You may have already read about some craziness going on at eBay. I’ve talked about $1000 glass CDs but $4999.99 or even $7999.99 for a reel-to-reel analog tape copy of Pink Floyd or Queen? Is anyone crazy enough to purchase an analog tape for thousands of dollars? The obsession with analog tape is almost scary…kind of like DSD but with the additional problems of player challenges, wear and tear, shedding, stretching, etc. We’ve left the world of great sound and entered the “Twilight Zone” of the audiophile obsession. This is not about music anymore. This is about rarity and collectibles.
The vendor describes the item this way:
“PINK FLOYD MEDDLE JAPAN REEL TO REEL TAPE TOSHIBA OXA-5084 4TRACK 7 2/1IPS STEREO
HOLY GRAIL FOR PINK FLOYD COLLECTORS WORLDWIDE.
IN 1971, TOSHIBA MUSICAL INDUSTRIES JAPAN RELEASED THIS ITEM, BUT SOLD POORLY, SO THERES ALMOST NO SURVIVE COPY FOUND EVEN IN JAPAN. VERY SMALL QUANTITY WAS MADE WHEN RELEASED, AND KNOWN AS FAR BETTER SOUND QUALITY THAN USUAL US REEL TO REEL TAPES.
THIS ITEM IS VERY WELL TAKEN CARE OF BY PREVIOUS OWNER, REEL TO REEL COLLECTOR FROM 1970S, SO CONDITION IS VERY CLEAN. TAPE BOX HAS SMALL STICKER ON REAR. TAPE HAS ORIGINAL CLEAR PLASTIC COVER AND LEAD IN AND LEAD OUT TAPE ATTACHED BY PREVIOUS OWNER. JAPANESE LYRIC INSERT INCLUDED IN VERY CLEAN CONDITION.”
Let me clarify a couple of things:
First, consumer reel-to-reel tapes weren’t issued as 4-track tapes. A real 4-track tape would have 4 tracks allowing you record and reproduce quad recordings. The vast majority of commercially available reel-to-reel tapes were quarter track stereo tapes. This means that they play normal 2-channel stereo in one direction. When the tape reaches the end, you “turn it over”, thread it up again and play the other side…a different 2-channel stereo program. Only two of the “four tracks” can be played at a time. The other tracks are moving backwards.
This was the normal way to distribute reel-to-reel tapes back in the day. The cost of the tapes was kept low because only half as much was used…but there were problems. Here’s just a few:
1. There is a lot of crosstalk between the tracks you don’t want to hear and the tracks you do want. If the section you happen to be listening to is very quiet and the track going by in reverse is a loud section, you’ll hear the loud tracks as well as the quiet ones. Not good.
2. Tapes like these were not made in real-time. They are not 1:1 transfers. In fact, as demand for reel-to-reel tapes increased they made them at 4:1 or even 8:1. When you transfer tapes at higher speeds you get less high frequency response and fidelity suffers.
3. Old reel-to-reel tapes have shedding problems, lubricants evaporate, print though, stretches, edge damage, and a host of other problems. They wear out. Even professional tapes suffer from these problems. Do you really think that an old consumer tape of Pink Floyd is really going to produce sound equal to or better than a CD? Never.
The eBay guy should pack up his tapes and move on.