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Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound

cnd 02 May 21 - 11:17 AM
GUEST,CJB 02 May 21 - 01:15 PM
GUEST,keberoxu 02 May 21 - 03:22 PM
punkfolkrocker 02 May 21 - 03:46 PM
cnd 02 May 21 - 08:43 PM
robomatic 02 May 21 - 09:04 PM
GUEST,cnd 02 May 21 - 09:26 PM
cnd 18 May 22 - 11:46 PM
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Subject: Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound
From: cnd
Date: 02 May 21 - 11:17 AM

I recently purchased five unopened cassette which were all roughly 20 years old. I noticed one had some whiteness visible on the spooled tape (pic) before I played it, but hoped it would be purely surface and not impact the sound.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. It sounds very warbled. listen

I know it's not an issue with my deck, as all my other cassettes sound fine. Any ideas on what's wrong, how to fix it, etc?

It doesn't look to be consistent with oxidation issues I've seen online, so I don't wanna risk unspooling it until I've got a little more info to go off of.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound
From: GUEST,CJB
Date: 02 May 21 - 01:15 PM

You need to join the ARSC list and then post an appeal for advice. They gs there are pros and well versed in sticky shed issues.

http://www.arsc-audio.org/listservs.html

===


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 02 May 21 - 03:22 PM

"warbled" ... I thought birds warbled .

did you mean "warped"?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 02 May 21 - 03:46 PM

Looks like mildew.
If it is, I'm guessing moisture got trapped in the tape before it was sealed, and it's been stored somewhere in less than optimum conditions...???

Whatever it is, it wasn't too clever an to put it in a tape machine and press play.
Unless it was a cheap expendable old test machine...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound
From: cnd
Date: 02 May 21 - 08:43 PM

Thank you all for the assistance.

I think warbling is suitable in this case; one of the definitions is "to become sounded with trills, quavers, and rapid modulations in pitch", though you are right that it is predominately used to describe birds; I assume that is because they rapidly trill and modulate pitches while making their calls.

Definitions aside, I believe PFR is correct. I think mildew got in and over time the moisture expanded and contracted, resulting in the tape tensioning itself, making the tape brittle and creased over time.

I unspooled the tape a section at a time and ran the unspooled section through a fine cloth between my fingers. This removed the whiteness (at least, for now, I suppose) but didn't fix the distorted sound.

As for damaging the machine, I suppose you're right, though that 7 second or so clip was the extent of the playtime it saw and it hasn't seemed to affect playback on other tapes. Regardless, I've run a head cleaning cassette through a few times just to be sure.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound
From: robomatic
Date: 02 May 21 - 09:04 PM

I've dealt with old reel-to-reel tapes and the sticky shed phenomenon and may have written in about it a few years ago. This does not sound like that.

Some tape quality is better than others. I found that some very old tapes had lasted quite well and held their playability. And other brands not so much. This has also been true of my cassettes. The Sony and Maxell brands have held up well. There was a brand named 'Radiant' which was cheap when new and has not held up so well when old.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound
From: GUEST,cnd
Date: 02 May 21 - 09:26 PM

I'm inclined not to think it's the quality of cassette here; I bought 4 others from the same people, and at least 3 of those were the same brand cassettes of roughly the same age. I think this one may have simply suffered some damage in its storage/life


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Subject: RE: Tech: Tape Reel Turned White, Distorted Sound
From: cnd
Date: 18 May 22 - 11:46 PM

Good news: I found a fix. I bought an old tape recently that was similarly unopened (like the first tape I opened this thread with) and had some similar issues regarding the sound, though cosmetically it was not colored white. It's all related to, as robomatic suggested (and I dumbly dismissed), tapes degrading. As it turns out (from what I've read/listened to) an unopened tape like the two I've discussed are actually *more* likely to degrade than a played one. Apparently, it has to do with certain tapes being made of a low quality material and losing their lubrication, causing them to dry out, stick together, etc. If they're never played, they sit in their plastic wrap and dry out because the lubricating material can evaporate through the plastic. If they have been played, they're less likely to be damaged because lubrication from the tape heads from other tapes will transfer to them and help save them.

The solution is to buy some dry silicone lubricant (the dry here is very important). Get some q-tips, and either a cassette player which you a) don't care about and b) can reach inside the tape with, or a power drill to turn the tape's spools (this requires some grace, since it won't have the auto-stop function, but it worked for me). Apply the dry silicone to the head of a q tip, and then turn the tape's spool while applying the q tip to the surface of the tape so that the dry silicone is applied to the surface. Try and do this in multiple directions. Then, wait a few hours/days for the silicone to work itself into the tape and, voila, the tape sounds less distorted.

This can't undo any damage, and almost certainly reduces the tape's fidelity, but if you've got a rare tape with no other copies or something, this could save your bacon.


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