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Hi Stephen:

Technically, yes, the playback EQ is not right. But in actual practice with oral histories, voices 
sound like voices. You can trim with a decent parametric equalizer if you want to take out a 
sibilence or nasal "honk," but what I found was that the cheapo microphones used to record those old 
tapes I did were bad enough that we wanted to boost some of the upper midrange so the consonants 
were more clear (the differences between P and T, for example, gets difficult anyway with some older 
folks, and it's worse if the microphone muffled the sound and the older person didn't speak up). I 
sent the client a few samples of EQ ideas I had and he was happy with the more heavy-handed things, 
which definitely gave the audio less bandwidth but boosted the stuff that made the oral history more 
understandable. We kept a copy of the un-EQ'd transfer also. I was actually surprised that 
SoundForge's DSP EQ did such a good job with some of the frequencies heavily boosted and some 
heavily cut. There weren't digital artifacts mucking up the results, and we low-passed to make sure 
no "birdies" appeared when all was said and done. What we ended up opting for was audibility of 
words (clear transmission) over fidelity to voice quality. So someone could well say, "that doesn't 
sound one bit like grandma," but they'd hear what their grandma was saying. To hear the exact 
qualities of grandma's voice, as captured by a cheap recorder and fidelity-limited microphone, they 
could listen to the un-EQ'd transfer.

By the way, one man's opinion here, but I'd always opt for a gentle transport and good tape guidance 
over having access to 1 7/8 or 15/16 speeds. I'd never go out and find a flea-market special 
back-from-the-day recorder like the tape was made on. You're almost guaranteed bad results at best 
and tape damage at worst.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stephen Bolech" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2012 4:11 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Slow Reel-to-reels


Thanks, Tom.  Yes, I have done that before with our Studer (A810), and it worked well.  The way I 
understand it is that if you digitize at double the desired sample rate (at least for 1 7/8), and 
then just play the file back at the desired sample rate, there is no funny digital pitch shifting 
going on.  It's like a true varispeed.  But the problem is that shifts the playback EQ down an 
octave, right?


On Apr 13, 2012, at 2:31 PM, Tom Fine wrote:

> Hi Stephen:
>
> I had a small pile of slow-speed reels a while back. Same thing as you, amateur-made oral history 
> material. I decided, rather than find some lousy old slow-speed machine to play them, I'd transfer 
> them at 3.75IPS on my Technics 1520 machine (perfect to handle the tiny reels without 
> over-tensioning and stretching the tape). I transferred them a 96/24, and then lowered the pitch 
> accordingly. It worked just fine, even the stuff recorded at 15/16IPS (which was fascinating, it 
> was the person's full-blood Navajo grandmother talking about the early 1900's and growing up on an 
> Indian Reservation). The key thing was that both the client and I realized these were not 
> high-fidelity items, so losing some digital resolution to get to the proper speed (pitch) was OK, 
> in fact there were no digital artifacts. We were both somewhat surprised how well the audio turned 
> out, you could clearly hear crickets and birds behind people's voices, old 1960's cars starting up 
> and going by, propeller and older jet airplanes passing overhead, etc. It was a true time capsule.
>
> In fact, the worst reel in the bunch was a 3.75IPS that had been recorded on a Uher with failing 
> batteries. It ended up easiest to ramp up the speed adjust knob on the Technics, using me ears to 
> keep voice pitches in a reasonable range. It was tricky but it worked on the third try. I also 
> transferred at exactly 3.75IPS and tried to get better results with DSP pitch. It was 
> time-consuming and the "steps" were more audible. Once again, ears trump gadgets.
>
> -- Tom Fine
>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Stephen Bolech" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Friday, April 13, 2012 2:57 PM
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Slow Reel-to-reels
>
>
> Hi everyone, I'm hoping some of you could give me recommendations for good options to play back 1 
> 7/8 ips and even the occasional 15/16 tapes.  We have a large oral history collection, and though 
> the majority are at 3.75 ips, there are some at these slower speeds.  What are you guys using for 
> these speeds, and what do you recommend?
>
> Thank you,
> Stephen Bolech