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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 7th Feb 2005, 9:24 pm   #1
MnMonMax
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Default Old recording preservation

Hello everyone

I'm new to this site and am here not because I am interested in reel to reel recorders but rather because I wish to take an old possibly 40 year old recordng made by my mum on a philips EL3541/15k No 423863, of her father among other things, when she was little, and transfer it onto a less fragile medium, my hard-disk or a DVD most likely.

I understand that the tapes are something like 4 hours long on both sides, this may be incorrect, but I don't want to play the tape to find out until I record it.

I'm also confused about this trick mode that it has, and whether or not this effectvely adds two new tracks? I assume the experts and enthusiasts among you will know?

I considered simply hooking it up to the audio input of my PC, but I really don't think this old player is up to the job of safely playing it back all the way through, nor of reproducing the recording at all the frequencies it was originally recorded at, I may be wrong about this too?

so basically what I'm looking for, is someone who has access to modern equipment capable of playing the recording properly and transferring it to a high quality digital recording which I can then preserve for posterity for a resonable price.

please get in touch if you think you can or know someone who can?

regards
Bryan
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Old 7th Feb 2005, 10:27 pm   #2
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

Bryan, if the old Philips machine that made the recording is still in working order, then you'll probably get the best sound by using that very machine to play it back on.

Open reel machines came in lots of different formats, so finding a compatible machine might not be plain sailing. Most cheap domestic machines were "twin track", i.e. mono, and you could turn the tape over to record on the other side. Some were " mono quarter track", i.e. they had a switch so that you could record twice separately on each side of the tape. There were also stereo machines. Speeds varied too, with 3.75ips being the most common for domestic use, but half that was popular for speech recording, and 7.5ips was often used for music. 15ips was usually only found on semi-pro machines.

Playback time varies with speed, reel size, tape thickness and number of tracks. It could be anything from, say, 15 mins to several hours on a reel.

Have you tried connecting up the Philips? If you do, make sure it has a proper, modern mains plug with a 3 amp fuse in it, and use an RCD (like you'd use with a lawnmower) to minimise the risk of shocks. You might want to try playing a less special tape on it first of all, just to check it through. You could also clean the heads with a proprietary tape cleaning fluid (meths on a cotton bud works OK though). If it seems to work ok and does not damage the test tape, then try playing the important recording.

Don't mess around with the "trick" mode, as that's usually a way of simply recording another recording on top of what's on the tape already, i.e. it would spoil the original recording.

Most Philips recorders of that vintage will have a "DIN" output socket, which is about 1/2" in diameter, with 3 or 5 pins arranged in a semicircle. If you get a lead with a suitable DIN plug on one end, you could then connect the recorder straight to your PC, a cassette recorder, Minidisc or whatever. Suitable leads will be hard to come by, but try Maplin or Tandy. If you're really stuck, let me know as I've probably got what you need in my garage somewhere .

Last edited by Nickthedentist; 7th Feb 2005 at 10:31 pm.
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Old 7th Feb 2005, 10:37 pm   #3
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

Not interested in an lovely old EL3541 - shame on you - these are a firm favourite of mine! Ok maybe I should get out more...

To address the points raised...

The 3541 is a four track machine - that means you could make two separate recordings on each side of the tape. The time length of these depends on the size of spool (length of tape), and the grade of tape fitted (thickness if you like). This machine can take up to a 7 inch spool running at 3 3/4 inches per second. With "standard" tape (1200 feet) you could fit 4 hours recording on to it - 1 hour per track. "Douple play" grade tape doubles this 8 hours! So it all depends on the tape you have! There was also "long play" and "triple play" types too.

The "trick" mode is a recording feature that allowed you to record over an original recording without erasing it. It was often called "superimpose". DONT experiment with this on your old recordings because in practice it does partially erase the original recording and you could end up with goodness knows what recorded over the top of it. Avoid the little white button between the stop bar and pause button that activates it!

Now, does the 3541 actually work?

