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A fond farewell to open-reel tape

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


A fond farewell to open-reel tape
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1986, The Syracuse Newspapers

Technology has its own obituary pages. They have chronicled the demise of the steam-powered automobile, the slide rule and the pocket watch, and they are now reporting the imminent death of the open-reel tape recorder.

Studios and radio stations may continue to use their large, professional open-reel recorders for a few years to come, but there is no hope that the machine that was once the only device for listening to stereo recordings in the home will ever be revived.

It's a matter of simple economics. Companies that make tape recorders cannot afford to pay for the research and development needed to keep consumer-type open-reel recorders competitive with the best cassette decks and the coming wave of home digital tape recorders.

It's also a matter of software. Commercial open-reel tape recordings, which in the middle 50s were the only source of stereo sound for the home, have all but disappeared from the market.

The latest blow, and the one that is certain to hasten the end of open-reel, is the decision by the last major commercial duplicator to get out of the open-reel tape business. Barclay-Crocker of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., expects to have sold its remaining stock of recordings some time this summer.

For a decade and a half, Barclay-Crocker was the only reliable source of major-label recordings on open-reel tape. The company was one of the pioneers in switching to Dolby noise reduction and, later, to dbx noise reduction.

But as cassette decks improved, sales of open-reel recorders fell, leaving Barclay-Crocker with a shrinking customer base. Even the audiophile market - a small but vital group of fastidious listeners - began falling away with the introduction of compact discs.

If you want to catch the last wave of recordings, Barclay-Crocker can supply a list of its remaining tapes. Write to the company at 313 Mill Street, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 12601.

All is not lost, however, for fans of open-reel tapes. A company in the Philadelphia area is continuing to offer its limited selection of recordings on open reel. No major labels are represented, but some of the releases are equal to the best recordings from the big companies in terms of musical quality, and all are outstanding in terms of sonics.

A catalog is available. Write to Direct-to-Tape Recording Co. at 14 Station Avenue, Haddon Heights, N.J. 08035.

For those who only wish to roll their own, blank open-reel tapes are still available from mail-order houses and some retailers. Brands still available include Maxell, TDK, Scotch (3M) and BASF.

If you cannot find a source of blank open-reel tapes near you, try this mail-order dealer, which I have found to be reliable and inexpensive: Tape World, 220 Spring Street, Butler, Penn. 16001.


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