Tape and Dape Deck Maintenance
Proper Deck and Tape Maintenance
get a lot of calls from people who just resurrected their old Revox or
are just getting into open reel recording for the first time. What do I
need to properly maintain my tape deck and preserve the life of my
tape? The following list and discussion covers most of the bases of
this subject. The order of the listing is not definitive; there's some
overlap there but all are important and we discuss why.
- Lasermedia CL100 Tape Head and
Guide Cleaner: If you don't keep your tape heads clean, your
sound will get muffled, you can clog the heads, and you can damage the
tape by scouring it with minute chunks of dirt. Why not just use
alcohol? You can test this yourself. Get some polyurethane, put a
couple drops on a piece of glass and see if alcohol will dissolve it.
Polyurethane is mixed with oxide in the tape manufacturing process. It
can rub off the tape over time and deposit itself on the heads. You
want something that will dissolve the polyurethane so you can remove it
from your heads and metal guides without abrading them. Also, CL100 is non carcinogenic.
- RB Annis Han D Mag: The
RB Annis Han D Mag is the best tape head and guide demagnetizer we know
of. Many tape guides are made of chrome plated hardened steel. They're
extremely difficult to demagnetize and need huge electromagnetic force
to remove the magnetic fields. The Han D Mag will demagnetize even 2"
studio heads. If you don't properly demagnetize your head, in
particular, your tapes will in time start to lose their high end, as
well as have additional noise due to magnetism built up in the heads.
The Han D Mags aren't cheap, but they're worth the price and should
last you a life time
with proper use.
- Lasermedia CL-100 Head & Guide Cleaner, and RC5 Pinch Roller Cleaner: The Lasermedia CL-100 is the best thing out there to clean your tape heads, and the RC5 is the best thing to clean your pinch rollers without fear of dissolving them or hardening them. Still, it's best to
clean pinch rollers only when you see visible dirt buildup,
especially if you can feel lumps of dirt on the roller. This
will cause flutter and other problems with your tapes. Why not use isopropol alcohol?
Isoprop can dry up, harden, and crack your pinch roller
making it useless. Many home decks in particular have no factory replacement rollers available.
- Leader Tape: We have many
different kinds of various colours with many more to follow. If you're
a home recordist, most of your decks will not stop playing or recording
until the tape flops around and the shut off arm stops the transport.
There's a few models like the Revox A77 with a photo stop sensing
circuit, but most don't. Also, it's almost impossible to rewind or fast
forward a tape so it stops without the tape end flopping around. This
damages the end of the tape. It's better to slap a length of
leader tape around, which you can easily replace, than your
actual media. Also, there's quite a bit of damage done to tapes simply
threading them to the takeup reel and on rewind the source reel. Ask
anyone collecting pre-recorded open reel tapes about tape end damage!
The reason for colored leader tape is to clue you in to the wind condition of the tape you're
looking at. You can have your own colour code for the head of the tape
and the tail of tape. But it's nice to pick up a tape and see that it's
played through and suited for storage. In the US recording industry
lingo, red leader indicates the head end of the tape and blue is the
tail end. But you can also have your own lingo. OR USE TIMING TAPE: Timing tape is
simply leader tape with timing patterns printed on it at set intervals
like one set at every 15" and a different one at 7.5". There's also
showing you which is the head end of the tape.
- Splicing Tape: Splicing
tape is the very specialized and massively important tape used to
connect the leader tape to the actual recording media. Also, in true
analogue recording, it's used to splice sections of the actual
recording media together. For instance if someone sneezed in a
performance, you might be able to cut it out. We got a call from PBS about splicing tape. The
producer was complaining that all the tape splices in his project dried
out and failed. And he had to spend a whole weekend to "fix it." And it
was "blue" splicing tape. Back in the day, when everyone made splicing
tape, 3M made the best
splicing tape you could get. At this point, it would be best to avoid
anything blue simply because it's probably the same stuff that PBS had
a problem with. Our AC1S89 series white splicing tape is made by a
German company and has excellent specifications. USR will go to the
ends of the earth to provide the best for our customers.
- Splicing Blocks: If
you're going to connect leader tape to your media, or especially do in
intra-tape splice, you must
have one of these. They're expensive. But you can't do a proper tape
splice on the kitchen table. A good block like the ones USR sells will
lock the media into position for your edit. We normally have used, but
resurfaced blocks available. They're blocks from the leading studios in
the world but..they needed some more care. Who knows what tapes went
over these blocks!
- Hold Down Tapes: Hold
down tapes have two functions. The main function is to hold down
the end of the tape when you place it back in the box. You want to
preserve the tape pack. You don't want the reel to unspool itself in
the box. This can happen easily if the tape end is allowed to dangle
loosely. Tape is normally under tension. The edges that hang out might
curl over. The second consideration with hold down tape is, if you use
red tape to hold down the tape, and this is the scheme you use, it will
show you that's the front or head end of the tape as long as you wound