as I said before, I have no dog in the fight --  
> except as a collector and fan desiring better reissues than are the  
> norm.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask] 
> >
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2008 1:37 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Playback on contemporary machines (was Send  
> me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!
>> Along these lines ...
>> As DSP improves and higher-resolution and even DSD transfers become  
>> the norm, I'm wondering if it's time to start thinking about  
>> eliminating the analog electronics altogether for non-NR tapes. To  
>> wit -- a tape head connected directly, with proper impedence- 
>> matching, to a high-resolution A-D converter, perhaps with one  
>> stage of gain between the head and the converter. The EQ curve and  
>> level-normalling is then performed in the digital realm via DSP.  
>> The main advantages I could see to this would be: 1) perhaps more  
>> accurate EQ curve than can be achieved with analog components, but  
>> this may or may not be the case at the present state of the arts.   
>> 2) elimination of all noises and distortions from analog components  
>> -- now it's a whole can o' worms whether the DSP would just add  
>> less-euphonic distortions of its own.  3) perhaps less cost due to  
>> no need to maintain and/or repair old analog electronics (even the  
>> solid-state stuff will wear out eventually).  4) the creation of a  
>> market for digital-realm expertise in analog issues like EQ curves  
>> and magnetic head interfaces, thus leading perhaps to some new and  
>> innovative audio-cleanup/restoration tools and better analog-to- 
>> digital interfaces.
>> I have no dog in this fight, just doing some Sunday musings on an  
>> interesting topic.
>> One other point. As the world's fleet of tape machines get older, I  
>> think more and more are falling permanently out of spec. I think  
>> it's a great stretch to expect a 50-year-old Ampex 350 to sound  
>> anything close to original unless you are a restoration expert and  
>> have done an expert restoration on the machine or have paid plenty  
>> of $$$ to have it done by someone else. The same can be said of  
>> just about any machine ever made that has more than a few hundred  
>> hours on it and/or has not been stored in an ideal environment its  
>> whole life. And some machines have built-in manufacturing or design  
>> weaknesses that cripple them over time no matter what. Belts  
>> stretch and fall apart, for instance, even if the machine isn't  
>> used.  Some of the connectors used on MCI machines corrode, no  
>> matter what. Etc. etc.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask] 
>> >
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2008 1:06 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Playback on contemporary machines (was Send  
>> me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire!
>>> Hello, Mark and Jim and Shiffy,
>>> I think it's important that we reinforce the lesson of playing  
>>> magnetic media on the best available equipment. While there are  
>>> times when playing a tape on the machine that recorded it will  
>>> provide the sound that the producer originally heard and intended,  
>>> in most instances, playing a magnetic recording on a high-end,  
>>> late-model (but not necessarily last-model) machine will provide  
>>> superior results. This means that Shiffy's one-off device is  
>>> probably the best device to reproduce a wire, and it means a small  
>>> handful of the best tape machine models should be chosen and  
>>> preserved for playing tapes. I won't bother enumerating those  
>>> models here, as I think that list is well-known.
>>> The philosophical approach that works for me, and I suggest that  
>>> everyone consider, is that machine perturbations are additive.  
>>> Play deficiencies/perturbations rarely if ever "cancel out" record  
>>> deficiencies/perturbations that are already recorded on the  
>>> magnetic record. Therefore, the machine that adds the fewest  
>>> deficiencies/perturbations that is compatible with the speed and  
>>> track format (or can be made compatible) is generally the one to  
>>> choose.
>>> There are usually other competing factors driving the selection of  
>>> the reproducer, but having a machine to play the magnetic records  
>>> with performance better than the record machine is generally the  
>>> best way in my opinion/experience.
>>> Cheers,
>>> Richard
>>> Richard L. Hess                   email: [log in to unmask]
>>> Aurora, Ontario, Canada       (905) 713 6733     1-877-TAPE-FIX
>>> Detailed contact information:
>>> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.