Archiving reel-to-reel tapes

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Archiving reel-to-reel tapes

Postposted on Sat Jul 17, 2004 9:13 pm

Been a while since I've posted here... :)

I have an interesting project here.

A family friend of ours was sent to Vietnam in the late 60's. While he was out there, he and his wife communicated via tapes sent back and forth. They've kept these tapes over the years, and now we've been asked to encode these tapes on the computer.

I'm not really up on the terminology of these tapes (as we're talking reel-to-reel here, and I was born the year they invented the CD), but from what I gather, they're 1 7/8, 4.8cm tapes that are 15 minutes per side. We finally found a player that'll handle this, a SONY TC-355. It's a stereo player with a mono tape, so we have the left channel hooked into my Audigy Drive. Now, I have a few things I'd like to do with this.

1) Record this into a raw format (.WAV, I assume?), and make it so I can take the mono channel into a stereo channel.

2) Remove the 60Hz "hum" in the background, and maybe clean up the sound a bit, if possible.

3) Put it into a good, easily accessible format (~192kbps MP3?).

From searching this forum, It looks like I can do most of it by using Audacity (to encode into WAV and remove noise) and LAME (to put it to MP3). Is this the best solution to doing this? Any other suggestions as to how I can do this?

I really don't want to experiment much with these tapes - they're very brittle. I'd prefer to do it all once, the right way, and minimize any possible damage.

Thanks in advance.

.:Ttocs
Ttocs
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Re: Archiving reel-to-reel tapes

Postposted on Sat Jul 17, 2004 11:42 pm

Ttocs wrote:I really don't want to experiment much with these tapes - they're very brittle. I'd prefer to do it all once, the right way, and minimize any possible damage.

You really only need to run the tapes once for recording onto disk in .wav format. Then back up the recorded .wav files and put them somewhere safe. Then you can start editing and playing with the copies, without the fear of having to re-record from the tapes again if you screw something up.

If possible, I'd suggest getting a tape that would play in that player and record some test sound onto it. Then practice with that to ensure that you've got the hang of whatever recording software you're using.

I think Audacity would be perfect for this job, however, I've never tried removing background noise.
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Postposted on Sun Jul 18, 2004 2:43 pm

Thanks for the suggestions. I just want to remove the 60Hz "hum" that comes with this setup - If theres other background noises (like explosions or people talking or something), I'd probably want to keep those, as to keep the "atmosphere" of the whole thing intact.

I have a tape that came with the player. I believe it's in stereo, however, but the hum will probably still be there. I can use that for practice, I guess.

Now, one other question I have is, to take this from mono -> stereo, could I just make a cable that takes the left input and solder the left/right wires of the output to the input? Or is this something that's better done in software?

.:Ttocs
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Postposted on Sun Jul 18, 2004 4:40 pm

Audacity can take a mono channel and double it into two channels for stereo. However, both the left and the right channels will be exactly the same.

Looking at some of the Audacity settings, there are plenty of effects you can run, including noise removal. So I think it shows promise, especially since it's free. ;)
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Re: Archiving reel-to-reel tapes

Postposted on Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:10 am

Did you ever find a solution? I also have 1960s reel to reel tapes from Vietnam that I wish to put in another more manageable and usable format
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Re: Archiving reel-to-reel tapes

Postposted on Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:11 am

One issue is they may already be useless. My family moved from England at that same time and sending messages via tapes was all the rage at the time (I was not yet born)
I went to copy them about 20 years ago to preserve the few memories of my grandfather but the tape had degraded too much to get more than snippets. Sure the tape itself was not that bad but the recording was gone in most areas.

I could not fathom what another 20 years would do to such media, if it is gone brittle it is likely gone.

But as you say you have the method down... best of luck to you on the attempt.
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