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Can Sonicraft transfer my tape(s)?

Q. I have open reel tapes that are (fill in the blank) wide with (fill in the blank with quantity of) tracks with (fill in the blank with type of) noise reduction. Can you transfer them?

A. In a word, YES! Any tape width, any tape speed, any track format, any Dolby or dbx noise reduction system. It’s all here. If it’s an open reel analog audiotape up to and including 24 tracks, we can transfer it for you and with ultimate quality! If you have tapes that were originally locked to other tapes with time code, we can make synchronized transfers of them also.

Q. I’m not sure how many tracks are on this tape, what speed it was recorded or what noise reduction system was used, if any. The track sheets are missing and there’s nothing useful written on the box. Can you still help me?

A. Absolutely! Here at Sonicraft we have the experience and the knowledge to properly assess recordings that have no documentation to ensure proper playback during your transfers.

If I send/bring my tape(s) to you, what will I get back?

Q. I want to transfer my reel(s) into (Fill in the blank: Pro Tools, Logic, Nuendo, Cubase, Samplitude, Digital Performer, etc.) so that I can remix them. Will I be able to do that and what will you deliver to me to work with?

A. We will provide you with a mirror-image of what’s on your tape, one 24-bit Broadcast WAV file for each and every track at the sample rate of your choice (44.1 – 192 kHz). All of the popular digital audio workstation products are 100% compatible with this format. Just load the tracks into your digital audio workstation and dive in!

Q. What sample rate and bit-depth should I choose to have you transfer my tapes?

A. If you have multitrack tapes and the goal is to archive or monetize your work, then 96 kHz / 24-bit is currently the NARAS standard for moving and archiving audio.

There are those who like 88.2 / 24-bit because they feel that it downsamples to 44.1 (Redbook CD audio) more gracefully.

If you are using a 96/24-capable digital audio workstation or other digital storage device for playback into an analog mixing console, then the higher sampling rates of 88.2 and 96 kHz might make best sense for your application.

If the goal is to remix the tape directly on a digital audio workstation, you should test the system to be used to determine if it has enough processing power to handle a full mix at sample rates higher than 44.1 or 48 kHz.

Is your final product an audio CD? It’s useful to know that there is some controversy about whether it sounds better to (a) capture and process at a high sample rate (like 96/24 or 88.1/24) and downsample to 44.1 or (b) capture and process at 44.1/24 so you don’t have to downsample.

Opinions vary, but even the proponents of higher sample rates feel that, in order to realize an improvement, the quality of downsampling to 44.1/24 is extremely critical.

If your target media can deliver 96/24 audio and you have the needed processing power, your decision is obvious.

If your target is broadcast video, 48 kHz is the standard for that.

Since not every studio has the horsepower to do a full mix at 96/24, if you want the most possible flexibility in where you can take your tracks, you might consider 44.1 kHz. Ask the engineer at the studio of your choice what s/he recommends.

Of course, if you have the budget, we can always transfer your master tapes at more than one sample rate / bit depth so you can avoid downsampling altogether.

What about tape baking and sticky tapes?

For an in depth explanation of sticky tapes, tape baking and other restoration issues, please see: The Sonicraft Guide to Tape Baking, Restoration and Preservation. Here are the essentials:

Q. I’ve heard that tapes sometimes turn sticky, squeal, shed oxide and refuse to play properly. How do I know if my tapes have that problem?

A. The industry’s ad hoc term for the condition is “sticky shed syndrome” and going by our everyday experience, if your tapes were recorded much after 1970, they probably have it. Your best bet is to let us determine this for you. If we are doing your transfers, neither the assessment or baking will cost you anything additional. We have the proper equipment and necessary experience to evaluate the condition of your tapes safely. If you lack experience with sticky shed syndrome and attempt to play your tapes, you could possibly damage them and/or the machine you try to play them on.

Q. I can bake my own tapes. Can I save some money?

A. Please don’t bake your tape(s). You have nothing to gain by doing so. (1) We don’t charge extra for tape baking. (2) We time the tape baking exactly to the transfer session. And, if we do it, we then know exactly what stage of restoration the tape is in at all times. (3) Our tape baking is done using a Fischer Scientific laboratory incubator, perhaps the finest solution in our industry for the safe and effective restoration of sticky tapes via heat treatment. (4) We have baked thousands of tapes and made them play like new.

Q. I took really good care of my masters and kept them in a cool dry place. My tapes won’t need baking, right?

A. Sticky shed syndrome is a result of a flaw in the formulation of the tapes. Good storage conditions will not prevent it. They will only minimize the extent of the problem. However, by storing your tapes properly, you have helped to reduce the severity of the condition and extend the overall life of your masters.

Q. Does incubating or “baking” the tapes damage them?

A. Apparently not. On the other hand, trying to transfer tapes with sticky shed syndrome without correcting the problem first could very easily damage them. There’s some conversation that eventually repeated baking could have detrimental effects on your tapes. Although we have not seen supporting evidence that this is true, we would advise that you try to limit the amount of times you have your tapes baked.

