Hi, Corey and Abhi,

In late 1962 or early 1963 (I recorded hours of JFK's funeral audio on 
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 record/play 
electronics from mic in to 10 W power amp. There was an add-in one-tube 
chassis that was the head preamp which needed to feed a separate 
amp-speaker combination. While there was a small power transformer, the 
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 (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 eBay 
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 mostly 
in the transport control. The 1600 was solenoid controlled for more 
remote control and a lighter touch on the keys The 1600 could also (with 
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 how 
it worked out. It does work. So if you want to get caught up with mils 
(thousandths of an inch), have at it. Otherwise look at the pictures in 
the manual at the Dropbox link.

In the head assembly, there was an "elevator" arrangement (hence I knew 
that was possible when I had John French make one for my APR-5000 with 
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 was 
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 channel 
aligned with track 1 and the right head channel aligned with track 3. In 
2TR, the head was lowered slightly, presumably just enough so that the 
two quarter track head channels were completely on the professional 2 
track tracks. This would probably have been adjusted for 75 mil tracks, 
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 stereo 
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 137 
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 mils 
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 to 
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 2TR-B 
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 of 
the Delrin wheel and a small ball that ran in a cup at the top of a post 
on the head assembly.

Being a fully mechanical assembly, this would not reset on power on so 
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 Wollensak 
> model 1500. That particular model was 1/2 track, mono.
> Best,
> CB
> 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" Open 
> Reel Audio Playback Decks)
>> Hi Tim and Richard,
>> Tim, the Lafayette tapes were recorded on a Wollensak recorder. I'm 
>> afraid I don't know much more than that. However, I suspect that the 
>> tracks 2 and 3 vs. tracks 1 and 4 issue is due to lack of maintenance 
>> of the recorder during the 4 or 5 years that the recordings were made 
>> rather than any compatibility issue between different formats.
>> That's because the tracks issue isn't consistent across all of the tapes.
>> There's another factor that might be significant. Like I said, I am of 
>> 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 the 
>> Wollensak and 12 Lafayette blank tapes with him. At the time, it was 
>> almost as if he brought a spaceship from Mars!
>> My father says that they never demagnetized the heads. They did clean 
>> 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 sequence.
>> 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 generally 
>> better on track 2.
>> Richard, I had read about your experience with the carbonyl iron tape 
>> in one of your papers a year or two ago (or maybe on your blog?). I 
>> tried your solution myself more than once, also with varying degrees 
>> of success.
>> From my experience, I can't find any pattern to the cupping problem. 
>> Could it be a maintenance issue? There was no cupping problem at all 
>> with the EMI acetates in Gramophone Company of India's archive.
>> On the other hand, I have seen this problem consistently on tapes from 
>> other sources and of varying brands that were not well maintained. My 
>> Lafayette tapes have no cupping problem at all. They were just kept on 
>> 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 
>> Specialist
>>     On Sunday, 21 November, 2021, 11:48:43 pm IST, Richard L. Hess 
>> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>  Hi, Abhi and Tim,
>> Great discussion. The cupping is a real issue, but so is edge waviness.
>> On the suggestion of Friedrich Engel (retired BASF Historian), I once
>> reviewed the only carbonyl iron tape I've ever seen. This was one of the
>> first Magnetophon experimental tapes from circa 1935. It was so badly
>> 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 the
>> tape in a pancake form on a support over about an inch of water in a
>> sealed container. It ran beautifully and was more like a satin ribbon
>> than a tape measure.
>> HOWEVER, I have repeated that once or twice since with far less success.
>> The hydration probably reduces the strength of the tape.
>> The worst over-hydration I've ever seen was a damp 1-inch Scotch 201
>> acetate tape. The acetate had swollen so much that the first half inch
>> at the hub had been deformed and the closest layers had been forced
>> through the slot of the hub, causing a bump. Of course it was worse on
>> the track one side (which was recorded while only about five tracks had
>> been used) and the tape had been wound tails out so the pack was tight
>> and the first song of the album was most damaged!
>> I put a pressure pad hard against the head (while adding extra pressure
>> 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 Island,
>> Nova Scotia who is a musician and excellent recording/mastering
>> engineer, spent days with it picking out a similar piece of music to
>> cover the bumps using Sound Blade software. It turned out beautifully.
>> If the edges are wavy, then certainly tracks 2 and 3 would be a better
>> 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 likely be
>> the last transfer made (unless you really miss the mark). If you are
>> doing risky procedures, it is important to inform the clients about the
>> 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 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 head.
>>>  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.
>>>  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 Decks
>>>   Hi Richard,
>>>   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
>>>  1965.
>>>   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
>>>  playing.
>>>   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.
>>>   Best wishes,
>>>   Abhi (short for Abhimonyu)
>>>   ------------------------------------------
>>>   Abhimonyu DebAudio Consultant and Digitization
>>>  Specialist
>>>   On Saturday, 20 November, 2021, 09:53:59 pm IST, Richard L. Hess
>>>  <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>   Hi, Abbimonyu,
>>>   This issue comes up in regard to many different machines. When I had
>>>  my
>>>   A80s, I used them for acetate tapes on a regular basis. I haven't
>>>  used
>>>   an A807 for a long time (as I preferred the A810 over the A807 for
>>>  many
>>>   reasons, and the A80 over the A810).
>>>   In many respects, I think that the Sony APR-5000 is the gentlest of
>>>  the
>>>   list I posted. On the  other hand, I had no bad feedback from the
>>>  two
>>>   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
>>>  made
>>>   with power supply voltage selection).
>>>   However, to answer Tim Gillette's rephrasing of the question, we
>>>  might
>>>   consider machines that start the capstan motor when going into play
>>>  so
>>>   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
>>>  of
>>>   time at startup.
>>>   You weren't missing something and it is good that you posted. Perhaps
>>>  I
>>>   didn't provide enough weight to that criteria.
>>>   I'd be interested in hearing more about the fragile acetate tapes
>>>  that
>>>   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
>>>  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 instances, but
>>>   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, 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 Deb
>>>   >
>>>   >
>>>   >
>>>   > 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 plastic.
>>>   >>
>>>   >>
>>>   > They still make them and sell them on Ebay. I bought some a few
>>>  months ago
>>>   > but haven't used them yet.
>>>   >
>>>   > James.
>>>   >
>>>   --
>>>   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
>> -- 
>> 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.

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.