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Analog Tape Care TipsAnalog Tape Care Tips

Protecting your Recorded Tapes
Even if you never touch your record button and do nothing but play libraries of tapes, there's a bit you should keep in mind to help keep your tapes up to snuff and keep them that way for many more years.

  • Keep it clean: Playing tapes is a pleasurable experience. Your tape deck's heads, guides, and pinch roller(s) are on the front line of gently handling your valuable tapes. One thing that can mess up the gentility of  this process is dirt. There's a degree of static built up, especially in desert climates, on the deck as well as your tapes. The tape heads and guides must be kept clean, not only for sonic reasons but to protect the tapes you're playing. We've seen many cases where dirty heads and guides have scored (scraped) lines along the length of the tape, and especially the edges. It's important to keep these surfaces clean, for a tiny piece of oxide or other dirt stuck to the heads or guides can do quite a bit of irreversible damage to your precious tapes no matter how new or old they are. In particular, keep in mind the edges of the tape guides where the edges of the tape live must be kept clean. Many people use unwaxed dental floss to clean these tiny corners. If the edges of your tape are getting worn, you could have nasty tracking problems, because it's actually the edges of the tape that guide it through the tape path. And if these edges get wavy or scored, you could have some major problems. Se strongly suggest using our CL-100 head and guide cleaner to clean up these surfaces and our RC-5 for cleaning the pinch roller when needed. Oh, and No Smoking.
  • Check the condition of your guides and heads: Tape guide parts like lifters are supposed to be round, not showing a worn, flat spot. If there's a flat spot worn on any of your tape guides where there's clearly an edge that can be grabbed by your finger nail, they should either be repaired or replaced because the edges of these flat spots are very hard on tapes and can damage them beyond repair, especially in rewind or fast forward play. In some cases the guides can be turned in position revealing a new surface. Sometimes they can be sleeved with a stainless steel outer casing, and sometimes they have to be replaced. Some decks like a Revox A77 have rotating guides which is a good idea. Some decks like a Nagra have extremely hard surfaces, ruby in this case, and they are very resistant to wear, although extremely expensive.  Some decks have very hard stainless steel guides, but others have very soft metal, even brass which can wear more readily.
  • Demagnetize your Tape Path: Tape heads and guides tend to pick up magnetism from the tapes you're playing and rewinding over time. This magnetism can slowly erase the high frequencies on your tapes as well as create additional noise on playback/record. The magnetic fields can actually get strong enough to make proper calibration of your deck very difficult and make what should be quiet recording quite hissy. A good head demagnetizer like the RB Annis Han D Mag used on the entire tape path will eliminate these magnetic fields. It takes a fairly powerful demagnetizer like the Han D Mag to thoroughly erase these parts, as the small pencil type units simply aren't strong enough to demagnetize steel parts.
  • Make Sure Your Guides/Reel Platters are Aligned Properly: The tape guides, as opposed to the tape lifters which lift the tape away from the heads for wind functions, are the one thing on the deck that determines where on the tape heads the tape is going to travel. We've had so many cases where these guides are forcing the tape vertically into position because the reel platters are set too high or low on the tape deck. You might even see tape shedding at the left hand guide's edges. With very thin tape you might be able to see a distortion on one of the tape edges as the tape approaches   this first guide.  After playing through a tape, there should be equal distance from the top of the tape pack to the inside of the flanges on BOTH sides of the reel. This will show that the right side, or takeup, tape platter is at the proper height with relation to the tape guides and heads. If you rewind a tape, the same thing should happen on the left, or supply side, of the deck. Ideally after playing through a tape and flipping it over to the supply side to play the other side of the tape (assuming a 1/4 track recording) the tape should leave the reel in exactly the proper position to be lined up with the left hand guide without relying on this guide to force the tape into proper vertical position.
  • Just In Case: You may want to consider using a UPS, or uninterruptable power supply, on your open reel deck. Why? If you're rewinding a tape to play it and the power goes off, even briefly, it can be a mess. You can possible ruin your tapes depending on the transport.
  • Storing Temps and Humdity: All tapes, even video, should be stored vertically and in a dry, cool environment. Ideally for storage, keep them between 65 degrees to 69 degrees and a relative humidity of 30% to 45%. For very long term archiving, store your tapes ideally at around 50 degrees with a relative humidity of 20% to 30%. One big thing here is temperature and humidity swing which is very hard on recorded media. Humidity or temperature should not swing by more than 10% over a 24 hour period.
  • Never store your tapes horizontally: Always store your tapes in the played condition vertically. In other words, don't rewind your tapes and store them that way. You want to make sure the layers of tape sit directly atop of one another with no edges sticking out of the tape pack. These exposed edges are not only subject to damage but might even begin to get wavy due to the stresses applied to the tapes when used. This is especially critical when using thinner tapes like 1 mil or less.
  • Keep Away From Magnets: Do not lean your tapes against the side of electronics, especially of all things, loudspeakers. Keep away from transformers like those found in flourescent fixtures for high intensity halogen lights.
  • Erasing tapes: To save on unnecessary wear on your deck and to obtain the quietest erased tape possible, always use a good, high powered bulk tape eraser like the Verity VS250 or a tabletop model. You can't get as quiet an erase using the deck to begin with, so why subject the deck to unnecessary and costly wear?