If it actually runs ok then it could certainly be used to transfer the tapes- the sockets marked "R" provides an audio output you can use (once you've found suitable plugs). If this machine made the original recordings it would be a good idea to use it as the record / replay head alignment will be a perfect match! A newer machine with a better frequency response won't help as the 3541 machine won't have recorded them anyway, and may not be aligned in quite the same way, run at the same speed etc

If the machine doesn't run it may be worthwhile getting someone to restore it. This could be just as economic and permit you to copy / edit the transfer at your leisure. Let people know where you are based if you want to persue this. Most of the problems with these concern the mechanics: Tired belts and spool clutches mainly.

If you have just retreived the machine from a loft after 45 odd years it would be better to get it checked out before connecting it up to the mains again.

Some tapes last better than others, it depends on the brand and how it's been stored. I have 50 year old tapes that play perfectly - on the other hand I have some 80's CDs that now won't play due to holes forming: The moral is make a back up in a differnt medium if the recording is important to you.

regards,
Stewart
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Old 7th Feb 2005, 10:49 pm   #4
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

Having just seen Nickthedentists post about connections; be aware that of the two DIN type sockets fitted on this machine neither provides the output you need. Use the "R" socket in the lower left of the side compartment. In the absence of the correct Philips plug you will need two opened out "wander" plugs - again try Maplins. the left hand hole is signal ground and the one to the right of the vertical slot is signal output. An output of 1.5V @ 50KOhms is similar to a contemporary CD player!

Stewart
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Old 7th Feb 2005, 11:02 pm   #5
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

Stewart, I'm just glad there are people around like you who actually know about specific machines in detail - impressive stuff. Obviously, some of my 'general' comments were a bit off the mark with this particular Philips!

Glad we're both agreed that it would be the best machine to play back the tape in question though.
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Old 7th Feb 2005, 11:05 pm   #6
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

hi

if you would like the recordings transfered to CD I will be able to help you as I run a tape transfer service as part of my business. PM me if interested.

regards

Terry Martini
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Old 8th Feb 2005, 12:29 am   #7
MnMonMax
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

Thank you to both of you Nick and Stewart, for this advice, I am unsure of the ability to play it back, I know it is functional, as it was partially played back through its internal speaker about 5 years ago, and it's sat in a wardrobe ever since.

The are no labels on the operational buttons, thanks for the heads up on avoiding the trick button.

I'm not sure where I would get a spare tape to test this out (the one I want to copy is the only one it has) I suspect it could well have 8 hours recorded on it, certainly 4 at least.

I don't seem to be able to find a socket labelled with an R, however I can find a number of sockets in the right hand compartment where the plug and lead are stored, one with what looks like an ohm symbol on it's side, which I'm guessing is one of the two DIN sockets, as there are two of them, and one straight horizontal 5 pin socket, to the far right there are what I can only describe as six holes or sockets of varying sizes, the metal looks slightly corroded or tarnished, if these are the sockets I need will they make a good contact? There's also a lever in there I've pressed, but have no idea what it does.

I have taken a couple of digital snaps of these but can't upload them at the moment, I'd happily e-mail them if required. As for the leads I would need, should the guys in maplin know what I'm talking about, or would it be possible to order one off of one of you guys?

Thanks for all the good advice however, I really didn't expect to get any responses for this, so cheers!!!

Bryan
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Old 8th Feb 2005, 11:46 am   #8
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

Just as a side issue, if you don't normally digitize stuff on your PC I'd encourage you to start by copying the tapes onto some conventional format. An audio CD recorder would probably be best choice, followed by a minidisc recorder and a hifi cassette deck. A hifi VHS video recorder would also be suitable if it will record audio only.

The reason for doing this is the quality of soundcards varies a lot, as does the socketry and cabling. You may also be unfamiliar with the software. Once you have a good copy of the original on modern media you can play around with digitizing it at your leisure.

HTH, Paul
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Old 8th Feb 2005, 2:08 pm   #9
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

The socket you are after is the one at the bottom on the left hand panel inside the storage compartment. On all the versions of this machine that I have come accross this takes the form of two, approx 3.5mm holes about 25mm apart - just like the headphone and external speaker ones on the right hand panel.

