A problem we are experiencing ever increasingly with older open reel studio tapes, particularly from the 1970s and '80s. The problem occurs because the audio tapes have absorbed moisture over time. The reels of tape deteriorate because of a breakdown in the binder (the glue) that holds the oxide atoms on the tape. The binder contains polyurethane, which soaks up water and causes the urethane to rise to the tape's surface. This problem is known as the 'sticky-shed syndrome'. Short strands of urethane were most commonly used in tapes (until it was discovered that middle-sized strands are better) and were good at absorbing moisture.
Signs of Audio Tape Deterioration
There are some important signs that show when a reel of tape needs baking. The typical symptom is squealing when the reel of tape passes the playback head or other fixed parts of a tape player. The squealing is audible directly from the tape and also transmitted electronically through the output of the tape player. Continuous use of a squealing tape risks permanently damaging the tape, as oxide is sometimes torn off the tape. This flaking residue can be seen and can feel gummy while still on the tape's surface. There is also a risk of damage to the player. Another symptom is the tape sounding dull and distorted.
We offer an in house professional audio tape baking service. Baking the tape at a precise temperature for several hours safely restores the tape so that it can be transferred and digitized without being damaged. After baking, the tape usually remains in good condition for approximately a month. If the tape re-deteriorates, it may be possible to bake the tape again.
Audio Tape Reel Menu
Please click on a service below for more information.