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Reel-to-Reel-Capture Audio-Convert-Hardware-Software, Moved from Off-Topic (TOS #6 / why??)
izscors
post Feb 1 2012, 19:45
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This question spans several topics, some of which more properly fit into specific groups, but not altogether.

I am in NY. There is a reel-to-reel ("R2R") from the mid 1960's in Florida, at the apartment of my father, who is now deceased. I need to go through the apartment, and clean it out, and I have several days to spend there, and will be leaving in a few weeks. I can ship limited amounts of things to NY from Florida, and the rest I can store in Florida to a small extent.

I do not know the make of the R2R. I know it was bought in the mid-1960's. I know that there are numerous reels of tape. I have not seen it in many decades. It was probably, to the best of my recollection, still working and playing tapes in the 1980's. My goal is, while cleaning out the apartment, to move audio off the tapes and into a lossless format. I have a laptop (W7-64). I have an Ipod touch. I have no other hardware, although I can purchase, with a medium budget, cables, interfaces, and software. I am aware of audacity, though I've not used it. I am looking for, as they say in the business world, a "solution." I will not be able to find out more about the kind of R2R, or its condition, or the condition of the tapes, until I am down there. I throw it out to the knowledgeable members of this board as to what I should consider, and appreciate your thoughts. I know some audio, but not a lot.

So far, I have the following:

1) The R2R is thick tape, but too thick. Maybe double the width of a cassette tape, as best I recall.
2) The tapes have not been stored with any great care, as far as I know. They would date back to the 1960's and early 70's.
3) There's a headphone jack out, not sure if it's 1/4 inch, or 1/8 inch, and I don't know its impedance, and I don't know what other outputs there are. Maybe a line out?
4) I don't know the condition of the R2R. I think it had tubes. I remember warm glow from within, so there you are.
5) Do I need some kind of hardware in-between the R2R and the laptop, or can I just plug in something on both ends, and run audacity once I figure out how to use it?
6) Is this all pointless because the R2R no longer works, and the tapes are in poor condition, and will jam/flake off into the R2R even if the R2R starts playing them? crying.gif

What should I do?

Thank you.

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DVDdoug
post Feb 2 2012, 21:59
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I'm sorry to hear about your father.

QUOTE
6) Is this all pointless because the R2R no longer works, and the tapes are in poor condition, and will jam/flake off into the R2R even if the R2R starts playing them?
Let's start there. If the machine doesn't work, take the tapes home with you and find a service that digitizes records & tapes. If the machine works, it wouldn't hurt to clean the heads with some isopropyl alcohol and a Q-tip.

There might be ways of "restoring" the tapes to some extent, physically, but I can't help you with that. Chances are they will play OK, and any deterioration of the sound qualty is permanent anyway (although you may be able to clean-up the sound to some extent once it's digitized).

QUOTE
5) Do I need some kind of hardware in-between the R2R and the laptop, or can I just plug in something on both ends, and run audacity once I figure out how to use it?
Yes. You need line-in and Most laptops don't have line-in. (On some laptops, there is an audio configuration utility that switches the mic input between mic-level and line-level.)

Assuming you don't have line-in, the Behringer UCA202 USB interface is usually the lowest-cost solution. (There are all kinds of very good USB & Firewire audio interfaces available, but beware that most "regular" USB soundcards are like laptops with only mic-in and headphone-out.)

You can get some noise in the line-input on some "consumer" soundcards. (Of course there is always some noise.) Usually, the analog tape noise is worse than the soundcard, so this isn't an issue. But, if the tapes and machine are very-high quality, and you want to preserve maximum quality, this could be an issue and you may need a higher-end audio interface.

QUOTE
3) There's a headphone jack out, not sure if it's 1/4 inch, or 1/8 inch, and I don't know its impedance, and I don't know what other outputs there are. Maybe a line out?
If it has 7-inch reels it very-likely has line-level inputs & outputs on the back. If it's a smaller recorder with a built-in speaker, it may only have headphone out.

The headphone output can be connected to a line-level input. All you need are the appropriate adapters, which you can get from an audio/video store or Radio Shack, etc. (You may need more than one adapter to get the right connections on both ends, depending on the recorder and what's available in the store.)

QUOTE
1) The R2R is thick tape, but too thick. Maybe double the width of a cassette tape, as best I recall.
1/4" tape is the most common.

QUOTE
I am aware of audacity, though I've not used it.
Audacity is fine. (the Behringer interface may actually come with Audacity.) Your choice of recording software isn't too critical (assuming you can get it to work. wink.gif The recording software just configures the hardware and communicates with the driver to route the audio data to a file on your hard drive. i.e. You don't get a better recording with better software.

This post has been edited by DVDdoug: Feb 2 2012, 22:08
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2Bdecided
post Feb 2 2012, 22:38
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I bet the tapes are fine - unless there are any splices/joins that have dried out.

The machine may have capacitors (an electrical component) that have dried out, valves/tubes that are worn out, and/or rubber wheels/belts that have perished. Any of these will stop it working. Or you might be lucky and it'll work fine. At a guess, odds are maybe 50:50 if it dates from the 1960s and was last used in the 1980s.


Before you go, you can check that the laptop plus new USB sound card can record from line level and headphone level outputs properly. Any hi-fi component has line level outputs. Anything with headphones has a headphone output. Any laptop and soundcard could have driver issues that stop it working at all, and weird issues that cause jumps in otherwise perfect recordings. Copy a full CD into the laptop through the new soundcard to check it's working. You can use your iPod as a source for this test, though the R2R will probably have the larger 1/4" headphone output.

The headphone output of the R2R is going to be much noisier than the line level output, so line level if preferable.

Don't under estimate the amount of time copying recordings will take. Real time, obviously, plus some time for faffing around, getting the wrong speed, clicking the wrong button etc. Things go wrong when you're working to a deadline. PCs especially seem to know just when to crash / hang / lose everything. Make a back up in case the HDD dies on the way back to NY.

Hope this helps.

Cheers,
David.
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