I have a Fostex e-16 1/2" reel machine. I absolutely love the quality of the recordings I've been slamming to tape.
This question may be more about my machine - but here I go...
Issue: In about the last three-four minutes of tape, I found my machine dragging it - sort of like the sound of a warped vinyl record. Unfortunately, one of the best versions of a track I'm working is during that time on the tape. Now, it actually sounds kind of cool, for this particular track, but I am concerned that the spring mechanism on the arm just below the left reel is wearing in a bizzare way.
Will this just get worse? Is there a handy fix it a reel machine novice can hack out?
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Re: Tape drags toward end of reel
Unplug the unit.
You probably have a brake band thet keeps the reel from free spinning. It's located under the top cover plate of the tape recorder. The band is made of cork. Over the years, it probably just got a buildup of dirt. It can be cleaned off with rubbing alcohol. Don't pull on it, it will snap. The piece you are looking for will be located right under the left reel post.
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When was the last time you ran the "head cleaning" tape in the machine? As tape collects dust and dirt - it gets deposited on the recording and playback heads. This ruins playback and recording quality. Also, since tape is magnetic - they tend to magnetize the heads, too (just like reel to reel, 8 track & cassette player / recorders). Demagnetizing them will help too. Here are links to both products:
It may be the tape(s) themselves. Pre-recorded cassette tapes are usually no problem for most players, but many user-recorded tapes were of the C90 or C120 variety. These cassettes use much thinner tape in order to get the recording time. This can cause the tape, after many starts and stops and partial fast-forwards and rewinds to get tight on the reels. This will cause the tape sensor to think that the tape is at the end of the reel when it is not. Sometimes rewinding from end-to-end will help, but not always,
I can't speak to the specifics of the machine's mechanics but I have been into audio (hobby) and and a Service Engineer on data tape storage (from 7- and 9-track 1/2" open reel running at 200 inches per second and capable of start/stopping in .6" to 100-plus track 1/2" digital data cartridge tape) for over 32 years so I know a few things about tape media handling.
Squeezing 16 audio tracks into 1/2" of media doesn't leave much room for error in the analog world. The manual I found at retrevo.com discusses making electrical Play and Record level adjustments using a calibrated Magnetic Reference Tape BUT they don't discuss head azimuth setting or adjustment which could affect high frequency response and crosstalk between adjacent channels.
You could check for audible crosstalk by recording alternate (even or odd) tracks at a fairly high level and then playing back only the others. The crosstalk spec is only 50dB at 1kHz so you can't expect total silence but it should be on par with the residual noise of the tape without Noise Reduction engaged and should be fairly uniform across the tape.
Physical deformation of the tape will also plague any machine with narrow tracks. If the edges flutter you are definitely losing amplitude on the outer tracks. The tape itself could also be experiencing stresses due to uneven rewind tension that would result in an uneven 'pack' within the reel. If the appearance of the tape within the reel flanges after play or rewind is NOT uniform there may be a physical reasons for it. If any of the tape wrap is exposing edges of the tape you have to be extra careful to handle the reel without compressing the flanges. A perfectly wound tape would have a uniform wrap appearance and when viewed on edge there would be clearance between the tape and both flanges. Any contact with the flanges will wear or deform that edge of the tape.
If the reel flange is warped sufficiently it will contact the tape every revolution, too, and during high speed transport you'll see and hear it.
Physical Tracking within the tape path must be perfect. With a high powered lamp and no tape loaded examine the heads. There should be no visibly worn grooves in their surfaces that would alter the way the tape passes over them. Then load a new blank tape and view how the tape passes over the heads, looking for any deviation from perfect flat alignment within the tape path. It may help to place a piece of white paper behind the area so you can see the reflection of the light off the tape. Any variation indicates less-than-perfect tape-to-head contact which would result in loss of treble, crosstalk or dropouts. Repeat this with a previously recorded tape. If it's different then we need to suspect machine-induced tape problems.
Proper tensioning of the tape during both play and rewind is key as you mentioned.
Head wear is also a possibility.
One thing that many people overlook is the storage of their media to ensure longevity. A reasonably constant temperature and humidity is essential as is sufficient distance from magnetic fields. Though not very convenient, storing any tape (open reel, audio cassette, video) in a 'played' state produces the most uniform tensions and pack wrap so it's the best way to avoid problems that varying temperature might cause.
If you can identify or eliminate any of these problems and add that information to this post I'm sure someone out there might be able to assist with the next steps.
is the tape outside the cassette? or inside the case itself (if inside we have to open and connect it to reel) but outside you need the paper thin masking tape 1/2 to 1 inch wide (cellophane is to thick)...now take both ends of tape..the tape on left side cut a 1/8 inch (hold in left hand cut on a diagonal toward the left)..(just FYI this is called splicing) now the right one cut it about 1/8 inch also in the same manner toward the left)..now cut a 1/2 inch of masking place on table...place the right tape on tape leaving at least half for the other part to go on....now take the scissors cut off any excess masking tape on both edges of tape...this should help get your first job at hand done....recording to dvd....have fun
yes, one nice overhaul will fix..(this can be done by you if you are daring...when u open take apart you will find a metal strip like band..I had used a bandaid for brakes the gauze side) you need new brakes (just like a car it is run down) on the reels in order for it slow & stop when it suppose to...or you can search and find a good old fashion repairman..(sorry I dont know of none)...for dragging, before playing all open reels fast fwd to one end then rewind it back to the beginning now hold the blank reel with that little bit catch tape try to tighten full side tape by going slightly going the other way not trying to stretch nor pop the tape.....now press play
maxell or tdk (which is hard to find now)....if your reel is 7 inch you want 1800 ft, normal bias (lo noise hi output) tape (for 10 inch you will use the 2400 ft) ....anything longer your tape will be dragging (both while recording and playing) hope this is helpful...feel free to rate
There are probably a few different ailments which can cause this. One is if something is afoul in tape transport. I'd think the problem would occur whether in record or playback however.
If the tape takeup reel drive is slipping, tape takeup might intermittently stop, and cause the machine to power off (this is to avoid spilling tape in the machine). With the cover off, insert a tape, hit play, and see if tape takeup is steady, especially nearer the end of the tape, when the right reel is filling up.
An associated problem is if the reel sensor is intermittent- this sensor tells the logic whether or not the takeup reel is turning- again, this is to avoid massive tape spillage and damage.
Another possibility is a dirty mode switch- this switch tells the logic circuitry what position the mechanicals are in. It is probably located on the underneath side of the deck. Sometimes it can be disassembled and cleaned with a cotton swab wetted with contact cleaner. Others must be replaced.
Hopefully this helps- perhaps another tech has a better solution too.