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Vintage Tape (Audio), Cassette, Wire and Magnetic Disc Recorders and Players Open-reel tape recorders, cassette recorders, 8-track players etc.

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Old 12th Jan 2018, 10:28 am   #1
sp10mk11
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Default Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Hello I was wondering if any tape manufacturers ever produced a chrome tape for reel to reel use, I remember TDK bringing out an "SA" type tape for reel to reel.
Thanks
Gary
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 11:18 am   #2
monaro0162
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Can't say I've ever seem Chrome reel-to-reel tape. Chrome tape was introduced (I assume) to deal with the limitations of, and improve the quality of the cassette system, that ran at a much lower tape speed of 1 7/8ips. Reel to Reel running at 3 3/4ips and above is much better quality and would not need Chrome tape?
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 11:24 am   #3
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

I think TDK SA wasnt actually made of chromium so was "pseudo chrome" or "non chrome" as a TDK brochure I have here says. It still required similar high bias and erase as Chrome and had similar performance.

On some later reel to reel tape machines there was a standard called EE, standing for extra efficiency, which used such a more high performing tape for semi pro machines and claimed similar performance to 7.5ips at only 3.75ips.

Yes the good high frequency response of good Type II cassette tapes running at a meagre 1.875ips wasnt really needed on professional machines running at 15ips (8 times faster). Using tape that was by later standards pretty humble, Ampex pro machines of even the late 40's could go out to the limits of human hearing. TDK SA or chrome or pseudo chrome tape was fundamental to the performance of VHS and Beta VCR's which ran even slower than audio cassettes.

I seem to recall TDK stopped making reel to reel tapes altogether around 1990 but continued with cassette and VCR tapes.

Last edited by TIMTAPE; 12th Jan 2018 at 11:48 am.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 3:07 pm   #4
jamesperrett
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

I'm pretty sure that there were no chrome reel to reel tapes for audio use although it is possible that they may have been made for slow speed instrumentation purposes (although, again, I've never used them). The main development towards the end of the reel to reel era was the introduction of professional tapes that worked at a higher operating level - Ampex/Quantegy 499 and Scotch/3M 996 being two examples.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 3:25 pm   #5
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Maxell and TDK brought out a number of reel to reel formulations in the late 70s that were related to their cassette formulations. These were intended for the domestic hifi market rather than studio use. They needed above average bias to give a flat response and some Japanese machines were set up to provide this, but they worked well with less bias, giving a bright sound which compensated for the limitations of domestic recorders. They were particularly good at lower speeds, as you would expect from formulations developed for cassette use.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 3:29 pm   #6
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

In general Chrome tape was significantly more abrasive than standard types, this would have been much more of a problem with reel to reel machines running at 2, 4 or 8 times the the speed of cassettes.
As mentioned above, the higher tape speeds made the higher performance of Chrome less attractive when weighed against much greater head wear as well as requiring non compatible equalisation standards.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 3:33 pm   #7
paulsherwin
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Only BASF stuck with chrome formulations for any length of time even for cassettes. The other manufacturers used ferric formulations optimised for chrome bias and equalisation.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 3:37 pm   #8
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

BASF probably didn`t see a wear problem with Chrome, their LR56 conventional tape was one of the most abrasive types around in the late sixties / early seventies, we used to use it for lapping in new heads.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 4:16 pm   #9
sp10mk11
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Thanks everyone for your replies, yes indeed the TDK was for use with machines with "EE" setting on them.
I remember in the early 70s it was said that chrome cassette tapes were highly abrasive but TDK/Maxell etc neatly side stepped this problem with there own formulations.

Its all good fun......some times

Gary
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 11:06 pm   #10
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Did many manufacturers make type III Ferro-chrome tape? This never seemed common compared to metal type IV tape.
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Old 13th Jan 2018, 3:58 am   #11
tony brady
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Sony did for one, we used them for testing. I don't remember any others
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Old 13th Jan 2018, 6:26 pm   #12
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

From what I remember Fuji took on Ferro-Chrome tape but I cannot think of any others.
I remember a lot of tape decks where being fitted for use with ferro-chrome tapes so it must have been thought a serious contender in the tape wars.
I have a fair selection of ferro-chrome ELcaset tapes which still sound excellent
Gary
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Old 13th Jan 2018, 8:04 pm   #13
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

I have a Philips cassette deck with automatic chrome selection. While the pack of TDK chrome cassettes I bought did give good quality recordings, the print-through was awful, meaning that recordings of radio plays were almost unlistenable-to after only 10 years. I have never ever had print-through problems with conventional tapes, even C120's that I used almost exclusively and that have not been touched for more than a decade. Is print-though a problem with chrome tapes, or might I just have been unlucky with a duff batch? I mention it in case it might be another factor in its non-adoption for reel-to-reel tapes.

