The Beauty of Analog
For more than half of the 20th century reel to reel tape was the recording studio standard. Multitrack reel to reel tape recording has, only until recent history, been the gold standard in the industry. Analog recording was linear and required expensive and time consuming processes and equipment but produced some of the best music ever recorded. With the advent of digital music production, non linear editing made it easy, simple, and more affordable than ever. Nowadays, kids in a garage with a laptop can produce decent sounding demos without the need to rent an expensive recording studio. The only caveat is that digital music is just that, digital. It lacks a certain warmth and tonality that analog recording has.
Recently consumers pushed sales of Compact Cassette Tapes, and Vinyl LP records to a point where they out sold digital downloads. Has the music industry realized that those old formats still have value? Even some of the mega stars in the recording industry have embraced the concept of pure analog multitrack recording for their recent work.
Reel to Reel
Before Compact Cassette and 8 track tape was the Reel to Reel tape. Believe it or not Bing Crosby helped popularize the format in the US back in the 1940s. True Audiophiles, and those who could afford one, had these massive players in their living rooms to enjoy reels that were available for purchase just like an LP or a 78.
The sound replication was probably the closest thing you could hear next to being in the studio. Similar to the warm sound quality of a good vinyl pressing, the Reel to Reel tapes have all but disappeared from store shelves. Today you can still find stores carrying new LPs, but new Reel to Reels? Probably not.
In the Movie Pulp Fiction from 1994 one scene features a Reel to Reel tape player and the Neil Diamond song from 1967 “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon”. Covered by Urge Overkill, the song really sets the mood for the scene and also made many of us want to buy a Reel to Reel player which were more than likely still available at the time. But that was then and things are much different now. In an age of MP3 and streaming audio services its difficult to imagine buying one now.
I think that’s why we’re finding it peculiar that Dusseldorf-based Roland Schneider Precision Engineering has announced 4, yes 4, new Ballfinger Reel to Reel players that start around $11k in US dollars. One of them, the high end model, will feature 3 direct drive motors, built in editing, and get this…walnut side panels. Honestly for that much money they better be real walnut.
Audio Tape Reel Supplies
Where do I buy Tapes?
The question that comes to my mind is, where can people find tapes for their new 11 thousand dollar tape player? eBay? I mean when was the last time you saw tapes like this at a record store let alone a garage sale? Well, websites like The Tape Project are a good start.
We dug one out of our collection featuring the Berlin Philharmonic. It’s a 4 track Tape that when played will create a stereo signal during playback of “Side A”, then an automatic reversing signal on the tape causes the mechanism to start playing “Side B”. Which just means the tape starts going in the other direction all by itself if your tape player supports this function. Most ‘modern’ players do.
Passing fad or here to stay?
I don’t know about you but I’m wondering is this all a passing fad? Have people finally realized the importance of tangible music formats? Aside from the pros and cons of each format, digital or not, there is still something pleasing about the sound quality of analog music. Live music is always nice, but when you can listen to what artists and producers have created in the studio in a way that is nearly identical to what they intended, THAT is something you just can’t cant beat. For now I think Reel to Reel is going to be something that only certain people will enjoy, but it really does shed light on the tangible element of analog sound. Its real, its warm, its dynamic and totally worth rediscovering. Even if it’s a whole new generation of people who are discovering the touch and feel of what music has been for generations long before the mp3.
Two-piece polypropylene case. 7-1/4 x 7-1/4 x 11/16″. These chemically inert cases are safe for archival long-term storage. They come with stacking hubs for safe shelf storage, or you can store in XRB176CP.