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Tape Restoration Bake 1

If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked A Tape!
A Recipe for Tape Restoration
ã 1998 by Eddie Ciletti and appended 2006

The aging of magnetic tape concerns everyone. Even as you read this, a DAT tape is waiting to clog the heads of your most difficult-to-clean-machine. Unlike my usual visits to the digital domain, this is a detour into the magnetic past!  Are you ready to explore the time-space continuum? 


People who make analog recording part of their daily routine take for granted that the tape is new and the machine is operable. When called upon to re-master or remix a vintage analog recording, it goes without saying that the machine must be in top form AND that your business should be insured. That said, there is one variable for which you have no control: tape condition. This is especially true for mid-seventies era high-output tapes such as AMPEX 406/407 and 456, 3M 250, and AGFA 468. It does not exclude those made well into the eighties. 

Don’t attempt to play a "vintage" tape before reading this article! In order to expect full recovery, tapes that have been shelved for an extended period deserve special treatment just like a scuba diver must slowly return to the surface. 


All tape consists of three primary components: iron oxide, the "binder" or glue and a plastic carrier. Acetate — which does not stretch and can be brittle — was used until the sixties. Though its oxide color is typically reddish-brown, black oxides were also used. Mylar/Polyester eventually replaced Acetate. It handles stress well and never becomes brittle. Sixties-era Mylar tapes with black oxide will be the least problematic.


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