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All You Need Is Ears

The conservation of existing analogue archives

What's the hurry?

Bearing in mind that the average age currently of practitioners steeped in the tradition of recording with analogue equipment is increasing, it is becoming more crucial that over the next ten years or so anybody with important collections of analogue tapes (and not just recordings made in the 1950s on tape stocks with acetate backing or recordings made in the 1970s that are now unfortunately exhibiting "sticky tape syndrome", etc.) should seriously consider transferring these to modern digital storage while expertise is still active. And there are several other reasons.

While it is not unknown to find young people with an interest in older recordings or technology it would be difficult to imagine them gaining the wealth of experience of somebody working, day in day out, with analogue technology as the people who were active in the recording and broadcast world during the 1960s, 70s and 80s - no matter how many one-week training courses, run by various institutions, they might do. There just isn’t that kind of level of work and opportunity available now in full mainstream professional sound. Sadly we increasingly find an attitude of the younger practitioner that says ‘I live in the digital world, I don’t need to know anything about those old technologies’ and in fact we first heard these words uttered twenty years ago!  Let's face it - old recordings, it would seem, just aren't cool.

There is also the problem of increasing age of the playback equipment and the availability of spare parts (especially with high end professional equipment), which will become an issue at some point, let alone finding someone with the mechanical knowhow, sympathy and interest to actually maintain these machines.


Nagra IV tape machine

Transferring a ¼" tape to computer file using an especially developed playback-only Nagra IV tape machine.



Here, a DAT copy of a ¼" tape is being made, complete with DAT track IDs which will later be used to write CD tracks when the DAT recording is transferred to Compact Disc. The DAT is being used as an "intermaster". The client wished to keep the DAT as a short-term backup copy of the eventual CD transfer.



Revox cassette recorder

Replaying an oral history recording originally made on audio cassette.

This replay machine has been adjusted to suit the characteristics of the machine that made the original recording to ensure the best mechanical replay of the tape is achieved. This process is essential as the quality of the transfer is determined by the precise alignment of the replay machine to the tape. If the optimum replay quality cannot be realised at this stage from the initial transfer, further processing cannot replace what is missing without introducing unwanted artefacts.


Audio processing equipment

In general it is not usual to use audio processing equipment during the initial transfer of analogue recordings to a digital format. The main purpose at this first stage is to achieve the best mechanical reproduction from the original material as possible, leaving processing to a later stage as the original recording may not be consistent throughout and factors may alter during replay.

Showing here is part of our range of audio processing equipment that could be used in "real time" during initial analogue archive transfer. Some such as the Dolby noise reduction equipment, would be essential to use on analogue tapes encoded with Dolby noise reduction, as would de-crackle and de-click processors used on initial transfer of some gramophone discs. A 50 Hz or 100 Hz steep notch filter might also be used, for instance, during initial transfer to remove an unwanted electrical hum caused by a fault during the initial recording (not uncommon in many cases!) - the action of this filter will only remove the hum and generally not affect the low-frequency reproduction of voice, etc.

Other equipment can be used to enhance the original recording to help overcome unfortunate deficiencies. These latter processes would not necessarily be used during initial archive transfer of the original analogue recording, but might be used in preparation of extracts from recordings in conjunction with other digital processing, for instance when the end-purpose is defined - exhibitions, samplers, or website use, etc. - enhancing intelligibility or smoothing junctions between various recordings in making up a compilation.


Wouldn't it be better to employ someone "in-house" to transfer my archives?

Whilst you may think that you can keep a closer eye on your material if you keep it in-house, the reality is that you are unlikely to find an employee with as much expertise and experience as we can provide. Between us we have worked with just about every format available ever since the time when it was "the latest thing" so we have an in-depth knowledge which enables us to give you the best possible service. We are meticulous about the security of your material, and the price we quote you means there are none of the "hidden costs" associated with employees.

For more information on how to get the best transfer, click here.



Telephone: +44 (0)117 924 8815

Fax: +44 (0)117 924 5505

e-mail: info@allyouneedisears.co.uk