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Railfan Technology > Need A Good Audio Restoration Service

Date: 09/29/18 11:22
Need A Good Audio Restoration Service
Author: sig292

I recently purchased some railroad sound recordings on reel to reel tape. There are various size reels and the tapes are in varying conditions. For the most part the largest number of the tape appear to be well preserved and in decent condition. The exception being a bunch of 3 inch reels, each containing about 4 minutes of audio. These tapes were used as masters for 10 inch 78rpm records made with a home disc cutter. These are 50 year old tapes that may or may not be in one piece on the reels. I was using a sound restoration firm in Vale, NC called Big Sky Audio. They did good work and were comparatively inexpensive with other sound labs I've found on the internet. Unfortunately. Big Sky is closing it's doors because the owner and audio technician is retiring. I am now searching for a audio restoration service that does good work and that I can afford. For reference, Big sky did 10 of these 3 inch reels, about 30 minutes of sound, for $75. While expensive to be sure, I could afford that price, Since Big Sky closed I can't find anyone who can do this work anywhere near that price. One place would charge me $350 for the same amount of work. Can anyone suggest a restoration service? A simple transfer to digital I don't think would be enough. The tapes will break during the transfer, many more then once, so the company would have to be able to handle this kind of delicate work. The larger reels I have are much newer and in better condition so I do not anticipate any problems digitizing them.
Thanks for any help.
Ken Gear

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/29/18 11:22 by sig292.

Date: 10/04/18 17:18
Re: Need A Good Audio Restoration Service
Author: JR24

Although I don't know if they can perform the restoration / transfer service you seek in-house, the seasoned group at  https://www.audioclassics.com  in Vestal (Binghamton) NY, might be a good place to start. Let us know how you progress to hopefully a solution. 

Date: 10/20/18 19:04
Re: Need A Good Audio Restoration Service
Author: cn6218

If the tape is breaking, that's one thing, but if splices are pulling apart (likely because they've dried out), they can easily be replaced with modern splicing tape that will easily last another 50 years.  The problem is that if there are a lot of splices in each reel, it's a tedious process to replace them all.

If the tape is actually breaking, it's probably being played on a machine that is not very gentle with the tape.  Constant torque machines should be avoided (most of the Ampex or Scully machines fall into this category).  What you want is a constant tension transport, which should be fine with virtually any tape as long as it was set up properly.  With small reels, the tension will be relatively high on a constant torque machine, so may be part of the problem with these.  I've successfully played old acetate tapes as old as I am (more than 50!), and had no trouble with the tape breaking.  There is generally more trouble playing newer tapes (from the '70s to the '90s) because the chemical composition is not stable, and they have gone "sticky".  Ironically, it's the older, less expensive tapes that have held up better.

If I wasn't so far away from you, it's a project I'd be happy to take on.  Do you know what speed the tapes are, and the track format?


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