What's the difference between 2" tape, 1" tape and

Discussion in 'Tape Recorders' started by HMNP, Sep 21, 2004.

  1. HMNP

    HMNP Active Member

    Sep 10, 2004
    Im new to this analog reel to reel stuff. I found out that machines use different type of tape sizes. Why is this ?? higher fidelity ?? More tracks ?? Thanks for the help.
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Both. 2-track can be 1/4"-1/2"

    8 and 16 tracks from 1/2" - 1"

    24 tracks are typically 2"
  3. HMNP

    HMNP Active Member

    Sep 10, 2004
    is the quality all the same ?? I know it depends on the tape deck, but I mean is a 2" machien goung to sound better than a 1/4" ?? thanks
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Well-Known Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    This is from memory, so please excuse me if some of it is a little inaccurate. Any corrections would be welcome.

    The first tape machines, developed by the Germans during the Second World War were 1/4" mono .. The Nazi's used them to broadcast Hitlers speeches from different locations at random times of the day and night, which confused the Allies (who were unaware of the technology), to no end. They could not figure out how Hitler could be in so many different places at such short time intervals. The Nazis got quite a "ruk" from this.

    An Army signal corps engineer named Jack Mullins brought the first two "Magnacord" tape machines to the US shortly after the war, reverse engineered the technology and started a company that was to become AMPEX. The first of these machines was given to Bing Crosby and was used to tape his radio show for later broadcast. I was lucky enough to see this machine once at a place called Sonic Arts, in San Francisco owned by the late Leo DeGar Kulka. It was a mono machine, the size of a kitchen stove.

    In the 50's, pros began to use 1/2" tape for 2 and 3 tracks because the wider audio tracks provided better fidelity. Many of the early Motown records were 3 track. At that point the professional standard became pretty much fixed at 1/8th of an inch per track. Les Paul in conjunction with Ampex, developed the first 8 track machines on 1" tape in the late 50's.

    The Beatles recorded mostly to 1/2" 4 track at Abbey Road, bouncing between 2 machines for "Revolver", "Sergeant Pepper" and "The White Album". During "The White Album", they also recorded occasionally at EMI's Olympic Studios which had 1 inch 8 track. There is some confusion as to what "Let It Be" was recorded on ... the general consensus is it was 4 track, but Abbey Road was done entirely on 1 inch 8 track.

    The late 60's, early 70's saw the first 16 track machines on 2" tape ... soon after there came 24 tracks on 2" tape and this has pretty much remained the standard to this day. Stephen's and Otari did make some 2", 32 track machines but these never really caught on.

    Tape width is not the only criteria for professional tape machines. It is generally accepted that 15 ips is the slowest speed that can be used for serious professional recording, providing extended dynamic range and system headroom.

    Many people to this day still prefer 15 ips for the sound it delivers, because of tape compression onset at lower levels and because the head bump (a low frequency anomaly inherent in all tape systems) is centered at a lower and more pleasing 120 hz. instead of at the lower mid range region 250 hz.

    It can be argued that 30 ips is a bit quieter in the audible regions because the tape hiss is at a higher frequency (twice as high) and because at 30 ips there is again more dynamic range and head room as well as better high frequency response, albeit at the expense of poorer low frequency extention.

    Some manufacturers like Dokkorder, Teac/Tascam, Fostex and Otari manufactured multi tracks on tape smaller than professional formats to shave the cost of transports and tape expense. These machines were known as "semi pro", "prosumer" or "narrow gauge mutitrack" machines ... and included 1/4 inch four tracks, 1/2 inch 8, 16 tracks and 1 inch 16 & 24 track machines ... thrown into the mix are the cassette based 4 and 8 track portastudios. These machines all suffered from poorer frequency response extension and signal to noise ratios than their bigger professional counterparts.. and usually needed some kind of noise reduction like DBX, Dolby B, C or SR to make them useable. In most cases, the n/r systems in these machines created as many problems as they solved.
  5. HMNP

    HMNP Active Member

    Sep 10, 2004
    Thanks again Kurk.. I keep wondering, why are these machines no longer produced if everybody still raves so much about them ?? I know the digital age and stuff, but we all know digital is digital and analog is another world in quality and stuff. I went to ebay to check the Otari systems, but those things are HUGE!! 600 lbs, to ship that to Puerto Rico must cost like a car. Do you guys know any other tape machine that are still produced and live up to the quality of the older system ??
    Thomas Hartkop likes this.
  6. heyman

    heyman Guest

    These big tape machines have moving parts and moving parts need to be calibrated and replaced so often. Also, tape degrades over time and can wear out as well. Even certain brands of tape are better than others, but they are allpricey nowadays..

    Throw in the fact of that plus maintanance on the tape machine and you could be looking at alot of overhead.

    There are digital recorders that come so close to analog in terms of sound these days that it really is alot more choices than Tape.

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