Last edited by emeritus; 13th Jan 2018 at 8:14 pm.
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Old 13th Jan 2018, 8:28 pm   #14
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sp10mk11 View Post
From what I remember Fuji took on Ferro-Chrome tape but I cannot think of any others.
I remember a lot of tape decks where being fitted for use with ferro-chrome tapes so it must have been thought a serious contender in the tape wars.
I have a fair selection of ferro-chrome ELcaset tapes which still sound excellent
Gary
Ferrochrome tapes didn't really work, and always received terrible reviews in the hifi mags. Most manufacturers only made them for a year or so and they didn't sell well. However, their development coincided with the 'Type' standard for cassette formulations, which is why almost all decks have a 'FeCr' setting despite never having encountered a FeCr tape. It would have made more sense to have different 'types' for true chrome and pseudochrome, as they have significant differences and decks optimised for one won't work well with the other.
Quote:
Originally Posted by emeritus View Post
I have a Philips cassette deck with automatic chrome selection. While the pack of TDK chrome cassettes I bought did give good quality recordings, the print-through was awful, meaning that recordings of radio plays were almost unlistenable-to after only 10 years. I have never ever had print-through problems with conventional tapes, even C120's that I used almost exclusively and that have not been touched for more than a decade. Is print-though a problem with chrome tapes, or might I just have been unlucky with a duff batch? I mention it in case it might be another factor in its non-adoption for reel-to-reel tapes.
TDK never made chrome tapes, just pseudochrome ferrics that used chrome bias and equalisation. They are no better or worse than any other formulation with regard to print-through. I think you were just unlucky in this case. I used mostly Japanese pseudochrome cassettes like TDK-SA in the 80s and never had any print-through issues, though all cassettes do suffer from it to some degree.
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Old 13th Jan 2018, 9:37 pm   #15
sp10mk11
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Paul
TDK did make chrome tape in the early 70s I cannot remember the name it might have been "KR Krom" I will have a hunt around.

I didn't read any bad reviews of ferrochrome tapes as most machines with the facility in the mid 1970s gave the best responses when used with it hmm another thing to look for in my old mags

Last edited by sp10mk11; 13th Jan 2018 at 9:42 pm.
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Old 13th Jan 2018, 10:16 pm   #16
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

You will find they usually measured more poorly and cost more than the good pseudochromes of the era. I seem to remember that the two different layers resulted in a non linear response, and that the tapes weren't physically stable, though it's a long time ago and I may be misremembering.
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Old 14th Jan 2018, 10:30 am   #17
sp10mk11
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Paul
anything made by Sony back in the 70s was more expensive than its rivals, but Sony had such a good reputation that cost wasn't an issue.
I do remember comments about the two layers possibley causing non lineararity.
As regards long term stability, the FECR Elcasets I have are about 40years old and still working perfectly, maybe it was batch variability.
Gary
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Old 14th Jan 2018, 11:50 am   #18
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulsherwin View Post

...I seem to remember that the two different layers resulted in a non linear response, and that the tapes weren't physically stable, though it's a long time ago and I may be misremembering.
I did a little reading on Ferrichrome cassettes. It seems there could be a dip in response around 5kHz. I'm guessing it was above the frequency where the Ferric tailed off but below that where the Chrome kicked in.

The Chrome was a thin layer on the outside, so intimate with the head, while the Ferric was behind, separated from the head due to the thickness of the Chrome layer, with the result (I'm guessing here) that the Ferric layer probably had what's called a "spacing loss", which inevitably results in a loss of highs. Similar to a dirty head, at least for the Ferric layer.

Interestingly this is also why record bias generally was always somewhat of a trade off. The particles on the outer layer closest to the record head's bias field got an overdose of bias while those at the back of the magnetic later got an underdose. In practice we overbiased the back layer a little where most of the lower frequencies were recorded, but not too much or we would overbias (partially erase) the layer intimate with the head, where the high frequencies were recorded. Record bias was a tradeoff.

In the earlier days, bias was set using a mid frequency like 400 Hz or 1000 Hz, aiming for a slight level drop below maximum due to overbias. Later on a high frequency like 10kHz was used as it was more sensitive to bias changes. For a reel to reel machine different level drops at 10Khz were specified for different tape stocks, such as -4db, -5db, -6db etc.

It seems the advent of the Japanese super ferrics from such as TDK and Maxell with their much better high frequency performance made the complexity and cost of the dual layer Ferrichromes redundant, and perhaps outperformed them overall.

I have a few old 70's Sony cassette machines with the Ferrichrome position. I dont recall using it perhaps because I rarely came across a Ferrichrome tape when recording.
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Old 14th Jan 2018, 2:06 pm   #19
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

Just looked in my cassette collection and the one with the print-though problem was in fact a BASF "Chrom Dioxid" C90 bought in the late 1970's, not a TDK (apologies to TDK!). I was getting mixed up with some TDK cassettes bought in the early 2000's but never used, that had the notch for the "High" setting but were not Chromium.

Incidentally, the only other tapes I have ever had print-though issues with was a set of talking book cassettes of Roald Dahl's " The Witches" that I borrowed from the public library when the kids were small. This was really awful, despite the fact that it was a brand new recording and we were the first borrowers.
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Old 14th Jan 2018, 2:45 pm   #20
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Default Re: Chrome Reel to Reel Tape?

As said earlier, BASF were the only major manufacturer that stuck with true chrome formulations right through the cassette era. This was an odd commercial decision, as chrome tapes have different sensitivities and output levels to pseudochromes, and by the late 70s most decks were set up for pseudochromes on the chrome setting. True chrome tapes like BASF Chromdioxid resulted in incorrect Dolby tracking if used with them without recalibration.

Although chrome cassettes have a lower output than pseudochromes, they also have a generally lower noise level. They can give very good results on correctly calibrated decks, but these were always very thin on the ground, especially at the entry level and mid market.
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