Q. What else do I need to know about the tape baking process?

A. Tapes properly treated for sticky shed syndrome will play long enough for us to transfer them for you. Eventually, the condition will return. If you ever need to transfer the tapes again, the process can be repeated. So, hang onto your tapes and keep them properly stored in case you ever need them again. Again, for Sonicraft’s complete reference on the subject, please see The Sonicraft Guide to Tape Baking, Restoration and Preservation.

Turnaround time, delivery media, packing, shipping?

Q. How long do you need to do my transfers? Days? Weeks? Months?

A. It varies a lot based on how much work is already in house, how many tapes you send us, and how many formats they are spread across. Turnaround times usually range from 1-4 weeks. Most of our clients are not in a rush. So, if you have an urgent situation, we can usually accommodate you.

Q. After my transfers are done, how will you deliver my tracks?

A. We usually deliver files via password-protected download link, but if you prefer a different deliver method let us know and we can make arrangements. If you have a lot of tapes to transfer, you may want to provide an external drive and we’ll send it back to you with your finished job on it.

Q. How should I ship my tape(s) to Sonicraft A2DX Lab?

A. Please pack your tapes snugly in a tough box with a couple of inches or more of packing material all the way around. Ship with a reliable carrier who will give you a tracking number. UPS and Fedex are two such carriers. We prefer UPS, but if you need to use Fedex, that’s fine. Please do not check “signature required.” Our UPS and Fedex drivers know what to do. And, it’s a good idea to let us know your shipment is on its way. If convenient, please provide the tracking number.

Q. What is your shipping address?

A. We don’t put our shipping address on our web site for security reasons. Please contact us and we’ll provide it to you.

Payment and tape return

Q. What happens once my transfers are complete?

A.When your transfers are complete, we’ll send you an email invoice with a link to pay securely on line with a credit card or Paypal. Other payment options are available at your request. Upon payment we’ll send your transfer files by the most efficient method, be it via download, DVDROMs/USPS Priority Mail or hard drive (if you provide one).

Unless you object, we’ll keep your tapes here until you have a chance to review and approve your transfers. This way, if we need to access your material for any reason, you won’t have to ship them back.

Once you’ve approved the transfers, we will put your tapes in the queue for return. Our shipping specialist will pack them for return via UPS ground, no signature required. If you prefer a different shipper or service level just let us know and we can accommodate.

When we return tapes, we remove the accompanying digital files from our servers.

How much is this going to cost?

Q. I need to determine what my transfer job is going to cost. What information about my masters do you need from me?

A. Our pricing is by-the-reel. So, pricing is based on how many reels there are and how many changes in speed / format / noise reduction systems your job encompasses (if any).

We can reverse-engineer any tape to find out everything we need to know to transfer it. But, to most accurately estimate the cost of your job in advance, here is the information that is most helpful:

  • How many reels altogether?
  • For each reel:
    • How wide is the tape? (2″, 1″, 1/2″, 1/4″, etc.)
    • How many tracks? (2, 3, 4, 8, 12, 16, 24-track, etc.)
    • At what speed was the tape recorded? (30, 15, 7.5 ips, etc.)
    • What (if any) noise reduction system was used? (Dolby A, B, C, S, SR, dbx Type I, etc.)
    The answers to these questions can often be found by examining the tapes, boxes and track sheets if present. But, if you can’t find the answers, don’t worry. We’ll just figure it out when they get here.

Q. I know the running time of my songs. How much would you charge to transfer them for me?

A. The running time of your material is only part of the total time spent, and often the smallest factor. To do your job, we have to:

  1. Assign a job number, and inventory, label, evaluate and document the types and conditions of your tapes.
  2. If the tapes need restorative work (like baking or cleaning), we do it.
  3. We configure the tape machines, A2D converters, software, etc. for each track and noise reduction format needed.
  4. We further align the tape machines and A2D converters to match individual reels of tape (and sometimes, by necessity, individual sections of the tape) before the transfer pass. This most always requires a full pre-transfer reference pass of the tape to do. After we’ve done all of that…
  5. We run the tape and transfer your tracks. But, we’re not done yet. After the transfers…
  6. We upload your files and deliver them via password-protected download link. If you prefer a different file delivery method let us know and we can make arrangements.
  7. After you evaluate your transfers and give us your approval, we repack and ship your tapes back to you.

So, as you can see, determining the running time of a tape is not generally a meaningful way of determining how much time and effort will go into transferring it.

Q. How much does tape baking cost?

A. Our by-the-reel rates include baking, cleaning, splice repair, etc. — whatever is necessary to get the job done with the highest possible quality. There are no additional charges. The only exceptions would be reels that require excessive splice repair (usually 1/4″) and reels that exhibit mold. If we run into either of these conditions, we will contact you about adjusting the pricing to be fair. But, generally, we do whatever it takes to get the optimum transfer of each and every tape into the digital domain. To get an idea of what our services cost, read our pricing page.