Surreal reel-to-reel

November 24, 2006

I borrowed a reel-to-reel tape recorder from work to begin transferring performances I’ve had from tape to digital. As I reacquainted myself with this old technology, streams of old terminology thankfully came back into my memory: rock to stop, head out, tail out, 7 1/2 and 15 ips, big reels and small reels, DBX, and the whole family of Dolby noise reductions that came in and out of fashion.

Some of the transfers were fine. Some recordings had a loud and low room tone, something I now can clip out of the recording, and same with a recording that has an annoying 60 cycle hum. Now you just run a plugin and presto: gone!

One tape sounded particularly ‘under water.’ I thought to myself, hmm, maybe this has some noise reduction on it that is not indicated on the box. I looked at the tape recorder and to my horror saw thousands of little brown oxide fragments of tape, like mud snow all over the desk. I looked at the playback heads, and it was covered with icky goo. I looked at the rubber covered capstan and found the rubber to now have the consistency of wet licorice. I covered the rubber wheel with some white thin “white out” tape that seems to be doing the job. There are squeaks and noises that pop up from time to time, but it IS working. Sheesh. It will be good to say farewell to this technology.

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