If on your machine this has been replaced by a black rectangle with rounded ends, about 25-30mm long and, say 7mm high, it would suggest it is a late production model fitted with a socket Philips used on later models. Plugs that fit this are rare indeed (I've only ever seen one of these flat DIN plugs). It should be possible to find something that will make contact with these, even if it just consists of generously tinning the leads with solder to push in directly. If you are going to pursue this let us know and I'll look up the pin connections of the socket.

The button you found inside the storage compartment switches the machine into "public address / amplifier" mode. Reset this by pressing the long stop bar on the top of the player.

You can get some idea if the machine is running even without a tape.
Plug in and switch on (left hand rotary control). After 30 seconds or so the green eye in the stop bar should light. Press the play button (to the right of the stop bar). The right hand tape spool should spin away like mad but come to a stop under the weight of a finger on the spool. The left hand spool staying still throughout this. Turn up the volume (left hand rotary control) a moderate hum and hiss sound would suggest the play electronics are reasonably ok.
Press the stop bar. Thats the vital bit over with. You could go on to check the fast forward and rewind by using the two outer-most buttons in turn, the corresponding spool should spin - try gripping the spool with your fingers - it should put up a fair fight in trying to continue turning. This was always the weakest point with these machines: Even when quite new the spool drive clutches wore down rapidly leading to weak drive. I wonder just how many meters of tape I have helped wind through one these machines over the years with the aid of a finger! I can hear the squeal of the spool clutches in my mind as a write this!

If all this is resolved then just a quick head clean as suggested by Nick should set you up ready. The heads are under the raised plastic cover with the Philips logo on. remove the screw that holds it in place and you can then wipe a cotton bud moistened with IMS over the record / play head face (in the centre of the group with a beige coloured face. Clean the capstan whilst you're there (rotating metal cylinder about 6mm thick).

Stewart

You may be able to pick up a tape to try on your machine at a car boot sale quite cheaply?
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Old 8th Feb 2005, 3:09 pm   #10
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewart
If on your machine this has been replaced by a black rectangle with rounded ends, about 25-30mm long and, say 7mm high, it would suggest it is a late production model fitted with a socket Philips used on later models. Plugs that fit this are rare indeed (I've only ever seen one of these flat DIN plugs). It should be possible to find something that will make contact with these, even if it just consists of generously tinning the leads with solder to push in directly.
A bent paper clip is often a useful bodge in these situations.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewart
You may be able to pick up a tape to try on your machine at a car boot sale quite cheaply?
Commercial prerecorded tapes are often available on eBay for a couple of quid. These are usually twin track mono 3 3/4 ips but will play back fine on a 4 track machine (be sure to switch it to mono if it's a stereo machine - if you don't you'll get the second side of the album playing backwards through one of the speakers

HTH, Paul
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Old 8th Feb 2005, 7:05 pm   #11
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

Just for help, I have plenty of tapes for sale if you need one to test, also I have the diagrams of this machine. if your interested let me know, also I can make belts if the old ones have turned to goo.
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Old 8th Feb 2005, 9:08 pm   #12
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Default Re: Old recording preservation

I've just found a service manual supplement for this model dated October '63.
My experience of this machine is mainly of the original models hence my posts, it seems, may be slightly misleading and hasty when it comes to the connections available.

The supplement says...

"The recorder is similar in general appearance and operation to the original.." BUT..."The two pin R socket as used on the original has been replaced by a five pin IEC socket. A five pin DIN type socket has also been fitted to provide an additional input together with a high impedance / line output previously available at the R socket"

This means Nickthedentist was correct all along, and that you should be able to make connection to the recorder quite easily afterall. Maplin should sell suitable leads. The diagram in the supplement shows the symbol by this socket as being a circle with a line going into it, joining a horizontal bar inside it (thermonic diode symbol). The signal ground is the centre one of the group, signal going to both of those to its right.

Hope this clears this up!

Regards,
Stewart
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