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Old 29th Jan 2014, 2:28 pm   #5
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Madrid, Spain / Wirral, UK
Posts: 5,884
Default Re: Transferring reel tapes to PC or other formats - first steps


So, you played a tape to test the recorder, got connected up - yet things aren't running smoothly (in all senses of the term!)

A common problem blighting some types of tape is Sticky Shed Syndrome ('SSS'). Symptoms include squealing and grinding noises from the tape itself, grinding to a halt in fast wind, distorted noisy sound, or loss of sound as the heads clog. You will see sticky black deposits on the tape path. Video.

This problem is due to a type of binder used in the tape manufacture which absorbs moisture, affecting the tape surface.
Tapes which have suffered this include Ampex 406 and 456, Sony SLH and PR150, and many Scotch. Shamrock and Tandy Concertape were supposedly ex-Ampex stock and also tend to suffer bad SSS. Most SSS tapes were made in the 1970s and early 1980s.

If you experience this problem, stop the tape immediately to avoid destroying it, and if possible rewind by threading the tape directly from one spool to the other, avoiding the tape path. Needless to say, the whole path must be cleaned thoroughly before next use.

Important content can be recovered by 'baking' which is covered here. A treatment involving a car upholstery cleaner called 'Nu finish' is also under investigation, but this is messy and time consuming.

Broken tape
You may find that upon playback or fast wind, the tape breaks. This may be due to fragile acetate tape, a splice which has disintegrated (often happens where the coloured leader or switch foil meets the tape) or in the worst case, a crude join with adhesive tape or 'sellotape', which has oozed and made adjacent tape layers stick together.

It is recommended that only proper splicing tape is used to join tapes. Available from online pro-audio suppliers and ebay vendors. Be sure to cut away all affected sticky parts before use. A brief guide is attached below.
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Last edited by ben; 29th Jan 2014 at 2:51 pm.
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