What I can transfer 1: migrating analogue audio to the digital realm

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My fascination with tape and recording has been playing for well over thirty years now, and in that time I have built up a sizeable collection of well-maintained recorders. I can thus transfer any of the more common variety of tape – which is a quarter of an inch wide – onto the medium of your choice. Any track format – one, two or four tracks; mono, stereo or even quadraphonic – and all speeds ranging from 15/16ips (inches per second) to 15ips can be coped with here.

Tapes are cleaned, and if necessary (as it is with professional 80s-early 90s tapes from a certain American brand!) subjected to a careful ‘baking’ process before transfer. The playback machine (more often than not, an ex-broadcast studio machine) is then set up for optimal results with that tape; fail to do this correctly, and stereo imaging and treble output will be adversely affected. The machines are regularly maintained, the transport path and heads being cleaned and demagnetised.Image

Recording is with studio-quality equipment at the professional digital standard of 24-bit resolution and a sampling rate of 96kHz. These files can be supplied ‘as is’ on USB media or SD cards; they are ‘downsampled’ to 16-bit/44.1kHz if you want them on CD (however, the original 24/96 files can if requested be archived to a safety backup to be held by Tekktalk at no extra charge).

Additional restorative processes such as noise reduction, the rectification of channel imbalances, frequency-response correction and even dealing with dropouts (as well as other editing) can be applied after an examination of the tape and consultation. Quadraphonic tapes can be converted to a four-channel (4.0) DVD-Audio disc or DTS CD that can be played on home-cinema equipment (for optimal playback, though, your speakers might need to be rearranged).

Talking of which, there are numerous other audio formats that I can deal with here. If you want your records transferred to a CD, DVD-A or some kind of file (WAV or FLAC) then that’s possible. 78rpm shellac and LPs are all within my scope, although I would recommend trying to obtain the material on CD or some other commercial format first. However, plenty of material – notably from smaller independent labels – never made the transition to CD.

I can also convert quadraphonic LPs (SQ, QS, CD-4 or UD-4) to DVD-A or DTS-CD; these were the product of larger companies, but despite the emergence of surround-capable formats like DVD and Blu-ray few of the 70s-era quad mixes have resurfaced and so as far as I’m concerned they’re ‘fair game’. Commercial material is generally copyrighted, and so archive backups are not held; all I’m doing is making it possible for you to enjoy once more music that long ago you paid for the right to hear!

Then there are the other formats I can handle. I can also deal with Sony’s short-lived Elcaset, 8-track cartridges (stereo and quad), regular ‘Philips’ cassettes (I use Nakamichi machines to extract every last ounce of musical performance from your media!), microcassettes, the digital Sony PCM-F1 format (which stored audio on Betamax, VHS or U-Matic video cassettes), Minidisc, DCC, analogue NAB cartridges (mono and stereo machines available) and Sonifex’s Zip-based DARTs (the latter two were used by radio stations to play out jingles. I have the recording units and a bulk-eraser, which may interest old-time radio enthusiasts who may want CD jingles transferred to cart! Artists working with ‘found sound’ – discarded media from car boot sales and charity shops – need no longer worry about finding a compatible playback machine.

I’m also in the process of restoring an 8-track 1-inch analogue machine, of the type that was found in many smaller studios between the 1970s and 1990s. Musicians and bands of that era may shortly have a means of bringing their old master tapes back to life’; once restoration is complete, I’ll be able to supply digital dubs as a set of up to eight 24/96 WAV files – these can be imported into the audio editing software of your choice. Whatever format you want transferred, I will endeavour – as an audiophile – to get the very best from it. If you have a decent playback system, the limitations of , say an LP transferred to digital with a cheap USB turntable, will be only too apparent.

High-frequency distortion, low-frequency rumble, an indistinct stereo image and uncertain pitch stability together with a sheer lack of musical involvement will hardly do justice to your discs. And a properly-serviced reel-to-reel machine is more likely to realise, with no risk of damage, the full potential of your precious reel-to-reel tapes than some old ‘banger’ acquired via a certain Internet auction site.

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