Analogue Tape Restoration

Many brands of analogue recording tape that were manufactured in the 1970s and well into the 1980s, can suffer from something called "sticky shed syndrome". It was only discovered in the late 80s that there was such a thing. The condition mostly applies to (but not exclusively to) high output tapes such as Ampex/Quantegy 456 Grand Master. These tapes generally consist of a polyester base with with a coating of magnetic oxide.

The problem with these tapes is that over time, the glue or binder that was used to stick the oxide to the tape, gradually absorbs moisture. This means that the binder becomes softer and almost toffee-like. As a result, in the worst cases, when the tape is played, the magnetic oxide, along with the binder can stick to the guides and the heads and can slow the tape down, and even stop the machine entirely. Worse still, even before it reaches that point, the oxide and the binder can be partially scraped off. If this happens you can actually see the residue adhering to the heads and the guides. Even if the tape continues to play, the audio will sound muffled as the high frequencies are no longer reproduced. This is permanent and can't be fixed. In most cases the tape looks normal, and you can't tell if this will happen until you play the tape, and by then you may well have irreparably damaged it. The only time you would have some warning is if you were spooling the tape before playing. If the tape emits a squealing sound, it's a sure sign that the binder has gone gooey, and if you hear a squeal, damage is done.

Nowadays, there is a temporary fix which will allow the affected tapes to be played safely. The fix may last for up to a month or more. During which time the tape can be played, and the precious audio can be transferred to another medium such as CD or hard drive. The solution that provides the fix, is to "bake" the tapes at a specific and controlled temperature, for between 2 and 8 hours, depending on the width of the tape and the severity of the degradation. This magically restores the playability of the tape.

At Berry Hill Studio I invested in a machine to try to restore the hundreds of archive tapes that otherwise would be have ended up in the bin. It worked so well that I decided that I would use it to offer a tape restoration and transfer service to our clients.

Prices: ¼" reel - £25. ½" reel - £35. 2" reel - £60

Transferred material can be supplied as 24bit wav files, or MP3s @320kbps. or on CD, DVD, or USB stick.