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-   -   Will these old tapes be playable? (https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/showthread.php?t=157414)

Panrock 19th Jun 2019 12:38 pm

Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Following a clear-out of the loft pending an insulation job, I have found over a dozen reel-to-reel tapes, unboxed, covered in unpleasant loft dust and grit. They must have been there for nearly forty years. Brushing off the dust, they look like they're still in reasonable condition. A blow from an air compressor might help further.

I'm now thinking of getting a reel-to-reel machine and doing it up as a project, in order to play these tapes, which may contain old family recordings and music.

Are these tapes likely to be playable?

Steve

Simon Gittins 19th Jun 2019 12:53 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Hi Steve,

Yes, they should be playable, get as much dirt off as possible first obviously!

There isn't usually a problem with old domestic tapes, it's professional ones from the 80s that give most trouble.

The main question is whether you need a 2-track or 4-track machine (speeds can be corrected in software if necessary).

More info here:
https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...d.php?t=103289

Nickthedentist 19th Jun 2019 12:53 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Surely worth a go, Steve, seeing as secondhand reel-to-reel machines can be had for next to nothing and that you'd be able to get one working with your eyes closed in about half an hour :)

EDIT: Crossed with Simon. Do you recall what machine they were recorded on?

Panrock 19th Jun 2019 1:06 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Hi chaps,

Thanks for the encouragement. I had rather assumed that reel-to-reel machine restoration would involve worn heads and hard-to-get mechanical parts and belts. I haven't even begun to look into this yet.

Most of the tapes would have been recorded on my 1960's 'plasticky' Philips piano key recorder (long gone). Do I recall it cost 24? Some will have been recorded on my father's Ferrograph Model 5. They will be two-track.

Steve

TonyDuell 19th Jun 2019 1:13 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Gittins (Post 1153924)
The main question is whether you need a 2-track or 4-track machine (speeds can be corrected in software if necessary).

A tape recorded on a 2-track machine can be replayed on a 4-track machine using the 'Track 1-4' setting. It will not give the best quality (as you are only reading half the track width) but it will work. I think Sony made a machine where the (1/4-track-width) head could be mechically shifted to the middle of the track on a 2-track tape, but I suspect such a machine is going to be very hard to find and probably not worth it.

If you play a 2-track tape on a 4 track machine on the 'Track 3-2' setting you will get the other track playing _backwards_. This will do no damage to the machine or tape but it will let you know that it was originally recorded on a 2-track machine

paulsherwin 19th Jun 2019 1:51 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
You are unlikely to need to replace heads.

Assuming that these are 5.75" reel tapes or smaller and 2 track recordings, you would probably be best sourcing a basic 60s British domestic machine based on the ubiquitous BSR TD2 deck. These decks are tough as old boots and rarely need more than a clean and relube. You will be able to buy one for next to nothing. If you discover that any of the tapes have particular sentimental value you can always send them away to be digitised professionally.

https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/bsr_to...sis_td2td.html

cheerfulcharlie 19th Jun 2019 2:03 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
When you get your tape recorder before you play..Fast foward/rewind a couple of times and let them have some fresh air and breath...this will aid loosening up any sticky parts which might jam up in playback but will also bring to attention if their lube has dried out (squeaky type noises)

usradcoll1 19th Jun 2019 5:58 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Gittins (Post 1153924)
Hi Steve,

Yes, they should be playable, get as much dirt off as possible first obviously!

There isn't usually a problem with old domestic tapes, it's professional ones from the 80s that give most trouble.

The main question is whether you need a 2-track or 4-track machine (speeds can be corrected in software if necessary).

More info here:
https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...d.php?t=103289

I acquired a collection of some used and new RtoR tapes. I had some that had some form of a mold on the edges of the tape. I didn't want to try them so they got binned.
There was a few brand new Tandy Radio Shack tapes that seemed to be wound on the reel with the oxide side out.
Having never seen that type, they got binned as well. ???
As usual, Dave US radcoll1. :beer:

Reelman 19th Jun 2019 7:32 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Dave,
Tapes that appear to be wound inside out may prove to be “back-coated” ones, they often give that impression. However, in my experience, Tandy tapes were prone to “sticky-shed” syndrome anyway so binning was not a bad idea!

I’ve got some tapes with apparent mould on the edges, I’m hoping that spooling through some of those makeup removing pads may clean them.

Grundig for some years supplied a little plastic fork with felt pads with their tape recorders in order to clean tapes. That’s what the two little holes along side the sound channel are for on Grundig machines.

Peter

ben 19th Jun 2019 10:06 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
You should see some of the tapes I have revived!

