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Tape recorder bias frequencies

Filed under: cassettes,recording/mastering,reels — 2008-02-02 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2012-03-25 by Richard L. Hess

The discussion of what bias frequencies were used over time keeps recurring. Special thanks to Jay McKnight of Magnetic Reference Lab, Tom Fine, and Brian Roth  for input to this list. I posted this to the ARSC list, but wanted to include it here as well. This knowlege is useful for those who wish to archive the bias along with the audio for future application of time-base-error correction tools such as the Plangent Processes.

Bias frequences started low, apparently with 60 kHz for early consumer recorders, but Ampex started with 100 kHz. Other later machines used different bias and erase frequencies. We can see with a few exceptions, the top bias frequencies were commonly limited to 250 kHz for audio, with the Sony APR series and the Ampex ATR series in the 400 kHz region. For cassettes, a practical maximum appears to be about 150 kHz. Much higher frequencies (up to at least 8 MHz) were used in instrumentation recorders. An enumeration of several machines follows. (more…)


Slow speed 4-channel cassette digitization

Filed under: loggers,loggers — 2008-02-23 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2011-11-12 by Richard L. Hess

There has been some discussion recently about the 4-channel cassette recorders that were used for court reporting and other logging- or court-reporter-type applications. It seems that the players only have one output and can select any combination of one or more playback channels into that one output.

This monitoring topology is actually identical to two 1-inch 40-channel reel-to-reel logging machines I have where one can listen to any combination of one through forty tracks on a single output. (more…)


StoryCorps experience including equipment discussion

Filed under: archive operations,digital,live sound and recording,oral history,recording/mastering — 2008-02-03 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2011-06-30 by Richard L. Hess

My friend Susan Kitchens and her brother took their parents to the StoryCorps recording session in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. She blogged it here. One of the neat things is that between her article and the discussion she and I had in the comments, we have a good handle on most of the equipment that was used in the trailer. It’s a good selection in my opinion and shows how simply good-quality recording systems can be set up. Further discussions from a StoryCorps representative have shown how clever the setup is.


Winding tapes for long-term storage—a quandary

Filed under: archival practices,storage-care-handling — 2008-02-15 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2011-02-17 by Richard L. Hess

In 2006, I wrote a blog post (here) called “Let Sleeping Tapes Lie: What to do with poorly wound tapes”. For years, tape experts have been suggesting that it is not as good an idea to rewind tapes as was originally thought. This was partially based on the fact that most rewinding in archives was done on the oldest, junkiest machines so as to not wear out the good machines. Unless rewinding is done on high-quality tape transports, it is indeed counter-productive.

We continue to receive poorly wound tapes and are able to play them successfully. So why the quandary now? The reason is that I read portions of another Bharat Bhushan book, Mechanics and Reliability of Flexible Magnetic Media, 2nd Edition, New York, Springer, 2000. Referring to several research papers he makes a compelling case that tapes should be rewound annually if subject to storage environment fluctuations and every 3.5 years if kept in a climate controlled storage area. (more…)


Aligning a tape recorder

Filed under: archival practices,cassettes,recording/mastering,reels — 2008-02-02 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2008-06-03 by

It seems some people new to tape are confused over how to align a tape recorder. This is the abbreviated version.

If you want to record on a tape recorder (and I do not recommend doing that these days as you’re just generating more tapes that will need to be transferred later) the first thing to do is get the playback correct.

  1. CLEAN the machine. (more…)

Hard disk formats for interchange

Filed under: data storage,storage-care-handling,tools — 2008-02-03 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2008-06-03 by

The question of how to format hard disks (i.e. what file system to use on them) for easy interchange is another FAQ. A recent experience brought home the fact that it is more complex than one might hope. The computer industry is headed towards universal readability, but it is not there yet. The most-able-to-be-read-and-written format appears to be FAT32, although my friend Eric Jacobs makes the point that NTFS is a more robust hard disk file system, and I have to agree. (more…)


Who invented the electret? And some microphone basics…

Filed under: live sound and recording,oral history — 2008-02-25 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2008-02-25 by

My friend Susan Kitchens blogged about the history of the electret as in electret condenser microphone. It’s an interesting piece of history. I added a little primer to the post on microphone basic types. Look here.


Headworn microphones and other means of recording voice

Filed under: live sound and recording,oral history — 2008-02-24 by Richard L. Hess — Last Edit 2008-02-24 by

For the last several years, I have been involved with sound reinforcement and recording at my church. I have upgraded the PA system and we’re in the midst of final editing/mastering for an upcoming Christmas CD.

In the process of doing this work, I have learned a few things which might be of assistance. This is the first post in the blog in the live sound and recording category. Many of the posts relating to microphones will also be tagged in the oral history category. (more…)



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