Vintage reel to reel recordings

How the Ultimate Analog Music Player Is Making a Comeback

The stunningly designed Gear Patrol Magazine is ready for your coffee table. By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy and to receive email correspondence from us. They played high-resolution tracks, had an impressive dynamic range and dealt with relatively little signal processing. But there are whispers of a revival, specifically for the large and beautiful open-reel machines that look like they came directly from the studio where Blood on the Tracks was recorded.

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Reel-to-reel tapes come in various widths. Hi-fi hobbyists should stick to quarter-inch tapes — and the machines that can play them.


There are new examples on the market, specifically from German company Ballfinger , which sells four gorgeous handcrafted models direct from its Duesseldorf factory. A better bet is the blooming refurbishing scene, with companies like SkyFi restoring old equipment to like-new conditions. Resale sites like eBay can turn up some gems — The Beatles, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd are all available — but expect to pay top dollar.

A decent chunk of coin to be sure, but if you balk at the idea of paying several hundred bucks for wonderfully rich music on a rare and authentic analog format, you might be in the wrong hobby. The real joy of reel-to-reel might be the genuinely weird finds specific to the format.

Home recordings abound and can be uniquely fascinating — imagine the joy of finding some two-hour recording from a small-town radio station back in — and for Zorrilla, these tapes are the main draw. Also superior to pressed records: the connection to how music is made, not just enjoyed.

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More From Our Brands. It was introducing an AC signal to the tape [ dubious — discuss ] , and this was quickly adapted to new models using a high-frequency AC bias that has remained a part of audio tape recording to this day. Typically acetate was used for cheaper tape, and Mylar for more expensive tape. If you visualize a cassette tape, using a narrower band of tape, playing at a slower speed, you begin to see how the format changes moved from cumbersome and expensive to convenient and cheap, and on that same continuum the recordings went from being more pristine to less and less pristine. Recently, the Berlin Philharmonic released exclusive direct-to-disk D2D recordings of live performances. In addition to all of these attributes of tape, tape saturation is a unique form of distortion that many rock , blues and funk artists find very pleasing, though with modern technology, these forms of distortion can be recreated digitally.

Tape machines are definitely that. Consider a seat belt.

Reel-to-reel audio tape recording

Read the Story. Audiophile brands have traditionally stepped in to overcome these issues; companies like Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab have been offering LPs mastered from the original tapes using all-analog processes for years.

Photo: Shutterstock. With the resurgence of interest in analog, boutique companies are rising to meet this appetite for premium, meticulously mastered, and ultra-exclusive analog recordings. One of the most expensive, esoteric corners of audiophilia is reel-to-reel playback. There is also a small number of boutique companies producing ultra-exclusive albums on new reel-to-reel tapes, which consistently command high prices.

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Companies producing reel-to-reel tapes: ABC Records (Jazz/Classical/Other) ( Acoustic. AL KOOPER Introduces SHUGGIE OTIS reel tape 3¾ ips EX ARETHA FRANKLIN - I Neve pex reel tape 3¾ ips NM. $

For example, the Tape Project has been producing limited-run audiophile recordings from the original master tapes for several years. Demand is high; nearly all the 26 releases from the company so far has sold out. We started the tape renaissance because we loved to listen to tape over digital or vinyl when we were designing and evaluating new equipment designs.

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We felt we should share that experience. Reel-to-reel tapes are preferred by some music enthusiasts for a variety of reasons, most notably, they are much closer to the original master tapes than a vinyl record. While both are an analog medium, tape is superior: it has greater dynamic range, lacks the distortion inherent to vinyl, and has less variance in production quality.

The Cheap Seats

Reel-to-reel is also more difficult and expensive to produce. Even in the s and 60s, reel-to-reel was a format reserved for the wealthy. The Tape Project is not the only company to explore ultra-exclusive reel-to-reel releases. Nearly 10 other companies have started offering tape albums of a similar nature, and the popularity is only rising.

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Reel-to-reel tape is not the only format appealing to the super high-end market. Labels have begun offering very limited vinyl releases intended for the most discerning connoisseurs, like the previously mentioned UHQR pressings. Recently, the Berlin Philharmonic released exclusive direct-to-disk D2D recordings of live performances.

To create D2D albums, the record lathe is present during the performance, cutting the master in real-time with no editing. A similar approach to exclusive releases is being taken by a British label called the Electric Recording Company , which is reproducing—in painstakingly meticulous detail—classical albums that are considered holy grails by collectors. It utilizes similar techniques to when the original LPs were produced—down to the printing and lettering method used on the album covers.

For the right audience, the chance to possess albums made with craftsmanship offers fantastic value regardless of price. In an age of convenience, the care and passion put into these limited releases is remarkable. But even though only a select few will ever possess these limited releases, this renaissance of analog is a boon for anyone who appreciates artistry in the reproduction of music.

The Reel-to-Reel Deal

Once could go so far as to say it mirrors the of passion and effort put into the music by the artist themselves, and there is no question that it deepens the subjective appreciation of the enthusiast who purchases them. The question is not one of who got the better deal, but rather who is more driven by the appreciation of music. Get The Best Of Everything.