Baking Magnetic Recording Tape

24 Nov 2014

For decades, the preferred medium for recording music was magnetic tape.  But with the advent of digital technologies, analog methods—including tape—feel into disuse.  

Quanegy of Opelika, Alabama, was the last manufacturer of reel-to-reel recording tape for professional recording studios.  It closed down in January 2005.  The last European manufacturer closed down in 2002.

A number of artists were determined to hold on to analog technology.  Lenny Kravitz equipped his studio with an old recording console while The White Stripes made their Elephant album using an ancient 8-track machine and gear from the 1980s.  Studios such as Abbey Road made sure that vintage equipment was available to clients on request.

Meanwhile untold miles of recording tape linger on shelves all over the planet and are slowly disintegrating due to something called “sticky-shed syndrome.”  Moisture is absorbed by the glue that holds the magnetic particles to the tape, causing the particles (and the data they contain) to disappear into fine dust.

The best solution is to remove this unwanted moisture from the tape by “baking” (i.e. carefully applying heat) to the tape.  It’s not without its perils but it’s better than risking the entire tape disappear forever.

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