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Thread: Duuuuude...my tape got totally baked last night

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    Duuuuude...my tape got totally baked last night

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    I have successfully baked and transferred my first tape! This is something I had been wanting to do for a very long time, but I'm glad I wasn't able to try it until now, since that gave me a lot of time to do the necessary research. I got most of my information from this link.

    The tape in question was a 1/2" 4-track master of my dad's thesis composition from his days at the University of Iowa electronic music studios. The tape was labeled December 1976...who knows when it was manufactured or what brand it was. I'm going to guess probably Ampex 456 or the like. It had been unplayed for probably about thirty years...my dad owned a Tascam 22-4 when I was a kid, but he never had anything that could play 1/2" tape. It had been stored in less-than-ideal conditions, too, sitting in a shelf in the top floor of his house, in a room that was cold and dry in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. This was a textbook case of sticky shed.

    I had inquired around Chicago about 1/2" tape machines I could use to do the transfer, but I hadn't considered that the tape might not be in playable condition. I'm glad that idea didn't pan out and I was able to buy my own Tascam ATR-60 for a song this summer. The first thing I needed to do was to wind the tape from its 7" plastic reel onto a 10" metal reel, which I did by hand over the course of a tedious hour or so. The tape was sort of peeling off of the reel rather than falling off freely, which was the first clear sign that it was problematic. Just to confirm my suspicions, I lifted the headblock out of my deck and ran the tape for a bit. That proved that it was in no condition to play. I managed to give the tape a good flat wind by avoiding the stationary parts of the tape path and only winding it around the rotating parts (tension arms, tach roller, and pinch roller/capstan). The pinch roller especially wound up with a couple of nasty white goo trails on it. After that, I cleaned everything and put the tape away for a while, as I needed to save up some money to upgrade my digital interface to something with converters that would be nice enough for this project (I chose the RME Fireface 800).

    Once I was able to buy that, it was time for the baking phase itself. I did not manage to get a food dehydrator as nice as the one mentioned in my link above...I probably should have held out, but I wanted to get this done before Christmas and I didn't have time to order one and wait for it to be delivered. I went to Target and bought an extremely basic Ronco dehydrator. Really, it seems tremendously overpriced to me--it was nothing more than some plastic trays, a lid, and a base with a heating element in it. No fan or anything. However, it did hold a 10" tape reel perfectly. I'm not sure if it helped, but I wound up setting the dehydrator on top of a grate resting on the backs of a couple of chairs, and put a fan flat on its back on the floor blowing upwards. I wasn't sure how much of a magnetic field there was around the fan so I made sure to keep it well away from the tape. The temperature inside the dehydrator was less than ideal--about 120F--but I tried it anyway. I baked for about four hours, flipping the tape every half hour, and then let it cool for another three hours. As advised in the link, I played the tape backwards with cloth over the heads. There was an oxide trail, especially on the cloth covering the erase head, strongest at the edges of the tape. However, the pinch roller was completely devoid of the telltale white goop. I pressed record on my DAW and played the tape, and it seemed to play perfectly fine. I didn't see a worrying amount of oxide shed, and there was no binder shed to be found. I'm very happy to have managed this successfully, and to know that it is possible to rescue a tape without a lot of expensive specialized equipment.

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    Great! Glad to hear it went well.

    -MD

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    Well done!
    ...and the music?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rayc View Post
    Well done!
    ...and the music?
    It's a big download, but if you're interested: www.genitalhercules.com/~mcrowe/PIM.wav

    The name of the piece is Poultry In Motion. All of the sound source material was made from sampling a little wind-up bird toy.

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    Hi, the link doesn't connect.
    I did go to the genherc site & enjoyed looking around BUT couldn't locate the link to the music.
    Don't give me any poultry excuses (sic).
    Good genherc graphic by the way.

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    My mistake! It's an mp3, not a wav. Here: www.genitalhercules.com/~mcrowe/PIM.mp3

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    Thanks for that.
    I really enjoyed listening.
    The best bits for me were the lower register sections. I can't imagine how much work went into that piece. Was it mainly splicing or multiple modified sources live mixed to the final tape?. I ask because the editing, if spliced, if really well done. Did you treat the digital recording for noise at all? The MP3 sounded pretty clean!
    Again thanks.
    If you communicate with your old man tell me thanks from me.

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    According to my pa, it was all splices. He says the sections that have a long decay were assembled by finding a tiny section of tape for the basic sound (like say 1/4" of tape) and dubbing it over and over and over and over, then taking those little segments and splicing them all together.

    I didn't do any treatment to the digital files at all; this is exactly as it came off the tape machine. I suppose that speaks to the quality and clarity of the ATR-60. Glad you enjoyed it; I certainly did!

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