Give them a fast wind gently pinching a tissue around the tape just before the head bridge. You'd be amazed at how they ever survived when you see the dirt come off, and how clear they sound.
You can also see during this process if there are any 'sellotape bombs' splices (sellotape oozes and sticks adjacent layers). Get some proper splicing tape in, or use the 3m Magic Tape in a pinch.

martin.m 19th Jun 2019 10:59 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Nickthedentist (Post 1153925)
Surely worth a go, Steve, seeing as secondhand reel-to-reel machines can be had for next to nothing and that you'd be able to get one working with your eyes closed in about half an hour :

Unless it's a Grundig TK5!

arjoll 19th Jun 2019 11:16 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by paulsherwin (Post 1153937)
Assuming that these are 5.75" reel tapes or smaller and 2 track recordings, you would probably be best sourcing a basic 60s British domestic machine based on the ubiquitous BSR TD2 deck.

I generally use my Tascam BR-20 for anything two track - it's got a far gentler transport than anything old and domestic, and was the last machine Teac made - production only stopped in 2004, although mine is from 1991/92.

Most recently I used it to copy a little 3" tape my grandparents in Scotland sent over to my grandparents in Oamaru before my parents got married - it was a precious tape, and acetate so needed TLC - it's just unfortunate the one dad's parents sent over to Scotland is long gone.

Refugee 20th Jun 2019 12:37 am

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by martin.m (Post 1154056)
Unless it's a Grundig TK5!

What made that TK5 such a problem?
I have got one that I extracted from an on street waste paper basket.
Are you trying to put me off restoring it?

Otari5050 20th Jun 2019 4:06 am

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by usradcoll1 (Post 1153990)
Hi Steve,
I acquired a collection of some used and new RtoR tapes. I had some that had some form of a mold on the edges of the tape. I didn't want to try them so they got binned.
There was a few brand new Tandy Radio Shack tapes that seemed to be wound on the reel with the oxide side out.
Having never seen that type, they got binned as well.

Shame that you binned them. Quite often you will come across tape stock with mold on it.
As Ben points out, the best thing to do is grab a tissue and pinch it round the tape as it's coming off the reel so you catch all the gunk and crap and mold before it gets to the heads. The tape should play ok after that (presuming it hasn't gone sticky).

ricard 20th Jun 2019 5:07 am

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
I thought the main problem with mold was the health risk, i.e. while handling or cleaning the tape the particles will fly off into the air which is not healthy to breathe in.

I would expect this can be alleviated to a large extent by doing the operation in a well ventilated area (e.g. outdoors) and wearing appropriate protection (e.g. those single use surgical masks that cover your mouth and nose).

But I'm no expert and have never actually come across a moldy tape myself so just trying to contribute to the discussion here.

I always feel the amount of effort put into playing a tape is proportional to what is on it. I.e. I wouldn't bin a tape that had a precious family recording on it, whatever its condition.

lesmw0sec 20th Jun 2019 9:49 am

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Simon Gittins (Post 1153924)
Hi Steve,

Yes, they should be playable, get as much dirt off as possible first obviously!

There isn't usually a problem with old domestic tapes, it's professional ones from the 80s that give most trouble.

The main question is whether you need a 2-track or 4-track machine (speeds can be corrected in software if necessary).

More info here:
https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...d.php?t=103289

Yes - I agree regarding the tapes. Odd, as you would have expected the 'professional' stuff to be better. I have a tape from a studio recording which is guaranteed to gum up the heads on replay, even if wiped over first. On the other hand, recordings from the late 50's on retail Emitape play perfectly!

Simon Gittins 20th Jun 2019 10:14 am

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Some professional tapes from the 80s suffered from "sticky shed syndrome"; you will find plenty of threads about this such as:
https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...ad.php?t=14930
https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...ad.php?t=70099

Older tapes aren't affected by this.

whiskas 24th Jun 2019 11:07 am

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
re: Grundig TK5, they are hard work mostly due to numerous Wima paper caps that fail and some are tucked into quite difficult to access areas.
As others have suggested there are plenty of reel to reel machines that are much easier to work with. The Grundig TK14 is quite a good one, a more modern (mid 60's) design - mostly on one easily accessed PCB, and only two valves + magic eye.

Techman 24th Jun 2019 12:19 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Anything with a 'Collaro Tape Transcriptor' deck fitted is going to be a pretty good bet for an easy fix for playing old tapes, so long as they're just two track.

Certainly don't bin old tapes just for the sake of a bit of dust or mould - they'll all play after a bit of a brush and blow off outside.

DianeDavies 10th Aug 2019 3:46 pm

Re: Will these old tapes be playable?
 
Very interesting thread here, I'm going to look for a place to off-load my large collection of Reel to Reel, large and small, some unused, all clean and free. See you in that forum ....:D


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